In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In case you thought health care drama was limited to the Senate, just remember that there are spoilers in the House as well:

Conservative Democrats in the House are rebelling against their party leaders and trying to put the brakes on the push to pass a health care overhaul by August. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition plans to present a letter to House Democratic leaders Thursday raising concerns about costs and other issues and asking for more time, members of the group tell The Associated Press.

The Blue Dogs, I'm told, are meeting with leadership tonight to express their concerns over speed and scope of reform efforts, and are suggesting that a majority of their 52-member caucus would vote against the current draft proposal without significant changes.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) isn't taking being called a hypocrite lightly. In response to Sen. Arlen Specter's attack on his voting record, Sestak--who plans to challenge Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate primary--is setting the record straight. And he's not pulling any punches: "We've learned today that Arlen Specter can abandon his party, but he just can't quit making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military.

"Let's be clear," Sestak said, "I voted for Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama while Arlen Specter was voting for George Bush and Bob Dole and John McCain. My question to Arlen Specter is this: do you regret voting for George Bush and John McCain? Why should Democrats support someone like you who actively campaigned - as recently as last year - for politicians with values like George W. Bush?"

Specter accused Sestak of not taking an active interest in politics, citing the fact that Sestak didn't become a Democrat until 2006. But Sestak says that's all about being a military officer.

"Like Colin Powell (who was also registered as an Independent while he served), I believe that military officers should be nonpartisan," Sestak said. "The military depends on cohesion and unity, and the defense of this nation must never be political. I'm proud that I was an Independent during my 35 years in the Navy, and I was proud to register as a Democrat as soon as I retired from active duty. "

You can read the full statement below the fold. But one things clear--Specter better be cautious about attacking Sestak on any grounds that leave him an opening to pivot back to his military service record.

Read More →

The campaign of Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) announced last week that they'd be holding a big campaign event with President Obama on July 16 -- and it now turns out that they're moving to a bigger venue, after too many people tried to sign up.

Here's a new Web video from campaign manager Maggie Moran, announcing the switch:

The previous venue had been Voorhees Mall on the Rutgers University campus. The new location, the PNC Bank Arts Center, has a seating capacity of 17,500. This is still just a fraction of the more than 50,000 people who tried to sign up on the Web site. People who had signed up and couldn't get on the list will be on a preferred reservation list for future events. In fact, Moran said, there will be many more opportunities to see Barack or Michelle Obama.

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: The marathon mark-up of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's health care reform bill continued. Meanwhile, with the idea of capping the health insurance tax exclusion now on ice, a Finance Committee staffer unveiled some of the other funding schemes the panel is considering.

  • Climate Change: Looks like the Senate action on climate change legislation has been pushed back to September.

  • Nominations: The Senate Judiciary Committee released the witness list for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing. The hearing will begin on Monday, stretching on for days. And the GOP has invited a few doozies to testify.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), whose appointment to the Senate by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was embroiled in controversy, will not run for a full term in 2010.

Burris reportedly only raised $20,000 in the past quarter, making it impossible for him to run a real campaign. Polls also showed consistently that he would lose the Democratic primary, and if he were nominated he would lose the general election.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money. It's also expected that businessman Chris Kennedy, a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, could get in.

A source told the Sun-Times that Burris was concerned about how people will remember him, after all the controversy that has happened: "After 20 years in government service, Burris didn't want the last four months in office to be that legacy."

After taking heat from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) for weeks, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is fighting back. "Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in a statement today. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process."

According to the website, the Specter campaign has been building up to the charge for days. "Specter's campaign," they report, "pointed out Sestak's registration history, first in a message to supporters Monday, later in follow-up messages to a reporter and again in a fierce statement against Sestak Thursday."

The attack is based on the allegation that, until recently, Sestak often did not vote in major elections, and didn't register as a Democrat until 2006. It's hard to say whether it'll stick, but it does seem to indicate that, with a primary challenge all certain, Specter's getting riled.

Whatever the merits of Specter's statement, it certainly more reasonable than the attacks Sestak's old rival levied against him in 2006. In that race, Republican Curt Weldon hit Sestak--a navy admiral--for having not lived in the district for years and years. Gee, I wonder why that might've been.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is now the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, has made it official: He does not want Sarah Palin coming to campaign for him -- and he doesn't think it would help him.

"This is about New Jersey issues and New Jersey, and I don't think having Governor Palin here would do me, or frankly the state, a whole lot of good in the sense that we need to talk and focus on what the New Jersey issues are," Christie said during a radio interview.

He's not above having outside help coming in, though, but of a different sort: "I hope Mayor Giuliani will continue to be supportive and be here and work with me, but other than that, I think the people of New Jersey have to hear from me and that's the person they'll be electing."

The state Republican Party chairman had previously made similar comments, though not quite as blunt. It would be hard to assume that this is related to Palin's latest round of controversy from her resignation as Governor of Alaska. New Jersey is a socially-liberal state that simply doesn't have much room in it for politicians from the Christian Right. So Christie probably had the same attitude even before the recent news.

Either the pickings were slim, or Republicans didn't use much imagination when they selected witnesses to testify against Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing next week. They invited the legal experts New Haven firefighters, and they invited a Bush appointee who warned of Arab internment, and, it seems, they invited someone who wouldn't have been happy with any pro-choice nominee of any stripe.

"For all the President's talk of finding 'common ground,' this appointment completely contradicts that hollow promise," said Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, when Obama announced his first Supreme Court pick.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board denying the American people to right to be heard on this critical issue....

A vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court Justice is a vote to strip Americans of the ability to choose for themselves how to regulate abortion.

Read More →

It now looks like the grand saga of the New York state Senate, which involved the chamber coming to a halt as two Democrats flipped control of the chamber by joining up with the Republicans, is now coming to an end. And it has a very amusing denouement.

State Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who had joined up with the Republicans in exchange for them making him state Senate President, is now returning to the Democratic caucus in a new role -- as Majority Leader! Espada told the New York Post that he has a "handshake deal" to return to the Dems in his new leadership position. His fellow renegade in this whole operation, Queens state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, had previously gone back to the Dems, too.

This is now Espada's fourth party switch in his career. Back in 2002, he'd switched from the Democrats to supporting Republican control, then was defeated for re-election by a Dem. Then last year he returned to the chamber as a Democrat from another district, then embarked on this whole adventure.

As Winston Churchill said of his own switch from the Conservative Party to the Liberals, then later back to the Conservatives: Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat. And in Sir Winston's defense, his switches took place over the course of 20 years, as various realignments of the British political system were going on. Espada, by contrast, has had the ingenuity to switch and re-switch in the course of weeks, after having already done it before.

Another poll shows that Democrats start off with the advantage for the 2010 Ohio Senate race, which is expected to be a close competition for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich, with both Democrats leading Republican former Rep. Rob Portman.

The new numbers from Daily Kos/Research 2000: Lt. Gov Lee Fisher 42%, Portman 35%; Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner 40%, Portman 36%. This more or less corroborates a Quinnipiac poll from two days ago, with slight differences in the numbers.

In the Democratic primary, Fisher leads Brunner by 22%-17%, with "Undecided" at the head of the pack with a whopping 61%.

The undecided numbers are very high in both the primary and general match-ups, and the cycle has just barely started. The major question for this big swing state is what the economy and overall political environment will be like in 2010 -- and there's only one way to find out.