Obama Address: "We Can't Afford To Make Perfect The Enemy Of The Absolutely Necessary"
In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama gives his support to the newest version of the stimulus plan, and says it is vitally important to pass the bill:
"Legislation of such magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received over the last month, and it will receive more in the days to come," says Obama. "But we can't afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. The scale and scope of this plan is right. And the time for action is now."
Steele Address: Cut Taxes, Don't Spend, To Stimulate The Economy
Michael Steele, as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, is getting in on the YouTube Address motif, too, with this new speech. Steele declares that power has already gone to the Democrats' heads, and he attacks the idea of government spending to boost the economy:
"The fastest way to help those families is by letting them keep more of the money they earn," says Steele. "Individual empowerment: that's how you stimulate the economy."
Stimulus Could Pass Senate Tuesday -- But It Won't Be Over
The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on the new stimulus bill on Monday. Should that succeed, it would then proceed to vote on final passage for Tuesday. At this point, the bill will then have to go to a House-Senate conference committee, which will negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions, with the goal being to get something passed by the next weekend.
McConnell: This Plan Won't Work; GOP Won't Support It
Mitch McConnell has released a statement saying that while he hasn't seen the full compromise plan, he has seen enough to say that Senate Republicans will still oppose it. "So let me just sum it up by saying no action is not what any of my Republican colleagues are advocating," said McConnell. "But most of us are deeply skeptical that this will work. And that level of skepticism leads us to believe that this course of action should not be chosen."
Boehner: Stimimlus Bill Is "90 Percent Of A Bad Idea"
John Boehner has also released a statement deriding the new plan. "But ultimately this bill should be judged on whether it works, and 90 percent of a bad idea is still a bad idea," said Boehner. "Like the House-passed bill, the proposed Senate bill appears to be focused overwhelmingly on slow-moving and wasteful Washington spending, rather than immediate job creation and fast-acting tax relief. This is not what the American people want; nor is it what the President called for at the start of the process."
Biden: It's Time To "Press The Reset Button" On Diplomacy
Vice President Biden spoke today to the annual Munich Security Conference, promising a fresh start in U.S. foreign policy. "It's time, to paraphrase President Obama, to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together," said Biden. He also added: "We will engage. We will listen. We will consult. America needs the world, just as I believe the world needs America."
Poll: Sebelius Could Win Kansas Senate Seat For Dems
A new Research 2000 poll shows that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is not at this time a candidate for Senate, ahead of two Republican Congressmen in the open-seat race. Sebelius leads Rep. Todd Tiahrt by 47%-37%, and is ahead of Rep. Jerry Moran by 48%-36%. The last time a Democrat won a Kansas Senate race was in the first FDR landslide of 1932.
The group of centrist senators who have worked for days on a package of proposed cuts to the stimulus bill just finished pitching their final product to the Democratic caucus -- and after a day of pessimistic signals, reports indicate that a roughly $140 billion package of trimmed tax cuts and spending has been okayed by the Democratic caucus.
The Senate is slated to return to floor action tonight, though the time frame for a vote on the slimmer stimulus remains very up in the air. A spokesman for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who has led the centrist talks alongside Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), offered two words of caution when asked about a deal: "Not yet."
Remember, though, that unanimous consent is necessary to get anything done in the Senate, so Republican leaders would have to sign off before the economic recovery plan could come to a final vote. GOPers have adopted a slightly fatalist approach to the stimulus debate from the beginning -- as one conservative sighed last night, ultimate passage is "pretty much a foregone conclusion" -- but that doesn't meant that Republicans wouldn't try to slow things down tonight if they see a political upside.
It really does seem like the Minnesota Senate race is never going to end.
At a post-court press conference this evening, Coleman lawyer Ben Ginbserg announced that Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid had just informed the court that he found two previously unknown, unopened ballots, while searching through his office.
"That would stand somewhat in marked contrast to the Franken campaign's assertion that there's anything resembling a final result of this election," said Ginbserg, if counties seem to be finding new ballots.
This election gives you an idea of what it would be like if lawyers conducted autopsies, instead of doctors. They could just keep on arguing long enough for decomposition to set in, anyway.
In the Minnesota election court this afternoon, Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton continued to demonstrate how the Coleman campaign is now working to get ballots put into the count, that they previously insisted were not legal votes.
Hamilton reviewed a particular ballot that had been shown earlier to Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith, for which the Coleman campaign is arguing that it shouldn't have been excluded simply because the voter signed the envelope in the wrong place.
Smith herself had changed her mind on this issue when reviewing the rejected ballots this past December, and she submitted it to the campaigns for further review. It turned out it was objected to by a campaign, though Smith couldn't remember which one, keeping it out of the count.
Hamilton got out the form submitted by the campaign that vetoed it -- the Coleman campaign, objecting that the signature had been put on the wrong line.
The Senate Commerce Committee has yet to schedule Judd Gregg's confirmation hearing to lead the Commerce Department. Still, don't be surprised if the bone-dry subject of the Census -- as our own Matt predicted -- makes Gregg the latest Obama nominee to be caught up in a GOP-generated flap.
But it won't be Gregg directly caught in the cross-hairs of his former Senate Republican colleagues. Instead it looks like GOPers are ready to go after Rahm Emanuel, accusing the White House chief of staff of yanking the Census away from Gregg's department and claiming it for himself.
I know, the notion sounds absurd -- but let me walk you through it.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME), one of the four Republicans considered genuinely open to cooperation with Democrats on a workable economic recovery bill, just released a statement saying she was approached by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to come up with a list of trims from the $275 billion-plus tax section of the stimulus.
To be clear, this is separate from the $80 bilion-plus package of spending cuts that are being hashed out by a group of 15 or so centrist senators from both parties.
Pruning the tax section of the stimulus is an idea that could hold promise for liberals, many of whom are concerned about the hits that education and transit would take in the centrist senators' package of cuts. The portion Snowe is looking at contains plenty of cuts, for both businesses and individuals -- some of them added in the hopes of winning GOP support -- but also a number of tax credits that could take money out of government coffers in the short term while increasing economic growth in the long term.
All told, trimming the tax section while retaining its (partially questionable) economic benefits is a tricky balance, but one Snowe is uniquely qualified for as a popular member of the Finance Committee. Speaking of, senator, may I suggest that $15 billion could be saved by eliminating the questionable "carryback" tax credit extension?
Fundamentally, the talks at this point hinge on keeping enough Democrats on board with the proposed spending cuts while firming up the commitment of the 2-4 Republicans needed for passage. In the words of one of those GOPers, Arlen Specter (PA), "If [Reid] had [the votes], he would have used them last night."
The Coleman campaign appears to have found a genuine example of a particular type of absentee ballot being treated differently throughout the state, in their central claim of Equal Protection -- but it seems like they're effectively fishing for votes for Al Franken.
Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg has been looking into a category that has come to be known as "3-A" ballots, where a newly-registering voter put their registration form inside the secrecy envelope containing the ballot, rather than immediately within the outer return envelope as they were supposed to. Many local officials now believe those should be counted.
The problem is in figuring out how to identify them. It would involve opening up the secrecy envelope, remaining blind to the actual vote inside, and feeling for that extra card. As it turns out, Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith said her county had been doing just that. Other county officials have said they didn't do this, though it may have occurred here and there.
Coleman attorney/spokesman Ben Ginsberg played this up at a lunch-time press conference. "So there is a difference between counties," Ginsberg said. "It allowed more votes to be counted in Anoka than potentially those other two counties [Ramsey and Washington]."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is trying to get some answers on two potential cases of Bush political appointees "burrowing" into long-term positions at the Pentagon's detainee affairs office.
One of the two has right of return to a civil service position, according to the AP, but let's look for a moment at the second official -- Tara Jones, a special assistant in the detainee office.
Jones was a central figure in the "Pentagon Pundits" scandal, helping to coordinate the military's courtship of former officers who used TV appearances to promote George W. Bush's Iraq war policies. When the New York Timesfirst broke the pundits story, using internal e-mails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, it was Jones' account that the newspaper had asked to view. (The full complement of her publicly released emails is obtainable here.)
One would think Jones' past might make it easier for Feinstein to ensure she doesn't burrow into the system -- but that likely depends on what explanation the senator gets from the Pentagon.
We reported on Wednesday that the Obama administration's new executive pay limits -- which have huge loopholes built in -- weren't stopping Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) from pushing to add her own, stronger CEO pay caps to the stimulus bill.
And very quietly, by unanimous voice vote, McCaskill's plan was added to the stimulus last night. The Senate also added Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd's (D-CT) similar executive pay constraints to the bill. So it seems that GOPers may talk about not wanting government in control of private business; but when push comes to shove, even they can no longer defend the excesses of Wall Street.