In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As I mentioned earlier, today's breaking budget news is that the congressional budget committees released their budget blueprints. There are some notable differences between the House and Senate resolutions, and both differ from the president's proposal--the House plan, for instance, will drop the deficit to $600 billion over five years, compared to the $500 billion in the Senate plan, whereas the Congressional Budget Office predicted higher deficits under Obama's outline. Still the administration and congressional leaders are playing these differences down.

There's some good reason for that, but the bigger issue still looms in the background: reconciliation. Reconciliation enables certain types of fiscal legislation--including, significantly, some of Barack Obama's major agenda items--to be bundled together and voted on immune from the threat of filibuster.

Republicans see this as a major threat and for the last several days have been lividly decrying the entire process, threatening to respond to any attempts to put health and energy reforms into a reconciliation bill by going 'nuclear'. Nuclear in this instance has nothing to do with atomic physics or with filibustering judges but instead with a senatorial tendency to indulge in hyperbole when describing their powers.

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The NRCC has this new attack ad in the special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, accusing Dem candidate Scott Murphy of being part of the Wall Street-AIG bonus crowd -- and even giving illegitimate bonuses in his own business work:



"AIG. Wall Street. Scott Murphy," the announcer says. Which brings us a big irony in this race -- that the Republican is running a populist campaign, and accusing the Democrat of being a Wall Street fat cat. If it works, the GOP will be using this theme for some time to come.

The claim itself was previously fact-checked by the Albany Times-Union, who didn't have a high opinion of it. Murphy did award $1.2 million in bonuses to executives at a technology company, in a year when they were $1.6 million in the red -- but it was at a time when there was definite upward progress going on, with almost three times the net sales from two years earlier. And furthermore, it's not uncommon for tech companies to run losses for years before making it into the black.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will be back before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow to outline his plea for emergency powers to take over and wind down foundering non-bank financial firms -- but he may leave unanswered the question of how to fund his plan.

Early leaks of Geithner's request, which is slated to head to Capitol Hill in draft form later today, suggest that the emergency "resolution authority" would be paid for either by a mandatory congressional appropriation or by charging the private companies covered by the change.

The latter of those two options could be a non-starter with the financial industry, which is unlikely to welcome a new government fee, while the former could face resistance from members of Congress who would prefer to use the FDIC's deposit insurance fund (reliant on payments from banks) as a model. Either way, as the WSJ reports, we know two things for sure:

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The Democratic National Committee released this statement today, in response to Bobby Jindal's remarks last night attacking Democrats for demanding that Republicans not want President Obama to fail:

"We understand that Governor Jindal has had some problems with public speaking lately, but turning to Rush Limbaugh to be your new speechwriter doesn't help. What we know has failed is the reflexive partisan politics of the past that Rush Limbaugh and his Republican party continue to be mired in. Rather than rooting for failure, we urge the Republican party to play a constructive role in moving the country forward and offer a budget proposal," said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan.


The Dems clearly like calling the Republicans the Party of Limbaugh -- and the Republicans keep on giving them the openings to do it.

The state of Minnesota will now achieve a new personal milestone: Breaking their previous record for the longest unresolved election.

The Star Tribune points out that after today, the Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman will have become the longest period that any statewide office in Minnesota remained up in the air, breaking the previous record of the 1962 gubernatorial election. In that prior election, however, the office itself did not actually stay vacant, like it is now.

However, this race is still not the all-time record-holder since the direct election of Senators began. That honor goes to the 1974 New Hampshire race, for which the seat stayed empty all the way into the Summer of 1975. Then again, we can't rule that out for this race.

Another thing: That New Hampshire race ended in a do-over election, which Norm Coleman and his legal team have been quite openly agitating for.

During his appearance today at the Council on Foreign Relations, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was asked the question on many progressives' minds: Why does the Obama administration's bank rescue plan seem to rely on "socializ[ing] risk but keep[ing] profits private?"

But Geithner seemed to sidestep the question at least in part by offering a explanation for why he decided against setting up a "bad bank" -- not directly addressing the option of nationalizaton or receivership. The full exchange is posted after the jump.

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Is the administration disavowing the term "Global War on Terror"? A report by Al Kamen yesterday suggested maybe. The question arises because of an email Dave Riedel of the Office of Security Review sent to Pentagon staffers informing them that "OMB says: 'This Administration prefers to avoid using the term "Long War" or "Global War on Terror" [GWOT]. Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'"

As luck would have it, though, OMB director Peter Orszag held a conference call with reporters this morning to answer questions about the budget, and fielded a question about this very issue.

"I sometimes am amused by the things I read in the press," Orszag said. "I'm not aware of any communication I've had on that issue. It was a communication by a mid-level career civil service."

So GWOT it is. That doesn't mean the Riedel email didn't go out, though, and some (me, for instance) wonder if some at the Pentagon might stick with the supposedly new moniker (Overseas Contingency Operation) leading to amusing confusion on the Hill.

This has been a problem for the government for some time, and to such an extent that even George Bush was willing to admit error. "We actually misnamed the war on terror," Bush said in August 2004. "It ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world." Touche.

The big budget news (always an eyeball grabber) is that Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and his House counterpart John Spratt (D-SC) are taking machetes to Obama's proposal, released last month. The Washington Post reports that the two are poised to release budget blueprints that "cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Obama's spending request over the next five years."

But is there really any there, there? Short answer: not really. The blueprints, called resolutions, aren't binding on the work of congressional committees, which are still plowing ahead with their legislative agendas. And at the same time, many of Conrad's changes are geared more toward hiding spending than toward specific cuts. For instance, "Conrad...pressed some Bush-era budget maneuvers eliminated by Obama back into service: Instead of a 10-year budget that shows deficits steadily accumulating, for example, Conrad is proposing a five-year spending plan."

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A new Rasmussen poll shows that the American public has a clear grasp of an easy concept: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

The poll asks: "If the government provides funding to keep a company in business, should the federal government regulate the level of pay and bonuses for executives of that company?"

The numbers are 61% in favor, to only 27% against.

On the other hand, a 64%-23% majority opposes regulation of executive pay at businesses that do not receive government money in order to stay in business, and respondents say 66%-21% that the federal government should not regulate pay at all publicly-traded companies.

But if we take it as a given that a company is getting bailed out, the public wants control of the pay structure.

The House Education and Labor Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division -- which has utterly failed in its mission to protect workers from discrimination and exploitation, according to an undercover inquiry by Congress' investigative arm.

The inquiry, conducted during the Bush administration by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), involved a series of calls placed to Wage and Hour officials by GAO analysts posing as aggrieved workers. When the undercover GAO folks tried to seek help from the Labor Department to resolve employer issues, they were met with stonewalling ... and in some cases, outright rejection.

You can listen in to six of the undercover calls in question -- links are posted after the jump.

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