Obama Plans To Cut Deficit -- From Enormous Down To Huge
President Obama is reportedly planning a budget policy that would cut the deficit in half by cutting the budgets for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and by ending the Bush tax cuts for individuals making over $250,000. But here's some math to show just what a tough job he has ahead of him: The deficit would still be $533 billion by the end of his first term, down from the $1.3 trillion he inherited from George W. Bush.
Obama Hosting Governors At The White House Tonight
President Obama and the First Lady are hosting the National Governors Association for dinner at the White House tonight, with entertainment by Earth, Wind and Fire. Expect this to be a huge, momentous gathering -- and that's just Earth, Wind and Fire.
Sanford: Clyburn's Accusation About Stimulus Money "Is Absurd"
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) fired back at House Majority whip James Clyburn (D-SC) for saying his potential refusal of stimulus money was a "slap in the face" to his African-American constituents. "I think that any of us as governors -- and we do have 50 different incubators of different ideas and trying to get it right within our respective states, trying to make the judgment as best they can," said Sanford. "But the idea that color would filter into that decision-making process is absurd."
Barbour Accuses Obama Of Waging Permanent Campaign
In an interview with CNN, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), a former RNC chairman, noted that President Obama has been promoting the stimulus plan in swing states like Colorado, Indiana and Florida. "He's going to those places for a reason," Barbour said, attributing this development to the campaign skills of David Axelrod. "And so this is what we've become accustomed to, the perpetual campaign."
Feds Question Burris About BlagoThe Chicago Sun-Timesreports that federal authorities questioned Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) at his lawyer's office on Saturday, regarding the Blagojevich case and the circumstances of his Senate appointment. He has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Franken Camp Files New Ballot List
The Franken campaign has filed an amended list of 1,585 rejected absentee ballots that they say should be reconsidered for counting. Quite interestingly, nearly half of them were already on Norm Coleman's list of 4,800 -- but the conventional wisdom has been that both sides pick ballots that they believe will skew towards themselves. Does the Franken campaign know something that Team Coleman doesn't?
Schwarzenegger: GOP Is Creating Insecurity, Should Work With Obama
Appearing on This Week, Arnold Schwarzenegger criticized the Republican Party in Washington for being overly ideological, and not working constructively with President Obama. "They should make an effort to work together and to find what is best for the people," said Arnold, "because by derailing everything, it's not going to help anybody, and it creates instability and insecurity."
Obama Focuses On Stimulus Tax Cuts In YouTube Address
In his latest YouTube address, President Obama seeks to focus the public's attention on the tax-cut portions of the stimulus bill. "Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hardworking Americans," he says:
But Obama also stresses work remains to be done on helping people pay their bills, unlocking the credit markets, solving the housing crisis, generating growth and restoring fiscal discipline -- and that these issues are all inter-connected: "In short, we cannot successfully address any of our problems without addressing them all."
GOP Keeps Up Debunked Math About Stimulus
In the new weekly Republican response to president Obama's YouTube, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) continues to push the GOP's line that their own plan would have created more jobs at half the cost:
As we've pointed out, this claim is based on some very questionable math -- it involves reversing prior calculations about what a tax increase would do, and declaring the mirror image to be true for a tax cut, and also ignores the fact that the current deflationary crisis involves different fundamental economic assumptions than usual.
Governors In Washington This Weekend
The National Governors Association is meeting in Washington this weekend, and are set to have dinner at the White House tomorrow with President Obama. CQpoints out that several of the Republican governors have also been seen as potential presidential candidates -- Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and Charlie Crist, among others -- and could be testing any potential support while they're in Washington.
WaPo Profiles Jim Messina, Obama's 'Fixer'The Washington Posthas a new profile of President Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, dubbing him "the fixer" who deals with solving Obama's problems. "The exact nature of that task changes from day to day," the Post says -- ranging from smoothing over the confirmation of Tim Geithner, to finding new potential nominees for Health and Human Services, or devising a strategy to track stimulus spending.
National GOP Sending Big Bucks To Minnesota Senate FightThe Hill reports that the national Republican Party has invested heavily in the Minnesota election dispute, with the RNC sending $250,000 to the Minnesota GOP. John McCain has sent $142,000 to the state GOP, as well, and other national figures have also sent money. "The RNC made the Minnesota recount a priority because we think Sen. Coleman has a strong case and deserves to return to the Senate," RNC spokesman Alex Conant told The Hill.
Report: Burris Has No Plans To Quit -- For NowRoll Callreports that Roland Burris has no plans to resign -- at least not yet. "Resigning has not been an option discussed," a source told the paper. "Who knows what's going to happen over the weekend? Anything can change."
Hillary Asks China For Cooperation On Climate Change
While touring China, Hillary Clinton called upon the country to work with the United States to curb greenhouse gases, and to manage its economic growth in an environmentally sound way. "When we were industrializing and growing, we didn't know any better; neither did Europe," said Hillary. "Now we're smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth."
Socks The Cat Dies
Socks, the cat formerly owned by the Clintons during their years in the White House, and then given to personal secretary Betty Currie, has died at age 19. "Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere," the Clintons said in a statement.
The Minnesota election court just heard arguments on Norm Coleman's motion to declare illegal ballots that he had previously agreed were legal, and boy was it tense.
The Coleman camp sent up James Langdon, the member of the team who has best come across as sympathetic and sincere. "We understand that we stipulated, and we take that very seriously," Langdon said. "However, our research told us we could not stipulate to make something legal that was in fact illegal."
The claim here is that the court has ruled that only strict standards will be applied in letting in any new ballots. But some of those 933 previously-rejected ballots that were counted on January 3 wouldn't pass this test. Therefore, the Coleman camp says, these ballots must be culled, tying the ballot itself to the original envelope for potential un-counting.
Langdon went even further and said that the Coleman campaign has filed a motion to apply the court's standards to all absentee ballots that have already been counted -- that is, the absentees from Election Night.
This contains an obvious problem: All those previous absentees were de-coupled from their envelopes on Election Night.
So the Coleman camp is now attempting to create a legal trap for the court: Undo the February 13th ruling and let in all those votes we want, or we will insist that the result is illegal.
And really, even if those other voters are let in, the Coleman camp might turn around and still insist that the whole count is illegal.
The stock market's rocky ride today, stoked by senior Democratic senators appearing to foreshadow bank nationalization, prompted White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to re-assert the government's lack of interest in financial takeovers.
"This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go," Gibbs told reporters today.
The market proceeded to rebound slightly before closing lower, with the Dow 100 points down. Was Wall Street indicating skepticism about Gibbs' intentions? Not to Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, which represents the market's biggest players in Washington.
Talbott is strongly opposed to and unconcerned about nationalization -- but he pointed out that the term remains undefined in the public discourse. "There are two ways to do this," he told me.
We've now found a case of lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg actually being concerned about ballot fraud, and wanting to keep a vote out as a result -- so much so that he'll speculate about a Franken-voter being mentally disabled.
Really. No joke.
In court just now, lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias went over a rejected ballot envelope for which he said a power of attorney had been granted by a disabled voter, to allow a family member to fill it out. The issue was that the mark made to authorize the family member was not a signature or a conventional "X", but was instead an amorphous scribble. Elias and Goodhue County elections official Carolyn Holmsted spent some time hashing it out.
Then Friedberg took issue with this whole idea of the power of attorney to fill out a ballot, which is a specifically allowed clause in Minnesota law for disabled voters.
"And normally, people give powers of attorney because they're incompetent, mentally disabled," Friedberg began, before he was interrupted by a very loud objection from the Franken side.
"Your honor, this door was opened," Friedberg replied.
Norm Coleman's legal filing from this morning, calling for the throwing-out of ballots he previously agreed were legal, really has the Franken camp angry. The new Franken filing in response doesn't just call for the Coleman lawyers' request to be denied, but goes further: "Contestants' effort to renege on the stipulation they freely entered and eviscerate the binding order of this Court warrants the imposition of sanctions." (Emphasis ours.)
The case here from the Franken camp is that the 933 absentee ballots in question should never have been numbered in the first place, as it violates the secret ballot -- they objected to it when the Coleman camp demanded it, but the Secretary of State's office did it, anyway. Thus, they said, they entered into a careful negotiation with the Coleman camp to stipulate that the ballots were all legal, and that the numbers would be blacked out. Now Coleman has declared the agreement null and void.
"As the Court is well aware, the February 3 Stipulation and Order was the product of lengthy negotiations between the parties," the filing said. "One key purpose of the Stipulation and Order was to settle a claim in litigation. Settlement agreements -- especially those turned into orders -- are highly favored by the courts."
It is now quite possible that the political landscape in California, the single largest state in the Union and home to about 12% of the country's population, could undergo a transformation that would drastically change the ideological balance.
And it all comes down to political science. Like most other states, each party in California now holds its own primary to select a standard-bearer for the general election. (The parties are allowed to exclude registered independents.) Democrats always allow the indies in, while Republicans will often keep it closed. Left-wingers often win Dem primaries, and right-wingers win for the GOP.
But in exchange for his vote to pass the budget, moderate Republican state Senator Abel Maldonado demanded and received a provision setting a 2010 referendum to switch to something else called "Top Two," used in Louisiana and Washington state. All candidates run on the same primary ballot, and the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to a runoff.
So in deep-blue districts there would be two Democrats, and deep-red districts would produce two Republicans. The relatively moderate candidates would then have the edge in those districts, which Maldonado says is needed to improve the legislative process. (In an interesting twist, the office of governor is exempted.)
A previous referendum on this proposal was held in 2004, but it failed 46%-54%. The Dems didn't even remotely want it this time -- Maldonado forced it in exchange for his budget vote.
Hmmm ... let's say you were planning the schedule for Monday's Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House, and you were looking for candidates to talk about "Contracting and Procurement." Would you select the longtime defense-industry lobbyist who had to get an exemption from ethics rules in order to win his Pentagon post?
A series of recent reports, from the Journal to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), have offered staggering stats on the lobbying dollars paid out by banks, automakers, and other companies getting bailout money under the Troubled Assets Relief Program.
But all these numbers can be a bit befuddling in the aggregate. Is it really true, as the CRP states, that companies benefiting from the bailout have received a 258,449% return on their lobbying investments? Not really -- because lobbying expenditures are not broken down by topic area, there's no way to determine what portion of companies' K Street spending was dedicated to securing a slice of the bailout pie.
(For true TARP geeks, here's a great rundown of the cavalcade of legislation that sparked the lobbying interest of bailout participants.)
So what can we conclude about lobbying spending by bailed-out banks?