In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Obama Address: I'm Bringing People Together On Health Care And Energy In this weekend's Presidential YouTube address, President Obama said he is bringing together different groups such as businesses and labor to deal with the issues of health care costs and clean energy:

"I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it," said Obama. "This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change."

GOP Address: Republicans Can Work With Obama On Health Care -- But No Public Option In this weekend's RNC YouTube, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) said Republicans can agree with President Obama on a lot of things regarding health care, and are prepared to work with him -- but he warned strongly against any pursuit of a public option:

"A government takeover of health care will put bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions that should be made by families and doctors," said Boustany. "It will limit treatment options and lead to rationed care. And to pay for government health care, your taxes will be raised."

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On Monday, President Obama hosted an event at the White House with five health care industry stakeholders and the SEIU announcing that the groups had reached an agreement to reduce the growth in health care costs by 1.5 percent a year for 10 years. The administration called it a watershed moment, and suggested it would save consumers upwards $2 trillion.

Now health industry lobbyists, including, specifically, the American Hospital Association, are saying that the administration has misled them and the country. AMA President Richard Umbdenstock said the groups had agreed to gradually ramp up to the 1.5 percentage-point target over 10 years - not to reduce spending by that much in each of the 10 years," according to Politico.

That's a huge difference.

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Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who had been preparing to challenge appointed U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the 2010 Democratic primary, has announced that he will not be running -- at the urging of President Obama, who has now stepped in to clear the field for Gillibrand.

"I spoke with President Obama today," Israel said in a statement. "He asked me that I not run for the U.S. Senate this year."

Israel said this was a tough decision, and he'd received a lot of encouragement to make the race: "But in the interest of providing New York and our country with a united front for progressive change, I have decided to continue my efforts in Congress and not pursue a campaign for the U.S. Senate."

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So what exactly is the deal with the Republicans' new outreach project, the National Council for a New America, and how is it complying with the letter and spirit of ethics rules and guidelines for financing?

Roll Call explored the topic on Monday looking at how the NCNA's spending has been bifurcated. Its main Web site is hosted on Cantor's official House Web site, and his staff have helped build the site, while other aspects such as its recent town hall event have been paid for out of campaign funds. In a follow-up editorial, they called on House Minority Whip Eric Cantor to refund his House account with campaign money for whatever has been spent on this, and for the ethics rules to be revised against this whole thing.

Jan Baran, an ethics attorney advising the group, referred any questions regarding the editorial to Cantor's office. In turn, Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring gives us this comment: "As Roll Call reported, the NCNA is in compliance with the law and House ethics rules just like other congressional groups such as the Progressive Caucus, the Democratic Caucus, Republican Conference, and the Blue Dog Coalition."

I spoke with Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, and she had some tough things to say about it, saying that it went against the overriding principles of the ethics guidelines: "This may be legally permissible, but it's a pretty tortured reading of the rules."

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Several weeks ago, when Robert Gates released early details of the Pentagon budget, we noticed a peculiar, but, I suppose, predictable trend. With an assist from the media, conservatives and other stakeholders--seeking to attack the administration, and protect their parochial interests--began to portray the proposal as a soft-on-defense spending cut, when, in fact, the bottom line represented a modest defense spending increase.

You don't hear too much of that meme anymore. But you do hear quite a bit these days, from Congressional Republicans, and others, that the budget process has been maddeningly opaque--that, for instance officials have been barred via non-disclosure agreement from discussing budget details with anybody outside the Pentagon or relevant government agency while the document was being assembled. John T. Bennett of Defense News first reported the existence of the agreement in February, and he sends along a copy, which you can see for yourself here. The terms of the agreement were rescinded earlier this week.

Still, that didn't please members of Congress who will have ultimate say over the budget itself. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) grilled Gates about the so-called "gag order," and what he described as the general lack of transparency in the budget process as a whole.

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The Coleman campaign has filed its reply brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court, quite possibly the final written filing before oral arguments on June 1 in Norm's appeal of his defeat at the Minnesota Senate trial. The reply brief, responding to Team Franken's own response brief on Monday, is a passionate argument for more rejected absentee ballots from pro-Coleman areas to be allowed in and counted.

There is also a dog that doesn't bark here: Team Coleman seems to have abandoned its attempts to have the whole election result thrown out. There are numerous points in the brief where it seems like the authors are about to raise this option, as they have before -- arguing that the elections results are unreliable -- only to go in a different direction by arguing for a positive remedy. Coleman is banking squarely on getting more rejected absentee votes counted, as his only remaining hope (and even this is slim) of winning this race.

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele addressed the National Rifle Association's "Celebration of American Values" in Phoenix today, leveling some harsh rhetoric against President Obama: That Obama could end up appointing left-wing ideological Justices to the Supreme Court -- and Dems want to away Americans' guns while moving Al Qaeda terrorists to our neighborhoods!

"It is ironic, to say the least, that at the same time Democrats in Congress are threatening to deny Americans their second amendment right to own a firearm and defend their families and homes," Steele said, "they are considering bringing terrorists like 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Al Qaeda detainees to our communities once the President follows through on his campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay."

Steele also said that liberal groups will be pressuring Obama on the Supreme Court vacancy: "They want a young, activist, left-wing justice who will leave a liberal legacy long after the Obama administration is over. Obama is considering including politicians, not judges, among his short-list of Supreme Court nominees. We don't need a justice on the Court with an ideological agenda."

More excerpts from Steele's speech, after the jump.

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When Arlen Specter became a Democrat nearly three weeks ago, everyone in Washington was extremely "surprised," but nobody was really all that surprised. Specter had been taking a beating from the right for, among other things, supporting the stimulus bill. He had lost the confidence of many in his party and, to ward off attackers, he was tacking steadily to the right to protect himself from a primary challenge he nonetheless seemed poised to lose.

So he became a Democrat. The move made sense as a matter of both Senate and electoral politics. Specter fits in just as well among the significant ranks of conservative Senate Democrats as he does among the ever-shrinking ranks of moderate Republicans, and his move into the majority renews what had been his dwindling hopes of re-election.

But then, unthinkably, he doubled down on all of the positions he'd taken as a threatened Republican. He bucked his new party on health care, reiterated his freshly minted objection to the Employee Free Choice Act (a bill he once wholly endorsed), and he flatly opposed the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who President Obama has nominated to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Now, though, he's showing some signs of easing up on the Republicanisms.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now getting in on the same fundraising act as their Senate-side counterparts at the DSCC: Offering small donors a chance to win a paid trip to Washington and get their picture taken with President Obama.

The DCCC has sent out its own fundraising e-mail, much like the DSCC's e-mail from yesterday, telling donors of only $5 or more that they can be entered into a drawing to attend the Democratic Party's big fundraising dinner in Washington on June 18, and get their picture taken with Obama. The lucky winner will have his or her hotel and airfare paid for, including a guest.

Both committees are essentially making a wager: That this raffle will bring in enough money to generate a profit over the costs of the airfare and hotel. In the modern age of Internet fundraising, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable guess.

Full DCCC e-mail after the jump.

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In a blow to national Democrats in their effort to reach 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has announced that he will not challenge GOP Sen. Richard Burr in 2010.

"While I am honored by the encouragement I've received, I don't want to go to Washington and serve as a U.S. Senator at this time," Cooper said in a statement. "I am committed to public service and I want to serve here in North Carolina rather than in Washington."

Polls had shown that Cooper could beat Burr, who for his own part has very weak approval ratings. That said, Democrats could still potentially find a good candidate. The state is trending Democratic and voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008, and few people would have ever guessed at this point in the 2007/2008 campaign cycle that GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole would have lost re-election by nine points against Democrat Kay Hagan.