In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, winding down his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee today, was asked a simple question by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR): Does the government have the legal authority to prevent another company from imploding on the same monumental level as AIG?

Geithner's simple answer was "no."

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For two weeks now, TPMDC has been tracking the mysteriously delayed nominations of John Holdren, named as the president's next chief science adviser, and Jane Lubchenco, slated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A convincing, but still incomplete, trail of evidence points to Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who won cheers from conservatives for sharply questioning Holdren during the nominees' confirmation hearing last month. But when I asked him directly, Vitter denied placing the hold, raising the question of whether his staff may have been raising objections on his behalf.**

After all, a similar situation occurred in the case of Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), whose office stalled the confirmation of two other Obama environmental nominees in January. Barrasso aimed to use those nominees as leverage to meet with White House climate adviser Carol Browner, and he ended up getting what he was after. Could Vitter's staff be working a similar angle for him?

Strangely enough, Vitter's press office won't say. My multiple attempts to reach the senator's spokesman over the past few days have been unsuccessful. Why wouldn't the office simply confirm what Vitter told me himself, that he's not the source of the holdup?

We can rule out several other suspects in Holdren and Lubchenco's delay.

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Mike Huckabee is also slamming Michael Steele's comments about abortion in the GQ interview, with this post on his leadership PAC's blog:

Comments attributed to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are very troubling and despite his clarification today the party stands to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grassroots politics. Since 1980, our party has been steadfast and principled in believing in the dignity and worth of every human life. We have supported a Constitutional amendment to protect life and the party has taken the position that no one individual has the supreme right to own another person in totality including the right to take that life. For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it's a violation of the most basic of human rights--the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. His statement today helps, but doesn't explain why he would ever say what he did in the first place.


In a very worrying sign for Steele, Huckabee is clearly aware of Steele's clarification this morning that he is pro-life and supports a Human Life Amendment. But it doesn't appear to be good enough.

(Via Taegan Goddard.)

I just spoke with Republican political strategist Roger Stone, and he predicted that Michael Steele's latest foul-up over abortion and gays could cost him dearly.

"Well, it's just one more nail in the coffin," said Stone, after I read the relevant quotes to him. "He just doesn't seem to understand his role as party chairman, which is not to criticize any wing of the party. I mean, three weeks ago he was offending moderates, now he's offending conservatives. He shouldn't be offending Rush Limbaugh or Arlen Specter."

"I'm not sure why the chairman has to opine on abortion at all," Stone added. "I mean, we have a platform, just refer to it."

Stone has also told me that the anti-Steele feelings among Republicans would have been there no matter what -- but Steele has badly mismanaged it: "The reason he has a problem, and the reason this hasn't been squelched, is that his maiden voyage hasn't been successful. He keeps putting his foot in his mouth."

Stone has heard the name of Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan GOP chairman who also ran in the RNC race, circulating as a possible new chairman. "I've monitored this pretty closely. I think Saul is on the move as well," said Stone. "It wouldn't be surprising if all the guys who had run had their knives out."

In an e-mail to TPM, Anuzis strongly denied that he is in any way not supportive of Steele, or that he would be a candidate in any new election. "A few folks are trying to spin some trouble," said Anuzis. "We're moving ahead."

Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State and ex-rival of Michael Steele for the chairmanship of the RNC, just made this statement to TownHall.com, positively lambasting Steele's comments in the GQ interview:

"Chairman Steele, as the leader of America's Pro-Life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform. He then needs to get to work -- or get out of the way.


You might recall that Blackwell's endorsement of Steele, when Blackwell had dropped out after four ballots, helped put Steele over the top.

Now he's telling Steele to read his Bible or get out of the way. Ouch.

A new Siena poll suggests that Democrats are catching up in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat in upstate New York.

Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, who started out with much higher name recognition as the state Assembly minority leader, now leads Democratic businessman Scott Murphy by 45%-41%, with a ±3.7% margin of error. Two weeks ago, Tedisco had a much stronger lead of 46%-34%.

At first glance, it might look like Democratic-leaning undecideds are quickly breaking into the Dem column as the candidates become better known. But the internals actually paint a much more complex picture.

Two weeks ago, Tedisco led 45%-31% among independents. But Murphy has turned that around, and now leads among indies by 43%-37%. What this suggests is that the Dem attacks against Tedisco -- mainly targeting his refusal to take a firm position on the stimulus bill -- could be having their intended effect.

Michael Steele has sharply walked back a statement in his GQ interview that seemed to indicate he agreed abortion is an individual choice. "I am pro-life, always have been, always will be," Steele said in a new statement.

As we've also found out, the statements about abortion to GQ were made over two weeks ago. Family Research Council head Tony Perkins has responded to the newly-published interview, and he's not happy: "I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge."

Note that Perkins said he spoke to Steele about the issue earlier this week, and Steele assured him that he would promote the party's platform. So Steele told Perkins that he would publicly uphold the party's official policies, about two weeks after he'd done a yet-to-be-published interview to the contrary.

So let's compare Steele's stated positions from now versus then.

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We first flagged this for you last week, but Democrats are facing a perilous choice on climate change this year: whether to tackle carbon emissions under "budget reconciliation" rules, which would shield the legislation from an all-but-assured GOP filibuster.

As the WSJ notes this morning, however, the argument for using reconciliation on climate change is as much due to opposition from Democrats as it is from Republicans. Senators from red-state centrist Max Baucus (D-MT) to rust-belt liberal Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are on record as unconvinced of the merits of cap-and-trade, so setting a 50-vote rather than 60-vote margin for passage is likely to make the difference between passing a bill and doing nothing.

The Senate environment committee's chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), told TPMDC earlier this week that she's considering the reconciliation route, and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told the WSJ that a final decision was "weeks" away.

But prominent GOP supporters of action on climate change, including John McCain (AZ) and Olympia Snowe (ME), have said that using reconciliation on the issue could torpedo climate change's prospects outright. Are Democrats damned if they do and damned if they don't? Stay tuned ...

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has a news article this morning that is a blistering attack on the Coleman camp's latest foul-up: "As recently as late January, databases of thousands of Coleman's donors and assorted contacts sat on a public portion of the campaign's Web site. They were not password-protected, so a Minneapolis consultant was able to find them by essentially surfing the Web."

The Coleman campaign's position is that they did not believe any data was downloaded in January, and that the site might have been hacked at a later date, probably by partisan enemies. But the Pioneer Press -- which endorsed Coleman for re-election last year, by the way -- doesn't appear to be buying it.

Coleman-supporter Kelly McShane, who donated $100 online and whose job is to secure data for the banking industry, had this to say: "I'm in IT security for a bank, and I can tell you that this is so ... irresponsible that I can't believe it."

Eric Schultze, chief technology officer for a Minnesota-based computer-security company (not to be confused with DSCC spokesman and former Franken spokesman Eric Schultz) explained to the Pioneer Press that no Web site should be set up to store credit-card data on the same server as the rest of the site -- let alone in an unencrypted form. "Anybody worth their salt would not set up a Web site that way," said Schultze.

Michael Steele: I Am Pro-Life Michael Steele is sharply walking back a statement in his GQ interview that seemed to indicate he agreed abortion is an individual choice, and that it should be left to the states. "I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment," said Steele. "It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law."

Obama And Biden Addressing Stimulus Implementation Today President Obama and Vice President Biden are both speaking at the Recovery Act Implementation Conference, held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 11 a.m. ET. At 1:10 p.m. ET, Obama will speak at the dedication of Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University. At 2:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will be meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. President Obama will be speaking to the Business Roundtable at 4 p.m., and then he and Biden will meet with Hillary Clinton at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Geithner To Defend Obama Budget In Senate Committee Tim Geithner will be speaking at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Budget Committee, promoting President Obama's plan. Geithner is expected to get tough questions on several topics, most notably Obama's proposal to restrict deductions for top-earners.

Rove Blasts White House For Attacking Limbaugh In his latest Wall St. Journal column, Karl Rove lambastes the Obama White House for attacking Rush Limbaugh. "In the face of our enormous economic challenges, top White House aides decided to pee on Mr. Limbaugh's leg," writes Rove. "This is a political luxury the country cannot afford, and which Mr. Obama would be wise to forbid. Or did he not mean it when he ran promising to "turn the page" on the "old" politics?"

New DNC Slogan: "Americans Didn't Vote For A Rush To Failure" The Democratic National Committee will be rolling out a new slogan today: "Americans didn't vote for a Rush to failure." The slogan was the winner of an online contest, and will be displayed on a billboard in Limbaugh's hometown of West Palm Beach, Florida.

TSA Reviewing Vitter's Alleged Airport Rage Incident The Transportation Security Administration is reviewing the reported airport rage incident by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Vitter has admitted that he opened the gateway door to his plane after it had been closed, and that he had a "conversation" with an airline employee, but denies it having been the angry confrontation reported by Roll Call.

Lieberman: I'm Supporting Dodd's Re-Election Joe Lieberman told The Hill that he is supporting Chris Dodd's re-election campaign, and has gotten over his disappointment at Dodd's active campaigning for Ned Lamont in the 2006 general election. "We have a long relationship that goes back 40 years," said Lieberman. "That's over. I'm going forward."

Poll: Corzine Trails By Nine In New Jersey A new Quinnipiac poll shows Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) trailing former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie for this November's election, the likely Republican nominee, by a margin of 46%-37%. Democrats normally have the edge in New Jersey, but Corzine's numbers are currently dragged down with an approval rating of only 40%, and disapproval of 50% -- though on the other hand, Christie has yet to face the inevitable political attacks that he was a Bush Administration appointee.

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