In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Franken legal team have made it clear that they don't intend to simply play defense and prevent Norm Coleman from gaining the 226 votes he'll need to win. In fact, they're playing a very active offense to pick up as many additional votes as they can.

This afternoon, Franken attorney David Lillehaug was questioning Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid, attempting to make a case that some precincts in his county lost ballots during the recount and gave Coleman a net "gain" of ten votes. Corbid's theory has been that ballots were double-scanned by the machines on Election Night, but he admitted that ballot-loss is a possibility, and the evidence isn't complete.

At his press conference earlier this evening, Coleman lawyer Ben Ginsberg fired back. "What you've now seen today is Mr. Lillehaug's attempt to denigrate the results of the election, to call it into question," Ginsberg said, accusing Franken of running down the integrity of election officials -- apparently with no sense of self-awareness.

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In a press conference just now, Coleman lawyer Ben Ginsberg made an interesting declaration: The fact that the Minnesota Senate seat is now empty, depriving the state of full representation, is the Democrats' fault.

Ginsberg was lambasting the Franken campaign's lawsuit to force the state to issue Franken a certificate of election -- which will be argued at the state Supreme Court tomorrow -- as an undemocratic attempt seize the seat, charging that the Franken team know they will lose when all the votes are counted.

When asked by a reporter about the problem of Minnesotans being under-represented Ginsberg explained that there is a constitutional solution to this impasse: Having the Senate declare the seat officially vacant, empowering the governor to make an appointment to the seat. "They don't want to do that because the governor is a Republican," Ginsberg said.

It should be pointed out that Minnesota law currently empowers the governor to make an appointment to a vacant Senate seat, with no special election until the next cycle -- that is, November 2010.

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President Obama's Labor Secretary nominee, former Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), will get her long-awaited confirmation vote in the Senate labor committee tomorrow, a aide to that panel just told me.

Solis' nomination had been slowed down by Republicans seeking to twist her arm on the Employee Free Choice Act, a longtime priority of the labor movement and a stated goal of the Obama administration. (Here's more from Matt on the internal politics of that debate.)

The committee has the votes to approve Solis even if every GOPer dissents. The question then is if, and how quickly, a Republican senator subsequently places an anonymous hold on her nomination. We'll be watching.

As the testimony continues today in Minnesota, Franken lawyer David Lillehaug has made a very tough criticism of Norm Coleman's legal team: They haven't done their homework.

Lillehaug has now begun cross-examining Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid, who was called by the Coleman team to explore their case that there remain unfairly excluded ballots. Earlier today, Corbid mentioned that he'd gone back to his office yesterday and done further research on four rejected ballots that the Coleman team had brought up.

Lillehaug decided to explore this, having Corbid go over his review of those four cases mentioned above. It turned out one of the voters went to the precinct on Election Day; another had obtained a second absentee ballot, after the first one had problems, and has been properly counted; another one was actually counted on Election Night, but the empty ballot envelope was accidentally placed in the rejected pile; and one remains rejected, with Corbid standing by the decision.

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And zero-gravity chairs, for that matter?

What follows is the entire text of an amendment that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), that stalwart foe of earmarks, has proposed to add to the stimulus bill. (emphasis mine)

None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available under this act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big-screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.


Late Vindication Update: As a commenter alerts us, Coburn actually has nothing against pastel lights -- it's the Centers for Disease Control's use of pastel lights that's got him down. Coburn's oversight subcommittee uncovered evidence in 2007 that the CDC spent $35,000 to add zero-gravity chairs, lights, and a sauna to its Atlanta employee gym.

The moral of the story is, do not piss off Sen. Coburn. So on that note, we apologize for insinuating any anti-pastel light vendetta.

One of the things that the press corps in Washington is salivating over is to see some kind of fight break out between Larry Summers, the chair of the National Economic Council, and Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary. I find this is a frequent topic of conversation among journalists given Summers's brash, some would say pugnacious, reputation.

I don't claim to be privy to their conversations any more than I am to Barack and Michelle's or Hillary's and Bill's. But my sense from someone who knows them both quite well and has worked with them since the election is that they continue to get on extremely well and that those looking for conflict are looking in the wrong place.

The person points out that Summers and Geithner are longtime friends. It was Summers, as much as Bob Rubin his oft cited mentor, who helped lift Geithner out of the ranks of accomplished civil servants into the stratospheric financial world he's inhabited since. "Larry was there for Tim," says the person. So they have a longtime friendship going for them as well as the debt that comes when one man helps another's career.

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Vice President Biden, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) will be appearing at a suburban Maryland train station tomorrow morning to tout the congressional stimulus bill -- or in the White House press office's words, "the need to invest in transportation infrastructure in order to build a 21st century economy." And few thinking Americans would challenge them on that point.

But as lawmakers and the mainstream press are coming to realize, and as we noted weeks ago, the stimulus plan dedicates stunningly few resources to creating the type of transportation infrastructure that can alleviate over-taxed public transit systems while weaning the nation from its obsession with environmentally unsustainable car travel.

What's the trouble? Why aren't we seeing liberal Democrats, at the very least, push for the kind of groundbreaking transit projects that not only create jobs, but fulfill the president's promise for a massive investment in public works?

Part of the answer lies in two parallel transportation policy story-lines that are playing out on the Hill this week: one dealing with Senate environment commitee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the other with what advocates call the "fix-it-first" requirement.

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Oh boy, it looks like the Coleman legal team isn't giving up on forgery.

Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg is going over rejected absentee ballot envelopes with Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid, and they came across a pair of ballots that came from a husband and wife, but all appeared to have all been signed by the same individual -- apparently the husband signing his own name, and also forging his wife's signature for her ballot.

"So based on Jake's forging his wife's signature on [exhibit] 210 and then witnessing his own forgery," Friedberg said, "and comparing those signatures to the one on his voter envelope, we know based on your testimony that that's his genuine signature accompanying his own ballot, right?"

The Franken camp objected, saying that Corbid's opinion doesn't matter -- the document speaks for itself.

"I'm going to sustain that," said Judge Denise Reilly, "also on the grounds that it's really confusing."

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There are many truisms of life inside the Capitol that occasionally surface in media coverage but are rarely explained straight-up to those outside the building. Here's one: House Democrats -- like many in the party's grassroots base -- often watch in frustration as legislation that can easily pass in their chamber slows down to a stop in the Senate.

Despite the Democrats' control of 58 Senate seats (pending the outcome in Minnesota), that climate hasn't changed this year. One House Dem recently told me that his party should consider lowering the filibuster margin from 60 to 55 votes, citing the 1977 rules change that knocked it down from 67 votes to 60.

So given that accepted truism of House-Senate relations, it's hard not to grin at this exchange, which occurred during Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) press briefing today:

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi, it's a lot easier to pass legislation through the House than it is in the Senate...

PELOSI: You notice that?

A new Rasmussen poll shows that support for the stimulus plan appears to be falling precipitously in the last two weeks, since it became as heavily politicized as it is now:

Do you favor or oppose the economic recovery package proposed by Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats?

Favor 37%
Oppose 43%


A week ago Rasmussen had a 42%-39% plurality favoring the plan, and a 45%-34% margin of support two weeks ago. Support among independents has fallen to 27%, unchanged from a week ago but down from 37% support two weeks ago.

So the Republican talking points out there against he bill -- too much spending, redistribution of wealth, stacking hundred-dollar bills on top of each other, etc -- appear to be having some measure of success.

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