In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Senate Confirms Christopher Hill As Ambassador To Iraq The Senate last night confirmed Christopher Hill to be President Obama's Ambassador to Iraq. The nomination had previously been delayed by some Republican Senators, including John McCain and Sam Brownback, but Hill was finally able to win confirmation on a 73-23 vote.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama is traveling to Iowa for Earth Day today, accompanied by former governor and current Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack. He will depart the White House at 9:45 a.m. ET, and take off from Andrews Air Force Base at 10 a.m. ET. He will arrive in Des Moines at 12:15 p.m. ET, and will tour the Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant, which makes wind-energy towers, at 1:20 p.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, Obama will deliver remarks on his energy plan, laying out a strategy focused on clean energy. He will leave Des Moines at 3:15 p.m. ET, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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It's worth thinking about the story from CQ, that the DCCC has received $250,000 in leftover money from El Tinklenberg, the Democrat who lost to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) last year by a 46%-44% margin. How did he come so close, and have that much money left over?

You might recall that after Bachmann's now-infamous Hardball appearance on October 17, in which she said she was deeply concerned that Barack Obama might be anti-American and called for the media to investigate members of Congress for anti-Americanism, liberals around the country immediately clamored to send some money to her opponent. As a result, Tinklenberg took in $1.9 million in the home stretch.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will meet with Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight--a weekly meeting--and will discuss the creation of a congressional panel to investigate the causes of the financial crisis and worsening recession, Hill sources say.

In 1933, a Sicilian-born American lawyer named Ferdinand Pecora became the chief counsel to the Senate Banking Committee, and conducted a wide-ranging investigation on the causes of the financial crisis that prefigured the Great Depression. Today, Pelosi says she wants Congress to take a similar look into the collapse on Wall Street.

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Regular readers know we've been following the nomination of Dawn Johnsen pretty closely. Johnsen is President Obama's choice to head the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel and her appointment has sent the right into conniptions for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, her writings on abortion and her criticisms of the Bush administration's Justice Department. Senate Republicans have even hinted at the possibility of filibustering her confirmation vote.

Two of the leading indicators on this front are the fact that a date has not been set for the nomination to be debated and voted on, and that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not yet determined whether he'll support a filibuster (Johnsen's nomination cleared the committee on a party line vote from which Specter abstained).

Congressional Quarterly has an update from Specter, though, and the update is that...there is no update.

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Appearing on C-Span today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) gave a very interesting spin on the right-wing attacks against President Obama for shaking Hugo Chávez's hand -- saying that Chávez and Obama are so very much alike:

"But something that comes to mind when I see this image, too, is here are two world leaders that have both, within the last month, nationalized huge private-sector companies," said King. "In the case of President Obama, General Motors and Chrysler, at least in effect if not in actuality, and moved it down that path, when he fired the CEO of General Motors, and when he ordered that Chrysler merge with Fiat."

"Those two have done the same thing to private business," King added, "and I think that image also will soak into the minds of investors around the world, and where they want to put their money."

The Franken campaign has filed its motion for an expedited appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing for a quick response to Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the election trial.

The court is widely expected to grant a fast-tracked appeal, whether it's by the Franken camp's exact requested timeline or in some other way. The proposed schedule from Team Franken calls for Coleman to submit his legal brief by next Monday, April 27, for Franken to submit his brief by Saturday, May 2, and for Coleman to file any new reply by that Monday, May 4, with oral arguments scheduled as soon as possible after those preparations.

The filing cites the election-contest statute itself, and its requirement that the appeal "takes precedence over all other matters before the Supreme Court." Beyond the strict legalese, they also get into the political significance of this whole matter: "Under the United States Constitution, Minnesota is entitled to be represented by two United States Senators. Minnesota has been without its second Senator for more than 100 days."

Judge David Hamilton will testify once again before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the behest of the committee's Republicans, most of whom refused to attend his first hearing.

Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) isn't happy. "It has been four weeks since Judge Hamilton first appeared before the Committee, and I am disappointed that Committee Republicans have yet to ask a single question of this nominee," Leahy said.

Nonetheless, at the request of the Ranking Member, I have invited Judge Hamilton to testify on April 29. Judge Hamilton has the strong support of his home state senators, Senator Lugar and Senator Bayh. After Judge Hamilton appears again before the Committee, I hope Republican members will not further delay our consideration of this qualified judicial nominee.

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A newly-elected Democratic Senator is now breaking with the Obama administration on trade, after Trade Representative Ron Kirk commented yesterday that issues with NAFTA can be addressed without officially renegotiating it.

Freshman Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), whose textile state has never been friendly to free trade, put out this press release today:

"While I understand the President's desire to maintain a good relationship with our North American trading partners, I am disappointed US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said it is not necessary to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," said Hagan. "This country's current trade policy is not working. The manufacturing economy in North Carolina has suffered and far too many North Carolinians have lost their jobs. It is only right we require our trading partners to enforce the labor and environmental standards that we ask of our manufacturing industry."

In yet another setback for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel has just ruled that Blago is not allowed to travel to Costa Rica to appear on a Survivor-style reality show for celebrities.

Blago would have needed to this special permission to leave the country during a time when he is under indictment. The Chicago Sun-Times quotes the judge as saying: "I don't think this defendant in all honesty ... fully understands the position he finds himself in."

Besides, this whole thing seemed pretty superfluous: Blago already starred on a really fun reality show.

The latest legal filing from Norm Coleman's legal team, officially registering their appeal of his defeat in the Minnesota election trial, seems to contain an interesting pair of contingency plans when it quickly lays out exactly what his case is: That either votes should be counted showing that he is the winner -- or that no winner can be determined at all.

The filing is not a complicated brief, but a quick summary of what Coleman's points will be at a later date. It mainly focused on Coleman's claim that thousands of rejected absentee ballots that he identified ought to be counted, if he can get a standard of admission less than the strict compliance with the law demanded by the court.

But then it adds this:

II. Whether the trial court violated the constitutional protections of equal protection and due process when it declared that Respondent received the highest number of "legally cast votes" where the record demonstrated that, by the trial court's rulings, the number of "illegally cast" ballots counted on election day and during the recount greatly exceeded the margin between the candidates and it cannot be determined for which candidate those illegal votes were counted?

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