In it, but not of it. TPM DC

When the new Democratic Congress passed a sweeping ethics bill in 2007, controversy erupted over the proposed new "revolving-door" ban on ex-lawmakers and aides lobbying their former colleagues. Senators wanted to double the ban to two years, while House Democrats pushed for keeping a one-year ban that would allow them to nail down lucrative lobbying gigs after leaving the Hill.

But no matter the length of the revolving-door ban, both Republicans and Democrats have long taken advantage of its enormous loophole. Let's call it the "senior adviser" route -- instead of lobbying current lawmakers directly, defeated members of Congress are flocking in droves to become behind-the-scenes consiglieres to the lobbyists that are allowed to contact sitting members.

The "senior adviser" club got another member just this morning ...

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DSCC communications director Eric Schultz just sent TPM this statement in response to the Coleman legal team's suggestion that the election court throw out the whole election result:

"I'm sure Senator John McCain would like to throw out the results of November 4, 2008 as well. I applaud the Coleman campaign for their candor: at least after five weeks in court the Coleman camp is admitting they lost the election, and I also applaud them for their creativity - maybe next they'll suggest aliens from Mars come down to make Norm Coleman Senator again - because that's as far-fetched as asking for a revote when you lose an election. If Senator Coleman wants a revote, he can have one: in 2014 when Senator Franken's first term expires."

The Democrats are clearly more than happy to see leading Republican politicians bow down before Rush Limbaugh, with a new Democratic National Committee press release attacking the GOP for siding with Rush on ... transportation and infrastructure.

Specifically, the release from DNC chairman Tim Kaine praises the infrastructure improvements contained in the stimulus bill, and then lambastes Congressional Republicans for voting No on the bill at Rush's urging:

Today, President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled new job-creating infrastructure projects that were made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects are helping put Americans back to work while also investing in repairing our crumbling infrastructure. But, instead of joining Democrats in supporting the President's economic recovery plan, almost every single Republican in Congress chose to follow Rush Limbaugh by voting against a plan that will create or save 3.5 million jobs.


And of course, Kaine reminds us that Michael Steele apologized for offending Limbaugh: "Now, instead of the denouncing Limbaugh's claim that he is rooting for the President to fail, my counterpart at the Republican National Committee proved who is really leading their party -- calling Rush Limbaugh to apologize after courageously criticizing him just this weekend."

In short, the Democrats' new message is that the Republican Party is dominated by an obnoxious bully who wants the country to tank -- and the GOP politicians aren't brave enough to stand up to him.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a strong supporter of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, is launching a full-on battle this week to remove several provisions from the 2009 government spending bill that would open a small crack in the slammed door of relations with Havana.

Menendez fired a broadside at the Obama administration yesterday for backing a provision buried in the $410 billion spending bill, which must become law by next week in order to keep the government running. The New Jersey senator, a Cuban-American, objects to language in the bill that would allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island once a year and end limits on the sale of American food and medicines in Cuba.

Menendez even suggested yesterday that he might oppose the spending bill if the Cuba provisions were not removed, saying in a floor speech that they "[put] the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide.''

Polls suggest that the majority of Cuban-Americans side with the administration, rather than Menendez -- an influential poll of the community, conducted in Florida every year since 1991, found in December that 55% of Cuban-Americans supported lifting the embargo against Havana.

But regardless of where public opinion stands, Menendez's effort is no longer confined to the spending bill. The WaPo reports today that the senator has held up two Obama science nominees in an attempt to twist the arms of his fellow Dems:

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Check out this excerpt from Bobby Jindal's appearance last night on Larry King Live. Jindal was asked about Rush Limbaugh's declarations of wanting President Obama to fail. He not only couldn't bring himself to repudiate Rush's remarks, but also praised Rush as a "great leader for conservatives" -- and he said he was glad that Michael Steele had apologized for taking a shot at him:

King: All right, governor, here was Rush Limbaugh at this weekend's CPAC Conference. Watch.

Rush Limbaugh: What is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed?

King: Governor, do you think people are thinking about capitalism now or are they thinking about problems?

Jindal: Look, clearly, the American people are worried about paying their mortgages, keeping their jobs and paying their health care bills. I think Rush is a great leader for conservatives. I think he articulates what a lot of people are concerned about.

King: Do you want him [Obama] to fail?

Jindal: I don't want those policies to be adopted. I want my country to succeed, but I don't want policies to be adopted.

King: What if the policies work?

Jindal: Well, again...

King: What if they work?

Jindal: This is where we have a fundamental disagreement. I don't think it's going work ... to spend in excess of our revenues.


Jindal also responded to Michael Steele's recent flap about Limbaugh: "I'm glad he apologized. I think the chairman is a breath of fresh air for the party. As I said before, I think Rush is a leader for many conservatives and says things that people are concerned about."

The Service Employees International Union, SEIU, has an amusing new web ad up to make fun of the more hysterical claims from the right about Employee Free Choice Act:

That talk from the Coleman campaign about how we can't get a legitimate winner in the Senate race, and therefore we can't certify a result for Al Franken, has now gone beyond the court of public opinion -- it has officially entered the courtroom itself.

The Coleman team has previously said that the judges have to either undo the strict standards for letting in new ballots, or else undertake a review of all 290,000 absentee ballots from Election Night and start proportionately reducing the totals. In a new letter to the judges, however, Coleman lawyer James Langdon floats a new solution -- declaring the election to be unsolvable, and nullifying it entirely:

Some courts have held that when the number of illegal votes exceeds the margin between the candidates -- and it cannot be determined for which candidate those illegal votes were cast -- the most appropriate remedy is to set aside the election. In that regard, the Court may wish to review the following cases addressing situations in which the number of illegal votes is large and the margin of victory is small...


So there you have it. The Coleman legal team is now officially putting forward the idea of throwing out the election, as a serious potential legal remedy. The context so far indicates that this is part of their game of chicken with the court, to get them to undo the strict standards themselves, or perhaps go along on a proportionate deduction regime that might hurt Al Franken. But who knows where it will go from here.

NYT: Obama Offered Deal To Russians On Iran, Missile Defense The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration sent a secret letter to the Russian government last month, suggesting that the U.S. could stop development of a missile-defense system if Moscow could get Iran to back off its own nuclear-weapons development. An administration official told the Times: "It's not that the Russians get to say, 'We'll try and therefore you have to suspend.' It says the threat has to go away."

WaPo: Clinton Pessimistic On Iran Outreach The Washington Post reports that Hillary Clinton told the foreign minister for the United Arab Emirates that she had serious doubts as to whether the Obama Administration's attempts to reach out to Iran could work, and appeared to suggest the White House is being realistic about it, too. A source told the Post: "She said we are under no illusions about Iran and our eyes are wide open."

Obama's Day Ahead: Meeting With Gordon Brown President Obama will be speaking at the Department of Transportation at 9:45 a.m. ET this morning. Then at at 11:30 a.m. ET he will meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with whom he is expected to discuss the financial crisis. At 2 p.m. ET he will speak at the Department of the Interior, and at 3 p.m. ET he will receive a delegation from the Boy Scouts. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will meet with Robert Gates.

Biden's Day Ahead: Discussing The Stimulus Vice President Biden will be joining President Obama at the Transportation Department this morning, where they will both be speaking. In the afternoon, Biden will hold a conference cal with governors, and another one with mayors, to discuss the implementation of the stimulus program. Then he will join Obama for their meeting with Robert Gates.

Primary Today For Rahm's House Seat Today is Primary Day in the special election for Rahm Emanuel's former House seat in Chicago. A total of 12 candidates are running in the Democratic primary, which is virtually tantamount to the election itself in this solid-blue district.

WaPo: Obama Budget Will Require Large Expansion In Federal Workforce The Washington Post reports that President Obama's budget, with its expansion of social programs and creation of new initiatives, will require a large increase in the size of the federal workforce. The Post cites an independent estimate that the federal labor force could grow by 100,000 people, reversing the trend since the Reagan years of shrinking it down.

The Hill: McConnell's Earmarks Make Good Target For Dems The Hill reports that Democrats are preparing a strong rebuttal to Republican attacks over earmarks: Namely, pointing to the earmarks that Republican Senators themselves have put in recent legislation, especially the $75 million from Mitch McConnell. Said a Republican aide: "This is exactly why it was important for Republicans last year to clean up our act -- because we knew we would be in this situation and it undercuts our credibility."

Pawlenty: GOP Needs To Be Relevant, Move Beyond Reagan In an interview with Bloomberg News, Tim Pawlenty said the Republican Party has to move beyond just talking about Ronald Reagan. "We need to develop new Ronald Reagans and new reference points," said Pawlenty. "It would be as if Barack Obama was going around and constantly talking about Truman or LBJ. It's just become a reference point that isn't as relevant for young people."

In the new game of chicken between Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh, the loser is...Michael Steele, who now says he never meant to diminish the voice and leadership of Limbaugh.

In an interview with the Politico, Steele said: "My intent was not to go after Rush - I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. I was maybe a little bit inarticulate...There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

This comes after Limbaugh tore into Steele for declaring on CNN that Rush isn't a leader of the Republican Party, but is an "entertainer" whose rhetoric is "incendiary" and "ugly."

"I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking," said Steele. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently."

Scott Murphy, the Democratic candidate in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat has this new TV ad actively tying himself to the popular President Obama -- and lambasting his Republican opponent Jim Tedisco for having refused to take a position on the stimulus bill:



A little while earlier, Tedisco came out with this ad attacking Murphy as an ethically-bankrupt businessman:



So the Democrat has been attacking the Republicans as an Albany politician, and the Republican has been slamming the Dem as just another Wall St. millionaire. Considering the unpopularity of both of those professions, just how low could the turnout get in this race?

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