TPM News

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Judge Sonia Sotomayor a key question at Tuesday afternoon's hearings: Did 9/11 change her views on constitutionally protected civil liberties?

Feingold - well-known for his fight to uphold the Constitution in this area - was pleased by her answer. Watch the video below.

Sotomayor, a Bronx native, called 9/11 a "horrific day" and told her own personal account before going on to give a strong position on the issue.

"In response to your question, does it change my view of the Constitution? No, sir. The Constitution is a timeless document. It was intended to guide us through decades - generation after generation - to everything that would develop in our country. It has protected us as a nation and it has inspired our survival. That doesn't change."

Feingold responded, "I appreciate that answer, judge."

Last weekend, in a sit-down with bloggers during the Young Republicans convention in Indiana, RNC Chairman Michael Steele revealed his strategy for attracting diverse Republicans.

Cameron Cowan of The Mile Hive, a Denver blog, asked Steele what his plan is for including "diverse populations" into the Republican party.

"My plan is to say, 'Ya'll come!" Steele said, adding, "I got the fried chicken and potato salad!"

The video, care of Hoosier Access via Huffington Post:

Obviously things could change in mark-up and at other points down the line, but for now, notwithstanding the concerns of some conservative Democrats, the House is proposing (PDF) a public option that will "[i]nitially [pay] rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments."

That's sure to please overhaul supporters, many of whom consider the public option the sine qua non of true health care reform. You can read summary information about both the public option and the entire bill at the House Education and Labor Committee website.

At the unveiling of the House's health care reform bill, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said he wants Congress enact legislation by the end of this year.

We'll have video for you shortly. But that pushes the ball back two and a half months from Obama's goal of signing a health care bill by mid-October, a month and a half after Congress returns from recess, and before it is set to take up a budget reconciliation bill.

Late update: You can see video below. Interestingly, Waxman also echoes the White House in suggesting that Congress ought not adjourn for recess until both the House and Senate have passed their health care bills.

President Obama weighs in on the House's health care reform draft bill "This proposal controls the skyrocketing cost of health care by rooting out waste and fraud and promoting quality and accountability. Its savings of more than $500 billion over 10 years will strengthen Medicare and contribute to our goal of reforming health care in a fiscally responsible way," Obama said in a prepared statement.

[I]t includes a health insurance exchange that will allow families and small businesses to compare prices and quality so they can choose the health care plan that best suits their needs. Among the choices that would be available in the exchange would be a public health insurance option that would make health care affordable by increasing competition, providing more choices, and keeping the insurance companies honest.

You can read the entire statement below the fold.

Read More →

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.

Read More →

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.