In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new group called Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) is about to launch the opening salvo in the fight to sink President Obama's health care plan.

CPR is running TV, radio, and web ads that attempt to stoke irrational fears of "a central national board" in charge of medical decision-making, asking Americans to envision a world where "bureaucrats decide the treatments you receive, the drugs you take, even the doctors you see." Of course, that vision has nothing to do with the president's health care plan, but the truth shouldn't be an impediment to CPR's dream of killing health care reform.

After all, the group has hired Creative Response Concepts, the same PR firm that represented the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential race. The "media relations" contact number listed on CPR's website, (703) 683-5004, is the same phone number as Creative Response Concepts, as one liberal organization discovered when researching the new health care group.

Creative Response's past clients also include the Christian Coalition, the right-leaning National Taxpayers Union, and USANext, the front group that led George W. Bush's failed push to privatize Social Security. Hilariously, Politico could only bring itself to observe that CPR has hired "veteran Republican consultants" for its new anti-Obama effort.

No group of congressional Democrats is better at getting under progressives' skin than the House Blue Dogs, the caucus of conservative Democrats that excels at grabbing headlines while watering down and delaying liberal priorities.

But the simmering debate over the so-called "cramdown" proposal, which would change the law to permit loan modifications on primary residences for homeowners declaring bankruptcy, has minted a new villain for many liberals: the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate group of free-traders that claimed White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as one of their own until recently.

The progressive case against the New Dems predated the cramdown scuffle, but tempers flared last week when Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to delay consideration of a broad foreclosure-aid bill in order to modify the provision on mortgage-holders declaring bankruptcy.

Now, the cramdown plan is a no-brainer and a definite benefit to the nation's at-risk homeowners -- but were the New Dems really trying to kill it?

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Some EFCA updates:

Looks like the Employee Free Choice Act could get introduced as early as next week. It'll easily pass the House when it comes up for a vote, just as it did last year, but passage in the Senate will be hard and it doesn't help that the Minnesota seat remains unresolved.

Tomorrow, Vice President Joe Biden is supposed to give a full-throated defense of the act when he speaks to top AFL officials at their meeting in Miami.

Meanwhile, in the hotly contested House race to replace New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Republican, Jim Tedisco was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today in no small part because his opponent is supporting EFCA.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the DSCC, has released this statement in response to the Coleman legal team's suggestion that the Minnesota election court could throw out the whole result:

"Today Norm Coleman's camp has reached a new low. After five weeks in court, they are now asking for the results of the election to be thrown out. That's not how we do elections in this country. Minnesota's hand-recount has been one of the most careful and thorough in the history of the United States. When you are behind in the vote, you can try to pretend the election never happened, but for the sake of the people of Minnesota - and the country - it is time to stop throwing gas on the fire and allow everyone to move on, so that Minnesota has full representation, the Senate has all of its members, and we can get done the work we were all elected to do."

The Franken legal team has written a letter to the judges in the election case, sharply rebutting the Coleman camp's new idea to nullify the whole election.

The letter mainly rebuts the Coleman camp's call to retroactively un-count a number of absentee ballots on a geographically-targeted basis. Team Franken argue that the binding case law says this is not a viable option, and that the court is not allowed to calculate that any illegal ballots favored one candidate over another -- that would be relieving Coleman of his responsibilities under the burden of proof.

Then they get to the proposition about throwing the election out:

Contestants' alternative and even more untimely suggest--that the election be set aside--fails as well. Not only has this remedy been applied primarily when there is evidence of fraud or systemic irregularities...but this Court lacks the authority to set aside the election. Its jurisdiction is limited to deciding which party received the highest number of legally cast votes, and therefore is entitled to receive the certificate of election... Any other remedy lies within the jurisdiction of the United States Senate.


And let's make no mistake, by the way. After this thing crisscrosses its way through the legal system, the United States Senate is probably where the fight will end up next, in light of the increasing noise from the Coleman campaign that the election is invalid.

At today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked by the NBC correspondent, Tom Costello, to respond to the complaints of CNBC's Jim Cramer, made on NBC's "Today" show that the president is scaring investors. Anyone who has listened to Jim Cramer already has plenty of reason to be scared because his advice has been so consistently wrong. Anyone listenting to Tom Costello might think that NBC is in the business of self promotion. Anyone listening to Gibbs respond might thing that the White House loves to use goofballs as strawmen.

This comes on the heels of the administration responding to Rush Limbaugh--and elevating his status to leader of the Republican party--and the White House using CNBC's Rick Santelli as a foil. Before we have the president responding to Glen Beck or Erin Burnett, can we have a ban on reporters asking the White House to respond to a blowhard and can the White House stop using blowhards as a foil?

Norm Coleman is continuing to speak up and question whether it's possible to tell who won this election, and whether such a conclusion is even legally possible, after his lawyers pitched the judges on the possibility of throwing out the whole result.

Coleman took questions from reporters very briefly this afternoon, and declared: "Clearly, there is a question whether this court can certify who got the most legally-cast ballots."

Norm did add, however, that the court still has an opportunity to deal with the problem of illegal votes -- an apparent reference to his legal team's new push to declare illegal an unknown number of absentee ballots from Election Day, and then attempt to un-count them through proportionate reductions.

Last week, Norm began floating the idea of holding a new election.

Earlier today -- before Norm's presser -- DFL spokesman Eric Fought sent us this comment:

Former Senator Coleman has taken five weeks in court to make his case. He hasn't proven anything to say he won in November and he knows he lost. So now he's asking the court to do something so radical that it has no basis in Minnesota law. Al Franken--who has already won the recount, will soon win this election contest and begin representing Minnesota in the Senate--after a scrupulously fair and transparent process that has done Minnesota proud.


(Coleman presser c/o The Uptake.)

The identities of the counterparties who stand to benefit from the government's huge new bailout of AIG are remaining frustratingly secret, as Josh pointed out this morning, even as taxpayers ensure that AIG's partners in deal-making get paid. But at least one member of Congress isn't satisfied with the explanation coming out of the Federal Reserve and Treasury.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pressed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hard in the Budget Committee this morning on the need to identify AIG's bailed-out counterparties. After Bernanke replied that "under normal conditions, [the counterparties] would have presumption to privacy about their commercial decisions," Wyden sounded extremely displeased:

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So is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) going to criticize Rush Limbaugh, or not?

Earlier today, Rush told Greg Sargent that Cantor's comments on ABC's This Week, saying that neither he nor other Republicans want President Obama to fail, was in fact in agreement with Rush on the policy issues, and had been distorted by ABC.

So we asked Cantor's office for clarification -- and they're not giving a real answer to it.

Instead, Cantor press secretary Brad Dayspring is daring the Democrats to go talk to Rush themselves:

If Robert Gibbs is worried about the policies Rush Limbaugh talks about on his show, he should call into the show- I'm sure Rush would welcome it. In the meantime, if Mr. Gibbs and the Administration want to focus on creating jobs and helping the Middle Class deal with an economy in recession, they should call Eric Cantor and work with us on the these very real problems.


After seeing what happened to Michael Steele, who can blame Cantor for not wanting to be caught criticizing the great leader?

Today is a big day in the Minnesota trial: The Franken campaign is finally beginning to present their side of the case, after Coleman rested yesterday.

The Franken camp has spent today bringing in a queue of aggrieved voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, 17 of them in total this morning, trying to get the court to rule that these ballots -- presumably all for Franken -- were wrongly tossed and ought to be put in the count.

The previous attempts by Team Coleman to play this game didn't go very well -- the judges even cited one Coleman witness by name by name as an illegal voter in an important opinion they handed down. So far, it seems to be going well for Franken, though it hasn't been perfect.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg doesn't seem to be making too much of an effort to declare that these votes were rejected properly, as the Franken campaign worked to accomplish against his own witnesses. This seems to be for two reasons: Team Coleman has been trying to get the court to reverse itself on their strict standards for letting in rejected votes, and therefore he needs to show good faith. And furthermore, the Coleman camp seem to have changed their approach, to demonstrate the fallibility and unreliability of the system, in order to possibly get the whole election thrown out.

Here's one exchange between Friedberg and a Franken witness:

Friedberg: Ms. Meyer, can you think of any reason your ballot shouldn't be opened and counted?

Pamela Meyer: No.

Friedberg: Neither can I. We stipulate this ballot should be opened and counted, Your Honor.


Other cross-examinations were more drawn out than this one was, but you get the idea.

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