Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed a major overhaul of the Pentagon budget and defense arsenals today--a move that will no doubt displease many, many members of Congress, whose districts benefit from some expensive Defense Department procurements. According to Robert Farley, if Gates gets his way we'll see:
Much has been made of the new Pew Poll that seems to find President Obama as polarizing figure, with a 61-point differential between the 88% approval among Democrats and the 27% approval from Republicans.
Pew associate director Michael Dimock told Greg Sargent that the amazing part here is the 88% approval among Democrats, which would seem to guarantee a differential high enough to be termed "polarizing."
But here's another theory I have, that I called Dimock up to ask about: That Republican approval of Obama is so low because the number of Republicans is so low -- only 24% self-identification in this survey, in fact, compared to 33% in 2004. Here's how it would work: If the number of Republicans has shrunk, then the people who peeled away would have been the more moderate GOP respondents, the type of people willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in the form of an approval answer.
Civil rights groups aren't the only organizations rallying behind Dawn Johnsen. Women's organizations are getting involved as well. Last week, the group NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that it would be mobilizing activists and supporters to help confirm not just Johnsen, but two other Obama nominees--Judge David Hamilton nominated to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius, nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services.
Johnsen served as legal director for NARAL from 1988-1993 during which time she filed a brief which contained a footnote arguing that forcing a woman to carry a child to term against her will is "disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude". The quote has raised the ire of conservative groups and Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter who met with Johnsen last week to discuss that and other issues.
The group comes to the defense of their former colleague at a time when reports suggest that Republicans are contemplating a filibuster of her appointment.
NARAL's full statement follows below. Back in February, the umbrella group civilrights.org sent a letter to Specter and Judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy urging them to support Johnsen's nomination. Among the signatories were NARAL, the National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National Women's Law Center.
And the count just keeps getting crazier in NY-20, with Democrat Scott Murphy now on the top end of this see-saw result.
The state's latest official results put Republican candidate Jim Tedisco ahead by 97 votes, as the counties have double-checked their spreadsheets. But now the latest numbers from Washington County give Murphy a 180-vote pickup compared to the state's figures, for an overall lead of 83 votes.
The numbers were first reported by PolitickerNY, and confirmed to TPM by the county.
Arlen Specter maybe an unknown for now, but Dawn Johnsen may also find an unlikely ally in Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.
Back in 2005, during the nuclear option imbroglio Coburn took a fairly absolutist position on the Senate's advise and consent powers, telling the newspaper Tulsa World that no presidential nomination should ever be filibustered. "There is a defined charge to the president and the Senate on advice and consent," he said.
The latest numbers have been posted in the NY-20 special election, with Republican candidate Jim Tedisco ahead by 97 votes, as the counties go through the process of correcting errors in their spreadsheets.
Democratic candidate Scott Murphy had ended Election Night up by 65 votes, but the numbers have swung around since then. The state's official numbers from Friday had shown an exact tie, with Murphy then picking up votes in one county later in the day and another as of today. But obviously, Tedisco has made up the difference somewhere else.
This doesn't include any of the nearly 7,000 absentee ballots that have been returned so far, though, which brings us to the next piece of news: Dutchess County Judge James V. Brands has handed down an order that absentee ballots other than the military and overseas votes are to be counted on Wednesday, ruling against Tedisco's efforts to delay the count.
Senate Republicans may or may not mount a filibuster of Dawn Johnsen, but if they do, it will be a numbers game. Assuming Al Franken is still all tied up in court, Democrats will need at least two Republicans to cross over and vote to end debate on her nomination or it may go nowhere.
One of those Republicans could be Arlen Specter who's the ranking member on the Judiciary committee and the only member of that committee who didn't vote against moving the nomination to the floor. More specifically, he didn't vote at all. He took a pass, saying he'd have to meet with Johnsen personally before he made a decision.
Well, I've just confirmed that the two did meet at the end of last week, and, with that all wrapped up, Specter is...still undecided about the appointment.
Appearing today on MSNBC, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) said that his state's disputed Senate election appears likely to last a few more months:
"It's frustrating that this has taken so long, but we need to get a proper and just and accurate and legal result," said Pawlenty. "It gonna take, it looks like, a few more months to get that."
"I know that you -- a few more months, huh?" answered Norah O'Donnell.
It could be worse. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn has suggested that it could take years.
Meanwhile, the pile of previously-rejected absentee ballot envelopes that could potentially be counted has just shrunk slightly, from 400 down to 387. Upon close examination, it was found that 13 of them had already been counted at one point or another. By the end of the day we should have a list from the court of just how many of the 387 will actually be counted. The counting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET tomorrow, with the counting done by officials from the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, in the courtroom.
Late Update: This post originally said the counting would be done at the Secretary of State's office. It is being done in the courtroom, by an official of the Secretary of State's office.
I have just obtained the latest vote numbers in the NY-20 race from Saratoga County, where the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco claimed on Friday that an unreported discovery of new votes was giving him a pickup of 228, and putting him ahead overall by 30 raw votes. Whether or not that was true at the time, it turns out that as of 10:30 a.m. this morning it's actually the opposite, with Democrat Scott Murphy picking up votes in this county for now.
The numbers provided by a county election commissioner show Murphy picking up a net 97 votes when compared to the state's most recent figures from Friday, as the precincts go through the standard process of proofreading their spreadsheets against the random human errors that occurred on Election Night. These errors tend to be very small and break about evenly, but in a race this close they have suddenly become consequential.
The state could update their numbers for all the counties later this afternoon, so it's worth remembering a piece of wisdom I learned during my six years living in Wisconsin: If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes. For all we know, those Saratoga numbers might have significantly changed yet again, or a different county could have a bunch of newly-revealed votes for either Tedisco or Murphy.