* Negotiating 101: Mitch McConnell lays down his marker, claiming Obama must agree to “significant” changes to spending and entitlements if he wants the debt ceiling hike that Republicans and Dems alike have already agreed must happen to avert catastrophe.
* John Ensign lawyers up as the Ethics Committee accuses him of lawbreaking serious enough to warrant expulsion from the Senate.
* Maybe major news outlets will finally take the Ensign scandal seriously.
* As expected, the conservative reaction to Mitt Romney’s health reform speech was withering: See Jennifer Rubin’s hard-hitting post on how Romney has only confirmed suspicions he’s not a true conservative.
* Relatedly, here’s an amusing, reader-friendly roundup of the more brutal Twitter reactions on right and left.
* The Democratic National Committee rolls out a video compilation of Mitt’s shifting positions on health reform, dating back to a very young looking Mitt declaring in 1994: “I want universal coverage.”
* Romney aides confirm what I speculated below: The speech was all about getting the health care problem behind him early.
* Smart point from MSNBC’s First Read crew: The mere fact that Romney had to give this speech at all “says more about the current Republican Party than it does anything else.”
* Tweet of the day, from Anthony Weiner:
So tell me Mitt, if this whole “let the states do it” means you oppose Medicare. #MittvsMitt
* Sam Stein unearths a doozy: Newt Gingrich was more gung ho about the individual mandate than even Romney himself. Again: The mandate was a Republican idea, remember?
* Since we’re talking health care and the 2012 GOP primary, David Frum suggests a very good question for Tim Pawlenty:
“When you became governor in 2003, Minnesota had under 395,000 citizens without health insurance. In 2008, the last year before the recession struck, Minnesota had 446,000 citizens without health insurance. Do you regard that as an important failure of your administration? If not, why not?”
* It’s good to see that Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Dem Senator on the Intelligence Committee, is backing up John McCain’s claims that intel shows torture didn’t lead to Bin Laden.
* ICYMI: I posted video of McCain’s full speech on the Senate floor today passionately denouncing torture, and I continue to insist that this was a very important moment.
* Just after McCain’s speech concluded, Harry Reid aptly opined that it “will be forever remembered in our country and in this body.”
* Robert Gates, responding to conservatives who criticized Obama for not releasing the Bin Laden photos, asks us to imagine if they had been photo-shopped.
* And Jed Lewison asks: How would the GOP’s major financial backers react if Republicans didn’t support a debt ceiling hike? Seems like a good topic for some more reporting!
What else is happening?