TPM News

Via ThinkProgress, I see Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is taking a sanguine and, dare I say, democratic, view of the budget reconciliation process.

"It's their right. They did win the election," said Ryan, R-Wis. "That's what I tell all my constituents who are worried about this. They won the election. They did run on these ideas. They did run on nationalizing health care. So, you're right about that. They have the votes with reconciliation. They nailed down the process so that they can make sure they have the votes and that they can get this thing through really fast. It is their right. It is what they can do."


One can quibble with some of this rhetoric. Democrats won the election on a platform of universalizing health care through a combination of private and public insurance, and government subsidies. But this is certainly a more realistic assessment than that of, say, Ryan's Senate counterpart Judd Gregg (R-NH) who supports the reconciliation process when Republicans use it to pass tax cuts and ANWR drilling, but compares it to "running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River," when the Democrats so much as propose it for health reform.

But has Ryan always been so fair? Let's go to the tape:

Read More →

One of the big revelations to come out of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on so-called aggressive interrogation techniques is an early July 2002 training session where officials from the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA)--the agency that oversees the SERE training program--provided "assistance to another government agency." Much of this section of the report is blacked out, so I'll connote blacked out sections with asterisks [***], but the report says JPRA was assisting this agency "on topics such as '*** deprivation techniques,' 'exploitation and questioning techniques,' and 'developing countermeasures to resistance techniques.'" According to the report, "[t]he training was intended to "prepare *** officers for rotations in Afghanistan and elsewhere."

Spencer Ackerman reported on this section in detail when the report was first released, noting what has long been reported, but never officially acknowledged. Spencer writes, "a JPRA team assisted a squad from 'another government agency' during the first six months of 2002 that would be 'sent to interrogate a high level al Qaeda operative.'"

"'Another government agency'," Spencer writes, "is a widespread euphemism for the CIA."

Read More →

Most of the focus on the obstruction of Dawn Johnsen has been on Republicans. They're the ones who might hold up her nomination, or stage a filibuster (i.e. file for cloture) so there's some good reason for that.

But what about pro-life Democrats? A Congressional Quarterly report this morning suggests that one pro-life Democratic senator--to wit Ben Nelson (D-PA)--might not support her nomination.

"Senator Nelson is very concerned about the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, based on her previous position as Counsel for NARAL. He believes that the Office of Legal Counsel is a position in which personal views can have an impact and is concerned about her outspoken pro-choice views on abortion," said spokesman Clay Westrope.


Ah, but there's an important technical distinction between "not supporting" a nominee and "actively filibustering" her. The question comes down to how Nelson would vote if Republicans subject Johnsen to a cloture vote. I spoke with a Nelson staffer myself just a moment ago and he didn't officially take the option off the table.

Read More →

The Minnesota Supreme Court has just issued its order establishing a schedule for Norm Coleman's appeal of the Senate election result -- and even though this schedule has been expedited by the standards of normal civil litigation, it's going to be a while by political standards.

The court adopted the proposed briefing timeline from the Coleman campaign, allowing them more time to formulate their arguments: Coleman's brief is to be submitted by next Thursday, April 30; Team Franken will submit its brief by May 11, and a reply brief from Coleman is to be submitted by May 15.

On top of that, oral arguments have been scheduled for June 1 -- a month and a week from today.

Team Franken had called for a much quicker schedule, on the grounds that greater speed was needed in order to seat a second U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and that Coleman had already had plenty of time to come up with his arguments. But the court didn't go for it.

Indeed, by any normal measure this timeline is itself a quick one for a state Supreme Court to be taking an appeal. But for the political world, this is not a normal case.

Late Update: Lead Franken attorney Marc Elias gives us this comment: "We are grateful that the court has issued an expedited scheduling order, and we look forward to the process continuing to move forward so that Sen.-elect Franken can be seated as quickly as possible."

Late Late Update: Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg released this statement: "We're pleased with the timetable the court has granted to prepare for this historic and consequential case to enfranchise thousands of Minnesota citizens who still wait for their voices to be heard, and their votes to be counted."

A new Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania finds that Arlen Specter appears to be in serious trouble going into his 2010 primary against conservative challenger Pat Toomey.

The numbers: Toomey 51%, Specter 30%.

Toomey, a former Congressman, previously ran against Specter in the 2004 primary, and made it into a 51%-49% race. Specter has since provided Toomey a huge opening this time thanks to his vote for the stimulus bill. And Pennsylvania is a closed-primary state, too, meaning that Specter faces a conservative base vote.

From the pollster's analysis: "In another sign that could be troubling for Specter, the current poll finds that 79% of Pennsylvania Republicans have a favorable opinion of the "Tea Party" protests against big government spending and higher taxes held across the nation last week. Thirty percent (30%) know someone personally who took part."

The Obama administration will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider a 1986 ruling that police officers cannot question a defendant with representation unless the lawyer is present. In a court brief, the solicitor general said that the decision in Michigan v. Jackson should be overturned because it "serves no real purpose" and defendants should speak to police if they so choose. The judges supporting the ruling say it is especially aimed at poor or developmentally disabled defendants who could be tricked into giving incriminating information to prosecutors without a lawyer present. In the aftermath of the administration's invocation of the "state secrets" privilege, and support for the imprisonment of enemy combatants in Afghanistan, this position has further alienated civil liberties groups. (AP)

Read More →

Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, John Warner To Headline Committee Hearing The House Energy and Commerce Committee will be holding a hearing on climate change at 10 a.m. ET today, featuring an all-star line-up of guests: Former Vice President Al Gore, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Gore and Warner support various legislation to limit carbon emissions, while Gingrich was added at the last minute, at the request of Republicans, as an individual who is skeptical of the claimed human contribution to climate change.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with Vice President Biden for lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then at 1:30 p.m. ET, he will speak about higher-education costs, discussing his proposal to end the Federal Family Education Loans program, a government subsidy to banks, in favor of direct government financing.

Read More →

In news that won't shock regular readers of this site, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)--one of three openly gay House members--says he believes that Democrats will wait until 2010 to attempt a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Not only that, but, according to Roll Call, he thinks that's the right way to go. "I believe we should and will do 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' next year," Frank said. "We haven't done the preliminary work, the preparatory work. It would be a mistake to bring it up without a lot of lobbying and a lot of conversation."

The administration has been walking back its vow to repeal DADT for weeks now, to the great frustration of advocates at Human Rights Campaign and the Servicemember's Legal Defense Networks. Gay rights groups hope the issue will be raised when the Senate considers Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget proposal next month, and their opponents are preparing for just such a contingency.

Is President Obama flipping back again on the subject of how to conduct torture investigations?

His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters today that Obama no longer favored the idea of a bipartisan commission to probe the issue. "The president determined the concept didn't seem altogether workable in this case," said Gibbs. And the Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reports that Obama backed away from the position during a "lengthy exchange" earlier yesterday with House Minority Leader John Boehner.*

Read More →

On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider the nomination of Harold Koh to be the State Department Legal Adviser. Koh's March 23 appointment has sent the far right into conniptions, supposedly because of Koh's academic views on the legal issue of transnational justice, and various reports indicate his nomination might be filibustered.

But Koh also has a number of high profile conservative allies, including Reagan OLC-chief, and George W. Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson, and Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Indeed, it's been suggested by some that opposition to Koh is part of a forward-looking campaign to keep Koh off the Supreme Court than a sincere concern for U.S. sovereignty. Perhaps more on that later.

Now that the hearing's been scheduled, Yale University will begin the search for a new Dean.

TPMLivewire