In it, but not of it. TPM DC

"She's forged a reputation for bipartisanship in her own right," said the President. And with that, Barack Obama announced that he was naming Kathleen Sebelius to be HHS Secretary. In another bipartisan move, the president was also flanked by former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and current Kansas Senator Pat Roberts. He was also joined by Nancy Ann DeParle, who becomes head of the White House Health Care Office. DeParle, he said, would lead the "public and legislative effort" for health care. Obama also brought Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and House Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman on to the state as well.

Sebelius and Obama became close during the presidential campaign. She was an early endorser of his bid and Obama took frequent trips to Kansas, the birthplace of his mother. She was considered for vice president and went through a thorough vetting last summer.

Neera Tanden, who advised Hillary Clinton on domestic policy, and then worked for the Obama campaign, will also play an important role as will Jeanne Lambrew who, at least at the moment, is the deputy director at the White House Health Care office. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Rahm Emmanuel, the White House Chief of Staff, is also likely to play a major role in health care reform. It's important ro remember, too, that any plan that emerges will be scrutinized by Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council.

The real question about health care's success depends on whether Obama can make it seem like an essential part of economic recovery. As Obama spoke the Dow continued to sink well below 7000. If he can make universal health care seem like an essential part of economic recovery he has a shot at prevailing. But at the moment too many people see health care as an expensive nicety, something that's desirable but not essential to recovery. The upcoming White House Health Care Summit should give the president another opportunity to reframe the debate but at the moment the fight is not being fought on terrain that's favorable to the president.

Franken lawyer David Lillehaug today questioned Pamela Howell, the precinct election worker from Minneapolis whose testimony on potential double-counting of ballots has become the center of controversy due to the Coleman camp's prior efforts to hide evidence surrounding her. He's been spending time running her down as a partisan, pro-Coleman witness -- and she hasn't exactly been disagreeing.

Lillehaug reviewed with Howell the fact that she spoke and e-mailed numerous times with Team Coleman during the recount and this past January. On the other hand, she refused all opportunities to speak with Franken lawyers when they'd previously attempted to contact her:

Lillehaug: And that's because, fundamentally, your sympathies were with Senator Coleman, correct?

Howell: Not -- not my object.

Lillehaug: But your sympathies were with him, were they not?

Howell: Somewhat.

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The Minnesota election court just announced their decision after last week's blow-up, which involved secret e-mails by Coleman lawyers showing that they intentionally delayed telling the Franken side about a key witness, precinct election judge Pamela Howell.

The bottom line: Howell is not being struck from the record, nor is the double-counting claim connected to her being tossed, as Team Franken wanted. Instead, the court is going to fine the Coleman campaign for the amount of time that this whole back and forth has cost.

"Clearly, we've spent a great deal of time thinking about this," said Judge Elizabeth Hayden, "weighing what would be the proper sanction."

The court is pretty much in a bind here -- if they strike the witness or the double-counting claim, they could leave too much room for an appeal by Coleman. They've clearly taken the most cautious road: To let this testimony play out.

Franken lawyer David Lillehaug, a former U.S. attorney, is now questioning Howell -- and it's pretty rough so far, as Lillehaug moves to discredit her as a partisan Coleman witness. More on that in a bit.

Former Congressman Pat Toomey (R-PA), who just barely lost a 51%-49% primary challenge from the right against GOP Senator Arlen Specter back in 2004, now says that a run against Specter is "back on the table" in the wake of Specter's support for the stimulus.

Toomey had been publicly mulling a run for governor in 2010, but he told talk-radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh just how much he objected to the stimulus bill: "Senator Specter cast the deciding vote on the very worrisome stimulus Bill, when he could have negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama for more productive tax cuts and less wasteful spending."

If Specter wins the primary, he'll be the initial favorite against the Democratic candidate. But if Toomey or another right-wing challenger takes the nomination, the Dems' chances of gaining the seat would likely go up significantly.

(Via Taegan Goddard.)

As TPM reported the day Tom Daschle dropped out, Howard Dean was never in play to be the HHS Secretary and Kathleen Sebelius was a leading candidate. It looks like we'll get Sebelius named to the HHS slot later today. As Kansas's governor, she's got a mixed record on health care, as the New York Times notes today. Can she fare better with the much more difficult job ahead? Interestingly, Nancy Ann DeParle, a friend and spouse of New York Times reporter Jason DeParle, seems headed for the White House health care czar job. (Daschle was originally going to hold both positions.) As the Times notes:

From 1997 to 2000, Ms. DeParle was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, now known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Ms. DeParle has extensive experience in the business world that has prompted questions from some liberals and from some of the people who vet appointments for Mr. Obama. Ms DeParle is now or has been a director of huge health care companies including Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager; Cerner, a supplier of health information technology; Boston Scientific, a medical device company; DaVita, which runs kidney dialysis centers; and Triad Hospitals.


A Rhodes Scholar and veteran of Tennessee policy and politics, she's as well versed as anyone to take on the challenge of getting health care passed. No word if Jeanne Lambrew will stay at the White House or move on to HHS. Lambrew is the University of Texas professor who was Tom Daschle's intellectual guru on health care issues. The two wrote a book together and she was to be his deput in the White House health care office. If she stays at the White House or goes to HHS, she'll have huge influence. She was one of the designers of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, SCHIP, that President Obama recently expanded.

Interesting news out of Austin this morning where Tom Schieffer, the brother of CBS's Bob Schieffer, and a prominent figure in Texas politics will announce his candidacy to be Texas governor. Schieffer was George W. Bush's ambassador to Australia and he's sure to have to defend that from Democrats in the primary battle ahead. But his bipartisan credentials might give him some advantage should he get the nomination. Texas hasn't had a Democratic governor since George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards in 1994.

The DCCC has a new radio ad out in their effort to attack Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, over his refusal to take a definite position on how he would have voted on the stimulus bill -- and they throw in some other issues, too:



"But Jim Tedisco refuses to say whether he supports President Obama's economic policies," the announcer says. "Jim Tedisco even refuses to say whether he supports the stimulus." The ad later expands this theme into Dem candidate's support for executive pay caps: "Scott Murphy supports caps on executive compensation for companies receiving federal bailout money, too. Jim Tedisco? Again, he refuses to say."

Republicans have a serious chance of winning this seat, thanks to its historic Republican lean (though Barack Obama narrowly carried it in 2008) and the fact that Tedisco comes into the race with much higher name recognition as a state legislator than the Democrat does as a first-time candidate. But the Democrats obviously think that economic populism could be a real winner here, and are building their campaign around President Obama's popularity and the stimulus bill.

Roland Burris hasn't given a definite answer as to whether he'll be running for a full term in 2010, but he's clearly taking the steps to run just in case the answer is yes. Burris now has a new campaign Web site, complete with a "Contribute" button:



Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a whole bunch of potential candidates are lining up on both sides to run for the seat. One possibility would even involve the state passing legislation to hold a special election in the middle of Burris' term, which he might challenge in court.

But if that Web site above means anything, it's that any new candidates should assume, until contrary evidence pops up, that they'll have one particular person as an opponent: Roland Burris.

(Via Politics1.)

Late Update: The Hotline reports that the site is a placeholder, set up by a Burris associate, and has been up since he was first seated, though it only just attracted notice. A Burris spokesperson says the Junior Senator from Illinois still hasn't made a decision about 2010.

The Federal Election Commission has now ruled in favor of John McCain, finding that he did not violate the law when he opted out of the public-finance system during the primaries.

At issue is the fact that McCain obtained a $3 million bank loan in 2007, when his campaign was in serious trouble, which would have potentially been paid back using federal funds had he failed to win the primaries. He instead went on to win the Republican nomination, raised money the old-fashioned way, and never actually collected federal cash until the general election.

The Democratic National Committee filed a complaint over the deal. But the FEC decided that McCain "permissibly withdrew from the matching payment program and thus was released from his obligations," and that there was no reason to believe a violation occurred.

Obama's Day Ahead: Announcing Sebelius For HHS President Obama will announce at 1 p.m. the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Then at 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

NYT: Washington Offers Sebelius Big Chance On Health Care The New York Times examines Kathleen Sebelius' record on health care, finding a Democrat whose efforts to expand health coverage have faltered against a heavily-Republican state legislature. "Now, with the backing of a Democratic Congress," the Times says, "Ms. Sebelius will have a chance to achieve in Washington what she failed to accomplish in Topeka, and then some."

Dean: I Would Have Liked Health And Human Services Post In an interview with the Huffington Post, Howard Dean discussed his previous desire for the HHS post. "I was pretty clear that I would have liked to have been Secretary of HHS but it is the president's choice and he decided to go in a different direction," Dean told Sam Stein. But he made sure to compliment Kathleen Sebelius: "I think she will be very good. She is a very nice person and I think she will be fine."

WaPo: Geithner And Summers Steer Obama's Economic Policy The Washington Post profiles the partnership that has developed between Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. "I'm struck in meetings by the fact that when Tim says something, it was exactly what I thought needed to be said," said Summers, also adding that the two of them will often finish each other's sentences, and can communicate through a single glance.

Reid Reopens Senate Debate, Allowing More GOP Amendments Roll Call reports that Harry Reid has made a decision to open up Senate debate in a much less controlled manner than he did during 2007 and 2008, in the hopes that such an environment can make it easier to adopt amendments and attract the necessary Republican support to pass bills. Thus far, the paper notes, the decision has attracted praise from Republicans and some consternation from Dems.

Durbin: Race Factored Into Burris Controversies Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has acknowledged that race became a factor in the discussions surround Roland Burris' appointment to the Senate. "My colleague from Illinois, Congressman Bobby Rush, made strong statements along those (racial) lines," said Durbin. "They were painful and hurtful, and it became part of this calculation."

Hillary Promises Aid For Palestinians, Says No Funds For Hamas Hillary Clinton is pledging $900 million in U.S. aid for humanitarian help for the Palestinians, including $300 million for Gaza. Hillary has also promised that the money will not go to Hamas: "We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands."

Canada's Harper: Afghan War Can Never Be Won Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making it clearer that his county will not be providing more troops for Afghanistan, a war that President Obama is trying to beef up, without a clear exit strategy. "My own judgment is, quite frankly, that we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency," the Conservative prime minister said, adding: "We have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own governance."

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