In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) pulled in an impressive haul this past quarter, but he's still at least a few million behind his primary opponent, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

Specter had $6.7 million on hand at the end of the first quarter, after raising about $1.2 million--just about the same amount Sestak raised this quarter. But remember, that money was collected when Specter was a Republican. Since then he's become a Democrat, and has won the backing of almost the entire Democratic establishment. With that in mind, we eagerly await Specter's forthcoming financial disclosure.

This spring, TPMDC broke the news that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was raising money from supporters ahead of an intended Senate candidacy. Now, with the fiscal quarter over, we know how well that effort worked.

"Many have doubted that we would be able to raise sufficient money for our upcoming race against Arlen Specter," Sestak writes in a letter to supporters, "but we raised over $1 million last quarter ... thanks to you ... and now have over $4.2 million cash-on-hand, making us the number one Senate challenger in the nation!"

The letter, though, is also a fundraising appeal. "But we can't stop there; here's why we need to raise additional funds to continue this extraordinary momentum -- Arlen has decided to start running his 'GOP negative style campaign' against us!"

Sestak's referring to a recent dust-up, which touched off last week when Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) launched his first attack against his new rival.

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is at odds with some of his liberal colleagues. Unlike Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Harkin thinks it may be hard to keep the 60 members of the Democratic caucus united against Republican filibusters--and that means the party may pass health care reform through the budget reconciliation process.

"I think Democrats being Democrats -- like Will Rogers once said, 'I'm a member of no organized political party: I'm a Democrat' -- I think that holds true today," Harkin told the Iowa Gazette.

Under those circumstances--and with Republicans largely united against all of President Obama's agenda items--how will Democrats possibly pass a major initiative like health care reform? In a budget reconciliation bill, it seems, which can't be filibustered. Harkin called that a "distinct possibility."

Democrats in both chambers are hoping to pass a health care bill through regular order by the beginning of August, and have it ready for the president to sign by October, ahead of the budget reconciliation bill--but time is running out.

House leaders have proposed financing about half the cost of a health care reform bill with a surtax on wealthy people--and something like that might fly in the lower chamber. But in the Senate? Here's Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, now trying to figure out how to pay for it's own reform legislation.



Translated, once again, from Grassley's famous twitterese, that reads: "Charles Rangel [chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, who first announced the tax proposal] the wealthy one percent make 27 percent of total income and pay 40 percent of collected income tax. You suggest a five percent health care surtax. How much will the beleaguered wealthy have to pay to satisfy you? Let's talk."

Grassley's committee was expected to propose taxing employer-provided health benefits benefits to finance a health care system overhaul, but that idea seems to have been put on ice, leaving the taxation averse panel without a funding mechanism for their incomplete bill. The House's bill will be unveiled today.

Palin Plans To Stay Involved In Politics Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) told the Washington Times that she'll be staying involved in politics: "I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation." She did not rule out a presidential campaign in the future. "I'm not ruling out anything - it is the way I have lived my life from the youngest age," she said. "Let me peek out there and see if there's an open door somewhere. And if there's even a little crack of light, I'll hope to plow through it."

McCain: Palin Will Continue To Be A Major Factor Appearing on Meet The Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked about Sarah Palin's resignation. "Obviously I was a bit surprised, but I wasn't shocked," said McCain. "I love and respect her and her family, I'm grateful that she agreed to run with me." He added: "I'm confident that she will be a major factor in the national scene and in Alaska as well."

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Obama: Stimulus Designed To Work Over Two Years -- Not Four Months In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama answered stimulus opponents who say that it has not restored the economy -- as well as those who say it didn't go far enough -- by saying that it has saved the economy from greater disaster, and calling for patience:



"But, as I made clear at the time it was passed, the Recovery Act was not designed to work in four months - it was designed to work over two years," said Obama. "We also knew that it would take some time for the money to get out the door, because we are committed to spending it in a way that is effective and transparent. Crucially, this is a plan that will also accelerate greatly throughout the summer and the fall. We must let it work the way it's supposed to, with the understanding that in any recession, unemployment tends to recover more slowly than other measures of economic activity."

Cantor: "This is now President Obama's Economy" In this weekend's Republican address, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) blasted President Obama and Congressional Democrats for producing a stimulus program that he said has failed to create jobs:



"In fact, they said that unemployment would stay under eight percent. Yet just months later, they are telling us to brace for unemployment to climb over ten percent," said Cantor. "They promised jobs created. Now they scramble to find a way to play games with government numbers by claiming jobs saved. Simply put, this is now President Obama's economy and the American people are beginning to question whether his policies are working."

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Despite opposing cloture on a previous cap and trade bill, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says that--whether he supports the underlying bill or not--he won't support a filibuster of climate change legislation this Congress.

"I'm not going to be part of a filibuster on climate change," Brown told me today. Brown voted against ending debate on the Lieberman-Warner bill in 2007, but he says he did that because the bill had no real chance of making it to the floor, and opposing cloture was his way of expressing his objection to aspects of that legislation.

"I was not blocking the bill from having a hearing on the floor, because it wasn't gonna get to that," Brown said. "I wanted to show that I don't support this bill unless you take care of American manufacturing."

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After sitting on the fence for several months, and facing pressure both within the Senate and from outside interest groups, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) hopped off this week, and agreed that a health care bill should include a public option.

That hasn't gone unnoticed. "This is great news for the Arkansas families and small businesses who need our broken health care system fixed," reads a letter from President Obama's political arm, Organizing for America.

But the special interests and lobbyists for the status quo will only intensify their pressure -- and we need to show Senator Lincoln that her constituents appreciate her courage and are counting on her to stand firm.

Please take a moment and call Senator Lincoln....

When the senator hears that folks from across the state are calling her offices and encouraging her to stand strong, she'll know she has the public backing in Arkansas to take whatever the Washington lobbyists and entrenched opponents of reform can throw at her.


This is the second time this week we've seen Obama's outside political apparatus using its influence to support a public option. And in this case it seems to indicate that, in addition to being pleased with Lincoln's position, there remains some doubt about her steadfastness. Which is understandable. In her letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she articulated support for either a public option, "or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."

You can read the full letter below the fold.

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Despite recent disagreements with conservative members of their caucus, House Democrats will unveil their health care reform bill on Monday, and Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) says they will propose a more than $500 billion tax on Americans making more than $350,000 a year to help finance it.

Between the tax revenue, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and other savings--including, perhaps, from a public plan--Democrats should have enough money to cover the cost of the bill, which will likely cost about a trillion dollars. Early indications suggested that the Senate might propose a different tax--on employer-provided health benefits--to cover the remaining costs of reform. But more and more that idea looks dead in the water.

Late update: More detail from Jeff Young of The Hill: "There would be different surtax rates, ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent, for workers with annual earnings of $350,000, $500,000 and $1 million, Rangel said."

So is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) running for the Senate in 2010, or not?

Kirk began telling people in the last few days that he was running. Then it was reported this afternoon by Chris Cillizza that Kirk was suddenly telling people that he wasn't running.

Not so, Kirk told Roll Call. He is still talking the race over with his potential primary rival, state Republican chairman Andy McKenna.

The issue here appears to be that Kirk might have had trouble winning support from other Republicans in the state's Congressional delegation -- because he broke ranks to support the Democrats' energy bill.

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