In it, but not of it. TPM DC

This is not completely unexpected, but it is very much new. The AFL-CIO has sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to vote 'yes' on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. Labor has been involved in the process for a while, and fairness to workers was a key consideration for the lawmakers who wrote the bill. But this is also the first time the group has supported energy legislation like this, and the move gives cover to moderates and representatives from blue collar districts to support the bill and avoid inevitable jobs attacks.

The full letter appears below the fold.

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While House Minority Leader John Boehner might be refraining, at least for now, from claiming that cap and trade legislation will cost consumers thousands of dollars a year, he's still attacking the Waxman-Markey bill. His latest tactic involves placing a bunch of brightly colored words and acronyms on a poster and citing it as evidence that addressing climate change is just too complicated.

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"If you look at this chart, this is how this process will work," Boehner said, referring to the above illustration which outlines no process whatsoever. "With the EPA being in the middle, look at all of these different agencies that are involved. This is the most elaborate thing that I have seen and you know, I have been here a while and I've seen some pretty crazy things, but I have never seen anything this ridiculous."

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Earlier this week I reported that a Congressional Budget Office analysis had determined that--despite what Republicans have been alleging for weeks--the Waxman-Markey climate change bill will have only a modest financial impact on American households.

My inquiry about this discrepancy to House Minority Leader John Boehner's office went unanswered, but the next day, Boehner distributed a new set of talking points which omitted the once-omnipresent claim that the legislation would cost the average household over $3,000 annually.

Not everyone's following protocol, though.

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Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) got a rare piece of good legal news today -- though it's unrelated to the pending matter of his appeal at the Minnesota Supreme Court of his election defeat which everyone expects him to lose.

The Federal Election Commission has ruled that Coleman can use campaign funds to pay for legal fees associated with the Nasser Kazeminy case, which involves a lawsuit in Texas alleging that a businessman conspired to funnel money to Coleman via his wife.

The committee went with existing precedents that campaign funds can be used to defend against accusations relating to a politician's official position -- that is, that nobody would have sought to bribe Coleman if he weren't a Senator.

However, the committee is silent on whether Coleman can use money from his special recount committee, which is distinct from his re-election fund.

The Club For Growth is looking to employ a fun new tactic against their long-time nemesis, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-turned-D-PA), and has sent a letter to the FEC asking permission for this novel maneuver: To send a mass mailing to previous Specter donors, reminding them of the incumbent's offer to return donations to anyone who asks, and including a form to help them do just that!

The Club, of course, previously bankrolled then-Rep. Pat Toomey's conservative primary challenge against Specter in 2004, which Specter just barely won by 51%-49%. Toomey became the Club's president some time afterward, then left to challenge Specter again in 2010 with the group's full backing. This then led to Specter's party switch, and he singled them out for condemnation during his press conference announcing his move.

The Club's letter to the FEC includes their arguments for why they believe this action by them is permitted under the law, along with various disclaimers -- that Specter is not legally required to return donations and their own letter would remind recipients of this, that they would not broker any mailing lists from this, that they won't solicit recipients for any donations to the Club or another candidate, etc.

Bottom line: Assuming this is legal, the Club has found yet another way to annoy Specter.

The State Department (finally) has a new legal adviser. Harold Koh was confirmed by the Senate this afternoon by a vote of 62-35.

That's actually a slightly narrower margin than he received on the cloture vote that ended the filibuster on his nomination. That vote was 65-31, indicating that a small handful of senators didn't support the filibuster, but then voted against confirmation. We'll track down who those senators are once the roll call goes live. Their precedent is one that supporters of Justice Department nominee Dawn Johnsen have been hoping for for months. But at least for the time being it seems as if very few of her opponents are willing to at least support giving her an up or down vote.

Late update: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Judd Gregg (R-NH) voted to end the filibuster on Koh, and then voted against his confirmation.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie was called of the campaign trail today, where he is the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey and is running ahead of the Democratic incumbent in the polls, for a special engagement in Washington -- to be grilled by House Democrats in a committee hearing over his having awarded a contract to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

At issue here is Christie's negotiation of what are called "deferred prosecution agreements" (DPAs), under which corporations who got in trouble could avoid prosecution by agreeing to hire special monitors to force corrective actions and provide oversight. For example, a medical device company would make restitution to consumers for liability cases, without going through the sort of more grueling legal processes that would potentially hurt business and cost jobs.

At a hearing today of the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, Democrats aired e-mails from one company, Zimmer Holdings, complaining that John Ashcroft's firm was demanding an exorbitant amount of money. Christie and the GOP, meanwhile, charged that the whole thing was a political stunt.

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Speaking moments ago to a large and animated crowd of union organizers and health reform advocates in a brewing house just North of the Capitol, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said he supports a public insurance option.

"Schumer has it right about having a public component," Specter said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken a lead role on negotiations over the public option in the Senate Finance Committee, and earlier this year proposed a compromise: the committee's health care bill should include a public plan, he said, but one that competes on a level playing field with other insurers. Such an entity wouldn't be able to use its sheer size to set prices the way Medicare does--but it could nonetheless incur savings in a host of other ways, and in so doing drive down the cost of health insurance in the private market.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the Schumer proposal is in line with the principles of the major reform campaign Health Care for America Now--and, as such, just about every major health care and labor organization in the country.

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Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose conservative primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter triggered the incumbent's shocking party switch, is building up further momentum towards the GOP nomination, with this campaign announcing the endorsement of Congressman Joe Pitts.

"Pat Toomey is the right candidate. No one else comes close," Pitts says in the press release, later adding: "A lot of politicians have lost credibility in recent years. Pat Toomey isn't one of them. Pat has good ideas that he actually believes in, and he will work hard to make people's lives better."

The Republican Party establishment briefly went looking for other possible candidates, but prospective recruits like former Gov. Tom Ridge or Rep. Jim Gerlach all bowed out. As it now stands, Specter is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak -- but we can be pretty sure that the winner of the Dem primary will have Pat Toomey as his general election opponent.

On his radio show today, Rush Limbaugh offered his own explanation for the Mark Sanford scandal: That Sanford flew out of the country to have an affair because President Obama drove him over the edge:



"This is almost like, 'I don't give a damn, the country's going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'" said Limbaugh. "He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn't want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, 'What the Hell. I mean, I'm -- the federal government's taking over -- what the Hell, I want to enjoy life.'"

"The point is," he added, "there are a lot of people whose spirit is just -- they're fed up, saying to Hell with it, I don't even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it."

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