In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Franken campaign just held a conference call with reporters -- quite understandably celebrating a huge win in tonight's ruling by the Minnesota election court, which rejected out of hand counting a large number of absentee ballots that Norm Coleman had been seeking to put into play.

Lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias said that the court has essentially ruled on all 19 disputed categories of rejected absentee ballots -- explicitly against Coleman on 13 of them, and the others are revealed between the lines. "There are four additional categories that the court didn't address either way, but the reasoning of the court would suggest that we also prevailed on those," Elias said. "So there are a total of 17 of the 19 that it appears we've prevailed on, either explicitly or implicitly in the reasoning."

Elias said the Franken campaign appears to have lost on two categories where they wanted some permissiveness, relating to registration issues -- but those rulings were consistent with the others. All in all, he counts this as an extraordinary victory, making Coleman's job of putting additional ballots into the count immensely more difficult.

Read More →

The Minnesota election court has just handed down a very important ruling that will determine the entire course of the rest of this trial -- and it's very bad news for Norm Coleman, cutting off multiple avenues he was pursuing in order to get more votes for himself thrown into the count.

Yesterday the court heard arguments regarding the campaigns' positions on 19 categories of rejected absentee ballot envelopes, and whether the voters should be cut sufficient slack as to allow the ballot in. The court has now handed down a ruling on 13 of those categories -- and it's an emphatic No.

Coleman has currently been allowed to argue for the inclusion of about 4,800 ballots, which were selected from the total pool of over 11,000 rejected votes and just so happen to come largely from his own strongholds. What this ruling means is that he is going to have to significantly chop that list down for the remainder of this trial.

This is not the final word on this question -- Coleman will almost certainly appeal it -- but it's been a very rough day.

Read More →

I understand that you must stand for re-election as a Democrat in the very conservative state of Oklahoma. But when you said this week that the stimulus bill

became a Democrat bill and not an American bill, because [Obama] didn't use any of the Republican ideas


what were you talking about? In addition to your fondness for using the offensive, GOP-created term for your own party, you appear to believe that "American" bills are only those that Republicans help write.

SEIU National Political Director Jon Youngdahl makes a good point, saying in a statement today that you "apparently [need] a dictionary lesson in what's 'American,' and what's just 'hypocritical,'" but he may be too kind in this case. You voted this afternoon to approve the very stimulus bill you believe is un-American.

Please take some time to re-think this. And while you're doing so, repeat after me: "Democrat-IC, Democrat-IC..."

Love, Elana

In an interview with TownHall.com, Norm Coleman bemoaned the political limbo status created by the Minnesota election trial. That is, he lamented that he is unable to take his seat and serve in the Senate right now.

"It's frustrating," said Coleman, "because you would hope as I humbly do that you have something to add to the debate and be apart of the discussion, both back in DC and also back home."

Remember that Minnesota is currently short one Senator, as the seat is vacant because of Coleman's lawsuit and a threatened filibuster by Republicans against provisionally seating Al Franken.

If you need proof of how obsessive the right-wing media gets about Democratic congressional recess, look at the "story" that was leading the Drudge Report for most of the day.

Oh, that Speaker Pelosi and her high-class, jet-setting habits! She's just the Antoinette-ish type who would oppose health care for disadvantaged kids or leave the middle class in the dust. The headline of "Hurry, Fellas, Let's Vote..." adds a nice ring of subtle sexism.

Yes, Pelosi is spending the recess meeting with Italian officials about the global financial crisis and addressing the nation's legislature. But three Republican officials are taking their own weekend trip to discuss NATO issues in Italy and Austria, as the WaPo reported. Congressional delegations abroad are a fact of recess life, and both parties embark on them.

If you want to see an extreme example of a lawmaker racing out of town after the stimulus vote, try Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). She could be heard by reporters outside the House chamber trying to book a flight out of D.C. before 3pm.

Whenever the Democratic Congress leaves town for a recess, GOPers like to take potshots based on the false notion that lawmakers are headed off for "vacations." (This past August's bizarre House Republican protest over high gas prices, in which the empty chamber floor was commandeered for the cameras was a perfect example.)

But in reality, lawmakers from both parties will use next week's recess to promote their policy goals, meet with constituents, raise money for their re-elections, and generally work their tails off. For anyone wondering what Democrats will be up to, here's an inside peek at caucus chairman Rep. John Larson's (D-CT) suggestions for promoting the stimulus bill.

The unstated goal of documents like these: generating positive news coverage of the economic recovery plan on a local level.

Looking through the vote tally at the seven House Democrats who opposed the final stimulus bill today, you see reliably right-leaning members of the party's Blue Dog Coalition: Reps. Heath Shuler (D-NC), Bobby Bright (D-AL), Walt Minnick (D-ID), Pete DeFazio (D-OR) ... hold on.

DeFazio is a stalwart liberal and member of the Progressive Caucus. Why would he vote against the bill his party and president backed so strongly?

As DeFazio explained following the vote, he believed in the bill's education and transportation goals -- though he has long decried the stimulus' shortchanging of infrastructure relative to highways. "I couldn't justify borrowing money for tax cuts," he said. Tax breaks make up more than 35% of the final stimulus bill.

"Come on, school construction?" he asked, visibly frustrated that money for that goal had been sliced from the bill. "Why did that have to come out for more tax cuts?"

When asked about the need to bridge the gap between the House and Senate bills in order to win over the three GOP votes needed to prevent a filibuster, DeFazio was as blunt as can be: "We all know that's a convenient artifice from the Senate ... do away with the filibuster or have a real filibuster. It's convenient for [the Senate]. It gives them clout to push around the House and the president."

Whether you agree with DeFazio or not, liberal Democrats have rarely felt free to buck their party on major votes in recent years. It remains to be seen how the Obama administration and DeFazio's leadership will view his stance.

It's official: Judd Gregg will vote against the stimulus package.

On the one hand this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. His refusal to vote for it even while he was the Commerce Secretary-designate -- his recusal was effectively the same as a No vote on all cloture motions -- indicated he was never really on board.

But having him now officially against the bill, the day after he dropped his own nomination to join the cabinet, should tell us where things will be going forward. A week ago he was a bipartisan member of the Obama Administration -- and now he's a solid opponent.

The advertising campaign against them didn't matter. Entreaties from Republican governors didn't matter. House Republicans stayed united against President Obama's stimulus bill, and they looked plenty pleased about it today as the gavel came down and the measure passed despite their objections.

But don't tell Republicans that it's Obama's stimulus plan they're rejecting. GOPers are subtly aiming to capitalize on two very different numbers: the Democratic Congress' sub-30% approval rating and Obama's impressive 64% approval.

"The problem lies squarely with congressional Democrats," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters after the vote. "My conversation with the president was clear; he said, 'it's the Speaker [Pelosi] and the Leader [Reid] running these chambers, they have the ability to control this process.'"

As the Church Lady might say, How conveeeenient.

Read More →

In the Minnesota election trial today, Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton appears to be laying out a case that election officials have applied inconsistent standards in how they treated absentee ballots -- exactly the sort of case Norm Coleman has made.

The rub: The case is that a local election official in a Republican area has been especially strict with ballots the Franken camp wants included, and permissive for Coleman.

Over the last two days the court has been interviewing Sandy Engdahl, the elections manager for the GOP-leaning Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth. Yesterday, Engdahl in many cases agreed with Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg that some ballots had been improperly rejected. She even went further and volunteered that over the last few days she'd found 11 more envelopes that ought to be included, which weren't ruled as such during the review of rejected ballots this past December.

Then it was Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton's turn.

Read More →

TPMLivewire