TPM News

Today's Senate does not suck as much as the Senate of old. That's something on which Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan can apparently agree.

In one of the many lighter moments in today's confirmation hearings, Graham asked Kagan what she thought of the hearings so far, making reference to her widely-cited 1995 book review calling the modern confirmation process "a vapid and hollow charade."

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Usually, in a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court nominee, the discussion of the Second Amendment comes down to a debate over whether the amendment guarantees an individual or collective the right to bear arms. One might think the matter was settled in Congress since Supreme Court rulings in Heller and McDonald leave the individual right to bear arms, as Elena Kagan said earlier today, "settled law." However, having a settled constitutional question left Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) with an opening to question whether the right to bear arms come from more than just the constitution. He wanted to know, in fact, whether it came straight from God.

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The new survey of the Ohio gubernatorial race by Public Policy Polling (D) shows Republican former Rep. John Kasich edging Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. Other polling shows Strickland ahead, though -- and in either case, this race is definitely one of the big toss-ups of the year.

The numbers: Kasich 43%, Strickland 41%. The survey of registered voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. The previous PPP numbers from March showed Kasich ahead by 42%-37%.

Interestingly, this Dem firm's poll showing the Republican ahead is being released on the same day as a non-partisan Quinnipiac poll, which showed Strickland ahead by by 43%-38%. That said, these results aren't all that far apart in statistical terms, so these divergent results in a way just further show the closeness of the race. The TPM Poll Average has Strickland ahead by 44.3%-41.8%.

The campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is continuing to have a lot of fun with their primary challenger, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, over the infomercial he did in 2007 for a company offering questionable seminars on how to receive "free money" from government grants. Their latest: a web video showing a satirical "second J.D. Hayworth infomercial."

A not-very-good voice impersonator, pretending to be Hayworth, comes in as the announcer. "I'm J.D. Hayworth, and I'm speaking to you at 3:47 in the morning, to tell you this important announcement," the announcer says, with the screen then cutting to a section of footage from the king of free government money commercials, pitchman Matthew Lesko in his Riddler suit-jacket: "Free money from the government!"

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Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spent the second morning of Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination hearing showcasing all the ways a person can call someone else a liar without actually saying the word. It was a tour de force in Washington-speak, but it also showed Sessions' -- the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee -- Wilsonian plan of attack when it comes to Kagan: she lies.

Sessions' claims center around Kagan's time as Dean of Harvard law school and the access military recruiters had on campus during part of her time there. Republicans allege that Kagan denied those recruiters any access to the law school campus or her students. Kagan has said -- and said again today -- that she was balancing Harvard's strict anti-discrimination policy and the law regarding recruiting access as it was understood at the time.

Session's response, essentially? You're a liar.

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Democrats are hoping to reopen the Wall Street reform conference committee today, after a series of GOP objections (and Robert Byrd's death) put the vote count for the legislation in serious doubt in the Senate. (Late update: The conference committee will reconvene today at 5 p.m.)

Currently, according to multiple aides, House and Senate negotiators are trying to come up with a new way to pay for the legislation. Republican Sens. Scott Brown and Susan Collins have objected to a plan to raise $19 billion over 10 years by imposing a fee on major financial firms. Paygo rules require the bill to be paid for, though, and that means raising money from...somewhere. Ideas being kicked around include dipping into unused TARP funds, and forcing banks to pay higher premiums for FDIC insurance.

That latter option would force even small depository institutions to pay for the cost of regulatory reform. The previous tax would have impacted major institutions only.

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Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), the challenger to Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary who has come under fire for his participation in a 2007 infomercial for a company's questionable seminars promoting "free money" in government grants, has put up a web video telling his side of the story. In it, he declares that McCain is a hypocrite on this subject. And in response, the McCain campaign is calling Hayworth a very dumb man for making the comparison.

"Three years ago I appeared in a video presentation about government grants, for which I was compensated. In retrospect, it was a mistake. I should have never appeared in the ad, and I apologize for my involvement," Hayworth says. He then lays out all the problems with this company: the consumer complaints, its own financial troubles -- and the fact that they later went on to continue to use his name and likeness past the agreed upon expiration date, necessitating a cease-and-desist letter from himself and his attorneys. "So I had my own difficulties with that entity."

However, he calls out McCain: "It is worth noting, as well, that Sen. McCain, on his official website, has an entire section devoted to government grants. So obviously, he believes in the merits of government grants -- though he tries to attack me for being less than fiscally conservative."

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The lawyer for Daily Kos is not mincing words when it comes to accusing Research 2000 of outright fraud in its poll data.

"He handed Daily Kos fiction and claimed it was fact and got us to put our name on it," said Attorney Adam Bonin of R2K president Del Ali.

In an interview with TPMmuckraker, Bonin, of the firm Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia, says he will file suit against Research 2000 in the next week in the Northern District of California, where Kos is based. The suit will allege "breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and a number of other counts." It will seek damages for "the amount that was paid for this polling, and ... things like reputational harm and punitive damages." Ali and his attorney have forcefully denied the allegations.

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Former President Bill Clinton today took sides in Colorado's Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, endorsing Andrew Romanoff's challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet. It's one of the hottest primary races left this year, and is especially notable given President Obama's prominent backing of Bennet, who was appointed to the seat in 2009.

Romanoff claimed the Obama administration offered him a job to stay out of the Aug. 10 primary, and the Republicans think they have a prime pickup opportunity thanks to the Democratic intraparty warfare.

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