In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The South Carolina Republican Party has formally voted to censure Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) over his extra-marital affair and his disappearance from the state -- an interesting development, the closer one looks at it.

Of the 41 members of the state GOP's executive committee, a bare majority of 22 voted to censure him. Ten members voted to ask him to resign, and nine others in fact voted in support of him.

Funny thing: Sanford voted to impeach Bill Clinton over a sex scandal in 1998, and at the time a whole lot of Republicans said that a mere censure of Clinton was insufficient -- only impeachment or a resignation would truly satisfy the moral and legal problems at hand.

Franken Being Sworn In Today Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) will be sworn into office today by Vice President Biden, at about noon. This ends a Senate race that lasted eight months beyond Election Day itself, and involved six months of litigation after the State Canvassing Board had completed the recount. Franken will take office six months plus one day after he would have been sworn in with the other Senators who were elected in 2008, if not for the sheer closeness of his race and the resulting litigation.

Obama's Day In Russia President Obama had a working breakfast in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, at 1 a.m. ET (9 a.m. local time). At 3 a.m. ET, he met with former President Mikhail Gorbachev. AT 3:15 a.m. ET, he delivered the commencement address for the 2009 graduation of the New Economic School. At 5:40 a.m. ET, he met one-on-one with President Dmitry Medvedev, and he and First Lady Michelle Obama attended a reception hosted by Medvedev at 6:10 a.m. ET. At 7:25 a.m. ET, Obama and Medvedev met with the Parallel Business Summit, and Obama met with the Parallel Civil Society Summit at 8:20 a.m. ET. AT 9:35 a.m ET, Obama will meet with Russian opposition leaders.

Read More →

If you're a long-time politico, you may have seen it coming: Standing between progressives and fundamental health care reform is a 30-year Senate veteran with a reputation cemented long ago as a deal-maker -- or less charitably, as a sellout. Montana's Max Baucus is exactly the sort of centrist often embraced by Washington insiders for "getting things done"--but whose record of acquiescing to special interests makes progressives cringe. As chairman of the Finance Committee he's weathered his share of controversies. There's no bypassing Baucus entirely. And he's enjoying his position at the nexus of the reform battle.

"It's a parade of lobbyists going in and out of that office every day," says a Senate aide. "Everyone involved has strong ties back to the industry. And anyone who understands Baucus' record understands that neither he nor his staffers want to make them unhappy."

The Senate returns from a brief recess this week to round out--or try to round out--a tough task: finalize, and merge, two substantially different health care bills, and then vote on a final product. All along, the key sticking point in that process has been the question of the public option--but now that every other committee of jurisdiction has settled upon a version of a public option, all eyes are on Baucus and Finance.

Read More →

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: The Senate returns from recess this week with a tremendous amount of work to do if they plan to complete their work on health care reform by August recess. Key senators are beginning to suggest that the timeline may be too ambitious, but a spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid tells The Plum Line they should prepare themselves to work weekends if that's what it'll take to get the job done.

  • Nominations: As conservatives and Republicans pore over documents relating to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's tenure on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Senate Judiciary Committee readies itself for a July 13 confirmation hearing.

  • Senate Politics: After more than six months of waiting, Minnesotans will have their second senator tomorrow, when Sen.-Elect Al Franken is finally seated.

The pro-Obama group Americans United For Change is going nationwide with a new ad campaign, praising members of Congress who voted for the energy bill. The ad campaign brings a patriotic fervor to the pro-bill side, boasting of the "uniquely American" solution that will create energy jobs here instead of other countries.

Here's the version running in the district of Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN):

The ad is a localized version of a spot they premiered last week for the D.C. media market -- which is basically a testing ground for response from the media -- with the names of individual Congressmen inserted in to be praised for voting in favor of the bill.

The list of Democratic House members for this ad campaign: John Boccieri (OH); Mary Jo Kilroy (OH); Steve Driehaus (OH); Mark Schauer (MI); Betsy Markey (CO); Baron Hill (IN); Ben Chandler (KY); Frank Kratovil (MD); Dan Maffei (NY); Mike Doyle (PA); Tom Perriello (VA); Rick Boucher(VA); Paul Hodes (NH), who is also running for the Senate; and Carol Shea-Porter (NH). There will also be a generic version in the Detroit media market, and on national cable for CNN and MSNBC. This list has some overlap with the NRCC's new ad campaign against the bill.

Here's another Republican who will openly express his puzzlement at Sarah Palin's latest move: Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who doesn't seem to think that Palin has a political future anymore.

"I don't know of anyone who has successfully and voluntarily pulled themselves out of political office and been able to leverage that into more political success," King told The Hill, also adding: "I hope there's something brilliant behind this because she's entirely capable of actually having a grand strategy that the rest of us don't understand."

So think about that: Sarah Palin has managed to do something that even Steve King thinks is odd.

Check out this new cover from National Review:

This is as strong an argument as any other that's been made against the public option: That Obama will be personally telling you to turn your head and cough, then sticking his finger where the sun don't shine.

Late Update: Some people have raised the matter of a recent Economist cover:

While these covers might seem similar, they really aren't the same in the ways that matter. There's a big difference between the universal fear of big needles, as compared to an index finger pointed in the air...from underneath a latex glove.

Here's yet another example of how Republicans across the country are becoming just a little unbalanced over the victory of Sen.-elect Al Franken.

Last week, soon after Franken's win became official, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson put up a blog post that included a curious photo of Franken in an adult diaper, wearing bunny ears and holding a teddy bear. Bronson suggested Republicans use this photo for an ad, with the heading: "Is this who you want making decisions about your health care?"

The thing is, though, the photo is a fake. It was doctored up by the Ohio Republican Party back in 2006, in an attempt to attack Democrat Sherrod Brown for campaigning with Franken in Brown's Senate race, using Franken's face from a 2004 AP file photo of him at his radio show desk. And the Enquirer itself reported this at the time. In an indication of just how successful the attack was, Brown easily won the race.

Funny thing: The title of Bronson's blog is "Bronson is Always Right." I'll also say that I have something in common with Republicans, in that I kind of wish this photo were real -- but probably for a much different reason than they do.

Late Update:: The Enquirer has now replaced the photo, with a pic of Franken in the role of Stuart Smalley. "Note: This picture replaces an earlier one that was photoshopped (Franken in a diaper)," the editorial note says. "We don't knowingly use false pictures."

Late Late Update: The Enquirer now appears to have taken the whole post down -- the link above resolves to the main page of Bronson's blog. Bronson -- who is always right, of course -- has put up a new blog post (for now) admitting that the diaper photo isn't real, and explaining that he replaced it with a Stuart Smalley pic. This new post, in which he admits his own error, is entitled "Changing Al Franken's diaper."

File this away under house keeping and/or leading indicators. After bidding farewell to his boss earlier this year, a one-time spokesman for Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has returned--as spokesman for Sestak's political campaign.

Joe Langdon departed from his position as Sestak's communications director in May, about two weeks before we revealed that Sestak was raising money from supporters in advance of a run for Senate. Now, he confirms, he's back with the Admiral--this time working for Sestak's political campaign, "Sestak for Congress."

The news comes as Sestak continues a three-week long marathon tour across Pennsylvania.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just held a joint media appearance with Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN), with each of them giving a short statement, and possibly both seeking to counter the expectation that the former comedian will be a goofy politician -- Reid did so by citing the words of a Republican former Congressman, and Franken by simply being a serious, straightforward incoming Senator:

"I'm very happy to welcome to our Capitol, Sen-elect Al Franken. He ran a very hard-fought race and that's an understatement," said Reid. "I was talking to Al a few minutes ago and told him about my hectic race that took six weeks before the results were in. His took eight months."

Franken quite naturally smiled and let out a slight laugh during this discussion of a hectic race that took a whole six weeks to decide.

Read More →