In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--a key Democratic hold out on the question of a public option--is starting to cave. In an op-ed in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lincoln echoes the party line--"Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies"--then breaks with her old position:

Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.


As Greg Sargent notes, that's not a full-throated endorsement. But it's certainly a step in that direction. Until today, Lincoln was only willing to say she was 'evaluating' the merits of the public option.

A couple things to keep in mind. First, Lincoln has been under fire from reformers for being unwilling to unequivocally endorse the public option--and since she still hasn't done that, it's hard to imagine they'll be fully satisfied.

Second, this comes as Democratic leaders are making their strongest push yet to unite caucus members ahead of a tough fight over health care reform. Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing the Senate Finance Committee to move ahead with a comprehensive and satisfactory health care reform bill with or without Republican support, and, relatedly, Majority Whip Dick Durbin is urging party members to oppose Republican filibusters on Democratic agenda items, even if they don't support the underlying legislation.





Here's an interesting example of those famous lone "No" votes in Congress -- the contrarian who is willing to stand up alone against the overwhelming majority of his or her colleagues, and vote against something that was passing easily.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted 399-1 for the Capitol Visitors Center to have a plaque acknowledging the role of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol. The resolution has information in it that even this history fanatic didn't know about -- for example, slave labor was involved in constructing the "Statue of Freedom" atop the Capitol Dome.

The "Yes" votes spanned the ideological spectrum, from Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann on the right to Maxine Waters and Dennis Kucinich on the left. The one vote against: Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

King's office has not yet commented on his reason for the vote.

Late Update: King has now released a statement, explaining that the vote was about protecting America's Judeo-Christian heritage.

With the news that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will reportedly run for Senate in 2010, let's take a quick look at the open House seat -- which on paper, looks like a plausible opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a seat.

Kirk won re-election 53%-47% last year, at the same time as President Obama carried his suburban Chicago district by a whopping 61%-38%. In addition, John Kerry won the seat by 52%-47% in 2004, making this a Dem-leaning seat under any normal circumstances.

Potential Democratic nominees include: State Sen. Michael Bond, who was already in the race; Dan Seals, who was Kirk's opponent in 2006 and 2008; and state Sen. Susan Garrett. Possible Republican candidates include state Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, and businessman Dick Green.

Democrats think they'll have a pretty good shot at this seat, as it is one of only six districts that were won by both Obama in 2008 and Kerry in 2004, but are represented by Republicans. On the Republican side, a source told me: "This won't be an easy seat to hold, but with the right candidate and Kirk on the ticket, it is possible."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who's criticized Sonia Sotomayor for her temperament, thinks he may vote for her confirmation.

"I honestly think I could vote for her,'' he told McClatchy.

Graham said he is still undecided, but it's a stark turnaround from comments he made after meeting the Supreme Court nominee on June 3. In a press conference, he said, "There's a temperament problem there." At the same presser, he said there was also a "character problem," but later that day told Fox News that Sotomayor has a "sterling character."

He also said that he wouldn't vote for her if he applied the same standards Barack Obama used when voting on Supreme Court nominees. He argued that Obama voted against Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito because they had different ideologies.

Graham had also taken issue with her comments about "a wise Latina woman," calling them "inappropriate" and saying he hoped she'd apologize.

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will be running for the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama, and now occupied by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris.

This follows today's news that state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who would have been a shoo-in for both the Democratic primary and the general election, will not be running. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently in the race for the Dems, but could potentially face competition from Chris Kennedy, a businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Burris has not announced his plans, but he has not raised much money, and polls show he would lose a primary by a landslide.

Kirk has been able to cultivate an image as a moderate, winning re-election in a suburban district that was carried by President Obama. But expect the Democrats to hammer him in this blue state over just how partisan he can really be: For example, he has said that he told Chinese leaders not to trust the American government's budget figures, and he also spoke at a Tea Party and made some rather hyperbolic comments.

One of the more surprising aspects yesterday's controversy over the White House's supposed openness to a so-called "triggered mechanism" is that Democrats have, essentially, a dedicated point man on the public option. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken on that roll in the Finance Committee and has come forward publicly a number of times--most recently this past Sunday--to resuscitate the public option when it seemed on the brink of death.

"I had never heard that they were for the trigger. That came as a surprise to me," he told Slate's John Dickerson. "Maybe in year three there might be a public plan? Not good enough."

It's hard not to sympathize with the guy. Schumer, perhaps more than any Democrat, has put himself on the line for the public option--and unless it's part of some grander, more opaque political scheme, it can't be helpful to his efforts to have a prominent White House official come forward to undercut him.

Forget one-person, one-vote for redistricting. You might not be aware of this, but our system goes so far as to employ one-prisoner, one-vote -- even though prisoners can't vote!

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that a Democratic state Assemblyman from Milwaukee, Fred Kessler, is complaining about the fact that Census data, which is the basis for redistricting, counts prisoners in the areas where they happen to be involuntarily living.

Kessler is now seeking to amend the state constitution so that prisoners wouldn't be counted for the purposes of redistricting, because the status quo gives a disproportionate level of representation to all the other people in prison districts who aren't incarcerated -- that is, the residents who can actually vote -- compared to the voting public in areas that don't have prisons.

From the report by Wisconsin Public Radio: "Oshkosh Republican Rep. Richard Spanbauer's Assembly district includes the Waupun Prison. That means he represents thousands of inmates. He says regardless of what you feel about prisoners, you have to count them."

Well, that's awfully progressive of him.

In the newest political development for the 2010 Illinois Senate race, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan will reportedly announce that she is not running for Senate -- nor is she running for Governor -- but will simply run for re-election.

The seat, of course, is currently held by the very controversial Democrat Roland Burris, who was appointed by the later-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and was formerly held by Barack Obama. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money, while Burris has not made his plans clear.

There had been much speculation about whether Madigan would run for Senate, or perhaps challenge the new Gov. Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary. Instead, she's sticking with her current job.

Polls had consistently shown that Madigan would have won Democratic primaries for either of those two offices. Now that she seems to be out, Giannoulias appears to be the frontrunner for Senate, and Quinn can probably breathe a sigh of relief.



Here's another clue that's come out of the now-infamous fundraising event from two Fridays ago for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50), which ended in a raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department when things got out of hand with a deputy who was responding to a noise complaint.

A preliminary police report that has been leaked to the media (the Sheriff's Department is not releasing documents, due to an ongoing internal probe) shows that the noise complaint originated from a house nearby, with the caller incensed over "a loud Democratic rally with loudspeakers."

This corroborates what Busby had previously told me, that the deputies who came to the event said they were responding to a complaint about a "Democratic demonstration." For her part, Busby has said that the event was not loud, but was a standard fundraising house party, at which she briefly spoke through a microphone and had finished up her remarks at some time around 8:30 p.m.

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Last week, we noted that conservatives were mining hundreds of pages of documents, released by LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), related to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's tenure on the organization's board of directors.

Sotomayor's opponents have sought to tie the group's legal defense of minorities to her decision as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Ricci v. Destefano--a decision conservatives contend was unfair to white people. Of the many problems with that strategy, the biggest is probably that PRLDEF board members don't do litigation. Its leaders made that clear in a letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee--who's been the most prominent Republican to object to Sotomayor's affiliation with the organization.

"Neither the Board as a whole nor any individual member selects litigation to be undertaken or controls ongoing litigation," the letter reads.

In fact, ABA Model Code 6.03 provides that Board members have no attorney-client relationship with the clients of a legal services organization and therefore do not control the activities of staff lawyers in individual cases. The Board's role is thus limited to overall policy questions such as whether to emphasize employment, housing, or education. Operational decisions were and are appropriately delegated to the organization's President and General Counsel; the President reported generally on the organization's docket at Board meetings. Judge Sotomayor, and the full Board, understood their advisory role and did not step outside of that role. Understanding this factual context, we hope you will see that your description that "Judge Sotomayor served in senior leadership roles" at PRLDEF is a mischaracterization.


You can read the letter in full here. Democrats will cite it on the Senate floor today, in advance of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, which begin next week.

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