In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The House and Senate have each passed versions of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, both of which call for the creation of an independent, external, 10-member commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. And now all the fun is in musing about who Democratic and Republican leaders will select to sit on the panel.

Bloomberg says "[r]etired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Arthur Levitt are among those being considered by congressional leaders to head a probe of the financial crisis, according to people with knowledge of the matter."

The one thing that truly unifies O'Connor (79), Volcker (81), and Levitt (78) is that they're all very, very old. Levitt has been criticized for taking a hands-off approach to regulation while serving as chair of the SEC from 1993-2001.

But as important as it is to highlight anonymous chit chat about who might get the nod (and it's very, very important), it's also worth asking whether and how industry will try to influence the selection process, and how serious officials are about launching the project in a timely manner.

The SCOTUS situation The Washington Post ran an article this weekend called "In Court Pick, Obama Seeks to Be Bold but Not Provocative," and in exchange for passing on this spin, they saw fit to advance anonymous attacks against Sonia Sotomayor--the court of appeals judge thought to be the leading candidate on President Obama's short list to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Sotomayor presents the most obvious "first" that Obama could fulfill: She would be the first Hispanic justice. And she offers the most compelling life story: Raised by her mother in a Bronx housing project after her father died, Sotomayor rose to the highest academic achievements at Princeton and then Yale Law School. Some say, though, that she has not distinguished herself on the appeals court.

It's unclear whether "some" consists of people whispering to the Post directly, or whether they're relying on the same "some" who approached The New Republic's legal correspondent Jeffery Rosen over the past couple weeks to anonymously question Sotomayor's fitness.

After publishing that article, Rosen himself ultimately concluded that "Sotomayor is an able candidate--at least as able as some of the current Supreme Court justices--and if Obama is convinced she is the best candidate on his short list, he should pick her."

On Friday, we told you about Specter For The Cure--a website that appeared at first blush to be a fundraising hub for the fight against cancer, but was in fact a fundraising hub for the re-election of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

The site still serves that purpose, but, as Adam Green noted over the weekend, it's now more explicit about its real aims:

In 2010, Arlen Specter will seek re-election to the United States Senate. With his unsurpassed record of support for medical research, helping to return Senator Specter to the Senate is a powerful statement on behalf of those suffering with disease. The purpose of this web site is to encourage support for Senator Specter's mission to improve America's health by helping assure Senator Specter's re-election....

Become a member, today, of Specter for the Cure. Please contribute to Senator Specter's re-election Committee - Citizens for Arlen Specter. All contributions, of any amount, will be gratefully welcomed. Those who sign up to donate $10 each month for ten months, will receive members only information on the Senator's effort to transform medical research and accelerate cures.

Cancer may have been a bridge too far, but we'll be on the lookout for new Specter initiatives, like, perhaps, Specter For Orphaned Puppies, on the off chance that something like that surfaces.

Obama Meeting With Health Industry On Lowering Costs President Obama is meeting today with drug companies, insurance companies, hospital executives and doctors to work on an industry initiative to decrease health care costs by $2 trillion over 10 years. The New York Times points out that the government wouldn't necessarily have a direct way to hold industry to these promises, but that the industry itself is undertaking this initiative in order to head off direct price constraints from being imposed by the government.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with health care reform stakeholders at 11:30 a.m. ET in the Roosevelt Room. At 12:30 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on reforming the health care system and reducing costs. At 2 p.m. ET, he will welcome the University of North Carolina men's basketball team an the South Portico.

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Obama Plays Comedian At Correspondents' Dinner President Obama told all manner of jokes last night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, roasting himself, his administration, his party, the opposition, and the press:

My personal favorite: "Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight, because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan. I don't care whose kids you are."

Cheney: Opponents "Prepared To Sacrifice American Lives" Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared today on Face The Nation, and he had a tough response to the Obama Administration's opposition to his approved methods of interrogation: "Well, then you'd have to say that, in effect, we're prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect America."

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Obama Calls For Credit Card Reforms In this weekend's Presidential YouTube Address, President Obama spoke of the need for a bill to reform the credit-card industry, and called upon Congress to have it ready for him to sign by Memorial Day:

"There is no time for delay," said Obama. "We need a durable and successful flow of credit in our economy, but we can't tolerate profits that depend upon misleading working families. Those days are over."

GOP YouTube Address Blasts Obama On Gitmo In this weekend's Republican YouTube, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) criticized President Obama for planning to close the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay:

"Closing our terrorist-detention facility with no backup plan is one campaign promise that can't hold up to national security realities," said Bond. "While the President has made closing Guantanamo Bay a priority, the highest priority must be keeping America safe."

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As we reported earlier this week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was spiked in 1986 from becoming a district court judge by the Republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions was known to be, at least, insensitive to minorities, and his nomination was considered too controversial to advance. Now that he's the ranking member on that very committee, it's news all over again. But it was a big deal then, too. Watch:

Yesterday we obtained over 500 pages of testimony from the 1986 hearings, and are still dutifully scouring them for interesting nuggets.

One-time presidential candidate, failed MSNBC talk show host, and U.S. Senate hopeful Alan Keyes was one of 22 people arrested this morning on charges of trespassing. The group--26 in total--had convened to protest President Barack Obama's upcoming commencement speech at Notre Dame University.

Anti-abortion groups have been livid ever since the Catholic school invited Obama (who is pro-choice) to address this years graduating class a couple months ago, and the fact that, as part of the arrangement, Obama will receive an honorary degree has, in their minds, added insult to injury.

Without questioning the sincerity of most of these protestors, it's worth pointing out that Keyes may have a wee bit of a score to settle. It was Obama, after all, who defeated Keyes in that 2004 Senate race, and in recent months he's been on a one man campaign to "prove" that Obama isn't a "natural born citizen."

If Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) faces a primary challenger in the Pennsylvania Senate race next year, it's likely to be from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA). Sestak was considering a run before Specter switched parties, but that development undoubtedly turned his game plan on its head. Now, winning the Democratic nomination will be much harder than it would otherwise have been, but he has a much more compelling raison d'être. Now, if he runs, he'll be fighting a man who he says is an unreliable steward of Pennsylvania's interests, and a weak choice for Democratic voters who want a real Democratic senator.

Sestak told me that he'll be inclined to primary Specter if he doesn't prove a reliable Democratic vote on all major Democratic issues. But how reliable is Sestak?

Pretty reliable on the whole. According to the Washington Post votes database, Sestak has voted with his party 97.8 percent of the time.

But he has bucked his party on a number of key votes, particularly on national security issues.

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RNC chairman Michael Steele guest-hosted on Bill Bennett's radio show today, and had an interesting take on President Obama's call for a Supreme Court Justice with a sense of "empathy," which has been criticized throughout the right:

"Crazy nonsense, empathetic," said Steele. "I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness."