In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It may be further evidence of the Republican Party's current doldrums that a top party spokesman, who will appear on Meet The Press this Sunday to debate a high-ranking Democrat, is none other than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich will be facing off against Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), to discuss national security issues and the controversy surrounding Nancy Pelosi's claims against the CIA.

Consider the fact that Durbin is a top-ranking elected Democrat -- while Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House a little over ten years ago.

WaPo: White House To Steer G.M. Into Bankruptcy The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is preparing to send General Motors into a planned bankruptcy as the end of next week, with the intention to give the company nearly $30 billion more in aid to help them restructure.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will sign the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, at 9 a.m. ET in the Rose Garden. At 10 a.m. ET, he will deliver the commencement at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At 3 p.m. ET, he will return to the Rose Garden to sign the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act.

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The American Clean Energy and Security Act--also known as the Waxman-Markey bill--was reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night. The vote was split almost perfectly down party lines, with 33 in favor and 24 opposed.

Now Democratic leaders faces a dilemma. Normally they would move the bill on to the floor of the House and it would receive an up or down vote (subject to various stall tactics, and so forth). But yesterday, The Hill reported that Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)--House Agriculture chairman--is threatening to whip all of the Democrats on his panel into voting no on passage unless that committee is given equal jurisdiction over the legislation and is allowed to mark it up on its own. If he gets his way, the legislation could lose yet more of its teeth. If he doesn't (and if he's able to make good on his threat) then it may not pass at all.

We'll see how this shakes out.

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.