In it, but not of it. TPM DC

This is big, big, big, -- BIG.

Arlen Specter has announced that he is switching parties, and running for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary. This now puts the Democrats at 59 Senate seats -- and would be the magic 60 seats, assuming Al Franken is eventually seated from Minnesota.

A recent Rasmussen poll showed that Specter was trailing his conservative challenger in the Republican primary, 2004 opponent Pat Toomey, by a margin of 51%-30%. Toomey was heavily capitalizing on Specter's support for the stimulus package.

From his statement:

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

...

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.


Kudos to Michael Crowley, by the way, for apparently getting this first.

Full Specter statement after the jump.

Late Update: I run through some of the math here, showing why Specter simply had to do it in order to survive politically.

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Norm Coleman is taking an interesting rhetorical tack in the continued spin war among the Minnesota press. Coleman spoke to local newspaper company ECM's editorial board on Friday, and commented that the winner of this Senate race will always face serious questions.

"No matter who wins the race, there's always going to be a cloud hanging over them -- did they really get more votes than the other guy," said Coleman. "That's a reality. And there's nothing you can do to change that."

It really is worth asking why someone would be litigating endlessly to be declared the winner, while simultaneously saying aloud that whoever wins will face doubts over democratic legitimacy. One possibility is that Norm could be planning for the contingency of Franken winning -- and thus would want to create an environment that continually undermines his opponent.

Another question, which I've asked before: Where were you in 2000, Norm, when we really needed you?

Harold Koh will face the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon, and, barring any unusual shenanigans, his nomination to be State Department Legal Adviser will move closer to the floor. But today's hearing presents us with an opportunity to take the temperature of rank and file Republicans, who have decided to make an issue of Koh because, they say, Koh is a "radical transnationalist" who, through undue deference to international institutions and treaty obligations, will subvert and destroy the U.S. legal system.

Of course, this argument has little if any purchase among liberals, moderates, and academics. Two prominent conservatives--Ted Olson (who served as OLC-Chief under Ronald Reagan and Solicitor General under George Bush) and Ken Starr (the independent counsel who pursued Bill Clinton with unusual vehemence)--have even come forward to call it nonsense.

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Congressional Dems Reach Budget Agreement House and Senate Democratic negotiators agreed Monday night to a budget outline for 2010, including the parliamentary ability to pass health care legislation without the threat of a Republican filibuster. The $3.5 trillion plan also includes funds for clean energy and other domestic programs, and a tax increase for individuals making more than $200,000 or couples making more than $250,000 per year.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other senior officials at FBI Headquarters, at 10:45 a.m. ET. He will then deliver remarks to FBI employees at 11:10 a.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, Obama will meet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. At 3:05 p.m. ET, he will present the National Teacher of the Year Award in the Rose Garden. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with Defense Sec. Robert Gates, and at 7:30 p.m. ET he and the First Lady will attend a reception for Cabinet secretaries in the Blue Room.

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Congressional Dems Reach Budget Agreement House and Senate Democratic negotiators agreed Monday night to a budget outline for 2010, including the parliamentary ability to pass health care legislation without the threat of a Republican filibuster. The $3.5 plan also includes funds for clean energy and other domestic programs, and a tax increase for individuals making more than $200,000 or couples making more than $250,000 per year.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other senior officials at FBI Headquarters, at 10:45 a.m. ET. He will then deliver remarks to FBI employees at 11:10 a.m. ET. At 2 p.m. ET, Obama will meet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. At 3:05 p.m. ET, he will present the National Teacher of the Year Award in the Rose Garden. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with Defense Sec. Robert Gates, and at 7:30 p.m. ET he and the First Lady will attend a reception for Cabinet secretaries in the Blue Room.

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We noted earlier that MoveOn.org is raising money to fund an ad campaign targeting conservative House Democrats who might stand athwart the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, still in its infancy.

Well they may want to ramp things up a bit. The bill was scheduled to be marked up this week, but Waxman just delayed further action until next week, citing "productive discussions between members". According to the Wall Street Journal, "[t]he delay indicates that the House Democratic leadership is having difficulty rounding up votes to move the bill forward, amid disagreements over which industries and regions of the country should bear the burden for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions."

Democrats from industrial and coal-dependent states have expressed concerns that the climate bill would sharply raise energy costs and hurt the economy in their states.


If you thought the stimulus was a slog, and think health reform will be harder still, just wait for the climate change wars.

A new Gallup poll finds that a narrow majority of Americans favor investigations of interrogation methods -- though it's not a resounding mandate, relative to other issues.

The question as asked is: "Would you favor or oppose a government investigation into the use of harsh interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects?" The result is 51% in favor to 42% against. From the pollster's analysis:

While a slim majority favors an investigation, on a relative basis the percentage is quite low because Americans are generally quite supportive of government probes into potential misconduct by public officials. In recent years, for example, Americans were far more likely to favor investigations into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys (72%), government databases of telephone numbers dialed by Americans (62%), oil company profits (82%), and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina (70%).

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We haven't been following Kathleen's Sebelius' confirmation fight as closely as we have those of some other Obama nominees because, initially, she seemed like a shoe-in. The Senate Finance Committee advanced her nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services by a wide margin just last week. But in the wake of some complaints from anti-abortion groups--including about her April 23 decision to veto the latest in a series of efforts by the Kansas legislature to limit late term abortions--she'll now be subjected to a cloture vote (or, if you don't speak Congress-ese, a filibuster).

Her initially-non-controversial nomination will likely come to a vote tomorrow, though, and she'll likely clear the 60 vote hurdle with the help of Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and possibly others.

But, of course, there's another female Obama nominee who's running into some trouble.

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With President Obama's first 100 days nearly finished, let's take a look at how he's done in the polls, from the honeymoon to the present.



Obama's approval rating remains solid, but has fallen by about ten points as the honeymoon effect has worn off, while disapproval is up by about 15 points due to the loss of soft support and some initial undecideds. And the system appears to have found a temporary equilibrium state, a general range that could potentially hold until future events disrupt it.



The Pollster.com graph tells the story:







One thing to note is that Obama's support has gone down since the initial grace period around inauguration -- but during March, it basically leveled out. The growth in disapproval has been a bit higher than the decrease in approval, probably because the honeymoon had a mixture of people who would normally disapprove instead approving or being up in the air, but have now made up their minds.



Some further analysis after the jump.

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Speaking of the 'bad guys' centrists, the group MoveOn.org is raising money to fund ads intended to run in the districts of Democratic members who may oppose House efforts to advance climate change legislation.

In particular, the ads would target Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Charles Melancon (D-LA), and Charles Gonzalez (D-TX)--all from either oil, coal, or manufacturing states. Boucher used to head the subcommittee with jurisdiction over this issue, but he swapped out this winter with Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who, along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), co-authored the bill in question.

Today, the New York Times reports that Boucher--a veteran environmentalist foe--wants the Waxman-Markey bill all-but-gutted.

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