TPM News

In a widely expected move, the Senate has voted overwhelmingly to block the $80 million President Obama requested to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The roll call here. The margin was 90-6.

Yesterday, Senate Democratic leaders announced that they wouldn't hand over the money needed to close the facility until Obama releases a comprehensive plan detailing what the administration will do with remaining detainees. We'll have more on the breakdown between Congress and the White House later today.

Tomorrow, Obama will deliver a major national security address in which he is expected to address Guantanamo and a number of other controversial issues.

Congressional Republicans have released an outline of what they call the Patients' Choice Act--their alternative to health care legislation due shortly out of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. They will refer to this in the coming weeks as they attempt to defeat Democratic reform efforts, and, at the very least, it's a much more thorough document than was, say, the House GOP's alternative budget, which was mocked loudly all across the capital.

More on the merits later. (As a sneak peak, the PCA, like the Republican budget, includes a predictable scheme to turn Medicare into a boon for private insurers.)

But of course, with Republicans out of power, this plan is mostly meant to serve rhetorical purposes--it's not really a plausible direction for health reform under Democratic rule. If you're looking for some insight into how they plan to attack the forthcoming legislation, though, it's a pretty good primer.

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The Republican establishment is continuing to line up for Gov. Charlie Crist's (R-FL) bid for the open GOP-held Senate seat in Florida, with John McCain now endorsing Crist's candidacy.

Crist was endorsed by the NRSC right after he declared his candidacy, and he has a wide lead right now in the latest poll against his more conservative primary challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. Crist endorsed McCain shortly before the 2008 Florida primary, in which McCain's win solidified his momentum for the nomination.

"Now more than ever, we need leaders who are committed to lower taxes, limiting government spending, and fighting for the people are needed in Washington," McCain said in the statement -- a bit ironic, in light of Crist's vocal support for the stimulus bill that McCain and the overwhelming majority of Republicans have opposed.

You can't help but get the feeling that Republican donors to Norm Coleman's legal fight really do like the fact that this is preventing the Democrats from seating a 60th Senator.

Greg Sargent reports that Dirk Van Dongen, who heads up the "Team Coleman" group of lobbyists raising money for Norm, said that the group is having some trouble getting more and more money as the donors max out. Van Dongen insists, of course, that the real purpose of this effort is to get Norm Coleman in the Senate.

But check out this line: "Is it better empty than in Franken's hands? Hell, yeah."

Here's the full text of DNC Chairman Tim Kaine's letter to Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), asking the Republican governor to urge Norm Coleman to concede the state's disputed Senate race.

The key quote is this, making clear that Dems intend to hang this thing around belligerent GOPers' necks as a destructive, anti-democratic event: "To allow this to process to continue into the federal courts for no other reason than to deny for as long as possible the seating of another Democratic Senator would make what has been a bad situation for Minnesotans even worse. I urge you to do everything within your power and influence to bring this process to an end."

Dear Governor Pawlenty:

It has now been six months since Minnesota voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in a hard fought election for the United States Senate. No one will deny that the race was incredibly close - but after an official recount, an extensive legal process and a clear and definitive ruling by the three judge panel, it is all but indisputable that Democrat Al Franken won and will be the next Senator from Minnesota.

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Yesterday, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell offered an update of sorts on the progress of a long-awaited repeal of the Pentagon's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which forbids openly gay troops from serving in the military.

"I do not believe there are any plans under way in this building for some expected, but not articulated, anticipation that don't ask-don't tell will be repealed," Morrell said at a press briefing. Pentagon leaders, he said, are "aware of where the president wants to go on this issue, but I don't think that there is any sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal don't ask-don't tell."

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The new Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey shows Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in continued trouble for his re-election campaign this year, essentially unchanged from previous polls. Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the choice of the Republican establishment, is pulling away in the GOP primary for June 2.

In the general election match-ups, Christie leads Corzine by 45%-38%, the same margin as a month ago. The insurgent conservative candidate, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, edges Corzine 42%-40%, compared to a 41%-41% tie a month ago. The margin of error is ±2%.

In the Republican primary, Christie has gained a 56%-33% lead over Lonegan, compared to a 46%-37% lead a month ago.

The big question here is whether Corzine can successfully reassert a common pattern in New Jersey politics -- that many people don't like their politicians, but in the home stretch the undecided voters can quickly align for the Democrat or simply against the Republican.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chief sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, has a warning for Democratic foes of his flagship legislation: Work with me in earnest on a compromise, or I'll put the bill on the Senate floor and you can vote your conscience.

That may not sound like a grave threat, but it may well be. Two of the bills main skeptics--Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--face re-election next year, and both, for different reasons, may ultimately need union support to prevail. Specter, who tacked to the right and came out against EFCA before becoming a Democrat, is facing pressure from the Democratic base and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) to move left or face a primary challenge.

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Rumsfeld Spokesman Denies Accusations Of Biblical Quotes In Iraq War Briefings Keith Urbahn, the spokesman for former Sec. of Defense Don Rumsfeld, is strongly denying the GQ report that Rumsfeld approved Iraq War briefings for President George W. Bush that incorporated Biblical quotes. "Rumsfeld was fully aware that words and actions could be harmful and counterproductive to the war effort. It's safe to say that some of these cover slides could be considered in that category," Urbahn said. "The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have composed of, approved of, or personally shown the slides to President Bush is flat wrong. It did not happen."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will attend the first quarterly meeting of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, at 10 a.m. ET in the Roosevelt Room, focusing at this meeting on clean energy jobs. At 3 p.m. ET, he will participate in a credentialing ceremony for foreign ambassadors in the Oval Office. He will hold a bill signing at 4:30 p.m. in the East Room, signing the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. At 5:45 p.m. ET, he will call the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. At 7:30 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host a bipartisan reception in the Blue Room for members of the House and their guests.

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Has Michael Steele averted the cultural and political train-wreck that would have come from the RNC's proposed "Democrat Socialist Party" resolution? That's what CNN now reports.

RNC member David Norcross of New Jersey, who had been a sponsor of the resolution, told CNN: "The language is being changed so that the proposers and chairman Steele are on the same page." Steele had opposed this thing from the start, and had sought to avoid the spectacle -- yes, Michael Steele thought this was too goofy.

Instead, Norcross said the resolution will now simply "condemn the Democrats' march to socialism" instead of renaming the Dems as the "Democrat Socialist Party." Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, a Steele ally, predicted that such an altered version should pass easily once the final language has cleared the resolutions committee.

TPMLivewire