In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It's always been an intractable political issue, but the number of reports indicating that new cap-and-trade legislation is hitting a lot of snags is remarkable for a couple reasons. The first is that the bill in question--the American Clean Energy and Security Act--has been introduced in the House, where legislation can be fast tracked much more easily than it can in the Senate. The second is that it's lead sponsor, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA), is an extremely talented legislator, who has put a tremendous number of professional resources into making sure the government addresses climate change.

Almost two weeks ago, worried that the bill would stall, Waxman had to delay its first markup hearing. Then, last week, a rift emerged between Waxman and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, over the viability of passing major energy legislation this year. Now, House Blue Dogs are trying to torpedo the bill, and Waxman has been put in the position of promising to provide manufacturers and energy producers with billions of dollars worth of free pollution permits under its terms.

And that's all before there's been a single vote on it. We'll keep tracking the bill's progress. Climate change legislation reportedly remains President Obama's and Speaker Pelosi's chief legislative priority. But these developments must come as unwelcome news both to them and to the environmentalists who came out quickly in praise of the bill when it was released earlier this spring.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a vocal conservative who serves as a deputy Republican whip, appears to have just admitted openly that the GOP's policies are irrelevant.

In the new Time article on the current sorry state of the party, McHenry decried the endless rhetoric about tax cuts -- and apparently declared that the era of Reagan is over:

The most urgent question is the meaning of economic conservatism. Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a conservative who keeps a bust of Reagan on his desk, surprised me by declaring that the Reagan era is over. "Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts," he said. "The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set."

Tom Ridge will not be challenging Pat Toomey for the Republican Senate nomination in Pennsylvania in 2010. In a statement released today, the former governor and Homeland Security chief said, "[a]fter careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate."

I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.

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Yesterday, Greg Sargent flagged a report that GOP pollster Frank Luntz had authored a strategy memo rehashing some of the themes Republicans used 16 years ago to torpedo Hillary Care. Greg noted that though "such messaging was very effective 16 years ago, the recycling of it could leave Republicans open to charges that they don't understand how much the landscape has changed since then."

Then Ben Smith dug up the memo itself, which is striking for a couple of reasons. First it advises Republicans to use many of the same banal platitudes they already use when arguing against comprehensive health reform. "Stop talking economic theory and start personalizing the impact of a government takeover of healthcare," Luntz warns.

They don't want to hear that you're opposed to government healthcare because it's too expensive (any help from the government to lower costs will be embraced) or because it's anti-competitive (they don't know about or care about current limits to competition). But they are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care - so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It's not an economic issue. It's a bureaucratic issue.

So what sort of language should Republicans resort to instead? Luntz says "too many politician [sic] say 'we don't want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain' without explaining those consequences."

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Is Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher really quitting the Republican Party? That's what a new Time article on the current sad state of the GOP says.

"Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, tells TIME he's so outraged by GOP overspending, he's quitting the party -- and he's the bull's-eye of its target audience," the article says.

Mr. The Plumber has been a figurehead among Republican activists since last October, when a chance encounter with Barack Obama and the active promotion by McCain campaign turned him into the face of blue-collar conservatism. If he's not willing to call himself a Republican, they're really in trouble.

But even here on spending, there's a catch when it comes to the ideological purity: "But he also said he wouldn't support any cuts in defense, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid -- which, along with debt payments, would put more than two-thirds of the budget off limits."


There's been a lot of schadenfreude on the right (and to some extent on the left) about the fact that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has, at least for now, lost his seniority on various committees, particularly the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.

But while that continues to be the case, Senate leaders have reportedly reached a compromise of sorts. Specter, according to The Washington Post, will assume the chairmanship of the Judiciary's Crime and Drugs Subcommittee. To make room for him, that subcommittee's current chairman--Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL)--will step down and assume the chairmanship of the reconstituted Human Rights Subcommittee.

It's a small bone--he's still lost much of his power on the pork-able Appropriations Committee--but they've thrown it to him. Just as Reid suggested they would yesterday.

Obama To Seek $17 Billion In Budget Cuts President Obama is set to announce today a proposed $17 billion in budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. Already, the proposed cuts are getting some pretty negative reviews from the Associated Press and the Washington Post, as being too small. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag defended the cuts this morning on MSNBC: "But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 10:35 a.m. ET from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the proposed budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. At 12:45 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer. At 2:45 p.m. he will meet with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. At 4:15 p.m. ET he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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So how exactly did Arlen Specter manage to be the hero of the Democratic Party on Tuesday of last week, the day that he switched, only to end up losing his seniority seven days later? And can he earn it back?

Here's what a Senate Democratic staffer told us: "Senator Specter has not helped himself recently with some of his recent actions. But he has a year and half to try to make the case to the rest of the caucus."

The Franken campaign has released this statement on Al Franken's meeting today at the White House with Vice President Biden:

MINNEAPOLIS [05/06/09] - This afternoon, Senator-elect Al Franken visited the White House to meet with Vice President Biden. Franken updated the Vice President on the state of Minnesota's second U.S. Senate seat, and discussed the administration's agenda and its potential benefits for the people of Minnesota. Franken was accompanied by his wife, Franni.

Al Franken:

"I deeply appreciate the administration's ongoing support and the opportunity to meet with Vice President Biden today. Minnesotans are eager to see Congress make progress on the administration's agenda - and I'm eager to do my part in that effort. From investments in alternative energy to the expansion of high-speed rail to the Twin Cities, we have a lot to do to help Minnesota's working families, and I was pleased to discuss these important issues with the Vice President."

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