In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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."

The right was furious about SEIU's involvement in negotiations, as were California government officials. But their concerns were laid to rest today when Washington decided to back down.

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Earlier today, we reported that Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have taken an extraordinary measure to combat nefarious Republican stall tactics. Faced with the possibility that the GOP minority might require the committee's clerks to read aloud the 900-page Waxman-Markey climate change bill, or many of its 400-plus proposed amendments, the committee's chairman, Henry Waxman (D-CA), hired a speed reader. A quick tongued, acting-clerk, if you will.

His services may ultimately not be necessary, but earlier today, to break the tension between battling factions, the committee's ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX) asked the "speed reader clerk" to read part of one measly little amendment. Watch:

That amendment ultimately went down in flames. The overall bill may have gained a little bit of steam today. But presumably a bunch of Capitol Hill clerks are now worried about job security.

A reader of ours who recently bought a new pistol (Yep -- liberals purchase handguns, too!) sent us this interesting flier from the National Rifle Association, which was included in the box:

(Click image to enlarge.)

Here at TPM, we wondered exactly what the NRA meant by "Prepare For The Storm." Was this some kind of dog whistle -- a hidden extremist message, such as we might see from a white supremacist group like Storm Front?

Mark Potok, director of the South Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, informed me that thankfully it's not a Neo-Nazi reference -- but it is batty.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has released this statement on President Obama's speech today:

"The President today reiterated the belief we both share that closing Guantanamo will make America more secure. I share his concern that we must ensure our national security needs and our Constitutional values continue to coexist, and that the rule of law must supersede politics. Senate Democrats look forward to reviewing the details of the Administration's plan when it is released, and to working with the President to keep Americans safe and bring to justice those who seek to do us harm.

"While others may spend all their time defending the mistakes of the past, I am encouraged that our President is focused squarely on the future."

A new Gallup poll confirms what has been a general political consensus: Nancy Pelosi has not handled the controversy over interrogation/torture techniques very well.

The respondents were asked this question: "Do you approve or disapprove of how each of the following has handled the matter of interrogation techniques used against terrorism suspects?"

President Obama gets a 59% approval to 29% disapproval, consistent with his high favorability on pretty much any question. The CIA weighs in at a healthy 52%-31%. Congressional Democrats just manage to be in the black at 44%-40%, and the Congressional Republicans are behind at 40%-45%.

Nancy Pelosi, however, is at 31%-47%.

Civil libertarians outside of Congress might have serious reservations about the outline of the President's Guantanamo policy. But on Capitol Hill they're less critical. "I welcome the president's emphasis on congressional oversight and the need for collaboration with Congress, for which the Bush Administration held such contempt," said Sen. Russ Feingold.

The president's remark on reforming the way the state secrets privilege is used also seems to indicate he is moving in the right direction. And I am also pleased that the president echoed the same point I recently made regarding claims by the former vice president: that I had seen nothing to indicate that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary or the most effective way to get information from detainees.

The president has taken some important steps in his first four months. He has banned torture, increased transparency, and focused on the crucial threat to our national security emanating from al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan. And he has pledged to close Guantanamo, which is being used as a recruiting tool by our enemies. But nobody expected the president would be able to undo the eight year assault on the rule of law by the last administration in just four months. So I look forward to continuing to work with him to restore the rule of law and put in place policies that will keep America safe and reduce the threats to our country that have grown more challenging because of the missteps of the last administration.

During his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh said President Obama's speech did a great job -- for terrorists.

"Had I been a terrorist, were I a terrorist, I would have been prompted to give Obama's speech a standing O today," said Limbaugh. "It would have been tempting to give him a standing ovation because essentially Barack Obama apologized to terrorists all over the world for the last eight years of the previous administration."

Without going so far as to compare Obama to George W. Bush, the ACLU thinks the President's deeds are out of step with his words. "We welcome President Obama's stated commitment to the Constitution, the rule of law and the unequivocal rejection of torture," said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. "But unlike the president, we believe that continuing with the failed military commissions and creating a new system of indefinite detention without charge is inconsistent with the values that he expressed so eloquently at the National Archives today."

That's some pretty thinly veiled criticism. At issue is Obama's announcement of a system of so-called "preventive detention" for suspects who, according to Obama, "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people." They will, apparently, be held for years, subject only to judicial and congressional oversight mechanisms that have yet to be defined. If you want to know how such a system compares to indefinite detention programs other democracies have used, Spencer Ackerman brings the knowledge. The left is not happy about this.

The DCCC is now upping the ante in its special raffle -- the one they began last week, in which people who donate only $5 or more are given a chance to win a free trip to Washington for the Dem committees' big fundraising dinner in June, and get their picture taken with President Obama.

In an e-mail that was just sent out, Speaker Nancy Pelosi offers this extra incentive: "If you enter today, you and your guest will sit at my table should you be the lucky winner who is chosen."

Meanwhile, the NRCC is getting in on the act, too, with a contest to come to the GOP's own big June dinner -- and the winner and their guest will get to sit at Newt Gingrich's table: "If you've ever watched Newt on TV and thought 'I'd like to meet this guy,' this is your chance!"

Interestingly, the NRCC's raffle tickets start at $50, compared to only $5 for the DCCC and the similar contest from the DSCC. In all three cases, the obvious wager is that the sweepstakes will bring in more money than the cost of airfare and hotels for the winners.

Check out the fundraising letters, after the jump.

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