In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested the creation of an internal "Pecora-like" congressional committee to investigate the causes of the financial crisis, and, since then, we've been following the idea as it moves closer to fruition.

In the last couple weeks, there have been some significant developments on that front. On the House side, influential Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) introduced a stand-alone resolution that mirrors Pelosi's preference. "This [House] select committee," Dingell said, would "be comprised of members appointed from the Committees on Financial Services, Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, and Oversight and Government Reform...modeled on the Pecora Commission that held hearings in 1932 and 1933 to investigate the roots of the Great Depression."

The Pecora investigations were conducted in the Senate Banking Committee, but you get the idea. Dingell hasn't been in close conversation with leadership about his particular plan, but he did send Pelosi a letter asking for her support. I asked Dingell spokesman Adam Benson why Dingell prefers this configuration as oppose to, for instance, an independent outside commission. He said, "The committees of jurisdiction should be involved because they'll be the ones to write any legislation that results from the investigation."

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-AZ) feel much the same way. They introduced a measure that would create a select committee in the Senate with the same charge. "While I also support an outside commission, and have previously introduced legislation to establish such a commission," Dorgan said, "I believe the Senate has an important oversight responsibility that cannot be delegated. That's why we need a select Senate committee to investigate this financial crisis and make sure it never happens again."

That measure--an amendment to the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act (FERA)--got the go ahead earlier this week when the bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate.

But another, similar FERA amendment would create an external commission, containing members appointed by both House and Senate leaders, and Hill sources suggest that's where the action is.

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So what exactly is the deal with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) and the potential new GOP candidate, Kentucky Sec. of State Trey Grayson? Is Bunning going to hang up his cleats -- or is he still in it to win it in 2010?

Yesterday, Grayson formed an exploratory committee for a potential bid -- but said he'll only actually run if Bunning retires. Keep in mind that it's widely reported that the GOP leadership wants Bunning to retire, rather than protect him as a weak incumbent in what should be a decent red state for them, and Bunning himself has accused them of sabotaging him.

Here's where it gets tricky. It was reported that Bunning gave Grayson permission to do this -- seemingly a giveaway that he'll retire and anoint Grayson as his preferred successor, thus giving the GOP a much more electable candidate. The problem is, Bunning's spokesman is publicly indicating otherwise: "Senator Bunning has every intention of running."

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Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the Christian Right champion whose career became mired in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal in 2007, may be on the verge of getting a primary challenger: Porn-star Stormy Daniels is responding to the draft effort to get her into the Republican primary, and has now announced a listening tour.

Daniels will hold her first event in Baton Rouge on May 5, followed by a New Orleans event on May 6. A Daniels candidacy, if it does occur, would likely turn out to be a vehicle to remind voters of Vitter's moral hypocrisy.

"DraftStormy is excited about the listening tour and is confident that it will help persuade Stormy Daniels to accept their challenge and run for Senate," the press release says. "We believe that the voters of Louisiana are ready for change and look forward to bringing honesty, integrity, and strength of character back to the United States Senate."

Full press release after the jump.

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Anything's possible. But before they try, they should reflect on this Dear Colleague letter, co-written on June 29, 2001 by the then-chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) respectively.

U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, Washington, DC, June 29, 2001.

DEAR COLLEAGUE: We are cognizant of the important constitutional role of the Senate in connection with Supreme Court nominations. We write as Chairman and Ranking Republican Member on the Judiciary Committee to inform you that we are prepared to examine carefully and assess such presidential nominations.

The Judiciary Committee's traditional practice has been to report Supreme Court nominees to the Senate once the Committee has completed its considerations. This has been true even in cases where Supreme Court nominees were opposed by a majority of the Judiciary Committee.

We both recognize and have every intention of following the practices and precedents of the Committee and the Senate when considering Supreme Court nominees.

Sincerly,

Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman.

Orrin G. Hatch, Ranking Republican Member.


There is, of course, some precedent for tying up Supreme Court nominees one way or another in the Judiciary Committee. But by and large even controversial nominees get reported out, even if unfavorably.

Late update: You can read the original letter in its entirety here.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared the other day on the Fox Business Channel, and during the interview she was asked exactly what she meant when she connected swine flu outbreaks to Democratic administrations. She immediately changed the subject, as you can see at the 0:55 mark:



"Well, actually, I had a full, uh, conversation that I was having with another station -- primarily about the economy, because that's what we're worried about right now," said Bachmann. "And we had just found out about the swine flu at that time, the aggressive nature of how far it was progressing. So the real topic of conversation was on the economy, as it should be. The economy right now is at a situation where we're not seeing the level of recovery that we would like to see."

She then proceeded to talk about the harmful effects of President Obama's big spending and the stimulus bill, and how without the stimulus the recovery would have already been happening.

The fun part here is that this exchange is from a clip that was posted on her own YouTube account.

A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds that a third of Georgia Republicans approve of the idea of seceding from the United States.

The pollster asked: "Do you think Georgia would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?" The top-line here is United States 68%, independence 27% -- but among Republicans, it's a closer U.S. 52%, independence 43%.

Respondents were then asked: "Would you approve or disapprove of Georgia leaving the United States?" Here the overall answer is approve 18%, disapprove 76% -- but among Republicans, it's approve 32%, disapprove 63%.

Look on the bright side: The Union cause is actually much stronger among Republicans here than it is in Texas, where a previous poll showed Texas GOPers evenly divided on independence, and a majority approving of Gov. Rick Perry's suggestions about seceding.

Here's a weird gambit from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

As my colleague Eric Kleefeld reported earlier this week, the NRSC is running an anti-Arlen Specter robocall in Pennsylvania meant to create a chasm between the new Democrat and the voters who will select the party's nominee in the 2010 Senate race. You can listen to that call here.

But that's not the full extent of their shenanigans. They're also running a vaguely pro-Specter (but anti-Sestak) robocall at the exact same time. Take a look.



So what's the play here? That, should Sestak run, the first robocall will result (or help result) in a Sestak nomination, and that the second robocall will drive independent voters away from Sestak over to Toomey? That's the only thing I can think of, but it seems like a stretch. Then again, this is the NRSC....

Transcript follows:

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Much of the day will no doubt be spent gaming the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Is it good for Democrats? For Republicans? Who will Obama nominate? How quickly and ferociously will charges of socialism and judicial activism begin to fly? And would Specter have switched parties if he'd known that he'd have had a golden opportunity to obstruct an Obama Supreme Court appointee in order to shore up his right?

All worthy questions, but all impossible to answer. At least for now.

What I want to focus on is a bit deeper in the weeds, but could prove very important, and, for Republicans, a potential source of poetic justice. (No pun intended.)

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