In it, but not of it. TPM DC

From Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) press briefing on the stimulus, going on right now:

Hoover was very interventionist. He raised taxes, increased spending, and tried very much to [intervene in] the economy.


"A lot of us would not like to have the level of government involvement" that the stimulus involves, Ensign added.

Great news from the House floor, where members are debating the $825 billion stimulus bill. An amendment from Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) -- restoring $3 billion in mass transit funding to an initial $10 billion pot that looked distressingly low to many urban-planning folks -- just passed by voice vote.

This brings the infrastructure portion of the stimulus a large step closer to the level of investment that has a genuine chance of expanding the nation's green transportation options. Amtrak, Metro, and subway riders, rejoice.

Late Victory Lap Update: Nadler just noted that hundreds of millions of dollars of this newly approved cash would go to often under-funded priorities in the crowded urban areas of New York and California. From his statement:

This amendment is crucial for fair distribution of transportation spending between urban and non-urban parts of the county. ... Investment in transit is a major step toward putting Americans to work right away in green jobs, reducing emissions and improving our transit systems.

My friends at Politico, Jim VandeHei and Eamon Javers, have a piece this morning about those who advocate doing nothing in the face of our economic crisis. No stimulus, nada, these folks argue.

I think there's an argument for doing nothing but it's so outside the conventional mainstream, far to the right of the House Republicans, that it seems to me incumbent upon Politico, for whom I've written and which I admire, to have noted that some of the experts quoted in their piece have what we might call exotic histories.

The piece quotes Andrew Schiff, as "an investment consultant at Euro-Pacific Capital and a card-carrying member of the stand-tall-against-the-stimulus lobby." He tells Politico: "All this stimulus money is geared toward getting consumers spending and borrowing again. But spending and borrowing were the problem in the first place." This quote and identification make him sound like some typical money guy expressing the kind of fiscal prudence you expect from Hal Holbrooke in Wall Street.

Read More →

The Washington Times reported today that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has privately assured Sen. Kit Bond (MO) and other Republicans that the Obama DoJ will not prosecute intelligence officials who engaged in harsh interrogations.

A Bond aide told the Times that the senator "strongly considered blocking the nomination based on questions arising from some of Mr. Holder's public statements," but that Bond now planned to support the nomination after "having received assurances that [Holder] was not intent on going after intelligence officials who acted in good faith."

The implication of the piece is fairly clear: Holder promised Bond to eschew prosecutions, and Bond promised not to block his nomination. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- which approved Holder today -- strongly denied that such an exchange could have occurred.

Read More →

Now this is odd. At a briefing with reporters just now, Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said that the Coleman case is not about complicated legal language or doctrines, but is instead about voters like Gerald Anderson and Wesley Briest, who were brought in yesterday to talk about how their ballots are still not counted.

Gerald Anderson sure seems compelling. He's a septuagenarian who says his signature on the ballot envelope didn't look right because he is now too blind to fill things out perfectly. But Briest is one of the two clear problem witnesses they brought in yesterday.

Briest's testimony went as thus: He initially said that he voted at the polls, and not by absentee. Then a Coleman lawyer showed Briest his absentee ballot envelope, and reminded him that he did not go to the polls, too. Upon cross-examination by Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton, Briest admitted that his wife didn't fully complete the witness section of the absentee ballot, regardless of the confusion over whether he showed up at the polls or not.

It could have been worse. Ginsberg could have mentioned Douglas Thompson, the friendly Coleman witness who wants his ballot to be counted even though he obtained it through his girlfriend forging his signature.

(Special thanks to The Uptake for carrying the presser.)

As Josh just observed, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is still under investigation for his role in alleged trading of congressional earmarks. A major figure in that inquiry, which you can read more about here, is GOP congressman-turned-lobbyist Bill Lowery.

Lowery's lawyer during the initial days of the Lewis probe, and during the height of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal, was former Clinton administration counsel Lanny Breuer -- who was recently nominated by President Obama to lead the Justice Department's criminal division.

Breuer was also a registered lobbyist as recently as last year, representing Yahoo on "law enforcement demands for user information," according to the Senate disclosure database.

Does that mean Breuer will have to seek a waiver from the Obama administration's ethics order on prior lobbying, as Pentagon No. 2 nominee Bill Lynn recently did? Perhaps, though his was a far narrower involvement than that of Lynn or former Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson, the new Treasury Department chief of staff.

Either way, it's worth noting that private sector employment isn't an automatic black mark for those re-entering government service.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus just released a memo that offers a worthy counterpoint to our discussions today about the Republicans' baldly misleading message on the stimulus.

The Progressives have rounded up elements of their proposed $1 trillion stimulus that ended up making it into the Democratic leaders' final bill, in part or in whole. It's a list that's worth remembering while tax cuts seemingly dominate the airwaves.

The highlights of the memo are after the jump:

Read More →

The Minnesota election court is rolling along without delays today, and the fairly productive morning we've just had served to make even clearer something that we've known all along: Once you get to the most minute levels of an election, the whole thing is a legal mess.

The Coleman legal team continued its questioning of Jim Gelbmann, the Deputy Secretary of State who oversaw much of the recount. The focus of the Coleman team's case is not simply human error but human variation -- that is, the recount rules may have been uniform statewide, but the human beings administering the rules applied them differently -- and this constitutes a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

Read More →

In his remarks earlier this morning about his stimulus plan, Obama touted Recovery.gov as a website where Americans "will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars." Actually the site is empty pending the passage of the bill. Basically, it's a placeholder for after the bill is passed. Shouldn't there be something in there about the competing proposals? The options? Etc. It seems kind of lame for such a techno-savvy White House. Besides after the bill is passed how quickly are they really going to be able to update how Topeka spends it's sewer money?

Amidst the confirmation of Eric Holder and the president's first dis of the Sidwell Friends School--he mocked the institution, not by name, but for cancelling school today in contrast to hardy Chicago where the coating of ice that closed D.C. schools, public and private, would be all but ignored--there was some interesting news.

The counsel's office had some interesting appointments. One is the highly regarded Karen Dunn, a longtime Hillary aide and Yale Law grad, whose presence further solidifies the number of former Clinton aides in the Obama White House. (Like her friend, Howard Wolfson, she's a Nita Lowey alumnus, too.) Susan Sher, the former corporation counsel for the City of Chicago also joins the counsel's office strengthening the Chicago contingent. Maybe most interesting is Norm Eisen, one of the founders of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) and a special counsel for ethics issues helps carry through Obama's commitment to ethics reform. Friends of General Counsel Greg Craig will note that he's brought his assistant, Catherine Whitney, over from Williams & Connolly, too. Neal Wolin, a veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council, will be there, too suggesting a return to a traditional legal view of those agencies. This will be an interesting office to watch.

The counsel's office is important in and of itself but it's also a springboard to many other jobs. Lisa Brown, who holds the important position of Staff Secretary in the White House--the person in charge of paper flow--was Al Gore' s counsel. From John Dean to Fred Fielding to Lloyd Cutler, it's always at the center of things. Putting a Hillary alum and a special ethics counselor in there makes the mix that much more intriguing.

TPMLivewire