In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Anything's possible. But before they try, they should reflect on this Dear Colleague letter, co-written on June 29, 2001 by the then-chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) respectively.

U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, Washington, DC, June 29, 2001.

DEAR COLLEAGUE: We are cognizant of the important constitutional role of the Senate in connection with Supreme Court nominations. We write as Chairman and Ranking Republican Member on the Judiciary Committee to inform you that we are prepared to examine carefully and assess such presidential nominations.

The Judiciary Committee's traditional practice has been to report Supreme Court nominees to the Senate once the Committee has completed its considerations. This has been true even in cases where Supreme Court nominees were opposed by a majority of the Judiciary Committee.

We both recognize and have every intention of following the practices and precedents of the Committee and the Senate when considering Supreme Court nominees.


Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman.

Orrin G. Hatch, Ranking Republican Member.

There is, of course, some precedent for tying up Supreme Court nominees one way or another in the Judiciary Committee. But by and large even controversial nominees get reported out, even if unfavorably.

Late update: You can read the original letter in its entirety here.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared the other day on the Fox Business Channel, and during the interview she was asked exactly what she meant when she connected swine flu outbreaks to Democratic administrations. She immediately changed the subject, as you can see at the 0:55 mark:

"Well, actually, I had a full, uh, conversation that I was having with another station -- primarily about the economy, because that's what we're worried about right now," said Bachmann. "And we had just found out about the swine flu at that time, the aggressive nature of how far it was progressing. So the real topic of conversation was on the economy, as it should be. The economy right now is at a situation where we're not seeing the level of recovery that we would like to see."

She then proceeded to talk about the harmful effects of President Obama's big spending and the stimulus bill, and how without the stimulus the recovery would have already been happening.

The fun part here is that this exchange is from a clip that was posted on her own YouTube account.

A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds that a third of Georgia Republicans approve of the idea of seceding from the United States.

The pollster asked: "Do you think Georgia would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?" The top-line here is United States 68%, independence 27% -- but among Republicans, it's a closer U.S. 52%, independence 43%.

Respondents were then asked: "Would you approve or disapprove of Georgia leaving the United States?" Here the overall answer is approve 18%, disapprove 76% -- but among Republicans, it's approve 32%, disapprove 63%.

Look on the bright side: The Union cause is actually much stronger among Republicans here than it is in Texas, where a previous poll showed Texas GOPers evenly divided on independence, and a majority approving of Gov. Rick Perry's suggestions about seceding.

Here's a weird gambit from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

As my colleague Eric Kleefeld reported earlier this week, the NRSC is running an anti-Arlen Specter robocall in Pennsylvania meant to create a chasm between the new Democrat and the voters who will select the party's nominee in the 2010 Senate race. You can listen to that call here.

But that's not the full extent of their shenanigans. They're also running a vaguely pro-Specter (but anti-Sestak) robocall at the exact same time. Take a look.

So what's the play here? That, should Sestak run, the first robocall will result (or help result) in a Sestak nomination, and that the second robocall will drive independent voters away from Sestak over to Toomey? That's the only thing I can think of, but it seems like a stretch. Then again, this is the NRSC....

Transcript follows:

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Much of the day will no doubt be spent gaming the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Is it good for Democrats? For Republicans? Who will Obama nominate? How quickly and ferociously will charges of socialism and judicial activism begin to fly? And would Specter have switched parties if he'd known that he'd have had a golden opportunity to obstruct an Obama Supreme Court appointee in order to shore up his right?

All worthy questions, but all impossible to answer. At least for now.

What I want to focus on is a bit deeper in the weeds, but could prove very important, and, for Republicans, a potential source of poetic justice. (No pun intended.)

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WaPo: Biden In Charge Of Search For SCOTUS Nominee The Washington Post reports that Vice President Biden has been tasked with with drawing up a list of potential Supreme Court nominees to replace Justice David Souter, whose retirement has not yet been officially announced but is widely reported to be a settled issue. Souter will reportedly step down after this current court term ends in June, effective upon confirmation of his successor. The next term begins in October.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with his cabinet at 11:15 a.m. ET. AT 12 p.m. ET, he will have lunch with Vice President Biden, and it's not unreasonable to imagine that the Supreme Court will be a key topic of discussion. At 1 p.m. ET, he and Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano will attend a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members, with Napolitano swearing them in as citizens and Obama presenting an Outstanding American by Choice Award. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will attend a ceremonial swearing-in of Commerce Sec. Gary Lock and Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, with Biden delivering the oath of office.

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Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) may be a lone critic of Sen. Arlen Specter among Pennsylvania Democrats and party leaders, but if he looks past his colleagues he'll find a natural (though perhaps convenient and temporary) friend in labor. For now, Sestak is sending warning shots at Specter, pressuring him to get with the program, and groups like AFL-CIO and SEIU are doing the exact same thing. Especially vis-a-vis issues like health care and employee free choice.

Officially, AFL-CIO say they "look forward to continuing an open and honest debate with Senator Specter about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania and America."

"Sen. Specter," they say, "has said all along that he recognizes the need to reform our broken labor law system and we will continue to work with Congress to give workers back the freedom to form and join unions and pass legislation that stays true to the principals of the Employee free Choice Act."

And their Pennsylvania president agrees.

But Stewart Acuff, AFL-CIO's Director of Organizing hasn't been so timid.

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Will Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will step down from his position as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and become the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee? A lot of signs point to yes, and that has reformers on the Hill and elsewhere--who prefer Grassley's record to that of his potential replacement--pretty worried.

If it happens, it will be thanks, indirectly, to Sen. Arlen Specter's defection into the Democratic party. Specter was the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and his big move on Tuesday created an opening that has yet to be filled. As I reported earlier this week, though, the committee's senior Republican--Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--is prohibited by Senate Republican Conference rules from taking over the committee. And only two of the three eligible senators--Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA)--make much sense.

Of those two, Grassley has some advantages: He's a more senior on the committee, for instance, and he isn't as controversial or conservative a senator as Sessions is. But he is ranking member of the Finance Committee--a committee with tremendous power, particularly with health reform on the horizon--and he'd have to leave that post if he were to take over for Specter.

So why would he do it?

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