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There's been a lot of schadenfreude on the right (and to some extent on the left) about the fact that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has, at least for now, lost his seniority on various committees, particularly the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.

But while that continues to be the case, Senate leaders have reportedly reached a compromise of sorts. Specter, according to The Washington Post, will assume the chairmanship of the Judiciary's Crime and Drugs Subcommittee. To make room for him, that subcommittee's current chairman--Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL)--will step down and assume the chairmanship of the reconstituted Human Rights Subcommittee.

It's a small bone--he's still lost much of his power on the pork-able Appropriations Committee--but they've thrown it to him. Just as Reid suggested they would yesterday.

Karl Rove's long-awaited testimony before Congress about the US Attorney firings will likely occur around early June, according to Rove's lawyer.

Robert Luskin told TPMmuckraker that the Obama White House has been painstakingly sorting through the documents related to the firings, and is providing them to Rove and to the House Judiciary committee simultaneously. It's that process, said Luskin, that's driving the scheduling of Rove's testimony. Luskin stressed that the discussions have been cordial on all sides.

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Obama To Seek $17 Billion In Budget Cuts President Obama is set to announce today a proposed $17 billion in budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. Already, the proposed cuts are getting some pretty negative reviews from the Associated Press and the Washington Post, as being too small. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag defended the cuts this morning on MSNBC: "But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 10:35 a.m. ET from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the proposed budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. At 12:45 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer. At 2:45 p.m. he will meet with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. At 4:15 p.m. ET he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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We've been poring over the report -- hit piece? -- on the SEC issued today by the Government Accountability Office, and we're starting to understand why Hank Paulson wanted to shut the place down and put all those "enforcers" out of their Kafkaesque misery. The agency got more tips from FINRA -- the financial industry's self-regulator -- than it had the resources to pursue, it lost 11.5% of its lawyers since 2004, and the staff lacked in-house expertise on pretty much all the fancy financial instruments without which we would not have this crisis (in addition to "government securities" which seems a bit sad, the SEC being a division of the government). The agency's revenues were in a downward spiral, with corporate penalties falling 39% in fiscal year 2006, only to fall another 48% in 2007, only to fall another 49% last year.

But as the Columbo-eseque foil for a cabal of deep-pocketed financiers with $87,000 rugs in an absurdist Office Space comedy about how the crisis happened, the SEC as depicted in the GAO report is ideal. We excerpted some of our favorite bits:

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On Monday May 4th, masked gunmen killed 44 people, including six children, at a wedding party in southeastern Turkey. According to Turkish authorities, the killings were part of a blood feud between rival families. On Wednesday May 6th, women and children gathered to mourn near the graves of family members killed in the massacre.

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On May 6th, 8 suspects were arrested. These men are all members of state-backed "Village Guard" units.

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According to Reuters, "The involvement of village guards in the worst mass killing in modern Turkish history raises pressure on the EU-candidate country to rein in the heavily armed units."

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So how exactly did Arlen Specter manage to be the hero of the Democratic Party on Tuesday of last week, the day that he switched, only to end up losing his seniority seven days later? And can he earn it back?

Here's what a Senate Democratic staffer told us: "Senator Specter has not helped himself recently with some of his recent actions. But he has a year and half to try to make the case to the rest of the caucus."

The Franken campaign has released this statement on Al Franken's meeting today at the White House with Vice President Biden:

MINNEAPOLIS [05/06/09] - This afternoon, Senator-elect Al Franken visited the White House to meet with Vice President Biden. Franken updated the Vice President on the state of Minnesota's second U.S. Senate seat, and discussed the administration's agenda and its potential benefits for the people of Minnesota. Franken was accompanied by his wife, Franni.

Al Franken:

"I deeply appreciate the administration's ongoing support and the opportunity to meet with Vice President Biden today. Minnesotans are eager to see Congress make progress on the administration's agenda - and I'm eager to do my part in that effort. From investments in alternative energy to the expansion of high-speed rail to the Twin Cities, we have a lot to do to help Minnesota's working families, and I was pleased to discuss these important issues with the Vice President."


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Earlier this afternoon, Wolf Blitzer asked Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid about Sen. Arlen Specter's defection, and all the various complications it's caused for the Democratic party. One of those complications surfaced yesterday when the New York Times reported (and then re-confirmed) that Specter said he still hopes Republican Norm Coleman prevails in the courts over Al Franken--the winner of the Minnesota Senate race--and retains his seat.

Specter walked back his statement after Reid confronted him about it, but the interaction seemingly left Reid speechless. Watch:

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Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) led the congressional charge against the Pentagon's use of retired military analysts to shill for the Iraq war on TV -- a program that was exposed in that Pulitzer-winning New York Times report.

Now the Pentagon Inspector General's office has withdrawn a report into the affair, which had largely exonerated the department, finding that it "did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product." And DeLauro isn't mincing words about the news.

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