In it, but not of it. TPM DC

There's been a lot of schadenfreude on the right (and to some extent on the left) about the fact that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has, at least for now, lost his seniority on various committees, particularly the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.

But while that continues to be the case, Senate leaders have reportedly reached a compromise of sorts. Specter, according to The Washington Post, will assume the chairmanship of the Judiciary's Crime and Drugs Subcommittee. To make room for him, that subcommittee's current chairman--Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL)--will step down and assume the chairmanship of the reconstituted Human Rights Subcommittee.

It's a small bone--he's still lost much of his power on the pork-able Appropriations Committee--but they've thrown it to him. Just as Reid suggested they would yesterday.

Obama To Seek $17 Billion In Budget Cuts President Obama is set to announce today a proposed $17 billion in budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. Already, the proposed cuts are getting some pretty negative reviews from the Associated Press and the Washington Post, as being too small. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag defended the cuts this morning on MSNBC: "But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 10:35 a.m. ET from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the proposed budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. At 12:45 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer. At 2:45 p.m. he will meet with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. At 4:15 p.m. ET he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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So how exactly did Arlen Specter manage to be the hero of the Democratic Party on Tuesday of last week, the day that he switched, only to end up losing his seniority seven days later? And can he earn it back?

Here's what a Senate Democratic staffer told us: "Senator Specter has not helped himself recently with some of his recent actions. But he has a year and half to try to make the case to the rest of the caucus."

The Franken campaign has released this statement on Al Franken's meeting today at the White House with Vice President Biden:

MINNEAPOLIS [05/06/09] - This afternoon, Senator-elect Al Franken visited the White House to meet with Vice President Biden. Franken updated the Vice President on the state of Minnesota's second U.S. Senate seat, and discussed the administration's agenda and its potential benefits for the people of Minnesota. Franken was accompanied by his wife, Franni.

Al Franken:

"I deeply appreciate the administration's ongoing support and the opportunity to meet with Vice President Biden today. Minnesotans are eager to see Congress make progress on the administration's agenda - and I'm eager to do my part in that effort. From investments in alternative energy to the expansion of high-speed rail to the Twin Cities, we have a lot to do to help Minnesota's working families, and I was pleased to discuss these important issues with the Vice President."


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Earlier this afternoon, Wolf Blitzer asked Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid about Sen. Arlen Specter's defection, and all the various complications it's caused for the Democratic party. One of those complications surfaced yesterday when the New York Times reported (and then re-confirmed) that Specter said he still hopes Republican Norm Coleman prevails in the courts over Al Franken--the winner of the Minnesota Senate race--and retains his seat.

Specter walked back his statement after Reid confronted him about it, but the interaction seemingly left Reid speechless. Watch:

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Vice President Biden is meeting right now with apparent Senator-elect Al Franken (D-MN).

A White House official tells us that the two of them will be discussing some of the national issues that Franken would face as a Senator, presuming he wins his legal battle, especially the economy.

"We feel that once the final rulings have been made, that Franken will become a Senator, and obviously we look forward to working with him. And I think this is just a meeting that's meant to kind of begin that process," the official told us. "Not that we're jumping the gun -- the process has to play out in Minnesota, but we think it's been fair. And we feel like anyone that's been watching this, that Franken's gonna be the next Senator. We feel like he's handled this exceptionally well."

The House has just voted to create an independent outside commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. The House version of the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act just passed by an overwhelming margin of 367-59-1, with Democrat Alan Grayson (D-FL) voting present and 59 Republicans voting, seemingly, for fraud.

The Senate passed their version of the bill last week. Now the bill goes to conference, where House and Senate negotiators will iron out the differences between the two. Those differences, though, are fairly minor.

The idea of creating a Pecora-like commission has been in the works for some time now, but it had gained significant momentum in recent weeks. Now it's all but a done deal. Party leaders will select the 10 commission members, with six picks going to the Democrats and four going to the Republicans. Deliberations might begin in as little as a few weeks, and a final report is expected at the end of 2010.

The campaign against Second-Circuit Court of Appeals Judge (and potential SCOTUS nominee) Sonia Sotomayor began in earnest when nameless former clerks on that court told The New Republic's legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen that the Hispanic judge (and one-time George H.W Bush appointee) is too temperamental--and not intelligent enough--to serve on the Court.

I've been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.


The charges have been challenged loudly--almost immediately after the article came out, other people familiar with her work came forward to call the piece baseless. But once the cat was out of the bag, there was no stuffing it back in. Almost immediately, conservatives picked up and...advanced...the meme. National Review's Mark Hemingway called her "dumb and obnoxious," inviting a classy riposte from his colleague John Derbyshire, who cautioned that "Judge Sotomayor may indeed be dumb and obnoxious; but she's also female and Hispanic, and those are the things that count nowadays."

To The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, this represented evidence that "Sotomayor's public image [is] at risk" and today the Washington Post quoted an anonymous lawyer, supposedly involved somewhat tangentially in the Justice Souter replacement process, saying Sotomayor will be battling the perception that she "doesn't play well with others."

But the coup de grâce may have come last night when Sotomayor bashing traveled outside the beltway, and on to the Late Show, where David Letterman portrayed Sotomayor as a Spanish-speaking version of Judge Judy. Watch:

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Harry Reid had a fascinating interview today on MSNBC, discussing Arlen Specter:



Some highlights:

• Andrea Mitchell asked about a line from Reid's new book, in which he said that then-Republican Specter "is always there when we don't need him." Reid responded: "Well, I hope he's gonna be with us when we need him. I'm comfortable that's the case, I'm happy he's with us. We've got another Senator coming soon -- but everyone should understand, the difference between 58, 59, 60 Senators is just fairly illusionary, because we still have to work on a bipartisan basis with whatever we get done."

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