In it, but not of it. TPM DC

At a brief press conference with reporters just now, held after the Minnesota election court proceedings ended for the day, Norm Coleman expressed his pride in the witnesses his legal team had called, regular voters whose absentee ballots haven't been counted yet.

Now remember, their witness roster included a guy who admitted to obtaining his absentee ballot through forgery by his girlfriend, and is demanding that his vote be counted.

"You know there's been so much discussion about process, but today we saw the human side of this, and that's what this is really about," said Coleman. He added a bit later: "For me it was heartwarming to be here to see Minnesotans come forward and be so passionate, so passionate, about the right to vote and be counted."

To be sure, some of the witnesses were sympathetic -- such as Gerald Anderson, a 75-year old who has gone legally blind and who believes his signature on his ballot envelope didn't match the one on his ballot application because of his lost vision. But come on, they really called the forgery guy?

(Special thanks to The Uptake for carrying the presser.)

Oy vey. Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), senior Republican on the Finance Committee, just won approval of a one-year fix for the alternative minimum tax as part of the upper chamber's stimulus bill, at a cost of $70 billion over 10 years.

Anyone looking for background on what the AMT means for taxpayers can find it here. But what this means for Congress is a potentially huge headache.

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House Democrats have removed a provision from their stimulus bill that would exempt states from the need to get waivers for covering family planning under Medicaid. The family-planning aid has been the subject of repeated Republican attacks over the past few days, and health care advocates were dismayed by the Democrats' decision to give in on its removal.

"We are disappointed that the Medicaid Family Planning State Option, a common-sense provision to expand basic health care to millions of women, including many who have lost their jobs in the current economic downturn, was a victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics, and dropped from the economic stimulus bill," Planned Parenthood for America President Cecile Richards said in a statement today.

But the House's move didn't necessarily mean that the family-planning aid is dead. After all, the Senate still has to act and could include the provision in its stimulus bill -- right?

Maybe not.

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We have seen the best thing that Norm Coleman's legal team has done so far in this election trial -- and it ain't pretty.

This afternoon the Coleman team was bringing in rejected absentee voters to show that their ballots were improperly tossed. So far the court has heard from six people, most of of whom said they were contacted by the Republican Party in the last few weeks. They mostly seemed sympathetic enough, putting a human face on the disenfranchised Coleman voter -- but at least two of them appeared to have been rejected properly under the conditions of Minnesota law.

One of the voters was Douglas Thompson, who admitted under oath that his girlfriend filled out his absentee ballot application for him, signing his name with her own hand and purporting to be himself. His ballot was rejected because the signature on his ballot envelope (his own) did not match the signature on the application (his girlfriend's). The Coleman team's argument appears to be that he is still a legal voter in Minnesota, as the signature on the ballot was his own, even if admitted dishonesty was involved in getting the ballot.

Keep in mind: Thompson's story came up during the direct examination by Coleman lawyer James Langdon. So the Coleman camp fully knew this information and decided to make him into a witness.

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The House Judiciary Committee's subpoena of Karl Rove raises interesting questions as my colleague Zach Roth notes. I spoke with a Washington lawyer who has dealt with many presidential privilege issues and he (or is it she?) raised some interesting questions and offered a prediction.

The first interesting point the person raised is that Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, may have made a tactical mistake in writing to White House Counsel Greg Craig for an opinion. "Be careful what you ask for," the source said. After all, Craig could come up with a rationale for Rove testifying. And why rush to Craig at all when you might prevail in the courts? True, the courts have been loathe to offer hard and fast rules in these cases but it would seem worth pursuing such a legal avenue before going to the Democratic White House for solace. My source predicted that in the end there probably will be some kind of accomodation with Rove answering questions on some topics and not on others rather than a showdown that drags on endlessly. Interestingly, the source thought Obama's executive order on presidential records differed enough from the question of testimony that it probably would not be determinative in the end.

I note myself the hypocrisy of Republicans who demanded practically every Clinton official to march up to the hill and testify on everything under the sun who can be sure to defend executive privilege in Rove's case and that of Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers.

It's probably worth noting here, just for the record that I have some history with Karl Rove. If you haven't been in an Ecuadorean jungle for the last six years you know what it is. If you have been, you can get caught up here and here.

We've been watching Republican leaders play a little game today with the economic recovery plan that's headed for its first vote in the House tomorrow. The object of said game: making the stimulus bill "bipartisan" enough to win Republican votes.

First President Obama made a concession; the GOP turned up its nose. Then Republicans had a neck-snapping change of heart.

But what do Democrats make of this silliness? You remember them -- the party that actually controls the government and wrote the stimulus bill. It turns out that Democrats are perfectly happy to let Republicans chase after their enigmatic (and, dare we say, largely non-existent) notion of a "bipartisan" stimulus.

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The Employee Free Choice Act has galvanized business lobbies like nothing else in recent years. After all, most issues--say, trade--pits one business lobby against another but few issues unite them. So it's interesting and notable to say the least that one of the most talked-about parts of business is staying out of the EFCA debate: the trade group representing private equity firms like the Carlyle Group and BlackRock. On one hand you would think that private equity firms would have a particularly big stake in fighting EFCA. After all, they often buy businesses under the assumption that they keep the unions out. The Service Employees International Union, for instance, fought the Carlyle Group's takeover of Manor Health Care, a chair of assisted living facilities. . It ultimately failed but it's still trying to organize the chain's workers. Dunkin Donuts is owned by a partnership of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's old firm, the Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners. But the main voice of private equity firms in Washington, the Private Equity Council, has stayed out of the fight and the answer would seem to be owing to the fact that unions provide so much capital to private equity. In fact, the Private Equity Council's own research shows in 2007 alone," the top 20 public pension funds, representing nearly 10 million retirees in states including California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, had a collective private equity investment of nearly $140 billion." This is a long way, of course, from getting Steve Schwarzman or Henry Kravis or David Rubenstein to support EFCA. But at least, as unions press forward with EFCA, they don't have private equity's trade group joining the rest of the business lobby.

On the second floor of the Senate, a herd of reporters and camera-people have been eagerly awaiting the president's appearance ... for more than 30 minutes.

What was supposed to be a 1pm briefing on Obama's visit to the House Republican conference, before the president's 1:25 meeting with Senate GOPers, looks to have been thrown off course. Reporters attempting to talk to other senators have been shooed out of the way to clear the path for an arrival.

Hmmm, it can't be an attempt by House Republicans to drown Obama in questions about a bill they're likely to oppose en masse in the end. Can it?

Chip Saltsman, the candidate for RNC chairman who has gotten in trouble for sending out a gift CD to committee members that contained a parody song called "Barack The Magic Negro," had an incredible interview this morning on MSNBC, blaming the whole flap on the media.

Contessa Brewer asked Saltsman about the offense that people have taken. "You know I think it highlighted a couple things, one that we're definitely not playing on a level playing field with the media," Saltsman said, complaining that the media didn't go after the Los Angeles Times for running a column that served as the basis of right-wing satirist Paul Shanklin's song.

(By the way, the piece was not from the LAT itself, but was an op-ed written by David Ehrenstein, who is black.)

Brewer insisted that there are many people out there who are offended by the parody song, which features the white conservative Shanklin doing an Amos & Andy-style impression of Al Sharpton. "Well, I think there's some people that--" Saltsman began in a confrontational tone, before stopping short and simply replying, "I understand that."

Late Update: Here's the video:

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