So much is in flux right now that it's hard to keep everything straight, but here's an important update. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) will support the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Johnsen is a professor at Indiana University--one of Lugar's constituents--and, as such, it makes sense that Lugar would be a swing vote.
Assuming nobody in the Democratic caucus (save, perhaps, it's newest member) chooses to obstruct, that leaves Democrats one vote shy of the 60-votes needed to break a potential Republican filibuster. And that doesn't account for the fact that a number of Republicans (moderates, and others who are on the record opposing the filibuster of presidential nominees) have yet to break silence.
Earlier today once and current Democrat Arlen Specter said he opposes Johnsen's nomination, but his staff was unable to confirm just yet whether that means he'd support a filibuster or not.
Vice President Joe Biden released this statement on Arlen Specter's party switch:
"I welcome my old friend to the Democratic Party. Senator Arlen Specter is a man of remarkable courage and integrity. I know he will remain a powerful and independent voice for Pennsylvania and the country."
DSCC chairman Bob Menendez has released this statement on Arlen Specter's party switch:
"We welcome Senator Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party. The more the merrier. I just spoke with the Senator on the phone, told him that I look forward to supporting him and making sure this seat stays Democratic in November of 2010.
But today's news is proof positive that the Republican Party is so out of touch with Americans that they're losing one of its most prominent leaders. The Republican leadership in Congress, by obstructing and blocking progress at every turn, has poisoned the Republican party to a point where one of its own has to jump ship.
We thought Republicans may have hit rock bottom in November, but given their current strategy the hole they're digging keeps getting deeper. If Republicans continue to vote against progress and bet against the American economy, today's blow will be nothing compared to the long-term loss they will feel for years to come."
Bachmann did an interview with the right-wing Pajamas Media, and had this to say:
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter," said Bachmann. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
As the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pagespoints out, Bachmann has the 1970s flu outbreak all wrong. It happened in 1976 when Gerald Ford was in office.
This also shows just how shallow Bachmann's historical understanding is. She could have easily also referred back to the infamous 1918 Spanish flu pandemic -- Woodrow Wilson was president at that time, don't you know!
DNC Chairman Tim Kaine has put out a statement welcoming Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, simultaneously offering the newest Dem Senator the party's full support and castigating the GOP for driving away moderates.
"As Senator Specter noted, the Republican Party has drifted far to the right and seems more interested in ideology, conflict and obstruction than in working constructively to address the nation's problems, and no longer appeals to moderates, including Senator Specter. I commend Senator Specter on his decision to work with President Obama and Senate Democrats to help turn our economy around, create jobs and put the country back on the right track. We are thrilled to welcome Senator Specter into the Democratic fold and he can count on our full support."
I mentioned earlier that we'd be closely following today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Harold Koh to be State Department Legal Adviser. But then--well, you know. I haven't forgotten, though, and here's a bit of an update.
You can read the prepared statements from committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA), ranking member Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Koh himself (all PDFs) here. However, if you're in the mood for some slightly denser, but more interesting reading, check out this Q&A. Lugar asked Koh a bunch of questions for the record (including on such hot-button issues as "transnational justice") in advance of the hearing and Koh responded in full last week.
A committee source says Lugar set a cordial and laudatory tone in his opening statement, and suspects that he will vote to move Koh's nomination out of committee when it meets to discuss business a week from today.
Al Franken's campaign seems to be playing it cool regarding the ramifications for them of Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party -- that if Franken is seated, he would officially be the 60th Dem in the Senate, seriously raising the stakes of this whole fight.
I asked Team Franken for comment about Specter's switch, and the prospects of being that 60th Democrat. Spokesman Andy Barr told me: "Sen.-elect Franken looks forward to working with Senators of both parties to make progress on President Obama's agenda and move our country forward."
Al Franken might be looking forward to working with Senators of both parties, but chances are the Senators of the other party aren't looking forward to working with him -- or too eager to even let him have that chance.
In a very interesting moment at his press conference today, Arlen Specter showed that he remains in many ways a small-c conservative -- it's just that he's not a complete and utter right-winger.
Specter railed against his former compatriots in the Republican Party for not supporting moderates, and being in the thrall of the Club For Growth, the right-wing group that was working to defeat him in the 2010 primary:
Republicans didn't rally to Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland -- he was beaten by the Club For Growth and the far right -- and lost the general election. Republicans didn't rally to the banner of Joe Schwarz in Michigan -- he was beaten by a conservative and the Club For Growth -- and they lost the general election. Republicans didn't rally to Heather Wilson in New Mexico last year, and she was beaten in a primary, and lost in the general election. The Club For Growth challenged Linc Chafee -- remember Linc Chafee? -- they made him spend all his money in the primary, and he lost the general. And had Linc Chafee been elected in 2006, the Republicans would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and '8, and I would have been chairman of a committee.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has released on official statement on the news that Sen. Arlen Specter has become a Democrat. To wit:
This shows the principle rule of politics: tomorrow is always another day -- as today was. This may be good for Arlen, politically; however, two key questions need to be answered. First, after 31 years in the military, I learned that you run for something, not against someone. Arlen has made a decision to leave a race because he could not win against someone. What needs to be known is what he is running for. Second, I watched then-Gov. Clinton and then-Sen. Obama take a leadership position in the Democratic Party and shape it. The leadership that would have been most impressive would be if Arlen had used his role to reshape the Republican Party that he said he had entered when it was a 'big tent,' but now is leaving because it has gotten too small. In short, I believe that the principles of what he is running for and his commitment to accountable leadership are questions that still need to be addressed.
Tomorrow's another day indeed. Specter's indicating that nothing will change about his politics now that he's a Democrat. It remains to be seen whether that will be reflected in his voting record from this point forward. But Sestak's statement is a warning that he oughtn't rest on his Republican laurels.
In recent weeks, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has become one of the most visible figures in Pennsylvania politics, and his star is still rising. We noted a couple weeks ago that, in a number of ways, Sestak would be well positioned to run for Senate in 2010, but he's said all along that he's happy serving in the House and has no intention of attempting a switch.
Now, of course, the landscape is completely changed. And whether Sestak throws his hat in, or stays in the House, Pennsylvania Democrats will have to decide whether or not to embrace Democratic Senate candidate Arlen Specter. On that question, Sestak's saying 'not'--at least for now. Watch: