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Politics Today: Dems Move at Full Speed on Health Care

Politics Today is's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**Previewing President Obama's health care speech...

**Another speech – on education – creates a stir...

**Joe Kennedy won't run for his uncle's Senate seat…

HEALTH CARE: Vacation's over and President Obama and Congress are moving forward at full speed on health care this week.

The president was back in campaign mode Monday -"fired up, ready to go" - during his Labor Day speech to the AFL-CIO in Cincinnati and he continues readying for his speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night where he promises more specifics about exactly what he's looking for re: health care reform.

The president tossed out some red meat to the pro-Democratic AFL-CIO yesterday by calling out Republicans on health care.

"I've got a question for all these folks who say, you know, we're going to pull the plug on Grandma, and this is all about illegal immigrants -- you've heard all the lies," Mr. Obama said. "I've got a question for all those folks: What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one."

But while he directed that criticism to his political opponents, it's some in his own party – especially moderate Democratic senators and Blue Dog Democrats in the House – that are gumming up the works.

The Hill's Mike Soraghan and Michael M. Gleeson report "At least 23 House Democrats already have told constituents or hometown media that they oppose the massive healthcare overhaul touted by President Barack Obama.

"If Republicans offer the blanket opposition they've promised, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can afford to lose only 38 members of her 256-member caucus and still pass the bill."

The Washington Post's Paul Kane, Ben Pershing and Perry Bacon Jr. add: "The ultimate key to the legislation's fate in the House may rest with the roughly 80 lawmakers elected in the past three years, when the political tide was running strongly in Democrats' favor. Some come from rural districts and have joined the Blue Dog Coalition, but many are progressive in their approach to health-care reform, believing they were elected on a promise to offer change.

"If enough of them can support the final legislation, leaders think they will be able to get a bill narrowly approved this fall and onto the president's desk before Christmas."

Meantime, as Congress awaits Mr. Obama's Wednesday night speech, Democratic leaders will get a preview today when the president meets with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The "gang of six" Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are also scheduled to meet today to continue working on their possible bipartisan compromise bill.

In his speech Wednesday, "Mr. Obama is expected to reiterate his support for creating the public-health-insurance plan despite pressure from Republicans and some moderate Democrats to back away from the idea," report the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, Jonathan Weisman and Greg Hitt. "Yet he is likely to leave the door open for a compromise on the issue. Mr. Obama will emphasize what he says the health-care system would look like without change, depicting a scenario of rising costs, more uninsured Americans and more efforts by insurance companies to block those with pre-existing medical conditions from buying insurance, [White House] aides said.

"His support for the public plan sets up a split with the Senate Finance Committee, which has been drafting the health bill that has been seen as the only hope of winning bipartisan support for a health overhaul in Congress. Over the weekend, the committee's chairman, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, distributed a draft of his health proposal that leaves out the public plan in order to win support from a small group of Republicans. Mr. Baucus's plan costs less than $900 billion over 10 years and would expand insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans."

The New York Times' Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear detail Baucus' proposal, which "would impose new fees on some sectors of the health care industry, but none on individuals, to help offset initial costs estimated at $880 billion over 10 years, according to officials familiar with the outline.

"The plan, circulating among some committee members of both parties, would also offer the option of lower-cost insurance, with protection only against the costs of catastrophic illnesses, to those 25 and younger. In addition, it would provide basic Medicaid coverage to millions of low-income people who are currently ineligible for the program, but the benefits would be less comprehensive than standard Medicaid."

Bloomberg News' Laura Litvan and Nicole Gaouette, "Democrats, Obama Make Bid to Regain Momentum on Health Care"

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, "Obama's test: quiet right, win left"

Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey and Eric Pianin, "Democrats tightening belt on revamp of health care"

Los Angeles Times, "House vs. Senate: How healthcare proposals compare"

Politico's David Rogers, "Has Barack Obama misused the House?"

EDUCATION: "Ignoring the uproar surrounding his back-to-school address, President Obama plans to urge America's schoolchildren on Tuesday to dream big dreams and respect their teachers, to study hard and learn from failure," reports the New York Times' Sam Dillon.

"'We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world,' Mr. Obama will tell students, according to remarks released in advance by the White House. 'And none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities.'

"In recent days, conservative talk show hosts and some Republican leaders have attacked plans for the speech, ascribing dark motives to the White House, and parents from Virginia to California have besieged schools with calls. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the uproar 'silly,' and over the weekend some Republicans distanced themselves from the critics.

"After reading the text on Monday, even Jim Greer, the Florida Republican Party chairman who last week accused the president of seeking to use the speech to foist 'socialist ideology' on schoolchildren, said he could find nothing to criticize in its text.

"'In its current form, it's fine,' Mr. Greer said in an interview. 'But it remains to be seen if it's the speech he's going to give.'"

"Republicans have called Obama's back-to-school address an inappropriate political intrusion into the classroom," adds the Washington Post's Scott Wilson...

"Speaking to reporters Monday aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs compared the debate to 'an Animal House food fight.'

"'I think it's a sad, sad day that the political back and forth has intruded on anyone speaking to schoolchildren and teachers and parents about the responsibilities that they have as we enter a new school year,' Gibbs said."

"Previous presidents have also addressed schoolchildren, and Mr. Obama had thought his personal narrative would be inspirational," write the Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman and Ben Casselman. "In his speech, Mr. Obama will touch on stories that he has told in the past, of a disadvantaged background, of being pushed by his mother to wake at the crack of dawn, of his wife Michelle's rise from underprivileged roots to the halls of the Ivy League."

SUCCEEDING TED KENNEDY: Tomorrow, the Massachusetts legislature will begin hearings on potentially changing the Senate vacancy law to allow the governor to appoint an interim Senator until January's special election.

Meantime, Ted Kennedy's nephew, former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, said yesterday that he will not run to replace his late uncle, becoming the second son of RFK to take his name out of consideration for a political run this year (Joe's younger brother Chris said he wasn't interested in running for governor or U.S. Senate in Illinois earlier this summer).

With Ted Kennedy's wife Vicki already indicating that she's not interested in the seat, it looks like Massachusetts will be without Kennedy influence in Congress for the first time since JFK was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House in 1947.

"After days of anguished deliberation, Joseph P. Kennedy II said yesterday that he will not seek the US Senate seat of his uncle, Edward M. Kennedy, probably ending the family's half-century of political dominance in Massachusetts and opening up the Democratic primary race," writes the Boston Globe's Frank Phillips.

"...Those close to him said the lure of a Senate seat and the prospect of extending his family's political legacy were not enough to draw Kennedy, who runs an energy firm, back into the spotlight and grueling pace of national politics...

"His decision clears the way for a highly competitive three-month campaign for the Democratic nomination that may pit several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation against the state's attorney general."

"State Attorney General Martha Coakley was the first to announce her run. Among potential challengers are U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston), Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), Edward Markey (D-Malden) and former congressman Martin Meehan," add the Boston Herald's Jessica Van Sack and Edward Mason. "While Lynch told the Herald he is still days away from a formal announcement, Meehan is 'still trying to figure things out' and could decide by midweek, a source said.

"'He spent the weekend making phone calls to national fund-raisers, and also talking to Capuano and Markey in particular,' said the source, who noted Meehan, Capuano and Markey are closely monitoring one another. Too many like-minded congressmen in the race could hand the race to Coakley."

While there's no shortage of Democrats considering running, the Republicans are having serious trouble finding someone interested in taking on this fight, the Herald's Van Sack and Mason report.

"With barely three months to campaign before a special primary election to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the lone Republican to officially declare his candidacy yesterday was a little-known town selectman from Canton [Bob Burr]."

Over the weekend, former Boston Red Sox pitching ace Curt Schilling, who sounds vaguely interested in running, blogged, "What I Believe."

Boston Globe's Peter Schworm, "Politics the salt at labor breakfast"

Boston Herald's Edward Mason, "Sun setting on Camelot Era"

5290143AFGHANISTAN: "President Obama must decide in the coming weeks whether a greater investment of troops and resources in Afghanistan is worth the political risk if Americans do not soon perceive better results on the ground," writes the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung.

"Obama's national security team will debate recommendations from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for a continuation, with some adjustments, of the aggressive security and nation-building effort the administration has put in place. McChrystal has provided a range of options for expansion, each offering the possibility of a better eventual outcome...

"With Taliban insurgents gaining ground and U.S. combat deaths increasing, an unusual and still small mix of liberal Democrats and conservative pundits has called for Obama to cut U.S. losses in Afghanistan and concentrate more directly on his stated objective of destroying al-Qaeda, which is based in neighboring Pakistan.

Meantime, "military observers, soldiers on the ground there and some top Pentagon officials are warning that dispatching even tens of thousands more soldiers and Marines might not ensure success," report McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef, Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel.

"Some even fear that deploying more U.S. troops, especially in the wake of a U.S. airstrike last week that killed and wounded scores of Afghan civilians, would convince more Afghans that the Americans are occupiers rather than allies and relieve the pressure on the Afghan government to improve its own security forces.

"The heart of the problem, soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and some officials in Washington told McClatchy, is that neither Barack Obama's White House nor the Pentagon has clearly defined America's mission in Afghanistan. As a result, some soldiers in the field said, they aren't sure what their objectives are…

"Although recent polls have found public support for the war in Afghanistan ebbing, aides said the president is committed to the effort but aware of the need to avoid wading into a quagmire.

"'Momentum is a terrible way to make decisions,' said a senior White House official who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Obama will avoid decisions that 'will bind the country forever,' he said."

New York Times' Eric Schmitt and Scott Shane, "Crux of Afghan Debate: Will More Troops Curb Terror?"

Washington Post's Pamela Constable, "Afghan Reaction to Strike Muted"

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
SOTOMAYOR'S FIRST CASE: President Obama and Vice President Biden will attend the investiture ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor today at the Supreme Court – a day before she hears her first case. (USA Today's Joan Biskupic on what to expect at today's ceremony)

"Newly minted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor makes her debut Sept. 9 in a case that could overturn a decades-old ban on corporate campaign contributions. And politics may never be the same again," reports McClatchy Newspapers' Michael Doyle. "In the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the nation's first Latina Supreme Court justice and her eight colleagues must balance two competing priorities. One is to rid politics of corruption. The other is to protect free speech."

"The court will consider whether the 'proper disposition' of a case -- pitting a conservative group's scorching campaign film about Hillary Rodham Clinton against federal campaign finance laws -- requires overturning two decisions that said government has an interest in restricting the political activities and speech of corporations," adds the Washington Post's Robert Barnes.

"That raises ageless questions about the role of stare decisis -- the court's custom of standing by its previous decisions. But it also raises new ones about the boldness of a court that has moved to the right with the addition of Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel writes that the Supreme Court's decision could benefit Republicans in upcoming elections.

"Campaign finance experts predict the court, which has demonstrated an inclination towards incremental loosening of rules restricting the flow of money into politics, will expand the types of ads corporations and unions can pay for. Their only question is just how much the justices will open the floodgates.

"Depending on the contours of the decision, sources familiar with the political and legal strategies of unions, major Washington advocacy groups and trade associations expect a deluge of new spending in the 2010 and 2012 elections that likely would most benefit Republicans, since for-profit corporations and their non-profit advocacy groups tend to lean right and have more money at their disposals than unions, which typically support Democrats."

2009 NJ GOV: Bloomberg News' Terrence Dopp, "Corzine Down in Final Stretch as Economy, Corruption Take Toll": "New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine finds himself in the most precarious situation of his political career: trailing his challenger by as many as 10 percentage points just two months before Election Day as residents vent frustration for the state's financial and corruption problems. Corzine, a Democrat and former chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., seeks to make voters look beyond their economic woes and recognize his efforts to create jobs, expand health care and improve public education. Republican Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney riding a reputation as a corruption fighter, will continue blaming Corzine for the state's 9.3 percent unemployment and the highest property taxes in the nation."

2009 VA GOV: Politico's Jonathan Martin, "The Virginia governor's race heats up": " The Virginia governor's race kicked off in earnest Monday, with Republican Bob McDonnell seeking to tie his opponent to the national power structure in Washington and Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds looking to portraying his rival as a social extremist."


The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Naftali Bendavid, "A Long To-Do List Awaits Lawmakers"

Politico's Lisa Lerer on conservatives' targets after their derailing of "green czar" Van Jones

The Washington Times' Jim McElhatton focuses on the president's bioterrorism defense czar nominee, Dr. Tara O'Toole

The New York Times' David W. Chen, "Without a Job, but Working the Campaign Trail"

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