In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Uh-oh -- another Democratic senator vowed today to oppose the $410 billion spending bill that is slated to keep the government funded until October.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), appearing at a press conference on the line-item veto alongside Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), joined Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) in urging President Obama to veto the spending measure:

I have typically not voted for omnibus bills because they always end up like this. And you know the president should veto it. And if it sent over there, the president should veto it. He should say, look, I asked for a stimulus bill that had no earmarks in it, and it did not based on the definition we're using in this bill.

As he notes, Feingold's at least being consistent here. But let's take a quick whip count, to see whether Democrats can actually pass this puppy ...

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A new Fairleigh Dickinson poll in New Jersey finds that Gov. Jon Corzine (D) is in serious danger of defeat at the hands of former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in the election this coming November.

The numbers: Christie 41%, Corzine 32%. New Jersey is a heavily Democratic state, but Corzine has been hurt by the state's budget situation. And Christie retains popularity from his years as a U.S. Attorney, when he successfully prosecuted politicians from both parties. On the other hand, he has had his share of controversies involving the Bush Administration, and Corzine is sure to use those against him.

My own two cents, as a New Jerseyan: As a rule, we hate our politicians. But Christie can't bask in the glory of the polls right now, because it's also very common for incumbent Democrats to be way below 50%, and still win at the end of the day in this blue state.

New Jersey has shown a classic pattern of having high undecideds and the Republican ahead, only to see the undecided voters eventually come home and (reluctantly) vote for the Democrat. This is exactly what happened in the the 2006 Senate race, for example. But we'll see how this plays out, especially when the Dems start attacking Christie as a Bush-crony.

House Democrats are now expected to take up their foreclosure-aid bill tomorrow, after negotiators reached a deal to modify the "cramdown" provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the mortgage terms on primary residences.

A summary of the changes can be viewed on the second page of this document, sent out by three California Dems who led the effort to change the bill: Zoe Lofgren, Ellen Tauscher, and Dennis Cardoza.

As I said yesterday, whether these changes constitute an unacceptable watering-down of the cramdown plan depends on one's ideological and personal perspectives. One of the alterations -- allowing lenders to "claw back" a greater portion of the profits if a home is sold during bankruptcy proceedings -- would do little more than benefit banks.

But the other changes being made -- particularly requiring lenders to offer a workable loan modification before a homeowner enters bankruptcy and ensuring that any modification offer is consistent with a homeowner's income -- can hardly be classified as giveaways.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), one of the leading proponents of the cramdown plan, told the AP that the banking lobby is "giving it everything they've got" but that he backs the new changes:

It would encourage lenders to make modifications and there would be consequences if they don't do it,

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is vowing a rapid push on health reform this year, telling reporters yesterday that he would introduce a bipartisan health bill by June alongside Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), the Finance panel's senior Republican.

Baucus and Grassley are known for working closely together, particularly on the 2007 reauthorization of the children's health insurance program (CHIP), which didn't make Grassley's fellow GOPers too happy (though the Iowan ultimately opposed the CHIP re-up that President Obama signed this year).

So Grassley enters the health care debate with a good deal of power -- and he's using it to warn Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to stay out of his and Baucus' way. When Grassley was asked this morning whether Baucus "answer[s] to" Reid on health care, he replied:

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Michael Steele is firing back at his critics inside the Republican Party, who privately complain that he's failed to properly organize the party, does too many gaffe-riddled interviews, and overall keeps everyone out of the loop. In fact, he says, this is just how he likes it.

In an interview with the Politico, Steele answered the naysayers:

"I know some folks in Washington feel that they're kind of on the outside of this -- that they don't have the day-to-day blow by blow of what I'm doing," he said. "And that's exactly how I like it. I want to be about the business of putting in place a good infrastructure that will enable me to go out and build a better brand, stronger brand, for the GOP. And I won't get there by tattle-telling every day what I'm doing."

He also had this to say: "If I told folks what I really thought, I'd probably be in a lot more trouble."

The first Democrat to signal his opposition to the Obama administration's $410 billion 2009 spending bill was Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), who suggested that his vote might be in jeopardy if provisions loosening the Cuban trade embargo were kept in the measure.

But Menendez's complaints look like a drop in the bucket compared with the brewing rebellion among centrist Democrats who aren't sure they can support Obama's push to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans. Politico reports that 14 Dem senators (and Joe Lieberman, naturally) are meeting behind closed doors to discuss their discomfort with Obama's $3.55 trillion 2010 budget.

Before the budget even comes to a vote, however, the 2009 spending bill must be taken care of -- and one of those centrist Dems, Evan Bayh (IN), is urging Obama to veto the $410 billion measure in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. From Bayh's piece (emphasis mine):

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who is the third-highest member of the House GOP in his role as conference chairman, appeared yesterday on CNN and quite loudly agreed with Rush Limbaugh -- he wants President Obama to fail:

Rick Sanchez: Do you want Barack Obama to fail?

Pence: Oh, come on, Rick. Nice try. I know what Rush Limbaugh meant. I actually listened to him about a month ago when he made this point on the air. I heard much of his speech on Saturday.

Look, everybody wants America to succeed. But everyone like me, like Rush Limbaugh and others who believes in limited government, who believes in conservative values, wants the policies that this administration is bringing forward -- higher taxes, a massive increase in government spending, a huge increase in the role of government in our daily lives, a departure from traditional values -- you bet, we want those policies to fail.

Because, Rick, we know big government, increases in debt, the micromanagement of the economy out of Washington, D.C. is a policy that will fail. It has failed throughout the last century, across the globe...

(Transcript via Nexis.)

Now let's think about this for a minute. When the stimulus bill was just on the verge of final passage, Rush Limbaugh said the following, still posted on his Web site: "And after this stimulus bill package passes, I want it to fail."

And Pence says here that he's a Rush-listener. So please, tell us what Rush really means when he says he wants Obama and his policies to fail.

Labor Group Ad Attacks Rush As GOP Leader The Democratic assault on the GOP as the Party of Limbaugh continues apace, with the labor-backed group Americans United For Change airing this new ad on national cable and in the D.C. media market -- essentially targeted at the political media and high-information voters:

"Call the Republican leadership. Tell them to just say no to the politics of Rush Limbaugh," the announcer says, followed by Limbaugh's signature line: "I hope he fails!"

Plouffe: Party Of Limbaugh Could Fall Even Lower Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe also has a new op-ed piece in the Washington Post, with the straightforward title "Minority Leader Limbaugh," predicting a long period in the wilderness for the GOP. "But if the GOP sticks with its strategy of failure as the only option," says Plouffe, "further eroding its brand with the people who decide elections, we may find out what it means for a political party to hit rock bottom."

Ex-Bush Speechwriter: GOP Could Be "Marginalized" By Limbaugh Former Bush speechwriter David Frum told the Washington Post that the math surrounding Rush Limbaugh works against the Republicans. "We can't win elections by getting our core voters agitated," said Frum. "But if you're a talk radio host and you have 5 million who listen and there are 50 million people who hate you, you can make a nice living. If you're a Republican Party, you're marginalized."

Obama To Announce Reform Of Federal Contracts President Obama will be speaking at 10 a.m. ET in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where he will lay out a plan to reform the federal contracting process, and promise to save the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in waste. At 7:30 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host a dinner at the White House for the chairs of the Congressional committees.

Gordon Brown To Speak To Congress British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be speaking to a joint session of Congress today at 11 a.m. ET. Vice President Biden will also be in attendance.

Biden Meeting With Chiefs of Police, Former Secretaries of State Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder will be hosting a reception this afternoon for members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Biden will then be meeting with former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher, to review a report of the National War Powers Commission. Tonight, Biden will attend the President and First Lady's dinner for the Congressional Committee chairs.

NYT: States Mining Stimulus For Road Projects The New York Times reports that the states are already getting to work on spending the stimulus money, putting portions of it towards road projects that had been on hold: "The work, however mundane much of it is, cannot come too soon for a construction industry buffeted by an unemployment rate that has risen to twice the national average as many states cut back on building."

Steele: People Don't Know What I'm Doing -- And I Like It In an interview with the Politico, Michael Steele fired back at Republican chatter that he isn't doing a good job as chairman -- that he's made gaffes, and he still hasn't put in place an effective organizational structure. I know some folks in Washington feel that they're kind of on the outside of this," Steele said, "that they don't have the day-to-day blow by blow of what I'm doing. And that's exactly how I like it."

The new suggestion by the Coleman legal team, that the whole election could be thrown out, has now attracted condemnation from yet another Democratic leader. Here's the new statement from DNC chairman Tim Kaine:

"The people of Minnesota have spoken. It's time for Norm Coleman to accept the voters' decision, do what is best for his state and country and stop standing in the way of a Senator being seated. The stakes for our country are too high right now to suggest that the results of a democratic election, exhaustive recount, and legal proceedings be thrown out just because Norm Coleman doesn't like the results."

President Obama's budget is a veritable road map to a more progressive tax policy, as I noted earlier today, but it also includes specific plans for regulating carbon emissions to fight climate change.

That, in turn, opens the door for Congress to use "budget reconciliation" process rules that would shield climate legislation from Senate filibusters when it comes to a vote (expected later this year or early next year). Using reconciliation to speed passage of health care reform has been a hot topic since onetime health secretary Tom Daschle flirted with the idea earlier this year, but budget reconciliation for climate change is a relatively new prospect in the Capitol Hill pipeline. And guess who thinks it's a terrible idea, as Roll Call reports today (sub. req'd)?

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