In it, but not of it. TPM DC

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Climate Change: The House did its part on Friday, passing the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. And they did it in a way that could, in theory, hold a great amount of sway with fence-sitting Democrats in the Senate. (Republicans are a different story--eight GOPers voted for the bill, but the rest sided with House Minority Leader John Boehner who called it a "pile of shit.") But success (and a successful bill) will depend in large part on factors like the Senate schedule, and White House involvement, which remain big unknowns.

  • Health Care: The House of Representatives will begin the mark-up process on a health reform bill, drafted by three different committees of jurisdiction: Energy and Commerce, Education and Labor, and Ways and Means. Thus far, the roll out in that chamber has been pretty seamless, especially by comparison to the action in the Senate. But figuring out how to keep things moving smoothly while three committees make changes to it independently turns out to be a bit tricky. We should know more about that process soon.

  • Congress is not in session this week.

If former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) does decide to fight on at the U.S. Supreme Court after his much-expected defeat with the Minnesota Supremes, he'll have at least one public supporter back home in the continuing litigation of this 2008 Senate race: Minnesota GOP Congressman John Kline -- who says that the courts should decide there's no winner at all!

" I encouraged [Norm Coleman] to carry this through the courts until we can get as much confidence here in Minnesota and in the nation that the results are accurate," Kline told Minnesota Public Radio. But he also added something that has been pitched by Coleman and his legal team in the past -- that we can't truly know whether Coleman or Democratic comedian Al Franken was the true winner of a race this close.

Read More →

The continuing battle between the Republican establishment and the hardcore conservative activists in the Florida Senate primary could soon be intensifying, the Washington Times reports, with the Club For Growth actively considering the idea of getting into the race in support of conservative insurgent Marco Rubio, against the moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

"We recently interviewed Marco Rubio and were impressed," said Club president David Keating. "We are very concerned about the two major tax increases Charlie Crist recently signed and believe there's no excuse for his active support of the Obama big-government 'stimulus' spending bill. We are actively considering the race."

The Club had previously been planning on a different major project for the 2010 Senate primary season: former Rep. Pat Toomey's challenge to then-GOP Sen. Arlen Specter in the Republican primary. But now that Specter has become a Democrat in order to avoid that very same primary, Florida might now be the new Pennsylvania.

But if they do get in, they'll have their work cut out for them. A new Mason-Dixon poll has Crist ahead of Rubio by 51%-23%. However, Rubio's biggest problem right now is a lack of name recognition, with 47% of Republican voters not recognizing the former state House Speaker's name -- something that Club money might be able to help correct.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the champion of social conservatism whose career became mired in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal of 2007, has a new fundraising letter that warns of the liberal/socialist threats on a whole range of issues -- though one particular item is mysteriously missing.

The letter warns of the threat posed by Democrats on such issues as abortion, union card-check, the dreaded Fairness Doctrine to eliminate conservative talk-radio, and big liberal spending.

This sentence sums it up: "The left-wing blob of trial lawyers, union bosses, environmental zealots, abortion activists, socialists and gun grabbers along with the Washington Democrat establishment have already trained their sights on me."

But there is one issue that we're used to seeing from conservatives like Vitter, which doesn't show up at all: Protecting the sanctity of marriage.

An interesting bit of data from Mark Blumenthal over at National Journal puts a cherry on top of a familiar theme: Conservatives who insist that people want government out of health care are either dishonest or in denial.

Numerous recent polls have indicated this with respect to a government run public option. Voters broadly support the idea. And Medicare enrollees have long reported high levels of satisfaction with their access to and quality of care. But here are some hard numbers.

Only 40 percent of consumers report a high level of satisfaction with their insurance. Compare that to 51 percent of Medicaid enrollees, 60 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees, and 56 percent of Medicare fee-for-service recipients. That's a particularly interesting finding vis-à-vis Medicaid, which is often stigmatized as a low-quality program for the poor. Yet Medicaid recipients are, on average, happier with their care than are consumers with private insurance.

That's an interesting factoid for those who are concerned that Congress will enact a weak--and, ultimately, stigmatized--public option. Leaving aside for a moment the moral failure of leaving about 50-million people without health care, the vast majority of people (and, notably, voters) in this country already have health care, and like it at least OK. For them, a public option along the lines of Medicaid might not sound like an appealing alternative--and that's why Democrats are insistent that health reform legislation not force anybody currently enrolled on the private market to give up their plan. But for those who are uninsured, or those who are unhappy with the care they already have, even the weak version of the public option might well still be a step up from the status quo.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the San Diego Sheriff's Department is now undertaking a review of a raid over the weekend against a fundraiser for Francine Busby, a Democratic candidate for the 50th Congressional District.

A neighbor made a noise complaint against the event, and this neighbor is also suspected of being the same man who heckled the event with anti-gay remarks shortly before the complaint was made. Other neighbors told the local media that there was no noise problem. After the officers arrived, attendees ended up being pepper-sprayed and a hostess was arrested.

In an interview with TPM, Busby said the noise complaint was not legitimate and was based on the neighbor's political agenda, and she blamed the arresting officer for the violence that resulted.

"We cannot take action based on media accounts and will conduct a thorough inquiry to include interviews of witnesses at the fund-raising event," said Undersheriff Bill Gore -- who as it turns out will become the full sheriff effective this Friday, upon the retirement of his predecessor.

I just spoke on the phone with Francine Busby, a previous and once-again Democratic candidate for California's Fiftieth House District, about Saturday's raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department on a fundraiser she held, in which multiple people were pepper-sprayed and a hostess was arrested after a neighbor made a noise complaint.

Busby strongly denied that anyone at the fundraiser did anything to provoke violence by the sheriffs. (For their part, the sheriffs claim that somebody kicked an officer.) And she put the blame squarely on a neighbor who heckled the crowd, then called the sheriffs to complain of loudness from Democrats.

"You could hear his voice very clearly, it was loud. But as far as the actual words, I didn't hear them," Busby explained. "I heard my name, and obviously derogatory words. Other people heard profanity, and somebody heard something about gays, as well."It should be noted that the event was hosted by a lesbian couple.

"The deputies were telling people that they were taking statements from, that the call came in about noise from a Democratic rally, or Democratic demonstration," said Busby. In fact, she said, she had last spoken at about 8:30 p.m., and the police arrived an hour later when most of the attendees had left. "It was a nuisance-noise call, because there was no noise, and the fact that it was described as a Democratic rally or demonstration indicates to me that this person was calling for his own political motives."

Read More →

In his press briefing today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he doesn't believe the reversal of Sonia Sotomayor's decision in the New Haven firefighters case will hurt her chances of getting confirmed to the Supreme Court.

"I don't foresee that this will represent anything that will prevent her from a seat on the Supreme Court," he told reporters.

Gibbs said the decision was "a fairly definitive opinion that she follows judicial precedent and that she doesn't legislate from the bench." He went on to chide her critics for warning she would be an activist judge, saying today's majority opinion is a "new interpretation" of Title VII.

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress were in top political form on Friday, ushering the Waxman-Markey bill to passage by the narrowest of margins. In so doing, they picked off Democratic fence sitters strategically, to use what leverage they have to pressure Senate moderates into voting for passage as well.

For instance, a number of Democratic reps from states like Indiana, Missouri, and others voted for passage, which could make it harder for skeptical senators like Claire McCaskill and Evan Bayh to filibuster, or vote against it.

They also tailored the bill in such a way that it will be more palatable to Democratic senators from manufacturing states--like Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown in Ohio--than past climate change bills have been.

But much will also depend on the timeline.

Read More →

Now this is a truly bizarre story, about a Democratic Congressional candidate's fundraising event being raided by a whole squad from the San Diego Sheriff's Department -- including pepper-spray and a helicopter!

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a fundraiser for Francine Busby, who previously ran for the deeply-Republican Fiftieth District and came close to winning in the 2006 special election and subsequent regular election, was raided by sheriffs after an unnamed neighbor made a noise complaint. Busby now calls it a "phony" noise complaint, and the article says that multiple neighbors said there was no great noise at all.

Here's the twist: The fundraiser was hosted by a lesbian couple, and shortly before the sheriffs came a particular neighbor had shouted anti-gay slurs at the assembled crowd. "It was a quiet home reception, disrupted by a vulgar person shouting obscenities from behind the bushes," Busby says.

Read More →