Amidst the confirmation of Eric Holder and the president's first dis of the Sidwell Friends School--he mocked the institution, not by name, but for cancelling school today in contrast to hardy Chicago where the coating of ice that closed D.C. schools, public and private, would be all but ignored--there was some interesting news.
The counsel's office had some interesting appointments. One is the highly regarded Karen Dunn, a longtime Hillary aide and Yale Law grad, whose presence further solidifies the number of former Clinton aides in the Obama White House. (Like her friend, Howard Wolfson, she's a Nita Lowey alumnus, too.) Susan Sher, the former corporation counsel for the City of Chicago also joins the counsel's office strengthening the Chicago contingent. Maybe most interesting is Norm Eisen, one of the founders of CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) and a special counsel for ethics issues helps carry through Obama's commitment to ethics reform. Friends of General Counsel Greg Craig will note that he's brought his assistant, Catherine Whitney, over from Williams & Connolly, too. Neal Wolin, a veteran of the CIA and the National Security Council, will be there, too suggesting a return to a traditional legal view of those agencies. This will be an interesting office to watch.
The counsel's office is important in and of itself but it's also a springboard to many other jobs. Lisa Brown, who holds the important position of Staff Secretary in the White House--the person in charge of paper flow--was Al Gore' s counsel. From John Dean to Fred Fielding to Lloyd Cutler, it's always at the center of things. Putting a Hillary alum and a special ethics counselor in there makes the mix that much more intriguing.
Attorney General nominee Eric Holder was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning on a 17-2 vote.
The full Senate must sign off on Holder before he can officially join Obama's DoJ, but today's vote effectively removes the political obstacles that stood in the way of full confirmation. We'll let you know soon which two Republicans voted no on Holder.
Late Update: The two GOP nos were Sens. John Cornyn (TX) and Tom Coburn (OK).
Republicans have blanketed the airwaves in the past week, carrying a single message that's been well-amplified, with almost no skepticism, on MSNBC ...
[Sen. John] ENSIGN [R-NV]: You know, politically, what we're trying to do is choose the right policy, something that actually stimulates the economy, that creates jobs. ... If we could lower the corporate tax rate, that would be one of the best things that we could do to make American business more competitive in the world and actually help stimulate the economy.
... not to mention CNBC:
[Rep. Spencer] BACHUS [R-AL]: We have said let's do tax cuts, let's let the American people make the decisions on how they'll spend the money. That will stimulate the economy more than bringing all that money to Washington and then distributing it out in all sorts of government programs.
... and, of course, on Fox News:
[Rep. Mike] PENCE [R-IN}: What House Democrats have done here is get out a dusty old wish list of liberal spending priorities, dump it all in a bill, and throw in a few token tax cuts on top of it. That's not going to create jobs. It's not going to put this economy back on its feet.
The House of Representatives is slated to vote on its $825 billion economic recovery bill today, as Republicans fret over the level of bipartisanship on display and Democrats largely look the other way.
But what can we really expect after all the noise of the past few days? Will last night's dinner at the White House really sway any centrist GOPer to support the stimulus? Will the bill's relatively weak spending on infrastructure redevelopment persuade any liberal Dems to vote no? A few lawmakers to watch:
Appearing last night on Fox News for an interview with Sean Hannity, Norm Coleman made an interesting appeal for money: That he can win this race if "good Americans" contribute to help him pay his legal bills, versus the lefties out there who support Al Franken:
"Sean, this recount is an expensive proposition. Al Franken's got George Soros, he's got MoveOn.org. I need just good Americans to contribute," said Coleman (emphasis his own). "ColemanForSenate.com, www.ColemanForSenate.com. It's an expensive proposition. Don't let George Soros, MoveOn.com or the far left buy this race."
A few Republicans got in trouble in the 2008 elections for using phrases like "real Americans" to describe their supporters. But now that the election is over, and this is purely about courting the base and bringing in the necessary cash, Republicans can really say whatever they want.
National GOP Targeting Reid -- And Bailouts -- With New Ad
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is running its first ad of the 2010 cycle -- against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the Reno media market. The ad also cements the GOP's new message as the anti-bailout and anti-stimulus party, as opposed to the leadership's pro-bailout policies last Fall:
The GOP successfully took out the previous Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, back in 2004. The Dems made a similar play against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in 2008, but only managed to keep him to a 53%-47% win.
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama is holding a series of meetings this morning, receiving his regular daily briefing, an economic briefing, conferring with senior advisers, and meeting with business leaders. At 11:15 a.m. he will be speaking on the economy after his meeting with business leaders. At 3:30 p.m. he will be meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Minnesota Trial Keeps Going
Today is the third day of the Minnesota election-contest trial, scheduled to reconvene at 10 a.m. ET. Norm Coleman's legal team is expected to continue their argument that Coleman voters have been unfairly disenfranchised compared to Franken voters, due to election officials in GOP areas being more strict on the matter of improperly-rejected absentee ballots.
House Voting Today On Stimulus
The House of Representatives will be voting some time later today on an $825 billion stimulus package. Democrats are expected to vote overwhelmingly for the mix of public spending and tax cuts, while the Republican leadership has signaled their opposition.
Illinois Senate Hears Blago Tapes
The Illinois state Senate yesterday got to hear Rod Blagojevich's own voice on the FBI wiretaps, in a trial that Blago himself is boycotting as unfair. "It sounds like a couple of organized crime figures out preparing to break some kneecaps," said GOP state Senator Dan Cronin. "It's just horrible. It's nauseating. It's sickening."
WaPo: RNC Race A GOP Referendum On BushThe Washington Postreports that much of the opposition to RNC chairman Mike Duncan, who faced five different opponents, has come down to conservative resentments against the man who picked Duncan: Then-President George W. Bush. "Most of us strongly supported the Bush administration through the entire two terms," said RNC member Curly Haugland of North Dakota, "but in the last few months, this bailout and the abandonment of capitalism really kind of sealed it."
Bunning: Yes, I Am Running Again
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is firing back at Republicans who are spreading the idea that he hasn't been working on his re-election campaign -- such as his own co-Senator Mitch McConnell. "He either had a lapse of memory or something when speaking to the Press Club last week when he said that he didn't know what my intentions were," said Bunning.
Jill Biden Starts New Teaching Job In D.C. Area
Jill Biden began her new job yesterday at Northern Virginia Community College, as an adjunct professor teaching two English courses. "A lot of them either didn't know that she is the wife of the vice president, or act any differently," said spokeswoman Courtney O'Donnell.
At a brief press conference with reporters just now, held after the Minnesota election court proceedings ended for the day, Norm Coleman expressed his pride in the witnesses his legal team had called, regular voters whose absentee ballots haven't been counted yet.
Now remember, their witness roster included a guy who admitted to obtaining his absentee ballot through forgery by his girlfriend, and is demanding that his vote be counted.
"You know there's been so much discussion about process, but today we saw the human side of this, and that's what this is really about," said Coleman. He added a bit later: "For me it was heartwarming to be here to see Minnesotans come forward and be so passionate, so passionate, about the right to vote and be counted."
To be sure, some of the witnesses were sympathetic -- such as Gerald Anderson, a 75-year old who has gone legally blind and who believes his signature on his ballot envelope didn't match the one on his ballot application because of his lost vision. But come on, they really called the forgery guy?
(Special thanks to The Uptake for carrying the presser.)
Oy vey. Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), senior Republican on the Finance Committee, just won approval of a one-year fix for the alternative minimum tax as part of the upper chamber's stimulus bill, at a cost of $70 billion over 10 years.
Anyone looking for background on what the AMT means for taxpayers can find it here. But what this means for Congress is a potentially huge headache.
House Democrats have removed a provision from their stimulus bill that would exempt states from the need to get waivers for covering family planning under Medicaid. The family-planning aid has been the subject of repeated Republican attacks over the past few days, and health care advocates were dismayed by the Democrats' decision to give in on its removal.
"We are disappointed that the Medicaid Family Planning State Option, a common-sense provision to expand basic health care to millions of women, including many who have lost their jobs in the current economic downturn, was a victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics, and dropped from the economic stimulus bill," Planned Parenthood for America President Cecile Richards said in a statement today.
But the House's move didn't necessarily mean that the family-planning aid is dead. After all, the Senate still has to act and could include the provision in its stimulus bill -- right?
We have seen the best thing that Norm Coleman's legal team has done so far in this election trial -- and it ain't pretty.
This afternoon the Coleman team was bringing in rejected absentee voters to show that their ballots were improperly tossed. So far the court has heard from six people, most of of whom said they were contacted by the Republican Party in the last few weeks. They mostly seemed sympathetic enough, putting a human face on the disenfranchised Coleman voter -- but at least two of them appeared to have been rejected properly under the conditions of Minnesota law.
One of the voters was Douglas Thompson, who admitted under oath that his girlfriend filled out his absentee ballot application for him, signing his name with her own hand and purporting to be himself. His ballot was rejected because the signature on his ballot envelope (his own) did not match the signature on the application (his girlfriend's). The Coleman team's argument appears to be that he is still a legal voter in Minnesota, as the signature on the ballot was his own, even if admitted dishonesty was involved in getting the ballot.
Keep in mind: Thompson's story came up during the direct examination by Coleman lawyer James Langdon. So the Coleman camp fully knew this information and decided to make him into a witness.