TPM News

A Senate ethics panel today told Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) it found "no substantial credible evidence" they broke Senate rules with their Countrywide mortgages.

In letters to each senator, the Select Committee on Ethics said the two should have been more "vigilant" to avoid the appearance of receiving preferential treatment and rates.

After reviewing 18,000 pages of documents, the committee found that Countrywide's VIP program for friends of ex-CEO Angelo Mozilo offered expedited service and some discounts. But, since the discounted rates still weren't the best at Countrywide or in the industry, the program doesn't violate Senate rules, the committee found.

SEIU says it has now received an apparent threat involving gun violence from a right-winger in reaction to the union bringing their own people to town halls, Greg Sargent reports.

A woman identifying herself as Diana from Oregon left a voicemail with the union, denouncing their "thuggish" tactics, and then ending on a doozy of a punch-line:

"I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people's First Amendment rights," said Diana. "That, or y'all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment. Stop the violence."

Via Firedoglake comes the below video, of Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), the Blue Dog's health care point man, boasting of holding House health care legislation hostage in the Energy and Commerce Committee for 10 days.

Ross also repeats a common, but strangely tone deaf, "critique" of a robust public option, tied to Medicare, nothing that "Medicare has really good rates, because they're negotiating for every senior in America." How horrible.

On MSNBC this afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) once again trotted out the possibility that Democrats will pass health care reforms through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process if Republicans try to extract too many concessions from the bill.

"We are making concessions," Schumer said. "But there's a limit." "I wouldn't take anything off the table," he added.

It's the second time in a week that Schumer--who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, and who was a Finance Committee point man on the public option before being closed out of negotiations--has floated the idea. President Obama did the same this week, and though it's unclear whether the messages are co-ordinated, the two are meeting, at Schumer's request, tonight.

Based on the news that health care events are edging into violence, an anti-health care reform protester in New Mexico named Scott Oskay is calling on his hundreds of online followers to bring firearms to town halls, and to 'badly hurt' SEIU and ACORN counter protesters.

Popularized in part by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, the hashtag symbol he's using, #iamthemob, has gone viral on twitter, appearing several times a minute according to a recent search.

Anti-reform activists have scheduled a protest outside SEIU Missouri offices tomorrow, and officials there are taking these threats seriously.

Late update: Looks like they're also getting death threats by phone.

Hours after the Labor Department said unemployment dropped for the first time since 2008, President Obama said, "The worst may be behind us."

"As we begin to put an end to this recession, we have to think about what comes next," he said. The U.S. "can't go back" to the greed and irresponsibility of the old economy, he said, but needs "a new foundation."

Obama's tone was hopeful, yet stern, saying there is still a "steep mountain" to climb.

"We will not have a true recovery as long as we're losing jobs," he said. "And we won't rest until every American looking for work has a job."

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, the insurgent conservative Republican candidate for Senate in the GOP primary against moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, has issued his demands to Crist regarding the new Senate vacancy:

"As Governor Crist considers who he will appoint as Florida's next U.S. senator, I urge him to take great care in his selection. Florida deserves an interim senator who will go to Washington and serve as a true check on President Obama's push for more wasteful government spending, government-run health care and cap-and-trade. The last thing Florida needs is a U.S. senator that will stand with President Obama instead of challenging the wrong direction he is leading our country and offering constructive conservative solutions moving forward.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean; Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

• CBS, Face The Nation: National Security Adviser James Jones; Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL); Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

• Fox News Sunday: National Security Adviser James Jones; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

• NBC, Meet The Press: National Security Adviser James Jones; New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Though Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tells a different story, Democratic Congressional aides say members have been briefed on how to respond if their public events are disrupted by angry protesters. Some members have been given a sheet with guidance on how to handle the situation, should the need arise.

And the Associated Press reports that "White House aides distributed briefing materials explaining to senators the points Obama is stressing, as well as how to answer commonly asked questions,"

I guess we'll know soon enough how effective these 'best practices' are when the tea bags hit the fan. But it's yet another sign that Democrats take the threat--mainly rhetorical but also physical--seriously.

Nancy Snyderman, host of MSNBC's Dr. Nancy, today repeated a day-old GOP talking point accusing the Obama administration of compiling an "enemies list" of health care reform opponents.

"There have been some rumors this morning that the White House is in fact collecting names, which certainly hearkens back to the Nixon era of having an enemies list. Has the White House responded?" she asked an MSNBC reporter, Mike Viqueira.

The White House, of course, responded yesterday when Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, very clearly, ""Nobody is collecting names."

Viqueira corrected his colleague for the most part, but said some people were worried about the "Orwellian overtones" of a new White House strategy for fighting health care reform opponents.

The meme started when Linda Douglass, the communications director for the Health Care Reform office, appeared in a video asking people to flag misinformation on health care to a White House email address.

Sen. John Cornyn took issue with that request and wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to stop the flagging program. "Citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights," he wrote.