In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Today's announcement by the Franken campaign -- that they will provisionally rest their case tomorrow -- has likely changed the timeline of the case dramatically, a top election expert in Minnesota tells TPM.

Professor David Schultz, a teacher of election law at Hamline University, was previously predicting that a ruling would take until mid-April at the earliest. But that assumed Team Franken would take 2-3 weeks to make its case, as opposed to the week and two days they'll have actually used. "I would say we could anticipate -- we should anticipate at this point -- definitely before the end of the month," said Schultz. "It very well might be in a couple of weeks."

After that, the next step will be the appeals, which are likely to be fast-tracked straight to the state Supreme Court -- and which Schultz expects will come from Coleman, with the court likely to have ruled that Franken is the winner: "It doesn't look like at this point the Coleman campaign has either made the arguments or has the numbers to switch it over to his side for victory. So I presume at this point that the court will find for Franken."

Schultz also affirmed that the Coleman camp's latest gambit -- to declare that the true winner cannot be determined, and the election results should be set aside -- is simply off the table legally. "He has to do more than simply cast doubt," said Schultz. "He has to make the case as to why, on the preponderance of evidence, he won."

Hmmm? Where would Chuck Schumer come down on the withdrawal of Chas Freeman? In the shy and retiring style which Brooklynites and all New Yorkers know so well, the Senior Senator declared:

Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.

I will confess to being a total agnostic on Freeman's appointment to the National Intelligence Council. My friend James Fallows made a good case for him as did my boss, Josh Marshall. My former New Republic colleague and friend, Jonathan Chait, made the case against him here. All are pretty thoughtful looks at the guy, unlike Schumer's I-told-you-so.

President Obama's science adviser and NOAA nominee aren't the only ones getting held up by mysterious Senate Republican concerns.

As Bloomberg reported on Friday, two nominees to join Obama's Council of Economic Advisers -- Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse -- have also stalled amid anonymous GOP objections.

But that delay could come to an end as soon as this week, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He told reporters today that "we're going to have a discussion of the nominees" and "they probably will be confirmed later this week."

In his Times opinion column this morning, David Brooks urged Republicans to adopt a singular focus on the financial crisis as a way of countering President Obama's agenda. As Brooks wrote:

Republicans could admit that they don't know what the future holds, and they're not going to try to make long-range plans based on assumptions that will be obsolete by summer. Unlike the Democrats, they're not for making trillions of dollars in long-term spending commitments until they know where things stand.


Do I expect them to shift course in this manner? Not really.

But Brooks appears to have underestimated his own influence. Senior Republicans came out in force today to contend that the financial crisis was getting short shrift from the White House, expanding on the "Obama is distracted" meme that Matt has blogged about this week to accuse the president of not tackling the economy as intensely as he should.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) relayed the new message loud and clear, as The Hill reports:

Following the GOP's weekly conference meeting, the second-ranking House Republican told reporters that President Obama should be focusing on the "economic crisis," as opposed to holding four-hour meetings on healthcare, as the president did last week. The efforts may be laudable, Cantor said, but the White House should be devoting all resources to fixing the economy and not to "impose these cap-and-trade schemes."

And Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) echoed the assertion that Obama's team needs to do more intense work on the economy. "I wish Secretary Geithner and the president would actually begin to solve the problem that's Number One, the credit crisis," he told me today, urging the president to "attend to the problems of the most importance to our country first."

The GOP also seems to be moving forward on Brooks' other recommendation this morning: the introduction of a coherent conservative alternative to the Obama administration's financial policies. Ideas under consideration include a tax credit to homebuyers who make a 5% down payment, tax benefits for those who sell investment properties ... and likely more breaks in the tax code.

The Franken campaign will be provisionally resting their case tomorrow, lead attorney Marc Elias announced at his post-court press conference today.

A few tasks will remain in sorting evidence -- for example, the Coleman camp is ready to introduce a spreadsheet of rejected ballots that it's pulling for, though Elias doubted this would cause his side to delay resting. It's also possible that they may delay resting if severe weather prevents some witnesses from coming in tomorrow, or if Team Coleman lodges further objections, but again Elias didn't think these were likely.

"So far we've had 73 witnesses -- 62 of them were voters," Elias said. "That's actually more witnesses in our case than they they had in their case, though their witnesses testified for a longer time."

Just a week ago, Elias said their case would take two to three weeks -- but instead, they've only gone for one week. After this, the Coleman campaign will get to wage a rebuttal to the Franken case (Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg said this would be "not terribly lengthy") and the Franken side will get to make a rebuttal to the rebuttal, followed by closing arguments.

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner spent two hours behind closed doors last night with House Democrats. He told lawmakers that the economic crunch would get worse before it gets better, either later this year or early next year, while vowing action on small business lending.

What Geithner didn't mention -- but what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged today after a forum with several leading economists -- is that more taxpayer money is likely to be needed to shore up foundering banks.

After economist Mark Zandi of told reporters that "another stimulus package is a reasonable probability, given the way things are going" and that "more money for financial stability to shore up the banking system is likely," Pelosi said she agreed with his statement.

But can Democrats find the votes to push through another round of capital for the banks, should the Obama administration ask for one? House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) said on Thursday that "it's not clear that the political support would be there to" approve another infusion aimed at loosening stalled credit markets, although several Democratic senators said today that they were giving Geithner the benefit of the doubt as he works to handle the conflagrations in the housing markets, credit markets, and bank balance sheets.

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President Obama took on the can-he-walk-and-chew-gum media today:

I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn't have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn't have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don't have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.

Arlen Specter might have some good news in his Republican primary for 2010.

Peg Luksik, who has alternately been an activist/candidate with the Republican and Constitution parties, told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat that she has already formed a campaign committee, and has begun raising money to run against Specter in the Republican primary.

Of course, Specter is already widely expected to face a primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who just barely lost a primary challenge in 2004 by a 51%-49% margin. Specter's vote for the stimulus bill has become ammunition for Toomey as he publicly attacks Specter -- and the Luksik is blasting Specter over the bill, too.

On paper, it would appear that Luksik could potentially split some of the right-wing vote, helping Specter to hold on to a plurality win if it were to become necessary.

My friend, Jane Hamsher, at Firedoglake has this gem today about a Citgroup analyst downgrading Wal-Mart because of possible passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Jane runs through all the idiocy of this moment. First, the law isn't passed yet. Second, it would give workers more purchasing power probably helping Wal-Mart sales. I'd just add that only 7.5 percent of private sector employees belong to unions. That's going to keep falling because of the loss of manufacturing jobs. So if EFCA could increase union membership in the private sector by 50 percent, which would be a stunning achievement and hardly guaranteed byt the law's passage, you'd still have far fewer than the number in unions 25 years ago.

The story of the Employee Free Choice Act, however it ends, is going to take a long time to playout. We noted last week that the bill would get dropped today and it has with labor talking up the measure that would make it easier to form unions and business striking out against it. While its passage is ensured in the House of Representatives, where it passed last year, it's fate in the Senate is less certain. Last year, it looked like all Democrats would support the measure and at least one Republican, Arlen Specter. (In the House, only one Republican supported the measure: Pete King of New York.)

So what is the administration doing to shore up support for the measure? Well, most importantly they've spoken out for it. Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis all endorsed the measure at least week's meeting of the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO in Florida. At the moment, there's no massive White House lobbying campaign to get the bill passed. I'm told it's not what they're lobbying for right now. That will come later.

For now, labor and EFCA-supporting leaders in the House and the Senate have the reins although it's a safe bet that EFCA will come up when Joe Biden travels to Arkansas to kick off the reelection campaign of Blanche Lincoln, one of the wavering Dems. Labor is confident, though, that the Democrats will come around in the end. Says one labor official: "We're confident we'll get to 60 one way or the other."


I'm here!