TPM News

It seems that House Democratic leaders have settled on an interesting compromise in the debate over whether to use budget reconciliation rules to pass health care reform -- effectively shielding any future bill from a Senate filibuster.

The House budget will include a filibuster-proofing rule that only kicks in if Dems and the GOP cannot reach a health reform compromise by the time Congress breaks for its month-long August recess, the WaPo reports this morning.

That means that if Republicans can make good on their kumbaya rhetoric and reach common ground with the president's party by August, a longer debate and the ability to attempt a filibuster would be within their reach. But the House's intriguing plan might be a moot point if the Senate doesn't agree, since both chambers need to agree on a budget plan by next month.

And with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) openly pooh-poohing the reconciliation option, that agreement on filibuster-proofing is anything but a foregone conclusion.

Four former Abu Ghraib prisoners can sue CACI - the defense contractor responsible for their containment, a federal judge ruled Thursday. The alleged torture victims were held at the military prison in Iraq, which has been widely accused of using harsh interrogation tactics after disturbing images of torture surfaced in 2004, before being released without charges. The Arlington, VA-based defense contractor claimed immunity from prosecution, but U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said he would not accept its claim that interrogation oversight ensured that torture could not have occurred. (Associated Press)

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Obama Reaches Out To Iran In New Video President Obama has posted this new video, reaching out to the people of Iran in celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year:



"So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek," Obama says. "It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace."

Obama's Day Ahead: Discussing Stimulus With Top State And Local Officials President Obama and Vice President Biden are speaking at 12:35 p.m. ET today to representatives from the National Conference of State Legislatures, about oversight and transparency in the implementation of the stimulus program. At 2:15 p.m., Obama will be meeting with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Rendell and Mike Bloomberg. At 2:45 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will attend a reception of the National Newspaper Publisher Association, where they will be presented a Newsmaker of the Year award.

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We've told you that Joe Cassano, who ran the AIG unit that made those credit default swaps, has hired a lawyer in connection with an ongoing Justice Department investigation.

And from the looks of the lawyer in question, Cassano is taking the charges very seriously indeed.

F. Joseph Warin, who works out of the Washington, DC office of the prestigious Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, is, according to his bio, a former assistant US Attorney who specializes, perhaps unsurprisingly, in white collar crime and securities enforcement, and chairs the firm's White Collar Defense and Investigations Practice Group*.

Investigators are reported to be examining, in particular, whether Cassano and other AIG execs committed fraud by intentionally making misleading public statements about the firm's level of exposure to losses on its credit default swaps.

Warin didn't return a call from TPMmuckraker. But his assistant asked, unprompted, whether we were calling about Cassano.

Sounds like he's getting a lot of calls.

*This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version, which incorrectly reported that Gibson, Dunn is based in Washington, DC.

President Obama has just released this statement on the House's passage of the bonus tax:

"Today's vote rightly reflects the outrage that so many feel over the lavish bonuses that AIG provided its employees at the expense of the taxpayers who have kept this failed company afloat. Now this legislation moves to the Senate, and I look forward to receiving a final product that will serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated.

In the end, this is a symptom of a larger problem - a bubble and bust economy that valued reckless speculation over responsibility and hard work. That is what we must ultimately repair to build a lasting and widespread prosperity."

Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, is upping his populist appeal against the AIG bonuses: He's not just endorsing the 90% bonus tax, but he's calling for Tim Geithner to be fired -- and challenging his Democratic opponent Scott Murphy to join him.

Murphy has responded with a press release declaring that he's ideally for a 100% tax on the AIG bonuses -- though he would have voted for the 90% tax, too.

When asked about Tedisco's call for sacking Geithner, Murphy spokesman Ryan Rudominer told TPM: "Scott trusts President Obama's judgment. Tedisco is just trying to distract from saying no to creating or saving 76,000 jobs Upstate and the largest middle class tax cut in history."

Rudominer is referring here to the stimulus bill, which Tedisco said on Monday he would have opposed. And since Tuesday, Tedisco has been using the stimulus bill as a foothold to accuse Murphy of supporting the bonuses.

We now have an illustrious addition to the ranks of Republican governors turning down stimulus money: Sarah Palin.

Palin has announced that she is rejecting $416 million, out of $930 million originally headed to her state. "We are not requesting funds intended to just grow government," Palin said in a statement. "We are not requesting more money for normal day-to-day operations of government as part of this economic stimulus package. In essence we say no to operating funds for more positions in government."

Freshman Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich has already called on the legislature to override Palin on this.

This is notable for two reasons. First, Palin is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate, and a move like this can help her build up credibility with conservatives. Second, this might actually be the first time that Alaska rejected federal dollars for anything.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has received the names of the AIGers who got bonuses, and is weighing whether to release those names, his office has announced.

Cuomo had subpoenaed AIG for the names. Yesterday, the firm's CEO, Ed Liddy, declined to tell Congress he would cooperate with the subpoena, citing concerns about the safety of employees whose names were released.

Cuomo's full statement follows after the jump....

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has confirmed that his department did press Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) to water down the executive-bonus limits included in last month's stimulus bill, delivering a boost to the beleaguered Dodd -- but at a greater potential cost to his own damaged credibility on Capitol Hill.

In an interview set to air later today on CNN, Geithner took "full responsibility for the situation" and said "calls for resignation are part of the job," according to an early report on the network's website.

Late Update: The full exchange between CNN's Ali Velshi and Geithner is posted after the jump. It's notable how rapidly the media has become fixated on this change to the Dodd amendment ... considering that most mainstream news outlets were fudging the truth on it just days after it became law.

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