In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new Rasmussen poll shows that support for the stimulus plan appears to be falling precipitously in the last two weeks, since it became as heavily politicized as it is now:

Do you favor or oppose the economic recovery package proposed by Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats?

Favor 37%
Oppose 43%


A week ago Rasmussen had a 42%-39% plurality favoring the plan, and a 45%-34% margin of support two weeks ago. Support among independents has fallen to 27%, unchanged from a week ago but down from 37% support two weeks ago.

So the Republican talking points out there against he bill -- too much spending, redistribution of wealth, stacking hundred-dollar bills on top of each other, etc -- appear to be having some measure of success.

Leon Panetta, nominated to become CIA director, has his confirmation hearing tomorrow in the Senate intelligence committee. As we reported last month, initial resistance to his nomination from Democrats has faded into the background -- but that doesn't mean the GOP won't try to make Panetta's ride as bumpy as possible.

Which brings me to the answer to the question posed above: the common thread between Daschle and Panetta is Catherine Reynolds, the student-loan mogul whose ties to the now-withdrawn health secretary nominee first slowed his roll last month.

As the WSJ reports today, Reynolds -- still the subject of a Senate Finance Committee investigation into her company's tax status -- donated upwards of $50,000 to the California public policy think tank that Panetta led until his CIA nomination.

There's no evidence at all of any impropriety linked to the donation. But knowing Republicans' love of opposition research, don't be surprised if you hear Panetta field breathless, faux-concerned GOP questions on this tomorrow.

I know you enjoy incorrectly citing the president's economic adviser to tout the illusory benefits of more tax cuts. And hey, I can see the allure of making tax cracks about Daschle and Geithner.

But why use the same dubious talking point in a letter to the president today? Courtesy of Roll Call, I notice that you told Obama how you:

presented a plan that would create more than twice that number [of jobs] based on research conducted by [the] nominee to chair the Council of Economic Advisors, Dr. Christina Romer


Obama still has a BlackBerry, guys. He can find out that this is bogus in less than a minute.

Love, Elana

As I noted yesterday and as The Washington Post noted this morning, there really wasn't a Plan B if Daschle dropped out and so the administration is considering any number of candidates. I'd heard that a couple of obvious names, Howard Dean and John Kitzaber, both former governors and physicians, were not in play. I'd heard a familiar name: Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Governor and early Obama supporter. More out there names that I heard included Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Vic Snyder who is an attorney and a physician. This morning there's talk about Phil Bredesen, the popular governor of Tennessee and former Nashville mayor. Breseden is a big figure and that's clearly what Obama wants at HHS to help push through his health care reform package. So it seems as plausible to me as any name but this is the silly season when lots of names will be floated and unless you're in the room with Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Melody Barnes or some other top person, I think it's really just speculation.

Here's an important point about President Obama's new restrictions on executive pay at companies receiving aid from the Treasury Department: they're not retroactive. A bank that has already received bailout money would not need to abide by the limits unless it accepts more cash in the future.

(The WaPo buries this in the middle of its story on the issue, then notes that even if they were retroactive, the rules likely would have applied to only three companies: AIG, Citigroup, and Bank of America.)

But Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) executive-pay cap bill is retroactive, applying to companies that have received past as well as pending bailout infusions. And McCaskill just said she has no intention of giving up her push to attach her version of CEO pay caps to the economic stimulus bill. Here's her statement:

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This morning's proceedings in the Minnesota election trial show just how the court will be moving from here on out in the wake of yesterday's important rulings regarding absentee ballots: Very, very, very slowly.

Yesterday's rulings declared that Coleman can continue to advocate on behalf of a pool of 4,797 ballots -- but that he has to argue for them one by one, rather than getting the sweeping ruling he wanted to automatically count them.

And reviewing envelopes one by one is exactly what Friedberg is doing. Friedberg is going down a list of ballots with Kevin Corbid, the head elections official for Washington County, and asking for any information Corbid can give about why they were rejected. In many cases Friedberg has withdrawn the ballot after Corbid gave a satisfactory answer, while others have been left for a future ruling by the three-judge panel.

Keep in mind that there are 4,797 total ballots that Coleman is looking over. There are also 87 counties in Minnesota, and furthermore Hennepin County (Minneapolis) has its individual municipalities running the elections. So if we go through this process for every single ballot, it's going to take a long time.

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The stimulus bill currently being debated in Congress includes more than $350 million for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program, which distributes food aid to low-income families.

And JP Morgan, which famously declined to reveal how it would use its $25 billion in TARP bailout funds, has taken the opportunity to tout its debit cards as a good option for families getting WIC benefits. The bank is releasing a new paper today on "the funding, legislative and regulatory considerations" that switching to an all-debit food aid system would entail.

As this local report from Michigan illustrates, an all-electronic WIC program makes sense in terms of decreasing the stigma and increasing the convenience for families receiving aid. But I can't help but smile at the timing of JP Morgan's entreaty on a day when the president announces executive-pay limits that make its CEO publicly pouty.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the president's pick for Commerce Secretary, just revealed during an interview with CNBC that he would recuse himself from congressional votes while his nomination is being considered by his former Senate colleagues.

It sounds like a harmless announcement -- but what this effectively does is deny Senate Democrats a gettable GOP vote in favor of Obama's stimulus bill at a time when they're desperately in need of one.

It would have been entirely conceivable for Gregg to follow Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) example and show up for Senate votes while his nomination was being considered by the chamber. Quite a disappointing move.

Late Update: We've got video of Gregg's comments, after the jump.

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The short answer is no. But conservative columnist Tony Blankley still does his part today to flog an already tired line of faux-skepticism about the Obama administration's alleged plans to "cut" defense spending in the upcoming budget.

Blankley claims that while total Pentagon spending for next year is in line for an 8% increase, the wild card of continuing Iraq and Afghanistan expenses raises the specter of a defense cut under Obama. It's almost as if he hasn't been keeping up with TPM alum Spencer Ackerman, who demolished this talking point as hogwash two days ago. (Robert Kagan was the first right-leaning pundit out of the gate on this one.)

The tale is a simple one: Pentagon officials, aiming to start budget negotiations from a wildly advantageous point, submitted a spending estimate that wasn't completely vetted by the departing Bush administration. The Obama folks knocked the number down to a more realistic number -- that still reflects a higher military budget.

If only the truth could prevent conservatives from hyperventilating with fantasies of Obama cutting defense spending.

Whatever you think of George W. Bush, I think you have to concede that, in some respects, he's been personally gracious towards Barack Obama and his family since election night. I say this with the obvious, massive caveat of the Blair House incident in which the government-owned guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House was not made available to the Obamas when they decided to move to Washington a little more than two weeks before the inauguration so their daughters could start at Sidwell Friends as soon as the Quaker school's winter break ended. Still, in its public pronouncements Bush has been generous towards Obama and the interaction between the families seems to have been nice, what with Jenna and Barbara showing Sasha and Malia their favorite hangouts in the residence.

The Obamas have said how much they appreciated the Bushes hosting them at the White House. Until now, one might have said the same about DIck Cheney who, along with his wife Lynn, hosting Joe and Jill Biden at the Vice Presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

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