TPM News

Senate Democrats failed this afternoon to get the 60 votes they needed to end debate on the financial reform bill.

Two Republicans crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats. But with multiple Democrats voting against cloture, and another absent, the Democrats fell just short. The final vote was 57-42.

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With the big Super Tuesday primary elections out of the way, the White House and the Democratic National Committee have mounted a public relations offensive to sell Supreme Court nominee Solicitor General Elena Kagan to voters and the senators tasked with her confirmation. Meanwhile, key Democrats are asking for more information on her record on abortion rights.

Judiciary Committee hearings will begin June 28, the panel announced today. It's an earlier start than ranking member Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL) had sought, and Leahy said he wants to wrap the hearings by July 4. Staffers from both parties are poring over Kagan's 202-page questionnaire detailing her record. Kagan herself has done a charm offensive while doing the standard in-person meetings with senators on Capitol Hill.

Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, a co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, sent Leahy a letter asking for more information on the nominee's pro-choice stance. Slaughter (D-NY) argued that Kagan's position is relatively unknown given her lack of a judicial record.

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Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about the ambiguous way Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal describes his military service. In the Times' strongest example of Blumenthal's misrepresentations, he says, "when I served in Vietnam."

But as the Associated Press points out today, in a longer version of the speech -- which has been posted on the YouTube page of one of Blumenthal's Republican opponents since the Times story broke -- the attorney general also describes his military service more accurately, saying he "served in the military during the Vietnam era, in the Marine Corps."

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It's tricky, trying to delicately distance yourself from a comment you made without saying, "I didn't mean it!" Or worse, "I never said that!"

Just ask Sue Lowden, a Republican who's vying to challenge to Sen. Harry Reid. Lowden's been a TPM favorite ever since she first proposed bartering chickens for health care.

In a debate last night, she tried to claim she never said that she was sticking to her chicken barter "system." Unfortunately for her, there's video.

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Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), who was defeated for renomination at the state Republican convention a week and a half ago, is seemingly poised to announce tomorrow whether he will fight on in the general election with a write-in bid.

Speaking to USA Today, Bennett was rather cryptic. Here is their report:

Asked in an interview whether he would pursue the write-in route, Bennett offered his standard line: "Once I make that decision, you'll be the second to know," he said. But Bennett, 76, then added, "Stay tuned tomorrow." Asked if that meant he would announce his decision tomorrow, Bennett repeated, "Stay tuned tomorrow."

The Republican nominee in this deep-red state is yet to be determined, with a June 22 primary between attorney Mike Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater, who both defeated Bennett for spots on the ballot under the Utah convention process.

A Justice Department lawyer who was hired as part of a politicized process under the Bush administration, and who brought the controversial New Black Panther voter intimidation case, has resigned.

In a letter to DOJ Voting Rights chief Chris Herren, obtained by Main Justice, J. Christian Adams announced he'll step down next month, citing the controversy over the New Black Panther case.

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Labor unions are doubling down in Arkansas as Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter are set to duel for another three weeks in a Democratic primary runoff election. The AFL-CIO announced this morning they will keep up an aggressive push on Halter's behalf, and a top labor official lashed out over Lincoln's Tuesday night speech after polls closed.

After earning 45 percent of the vote (below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff) to Halter's 43 percent, Lincoln lamented "outside groups," ordering them to "go home." I asked labor officials about the remark this morning. "There's nothing outside about people who are members of unions in Arkansas," AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman responded in the conference call with reporters. "I don't know what she's talking about. This was an effort initiated by union activists in Arkansas for Arkansas."

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A scheduled 2 p.m. vote to end debate on the Senate financial reform bill had to be pushed back this afternoon because of objections by Democrats.

The exact sequence of events is a bit unclear, but it centered around an attempt by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who's managing the bill on the floor, to call up some final amendments before the 2 p.m. cloture vote. But Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who's trying to secure a vote on his own amendment, and who is one of several progressives dismayed by Democratic leadership's unwillingness to allow votes on consumer-friendly amendments, objected.

Dodd and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could try and cut off debate anyhow, but their decision to delay, at least for now, may indicate that they're shy of the 60 votes they'd need to prevail. Democrats will be caucusing shortly, to figure out a way around the impasse. The way things work around these parts, that could take hours...or much longer.