Arlen Specter maybe an unknown for now, but Dawn Johnsen may also find an unlikely ally in Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.
Back in 2005, during the nuclear option imbroglio Coburn took a fairly absolutist position on the Senate's advise and consent powers, telling the newspaper Tulsa World that no presidential nomination should ever be filibustered. "There is a defined charge to the president and the Senate on advice and consent," he said.
The latest numbers have been posted in the NY-20 special election, with Republican candidate Jim Tedisco ahead by 97 votes, as the counties go through the process of correcting errors in their spreadsheets.
Democratic candidate Scott Murphy had ended Election Night up by 65 votes, but the numbers have swung around since then. The state's official numbers from Friday had shown an exact tie, with Murphy then picking up votes in one county later in the day and another as of today. But obviously, Tedisco has made up the difference somewhere else.
This doesn't include any of the nearly 7,000 absentee ballots that have been returned so far, though, which brings us to the next piece of news: Dutchess County Judge James V. Brands has handed down an order that absentee ballots other than the military and overseas votes are to be counted on Wednesday, ruling against Tedisco's efforts to delay the count.
Senate Republicans may or may not mount a filibuster of Dawn Johnsen, but if they do, it will be a numbers game. Assuming Al Franken is still all tied up in court, Democrats will need at least two Republicans to cross over and vote to end debate on her nomination or it may go nowhere.
One of those Republicans could be Arlen Specter who's the ranking member on the Judiciary committee and the only member of that committee who didn't vote against moving the nomination to the floor. More specifically, he didn't vote at all. He took a pass, saying he'd have to meet with Johnsen personally before he made a decision.
Well, I've just confirmed that the two did meet at the end of last week, and, with that all wrapped up, Specter is...still undecided about the appointment.
Appearing today on MSNBC, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) said that his state's disputed Senate election appears likely to last a few more months:
"It's frustrating that this has taken so long, but we need to get a proper and just and accurate and legal result," said Pawlenty. "It gonna take, it looks like, a few more months to get that."
"I know that you -- a few more months, huh?" answered Norah O'Donnell.
It could be worse. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn has suggested that it could take years.
Meanwhile, the pile of previously-rejected absentee ballot envelopes that could potentially be counted has just shrunk slightly, from 400 down to 387. Upon close examination, it was found that 13 of them had already been counted at one point or another. By the end of the day we should have a list from the court of just how many of the 387 will actually be counted. The counting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET tomorrow, with the counting done by officials from the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, in the courtroom.
Late Update: This post originally said the counting would be done at the Secretary of State's office. It is being done in the courtroom, by an official of the Secretary of State's office.
I have just obtained the latest vote numbers in the NY-20 race from Saratoga County, where the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco claimed on Friday that an unreported discovery of new votes was giving him a pickup of 228, and putting him ahead overall by 30 raw votes. Whether or not that was true at the time, it turns out that as of 10:30 a.m. this morning it's actually the opposite, with Democrat Scott Murphy picking up votes in this county for now.
The numbers provided by a county election commissioner show Murphy picking up a net 97 votes when compared to the state's most recent figures from Friday, as the precincts go through the standard process of proofreading their spreadsheets against the random human errors that occurred on Election Night. These errors tend to be very small and break about evenly, but in a race this close they have suddenly become consequential.
The state could update their numbers for all the counties later this afternoon, so it's worth remembering a piece of wisdom I learned during my six years living in Wisconsin: If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes. For all we know, those Saratoga numbers might have significantly changed yet again, or a different county could have a bunch of newly-revealed votes for either Tedisco or Murphy.
In an interview on Saturday with local right-wing talk radio host Sue Jeffers, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) warned that the Democrats could soon be requiring America's youth to attend "re-education camps," where they will imbibe the philosophy of the government.
The target of Bachmann's ire is a recently-passed national service bill, expanding Americorps. Although Bachmann said that the language in the present legislation makes service voluntary, she warned that a "Democrat colleague" was proposing to make it mandatory. The discussion happens at the 5:30 mark here:
I believe when it's all said and done, this service that -- I believe that there's a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go and work in some of these politically correct forums. It's very concerning. It appears that there's a philosophical agenda behind all of this, and especially if young people are mandated to go into this. As a parent, I would have a very, very difficult time seeing my children do this. Again, a huge power-grab, at a cost of billions of dollars.
Another fun part: Jeffers quite vocally encouraged Bachmann to run for the Senate in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar, though Bachmann didn't respond one way or the other during the course of the interview.
A court in Dutchess County, New York, met this morning and heard arguments on the most immediate legal issue in the NY-20 special election: When to count the several-thousand absentee ballots that will decide this race. An order could come as soon as today.
The issue here is that all absentee ballots would have normally been counted at the same time Wednesday, after the deadline for them to arrive in the mail. However, the state had entered into a consent decree with the Justice Department shortly before the election, extending the deadline for military and overseas ballots to arrive by April 13.
As regular readers know, we've been following the nomination of Dawn Johnsen--Obama's chief-designate of the Office of Legal Counsel--ever since reports emerged that Republicans were contemplating filibustering the appointment.
Publicly, Republicans contend that one of their key objections to Johnsen's appointment is that she's a former NARAL employee and a staunch advocate of reproductive rights. But she's also unusually qualified for the position, having served at the OLC for five years during the Clinton administration, and her nomination comes against a backdrop of Republican anger over the possibility that the Department of Justice will declassify and release yet more damning torture memoranda. Johnsen was an outspoken critic of Bush administration policies and legal opinions used to justify them.
It looks like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has now become more careful with her use of the English language. In an interview with NewsMax, Bachmann spelled out in detail what she means when calling for people to be "armed and dangerous" on the issue of cap-and-trade.
Check out the 3:25 mark:
"I want my people in Minnesota to be the most educated people," said Bachmann. "I want them to be armed with knowledge, so they can be dangerous to the policies of the left." (Emphasis hers.)