In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Over the weekend, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) broke some news when, in response to the heckles of some frustrated union organizers, he suggested very strongly that he'd ultimately vote for a compromise version of the Employee Free Choice Act.

"I believe you'll be satisfied with my vote on this issue," Specter said.

Well, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was also on hand that day. He's a cosponsor of EFCA in the House, and in a statement to TPMDC, he said that the welcome Specter received is telling. "The reaction by many people at the rally to Arlen's speech was simply one demonstration that Pennsylvanians want to be represented by someone they can trust to approach their work in a consistent and accountable way," Sestak said.

The leaders of the Democratic political establishment have not confirmed to this point that Arlen will not be a 'flight risk' after the election. This is a concern that many people attending last weekend's events in Pittsburgh expressed to me, including when I spoke at the rally.

I am a cosponsor of EFCA, and cosponsored and voted for it last year, because very unfair labor practices are being done in America. I would also be in agreement with a compromise that labor supports and that addresses their concerns.

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Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now appears to have taken a bold step in the debate over the budget deficit: Openly telling a foreign government not to trust the administration in Washington.

The Straits Times reports that Kirk spoke to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, and discussed a meeting he had with Chinese leaders. Here's the video:



"One of the messages I had -- because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor," said Kirk, "is that the budget numbers that the US government had put forward should not be believed. The Congress is actually gonna spend quite a bit more than what's in the budget, and the health-care bill probably being the lead driver of additional spending by the Congress."

A request for comment to Kirk's office has not yet been returned.

Take a look at Jon Voight's speech last night at the big Republican dinner last night, at which he was the celebrity M.C., denouncing President Obama as a dangerous radical who is a threat to Israel and the United States. And he paid tribute to the whole who's who of right-wing punditry and their efforts to stop the "false prophet" Obama:



"We and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression," said Voight. "And let's give thanks to all the great people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, William Bennett, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Dennis Miller, Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, John Kasich, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Shelby Steele, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes and so many others."

"Let's give thanks to them for not giving up and staying the course, to bring an end to this false prophet Obama."

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.

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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.

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