The identities of the counterparties who stand to benefit from the government's huge new bailout of AIG are remaining frustratingly secret, as Josh pointed out this morning, even as taxpayers ensure that AIG's partners in deal-making get paid. But at least one member of Congress isn't satisfied with the explanation coming out of the Federal Reserve and Treasury.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pressed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hard in the Budget Committee this morning on the need to identify AIG's bailed-out counterparties. After Bernanke replied that "under normal conditions, [the counterparties] would have presumption to privacy about their commercial decisions," Wyden sounded extremely displeased:
So is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) going to criticize Rush Limbaugh, or not?
Earlier today, Rush told Greg Sargent that Cantor's comments on ABC's This Week, saying that neither he nor other Republicans want President Obama to fail, was in fact in agreement with Rush on the policy issues, and had been distorted by ABC.
So we asked Cantor's office for clarification -- and they're not giving a real answer to it.
Instead, Cantor press secretary Brad Dayspring is daring the Democrats to go talk to Rush themselves:
If Robert Gibbs is worried about the policies Rush Limbaugh talks about on his show, he should call into the show- I'm sure Rush would welcome it. In the meantime, if Mr. Gibbs and the Administration want to focus on creating jobs and helping the Middle Class deal with an economy in recession, they should call Eric Cantor and work with us on the these very real problems.
After seeing what happened to Michael Steele, who can blame Cantor for not wanting to be caught criticizing the great leader?
Today is a big day in the Minnesota trial: The Franken campaign is finally beginning to present their side of the case, after Coleman rested yesterday.
The Franken camp has spent today bringing in a queue of aggrieved voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, 17 of them in total this morning, trying to get the court to rule that these ballots -- presumably all for Franken -- were wrongly tossed and ought to be put in the count.
The previous attempts by Team Coleman to play this game didn't go very well -- the judges even cited one Coleman witness by name by name as an illegal voter in an important opinion they handed down. So far, it seems to be going well for Franken, though it hasn't been perfect.
Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg doesn't seem to be making too much of an effort to declare that these votes were rejected properly, as the Franken campaign worked to accomplish against his own witnesses. This seems to be for two reasons: Team Coleman has been trying to get the court to reverse itself on their strict standards for letting in rejected votes, and therefore he needs to show good faith. And furthermore, the Coleman camp seem to have changed their approach, to demonstrate the fallibility and unreliability of the system, in order to possibly get the whole election thrown out.
Here's one exchange between Friedberg and a Franken witness:
Friedberg: Ms. Meyer, can you think of any reason your ballot shouldn't be opened and counted?
Pamela Meyer: No.
Friedberg: Neither can I. We stipulate this ballot should be opened and counted, Your Honor.
Other cross-examinations were more drawn out than this one was, but you get the idea.
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Both the presidential and congressional budgets set frameworks for future spending without instituting binding new policies, but the dense documents are considered important "statements of priorities" for the party in power. In the case of Obama and his Democrats, one priority emerges most clearly from the budget: spreading wealth around for the common good (apologies for the Joe the Plumber reference).
DNC chairman Tim Kaine just appeared on Fox News, and took the opportunity to dig in against Rush Limbaugh's "leadership role" in the Republican Party, and how this is endangering the country in a time of crisis.
Fox host Jon Scott brought up the recent Limbaugh-Steele flap, and asked Kaine: "Democrats are sort of enjoying this, aren't they?"
"Well you know, yeah -- in a way, yes," said Kaine. "But it's a lot at stake when somebody who is in a leadership role -- as Rush Limbaugh clearly is -- states that he wants for the president to fail, and he is followed in that by members of Congress voting against the Recovery Act. That's pretty dire, given our situation right now."
Kaine then went after Michael Steele's apology for having offended Rush, and Steele's having backed down from what Kaine said was a "courageous" comment. "You know, it left a lot of us wondering, who's really in charge? Kaine said. "It seems like Rush Limbaugh is kind of the He Who Must Be Obeyed these days in the Republican Party."
Finally, Kaine played up the national interest: "Again, we're in a time of national crisis. And the shouters aren't gonna get us through it. It's gonna be problem-solvers who will, and that's what we need from both parties right now."
The new Marist poll has some truly horrible news for David Paterson, saying that he could lose both primary and general elections in landslides.
In a primary against Andrew Cuomo, Paterson is behind by an amazing 62%-26% margin. In a general election match-up with Rudy Giuliani, Paterson gets crushed by 53%-38%, while Cuomo beats Rudy by 56%-39%.
The poll is a whole lot better for newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, though it's not great. Gillibrand edges former GOP Governor George Pataki 45%-41%, and is ahead of GOP Congressman Peter King 49%-28%. In a Democratic primary, Gillibrand is in a near-tie with pro-gun-control Congressman Carolyn McCarthy, with 36% for Gillibrand and 33% for McCarthy.
Here's a sign of just how awful Paterson's ratings are: His approval numbers are worse than Eliot Spitzer's were, when he was in the middle of the prostitution scandal that forced his resignation. Just before he resigned, Spitzer had a 30% excellent/good rating and 64% fair/poor in the Marist poll. By comparison, Paterson is at only 26%-71%.
Another person to feel sorry for here is former Congressman Rick Lazio (R), who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Senate in 2000 -- he actually manages to trail Paterson in a possible gubernatorial match-up by a 47%-35% margin.
When the new Democratic Congress passed a sweeping ethics bill in 2007, controversy erupted over the proposed new "revolving-door" ban on ex-lawmakers and aides lobbying their former colleagues. Senators wanted to double the ban to two years, while House Democrats pushed for keeping a one-year ban that would allow them to nail down lucrative lobbying gigs after leaving the Hill.
But no matter the length of the revolving-door ban, both Republicans and Democrats have long taken advantage of its enormous loophole. Let's call it the "senior adviser" route -- instead of lobbying current lawmakers directly, defeated members of Congress are flocking in droves to become behind-the-scenes consiglieres to the lobbyists that are allowed to contact sitting members.
The "senior adviser" club got another member just this morning ...
DSCC communications director Eric Schultz just sent TPM this statement in response to the Coleman legal team's suggestion that the election court throw out the whole election result:
"I'm sure Senator John McCain would like to throw out the results of November 4, 2008 as well. I applaud the Coleman campaign for their candor: at least after five weeks in court the Coleman camp is admitting they lost the election, and I also applaud them for their creativity - maybe next they'll suggest aliens from Mars come down to make Norm Coleman Senator again - because that's as far-fetched as asking for a revote when you lose an election. If Senator Coleman wants a revote, he can have one: in 2014 when Senator Franken's first term expires."
The Democrats are clearly more than happy to see leading Republican politicians bow down before Rush Limbaugh, with a new Democratic National Committee press release attacking the GOP for siding with Rush on ... transportation and infrastructure.
Specifically, the release from DNC chairman Tim Kaine praises the infrastructure improvements contained in the stimulus bill, and then lambastes Congressional Republicans for voting No on the bill at Rush's urging:
Today, President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled new job-creating infrastructure projects that were made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects are helping put Americans back to work while also investing in repairing our crumbling infrastructure. But, instead of joining Democrats in supporting the President's economic recovery plan, almost every single Republican in Congress chose to follow Rush Limbaugh by voting against a plan that will create or save 3.5 million jobs.
And of course, Kaine reminds us that Michael Steele apologized for offending Limbaugh: "Now, instead of the denouncing Limbaugh's claim that he is rooting for the President to fail, my counterpart at the Republican National Committee proved who is really leading their party -- calling Rush Limbaugh to apologize after courageously criticizing him just this weekend."
In short, the Democrats' new message is that the Republican Party is dominated by an obnoxious bully who wants the country to tank -- and the GOP politicians aren't brave enough to stand up to him.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a strong supporter of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, is launching a full-on battle this week to remove several provisions from the 2009 government spending bill that would open a small crack in the slammed door of relations with Havana.
Menendez fired a broadside at the Obama administration yesterday for backing a provision buried in the $410 billion spending bill, which must become law by next week in order to keep the government running. The New Jersey senator, a Cuban-American, objects to language in the bill that would allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island once a year and end limits on the sale of American food and medicines in Cuba.
Menendez even suggested yesterday that he might oppose the spending bill if the Cuba provisions were not removed, saying in a floor speech that they "[put] the omnibus appropriations package in jeopardy, in spite of all the other tremendously important funding that this bill would provide.''
Polls suggest that the majority of Cuban-Americans side with the administration, rather than Menendez -- an influential poll of the community, conducted in Florida every year since 1991, found in December that 55% of Cuban-Americans supported lifting the embargo against Havana.
But regardless of where public opinion stands, Menendez's effort is no longer confined to the spending bill. The WaPoreports today that the senator has held up two Obama science nominees in an attempt to twist the arms of his fellow Dems: