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Steve Rattner may be leaving his post as the head of Obama's auto task force because of an intensifying investigation into wrongdoing by the private equity firm he co-founded.

Anonymous sources say the investigation into Quadrangle Group LLC has intensified in recent weeks, according to Reuters and the New York Times, which may have lead to his stepping down.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is leading the probe into whether Quadrangle paid middlemen to win state pension business. From the Times:

Mr. Rattner, according to people close to the investigation, arranged for his investment firm to pay $1.1 million to an agent who helped Quadrangle obtain New York pension business. The agent who received most of that money has been indicted and accused of selling access to the pension fund, but neither Mr. Rattner nor Quadrangle is expected to face criminal charges, according to people close to the matter.

Rattner left Quadrangle in order to work on the task force, and a source said he won't return now. His post on the task force is being taken over by Ron Bloom, but the Treasury Department hasn't said when the change goes into effect.

President Obama has for the most part given Congress a wide berth as it crafts a health care reform bill, popping up now and again to remind party leaders of the importance of the initiative, which he now describes as his highest legislative priority. But yesterday that all seemed to change.

First, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that Obama might ask the House or the Senate or both chambers to delay recess if either hasn't passed its own reform bill. And later, at a meeting with congressional leaders, Obama turned up the temperature on Senate Finance chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), whose committee is now weeks behind schedule, saying he wants the committee to have a bill ready for mark up by the end of the week.

Clearly the White House is beginning to worry that the House and the Senate may leave for recess without voting on legislation. But why does that matter? For many reasons, actually, but a couple stand out more than others: First, a floor vote on health care is a big vote. Bigger than a vote on a health care conference report. It's a vote that will likely become an issue in battleground districts during the 2010 congressional elections. And as a rule of thumb, when election season approaches, vulnerable members become more risk averse--less willing, in other words, to vote for controversial legislation.

But there's another potential issue, too.

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You wouldn't think this would take a lot of explaining, but apparently if you're Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), it does.

I suppose Republicans worry that there's a slippery slope between "they're taking our nunchucks!" and "they're taking our guns!" Or something.

A little more on yesterday's Las Vegas Sun report on Ensign's intent to run for re-election in 2012. This part of the story caught our eye:

When asked Monday whether he had any thoughts about stepping down, Ensign said his supporters are sending one message: "They say, 'Don't.' "

... [Ensign said] his support is coming from his fellow senators as well as those "on both sides" of Senate leadership.

Ensign said his supporters are telling him, "Keep your head up. This thing will pass."

We were curious about this alleged support from Senate leadership, so we asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) whether he's urged Ensign to keep his Senate seat.

"These are the kinds of personal decisions that Senator Ensign will have to make," said Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley.

The State newspaper of South Carolina has used a public records request to obtain emails sent to and from Governor Mark Sanford's office during the hectic few days last month when he had gone missing. It's not surprising that the emails underline the utter confusion that beset the governor's hapless aides as they tried to ward off inquiries about their boss's whereabouts, without themselves having any idea where he was.

But they also show something even funnier: an effort by the right-wing media to curry favor with Sanford's office by dismissing the story as a storm in a teacup created by the liberal media. It's fair to say that, as news judgments go, it would be hard to find one that turned out worse than this -- given the subsequent revelations about Sanford's Argentinian liaison and his abandonment of his post.

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New Jersey Governor John Corzine has some catching up to do if he's going to win re-election. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that his Republican challenger Christopher Chritie has opened up a significant lead.

According to the poll, 53 percent of likely voters favor Christie while only 41 say they would vote for Corzine. That's a slightly wider margin than Christie enjoyed a month ago, the last time Quinnipiac asked this question.

Not much more to say beyond the headline. On hand to field questions will be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House leaders, along with the chairmen of the relevant committees of jurisdiction: Charlie Rangel of Ways and Means; Henry Waxman of Energy and Commerce; and George Miller of Education and Labor.

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that two Republican congressmen, Eric Cantor of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana, could be looking to make a presidential run.

One of our favorite Cantor memories was when he missed one of President Obama's prime time press conferences on the economy. Where was the House minority whip? At a Britney Spears concert.

But Cantor's apparently fueling speculation by scheduling listening tours and raising money. He's added $637,000 to his PAC -- called Every Republican Is Crucial (or ERIC).

Just goes to show: In the new Republican Party, no one's too obscure or too weird to be considered presidential material.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor affirmed her belief in the right to privacy during hearings on Tuesday, when Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) questioned her views on Griswold v. Connecticut.

"There is a right to privacy," she said. "The Court has found it in various places in the Constitution and has recognized rights under those various provisions of the Constitution."

Griswold is the landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1965 in which the Court ruled that the right to privacy exists and is constitutionally protected. Citing the opinions in that case, Sotomayor said the right to privacy is "founded in the Fourth Amendment's rights" and is "also found in the Fourteenth Amendment."

She said "that is the precedent of the court, so it is settled law," which seems to be her theme in the hearings so far. Kohl also questioned her on Bush v. Gore, Roe v. Wade, and Kelo v. City of New London, among others, and each time Sotomayor has answered that the court's precedent is "settled law."

In the second day of confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor addressed the controversy surrounding her now-infamous "wise Latina" remarks.

"Never have any words I have spoken or written gotten so much attention...The words I spoke have created a misunderstanding," she said during opening questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy, who has praised Sotomayor's qualifications as "outstanding," gave the judge an opportunity for clarification on the main Republican line of attack. "I was trying to inspire [young Latinos] to believe their life experiences would enrich the legal system," she said.

Watch the video:

The original comment that has drawn so much conservative ire was repeated in almost exact form during multiple speeches over Sotomayor's career: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion."

Republicans and conservative talking heads have seized on Sotomayor's past comments as their main talking point for opposition, Newt Gingrich even going so far as to call her a racist (which he later walked back).

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another member of the commitee, said in his opening statements on Monday that Sotomayor's statements were troubling to him. Under questioning from Sessions on Tuesday morning, she also acknowledged that while life experiences influence judges, "personal biases" must not affect the outcome of cases.