Bachmann gets push back from constituents

One of the most conservative members of the House took some flak from her constituents yesterday in a raucous town hall.

Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) event in Lake Elmo was certainly not dominated by liberals. But pro-reform advocates certainly made their voices more loudly heard than previously.

First, as the video below shows, Bachmann could barely get through her introductory remarks before the angry catcalls began (skip to the 2:00 mark):

For more context, consider this account from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:
Christine Norton, of Cottage Grove, challenged Bachmann's premise that the Democratic plan means a government takeover. Under some proposals, a panel of medical professionals would set standards for insurance coverage.

Bachmann responded that the government would pick the panel members and ultimately decide the standards.

"It's still government calling the tune," she said. "I want consumers calling the tune."

When John Beyer, of Stillwater, challenged the widely debunked claim that Obama's plan would create end-of-life "death panels," Bachmann replied that the House Democratic bill would create "53 new bureaucracies" between patients and their doctors. "Washington bureaucrats" would make their health decisions, she asserted. She didn't mention death panels.

Ilya Gorodisher, of May Township, accused her of "stretching truth to the point of lies" by, for instance, asserting that Obama has proposed a government takeover of health care. Bachmann responded that even if private insurance remains an option under the president's plan, "the government will dictate what you can buy."

A Woodbury woman told the tale of how her insurance company canceled her policy after she became ill and asked how Bachmann would stop insurers that "drop me the minute I get sick." The congresswoman said the solution was to offer consumers more insurance options so they could pick the cost and level of coverage they want.

More from KFGO:
There was an edge to some of the questions Bachmann fielded at Lake Elmo.

And catcalls, both supportive and otherwise, came from the crowd.

"Sit down ACORN," yelled a man at one questioner, using the name of an organization Bachmann has often criticized.

"Nobody is proposing this," came a voice out of the audience when Bachmann--brandishing a pack of papers she said contained negative headlines about the medical system in the United Kingdom--spoke of socialized medicine.

There's only a few days left of August recess, but it certainly seems that Democratic groups are beginning to organize their supporters to combat the conservative dominance at past town halls.

WH report: swine flu unlikely to rival 1918 pandemic, but poses serious health threat

The current H1N1 "swine flu" epidemic is unlikely to reach pandemic proportions last seen during the 1918-19 global influenza strike, a White House report concluded Monday.

A report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said that while the swine flu isn't as virulent as the flu of the early 20th century, the virus "poses a serious health threat to the United States," and could result in the infection of up to 30 to 50 percent of the U.S. population.

The council's report anticipates an uptick in swine flu infections this fall, and predicts between 30,000 and 90,000 deaths from the flu, concentrated amongst children and young adults.

"The fall resurgence may well occur as early as September, with the beginning of the school term,
and the peak infection may occur in mid-October," the report's executive summary said.

The council urged the Obama administration to bolster coordination between agencies to respond to a number of potential health scenarios. Among the key variables to monitor would be surveillance of flu cases, the government's response to an outbreak, and the barriers to the spread of the disease.

"The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and Food and Drug Administration, has already made some important progress on the recommendations found in the PCAST subcommittee report and we plan to adopt others to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep Americans healthy and safe," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"HIN1 influenza has the potential to affect virtually every aspect of our lives, from our economy and national security to our education system," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "It may not be possible to stop influenza, but we can reduce the number of people who become severely ill by preparing well and acting effectively."

VIDEO: Obama looks to debunk 'outrageous myths' in address

President Obama sought on Saturday to debunk what he termed as "outrageous myths" floating around in the media about his push for healthcare reform in his weekly radio address.

Framing his signature initiative as the hallmark of this political generation, the president again laid out his arguments to overhaul the health system in America.

Watch the video below:


Sestak, Toomey to hold joint town hall

In one of the more interesting campaign events of the midterm cycle, the leading Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania will hold a joint town hall meeting with the Democratic primary challenger.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) accepted an invitation from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to hold a town hall at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., on September 2.

Sestak, who's challenging the newly-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in a primary, issued the invitation yesterday.

"I want to show you the light on the public health care option!" Sestak told Toomey in a statement. "What do you say?"

Today, the Toomey campaign "eagerly" accepted, going so far as to invite Sestak out for a beer after the meeting.

"I eagerly accept Congressman Sestak's gracious invitation, and look forward to our respective campaigns working out the logistics over the next couple of days," Toomey said. "I'm happy to welcome Joe to the great city of Allentown and I'd extend to him an invitation to share a beer with me at one of our fine local establishments after the town hall meeting."

(Maybe that beer will take place at Rookie's, the Allentown restaurant that Toomey owns with his brothers.)

This actually looks to be a win-win for the participants. Sestak gets to raise his profile in the campaign, pitting himself front and center against the almost certain Republican general election candidate.

Toomey, on the other hand, gets to throw some coal on the Sestak vs. Specter fire, encouraging a bruising primary that will leave the eventual Democratic victor weakened.

Specter doesn't seem to be invited to the Allentown town hall, but Toomey issued a challenge for Specter to debate him on a separate occassion.

"Unfortunately, with Senator Specter, one never knows which Arlen Specter will show up

Bloomberg: Pharma co's don't make much money

Pharmaceutial companies don't make that much money, so politicians shouldn't beat up on them in the healthcare reform debate, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg said today.

"You know, last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money, their executives don't make a lot of money," Bloomberg said while co-hosting a radio show on WOR Radio this morning. "Not that they couldn't do better,"

Bloomberg corrected himself later after doing a Google search, in which he found out that pharmaceutical executives are "making a decent amount and more than a decent amount."

Bloomberg did take a shot at drug companies for selling drugs cheaper in other countries than in the United States, but said "that's not a reason to go and beat up on big Pharma."

(H/t: NY Daily News)

Gingrich: Waxman's like a mob boss

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is using "Sopranos-style" tactics to intimidate health insurance companies, Newt Gingrich claimed today.

Referring to Waxman's new investigation into health insurance companies' lavish spending, Gingrich argued that the California Democrat is trying to force insurance companies to accept Democratic healthcare reform.

"Like a mafia underboss trying to face down a rival crime family, the powerful California Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has resorted to ugly intimidation tactics with opponents of government-run health care," Gingrich wrote in the Washington Examiner.

Gingrich said Waxman's "not-so-veiled threat" was "in the spirit of Joe McCarthy."

"Americans know the public option is declining rapidly in support, and Waxman and Stupak know that we know it," Gingrich continued. "That's why they've resorted to Sopranos-style tactics with health insurance companies."


Daschle to meet with Obama

President Obama will meet today with Tom Daschle, the man the President originally wanted as his healthcare point man.

Daschle's nomination, of course, was derailed by questions about taxes.

Daschle's known as much for his knowledge of Senate intricacies as the details of healthcare policy, so it's not coincidence that the former Senate Majority Leader is meeting with the White House just as Democrats are deciding whether to use budget reconciliation to pass a reform package.

Appearing on Meet the Press last Sunday, Daschle said the chances of reform were 50-50.

Republicans set healthcare bar: 80 votes

Two influential Republican Senators seemed to raise the bar for bipartisanship today, saying that a healthcare bill will need 80 votes to be considered successful.

"We need to get a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support," Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) told the Wall Street Journal. "If the Democrats choose to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, their plan will fail because the American people will have no confidence in it."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Finance Committee, echoed those thoughts in the Washington Post.

"It's not about getting a lot of Republicans. It's about getting a lot of Democrats and Republicans," said Grassley "We ought to be focusing on getting 80 votes."

Both Grassley and Enzi and in the "Group of Six" Senators who are working on hammering out a bipartisan bill.

For a bill to get 80 votes, exactly half the Republican caucus would need to get on board. That's an extremely high hurdle if the legislation is to remain palatable to liberals in the House.

(h/t: Matt Yglesias)

Obama: everything gets 'wee-weed' up in D.C. in August

President Obama is betting on a more successful September than August, when it comes to his bid for healthcare reform.

At an online forum on healthcare held Thursday at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Obama drew on his own political experience to predict better fortunes next month.

"There's something about August going into September where everyone in Washington gets all 'wee-weed' up," the president said.

He pointed to last August's selection of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to join the Republican ticket as the GOP's vice presidential nominee.

"'Obama's lost his mojo,'" the president said the media were saying after Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) campaign received a short-lived bump from palin.

"You remember all that?" Obama added.

Rep. Hill: Healthcare opponents 'lying'

The Co-Chairman of the Blue Dog Democrats had some strong words yesterday for conservative opponents of healthcare reform.

Speaking at a town hall in his district, Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) said reform opponents are simply lying about the House bill.

"The [American Medical Association] has endorsed this plan," said Hill, according to the Corydon Democrat. "You'll have choices, regardless of what the detractors tell you. They are lying. That's a strong word, but it's true."

To be fair, Hill may have been riled up by this exchange with a constituent:
"I'm not a Democrat or a Republican," the man said. "I consider myself a political atheist. But from what I've heard about the plan on TV, there's a lot about it that I disagree with."

"What part do you not like?" Hill asked.

"Well, just some of the stuff they have been talking about on TV," the man responded.

"OK, and what was that?" Hill asked.

But the person couldn't come up with an example of what he disagreed with.