In it, but not of it. TPM DC

And zero-gravity chairs, for that matter?

What follows is the entire text of an amendment that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), that stalwart foe of earmarks, has proposed to add to the stimulus bill. (emphasis mine)

None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available under this act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big-screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.


Late Vindication Update: As a commenter alerts us, Coburn actually has nothing against pastel lights -- it's the Centers for Disease Control's use of pastel lights that's got him down. Coburn's oversight subcommittee uncovered evidence in 2007 that the CDC spent $35,000 to add zero-gravity chairs, lights, and a sauna to its Atlanta employee gym.

The moral of the story is, do not piss off Sen. Coburn. So on that note, we apologize for insinuating any anti-pastel light vendetta.

One of the things that the press corps in Washington is salivating over is to see some kind of fight break out between Larry Summers, the chair of the National Economic Council, and Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary. I find this is a frequent topic of conversation among journalists given Summers's brash, some would say pugnacious, reputation.

I don't claim to be privy to their conversations any more than I am to Barack and Michelle's or Hillary's and Bill's. But my sense from someone who knows them both quite well and has worked with them since the election is that they continue to get on extremely well and that those looking for conflict are looking in the wrong place.

The person points out that Summers and Geithner are longtime friends. It was Summers, as much as Bob Rubin his oft cited mentor, who helped lift Geithner out of the ranks of accomplished civil servants into the stratospheric financial world he's inhabited since. "Larry was there for Tim," says the person. So they have a longtime friendship going for them as well as the debt that comes when one man helps another's career.

Read More →

Vice President Biden, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) will be appearing at a suburban Maryland train station tomorrow morning to tout the congressional stimulus bill -- or in the White House press office's words, "the need to invest in transportation infrastructure in order to build a 21st century economy." And few thinking Americans would challenge them on that point.

But as lawmakers and the mainstream press are coming to realize, and as we noted weeks ago, the stimulus plan dedicates stunningly few resources to creating the type of transportation infrastructure that can alleviate over-taxed public transit systems while weaning the nation from its obsession with environmentally unsustainable car travel.

What's the trouble? Why aren't we seeing liberal Democrats, at the very least, push for the kind of groundbreaking transit projects that not only create jobs, but fulfill the president's promise for a massive investment in public works?

Part of the answer lies in two parallel transportation policy story-lines that are playing out on the Hill this week: one dealing with Senate environment commitee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the other with what advocates call the "fix-it-first" requirement.

Read More →

Oh boy, it looks like the Coleman legal team isn't giving up on forgery.

Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg is going over rejected absentee ballot envelopes with Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid, and they came across a pair of ballots that came from a husband and wife, but all appeared to have all been signed by the same individual -- apparently the husband signing his own name, and also forging his wife's signature for her ballot.

"So based on Jake's forging his wife's signature on [exhibit] 210 and then witnessing his own forgery," Friedberg said, "and comparing those signatures to the one on his voter envelope, we know based on your testimony that that's his genuine signature accompanying his own ballot, right?"

The Franken camp objected, saying that Corbid's opinion doesn't matter -- the document speaks for itself.

"I'm going to sustain that," said Judge Denise Reilly, "also on the grounds that it's really confusing."

Read More →

There are many truisms of life inside the Capitol that occasionally surface in media coverage but are rarely explained straight-up to those outside the building. Here's one: House Democrats -- like many in the party's grassroots base -- often watch in frustration as legislation that can easily pass in their chamber slows down to a stop in the Senate.

Despite the Democrats' control of 58 Senate seats (pending the outcome in Minnesota), that climate hasn't changed this year. One House Dem recently told me that his party should consider lowering the filibuster margin from 60 to 55 votes, citing the 1977 rules change that knocked it down from 67 votes to 60.

So given that accepted truism of House-Senate relations, it's hard not to grin at this exchange, which occurred during Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) press briefing today:

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi, it's a lot easier to pass legislation through the House than it is in the Senate...

PELOSI: You notice that?

A new Rasmussen poll shows that support for the stimulus plan appears to be falling precipitously in the last two weeks, since it became as heavily politicized as it is now:

Do you favor or oppose the economic recovery package proposed by Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats?

Favor 37%
Oppose 43%


A week ago Rasmussen had a 42%-39% plurality favoring the plan, and a 45%-34% margin of support two weeks ago. Support among independents has fallen to 27%, unchanged from a week ago but down from 37% support two weeks ago.

So the Republican talking points out there against he bill -- too much spending, redistribution of wealth, stacking hundred-dollar bills on top of each other, etc -- appear to be having some measure of success.

Leon Panetta, nominated to become CIA director, has his confirmation hearing tomorrow in the Senate intelligence committee. As we reported last month, initial resistance to his nomination from Democrats has faded into the background -- but that doesn't mean the GOP won't try to make Panetta's ride as bumpy as possible.

Which brings me to the answer to the question posed above: the common thread between Daschle and Panetta is Catherine Reynolds, the student-loan mogul whose ties to the now-withdrawn health secretary nominee first slowed his roll last month.

As the WSJ reports today, Reynolds -- still the subject of a Senate Finance Committee investigation into her company's tax status -- donated upwards of $50,000 to the California public policy think tank that Panetta led until his CIA nomination.

There's no evidence at all of any impropriety linked to the donation. But knowing Republicans' love of opposition research, don't be surprised if you hear Panetta field breathless, faux-concerned GOP questions on this tomorrow.

I know you enjoy incorrectly citing the president's economic adviser to tout the illusory benefits of more tax cuts. And hey, I can see the allure of making tax cracks about Daschle and Geithner.

But why use the same dubious talking point in a letter to the president today? Courtesy of Roll Call, I notice that you told Obama how you:

presented a plan that would create more than twice that number [of jobs] based on research conducted by [the] nominee to chair the Council of Economic Advisors, Dr. Christina Romer


Obama still has a BlackBerry, guys. He can find out that this is bogus in less than a minute.

Love, Elana

As I noted yesterday and as The Washington Post noted this morning, there really wasn't a Plan B if Daschle dropped out and so the administration is considering any number of candidates. I'd heard that a couple of obvious names, Howard Dean and John Kitzaber, both former governors and physicians, were not in play. I'd heard a familiar name: Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Governor and early Obama supporter. More out there names that I heard included Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Vic Snyder who is an attorney and a physician. This morning there's talk about Phil Bredesen, the popular governor of Tennessee and former Nashville mayor. Breseden is a big figure and that's clearly what Obama wants at HHS to help push through his health care reform package. So it seems as plausible to me as any name but this is the silly season when lots of names will be floated and unless you're in the room with Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Melody Barnes or some other top person, I think it's really just speculation.

Here's an important point about President Obama's new restrictions on executive pay at companies receiving aid from the Treasury Department: they're not retroactive. A bank that has already received bailout money would not need to abide by the limits unless it accepts more cash in the future.

(The WaPo buries this in the middle of its story on the issue, then notes that even if they were retroactive, the rules likely would have applied to only three companies: AIG, Citigroup, and Bank of America.)

But Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) executive-pay cap bill is retroactive, applying to companies that have received past as well as pending bailout infusions. And McCaskill just said she has no intention of giving up her push to attach her version of CEO pay caps to the economic stimulus bill. Here's her statement:

Read More →

TPMLivewire