In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Here's an interesting item to think about in the debate over executive-compensation limits. A British politician is now calling for bonuses at bailed-out banks to be limited to £2,000, the amount typically received by low-level bank tellers.

At current exchange rates this is equal to $2,854.30 -- less than 1% of the cap that Claire McCaskill has advocated over here, and for which she's been either praised or reviled as a populist lefty.

The British pol who is calling for this: David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.

Hillary Warns North Korea -- And Slams Bush During her overseas trip to Asia, Hillary Clinton simultaneously warned North Korea about their nuclear program -- and blasted the Bush Administration for creating the conditions that have helped it get this far. "There is no debate that, once the Agreed Framework was torn up, the North Koreans began to reprocess plutonium with a vengeance because all bets were off," said Clinton. "The result is they now have nuclear weapons, which they did not have before."

Obama Going Back To Washington Today President Obama is heading back to Washington today, after having spent the weekend in Chicago. He is scheduled to leave O'Hare at 11 a.m. ET, and to arrive back at the White House at 12:45 p.m. ET.

Biden Meeting With Fire Fighters Union Head Vice President Biden is in Washington today, where he'll be meeting with Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Report: Obama To Form Auto Task Force, Drop "Car Czar" Plan President Obama will reportedly appoint a special task force, co-chaired by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, to oversee the restructuring of the auto industry, replacing the prior proposal to appoint a single "car czar." This comes as General Motors and Chrysler face a deadline tomorrow to submit a business plan for how they can become viable again after receiving $13.4 billion in aid from the Bush Administration.

Burris: "I Responded To All Questions" At a press conference yesterday, Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) responded to his critics over his failure to disclose during the Blagojevich impeachment hearings that Blago's brother had asked him for political contributions this past November -- though Burris says he didn't actually donate. "I responded to all questions that were asked of me by the impeachment committee in the time allotted," said Burris. "At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statements."

Cornyn: Coleman Knows How Important Keeping The Seat Is To Us Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the NRSC, told the Politico that Norm Coleman will keep contesting the MInnesota Senate race "however long it takes" -- and it's important to the GOP. "I encourage him to see it through the end," Cornyn said. "He feels like he owes it to the voters of Minnesota and his colleagues here. He realizes how important retaining that seat is to us."

Stimulus Includes Money For Health Care Effectiveness Study The New York Times reports that the stimulus bill now includes a key piece of health-care reform: $1.1 billion, and a 15-member advisory council to the president, to compare the costs and benefits of different treatments for the same illness. Rep. Peter Stark (D-CA) said the new research "will save money and lives," while Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) was less than enthusiastic, warning that "federal bureaucrats will misuse this research to ration care, to deny life-saving treatments to seniors and disabled people."

Ken Starr Predicts Trouble For Obama's SCOTUS Nominees Speaking on Friday to a group of attorneys in Boston, Ken Starr hinted at some more partisan rancor to come when Barack Obama appoints a Supreme Court Justice. Starr gave this line about Obama, which is sure to be repeated by any Republicans who might filibuster a nominee: "He is the first president of the United States ever in our history to have participated in a Senate filibuster of a judicial nominee. Never before has that happened."

Obama: I'm An Optimist -- But Not A Sap In an interview with National Journal, President Obama said he is open to reaching across the aisle, but policy results matter. "My bottom line is not how pretty the process was," he said. "My bottom line was: Am I getting help to people who need it?" He also added: "I am an eternal optimist [but] that doesn't mean I'm a sap."

Obama Heading To U. of Chicago Campus President Obama and Vice President Biden do not have any scheduled public events for today. However, Obama is visiting the University of Chicago campus today, where he formerly taught as a part-time law professor.

Obama To Sign Stimulus On Tuesday, Discuss Foreclosures Wednesday President Obama will sign the stimulus bill on Tuesday, in a special trip to Denver -- the city where he formally accepted the Democratic nomination. Then on Wednesday he will head to Phoenix, Arizona -- John McCain's home state -- to put forward a plan to fight home foreclosures.

Axelrod: Obama To Take Action On Stem Cells David Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday that President Obama will soon take action on stem-cell research, and is considering an order to formally lift the ban on federal funding that was put in place by George W. Bush.

Burris: Blagojevich's Brother Asked Me For Contribution Last November Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) has now admitted that Rod Blagojevich's brother asked him for campaign contributions last fall, which Burris says he declined to do. Burris didn't disclose this when asked by the state impeachment committee to name any contact he'd had with Blago's people about the Senate seat.

Cantor: I Get Advice From Gingrich In a new profile in the New York Times, Eric Cantor said he has regularly sought out the advice of a previous House Republican Whip who faced similar circumstances as he did, and then put his party in the majority: Newt Gingrich. Said Cantor: "I talk to Newt on a regular basis because he was in the position that we are in: in the extreme minority."

McCain: Stimulus Bill A 'Bad Beginning' For Obama Appearing on CNN today, John McCain lambasted President Obama's performance in passing the stimulus bill. "It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people - that we would sit down together," said McCain, adding that "almost all of our proposals went down on a party-line vote."

GOP Senator Graham: 'The Country's Screwed' Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) expressed his dissatisfaction today with the legislative process that led to the stimulus bill. Appearing on This Week, Graham had this to say about Democrats dominating the process: "If I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed."

Smart take from Ron Brownstein on where we stand now after the stimulus has passed. I think it's the right take.

Many on the left seem truly despairing after this week, feeling that Obama got rolled by the right on the stimulus and the Judd Gregg withdrawal, that Washington media is arrayed against them and that things are generally lousy. I think that's unduly pessimistic. I'm persuaded by the economists who say that a bigger stimulus would have been better and I think the cuts imposed by the centrist gang were more nonsensical than not. Still...This is a $14 trillion economy and the differnece between a stimulus package in the $700 billion range and the $800 billion range is not going to be the determining factor in the fate of the republic. The fact is that Obama remains incredibly popular and he just passed as mammoth a rescue package as we've seen in generations. There are many reasons for despair at the moment but the events of this week, it seems to me anyway, are not really deserving of them.

I think Obama's efforts at bipartisanship on the stimulus and in his cabinet appointments will work to his advantage in the long run. He's not a sucker. The president knows that there will be occasions when he can pick up Republican votes and it wills erve him well.

I'm not sure I buy my colleague Josh's assessment about Washington being arrayed against Obama. Obviously there are institutional impediments to change of any kind, whether it's Reagan's or Obama's. Ours isn't a system designed for dramatic shifts in power. But the White House was pleased with the way business lobbies supported the stimulus. K Street, far from being Tom DeLay's pet, was more in the Democratic camp than not. It won't always be so but to see the culture of lobbying as being irreversably and irrevocably opposed to Democratic or progressive goals is the stuff of lampoon and caricature. Does an on-one-hand-on-the-other media continue to turn out some lame copy about who's at fault when the parties split? Sure, but so what? The important thing is not the atmosphere but the results.

I don't underestimate what lies ahead but I'm pretty amazed by how despairing the tone on the left has been in the wake of what was a very significant passage of legislation.

Obama Celebrates Stimulus Passage In New Web Address In his newest YouTube address, President Obama praises the passage of the economic stimulus bill, while also telling the public that this is only the start of a long road to economic reform and recovery:

Obama did take a bit of a shot at his Republican critics: "Now, some fear we won't be able to effectively implement a plan of this size and scope, and I understand their skepticism. Washington hasn't set a very good example in recent years. And with so much on the line, it's time to begin doing things differently."

No Obama Or Biden Events This Weekend President Obama is spending the weekend with his family in Chicago, while Vice President Biden will be in New York City and Wilmington, Delaware. They do not have any scheduled public events today or tomorrow.

Coleman Campaign: We're Still In It -- And It'll Take A Long Time The Coleman campaign says yesterday's court ruling -- which forbade the counting of various categories of rejected absentee ballots -- has only reduced them to a pool of 3,500 remaining envelopes out of their original set of 4,800. Coleman attorney/spokesman Ben Ginsberg also said the court's imposition of strict requirements for newly-admitted ballots could lengthen the trial: "There may be fewer ballots to look at, but proving them up may take longer."

NYT: Obama Finds Out Bipartisanship Isn't So Easy The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has discovered in the stimulus debates just how difficult it will be to craft bipartisan legislation with the Republican opposition. David Axelrod said the White House has "learned some lessons from this," but is happy with the result, while former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta predicted that Republican support was "wishful thinking" that won't be coming to pass: "If you're going to do this at the moment of greatest need, at the height of his popularity, what sort of thing would get you to change?"

House GOP: We Are Not The Party Of 'No' House Republicans are denying the assertion that they are simply a party opposed to the Democrats' agenda -- instead, they are offering better ideas that aren't being adopted. "I said on the opening day that we wouldn't be the party of 'no' and we haven't been," John Boehner told reporters yesterday. He later added: "If they are not willing to take any of our ideas to work with us in any way - you can't blame us, they are the majority."

Poll: Public Approves Direct Negotiations With Iran A new Gallup poll shows large public support for direct diplomacy with Iran: 56% for it, to 38% against it -- and with even 48% of Republicans supporting it. This is not to say that Americans view Iran favorably, with only 12% favorable and 80% unfavorable, but it does show a large majority in favor of Obama's position of direct engagement with adversaries.

Obama Web Strategist Advising Australian Labor Party Former Obama Web guru Ben Self, founder of Blue State Digital, is following in the footsteps of other American political advisers who break through in a big way. Self is now consulting for an ideologically-aligned party in another county, the Australian Labor Party. (Note that whenever he will be working in Australian politics, Self won't be doing anything to advance liberal policies.)

The Franken campaign just held a conference call with reporters -- quite understandably celebrating a huge win in tonight's ruling by the Minnesota election court, which rejected out of hand counting a large number of absentee ballots that Norm Coleman had been seeking to put into play.

Lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias said that the court has essentially ruled on all 19 disputed categories of rejected absentee ballots -- explicitly against Coleman on 13 of them, and the others are revealed between the lines. "There are four additional categories that the court didn't address either way, but the reasoning of the court would suggest that we also prevailed on those," Elias said. "So there are a total of 17 of the 19 that it appears we've prevailed on, either explicitly or implicitly in the reasoning."

Elias said the Franken campaign appears to have lost on two categories where they wanted some permissiveness, relating to registration issues -- but those rulings were consistent with the others. All in all, he counts this as an extraordinary victory, making Coleman's job of putting additional ballots into the count immensely more difficult.

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The Minnesota election court has just handed down a very important ruling that will determine the entire course of the rest of this trial -- and it's very bad news for Norm Coleman, cutting off multiple avenues he was pursuing in order to get more votes for himself thrown into the count.

Yesterday the court heard arguments regarding the campaigns' positions on 19 categories of rejected absentee ballot envelopes, and whether the voters should be cut sufficient slack as to allow the ballot in. The court has now handed down a ruling on 13 of those categories -- and it's an emphatic No.

Coleman has currently been allowed to argue for the inclusion of about 4,800 ballots, which were selected from the total pool of over 11,000 rejected votes and just so happen to come largely from his own strongholds. What this ruling means is that he is going to have to significantly chop that list down for the remainder of this trial.

This is not the final word on this question -- Coleman will almost certainly appeal it -- but it's been a very rough day.

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I understand that you must stand for re-election as a Democrat in the very conservative state of Oklahoma. But when you said this week that the stimulus bill

became a Democrat bill and not an American bill, because [Obama] didn't use any of the Republican ideas

what were you talking about? In addition to your fondness for using the offensive, GOP-created term for your own party, you appear to believe that "American" bills are only those that Republicans help write.

SEIU National Political Director Jon Youngdahl makes a good point, saying in a statement today that you "apparently [need] a dictionary lesson in what's 'American,' and what's just 'hypocritical,'" but he may be too kind in this case. You voted this afternoon to approve the very stimulus bill you believe is un-American.

Please take some time to re-think this. And while you're doing so, repeat after me: "Democrat-IC, Democrat-IC..."

Love, Elana

In an interview with, Norm Coleman bemoaned the political limbo status created by the Minnesota election trial. That is, he lamented that he is unable to take his seat and serve in the Senate right now.

"It's frustrating," said Coleman, "because you would hope as I humbly do that you have something to add to the debate and be apart of the discussion, both back in DC and also back home."

Remember that Minnesota is currently short one Senator, as the seat is vacant because of Coleman's lawsuit and a threatened filibuster by Republicans against provisionally seating Al Franken.

If you need proof of how obsessive the right-wing media gets about Democratic congressional recess, look at the "story" that was leading the Drudge Report for most of the day.

Oh, that Speaker Pelosi and her high-class, jet-setting habits! She's just the Antoinette-ish type who would oppose health care for disadvantaged kids or leave the middle class in the dust. The headline of "Hurry, Fellas, Let's Vote..." adds a nice ring of subtle sexism.

Yes, Pelosi is spending the recess meeting with Italian officials about the global financial crisis and addressing the nation's legislature. But three Republican officials are taking their own weekend trip to discuss NATO issues in Italy and Austria, as the WaPo reported. Congressional delegations abroad are a fact of recess life, and both parties embark on them.

If you want to see an extreme example of a lawmaker racing out of town after the stimulus vote, try Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). She could be heard by reporters outside the House chamber trying to book a flight out of D.C. before 3pm.