In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Yesterday, I reported that Barney Frank had raised concerns about what he called Sen. Arlen Specter's pattern of erratic behavior. That, though, was before this happened.



Vindication. According to Think Progress, the tweet has been deleted, and a subsequent tweet simply notes that Specter spoke at a labor rally with Sestak and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) on Saturday. For the uninitiated, that symbol doesn't mean "less than three." It's Internetese for "heart." Which means someone at Specter's campaign office might just have a crush on his (or her) boss's rival.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on the Senate floor today that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on July 13. In an effort to head off expected criticisms, Leahy noted that this proposed time line mirrors that of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose entire confirmation process took about two months. "This is a schedule that tracks the process the Senate followed by bipartisan agreement in considering President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005," Leahy said.

That agreement was reached before the Committee received the answers to the bipartisan questionnaire, and before the Committee had received any of the 75,000 pages of documents from his years working in Republican administrations. If 48 days were sufficient to prepare for that hearing, in accordance with our agreement and the initial schedule, it is certainly adequate time to prepare for the confirmation hearing for Judge Sotomayor.


Sotomayor provided the committee with answers to its questionnaire last week. Now the question is how amenable Republicans will be to this announcement. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. "There is no reason to unduly delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee," Leahy said. "Indeed, given the attacks on her character, there are compelling reasons to proceed even ahead of this schedule. She deserves the earliest opportunity to respond to those attacks."

Ethan Hastert, the 31-year old son of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has announced that he is running for his father's old seat in Congress -- which the Democrats picked up in a stunning special election victory in March 2008, despite it having been a Republican bastion for decades before that.

Hastert the Younger appears to be pitching himself as a new face in politics: "Quite frankly, people are ready for the next generation of leadership."

Hastert the Elder resigned from Congress about a year after the Democrats won control. In the special election, Democratic businessman Bill Foster defeated GOP businessman Jim Oberweis by five points, even though the district had been carried by George W. Bush in 2004 by a 55%-44% margin. Then in the 2008 general election, Illinois favorite son Barack Obama carried the district 55%-44%, and Foster defeated Oberweis again by an increased majority of 15 points.

(Via Taegan Goddard.)

The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will (officially) release a draft of its health reform legislation later this afternoon--four days after a version of it leaked on Friday.

According to Politico, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)--a senior member of that committee standing in for chairman Ted Kennedy--said the bill would be unveiled later today, stripped for now of its most controversial provisions, including the employer mandate and the public health insurance option.

We'll try to get more details for you (including an explanation for why those details will be missing) later today. Soon after the HELP bill is unveiled, the Senate Finance Committee will release its legislation, and the two will later be merged. More on the politics of that here.

It's primary day in Virginia, where the state's Democrats are set to pick from three candidates for governor: State Sen. Creigh Deeds, who is now the frontrunner in all the polls; former state Del. Brian Moran; and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, the colorful personality who campaigned for so long on Hillary Clinton's behalf, and who later became the frontrunner in this race for quite a while, but may have now blown it.

To be sure, Terry had some weaknesses all along. First of all, his tenure as DNC chairman was a period of one Dem failure after another, regardless of whether that was his own fault or due to circumstances beyond his control. And once it became clear that Hillary Clinton wasn't going to the Democratic nominee, his advocacy of her reached newer (and stranger) heights, with talk show hosts openly joking that he might have been on drugs. You got the feeling along the way that he was deliberately turning this into performance art -- such as when he appeared on Morning Joe in a Hawaiian shirt, waving around a bottle of Bacardi to celebrate Hillary's win in the Puerto Rico primary.

But in many respects, McAuliffe went into the race with all the big advantages. First was money. McAuliffe was the big-time leader in the money race: The most recent figures show he took in a total of $6.9 million for this race, tapping into his contacts from the business world, his time as DNC chairman, and his connections from the Clintons. In distant second was Moran with $3.8 million, and Deeds at $3.4 million. This money advantage allowed McAuliffe to advertise on TV for months now, while Moran and Deeds only just recently went on the air.

Terry's lead in the polls turned out to be quite fragile, however, as soon as he came under sustained attack. Moran began aggressively attacking him, which appears to have worn him down. Only what hurt McAuliffe didn't help Moran. The real beneficiary was Deeds, who for much of the race was treated like something of an also-ran by the media.

Read More →

Important news for the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill. The Congressional Budget Office--which analyzes the extent to which certain pieces of legislation will add to, or detract from the budget deficit--has determined that the legislation will raise billions in revenue, and that though the revenue will be spent in various ways, it won't add to the deficit.

In fact, it could even be a deficit reducer to the tune of billions of dollars.

The merits of that finding are important. But perhaps more important, for the time being, is that this blunts the ability of the bill's opponents to mischaracterize it as "fiscally irresponsible," etc. Not that they won't try anyhow...but still!

Late last week, I noted that the supplemental war spending bill had hit a significant snag on its way to conference committee after the Senate tacked on two controversial amendments. One amendment--with a price tag of about $5 billion--would open up a $100+ billion line of credit for the International Monetary Fund. The other--an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act authored by Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham--would have allowed the White House to suppress any photo related to detainee abuse taken after September 11, 2001.

The first amendment caused House Republicans to revolt--first because they claimed, misleadingly, that the money might have found its way to the pockets of terrorists; then, when that was rational was laid bare, for other reasons, which I'll get into shortly.

That defection, though, put the entire bill in jeopardy.

Read More →

First Gitmo Detainee Brought To United States The Justice Department has announced that they have for the first time brought a Guantanamo Bay detainee to the United States: Ahmed Ghailani, who was indicted in 1998 for al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed mored than 224 people. Said Attorney General Eric Holder, in a press release: "The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 1 p.m. ET, advocating for the budgeting principle known as PAYGO (Pay As You Go) -- that any new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for up front. Members of Congress, including the members of the Blue Dog Coalition, will attend the event. At 2:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with the Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, along with Vice President Biden.

Read More →

I just spoke to a Democratic source in Albany about the stunning flip of the New York state Senate from Democratic to Republican control. The situation still appears to be murky as to exactly why two Dems defected, but it seems at this point that the shake-up was likely not triggered by the gay-marriage debate. Instead, it probably had more to do with good old-fashioned back room politics.

For one thing, one of the two switchers, Pedro Espada, has said he supports gay marriage, though at the same time he was quite interestingly against bringing it to the floor immediately. And the other switcher, Hiram Monserrate, hasn't disclosed his position.

The source pointed out to me that there had already been a scare over who would control the chamber back in December, with the "Gang of Four" Democrats, which included Espada and Monserrate, threatening to hand power over to the GOP just as the Dems had seemingly taken charge. One of those Democrats who made the threats, Ruben Diáz of the Bronx, is a staunch opponent of gay marriage -- and his non-involvement now suggests that this was not the tipping point.

But let's take a look at the two Dems who have now given their organizational votes to the GOP -- these guys are characters, to the say the least, with one of them having been recently indicted for domestic violence and the other now on at least his third party switch during his career.

Read More →

The Republicans just got a big break in New York, with two Democratic state Senators now switching over and giving the GOP control of the state Senate.

The Dems only just won control of the heavily GOP-gerrymandered chamber in 2008, after four decades in the minority. (The gerrymander is noted here only to point out what an accomplishment this was, not to make any moralistic point -- it was after all made feasible because of cooperation with the permanent Democratic majority in the state Assembly, which also gerrymandered itself to greater and greater numbers over the years.)

The two defectors were Sens. Hiram Monserrate of Queens, and Pedro Espada of the Bronx.

After Election Day 2008, the chamber stood at 32 Democrats to 30 Republicans. But now that has been flipped around: 32 Republicans -- or at least 32 members who organize for Republican leadership -- to 30 Democrats.

As if Gov. David Paterson (D) didn't have enough problems...

LiveWire