I noted earlier that an amendment authored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)--which would allow the White House to withhold all photographs of detainee abuse--will not appear in the supplemental war funding bill, currently stuck as it awaits a conference between House and Senate negotiators.
But the funding legislation still has a long way to go--or will have to be changed again--before it achieves final passage. That has nothing to do with the war spending itself, which has overwhelming support. The problem for the White House and Democratic leaders is that progressive Democrats, Blue Dogs, and the entire House GOP each oppose different aspects of the bill--enough that there may not be enough votes for the supplemental itself to pass.
To understand everything, you need to go back to May 14, when an earlier version of this same spending bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin of 368-60. It had the support of almost all Republicans and all-but 51 Democrats--progressives, by and large, opposed to the nature of the funding process and the wars that process lengthens.
Then that bill went over to the Senate, where two controversial amendments were added, and the game changed dramatically.
It's no surprise by now that Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL), plan to make an issue of the time line of the Sotomayor confirmation process. Circulating on the Hill, though, is the below graphic, which shows just how dramatically Republicans would like to slow walk this nomination.
The Senate Republican Communications Center has put out a new objection to the scheduled hearings for Sonia Sotomayor: That this schedule represents a double standard compared to the time it took for John Roberts' hearings to begin, because it means Republicans will have to review 76 of her cases per day, beginning from the day when the nomination was announced, to be ready on the day the hearings are supposed to begin.
The key here is that Sotomayor has spent a lot longer on the bench than Roberts did. Roberts had a total of 327 cases, to be reviewed in 55 days before his hearings -- about six per day. Sotomayor has 3,625 cases, to be reviewed in 48 days, working out to a ratio of about 76.
Now hold on a second, the math can get even trickier from here.
The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee released an early version (PDF) of their health reform legislation today, which, as I noted before, is silent on the crucial questions of the employer mandate and a public health insurance option.
All that, though, will be settled in the coming days and, by the end of the week or early next week the finalized version of the proposal will be released, public option and all. The committee released today's language in order to meet a deadline: next Tuesday, the legislation will be marked up and today's announcement fulfills a commitment to release the language a week in advance.
Earlier today, the committee released a summary that was oddly mum about the public option.
An important foundation of The Affordable Health Choices Act is the following principle: If you like the coverage you have now, you keep it. But if you don't have health insurance or don't like the insurance you have, our bill will give you new, more affordable options.
But early reports and leaks indicate that it will include robust language, and all indications suggest that the HELP bill will propose broader reform than the Finance Committee's bill, expected to be unveiled in the next couple weeks. And it's worth pointing out that by releasing the most progressive language later rather than sooner, liberals and reformers won't have to spend the next week fending off attacks on the bill in advance of the mark-up.
Over the weekend, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) broke some news when, in response to the heckles of some frustrated union organizers, he suggested very strongly that he'd ultimately vote for a compromise version of the Employee Free Choice Act.
"I believe you'll be satisfied with my vote on this issue," Specter said.
Well, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was also on hand that day. He's a cosponsor of EFCA in the House, and in a statement to TPMDC, he said that the welcome Specter received is telling. "The reaction by many people at the rally to Arlen's speech was simply one demonstration that Pennsylvanians want to be represented by someone they can trust to approach their work in a consistent and accountable way," Sestak said.
The leaders of the Democratic political establishment have not confirmed to this point that Arlen will not be a 'flight risk' after the election. This is a concern that many people attending last weekend's events in Pittsburgh expressed to me, including when I spoke at the rally.
I am a cosponsor of EFCA, and cosponsored and voted for it last year, because very unfair labor practices are being done in America. I would also be in agreement with a compromise that labor supports and that addresses their concerns.
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) now appears to have taken a bold step in the debate over the budget deficit: Openly telling a foreign government not to trust the administration in Washington.
The Straits Timesreports that Kirk spoke to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, and discussed a meeting he had with Chinese leaders. Here's the video:
"One of the messages I had -- because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor," said Kirk, "is that the budget numbers that the US government had put forward should not be believed. The Congress is actually gonna spend quite a bit more than what's in the budget, and the health-care bill probably being the lead driver of additional spending by the Congress."
A request for comment to Kirk's office has not yet been returned.
Take a look at Jon Voight's speech last night at the big Republican dinner last night, at which he was the celebrity M.C., denouncing President Obama as a dangerous radical who is a threat to Israel and the United States. And he paid tribute to the whole who's who of right-wing punditry and their efforts to stop the "false prophet" Obama:
"We and we alone are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this Obama oppression," said Voight. "And let's give thanks to all the great people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, William Bennett, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Dennis Miller, Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, John Kasich, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Thomas Sowell, Victor Davis Hanson, Shelby Steele, Charles Krauthammer, Michelle Malkin, Fred Barnes and so many others."
"Let's give thanks to them for not giving up and staying the course, to bring an end to this false prophet Obama."
Yesterday, I reported that Barney Frank had raised concerns about what he called Sen. Arlen Specter's pattern of erratic behavior. That, though, was before this happened.
Vindication. According to Think Progress, the tweet has been deleted, and a subsequent tweet simply notes that Specter spoke at a labor rally with Sestak and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) on Saturday. For the uninitiated, that symbol doesn't mean "less than three." It's Internetese for "heart." Which means someone at Specter's campaign office might just have a crush on his (or her) boss's rival.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on the Senate floor today that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on July 13. In an effort to head off expected criticisms, Leahy noted that this proposed time line mirrors that of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose entire confirmation process took about two months. "This is a schedule that tracks the process the Senate followed by bipartisan agreement in considering President Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005," Leahy said.
That agreement was reached before the Committee received the answers to the bipartisan questionnaire, and before the Committee had received any of the 75,000 pages of documents from his years working in Republican administrations. If 48 days were sufficient to prepare for that hearing, in accordance with our agreement and the initial schedule, it is certainly adequate time to prepare for the confirmation hearing for Judge Sotomayor.
Sotomayor provided the committee with answers to its questionnaire last week. Now the question is how amenable Republicans will be to this announcement. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. "There is no reason to unduly delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee," Leahy said. "Indeed, given the attacks on her character, there are compelling reasons to proceed even ahead of this schedule. She deserves the earliest opportunity to respond to those attacks."
Ethan Hastert, the 31-year old son of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has announced that he is running for his father's old seat in Congress -- which the Democrats picked up in a stunning special election victory in March 2008, despite it having been a Republican bastion for decades before that.
Hastert the Younger appears to be pitching himself as a new face in politics: "Quite frankly, people are ready for the next generation of leadership."
Hastert the Elder resigned from Congress about a year after the Democrats won control. In the special election, Democratic businessman Bill Foster defeated GOP businessman Jim Oberweis by five points, even though the district had been carried by George W. Bush in 2004 by a 55%-44% margin. Then in the 2008 general election, Illinois favorite son Barack Obama carried the district 55%-44%, and Foster defeated Oberweis again by an increased majority of 15 points.