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Congress: A hold on McHugh?

The two Kansas Republican senators -- Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts have put a hold on GOP Rep. John McHugh's nomination as Secretary of the Army. Politico: "Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told POLITICO: 'The secretary is very disappointed. We are fighting two wars at once, and the service that is bearing the biggest burden is the Army. So it needs and deserves this leadership… We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Congressman McHugh.'"

"The senators boasted about their maneuver in a joint news release last week: "U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) placed legislative 'holds' on key administration appointees to the Departments of Defense and Justice until they receive answers from the White House regarding recent press reports that decisions have been made to locate Guantanamo Bay detainees in Leavenworth, Kan." 

"Senate Democratic leaders are driving home a handful of key points during this month's town hall forums on healthcare: Reform will be fully funded, will not jeopardize current doctor-patient relationships, and is the only alternative to the current, broken system. A set of talking points, 'Responding to Opponents of Health Insurance Reform,' were obtained by The Hill and represent an effort to push back against conservative critics and activists. The four-page series of talking points is also intended to arm senators against the questions they are most likely to face during this month's forums.

Of the disruptions, Specter said these folks are "not necessarily representative of America," but should be heard.  'It's more than health care,' said Specter, 79, who earlier this year left the Republican Party and became a Democrat. 'I think there is a mood in America of anger with so many people unemployed, with so much bickering in Washington ... with the fear of losing their health care. It all boils over.'"

The Times on the Specter town hall: "Many said they heard about the meeting from e-mail alerts sent by conservative and antitax groups like the Constitutional Organization of Liberty and the Berks County Tea Party, along with Mr. Specter's own mailings. Some voiced sentiments that were heard recently on conservative radio shows, though those interviewed said they resented being characterized as mobs or puppets of lobbyists, emphasizing that they represented only themselves. 'I demand my voice!' read one sign outside. 'You work for me,' was a refrain yelled inside the auditorium." 

Who's behind it? "To help bolster its messaging at a time when Democrats have turned their rhetoric against health insurers, the industry has stepped up its already active grass-roots operations including the Campaign for an American Solution, which reached out to Archibald. The campaign is run by America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurers' main lobbying group. AHIP has 1,300 member companies, and the group is sending out talking points and working to mobilize those companies' employees, policy-holders and other like-minded people to spread the word. On the ground in Lebanon, AHIP relied on the local expertise of a public affairs firm called the Bravo Group, which has offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia." But they say the rowdiness gets in the way, that their folks want to have a respectful dialogue.

"Centrist Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) has launched a television ad in his home state to defend himself from liberal groups attacking him on healthcare reform," The Hill reports. "In the ad, Nelson puts forward his 'principles' for a healthcare bill but does not offer a position on whether legislation should include an option for a public insurance plan. Nelson's reluctance to support the public option is one reason liberal groups have been pressuring him."

And: "Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) announced Tuesday he underwent successful surgery for early-stage prostate cancer and is recovering ably. The senator's office said Dodd will remain hospitalized at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for 'a few days.'"