In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Last night the Senate passed their own budget resolution, too. The roll call is here--the final tally was 55-43 with two familiar Democrats (Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson) joining the Republicans, all of whom voted no. This allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to demagogue a little bit:

Over bipartisan opposition, Democrats in Congress passed a budget that clears the way for massive amounts of spending.... Although Democrats rejected several efforts to control spending, create jobs and cut the debt, Senate Republicans were able to slam the door on using the fast track process to jam through a new national energy tax. The strong bipartisan vote on this issue should serve as a clear warning to those involved in crafting the final budget: Americans vehemently oppose a new national energy tax that would hit them every time they flip on a light switch, watch TV, or drive the family car.

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The House GOP budget was up for a vote a few minutes ago and it...failed miserably; 137 in support, 293 (including 38 Republicans) against. Those are the only 38 Republicans in the House who don't think we need a spending freeze and tax cuts for the rich at this particular historical moment. However, none of those 38 civic-minded souls voted for the Democratic budget, which just passed 233-196.

How do I know that? Because as with the stimulus bill, zero Republicans voted with the Democrats on this major agenda item. Not surprisingly, though 20 Democrats voted with the Republicans against the Democratic resolution

I'll post roll calls later tonight or tomorrow, depending on when they become available.

Late update: Roll call on the GOP budget here, on the Democratic budget here.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Republicans are weighing the possibility of using their much-beloved filibuster to block Obama judicial and DOJ appointees.

The current Republican focus is on a pair of nominees: Mr. Obama's first selection for a federal appeals court seat, David F. Hamilton, and his choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, Dawn Johnsen. (By coincidence, the two are in-laws.)


But will they actually prevent an up or down vote? Democrats say early signs are troubling.

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) -- who has been Minnesota's one and only Senator since the first week of January -- appeared on MSNBC today and fired back at NRSC chairman John Cornyn for saying this week that it could take "years" to resolve her state's disputed Senate race:

KLOBUCHAR: Well, one of the other things he said, David, he said that we could go in Minnesota with one senator for years. And I would love to know how Texas would like that. I think that Minnesota would prefer to make its own decisions. I think we have a process that's taken a while. I think it's a fair process. It's going to--after these votes are opened up, Norm Coleman will make a decision about whether he wants to go up to the Minnesota Supreme Court. There's a process in place for that. Then I'm hoping it's done.

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The NY-20 special election is now going to come down to the absentee ballots. For one thing, the Election Night numbers between Democratic candidate Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco are in a virtual tie as the vote totals are still being double-checked, but this does not take into account any absentee votes. So the next question becomes: Who exactly were the absentee voters?

This afternoon, with the assistance of TPM intern Versha Sharma, I called the various counties to get the breakdowns of how many of the returned absentee ballots have been from registered Democrats, registered Republicans, unaffiliated voters or people from any of the minor ideologically-driven parties that exist under New York's fusion-voting system.

So here's where we stand: From over 6,600 ballots that have been returned so far, Republicans are about 45%, Democrats 33%, with unaffiliated voters and minor parties making up the balance. Still more ballots can arrive in the mail between now and the deadline -- April 7 for most absentee voters, April 13 for overseas and military ballots -- but at this point the percentages probably won't change significantly.

And the bottom line answer, as you will see, is every bit as frustrating as the current status quo.

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House Democrats are hitting back against GOP distortions of climate change legislation and, more specifically, an MIT study on which we've reported extensively.

Earlier today Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA)--chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming--released a report on Republican energy and climate distortions called "Wrong in so many ways." The document (which can be read here) addresses four common Republican arguments about climate change legislation, including the controversy over the MIT study:

Rep. Boehner and others don't mention that revenues from a carbon pollution control program could be returned to consumers, or used to invest in clean energy jobs and cost-saving energy efficient technology. So it focuses on all the costs and ignores the benefits. It's just more of the same, tired arguments from a party out of ideas on energy policy.

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Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised some eyebrows (however briefly) by saying on Fox News Sunday that the administration had no immediate plans to move forward on President Obama's promise to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "I think the president and I feel like we've got a lot on our plates right now," Gates said. "Let's push that one down the road a little bit." Watch:

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Here's a quick alert in the NY-20 special election. As of right now, the leader in the vote totals is...we don't know.

PolitickerNY reports that Republican candidate Jim Tedisco has taken a lead of 12 votes, as the counties have gone through the standard process of checking for errors in their spreadsheets. These errors are a standard occurrence, by the way, and are usually very small and break about evenly. But in an election this close, they can have a real effect.

Meanwhile, the state elections board has given TPM their own most up to date numbers, with Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead by six votes. It looks like PolitickerNY has some data that the state doesn't -- and the state could very well have something that PolitickerNY doesn't.

Murphy led by 65 votes on Election Night, then by 25 votes yesterday afternoon. And who knows what it is now, or what it will be tomorrow.

In any case, this election is really going to come down to the more than 6,000 absentee ballots, which haven't been counted at all yet.

The McCain substitute amendment (a.k.a. the McCain budget) failed predictably on the Senate floor earlier. As with the Republicans' alternative stimulus bill, nearly ever member of the GOP voted to scrap the Democrats' plan in favor of a much more conservative option. The final tally was 60-38, with Sens. Collins, Corker, and Snowe voting with the Democrats. Sen. Arlen Specter, usually identified as a swing Republican, voted for the mid-recession spending freeze after having voted for a $700 billion stimulus bill intended to combat the economic downturn.

You can see the full roll call here.

In a new appeal to the Christian right, Newt Gingrich told OneNewsNow that President Obama's proposed changes to the charitable deduction for top earners amounts to a "war against churches and charities," deliberately designed to discourage the successful from donating money to churches and make us all dependent on the government.

"I think there's a clear to desire to replace the church with a bureaucracy, and to replace people's right to worship together with a government-dominated system," said Gingrich.

The proposal itself is to lower the deduction that people making over $250,000 receive for itemized charitable contributions, from its current 33% or 35% down to 28%. Obama has defended the proposal by saying: "I'm assuming that that shouldn't be the determining factor as to whether you're giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street."

What's next? Will we be hearing that Obama intends to ransack the Notre Dame cathedral, and convert it into the Temple of Reason?

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