TPM News

Dem Ad Promotes Obama Budget, Door To Door Campaign The DNC and Organizing For America have released this new TV ad promoting President Obama's budget plan:

Interestingly, the ad focuses on OFA's recent door to door canvassing efforts to sign up supporters for the budget, utilizing the same grassroots appeal in government as Obama used on the campaign trail. The ad will run on national cable and in the D.C. media market -- essentially aimed at the political class and higher-information voters.

Obama Holding Online Town Hall Today President Obama is holding a live "Open for Questions" online town hall at 11:30 a.m. today, focused on the economy. The White House will be taking questions here, but submissions and voting close at 9:30 a.m. ET -- so if you want to pitch something, now is your chance.

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Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the number two Democrat in the House has put out a fairly suggestive flyer hammering Republicans in both bodies for their sudden and hypocritical aversion to passing controversial legislation via budget reconciliation. It reads in part:

The budget reconciliation process has been used most years since it was first used in 1980, including in recent years when Republicans controlled Congress and considered the following legislation:
  • 2005 - Legislation That Reduced Spending on Medicaid and Raised Premiums on Upper-Income Medicare Beneficiaries
  • 2003 - President Bush's 2003 Tax Cuts
  • 2001 - President Bush's Signature $1.35 Trillion Tax Cut
  • 2000 - $292 Billion "Marriage Penalty" Tax Cut (VETOED)
  • 1997 - Balanced Budget Act
  • 1996 - Legislation to Enact Welfare Reform
  • 1995 - "Contract With America" Agenda

And then it names names. Specifically, it calls out such influential Republicans as John Boehner, Judd Gregg, and Charles Grassley, who as recently as three years ago were singing the praises of the reconciliation process as a way to circumvent Democratic filibuster efforts. But now, in an unsurprising twist, they strongly oppose it. Just last week, in a somewhat melodramatic episode, Gregg compared the maneuver to "running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River."

This all occurs against the backdrop of a brewing controversy over the possibility that Democrats will try to pass several aspects of Obama's agenda via reconciliation. And whether they genuinely intend to go that route, or are trying to pressure Republicans into crossing the aisle on issues like climate change and health reform, Hoyer's move is more fuel for the fire.

The whole flyer can be seen here.

Michael Steele just doesn't know how to stop.

Steele appeared on CNN this afternoon, and was asked by host Don Lemon whether he's ever considered running for president, and right off the bat he managed to give the sensible, correct answer: "No. I'm telling you, I'm looking you in the eye honestly and telling you that, without blinking and without hesitation. Straight up."

But then he was asked if he would ever consider doing it, and he kept the door open should the opportunity arise -- even speaking in an optimistic, cheerful tone. "But, you know, God has a way of revealing stuff to you, and making it real for you, through others," he said. "And if that's part of the plan, it'll be the plan. We may have this conversation in eight, ten, 12 years and you'll sit back and you'll play the tape back and say, 'Oh, look at what you said!' But it'll be because that's where God wants me to be at that time."

Steele then gave a monologue about the nature of politics today, and how he would need to have a long discussion with his family if this ever came up. But he said no party officials have ever approached him about this: "No. I think they kind of look at me and scratch their head and go, 'Okay, what is this?'"

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This is just the headache that beleaguered Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis needs...

It looks like B of A is facing legal woes as a result of its hastily arranged deal to buy Merrill Lynch last fall, and its subsequent statements about Merrill's finances.

The Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.):

Five public pension funds are seeking lead status in a class-action suit against Bank of America Corp., alleging that the nation's largest bank by assets made "untrue statements" in the run-up to its purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co. and did not disclose material information to shareholders.

The funds claim to have lost $274 million on their Bank of America investments between July 21, 2008 and Jan. 20, 2009.

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House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was asked by NBC this morning if President Obama "said anything last night that you and your colleagues will support."

And Cantor answered in great detail ... which must mean he caught Obama's press conference on TiVo during breakfast. Because the rising GOP star went straight from a campaign fundraiser to Britney Spears' sold-out D.C. concert last night.

Here's how Cantor's office explained it to Wonkette, which first reported this fact today:

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The New York State Board of Elections is nearing a final resolution with the Justice Department in a lawsuit over this Tuesday's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, a board spokesman tells TPM.

The DOJ filed a lawsuit yesterday, complaining that the state didn't allow enough time under federal law for overseas voters to get their ballots in. The ballots were sent out about two weeks ago, and the election is this Tuesday, while the federal government is calling for at least 30 days.

Board spokesman John Conklin informs TPM that the state is now hammering out a consent decree with the DOJ to extend the window of time for accepting overseas ballots, which under New York law are normally required to arrive by up to one week after the election. Six additional days will be added on to that window, though voters must still mail their ballots by this coming Monday.

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Jon Cannon, President Obama's nominee to become deputy chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, withdrew from consideration today with a veiled reference to "scrutiny" of his association with America's Clean Water Foundation (ACWF) -- a group that the EPA inspector general cited in 2007 for steering federal grant money to the livestock industry.

ACWF has not made the news or attracted congressional criticism for any recent misdeeds. In fact, its attorneys told the EPA in 2006 that the entire group had abruptly dissolved, disappearing into thin air as the inspector general advised the government to claw back more than $21 million in federal grant money that had gone from ACWF into the hands of the National Pork Producer Council.

What did Cannon have to do with that shady move on ACWF's part? Nothing, according to his statement, released today through EPA:

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A new poll of North Carolina from the Civitas Institute (R) confirms that GOP Sen. Richard Burr is in serious danger for 2010. When matched up against possible Democratic candidate Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General, Burr is trailing by a 41%-38% margin, within the ±4% margin of error.

Last week, a survey from Public Policy Polling (D) put Burr narrowly ahead of a generic Democrat, though PPP didn't test Cooper specifically.

The pollster's analysis from Civitas shows that both of these candidates remain largely unknown to the general public -- even though Burr is the incumbent U.S. Senator. Burr's favorables are actually a little better than Cooper's, but he's trailing in a direct match-up. The analysis concludes that Burr in and of himself polls well, compared to Cooper, but putting it on a partisan ballot is a different scenario.

On the one hand, this shouldn't be too surprising after last fall, when Kay Hagan won a landslide Senate victory and Barack Obama narrowly carried the state. On the other hand, things sure have changed when the inherent advantage is in being a Democrat in a race for federal office in North Carolina.

Late Update: It's worth noting that PPP did test Cooper against Burr back in December, and also showed him narrowly ahead with a high undecided number.

As I mentioned earlier, today's breaking budget news is that the congressional budget committees released their budget blueprints. There are some notable differences between the House and Senate resolutions, and both differ from the president's proposal--the House plan, for instance, will drop the deficit to $600 billion over five years, compared to the $500 billion in the Senate plan, whereas the Congressional Budget Office predicted higher deficits under Obama's outline. Still the administration and congressional leaders are playing these differences down.

There's some good reason for that, but the bigger issue still looms in the background: reconciliation. Reconciliation enables certain types of fiscal legislation--including, significantly, some of Barack Obama's major agenda items--to be bundled together and voted on immune from the threat of filibuster.

Republicans see this as a major threat and for the last several days have been lividly decrying the entire process, threatening to respond to any attempts to put health and energy reforms into a reconciliation bill by going 'nuclear'. Nuclear in this instance has nothing to do with atomic physics or with filibustering judges but instead with a senatorial tendency to indulge in hyperbole when describing their powers.

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The NRCC has this new attack ad in the special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, accusing Dem candidate Scott Murphy of being part of the Wall Street-AIG bonus crowd -- and even giving illegitimate bonuses in his own business work:

"AIG. Wall Street. Scott Murphy," the announcer says. Which brings us a big irony in this race -- that the Republican is running a populist campaign, and accusing the Democrat of being a Wall Street fat cat. If it works, the GOP will be using this theme for some time to come.

The claim itself was previously fact-checked by the Albany Times-Union, who didn't have a high opinion of it. Murphy did award $1.2 million in bonuses to executives at a technology company, in a year when they were $1.6 million in the red -- but it was at a time when there was definite upward progress going on, with almost three times the net sales from two years earlier. And furthermore, it's not uncommon for tech companies to run losses for years before making it into the black.