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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was of course President Obama's Republican rival in the 2008 general election, has announced that he will vote against Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's first nominee to the Supreme Court.

In his floor statement, McCain harshly criticized Sotomayor as an activist judge who does not respect the legislative branch, the written law, or the will of the people -- and who is now trying to hide from that record:

I know of no more profoundly anti-democratic attitude than that expressed by those who want judges to discover and enforce the ever-changing boundaries of a so-called 'living Constitution.' It demonstrates a lack of respect for the popular will that is at fundamental odds with our republican system of government. And regardless of one's success in academics and government service, an individual who does not appreciate the common sense limitations on judicial power in our democratic system of government ultimately lacks a key qualification for a lifetime appointment to the bench.

Though she attempted to walk back from her long public record of judicial activism during her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayor cannot change her record.

If you've been paying attention to the political fight over health care reform, you've likely heard something or other about the importance of the August recess. Politicians will be making the case for or against reform. Activists will be supporting and opposing them. Interest groups will be muddying the waters in various ways and turning up the heat on members they hope to influence. It can be so confusing!

So here's what you need to know. Below, I've broken down August activities and events by venue. Key politicians, and outside groups, will take to districts and states, newspapers and airwaves, and backroom meetings to influence reform over while Congress is in recess. And you'll probably have to crawl in a hole for the rest of summer if you want to escape the coming flurry of activity.

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Breaking his silence today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters that Democrats won't hesitate to pass reform legislation as part of October's filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill--if, that is, Max Baucus and Senate Finance Committee negotiators don't come to agreement on a bipartisan package before their new September 15 deadline. Schumer said he wants a bipartisan agreement, but if that proves impossible, "it is not going to stop us from moving forward with health care."

"[W]e will have contingencies in place," Schumer said "Health reform is just too important to let this window pass by."

Schumer's been the public face for the idea of creating a public option on a level playing field with private insurers. But he's also the chairman of the Rules Committee, and in that regard his affirmation of the reconciliation process should carry a great deal of weight.

Still, he says, he'd prefer a bipartisan solution. And on the question of those negotiations, Schumer says that despite the fact that the Senate Finance Committee is likely to endorse a co-op system instead of a public option, he's confident that the final bill will contain the latter.

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has announced that he will vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the Lincoln Journal Star reports -- bringing her one of the last conservative Dem holdouts who hadn't yet stated a position.

"The record shows she is not an activist," said Nelson, adding that Sotomayor has "a great respect for the law."

This means that not only is Sotomayor on track for an easy confirmation, but that the National Rifle Association's last-ditch effort to demand that Senators vote against her has fallen flat. Pro-gun Democrats from across the country are voting for her, anyway. Nelson had previously indicated that the NRA's grading would not be a factor: "I'd probably have a good rating regardless."

President Obama will not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for health care reform, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today. Questions arose about raising taxes after two administration officials seemed to leave such a possibility open during Sunday show interviews.

"The president has made a clear commitment to not raise taxes on middle class families," Gibbs said at his daily press briefing. When pressed, he said, "I don't know how much clearer about his commitment I can be."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers didn't rule out a tax hike during the interviews.

"We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically," Geithner said on ABC's This Week. "We're not at the point yet where we're going to make a judgment about what it's going to take."

"Oh, there's a lot that can happen over time," Summers said on CBS's Face the Nation. "It's never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what."

The Associated Press described the remarks thusly: "Two of President Barack Obama's economic heavyweights said middle-class taxes might have to go up to pare budget deficits or to pay for the proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system."

The possibility of rising taxes for the middle class has become the health care meme of the day.

It's been pretty clear for a while that Democrats will be running against George W. Bush's legacy for years and years to come, and this year's gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia have been no exception. Whether this will work remains to be seen. But for now, how are Republican responding?

Check out this item from the Washington Post, reporting on the use of the Bush attack by Democrats in Virginia:

"I'm sure what happens is they sit around the table and poll George Bush and find that he's still unpopular," said Phil Musser, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association and a political strategist. "Shocking! But it's a tired argument that reflects an old playbook. Didn't America just vote to change the negative politics of the past?"


He's right. The people voted in 2008 for change, to get rid of the negative politics of the past -- which means not saying bad things about George W. Bush!



As Rachel Slajda reported earlier this afternoon, there seems to be a growing incidence of members of Congress being shouted down at town hall events by tea party protestors. Those tactics will likely become much more common. As Think Progress first reported, one tea-party friendly group has disseminated a strategy memo for other anti-reform and anti-government groups, outlining what they consider best-practices for protesters who plan to enter and disrupt town hall events hosted by members of Congress over the August recess--practices that, according to the memo, "could be useful to activists in just about any district where their Congressperson has supported the socialist agenda of the Democrat leadership in Washington."

The memo, authored by Robert MacGuffie, who runs the website rightprinciples.com, suggests that tea partiers should "pack the hall... spread out" to make their numbers seem more significant, and to "rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation...to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early.... to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda...stand up and shout and sit right back down."

MacGuffie is a volunteer for FreedomWorks, the industry funded group that helps organize and support the tea party protests. But he denies that his small group has any direct affiliation with FreedomWorks. "We are recommending with that memo that other grassroots groups that share our view should go to the townhalls of their members and use the strategy that we did," MacGuffie told me, confirming the memo's authenticity. "We are trying to get into that town halls to make them understand that they do not have the unanimous support from people in their communities."

If these tactics catch on, and August recess health care events are characterized by organized agit-prop, it could have a dramatic impact on the tenor of the health care debate, and the media coverage of the events this month. Buckle your seatbelts.

President Obama spoke today about the new GI Bill at George Mason University in Virginia. The program will pay for in-state public school tuition for troops who have served since Sept. 11, 2001. Here's the official White House transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Good morning, everybody.



AUDIENCE: Good morning.



THE PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to see all of you and wonderful to have one of the best partners that anybody could have in elected office, our Vice President, Joe Biden -- thrilled to have him here. (Applause.)



I want to thank Staff Sergeant Miller for the gracious introduction. I want to thank President Merten for his hospitality. There are a couple of people here who deserve all the credit, because they got a very tough bill done -- and part of the reason they were able to get it done was just because of their extraordinary personal credibility. These are -- one is new to the Senate and one had been there a while, and yet together they formed an incredibly formidable team. They're both class acts. Please give a big round of applause to Virginia's own, John Warner and Jim Webb. (Applause.)



I know that we've got a number of member[s] of Congress who are here and I want to thank them all for their outstanding work. I want to point out that Senator Mark Warner could not be here, but we appreciate him. We've got the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, a hero in his own right, General Eric Shinseki, and I want everybody to please acknowledge him. (Applause.) And of the original bill sponsors who could not be here today, we've got Senator Chuck Hagel, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Representative Harry Mitchell, Representative Bobby Scott, Representative Ginny Brown-Waite, and Representative Peter King. All of them worked hard along with the delegation that is present, so we are very grateful to all of them.



I want to join all of today's speakers in thanking those of you who worked so hard to make this occasion possible. But above all, I want to pay tribute to the veterans who are now advancing their dreams by pursuing an education.



Obviously I'm honored to be here, and to renew our commitment to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America get the opportunities that they have earned. I was a proud co-sponsor of the Post-9/11 GI Bill as senator. I'm committed to working with Secretary Shinseki to see that it is successfully implemented as President.



And we do this not just to meet our moral obligation to those who've sacrificed greatly on our behalf and on behalf of the country. We do it because these men and women must now be prepared to lead our nation in the peaceful pursuit of economic leadership in the 21st century.



This generation of servicemen and women has already earned a place of honor in American history. Each of them signed up to serve, many after they knew that they would be sent into harm's way. Over the last eight years, they have endured tour after tour of duty in dangerous and distant places. They've experienced grueling combat -- from the streets of Fallujah to the harsh terrain of Helmand Province. They've adapted to complex insurgencies, protected local populations, and trained foreign security forces. So by any measure, they are the authors of one of the most extraordinary chapters of military service in the history of our nation.



And I don't make that statement lightly. For we know that anyone who puts on the uniform joins an unbroken line of selfless patriots that stretches back to Lexington and Concord. The freedom and prosperity that we enjoy would not exist without the service of generations of Americans who were willing to bear the heaviest and most dangerous burden.



But we also know this: The contributions that our servicemen and women can make to this nation do not end when they take off that uniform. We owe a debt to all who serve. And when we repay that debt to those bravest Americans among us, then we are investing in our future -- not just their future, but also the future of our own country.



Now, this was the lesson that America was sometimes too slow to learn. After the Civil War and World War I, we saw far too many veterans who were denied the chance to live their dreams -- men who were unable to find in peace the hope that they had fought for in war.



And FDR knew this. In 1943, before the beaches of Normandy were stormed and the treacherous terrain of Iwo Jima was taken, he told the nation that the veterans of World War II would be treated differently. He said that they must not be demobilized, and I quote, "to a place on a bread line" -- demobilized "to a place on a bread line or on a corner selling apples." Instead, Roosevelt said, "The American people will insist on fulfilling this American obligation to the men and women in the Armed Forces who are winning this war for us."



That is precisely what the American people did. The GI Bill was approved just weeks after D-Day, and carried with it a simple promise to all who had served: You pick the school, we'll help pick up the bill. And what followed was not simply an opportunity for our veterans -- it was a transformation for our country. By 1947, half of all Americans enrolled in college were veterans. Ultimately, this would lead to three Presidents, three Supreme Court justices, 14 Nobel Prize winners, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners. But more importantly, it produced hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers, doctors and nurses -- the backbone of the largest middle class in history. All told, nearly 8 million Americans were educated under the original GI Bill, including my grandfather.



No number can sum up this sea change in our society. Reginald Wilson, a fighter pilot from Detroit, said, "I didn't know anyone who went to college. I never would have gone to college had it not been for the GI Bill." H.G. Jones, a Navy man from North Carolina, said, "What happened in my rural Caswell County community happened all over the country ¼ going to college was no longer a novelty." Indeed, one of the men who went to college on the GI Bill, as I mentioned, was my grandfather, and I would not be standing here today if that opportunity had not led him West in search of opportunity.



So we owe the same obligations to this generation of servicemen and women, as was afforded that previous generation. That is the promise of the post-1911 [sic] GI Bill. It's driven by the same simple logic that drove the first GI Bill -- you pick the school, we'll help pick up the bill. And looking out at the audience today, I'm proud to see so many veterans who will be able to pursue their education with this new support from the American people.



And this is even more important than it was in 1944. The first GI Bill helped build a post-war economy that has been transformed by revolutions in communications and technology. And that's why the post-1911 -- 9/11 GI Bill must give today's veterans the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of tomorrow. Education is the currency that can purchase success in the 21st century, and this is the opportunity that our troops have earned.



I'm also proud that all who have borne the burden of service these last several years will have access to this opportunity. We are including reservists and National Guard members, because they have carried out unprecedented deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are including the military families who have sacrificed so much, by allowing the transfer of unused benefits to family members. And we are including those who pay the ultimate price by making this benefit available to the children of those who lost their life in service to their country.



This is not simply a debt that we are repaying to the remarkable men and women who have served -- it is an investment in our own country. The first GI Bill paid for itself many times over through the increased revenue that came from a generation of men and women who received the skills and education that they needed to create their own wealth. The veterans who are here today -- like the young post-9/11 veterans around the country -- can lead the way to a lasting economic recovery and become the glue that holds our communities together. They, too, can become the backbone of a growing American middle class.



And even as we help our veterans learn the skills they need to succeed, I know that all of us can learn something from the men and women who serve our country. We have lived through an age when many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly -- when service often took a backseat to short-term profits; when hard choices were put aside for somebody else, for some other time. It's a time when easy distractions became the norm, and the trivial has been taken too seriously.



The men and women who have served since 9/11 tell us a different story. While so many were reaching for the quick buck, they were heading out on patrol. While our discourse often produced more heat than light, especially here in Washington, they have put their very lives on the line for America. They have borne the responsibility of war. And now, with this policy, we are making it clear that the United States of America must reward responsibility, and not irresponsibility. Now, with this policy, we are letting those who have borne the heaviest burden lead us into the 21st century.



And so today, we honor the service of an extraordinary generation, and look to America that they will help build tomorrow. With the post-9/11 GI Bill, we can give our veterans the chance to live their dreams. And we can help unleash their talents and tap their creativity and be guided by their sense of responsibility to their fellow citizens and to this country that we all love so much.



May God bless our troops and our veterans, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)

The Moonlite BunnyRanch, perhaps the most media-savvy legal brothel in Nevada, is offering a new special: Free "good time party passes" for all Senators, House members and governors.

In the official press release, BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof says the giveaway is offered in light of such politicians as David Vitter, John Ensign, Eliot Spitzer, and others who have run into sex scandals:

Dennis says, "these men are good men who have gotten themselves into trouble and could have avoided all of this exploitation by visiting the BunnyRanch." Dennis encourages all of our government officials to salvage their careers, public reputation and families by partying discretely and legally at the Moonlite BunnyRanch.


The problem is, this would presumably violate ethics rules that place a $50 limit on gifts to lawmakers.

Angry teabaggers and other opponents of health care reform are heckling members of Congress at their town hall meetings back home in an effort to sway the debate and drown out reform supporters.

This weekend, a group of teabaggers showed up at a town hall in Philadelphia with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They shouted and booed to drown out remarks from both officials and questions from the audience. The Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots reportedly brought 40 people. Watch:



In Austin on Saturday, protesters followed Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) out of a forum at a grocery store, chanting "Just say no!" after he told the crowd he'd vote for a health care reform bill even if his constituents opposed it. Watch.

These aren't the first incidents of this kind, but we think it's a pretty safe bet they'll continue and intensify throughout August.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) has suspended town hall meetings after screaming protesters disrupted a June 22 forum in Long Island to the point where residents called the police to escort Bishop to his car.

Last week, a crowd erupted into thunderous applause after a soldier demanded an apology from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) at a town hall with her staff. (The senator wasn't there.) The meeting was moderated by Americans for Prosperity's Missouri chapter. AFP was a major organizer of the tax day "tea party" protests.

Make sure to check out the teabaggers' strategy memo obtained by Think Progress.

Late update: We'll be adding more incidents as we track them down.

On July 6, Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) held a town hall meeting that devolved into a shouting match, with tea party protesters loudly interrupting whenever someone mentioned a public plan. Maffei threatened to break up the meeting, and has since said he plans to hold smaller, less publicized events with constituents.

Late late update: On Saturday, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) showed up to a restaurant, where he was supposed to hold one-on-one meetings with constituents, to find 150 angry people who demanded it be a Q&A, town hall style meeting. Murphy and his staff obliged, and changed the format at a second event held later in the day.

The crowd "erupted in a chorus of boos and catcalls" when Murphy said he thought Obama was doing a "pretty great job." Murphy tried to keep the crowd cool, admonishing hecklers from time to time to be respectful.

Late late late update: Saturday was a red-letter day for these protesters. A group shouted the Pledge of Allegiance at Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) as he left a local Democratic Party picnic, where he had pushed for universal health care. Watch:

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