TPM News

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack, now says she's considering a run for Senate in 2010 against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

"I think I'm qualified to serve, so time will tell." Vilsack told WHO-TV, the central Iowa NBC station.

"You know, I've spent the last 12 years traveling around the state, developing a relationship with the people of Iowa," she explained, "and I just really appreciate the fact that people have been so supportive in suggesting this. But, as I said, time will tell."

Grassley was first elected in the 1980 Reagan landslide, and has been re-elected by comfortable margins ever since, winning 70% of the vote in 2004.

(Via The Political Carnival.)

Simon Rosenberg of left-leaning group NDN wrote senators a letter urging them to think hard before supporting an amendment Republican senators are pushing to force the Census Bureau to ask immigration status during their 2010 count. Here's the full text:

While this Amendment may appear innocent, its intent and practical effect on the process are not. If carried out, it could dramatically disrupt an orderly Census count next year, throw the Census process into a legal and political morass that could also threaten a clean and accurate count, and is part of a broader strategy by Senator Bennett to challenge the upcoming reapportionment process which at this point appears remarkably, and offensively unconstitutional. There are simply too many questions about this Amendment for you to vote yes on it this week.

I will let others address the practicality of adding a new question to the Census at this very, very late stage. But I do want to address Senator Bennett's argument about why getting an accurate count of the non-citizens in the U.S. today is so important - to deny the ability for the undocumented immigrants in each state to count towards the upcoming reapportionment process. In his own statements on the Senate floor, and in his press release, he has made it clear that this reason is behind his Amendment - to start a racially charged effort to disrupt the once every ten year reapportionment process in 2011 and 2012.

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In a meeting with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan today, President Obama received reports on U.S. efforts to train Afghan forces and strengthen the civilian mission, and got an update on the overall political and security situation.

Briefing reporters today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan will be made "in the coming weeks."

This was the fifth meeting of the team, as the President works on a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is traveling this week, phoned into the meeting, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Afghanistan Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Pakistan Amb. Anne Patterson attended the meeting via videoconference.

Also in attendance were Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, UN Amb. Susan Rice, Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Gen. James Jones, Tom Donilon, John Brennan and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.

Gibbs also said the White House is "happy" that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he'd send 500 more troops to Afghanistan.

The new Republican National Committee Web site has been derided for its "GOP Heroes" section -- which teaches us that almost all of the great Republicans lived in the 1800's, and about half of them were black -- but there's another illustrious name on the list: Ronaldus Magnus.

The site's page on Ronald Reagan includes this citation of the party's great hero, giving him a stylized name we might see on a Roman emperor:

Our country has to decide, said Ronaldus Magnus, "whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether to abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves."

And to think that the GOP makes fun of the Democrats for allegedly worshiping Obama.

We've called the RNC office for comment on how this got there, giving them the benefit of the doubt that maybe this is a product of those hackers we've been hearing about as a result of the site's security problems. They have not gotten back to us yet.

Late Update: The page has now been edited, removing Reagan's Latin throne name. It now simply says, "Our country has to decide, said Reagan..."

For the last week folks across Washington - from the Commerce Department to Senate leadership to left-leaning advocacy groups - have had a bad case of heartburn over a potential floor fight on an amendment Republican senators were pushing to force the Census Bureau to ask immigration status during their 2010 count.

I wrote about the issue last week when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) attempted to attach the amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill outlining spending for the next year.

Senate leaders feared the amendment was getting some support from red-state Democrats so the Obama administration worked furiously to get it stripped from the bill, killed or at least pushed down the road to debate when Congress finally tackles immigration reform.

Commerce Sec. Gary Locke made a tough case to senators asking they oppose the amendment, reminding them such a change would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars," and long delays since the 300 million census forms would need to be reprinted and reshipped.

"It is too late to shift gears at this point in the process," Locke wrote in a memo obtained by TPMDC.

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What began with J Street reaching out to Ambassador Michael Oren with a speaking invitation for its upcoming conference turned into a spat Sunday when the Israeli Embassy spokesman went after the young "pro-Israeli pro-peace" group using unusually blunt language.

Since then, the head of J Street penned an open letter to Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, requesting he address J Street's conference later this month, and the Israeli Embassy has said that Oren is still considering the request.

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Speaking to reporters just outside the Senate chamber this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scoffed at the suggestion--articulated last night by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--that the public option is simply in his hands.

"He would rather say anything so it wasn't up to him," Reid said, before departing for a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). The four will hold the first meeting about how to shape a health care bill that will soon be introduced on the Senate floor.

Other senators have been significantly less vocal than Schumer (at least in public) with respect to what steps Reid should take to include the public option. I caught up with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and asked him whether he agreed with Schumer. He said, "I'm definitely for the public option, I want it included in the final bill. I'm gonna leave it up to the Majority Leader's judgment and the vote of the Senate as to when that's going to take place."

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was less forthcoming. "I never second guess the leadership on what kind of procedural moves they make," he said. "I just vote as I choose. I don't comment on their decisions."

President Barack Obama spoke this afternoon at the construction site of the largest Recovery Act project in Virginia about the economy and his $787 billion stimulus package.

"We are going to keep on going until we make sure that every single American in this country who's looking for work is going to be able to get the kind of well-paying job that supports their family," Obama said.

Obama said "we've made some meaningful progress" and that "our economy is in better shape today than when I took office."

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Sens. Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Chris Dodd held a press conference today before meeting with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to merge the HELP and Finance Committee health care reform bills.

"I believe in a public option, but remember, I said 'I do,'" Reid said, attempting to show his support for the public option without promising it will make it into the merged bill. As Sen. Chuck Schumer said last night, the public option is now in Reid's hands.

Baucus, whose committee yesterday passed their version of the bill, was positively giddy.

"Frankly, I am excited," he said, saying that the differences between what the parties want "pale in comparison" to the things they agree on. "We are united."

"All senators who want health care reform are in the room," he said.

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), the national GOP's favored candidate for Senate against Democratic incumbent Chris Dodd in 2010, has departed from his former reputation as a moderate Republican -- he's now become such a devotee of the Tea Party movement, that he's inserted a tea bag inside his pocket Constitution!

"I've made it a habit over the years to carry my Constitution in my pocket as a reminder of what this country and what this country's government is all about," Simmons told a recent event. "But more recently because of the participation of many of you, I've added something to my Constitution. I've added a tea bag."

Simmons seems a bit half-hearted, though -- the tea bag is still inside the wrapper.