TPM News

With the news Tuesday that the Obama Administration has decided to halt transfers of Gitmo detainees to Yemen, it's worth taking a closer look at what we do -- and do not -- know about the activity of former detainees in the group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

That's the al Qaeda "affiliate" that claimed responsibility for the failed Christmas attack over Detroit, and that President Obama has fingered as training and equipping Umar Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man arrested in that incident.

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After three high-profile retirements sent the political world spinning, Democrats are saying the morning after they don't expect any more in the Senate or among the governors.

Worried Democrats who are seeing poll numbers slip nationally wanted to start 2010 with the best chance they could for keeping the House, 60 Senate seats and the majority of governorships.

Surveying the political landscape, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) were among the most vulnerable, and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's retirement could prevent a divisive Democratic primary for the senate.

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a statement today on the retirement of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). In the statement, the NRSC attacks Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is expected to announce today that he will run for Dodd's seat as a Democrat.

"Senator Dodd's retirement is not surprising considering he's long been regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in 2010, second only to his own Majority Leader, Harry Reid. As Dodd's protege, Richard Blumenthal, attempts to replace him in Washington, voters need not look much further than Blumenthal's complete disregard for Dodd's actions with Countrywide to see what kind of Senator he would be. As Attorney General, Blumenthal looked the other way on Senator Dodd's unethical indiscretions, but voters won't look the other way when they cast their ballots to restore checks and balances in Washington this November. The last thing the people of Connecticut need is another 20-year member of the old boys' club to represent them in the U.S. Senate."

After an afternoon meeting with House leaders and health care principals yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke in vague terms about what reform must accomplish: Affordability, accountability, and accessibility. "A triple 'A' rating," as she described it.

But aides say she's particularly steamed that the White House wants her to largely adopt the Senate bill in its entirety. And she's particularly unhappy that the White House has thrown its weight behind the Senate bill's chief funding mechanism: an excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" insurance policies, which she and many in her caucus have long believed violates President Obama's pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. According to one aide, that--not the public option--was likely the reason she ribbed Obama at her press conference yesterday, quipping, "there were a number of things he was for on the campaign trail."

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Nick Ayers, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association, has apologized for joking about Gov. David Paterson's (D-NY) blindness.

Ayers had been making jokes on Twitter about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asking Democratic governors to step down.

Rahm: "Gov Paterson you should accept the ambassadorship to New Zealand. Its beautiful there. Have you not seen it?...oh, right, sorry."

Now, he tweets:

Paterson tweet too far. A poor attempt at poking fun of White House. Deleting now. Apologies.

Dems To Scrap Conference Committee For Health Care Bill, Amend The Senate Bill In The House House and Senate Democrats have agreed to bypass the conference committee process for the health care bill, in order to circumvent additional Republican delaying tactics. Instead, the House of Representatives will pass agreed-upon amendments to the Senate version, and then send the bill back to the Senate for a final vote.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET, and the economic daily briefing at 10:15 a.m. ET. Obama will meet with senior advisers at 11:30 a.m. ET. Obama will deliver remarks at 1:35 p.m. ET, honoring educators for awards received for excellence in mathematics and science teaching and mentoring.

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Following on a meeting between House and Senate leaders and President Obama last night, a number of senior House Democrats will return to the White House to continue negotiating toward a final health care bill.

Joining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be Henry Waxman (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA), Charlie Rangel (D-NY)--the chairmen of the three committees that drafted the House bill--and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chair of the House Rules Committee.

These members, and other House leaders will also huddle this morning, as they continue to discuss what issues should be at stake when the House and Senate health care bills are merged, and how to prevail on those issues.

Check back in at TPMDC for continuing updates.

The big news this morning is that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is expected to announce at noon today that he is retiring from the Senate. While usually a retirement by an incumbent is bad news for a party, in this case Dodd's retirement almost certainly improves Democratic chances for holding the seat with a stronger candidate.

Connecticut is a Democratic-leaning state, which Barack Obama carried with 61% of the vote in 2008, but Dodd himself had consistently been running badly in the polls against his Republican challengers, largely as a result of the controversial mortgage he received from Countrywide Financial.

A Quinnpiac poll from this past November put Dodd's approval rating at only 40%, with 54% disapproval, compared to a 58%-35% rating for Obama. Dodd also trailed the two main GOP candidates, former Rep. Rob Simmons and former Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

The other key factor here is that state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has already announced that he will run, and will officially kick off the campaign with a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET. Blumenthal was first elected in 1990, and has been easily re-elected ever since. There not been any publicly released polling on the prospect of Blumenthal for Senate -- though as it turns out, Public Policy Polling (D) will be coming out with just such a thing later today, and we'll be sure to pick it up. But here's a key number on Blumenthal: The same round of Quinnipiac polling that gave Dodd such bad numbers in November also showed Blumenthal with an approval rating of 78%-13%.

Late Update: Ned Lamont, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Senate against Joe Lieberman, who is currently exploring a campaign for governor, released this statement:

"For three decades, Chris has been Connecticut's best friend, a powerful defender of the constitution and a tireless advocate for families and children. Chris, Jackie and their family deserve a short break, but I'm sure that there are many more chapters in Chris' life of public service."

"This announcement does not change my own plans. I will continue to explore a run for Governor because I believe the stakes for Connecticut are too high and that we need innovative, entrepreneurial leadership to kickstart our economy, create new jobs, and honestly balance our budget."