TPM News

TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: The marathon mark-up of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's health care reform bill continued. Meanwhile, with the idea of capping the health insurance tax exclusion now on ice, a Finance Committee staffer unveiled some of the other funding schemes the panel is considering.

  • Climate Change: Looks like the Senate action on climate change legislation has been pushed back to September.

  • Nominations: The Senate Judiciary Committee released the witness list for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing. The hearing will begin on Monday, stretching on for days. And the GOP has invited a few doozies to testify.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), whose appointment to the Senate by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was embroiled in controversy, will not run for a full term in 2010.

Burris reportedly only raised $20,000 in the past quarter, making it impossible for him to run a real campaign. Polls also showed consistently that he would lose the Democratic primary, and if he were nominated he would lose the general election.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money. It's also expected that businessman Chris Kennedy, a son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, could get in.

A source told the Sun-Times that Burris was concerned about how people will remember him, after all the controversy that has happened: "After 20 years in government service, Burris didn't want the last four months in office to be that legacy."

After taking heat from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) for weeks, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is fighting back. "Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in a statement today. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process."

According to the website, the Specter campaign has been building up to the charge for days. "Specter's campaign," they report, "pointed out Sestak's registration history, first in a message to supporters Monday, later in follow-up messages to a reporter and again in a fierce statement against Sestak Thursday."

The attack is based on the allegation that, until recently, Sestak often did not vote in major elections, and didn't register as a Democrat until 2006. It's hard to say whether it'll stick, but it does seem to indicate that, with a primary challenge all certain, Specter's getting riled.

Whatever the merits of Specter's statement, it certainly more reasonable than the attacks Sestak's old rival levied against him in 2006. In that race, Republican Curt Weldon hit Sestak--a navy admiral--for having not lived in the district for years and years. Gee, I wonder why that might've been.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is now the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey, has made it official: He does not want Sarah Palin coming to campaign for him -- and he doesn't think it would help him.

"This is about New Jersey issues and New Jersey, and I don't think having Governor Palin here would do me, or frankly the state, a whole lot of good in the sense that we need to talk and focus on what the New Jersey issues are," Christie said during a radio interview.

He's not above having outside help coming in, though, but of a different sort: "I hope Mayor Giuliani will continue to be supportive and be here and work with me, but other than that, I think the people of New Jersey have to hear from me and that's the person they'll be electing."

The state Republican Party chairman had previously made similar comments, though not quite as blunt. It would be hard to assume that this is related to Palin's latest round of controversy from her resignation as Governor of Alaska. New Jersey is a socially-liberal state that simply doesn't have much room in it for politicians from the Christian Right. So Christie probably had the same attitude even before the recent news.

The US Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination of Republican voter-suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky to a state-level body that advises the commission.

Lenore Ostrowsky, a spokeswoman for the USCCR -- whose mission is to defend voting rights -- confirmed to TPMmuckraker that commissioners will vote at a Friday morning meeting on Spakovsky's nomination to the State Advisory Committee for Virginia, where he lives. According to a source, it is likely that Spakovsky's nomination will be approved.

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An FBI agent displays cash found in the freezer of former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). Jurors in Jefferson's bribery trial saw this and other pictures July 8.


The cash was wrapped in $10,000 increments and hidden in frozen food boxes. Prosecutors allege that Jefferson received $400,000 in bribes. The defense says it was perfectly legal for him to receive payment for private consulting services.


Some cash was hidden in a box of pie crusts. Jefferson allegedly sought millions for using his power to arrange business deals in Africa.


More money was found in a Boca Burgers box. Jefferson lost his re-election campaign last year.


Jefferson's kitchen, home to the infamous freezer.


The interim foreign minister for Honduras apologized after the U.S. envoy there expressed "deep outrage" over his "disrespectful and racially insensitive comments."

Ortez Colindres called President Obama a "negrito," or "little black man," several times last week. Colindres is a minister for Roberto Micheletti, Honduras's leader since Manuel Zelaya was overthrown.

After the ambassador, Hugo Llorens, responded angrily, Colindres issued an apology.

"Please accept my profound apologies and my sincere expressions of friendship directed at this great nation that is the United States of America, which allows me to contribute in the best way to a happy understanding between that great country and the democracy that is the republic of Honduras," he said.

A Daily Kos diarist translated another quote from Colindres, reported in Spanish in El Tiempo, as even a little worse:

I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.

Here's the original quote from El Tiempo, which includes the caveat that Colindres was speaking both jokingly and seriously:

"He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos", dijo Colindres en broma y en serio.

Either the pickings were slim, or Republicans didn't use much imagination when they selected witnesses to testify against Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing next week. They invited the legal experts New Haven firefighters, and they invited a Bush appointee who warned of Arab internment, and, it seems, they invited someone who wouldn't have been happy with any pro-choice nominee of any stripe.

"For all the President's talk of finding 'common ground,' this appointment completely contradicts that hollow promise," said Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, when Obama announced his first Supreme Court pick.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's judicial philosophy undermines common ground. She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board denying the American people to right to be heard on this critical issue....

A vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court Justice is a vote to strip Americans of the ability to choose for themselves how to regulate abortion.

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It now looks like the grand saga of the New York state Senate, which involved the chamber coming to a halt as two Democrats flipped control of the chamber by joining up with the Republicans, is now coming to an end. And it has a very amusing denouement.

State Sen. Pedro Espada, a Bronx Democrat who had joined up with the Republicans in exchange for them making him state Senate President, is now returning to the Democratic caucus in a new role -- as Majority Leader! Espada told the New York Post that he has a "handshake deal" to return to the Dems in his new leadership position. His fellow renegade in this whole operation, Queens state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, had previously gone back to the Dems, too.

This is now Espada's fourth party switch in his career. Back in 2002, he'd switched from the Democrats to supporting Republican control, then was defeated for re-election by a Dem. Then last year he returned to the chamber as a Democrat from another district, then embarked on this whole adventure.

As Winston Churchill said of his own switch from the Conservative Party to the Liberals, then later back to the Conservatives: Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat. And in Sir Winston's defense, his switches took place over the course of 20 years, as various realignments of the British political system were going on. Espada, by contrast, has had the ingenuity to switch and re-switch in the course of weeks, after having already done it before.

In a now-infamous raid on a Democratic Congressional candidate's fundraiser, the San Diego Sheriff's Department used pepper spray and mobilized multiple patrol cars, a canine unit, and, to top it all off, even a police helicopter. All to subdue a small gathering of middle- and retirement-aged Democrats in a private home. It turns out the department has a program it calls ASTREA (Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies), after the Greek goddess of justice, and a penchant for photographing its choppers in action.

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

San Diego Sheriff's Department

Read the full coverage of the raid at TPMDC here.

San Diego Sheriff's Department