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There are many truisms of life inside the Capitol that occasionally surface in media coverage but are rarely explained straight-up to those outside the building. Here's one: House Democrats -- like many in the party's grassroots base -- often watch in frustration as legislation that can easily pass in their chamber slows down to a stop in the Senate.

Despite the Democrats' control of 58 Senate seats (pending the outcome in Minnesota), that climate hasn't changed this year. One House Dem recently told me that his party should consider lowering the filibuster margin from 60 to 55 votes, citing the 1977 rules change that knocked it down from 67 votes to 60.

So given that accepted truism of House-Senate relations, it's hard not to grin at this exchange, which occurred during Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) press briefing today:

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi, it's a lot easier to pass legislation through the House than it is in the Senate...

PELOSI: You notice that?

A new Rasmussen poll shows that support for the stimulus plan appears to be falling precipitously in the last two weeks, since it became as heavily politicized as it is now:

Do you favor or oppose the economic recovery package proposed by Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats?

Favor 37%
Oppose 43%


A week ago Rasmussen had a 42%-39% plurality favoring the plan, and a 45%-34% margin of support two weeks ago. Support among independents has fallen to 27%, unchanged from a week ago but down from 37% support two weeks ago.

So the Republican talking points out there against he bill -- too much spending, redistribution of wealth, stacking hundred-dollar bills on top of each other, etc -- appear to be having some measure of success.

Leon Panetta, nominated to become CIA director, has his confirmation hearing tomorrow in the Senate intelligence committee. As we reported last month, initial resistance to his nomination from Democrats has faded into the background -- but that doesn't mean the GOP won't try to make Panetta's ride as bumpy as possible.

Which brings me to the answer to the question posed above: the common thread between Daschle and Panetta is Catherine Reynolds, the student-loan mogul whose ties to the now-withdrawn health secretary nominee first slowed his roll last month.

As the WSJ reports today, Reynolds -- still the subject of a Senate Finance Committee investigation into her company's tax status -- donated upwards of $50,000 to the California public policy think tank that Panetta led until his CIA nomination.

There's no evidence at all of any impropriety linked to the donation. But knowing Republicans' love of opposition research, don't be surprised if you hear Panetta field breathless, faux-concerned GOP questions on this tomorrow.

Yesterday we reported that Barbara Comstock -- a key cog in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, dating back to the early Clinton years -- is running for the Virginia statehouse.

This morning, the DC Examiner offered a brief dispatch on a fundraiser held Monday night on Comstock's behalf. And it sounds like it was a who's-who of conservative luminaries.

According to the paper, the list included the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, National Review's Kate O'Bierne, former Cheney aide (and noted DC hostess) Juleanna Glover, former Bush administration official Fran Townsend, GOP lawyer Victoria Toensing, Jeri (Mrs. Fred) Thompson, GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway.

It's good to see friends helping friends.

I know you enjoy incorrectly citing the president's economic adviser to tout the illusory benefits of more tax cuts. And hey, I can see the allure of making tax cracks about Daschle and Geithner.

But why use the same dubious talking point in a letter to the president today? Courtesy of Roll Call, I notice that you told Obama how you:

presented a plan that would create more than twice that number [of jobs] based on research conducted by [the] nominee to chair the Council of Economic Advisors, Dr. Christina Romer


Obama still has a BlackBerry, guys. He can find out that this is bogus in less than a minute.

Love, Elana

Harry Markopolos, the Bernard Madoff whistleblower, ended his testimony about an hour ago. But before he did, he fleshed out his thoughts about Madoff's ties to organized crime.

In a remarkable moment, Markopolos even addressed the mobsters directly, arguing -- in an apparent effort to convince them not to go after him -- that he was protecting them Madoff's scheme.

Here's the exchange with Rep. Gary Ackerman:

ACKERMAN: I'm talking about, when you talk about the Russian mob and organized crime, these are people who invested through European investors or European feeder funds?

MARKOPOLOS: Correct. And I didn't fear of them, and I didn't think they were going to come after me, I want to make this perfectly clear to all those Russian mobsters and Latin American drug cartels out there...

ACKERMAN: You're talking directly to them.

MARKOPOLOS: I was acting on your behalf trying to stop him from zeroing out your accounts. I'm the good guy here. Just like to make that clear.

ACKERMAN: Uh, yeah I think we registered that.


Here's the video:

As I noted yesterday and as The Washington Post noted this morning, there really wasn't a Plan B if Daschle dropped out and so the administration is considering any number of candidates. I'd heard that a couple of obvious names, Howard Dean and John Kitzaber, both former governors and physicians, were not in play. I'd heard a familiar name: Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Governor and early Obama supporter. More out there names that I heard included Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Vic Snyder who is an attorney and a physician. This morning there's talk about Phil Bredesen, the popular governor of Tennessee and former Nashville mayor. Breseden is a big figure and that's clearly what Obama wants at HHS to help push through his health care reform package. So it seems as plausible to me as any name but this is the silly season when lots of names will be floated and unless you're in the room with Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Melody Barnes or some other top person, I think it's really just speculation.

Here's an important point about President Obama's new restrictions on executive pay at companies receiving aid from the Treasury Department: they're not retroactive. A bank that has already received bailout money would not need to abide by the limits unless it accepts more cash in the future.

(The WaPo buries this in the middle of its story on the issue, then notes that even if they were retroactive, the rules likely would have applied to only three companies: AIG, Citigroup, and Bank of America.)

But Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) executive-pay cap bill is retroactive, applying to companies that have received past as well as pending bailout infusions. And McCaskill just said she has no intention of giving up her push to attach her version of CEO pay caps to the economic stimulus bill. Here's her statement:

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Throughout his testimony, Harry Markopolos seemed to be refining his effort to express, in one crisp sound byte, his low opinion of the SEC's investigative powers.

And right at the end, he seemed to hit on it. He told the committee (the exact wording may be a little off here, we're going from memory):

If you flew the entire SEC staff to Boston, and sat them in Fenway Park, they wouldn't be able to find first base.


Might be hard to top that.

This morning's proceedings in the Minnesota election trial show just how the court will be moving from here on out in the wake of yesterday's important rulings regarding absentee ballots: Very, very, very slowly.

Yesterday's rulings declared that Coleman can continue to advocate on behalf of a pool of 4,797 ballots -- but that he has to argue for them one by one, rather than getting the sweeping ruling he wanted to automatically count them.

And reviewing envelopes one by one is exactly what Friedberg is doing. Friedberg is going down a list of ballots with Kevin Corbid, the head elections official for Washington County, and asking for any information Corbid can give about why they were rejected. In many cases Friedberg has withdrawn the ballot after Corbid gave a satisfactory answer, while others have been left for a future ruling by the three-judge panel.

Keep in mind that there are 4,797 total ballots that Coleman is looking over. There are also 87 counties in Minnesota, and furthermore Hennepin County (Minneapolis) has its individual municipalities running the elections. So if we go through this process for every single ballot, it's going to take a long time.

Read More →

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