TPM News

Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) is making it absolutely clear -- he is running for a full term in 2010, and has just launched this revamped campaign Web site:

Said campaign communications strategist Tracy Sefl, to TPM: "This Web site is part of Gov. Paterson's announcement that he is running in 2010."

I asked Sefl whether Paterson was prepared for a potential Democratic primary against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "I think that Andrew Cuomo seems to be doing a good job as attorney general," she said, "and David Paterson is doing an excellent job as governor."

Of all the odd phenomena in Republican Washington, perhaps the most inexplicable is the party's embrace of Newt Gingrich--a man who hasn't been elected to political office since the kids still listened to Fastball--as a man of ideas and political relevance. Today they turned to him to articulate some of those ideas before a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on climate change legislation. We liked this exchange between Gingrich and committee chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) in particular:

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The Democratic National Committee is quickly seizing the opportunity presented by the party's victory in the NY-20 special election -- to gloat over all the effort that Michael Steele and the Republicans put into this race.

The Dems have released this new Web video, entitled "Broken Steele":

"That's a seat that we should be able to go in and be competitive and win," Steele is shown saying. "I'm gonna put -- make it a focal point, right out of the box."

It's clear New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's probe into the taxpayer-supported Bank of America-Merrill Lynch merger has widened considerably since he began digging into Merrill's accelerated payout of $3.6 billion in bonuses before the disclosure of a devastating fourth quarter loss. But where is it all headed?

Yesterday Cuomo wrote a letter to Congress, the SEC and TARP Oversight chair Elizabeth Warren disclosing a few findings "that raise questions about the transparency of the TARP program, as well as about corporate governance and disclosure practices at Bank of America." But as former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson once said about such disclosures, the carefully-worded, heavily redacted documents "create more questions than they answer." The most headline-grabbing detail was Paulson's threat to fire Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis if he backed out of the bank's agreement to buy Merrill Lynch at the agreed upon $10 a share; the second was the revelation that the Fed and Treasury had left the SEC "in the dark" throughout the entire process.

The immediate question at hand is whether Lewis broke securities laws or violated his fiduciary duty to protect his shareholders when he went along with Paulson. Certainly many Bank of America shareholders believe so; the news was met with a statement from CtW, the shareholder group campaigning to oust Lewis in a proxy battle declaring that Lewis "violated their legal duties to shareholders in order to protect their own employment interests" when he decided not to invoke the deal's Material Adverse Change clause, which allows companies to get out of merger agreements under some circumstances. Bank of America shares have lost about two-thirds their value since the Lewis announced it was buying the investment bank.

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The NY-20 special election is now officially over, with Democrat Scott Murphy the winner.

GOP candidate Jim Tedisco, who trailed by 401 votes as of yesterday's vote count, has called Murphy to concede, according to Murphy spokesman Ryan Rudominer. (The latest vote count puts Murphy ahead by 399 votes.)

Murphy takes over in the seat from its previous Democratic occupant, Kirsten Gillibrand, whose appointment to the United States Senate set up the special election for this marginal district.

The election was on March 31, three and a half weeks ago, but it took this long to get a winner because it was so close and involved a lengthy process of counting and litigation of absentee ballots. Still not all of the ballots have been reported in, but it became very clear over the last few days that there was really no way Tedisco could have pulled it off.

Tedisco has released a statement, saying among other things:

"This was a close campaign every step of the way. Ultimately, it became clear that the numbers were not going our way and that the time had come to step aside and ensure that the next Congressman be seated as quickly as possible. In the interest of the citizens of the 20th Congressional district and our nation, I wish Scott the very best as he works with our new President and Congress to address the tremendous challenges facing our country."

Speaker Pelosi's office confirms to us that Murphy will be sworn in next week.

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The recent Department of Homeland Security report, which attracted so much criticism on the right for its warnings about domestic right-wing extremists, has another big-time detractor: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

Bachmann took to the House floor on Wednesday night, delivering an impassioned speech about the government tagging decent Americans as extremists for being pro-life, pro-gun rights and anti-illegal immigration -- and asking whether Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has gone "absolutely stark raving mad":

There's no doubt that Bachmann has a genuine stake in this argument. For one thing, she is staunchly pro-life. She is also in favor of gun rights, and wants to secure the borders. Oh, and she's called for revolution against President Obama's tyranny and Marxism.

For the last decade or so, Washington has indulged Pat Buchanan as a sort of crazy political uncle. Everyone, it seems, has agreed to forget about his long track record of racially questionable commentary and writing, and to look kindly on his continued nativist leanings, because he's an entertaining and surprisingly insightful TV performer, and it's fun to watch him argue with Rachel Maddow.

But every now and then, the centrality to Buchanan's worldview of racial difference rises to the surface. In addition to his frequent MSNBC appearances, where he plays a mostly well-mannered, if hardline, conservative, Buchanan also writes a column for the far-right web magazine, Human Events. And that's where he gets himself into trouble.

His most recent effort, "The Rooted and The Rootless," takes as its premise the notion that there's a "blood-and-soil, family-and-faith, God-and-country kind of nation" that's competing with a minority represented by the "rootless" Obama and his "aides with advanced degrees from elite colleges who react just like him."

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Congressional Quarterly and The New Republic are reporting that House and Senate negotiators, along with members of the Obama administration, have determined that the final budget will include reconciliation instructions for health care.

As I detailed in this post--already outdated--that's a huge deal. Keep the date October 15 in mind. If the House and Senate don't agree on a comprehensive health reform bill by that date, this tactic will be operative.

Now the conferees will smooth over other discrepancies between the House and Senate budgets and then both bodies will vote on a final resolution.

Jumping off of this post, I just got some data on Ben Nelson's voting history--and it's certainly interesting. Nelson opposed the filibuster on the confirmation of two extremely controversial Bush appointees--EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, and, twice, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton (if you'll recall, Bolton was ultimately not confirmed, but became ambassador anyhow via recess appointment).

I've got a more complete history below the fold. The record tells a pretty convincing tale--Nelson generally opposes the filibuster on nominees, even if he doesn't like the candidate. Of course, if he decides to break with his own tradition and filibuster Dawn Johnsen, he'll have to explain to a lot of angry, senior Democrats why Bolton was worth an up and down vote but Johnsen is not.

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Just as a quick addendum to this post: The Senate agreed last night to send Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH)--the chair and ranking member of the Budget Committee--and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to the budget conference committee. There they will hash out all the differences between the Senate's budget and the House's.

So what does this mean for reconciliation? Recall that reconciliation is a process that allows Congress to circumvent a filibuster, and, potentially, an avenue for passing major reform with little room for obstruction or debate. It's a potentially huge deal and, at the very least, a tool that could provide Democrats tons of leverage in their pursuit of health reform through the standard legislative process. The House budget includes reconciliation "instructions", but the Senate bill does not, and the crucial question--will the final budget include reconciliation instructions?--will be settled in the conference committee.

Conrad and Gregg have made their opposition to the process known (though according to The Hill, "Conrad told reporters that he doesn't want to use reconciliation rules to pass healthcare reform but that he is feeling pressure to include the option in the budget resolution from House members and the Obama administration").

But what about Murray?

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