In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Cheney: "I Worry" When Washington Cares More About Terrorists' Rights Than Protecting America In an interview with the Politico, Dick Cheney gave a dire warning that terrorists will try to attack America again, and their success or failure depends on keeping his policies in place. Said Cheney: "When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Tim Geithner are speaking at 11 a.m. ET, where they will deliver remarks on their expected plans to curb executive pay at $500,000 for financial institutions receiving bailout funds. Obama will then meet with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell at 11:50 p.m., will have lunch with Biden at 12:15 p.m., and will sign legislation to expand the SCHIP program at 4:30 p.m. He will meet with Ken Salazar at 5:05 p.m., and then he and Michelle Obama will attend a caucus leadership cocktail reception at 7:30 p.m.

Biden Meeting With Indonesian VP, Teamsters Head Joe Biden will be meeting this afternoon with Jusuf Kalla, the Vice President of Indonesia. He will then meet with Teamsters president James P. Hoffa. Both meetings are closed press.

Obama, On Daschle: "I Screwed Up" President Obama very bluntly told CNN, "I screwed up," regarding the Tom Daschle mess. "Ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington and bottom-up politics," Obama added. "And I don't want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards -- one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes."

Minnesota Trial Keeps On Going; State Dems Propose Legislative Way Out The Minnesota election trial goes into Day 8, while state Democratic legislators are proposing a bill to change the law immediately and award Al Franken a certificate of election while the litigation is still pending, but it does not appear likely to succeed -- GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty indicated he won't support the bill, calling it an attempt to change the rules retroactively.

WaPo: Dems Don't Have The Votes For Current Stimulus Plan The Washington Post reports that Democratic leaders don't have 60 votes to pass the stimulus bill as it now stands, with both Democratic and Republican Senators putting forward amendments to strip various spending items. On the other hand, new spending items and tax breaks are being put in -- so the cost is now at over $900 billion.

Joe The Plumber Gives Political Advice To GOP Staffers Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher visited Capitol Hill yesterday, giving his political advice to a key group of Republican staffers. Wurzelbacher spoke of the importance of stopping the stimulus bill, and for the GOP to take a hard line. "I don't believe there's two sides to every story. It's black and white," he said. "There's right and wrong."

Blago Goes On Letterman Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appeared on the David Letterman show last night. "I've been wanting to be on your show in the worst way for the longest time," said Blago. To which Dave replied: "Well, you're on in the worst way, believe me."

The Minnesota election court has just handed down a major ruling, completely denying Norm Coleman's motion for summary judgment that would have opened up and counted a set of roughly 4,500 rejected absentee ballots that his campaign insists were wrongly rejected and ought to be counted.

Earlier today, the court similarly rejected Franken's attempt to have the ballots set aside entirely and to limit Coleman to a pool of 654 ballots, which at the time the Coleman camp was hailing as a major victory that will ensure votes are counted. But it turns out it's not that easy.

The upshot of the two decisions is that Coleman may argue on behalf of these voters, but there is no guarantee that they'll be counted. Instead, he'll need to argue for them one by one. And of course, the Franken campaign will have a full opportunity to cross-examine Coleman's witnesses -- many of whom have demonstrated that they in fact committed clear errors in filling out their ballots -- and to also play this same game down the road.

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About a month ago, before the economic recovery debate started on Capitol Hill, I wondered aloud about the wisdom of setting clear, public deadlines for Congress to pass a stimulus bill.

When a politician starts the clock on a major initiative, the resulting flood of media coverage and public expectation makes it well-nigh impossible to avoid losing momentum after even a small stumble. And given the lack of consensus in the Senate -- even among Democrats -- on how to move forward, it's hard to see the stimulus bill being approved by the end of the week, as the White House and congressional leaders had hoped.

Now, anything can happen. There could be a breakthrough on infrastructure spending tomorrow that creates a palpable shift. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) could win enough fellow centrists to downsize the legislation, with the president's blessing.

But in order for the stimulus to pass the Senate by Friday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would need to move to cut off debate on the bill ("filing for cloture," in Senate parlance) by tomorrow. And given how many Democrats are holding back from full support right now, I suspect that Republicans would answer that move with a successful filibuster.

Still, everything changes quickly in the Capitol. We'll keep you posted.

I'm surprised only one commentator so far as I know, Michael Barone, and few Democrats like Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee, have made this point. By putting Judd Gregg at Commerce, Obama has put a Republican in charge of one of the most politically frought tasks facing any president: the Census. Mandated by the Constitution, the Census is, of course, essential for allocating congressional seats as well as the disbursement of certain federal funds.

The methods of Census collection are often in dispute. In 2000 Democrats pushed for statistical sampling to achieve a better count of underrepresented groups--the homeless, transient poor, and so on. They lost. It's not clear that there will be as much controversy in 2010 when the next Census will take place but by putting Gregg at the Commerce Department--which oversees the Bureau of the Census--Obama has handed a potentially very politically sensitive position to a Republican. My old colleague, Barone weighs in against sampling as liberal subterfuge although any number of groups of like the American Association for the Advancement of Science have supported it.

New Hampshire's Democratic Governor John Lynch has officially announced that he will appoint Republican Bonnie Newman to the Senate seat of Judd Gregg, as soon as Gregg resigns to become Secretary of Commerce.

Gregg made it a clear condition for accepting the cabinet appointment that a Republican would be appointed to his seat, rather than let a Dem come in and potentially give the party a filibuster-proof majority. Thus Newman, Gregg's former chief of staff and an ex-interim president of the University of New Hampshire, is getting the seat.

It is now also official that Newman is serving strictly as a caretaker -- she will not run for the seat in 2010. This means that while Democrats haven't gotten the seat immediately, the chance of picking it up later is actually pretty good. New Hampshire has realigned to the Dems in recent years, and an open-seat race has to be considered as leaning towards a Democratic takeover.

The Minnesota election court just handed down a ruling on a key motion by Al Franken's legal team, seeking to limit the scope of Norm Coleman's inquiry into rejected absentee ballots.

And it turns out they've split the difference. Coleman's lawyers have alternately been talking about looking at all 11,000 remaining absentee ballots that have been rejected, or just looking at 4,797 of them, while Franken wants to limit Coleman to a prior list of 654.

The court is allowing Coleman to continue presenting evidence on the 4,797, which had been disclosed to the Franken camp in the summary judgment filings before the trial began. But that's it.

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A very awkward moment just happened in the Minnesota Senate trial. Judge Kurt Marben, as opposed to a Franken lawyer, actively asked about a problem with the photocopy of an absentee ballot that Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg was presenting, which was missing the section where a voter would list proof of residence.

Friedberg said that this was how they received the document itself from the county. This led to a very uncomfortable exchange between the lawyers, the judges and even the witness Kevin Corbid, the head elections official in Washington County, lasting for several minutes.

Judge Denise Reilly chimed in: "The issue is it was rejected for proof of residence, and the part of the ballot showing proof of residence is the part that's been cut off." Corbid added that it was possible that the proof of residence was removed when a separate flap was torn off of the envelope, accidentally taking that section with it.

Who knows.

On the other hand, Coleman has managed to make some headway today in his fundamental legal claim.

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I'm still reporting but what I've heard jibes with what's come out in the last couple of hours: That Daschle made the decision to go himself after the New York Times op-ed and the sense that the opposition could grow and not diminish over the next week. No one in the administration wanted to talk him out of it but they weren't going to pull the plug either. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressional liasion Phil Schilero had all been making calls on Daschle's behalf through yesterday and Daschle's apologetic tone seemed to help. Still, White House officials knew that the story was likely to get worse next week when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is scheduled to announce more detailed plans for bailing out the financial industry. That is likely to once again raise the issue of executive compensation. "Those aren't good atmospherics to be discussing free limo rides," said one Democrat close to the White House.

While no Democrat in the Senate had come out against his nomination, Republican opposition to his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services was growing. This morning he called White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel to say he was quitting. (Obama later spoke with Daschle from the president's private study off the Oval Office.) This morning's announced withdrawal of Nancy Killefer, nominated to the newly created post of Chief Performance Officer, made White House officials more appreciative of Daschle's withdrawal. Had he stayed in the administration would have been seen as sexist, backing two male candidates with tax problems (Daschle and Treasury Secretary Tim Getihner) and jettisoning one woman. Daschle saved them the trouble of explaining that one. That said, Obama has to go on all the network news show tonite and talk about these withdrawals rather than the economic crisis and the stimulus package, his original reason for booking the interviews with the Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson.

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A reader writes in to note my description of a Senate transportation amendment as falling "two votes short" today, suggesting that it had in fact been filibustered by the GOP.

The Republicans certainly did block the amendment, but it wasn't a filibuster -- what occurred was a motion to waive budgetary rules to allow for more new spending that isn't offset by cuts. Such a motion is more of a fiscal box-checking than a political obstruction, though it has the same effect in practice. Sixty votes are needed to waive budgetary rules, the same margin needed to break a filibuster.

But If no budgetary motion had been made on the amendment, it likely would have been deemed "non-germane" according to Senate rules -- and fallen short in the end. Such is the mind-numbing tradition of parliamentary procedure.

As I noted earlier today, Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is said to be on the verge of endorsing an effort to open up the stimulus bill's $5.5 billion transportation grants program to highways rather than limit it to mass transit systems that sorely need more money.

Who on earth would push such an amendment in the first place, you ask? Why, the headed-for-retirement Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). From CQ's report today:

[Bond] plans to offer an amendment that would transfer $5.5 billion in the bill for surface transportation competitive grants to the highway and bridge formula. The grants are meant for larger projects of national or regional significance that can be started within three years. Bond said that is not stimulative.


"Projects of national and regional significance" that can give Americans an alternative to car travel are "not stimulative"? Say what? Then again, Bond has long denied a human role in climate change and helped block congressional action on the issue. So if Boxer agrees to sign on to his proposal, it's not without being warned.

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