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The Blago-Burris affair has been simmering away quietly in the background for the last few months. And today brought some interesting news, via the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burris' lawyer said that last November -- about a month before Blagojevich picked him to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat -- Burris promised Blago's brother he'd write a check to the then-governor's campaign.

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TPMmuckraker favorite Alberto Gonzales went on CNN this afternoon to talk Sotomayor.

But Wolf Blitzer also asked him about the ongoing torture debate. And it was interesting to see that Gonzo -- who was White House counsel at the time the torture policies were first formulated -- seemed eager to shift any blame onto the Justice Department he would later go on to lead.

Pressed by Blitzer about his role in approving torture, he first clarified that he wasn't at the Justice Department at the key time, and said "It's the responsibility of the Department of Justice to provide legal guidance on behalf of the executive branch."

In other words: blame Ashcroft, Yoo, and Bybee.

Of course, it's unclear how that stance lines up with a report that Gonzo, while at the White House, personally signed off on CIA requests to conduct torture.

Gonzo also assured Blitzer: "I stand by my record," and "I did my best to defend our country."

Watch:

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released this statement today on the Sotomayor nomination, reminding us all that he voted against her confirmation to the appeals court in 1998 -- and apparently questioning whether she can make rulings independent of her race and gender:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement regarding President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Inhofe was one of 29 U.S. Senators that voted against Sotomayor's nomination to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

"Without doubt, Judge Sotomayor's personal life story is truly inspiring. I congratulate her on being nominated. As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation process, I look forward to looking closer at her recent rulings and her judicial philosophy.

"Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern. In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences."


As Dana Goldstein points out, this does raise the question of whether Inhofe thinks the seven white men on the court are immune from any similar questions.

Obama and Biden accompany new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House for a press conference Tuesday morning.

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Sotomayor's mom, Celina.

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Mike Huckabee has some high praise for Michael Steele -- though it's not the most graceful acclaim ever given.

"I'm not sure anyone else could be as effective in challenging the Obama policies any more so than Michael," said Huckabee. The reason: "Well, I believe that that no one is gonna be able to use the racism charge."

Fun fact: Steele said last week Obama won with the help of the media -- who didn't vet him because he's black.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has some thoughts on Sotomayor, too. "Of primary importance," he says, "we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views."

Pretty standard stuff. But then he warns that the confirmation process might last beyond the fall, when the Supreme Court begins its next term.

President Obama has stated his desire to have a full court seated at the start of its next term, a reasonable goal toward which the Judiciary Committee should responsibly and diligently move. But we must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process. Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers.


That's not outrageous, but it should be noted that the confirmation processes for Justices Roberts and Alito lasted about two and three months respectively. If that's the window Sessions has in mind, I'm sure Judge Sotomayor would be much obliged.

Late update: Just as a point of reference, when Roberts and Alito were under consideration in the Senate, Sessions took care to refer to both men as judges in his press releases.

Earlier today, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called in to MSNBC to raise concerns about a judge whom he's supported twice.



Hatch cites, among other things, an article Sotomayor wrote in 1996--two years before he supported her confirmation to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. But, he says, the Supreme Court is a different thing altogether.

As a senior, and influential, member of the Judiciary Committee, Hatch will have significant sway over how quickly and smoothly the coming confirmation process moves forward.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--who's been giving Barack Obama a tough time of late--has released a statement on the Sotomayor nomination. "President Obama is to be commended for selecting a nominee with a significant breadth and depth of legal experience to replace retiring Justice David Souter," Nelson says, "I look forward to learning more about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's background, record and qualifications -- and to meeting with her to discuss her judicial philosophy -- as this important United States Supreme Court nomination moves forward."

Nelson supported both of George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees, and gave the previous President wide latitude on judicial and executive nominations in general. But in recent weeks he's become a key obstacle to the confirmation of Dawn Johnsen, who Obama nominated to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel months ago.

His full statement is below the fold.

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Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) has released a statement on the Sotomayor nomination, promising to make a thorough review of her record -- as soon as he's re-elected:

ST. PAUL - Senator Norm Coleman today released the following statement in response to President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

"When debating judges, I was firm that I would use the same standard to evaluate judges under a Democrat President as I would a Republican President. Are they intellectually competent, do they have a record of integrity, and most importantly, are they committed to following the Constitution rather than creating new law and policy. When I am re-elected, I intend to review Judge Sotomayor's record using this process. Certainly, the nomination of a Hispanic woman to the nation's highest court is something all American's should applaud."


In all fairness to Coleman, Al Franken has also released a statement on the Sotomayor pick. On the other hand, as my TPM colleague Justin Elliott pointed out to me, Coleman's blog page shows that nearly all the posts over the last several months have been focused on his legal battle against Franken's victory, with barely any other comments on serious current issues.

When Barack Obama arrives in Los Angeles tomorrow, he'll be greeted by this ad.



The spot is also scheduled to air in the Sacramento and Fresno media markets.

The Service Employees International Union is trying to prevent the California government from significantly slashing the wages of home health workers, and want the Obama administration back on board. The White House had originally threatened to withhold billions of dollars in stimulus money from the ailing state if they went through with the cuts, but ultimately backed off, leaving workers without much leverage or national support in their effort to get the cuts overturned.

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