In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Bloomberg reported a frightening fact this morning: The U.S. government has spent committed nearly as much on to bailing out financial firms -- $12.8 trillion, when you total up guarantees and loans given by the Treasury, Fed, and FDIC -- as the nation's entire $14.2 trillion domestic product.

But that's not the only eye-popping bailout number that was released today. In a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, panel chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) noted that the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) has put taxpayers on the book for at least $2.9 trillion. That number is almost equal to the U.S. government's total spending during the 2008 fiscal year, which you can find in Table 5 of this document.

Baucus described the bailout as a shadow U.S. budget "dedicated solely to saving the financial system, and that is truly surreal."

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who has been in a face-off with his national party leadership and has openly accused them of trying to force him into retirement, told local reporters back home that his fundraising for this past quarter has been "lousy."

Remember that Bunning, who only won by 51%-49% in the very Republican year of 2004 and could be in a tough race again, has said that his fundraising has been sabotaged by his party leadership spreading rumors that he might retire, along with a possible primary challenge from state Senate President David Williams. Bunning has also singled out his co-Senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for continuing to raise money for himself even though he was just re-elected and Bunning is approaching his next race.

On the bright side, Bunning said the fundraising pace has picked up just recently: "Maybe I finally have convinced everybody, in spite of my leadership, that I am running."

The most recent FEC filings showed Bunning with only $149,991.09 cash on hand as of December 31, 2008. We'll find out soon enough what he has now.

Elana reported below on Greenpeace's efforts to push the House's climate change debate to the left, noting some of their early reactions to the Waxman-Markey legislation unveiled today.

Greenpeace also highlights one politically difficult question that was left unanswered by Waxman and Markey: Would emissions credits be given away free to fossil-fuel-burning businesses, or auctioned off to raise money for green transit and/or taxpayer rebates?


As it happens, Markey addressed that very question today during his conference call with reporters. His answer was somewhat vague--he refused to announce any goals about the proportion of emissions he'd like to see sold at auction, for instance. But he did note that, in the final bill, "what is most likely to happen is a combination of the two"--some will be given away, the rest will be auctioned.

That won't please Greenpeace, and it's not what Obama asked for, but if Markey's saying that now, it's likely that there's no way around it.

A new Rasmussen poll finds that Michele Bachmann's new pet issue of preventing Americans from being sucked into a new one-world government currency -- a threat that doesn't actually exist -- could potentially have some real popular appeal.

Keep in mind that this would hardly be the first time that public opinion turned on things that weren't true. It can very often be more important what voters think is being proposed, rather than what is actually going on.

The pollster's analysis acknowledges: "At issue is not replacing the money in Americans' wallets but what currency will be the world standard against which all other monies are measured." But the questions themselves don't clearly make this distinction for the respondents, asking about the proposal "to replace the dollar with a new global currency."

To a degree, this was a deliberate choice, Scott Rasmussen told TPM. "I was really curious where the suspicion level was going to be on this particular question," said Rasmussen, noting that this is a story that hasn't been discussed or explained very much, and where public opinion is very fluid.

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The climate change draft bill released today by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) goes further than the White House in terms of its emissions targets -- but the plan also tacks right in some notable ways, as Greenpeace is noting in its newly released response.

Steven Biel, director of Greenpeace's U.S. global warming campaign, raised questions about two elements of the Waxman-Markey plan and called for it to be "strengthened" by Congress.

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A few minutes ago on the floor of the Senate, Barbara Boxer called out Republicans for their... call it 'selective opposition' to the budget reconciliation process.



Boxer chairs the Environment and Public Works committee, and spent the early afternoon fending off Republican attempts to explicitly prevent the Senate from using reconciliation to pass climate change legislation. We'll try to get that document she submitted for the record and when we do, we'll post it here.

The floor debates on the budget continue in both chambers today. A couple things we'll be looking out for--Republicans should be offering an amendment at some point have offered an amendment that would "prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system." Right now, reconciliation instructions are only included in the House bill, but they may well be imported to the Senate bill in conference.

Meanwhile, Senator John Thune has introduced an amendment that would "prohibit the collection of funds from any future cap and trade proposal if that proposal would increase electricity rates and gasoline prices for American households and businesses."

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Following up on Elana's post about the Waxman-Markey legislation, I just got off a conference call with Ed Markey himself and Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the climate change process. The goal, Pelosi said, was to have the bill passed by July--but she conceded that the goal, and the separate task of bringing Republicans aboard, will be a challenge.

The plan the Democrats put forward is pretty ambitious, at least by the standards of the U.S. Congress, but that means much less coming from the House than it would from the Senate, which is the real choke point for all of this stuff. One way around that roadblock is, famously, the reconciliation process. But the authors of this legislation--no wilting violets, they--signed on to a letter to President Obama saying, "using the budget reconciliation process, which curtails Senate filibuster rights, could arouse regional distrust and make reaching agreement harder."

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The Democratic National Committee has just announced that they'll be taking a recent Web ad to television, attacking the GOP's "budget" -- which crashed after it became clear tat the unveiling that there were no actual numbers, just talking points.

The Web-ad-turned-TV-ad shows cable TV pundits ripping into the budget announcement -- indeed, the commentators seemed angry that the House Republicans were wasting everybody's time:



The DNC will be airing the ad on DC cable -- essentially making this an effort to boost the visibility of the attack among the Washington media set, going into the budget votes expected to take place this week.

It's Election Day today, in the special election for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat in upstate New York. Democratic candidate Scott Murphy may be the slight favorite -- a recent Siena poll gave him a four-point lead -- in a campaign that many outside observers originally thought could be a likely pick-up for the GOP. No matter which way it turns out -- we'll find out after the polls close at 9 p.m. ET -- expect it to be close.

Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, the state House minority leader, began this race two months ago with high name recognition, while Murphy was an unknown businessman making his first bid for office -- indeed, a Siena poll from a month ago put Tedisco ahead by 12 points. Both national parties have been actively involved with the race, with the NRCC spending over $800,000 and the DCCC putting in about $590,000 -- plus $820,000 from the National Republican Trust PAC for Tedisco, and $245,000 on Murphy's behalf from the SEIU Local 1199. Murphy himself has out-raised Tedisco's campaign, and in all the money spent is about even on each side, totaling roughly $5 million.

Among Democrats, the mood is generally one of cautious optimism, while Republicans are uncertain -- and of course, both sides are staying focused on their ground game. The bottom line here is that it's impossible to fully predict turnout in a special election -- it must be earned, vote by vote.

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