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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is getting laudable attention for his call for an independent "truth commission" to investigate civil liberties and human rights abuses committed during the Bush years. But as I mentioned earlier this week, the commission may not be directly legislated by Congress -- and one reason is that not every Democrat thinks it's necessary to do so.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told me that the Obama Justice Department is already positioned to do the type of analysis that such an independent commission would perform, and he warned against investigating the Bush years "in a way that could impose partisan concerns."

Now Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), a trusted ally of party leaders, is the second Democratic senator to openly question the need for a formal panel to look back on the Bush administration's potentially illegal misdeeds. As Reed told MSNBC today:

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The Hill reports that there might just be something to a meme that's been floating around about the Minnesota Senate race: That the Republican Party quite likes the situation of Norm Coleman's lawsuit keeping the Democrats one vote short of what they would otherwise have.

GOP aides told the paper that there is not a specific desire to wage the lawsuit as a stalling maneuver on Franken's seating. But one anonymous leadership aide did say that "It's better for us to have one less member." The same person also admitted this about Franken: "He's got a very good shot at winning."

And Ron Bonjean, a former Senate Republican aide who now runs a public-relations firm, had this to say: "If Franken was going to vote on the stimulus package, they wouldn't necessarily need one of the Republicans. So yeah, it matters."

Even if the lawsuit isn't specifically being done as a stall tactic, the delaying effect does appear to be a nice fringe benefit.

TPMDC was the first to report on the Democrats' plans to remove Senate-passed limits on executive pay from the final stimulus bill.

Today the WaPo followed by reporting the same thing ... but as we mentioned yesterday, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) aren't done fighting for their proposal to claw back $3.2 billion in bonuses paid out by banks after they got government rescue money last year.

"We are still having difficulty getting a straight answer as to whether or not it is still in the bill," Wyden's spokeswoman told me via e-mail. "Everyone we ask says that someone else is trying to kill it."

It ain't over till legislative language is formally filed -- but if you think they'll take up executive pay limits later this year, I have some worthless Fannie Mae stock to sell you.

Hmmm, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is lucky that her tough re-election battle came last year and not in 2010. Collins had pushed for $1 billion in stimulus money for LIHEAP, the government's program to provide home heating money for low-income residents -- and a major Maine priority, given the state's chilly winters.

But LIHEAP looks zeroed out, according to the summary of the final stimulus deal that we've received (read here). Did Collins lose a battle over heating money, or just not pursue one?

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

The House's original stimulus bill, as we've reported for several weeks, gave mass transit the short end of the stick in favor of $30 billion for highways with no requirement that repairs be prioritized over new road-building.

But according to a confidential summary of the final stimulus deal that we've just been passed (view it here), mass transit got some more attention in the end. Amtrak and high-speed rail programs got $9.3 billion, an increase of about $6 billion from the Senate's version of the stimulus.

Still, environmentally sustainable transportation didn't completely win the day. A $5.5 billion transit-modernizing grant program eagerly anticipated by environmental advocates, which senators at first wanted to open up to highways, was removed entirely from the final stimulus deal.

Congress did agree on $8.4 billion for general public transportation grants, however. Vice President Biden (D-Amtrak), if you had any role in this: thanks.

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

Late Late Update: The sun has set in Washington, but the town is still on pins and needles over the actual text of the stimulus deal. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has issued a statement promising that the language "will be filed this evening, giving members enough time to review the [stimulus] conference report before voting on it tomorrow afternoon."

That means most rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties will have about 12 hours -- including slumber time -- to digest the bill, which is likely to run past the 300-page mark, before debate begins at 9am tomorrow.

We'll let you know first thing about the fate of executive pay limits and other remaining unknowns in the final stimulus, which is likely to be signed into law by President Obama before Monday. In the meantime, check out the details of the tax and health care provisions that made it in.

Thanks to a reader who sent us the final numbers on what's in and out of the final stimulus bill, we can finally start digging into the substance of the deal that's headed for approval by this weekend. (We have the charts of those internal numbers for you right here.)

Here's the first thing I noticed: Remember when we told you about the Senate's attempt to sneak in a $2 billion earmark for FutureGen, the Illinois "clean coal" plant? That's been zeroed out in the final stimulus pact.

As strange as this sounds, score one for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Late Update: N.B. Until legislative language is formally filed on the bill today, there's always the possibility that these numbers could change. What we're bringing you are the freshest details.

House Democratic aides haven't formally released the details of the stimulus deal yet, but we've got the information -- thanks to the reader who sent it in.

Note that the school-building fund sought by House Democrats, which sparked an internal tussle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), is nowhere to be found in the final stimulus. Instead, school repairs will be paid for using part of the states' $54 billion "stabilization fund," which was brought up $15 billion above the Senate's original number.

But no matter how you slice it, the Senate won that fight.

Michael Steele has a new op-ed posted at USA Today, promoting the GOP's continuing assertion that their stimulus plan has numbers to back up its superiority over the Dem bill:

Republicans have a better solution: an economic recovery plan that lets families and small businesses keep more of what they earn. By our analysis, the Republican plan would create 6.2 million jobs, twice the number created under the Democrats' plan, at half the cost.


Again, it needs to be asked where they got this from. As we've previously reported, this came from altering the base numbers in an economic analysis that Christina Romer, who is now serving as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a year ago -- well before the current crisis of a deflationary economy had come into play.

There are two problems here. First, that paper didn't actually examine tax cuts, but instead looked at the negative effects of tax increases under normal circumstances. The Republicans' predictions about tax cuts come from flipping the numbers around and assuming the mirror-image effects.

And furthermore, they've totally ignored the fact that we are in an abnormal scenario right now, with different fundamental underlying assumptions.

But hey, never let that stop you from some good political spin.

Late Update: Hmm, Eric Cantor is doing it, too.

A new Rasmussen poll suggests that support for the stimulus plan has picked up again, after it had previously fallen last week.

The numbers: 44% favor the package, 40% oppose it, and the remainder are undecided. The margin of error is ±3%.

Last week, Rasmussen showed support at an upside-down 37%-43%, a number that was immediately pushed hard by Republicans. For example, Karl Rove cited Rasmussen just this morning in his Wall St. Journal column, as a sign of how support had fallen.

Also consider that Rasmussen has consistently shown lower support for the plan than other firms have charted, but the positive movement is clear.

And so here's the problem with hanging your hopes on this week's poll. It remains to be seen whether this new survey will also be promoted by the GOP to the same degree that last week's was.

As we're thinking about President Obama's quest for "post-partisanship," and discussing Congress' habit of legislating in a messy rush, it's worth asking: Has Washington always been plagued by feuds over access and transparency?

Here's one answer: Can you guess the year that this Senate coverage was published in the New York Times?

No conclusion of any kind regarding the tariff bill was reached, although the Republicans said they hoped to be able to report the bill to the full committee on Monday. ... [T]he Democrats would not agree to fix a date, saying they wanted a reasonable time to consider the bill, and there would be no undue delay. The Democrats were not shown a copy of the bill, nor did they receive any information regarding its character.

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