In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Now that he has won his seat in the United States Senate and will be sworn in next week, Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) has officially been assigned office space on Capitol Hill -- with some very special significance to it.

A Senate staffer has sent TPM this photo of Franken's new office, complete with his name on the plaque outside the door:

It just so happens that Franken's new office in the Hart Senate Office Building, Suite 320, previously belonged to none other than former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who Franken narrowly defeated in this long and drawn out race.

Presumably the office was being kept vacant on the off-chance that Coleman might have won his lawsuit against the election results, and then he would have been able to return to it. In the end, somebody else from Minnesota will be moving in.

Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) just held a victory rally at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul, celebrating his hard-fought and heavily-litigated victory that finally came true yesterday. In some of the most heartfelt terms possible, he thanked his staff, all of his supporters and volunteers, and especially his family -- and paid tribute to a departed friend, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

"Well, it was close," he began his remarks, to the laughter of the crowd, alluding to his final certified victory margin of 312 votes out of about 2.9 million. "But we won." And the crowd applauded.

"And when you win an election by this close a margin, you know that not one bit of effort went to waste," he later added. "And so I want to thank every single person who knocked on a door, marched in a parade, made a phone call, gave money, gave time, gave energy, gave of themselves to this effort. Thank all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you."

The longer his speech went on, Franken became more emotional, clearly touched in a very deep way at the amazing victory he has won, and all the effort that other people put into it on his behalf.

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Despite being the largest member of the Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart isn't normally seen as a major obstacle to broader health care reform efforts. But their announcement yesterday was nonetheless surprising: They support a mandate that would require employers to provide insurance to their employees.

You can see their letter, co-signed by SEIU president Andy Stern and Center for American Progress president John Podesta here.

I've put out some calls on this, and hope to have more soon, but a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Most of Wal-Mart's employees already have coverage of some kind--but that has a lot to do with Wal-Mart's ability to cherry pick employees who have outside coverage of some sort.

  2. Wal-Mart could be jockeying for marginal advantage over their larger competitors. See here and here for how that might work. Whatever you (or Wal-Mart) think about the merits of the policy, that's shrewd business. And Wal-Mart is nothing if not shrewd about its business. Keep in mind that the Chamber of Commerce is still strongly opposed to this measure.

  3. From the White House side of things, having Wal-Mart on board with health care reform could be a major boon to passing legislation. Keep in mind that Sen. Blanche Lincolnd (D-AR) is a Finance Committee member who opposes a public option

Those are some preliminary thoughts, but I'll be looking deeper into this development.

Here's a fun dose of schadenfreude.

Sen.-elect Al Franken's (D-MN) long-awaited victory in the 2008 Minnesota Senate race seems to have caused quite a lot of stress in the Murdoch-owned press. Remember, this is the same corporation that sued him for his Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them book back in 2003, with the unintended consequence of giving him tons of free publicity to sell books -- and elevating him into being a hero of liberal activists, without which he might never have become a politician!

On Fox News yesterday evening, Glenn Beck was quite alarmed by the development:

"This is like having me in the Senate," Beck said. "You don't want me as a Senator! What is that? I mean, it shows how crazy our country has gone -- you don't want me as a Senator, you don't want Al Franken as a Senator."

Regardless of whether you agree with that comparison, you do have to admire Beck's honesty about himself.

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Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has now sent out a DSCC fundraising e-mail celebrating the victory of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN), and inviting recipients to congratulate him.

"Sen.-elect Franken's vote will be crucial as we work to pass President Obama's change agenda - a stronger economy, health care for more Americans, and energy policies that protect the planet," the e-mail says, with the emphasis in the original. "We'd also like to thank all of those dedicated supporters from Minnesota and across the nation who helped make it happen. Al Franken couldn't have won without your help, and his victory is your victory, too."

Technically, the e-mail is not a fundraising letter, as there is no appeal for money in the body of the text. There is a standard button at the bottom to contribute money to the DSCC -- and the Dems would obviously appreciate any donations that might come in to mark the occasion -- but they put that in all their e-mails.

The full e-mail is available after the jump.

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Americans United for Change has this new TV ad in the D.C. media market -- essentially aimed at the political and journalistic classes -- praising the energy bill that was passed in the House and now faces a tough fight in the Senate:

The ad gives a patriotic fervor to the bill, focusing on the development of clean-energy jobs in this country. "Last month, Congress met President Obama's challenge to create millions of clean energy jobs," the announcer says, "not in India or China, but right here, in America."

The groups MoveOn, Democracy for America, and Change Congress are out with a new ad in Louisiana targeting Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for her opposition to a public option.

MoveOn hasn't shied away from criticizing Democrats who are trying to kill the public option. In the last couple weeks, the group has loudly criticized Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kay Hagan (D-CA) for their positions on the public option, and their lukewarm attitude to health care reform more generally.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched this new TV ad going after freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) for his vote on the climate bill -- and attacking President's Obama's statement during the 2008 campaign that electricity rates would "skyrocket" under a cap-and-trade system.

This is the first attack ad from the Republican Party during this cycle that uses President Obama in a negative manner:

"That's right -- 'skyrocket,'" the announcer says. "It'll destroy jobs and cost middle-class families $1,800 a year, every time you turn on a switch. On Tom Perriello's voting with Obama and with Nancy Pelosi over and over."

The following other Democratic members of Congress are on the target list for radio ads, phone calls and Web ads: Rick Boucher (VA); Vic Snyder (AR); Ike Skelton (MO); Baron Hill (IN); Harry Teague (NM); Bruce Braey (IA); Bart Gordon (TN); Betsy Markey (CO); John Boccieri (OH); Zack Space (OH); Alan Grayson (FL); Debbie Halvorson (IL); and Mary Jo Kilroy (OH).

Late Update: DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer gives us this response: "Instead of offering solutions, the Republican Party of No is trying to block progress on creating clean energy jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and getting America running on clean energy. It's no wonder the American people don't trust Republicans when all they offer are false attacks on President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Congressional Democrats."

The surfeit of polling data showing broad public support for the public option hasn't swayed Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who's joining conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans in staunch opposition. Check out this video from Paul Bass at the New Haven Independent.

His two key objections are:

  1. "If we create a public option, the public is going to end up paying for it."

  2. "My fear is...[health care providers] would end up getting levels of reimbursement from the public plan...comparable to what they get today from Medicaid."

He should probably take a look at the work the relevant Senate committees are doing, though. The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee is contemplating a public option that finances itself (i.e. no public subsidy), and the likeliest outcome of the legislative process will be a public option that either exists on a level playing field with private insurers (and pays comparable rates for care), or a public option that pays Medicare like rates, or something in between.

SCOTUS Moving Rightward Under Roberts The Washington Post reports that this past Supreme Court session shows the Roberts Court to have moved definitely to the right, through a cautious and incremental -- but definitely conservative -- approach. "One thing I think is going on is that the Chief Justice has a devotion to the institution of the Supreme Court, and not wanting to get it out on a limb in front of public opinion," said Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute. "But Roberts is, after all, a conservative." The New York Times says the same thing, pointing to the key role played by Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will hold an online town hall discussion on health care at 1:15 p.m. ET, hosted at Northern Virginia Community College. At 4:45 p.m. ET, he will sign a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

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