At her weekly press briefing today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the bipartisan creation of a Pecora-like Financial Markets Commission as a signal achievement of the 111th Congress. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act--signed into law by the President this week--creates a 10-member panel to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. Crucially, two of those 10 members will be appointed by the Speaker and, this morning, Pelosi suggested she has her eyes on at least one Republican.
No word yet on who that Republican might be.
The restrictions on who can be appointed are actually fairly limited. The bill requires that members must be U.S. citizens with experience in fields like banking, market regulation, taxation, finance, economics, and housing; and further specifies that current members of Congress and and other government employees are automatically disqualified.
That leaves a great number of experts, frauds, and thieves eligible for service. So whether or not Pelosi picks a Republican, now might be a good time to place bets on whether GOP leaders will appoint this guy to be the commission's vice chair.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to deny President Obama the funds he needs to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The stall may be temporary, but many are convinced that it's yet another example of the tired political dynamic in post-9/11 Washington whereby Democrats cave to cowing Republicans the moment the conversation turns to terrorism.
Two weeks ago, though, the GOP got a little bit ahead of itself. "Do you know of any community in the United States of America that would welcome terrorists -- former terrorists, would-be terrorists, people trained as terrorists -- that have been incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay into any community in this country?" asked Sen. Richard Shelby (R-KY).
The question was directed at Attorney General Eric Holder, who basically punted. But it turns out there are at least a few communities in the country that might just welcome a suspected terrorist or two to stay for a while.
The Democratic attacks are starting to fly in this year's New Jersey gubernatorial race against former U.S. Attorney and current Republican candidate Chris Christie -- even though Christie hasn't actually won the Republican nomination yet, and is still facing an insurgent conservative candidate in the June 2 primary. It could be an effort to throw the primary to Christie's opponent -- or at least soften him up for the general.
A Democratic 527 group, the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Fund, is now running this attack ad accusing Christie of corruption -- that Christie awarded a no-bid government contract to a former U.S. Attorney who had previously declined to file charges against Christie's brother in a Wall Street scandal:
"Selective prosecutions, contracts for political allies," the announcer says. "Tell Chris Christie to cooperate with investigators, and tell Congress to end pay-to-play justice."
It's been a fun week for Sen. Vitter (R-LA), the Christian-right champion whose career became bogged down in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal in 2007. Here's what happened:
â¢ It was briefly floated that former state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell (R), who narrowly lost the 2002 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, was considering a GOP primary challenge after Vitter had delayed the confirmation of the new head of FEMA.
â¢ Just as quickly as she'd put her name out, Terrell put out a statement endorsing Vitter -- just as previous potential primary challengers like Tony Perkins or John Cooksey have done before her.
â¢ Porn star Stormy Daniels formed an exploratory committee to run against Vitter. Daniels has said in the past that people are looking for honesty and integrity in their leaders -- meaning that her campaign would likely be a platform to remind voters about Vitter's indiscretions and hypocrisy.
A Republican source told me that they're feeling fine about Vitter. "We're confident he's gonna be fine, we're confident that he's gonna win," the source said. "He still enjoys high approval ratings, he spends a lot of time in the state talking about what's important to his constituents."
The Republican National Committee has put out this new Web ad, borrowing from the Democrats' infamous "Daisy" attack ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964 -- and likening the danger of Guantanamo detainees being brought on to U.S. soil to the 1960s threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union:
Interestingly, this Web ad uses audio of the nuclear explosion from the Daisy ad, but the RNC wasn't daring enough to incorporate the full visual of a mushroom cloud. The ad also uses audio of Lyndon Johnson saying "These are the stakes!" but cuts off the full statement: "These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." That kind of aspiration for a world of love isn't exactly a GOP slogan these days.
The message of original Daisy spot, by the way, was that Goldwater would recklessly get us all killed. So it would logically follow that the message of this ad, of course, is that Obama will recklessly get us all killed.
It may be further evidence of the Republican Party's current doldrums that a top party spokesman, who will appear on Meet The Press this Sunday to debate a high-ranking Democrat, is none other than Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich will be facing off against Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), to discuss national security issues and the controversy surrounding Nancy Pelosi's claims against the CIA.
Consider the fact that Durbin is a top-ranking elected Democrat -- while Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House a little over ten years ago.
WaPo: White House To Steer G.M. Into BankruptcyThe Washington Postreports that the Obama Administration is preparing to send General Motors into a planned bankruptcy as the end of next week, with the intention to give the company nearly $30 billion more in aid to help them restructure.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama will sign the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, at 9 a.m. ET in the Rose Garden. At 10 a.m. ET, he will deliver the commencement at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At 3 p.m. ET, he will return to the Rose Garden to sign the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act--also known as the Waxman-Markey bill--was reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night. The vote was split almost perfectly down party lines, with 33 in favor and 24 opposed.
Now Democratic leaders faces a dilemma. Normally they would move the bill on to the floor of the House and it would receive an up or down vote (subject to various stall tactics, and so forth). But yesterday, The Hillreported that Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)--House Agriculture chairman--is threatening to whip all of the Democrats on his panel into voting no on passage unless that committee is given equal jurisdiction over the legislation and is allowed to mark it up on its own. If he gets his way, the legislation could lose yet more of its teeth. If he doesn't (and if he's able to make good on his threat) then it may not pass at all.
TPMDC's daily update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:
Climate Change: The marathon mark up of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill continued today, with at least one moment of levity as a speed reader, hired by Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats to motor through Republican delay tactics, was called before the panel to read part of an amendment. Incidentally, if you want to track changes to the bill amendment by amendment, you can do so here. The committee's work may be done as soon as tonight.
Defense Spending: The Senate invoked cloture on the supplemental war-spending bill, now bereft of funds for closing down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It's unclear why cloture had to be filed--the final tally was 94-1, the lone dissent being a protest vote by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)--but I guess if the GOP didn't insist on cloture, government might get things done quickly, and that would be dispositive of the whole philosophy of conservatism
When the California government decided to address his state's budget crisis by slashing pay for home health care workers, and cutting three-quarters of a billion dollars in Medi-Cal healthcare programs for the poor, the White House was furious. So was the SEIU. This is a recession, they reasoned, and those are poor and working class people. Citing the terms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, the Obama administration threatened to withhold $6.8 billion in federal stimulus funds unless the California legislature revoked the wage cut.
Obama "went straight for the most direct way to leverage California from the federal government," writes a source with knowledge of deliberations, "it was a big play, no question."