In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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:

Read More →

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."

Read More →

It's been just over a week since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) switched parties, and already progressive activists are taking the temperature in Pennsylvania to see if the climate's right to retire him. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with some of the Netroots' most visible blogs, is conducting a week-long straw poll to determine both the level of progressive grassroots support for challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 primary, and whether the challenger should be Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

The development resembles in some ways the early days Ned Lamont's successful campaign--backed by the progressive grassroots--to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut primary. Lieberman, of course, turned around and beat Lamont in the general election by running as an Independent, but election laws in Pennsylvania would prevent Specter from doing the same thing.

For his part, Sestak seems to be positioning himself to become Netroots darling. In the last week he has grown more and more critical of both the party establishment for thoughtlessly backing Specter, and of Specter himself, who he says is an unreliable representative for Pennsylvania Democrats.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has put out this statement on his committee assignments:

"Senator Reid assured me that I would keep my committee assignments and that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980. It was understood that the issue of subcommittee chairmanships would not be decided until after the 2010 election. Some members of the caucus have raised concerns about my seniority, so the caucus will vote on my seniority at the same time subcommittee chairmanships are confirmed after the 2010 election. I am confident my seniority will be maintained under the arrangement I worked out with Senator Reid. I am eager to continue my work with my colleagues on the various committees on which I serve and will continue to be a staunch and effective advocate for Pennsylvania's and the Nation's priorities."

Harry Reid appeared on CNN this afternoon, and apparently indicated that he may be trying to cut a deal to get Arlen Specter some important committee position.



"Arlen is a senior member of the Senate, and that's significant. I think also we can try to work something out with individual chairmen, and I'm certainly doing that," said Reid. "But I think everyone should just kinda relax and understand that he's a Democrat. We're doing our best to make him happy as a Democrat. I think he is, I've talked to him often. And any other situation I think is something that's kinda being made up."

John Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, has signed a law legalizing gay marriage.

"I have followed closely the debate on this issue," Baldacci said. "I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

The move represents a change in the governor's thinking. "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

Read More →

Labor organizations may be unsure whether their old allegiances to Sen. Arlen Specter can withstand his new anti-Employee Free Choice stance. But Pennsylvania Democrats aren't nearly as conflicted--they're welcoming the new Republican with open arms, despite an older allegiance to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)

"He's our incumbent senator," noted Abe Amoros, Acting Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Democratic party. "We've welcomed him with open arms."

"Congressman Sestak is one of the hardest working congressmen in Pennsylvania," Amoros said, but, he adds, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Ed Rendell "have promised to back Specter and raise money for him and make campaign appearances throughout the state."

Read More →

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just appeared on CNN, and was asked about the loss of his seniority on his committees. He responded that Harry Reid made a commitment to him that he would keep the seniority, and he's confident he'll get it back "in due course," apparently after the 2010 elections:



"Sen. Reid said that I would maintain my committee assignments, and that my seniority would be established as if I had been elected in 1980 as a Democrat," said Specter. "Now that has to be ratified by the caucus, and I think in due course that will be done. It may not -- we did agree, but as to committee assignments, that would await until the new election, and the caucus action overall apparently is gonna wait until after the election. But I'm confident that Sen. Reid's assurances will be fulfilled."

Last month, when teabaggers were rampant and the Governor of Texas was threatening to secede, we brought you the story of a movement--with roots in right wing separatism--making its way through conservative states.

That movement has resulted in the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature passing resolutions affirming their sovereignty and affirming their belief that the federal government stands in violation of the Constitution. The Georgia resolution in particular held that if the U.S. Congress were to pass, say, an assault-weapons ban, then "all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually." In other words, in the eyes of the Georgia legislature, the union would cease to exist!

The Oklahoma resolution is significantly milder, but the state's governor Brad Henry vetoed it anyway. That's not stopping the legislature, though, which is set to override the veto and put Washington on notice.

This doesn't really change anything in a legal sense, but it's interesting inasmuch as it tells us whom Oklahoma's elected officials take their cues from.

LiveWire

I'm here!