In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Labor Group Airs Ad Celebrating Stimulus Passage The labor-backed political group Americans United For Change is already going on the air with this new pro-stimulus ad, seeking to claim the political narrative in the wake of the bill's final passage into law:

The ad is running on national cable and in the D.C. media market -- so it's essentially aimed at the political classes, with the key message that there remains more work to be done.

Obama Delivering Speech Today On Mortgage Relief President Obama is spending the morning in Phoenix, Arizona, where he will deliver a 12:15 p.m. ET speech on his mortgage relief plan, which would reportedly involve the government setting out to reduce foreclosures by providing subsidies and other incentives to help lower payments costs, and to encourage the renegotiation of loan terms. He will then head back to Washington, with a scheduled 5:45 p.m. ET arrival back at the White House.

Biden Meeting With Middle Class Task Force -- And Ryan Crocker Vice President Biden is having lunch today with members of the Middle Class Task Force, the White House effort chaired by Biden to study everyday economic conditions and make policy recommendations. Then in the afternoon, he will be meeting with Ryan Crocker, the Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, for a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation in that country.

WaPo: Palin Caught Between Alaska, National Politics The Washington Post takes a look at Sarah Palin's political life these days, revealing a pol who is caught between the competing pressures of her state and national political lives, and whose every moved is analyzed with an eye towards 2012. "There's nothing we can do to stop it," said Palin aide Joe Balash. "People wonder why she's doing something or not doing something."

Two Ohio Dems Jump Into 2010 Senate Race Ohio Democrats now have a primary for the open Senate seat of retiring GOP Senator George Voinovich, with both Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher both declaring their candidacies yesterday. Both of them should be considered serious candidates for the primary and general elections, while the Republicans have rallied around former Rep. Rob Portman.

GOP Leaders Talk Up Pro-Life Issues, Ahead of Pelosi's Papal Visit Roll Call reports that John Boehner and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) have sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praising Cardinal Justin Rigali for his work on pro-life issues -- and which just so happens to have been sent ahead of Nancy Pelosi's upcoming visit with the Pope. A GOP source told the paper that that the letter "certainly points to the very real difference" between political leaders who side with the church's teachings and those who ignore them.

GOP Candidate On The Air For Gillibrand's House Seat The Republican National Committee has launched this ad for Jim Tedisco, the GOP candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat:

Tedisco has a serious chance of winning the March 31 special election, as he goes into the race with much higher name recognition as the state Assembly minority leader than does Democratic businessman Scott Murphy. If the GOP can pick up the seat, they'll be able to claim a significant boost in their desired narrative of a party staging a comeback.

Today's developments in the Minnesota election trial make even clearer the extent to which the Coleman team are casting doubt on the whole election result -- indeed, they're using the sort of language that could lead one to believe they'll try for a do-over.

At Coleman lawyer/spokesman Ben Ginsberg's post-court press conference today (c/o The Uptake), unveiled this new line: "You saw today in the testimony of Scott and Carver counties, why Al Franken's current lead -- and I use that term euphemistically -- is based on illegal votes."

Ginsberg also said that the variation across the state in how absentee ballots were screened for acceptance or rejection made this "a fatally-flawed election."

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Poor House Republicans. They were pretty psyched yesterday about that new troops-rallying video from Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) that used Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" to declare that "The House GOP is back" thanks to the party's unanimous opposition to the stimulus.

But unfortunately, Aerosmith wasn't feeling the love. Cantor's clip has been pulled from YouTube after a copyright infringement claim made by Stage Three Music, which owns the rights to "Back in the Saddle."

The GOP's use of the tune "was something we, as the publishers, didn't approve and would not have approved without going to the writers," Connie Ashton, director of copyright and licensing at Stage Three, told me. "Aerosmith did not approve of its use and also wanted to have it taken down," she added.

Ashton added that House Republicans never contacted Stage Three to put in a request for use of "Back in the Saddle." Maybe they assumed it was okay because Joe Perry endorsed McCain last year.

As the Los Angeles Times' report yesterday observing liberals' frustration with President Obama echoes elsewhere in the mainstream media, it's worth noting that some groups on the left are maintaining a healthy independence from the administration.

One good example: Obama announced today that he will send upwards of 10,000 troops to Afghanistan before the conclusion of his internal strategy review on the state of the so-called "forgotten war" in South Asia.

Former Maine Democratic congressman Tom Andrews, now the chair of the Win Without War coalition, thoughtfully asked Obama today to consider whether adding more troops amounts to "digging an even bigger hole" in Afghanistan despite diplomatic urging to reconsider a military escalation. Here's Andrews' statement in full (followed by Obama's statement on the troop increase):

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The much-touted website,, is up and running. I got some (somewhat deserved) grief for dissing the site, designed to track stimulus spending, when President Obama first mentioned it. The site was blank, reflecting the fact that the stimulus bill had yet to pass. My point, which I didn't articulate very well, is why waste the valuable, president-touted real estate with a blank page when you could use it to promote the bill before it becomes a lens into how the money is spent after the bill becomes law. That said, it's up and running now and meeting mixed reviews. Nancy Scola at techPresident has a take on what's working and what's not on the site.

The larger question of transparency in government and whether technology can bring a real change is being pursued by a lot of smart people including Ellen Miller at the Sunlight Foundation, Micah Sifry at techPresident, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame. Will be following all of this in the coming weeks because it's so essential to Obama's promises of changing Washington.

If you read the major news media's reporting this week on the executive compensation limits that were included in today's newly-signed stimulus law, you'd think the pay caps were one of those sneaky, dark-of-night maneuvers on the part of Senate Democrats.

The Chicago Tribune says the compensation rules were "inserted at the last minute" into the stimulus. USA Today goes with "thrown in at the last minute," while CBS News makes the dramatic claim that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) "slipped in [the] little-noticed provision."

Incredible! If only it were true. Dodd's CEO pay limits were added to the Senate's stimulus plan by voice vote, with no objection from either party, more than 10 days ago.

It was only the fact that the pay caps survived an attempt to slice them from the bill that was at all unexpected. Two other strong proposals to limit compensation at bailed-out banks were yanked from the stimulus at the last minute -- not added.

In fact, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), the House Financial Services Committee member who first blew the whistle on the attempts to scrap the pay caps, reminded Fox Business Channel of the truth during a weekend interview. We've got the video for you after the jump.

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Some new figures out on the surge in the number of Americans losing health insurance: 14,000 a day, according to new post at The Wonk Room . On one hand this is not surprising because the number moves up pretty much in tandem with the unemployment rate but it is surprising in another sense because COBRA law which provides for health insurance for up to 18 months after being laid off should have kept the uninsured from surging. COBRA, though, is impossibly expensive. You have to pick up your health insurance cost and what your employer was providing and this is clearly too much for most of the newly unemployed. Some good news: The stimulus package being signed today includes $87 billion in health care related spending and a big COBRA subsidy, at least for now.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) -- who shares TPMDC's affinity for Aerosmith -- was at it again yesterday during an interview with CBS. Cantor strongly suggested that he would oppose President Obama's mortgage aid plan, slated for unveiling tomorrow. Cantor slammed the $50 billion price tag as too high:

We just cannot continue to pay for the kind of things that this administration thinks that we can. So, I'm very concerned about the direction I see us going ...

Hmm, maybe Cantor should bring this up with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) GOP crew at their next bicameral mixer. The Senate Republicans have spent much of this month touting their alternative stimulus, which would have provided government subsidies for lower mortgage interest rates -- the same broad concept as Obama's plan -- at an initial cost of $121 billion.

Unless the minority wants its new talking point to be 'we voted for billions of dollars for mortgage aid before we voted against it.' At least that's better than lying about a salt marsh mouse.

I suspected last week, when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, rolled out his incomplete bank bailout plan that he did so because it was on the schedule and nothing was going to move it. Today's much lauded piece in the Washington Post confirmed my suspicion. I spoke with a former Clinton Treasury official who was amazed that the Geithner thing got dumped just at the time when Obama could have been taking a victory lap for getting the stimulus deal all but closed. (This was before the Judd Gregg withdrawal but that's another matter.)

The larger point here is the administration's deeply ingrained habit of sticking to the schedule. That instinct served them well during the campaign when they didn't respond to every idiotic event and stuck with their plan. Pressure to attack Hillary Clinton more viscerally or to sign on to the gas tax holiday? Fuggedaboutit. Stick with the plan. But the tendency to stick with the plan has it's downside as we saw with Geithner's less-than-stellar roll out. Over the weekend, David Axelrod said that the stimulus signing was long scheduled to be out of town but was there really a need to give the right ammunition for delaying the signing of a bill that Obama said was urgent? The right's point is goofy. The money couldn't have gone out the door over a federal holiday. Still, the optics aren't great.

Back to my original point, sticking to the schedule isn't always wise.

Here's another fun moment this morning from Minnesota: The Coleman legal team was literally unprepared for a speedy trial.

Earlier this morning lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg called as a witness Robert Hiivala, the county auditor of deep-red Wright County, to review recount procedures and ballots from his area. Friedberg conducted his direct examination, Franken lawyer David Lillehaug did his cross-examination, and then Friedberg did a re-direct.

And then...that was it. Hiivala was excused, making this the first time that a local official was excused in the court of a single morning -- in fact, all the others have gone for more than one day.

Then the judges asked Friedberg to call his next witness. He didn't have anybody ready until after lunch. A very nonplussed Judge Elizabeth Hayden called a recess "with great reluctance," and admonished Friedberg to make sure he would have additional witnesses ready at that point, and to have more witnesses on tap for tomorrow.

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