In it, but not of it. TPM DC

We reported yesterday on Republican objections to moving forward on confirming two of Barack Obama's top environmental nominees.

At first the delay was reported as a Senate "hold," but it turned out to be a different breed of slowdown -- Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) had been quoted as raising the alarm, yet he told us that it was nothing but a misunderstanding. By the evening, the objection had been officially lifted and the environmental nominees were approved.

Now it looks like the same thing is happening with Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), the president's nominee to head the Department of Labor.

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Arguments just ended in today's latest round of the Minnesota hearings, and Norm Coleman's legal team had what can only be described as an awkward moment: One of the three judges began openly heckling them.

Franken attorney David Lillehaug brought up Coleman's claims that absentee ballots were wrongly accepted on Election Day, that people unqualified to vote cast ballots, and that some people voted twice -- all for Franken, of course. Lillehaug said how the Franken campaign has tried to get an answer from the Coleman team how they would know whom any such people voted for.

At this point, Hennepin County (Minneapolis) Judge Denise Reilly cut in. "I was thinking about that as a criminal witness," said Reilly, joking about the idea of summoning in individual voters and putting them on the stand, giving them counsel and demanding testimony on how they voted.

Even worse for Coleman: Reilly was appointed to the bench in the 1990's by a Republican governor.

When last we left the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Cornyn (TX) was taking a stand against accountability by insisting that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder promise not to prosecute any intelligence official for possible interrogation abuses at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) took a more pragmatic view of Holder's ability to promise such sweeping immunity before court action on detainee cases is complete. But where is Arlen Specter (PA), Judiciary's senior Republican, in all of this?

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The answer is 25.

Here's a list of the Democrats who voted in favor of the financial bailout last October but changed their minds yesterday, when the House passed a resolution disapproving of President Obama's request for $350 billion more:

Michael Arcuri (NY), Shelley Berkley (NV), Marion Berry (AR), Dan Boren (OK), Allen Boyd (FL), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Artur Davis (AL), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Phil Hare (IL), Jane Harman (CA), Ron Kind (WI), Jerry McNerney (CA), Kendrick Meek (FL), Charlie Melancon (LA), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (NY), Laura Richardson (CA), Mike Ross (AR), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter (NY), Zack Space (OH), Jackie Speier (CA), Peter Welch (VT)

The genuinely shocking names on that list are Rangel and Davis, a longtime ally of President Obama who didn't feel the need to extend the same trust to him that the Senate did.

At a pre-trial hearing in the Minnesota election lawsuit just now, Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton made a striking accusation: That the Coleman campaign has been doctoring evidence.

As an example, Hamilton showed two photocopies of a rejected absentee ballot envelope, one of which he said was the unaltered original, and the other taken from Coleman's legal filings in his attempts to get more of the rejected ballots opened. The Coleman copy was missing the section in which a local election official explained why it was rejected.

"We would not be able to stipulate to the authenticity of a document where the key portion has been cut out," Hamilton complained.

Coleman attorney James Langdon expressed his absolute surprise. "What he has pointed out is news to me," said Langdon. "There has been no effort on our part to be anything other than absolutely truthful."

Langdon speculated that there may have been a photocopying problem.

The court took no action on this for now, instead asking the parties to first try to work out any differences on evidence between themselves.

New York Gov. David Paterson just held his press conference in Albany to announce the appointment of upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to the United States Senate seat formerly held by Hillary Clinton.

Paterson started off the speech as he often does, telling an amusing anecdote about how he first met Gillibrand at the state Capitol when he was Lt. Governor, only to end up being in the middle of the 2003 Northeastern blackout. He then touted Gillibrand's work on government reform and economic issues, and for her work on the Armed Services and Agriculture committees.

In her acceptance speech, Gillibrand seemed to back away a bit from her previous "A" rating from the National Rifle Association -- which had led Rep. Carolyn McCarthy to openly threaten a Democratic primary challenge -- by pledging to work with McCarthy on a bill to require better background checks to keep guns out of criminals' hands.

Overall, Gillibrand sought to reach out from her relatively obscure upstate district to the rest of the electorate: "Over the next two years you will get to know me, but much more importantly I will get to know you."

As Politico reports, House Republican leaders took advantage of today's bipartisan meeting with President Obama to introduce their own alternative economic stimulus plan. Unsurprisingly, the theme is tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.

Instead of a tax credit for individuals making $75,000 or less or families making less than $150,000, Republicans would like to reduce the tax rate by 5 percent on those Americans in the lowest tax brackets, from 15 percent to 10 percent and 10 percent to 5 percent.

House Republican Leader John A. Boehner and his no. 2, party Whip Eric Cantor, pitched the plan to Obama during the Friday morning meeting. Boehner tapped Cantor to come up with ideas, and this plan is the result of that work.

Boehner, in remarks on the White House driveway, warned that "government can't solve this problem."


The president's vow to keep 90% of the stimulus-related jobs in the private sector wasn't enough, guys? Aw.

The Bush administration's participation in the personnel tactic known as "burrowing" has been well-reported in recent weeks. The practice isn't unique to the Bush crowd; during presidential transitions, political appointees eager to stay on the government payroll often wriggle their way into secure civil service positions -- despite the differing political beliefs of the White House's new occupant.

But because the central objective of burrowing is for political appointees to fly under the radar while Washington changes hands, it's often hard to tell when the practice is actually occurring. Consider the case of Kathie Olsen, who just made a very curious move: going from the No. 2 post at the National Science Foundation to the far less influential job of "senior advisor" in the NSF's Office of Information and Resource Management.

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Here's another interesting wrinkle from Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) imminent promotion to the Senate: She appears to have switched her position on gay marriage from a standard "safe" Democratic stance, to now being a full supporter.

Empire State Pride Agenda has put out a press release saying that Gillibrand has spoken to them, and they are glad to say that New York will have its first Senator who endorses full marriage equality. This is a big change for Gillibrand, who previously had a conventional Democratic position of endorsing civil unions and non-discrimination laws, but not being for gay marriage.

To be sure, Gillibrand's voting record on gay rights was not anything that could be called bad. There weren't too many votes on gay issues in the last two years, but she did vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the hate crimes bill.

Gillibrand's House district voted twice for George W. Bush, then narrowly flipped to Barack Obama in 2008. So one can see why Gillibrand was less than willing to support gay marriage. But if we're looking at this from the assumption of political opportunism, this in turn gives us a new realization: We are now in a world in which endorsing gay marriage can actually be a politically beneficial choice in a statewide setting.

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