In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As I noted below, it looks like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will be, at least for a time, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. That's an interesting role for a man with Sessions'...history. In a 2002 New Republic article, Sarah Wildman detailed the Alabama senator's rise through the ranks of politics in Alabama and in Republican Washington.

Sessions first appeared on the scene in 1986 D.C. when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to serve on the U.S. District Court in Alabama. At the time, the Judiciary Committee was controlled by Republicans, but his appointment nonetheless went absolutely nowhere--a fact that may have had a thing or two to do with stories like this:

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Al Franken did an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, where he discussed the very unconventional transition process that he's gone through without being an official Senator-elect.

His recently-hired staffers, a state director and a chief of staff, are actually working for free, because Franken has no office budget. When Franken has travelled to Washington, he's either paid out of his own pocket or from the campaign's legal fund -- which itself has been the focus of a lot of fundraising activity. And he really does wish he could be involved in the important decisions being made in Washington.

Franken had a funny take on it, saying it was odd but not the worst personal crisis that can happen. "And every once in a while I'll find myself, I'll get grumpy," he said. "And I'll go, why am I grumpy? Oh, I know why -- waiting for five and a half months to see what happens! (laughing) That's why."

In a grand bargain of sorts for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will take over as ranking member on the Judiciary Committee for the remainder of this Congress, and give way in 2011 to the Iowa Republican. According to The Hill, Sessions "will take over the ranking member position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after striking a deal with his more senior colleagues over the weekend."

Under terms of the deal, Sessions will serve as ranking member until the 112th Congress, when he will take over the ranking member post on the Senate Budget Committee. Current Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.

Grassley--who's senior to Sessions--will be forced to abdicate his seat as ranking member of the Finance Committee when he comes up against term limits in the 111th Congress. He's stated in the past that he'd prefer to become the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee than on the Budget Committee, but before today's deal, it looked like he'd have to choose between taking over for Specter on Judiciary Committee now, or taking over for Gregg on the Budget Committee next Congress.

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The new Marist Poll in New York suggests that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand could be in a rough patch, going into her 2010 election after she was appointed by Gov. David Paterson earlier this year.

Former Republican Gov. George Pataki now has a lead of 46%-38% over Gillibrand, while Gillibrand leads GOP Rep. Peter King by 42%-31%. Back in March, Gillibrand led Pataki 45%-41%, and led King 49%-23%. Only 19% of registered voters say Gillibrand is doing an excellent or good job, compared to 38% who give her a fair or poor rating.

In a hypothetical Democratic primary with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Gillibrand has 36% to Maloney's 31%, with very a high undecided number. On the GOP side, Pataki has a 48%-36% lead over King. Pataki and Maloney are not in the race right now, while King is publicly exploring it.

The latest Marist Poll is a mixed bag for Gov. David Paterson (D-NY). It's partly bad news -- and partly really bad news.

This number must really hurt: When New York's registered voters are asked whether they would rather have Eliot Spitzer or David Paterson as governor, it's Spitzer 51%, Paterson 38%.

The horse-race numbers are also a sight to behold. In a primary with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the current leader is Cuomo by a 70%-21% margin. Paterson trails in a general election match-up with Rudy Giuliani by a 56%-32% margin, and trails former GOP Rep. Rick Lazio by 40%-37%. By contrast, Cuomo leads Rudy by 55%-38%, and swamps Lazio by 67%-22%.

Amid a par-for-the-course Sunday screed against the idea of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) veered haphazardly into delusional territory:

There is no evidence more visible that the American people are already rebelling against the far-left agenda than Senator Arlen Specter switching parties to become a Democrat [sic]. He did this for one reason, and that is his advisers told him he couldn't retain his Senate seat as a Republican. In other words, the same people who supported Senator Specter six years ago have soundly rejected him today.

Ah yes. Additionally, the Democratic sweeps of 2006 and 2008 are clear signs that the country doesn't want gays serving in the military. And this public opinion poll showing that a clear majority of Americans favor repealing DADT is a strong warning to Democrats that they repeal the policy at their peril. Of course, some Republican leaders claim that Americans are fleeing "far-left" corners of the country for fear of forced unionization (a trend that caused Specter to become a Democrat by magic), so by that standard, Inhofe's remarks are borderline reasonable.

The new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania finds that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is in fairly decent shape going into his 2010 election campaign post-party switch, but there could be some vulnerabilities for Republicans to exploit if they play their cards right.

Against Pat Toomey, the conservative former Congressman whose primary challenge spurred Specter's switch, Specter leads in the general election by a whopping 53% to 33%. Specter's calculation appears to be correct, that he would have lost a Republican primary to Toomey but would also win big in a general election.

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SEIU president Andy Stern did the unusual yesterday and broke some news on Twitter: In Twitter-esque shorthand--unnecessary, as the message came in well under the allotted 140 characters--Stern wrote, "Congressman Sestak impressive on CNN. Visiting him tomorrow."

We'll try to learn more about the meeting once it's all said and done. Keep in mind, though, that it comes a day after Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) insisted on Meet the Press that he's not a loyal Democrat, and opposes significant aspects of the President's agenda. That outburst (unsurprisingly) hasn't done much to quiet calls from the left for Sestak to challenge Specter in the Democratic primary next year.

Gates: Administration Is "Pretty Realistic" About Iran Defense Sec. Robert Gates is on a trip to the Middle East, telling reporters that he'll reassure America's allies on outreach to Iran: "And I just think it's important to reassure our friends and allies in the region that while we're willing to reach out to the Iranians, as the president said, with an open hand, I think everybody in the administration, from the president on down, is pretty realistic and will be pretty tough-minded if we still encounter a closed fist."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 11:05 a.m. ET from the Grand Foyer, delivering remarks on international tax reform, to close loopholes for overseas tax havens that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas. At 5:15 p.m. ET, he will speak at a Cinco de Mayo event in the East Room.

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During his appearance today on Meet The Press, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) had this interesting exchange with David Gregory:

MR. GREGORY: It was reported this week that when you met with the president you said, "I will be a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda." Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda, and that's health care. Would you support health care reform that puts up a government-run public plan to complete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company?

SEN. SPECTER: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass health care with a 51 votes, which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose cloture on, on key issues. But I...

MR. GREGORY: All right, just to be clear, Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal Jonathan Weisman and Greg Hitt reported that when you met with the president you said, "I'm a loyal Democrat," and, according to people familiar with the White House, "I support your agenda." So that's wrong? You didn't say those things?

SEN. SPECTER: I did not say I'm a loyal Democrat.