In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The AIG-inspired plan to tax bonuses at bailed-out firms is stalling quickly in the Senate, but the House Financial Services Committee is pressing ahead today by taking up a bill that would freeze existing bonus contracts and require the Treasury Department to produce its own executive-pay standards.

But the measure, sponsored by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Jim Himes (D-CT), doesn't leave the thorny decision on appropriate Wall Street pay to the Treasury alone. After Secretary Tim Geithner makes the call on what constitutes "excessive" compensation, the bill would require him to secure the approval of other financial regulatory agencies.

The House bill's limit on Geithner's ability to control the pay standards is admittedly slight, but it reflects a growing shift in the capital away from consolidating power in the hands of Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

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A new Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania shows just how much trouble Arlen Specter could have in his 2010 Republican primary. Against his 2004 challenger Pat Toomey, who is expected to run again this time, he's stuck in the twenties.

The numbers: Toomey 41%, Specter 27%. Specter's loss of his Republican base also leaves him with weak numbers for a general election, with only 31% against a generic Democrat's 33%.

Specter remains somewhat popular with the overall electorate, though, with a 52% approval to 33% disapproval -- the kind of number that any incumbent could take into a general election. But the catch is that the approval comes from Democrats -- among Republicans, he's at only 36% approval and 52% disapproval.

Keep in mind that Pennsylvania uses a closed primary, and the number of registered Republicans has fallen since 2004 -- when Specter only held off Toomey by a 51%-49% margin -- leaving a very conservative base. And Specter's vote for the stimulus bill certainly can't have helped him.

It's numbers like these that led many observers to think Specter's best bet to stay in office could be to switch parties. But now that he's announced his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, he's probably cut off that option, as well.

Jindal: Do I Want Obama To Fail? It Depends At an NRCC dinner last night in Washington, Bobby Jindal blasted Democrats for demanding that Republicans not want President Obama to fail. "Make no mistake: Anything other than an immediate and compliant, 'Why no sir, I don't want the president to fail,' is treated as some sort of act of treason, civil disobedience or political obstructionism," said Jindal, going on to explain the bottom line: "My answer to the question is very simple: 'Do you want the president to fail?' It depends on what he is trying to do."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama is meeting in the Oval Office with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at 10:45 a.m. ET. At 1 p.m. ET, he will meet on Capitol Hill with the Senate Democratic Caucus, where he is expected to discuss his budget proposal. At 5:05 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will host an event in the East Room to commemorate Greek Independence Day. And tonight he will speak at two DNC fundraisers: An 8:15 p.m. ET event at the National Women in the Arts Museum, and at 9 p.m. ET in Warner Theater.

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CNN's Ed Henry got an interesting response out of the president by suggesting that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who successfully pushed 15 of the top 20 AIG bonus recipients to give back their money, is getting more done on the executive-compensation front than the White House.

Obama avoided addressing the Cuomo comparison directly, but said that expressing a public opinion on AIG bonuses "took us a couple of days, because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." Is the implication, then, that Cuomo got out too far in front of the populist furor too quickly?

Discussing his budget outline, President Obama just sent a nice shot across the bow of his erstwhile Commerce Secretary nominee, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who has rolled out some eye-poppingly hyperbolic metaphors to describe the administration's budget options.

"The critics tend to criticize, but they don't offer an alternative budget," Obama just quipped.

And wouldn't you know it, Gregg is the senior GOPer on the Senate Budget Committee ... and his side won't be offering an alternative budget this year. (House Republicans, by contrast, are taking that plunge.)

Under questioning from the AP's Jennifer Loven tonight, President Obama predicted "strong support from the American people and from Congress" for giving the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve sweeping new powers to take over and wind down insolvent financial institutions.

Obama pitched the change as necessary to avoid a regulatory vacuum in case another major financial firm implodes in the manner that AIG did.

"Understand that AIG is not a bank," Obama said. "If it were a bank and effectively collapsed, the FDIC could step in as it does with a whole host of banks ... and in a structured way, renegotiate contracts" with counter-parties and employees.

But the FDIC, which steps in to dispose of insolvent banks such as IndyMac, is a different political animal than the Treasury and Fed, both of which have fallen out of favor with Congress thanks to the bailout's rocky path.

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When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) talks, people listen -- even if they're not entirely sure what they're hearing.

I've now discovered at least three examples of a curious phenomenon: The Bachmann Effect. When Bachmann is out there talking about the issues in an adversarial setting, her opponents find themselves on a very unsure footing -- mainly because they're shocked and befuddled to hear what she's saying.

Check out these three examples, in reverse-chronological order:

The first was from today's Financial Services hearing, when she demanded an answer from Tim Geithner as to what the constitutional basis was for his actions in the bailout. The second is from a debate this past October with her Democratic opponent El Tinklenberg. And the third is from an appearance on Larry King Live during the Republican Convention, in a peculiar exchange with James Carville.

These three individuals don't know each other, and yet on three separate occasions you'll see the exact same facial expression each time.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Change to Win are also vowing to press on with their work on the Employee Free Choice Act despite Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) momentum-killing announcement today that he would oppose the union-organizing bill.

SEIU President Andy Stern says he's "dismayed by those who say they support the democratic process, yet refuse to allow meaningful debate and a democratic vote on critical legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act," while Change to Win takes a more diplomatic approach in responding to Specter. Both groups' statements are after the jump.

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President Obama will speak at his press conference tonight about the progress that has been achieved in combatting the financial crisis, and his commitment to getting through the problems by making sure that everyone works together, according to pre-released excerpts of his opening statement.

Key quote:

We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other - that's when we succeed. That's when we prosper. And that's what is needed right now. So let us look toward the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come.

Full excerpts after the jump.

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The two Senate campaigns in Minnesota -- if they can be called campaigns almost five months after the election -- may very well have struck gold all over again, thanks to a new FEC advisory opinion from yesterday.

The opinion will allow donors who want to help Franken and Coleman to donate up to $30,400 to special recount funds -- even if they'd already maxed out to the regular party committees or to Franken and Coleman's regular campaign funds.

So if Norm Coleman or Al Franken suddenly needed a half-million dollars, for example, all it would take is less than 20 super-wealthy individuals, willing to max out for the cause -- not too shabby.

Professor David Schultz of Hamline University explained to TPM that this can allow Coleman to take in amounts of money he simply couldn't get before. "If the ruling had gone the other way he would have had to go out and find a bunch of new donors," Schultz explained. "With this ruling, he at least the opportunity to go back and tap his previous donors."

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