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As we all await a verdict from the Minnesota Supreme Court in the seemingly never-ending disputed 2008 Senate race between former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic comedian Al Franken, the Associated Press points out an interesting piece of information about this ongoing dispute: It has now covered all four seasons.

The disputed result began in the fall of 2008, then continued into winter 2008-2009, then into spring 2009 -- and with yesterday's summer solstice, it's now gone into the summer months, too.

So the big question now is whether it will end during the summer, with a clear verdict from the courts and the seating of a U.S. Senator -- or whether we'll be headed into this autumn with the fight still going.

On Friday we reported that, according to two board members, the impetus for firing the AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin, came from the board, not the White House.

Still, just to put a nail in the coffin of any notion that the dismissal represents some sort of unprecedented partisan power play, it's worth considering some historical context. Take a look at this UPI report (via Nexis) from January 21, 1981 -- the second day of the Reagan administration:

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) made an interesting move recently for the upcoming Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings: He blew off meeting with her, because she was 10 minutes late to his office. "I decided to proceed on to the next meeting," said Corker.

Of course, it should be noted that Sotomayor's own schedule has been thrown off because she broke her ankle, and has had some difficulty getting from place to place.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has also refused to meet with Sotomayor, though in his case it was on the grounds that he's voting against her, anyway.

As Think Progress points out, other Republicans have been much more open to her -- even David Vitter politely received her in his office, and offered her an ice pack and pillow to rest her ankle.

Here's an interesting number from the new Mason-Dixon poll of Nevada, which showed that Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) favorable rating has fallen to a paltry 39% in the wake of the news about this affair: He's still more popular than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

As it turns out, Reid's own favorable rating is only 34%. And of course, nothing has happened recently to call Reid's personal life into question. And the polls are much more important for Reid, because he's up for re-election in 2010.

The interesting thing is that while Reid has consistently lousy ratings back home, he currently has the advantage of not having any real opponent. The Nevada GOP has been battered in recent elections, and no Republican has stepped up to the plate to challenge him -- for example, former Rep. Jon Porter, who was defeated in 2008, recently took himself out of the running. And Reid has millions of dollars in the bank, as well, which can both ward off opponents and of course overpower anyone who does emerge.

Senate Republicans, it's becoming clear, aren't exactly lining up to defend John Ensign.

Of course, that's not so surprising, given the damage that sex scandals have inflicted on the GOP in recent years. But could it be that the Ensign imbroglio poses a particularly thorny problem for some Republicans because, aside from the sex and jobs angle, the story threatens to shine an unflattering light on the role of the shadowy religious group to which the Nevada senator belongs?

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As I mentioned earlier today, the past week or so has given health reformers a severe case of whiplash. First, an early version of the Senate HELP committee bill was unveiled in an uncompleted form, after divisions between the committee's Republicans and Democrats on key issues like the public option, and the employer mandate couldn't be resolved in time for hearings. Unfortunately, that's the only legislation the Congressional Budget Office had to work with, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they found it would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years while leaving, dozens of millions of people uninsured.

And this, remember, is the committee that's putting together a liberal bill, without worrying too much about rapprochement or bipartisan compromise. All of that bellyaching was going on in the Senate Finance Committee. The CBO determined that that bill would cost about $1.6 trillion over 10 years--significantly more than the conservative committee wanted to pay. And they've gone about making up the difference not by upping the ante on cost-cutting reform efforts, but by slashing the very benefits and subsidies reformers are fighting for--including the public option which has been scrapped, in the Finance bill, and replaced with a plan to create regional, non-profit co-operatives (more on that in a bit).

Hearings on that bill won't begin until next month, leaving Congress only days of session to complete the entire legislative process before their ambitious pre-August recess deadline.

But the story in the House is much different.

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If Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) does end up running for Senate against GOP incumbent David Vitter -- pitting a relatively conservative Democrat against a Christian Right champion whose career became mired in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal of 2007 -- it could be good news for the Republicans in at least one respect. That is, the GOP feels pretty good that they can pick up Melancon's open district.

"It is one of the few districts in the country that actually trended more Republican last cycle," a Republican source told us. The district voted 61%-37% for John McCain in 2008, up from 58%-41% for George W. Bush in 2004.

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The New York Times sort of buried this over the weekend, but reform advocates have taken note--a vast majority of Americans favor a major overhaul of the U.S. health care system, including the creation of a government-run public insurance option.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector....

The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan -- something like Medicare for those under 65 -- that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.


The news has helped to shift the politics back into favorable territory for reformers after a week of bad news had many concerned--however briefly--that the public option was dead in the water. Democrats want a bill ready for President Obama's signature before the August Congressional recess, and the intervening month promises to be full of political whiplash along these lines. More on that in just a bit.

There can be no doubt that the situation in Iran really does make all of us Americans appreciate the rights we take for granted in a functioning representative democracy. For Marco Rubio, the conservative candidate in the 2010 Florida Senate primary, that means...the right to bear arms.

Check out this post that Rubio put up on Twitter:

I have a feeling the situation in Iran would be a little different if they had a 2nd amendment like ours.


Now on the one hand, it is true that things would probably be different right now if Iranians were heavily armed. But a) this is just one of many rights they don't have, and b) don't American conservatives usually oppose the heavy arming of people in that part of the world?

Two weeks ago, I noted that the Congressional Budget Office had completed a preliminary analysis of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill and determined that it would be a net deficit reducer over 10 years,

Whatever the merits of the legislation, that's an important political fact--one that makes it more difficult for Blue Dogs and other deficit hawks to oppose the bill on the inaccurate grounds that it will balloon the federal deficit. But, of course, that has only indirect bearing on the separate objection--much beloved by Republicans--that pricing carbon will be tantamount to a consumer tax. House Republicans in particular are fond of the canard that a cap and trade bill will cost the average household over $3,000.

Well, a more thorough CBO scoring reveals that they were only off by about a factor of 18.

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