TPM News

Guess that dinner at the White House didn't go so well ... the $825 billion stimulus bill just passed the House of Representatives with zero Republicans voting in favor. Eleven Democrats -- 10 centrist Blue Dogs and the unconvinced Rep. Paul Kanjorski (PA) -- joined the GOP in opposing the package.

Brad Woodhouse, president of the Dem-allied group Americans United for Change, described the GOP's stalwart opposition in two words: "political suicide," the subject of his e-mailed statement on the stimulus vote.

But maybe this was the Republicans' plan all along. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his troops can start the next act in the show and ask for just a few more concessions in order to give the stimulus its bipartisan stripes.

Either way, with GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (ME) signaling her support, its passage in the Senate by next week is looking assured.

Norm Coleman briefly spoke to reporters outside his election trial after it ended for the day, and he stressed the importance of the drawn-out proceedings we've seen -- with a handy pop-culture reference.

"What you're observing out there may not seem as exciting as what you see on Law & Order," said Coleman. "But the principles that we're fighting for, that I fully believe are being established today, are more important than anything you'll see on Law & Order."

Later on he said that the trial is "not as exciting as Law & Order, though I'd take [Coleman attorney] Joe Friedberg over Fred Thompson, at least in the courtroom."

Fred Thompson must be feeling pretty put down right now. First Norm endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination, and now this.

(Press conference viewed at The Uptake.)

My colleague Zack at TPMmuck just heard from an aide to Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. The aide definitively denied Sen. Kit Bond's (R-MO) claim that Holder had given him "assurances" of avoiding future prosecutions of Bush intelligence officials who engaged in torturous interrogations.

"Eric Holder has not made any commitments about who would or would not be prosecuted," the aide said via e-mail. "He explained his position to Senator Bond as he did in the public hearing and in his responses to written questions."

The aide pointed to Holder's written response to a question from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ):

Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts, and no one is above the law. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in "reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions" authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.

Sen. Bob Corker (TN) can be one of the hardest congressional Republicans to pin down ideologically, and he proved that today during Al Gore's appearance in the Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker's easygoing criticism of a cap-and-trade system for regulating emissions won him a glowing profile last year in National Review, which called him "the most pleasant surprise conservatives have had" in the Senate since Paul Coverdell in the 1990s.

Wonder what the NRO folks would make of Corker's kumbaya moment with Gore today? From Corker's comments to Gore:

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The Franken legal team has been busy this afternoon laying out their argument against Norm Coleman: You don't get to pull a 180.

Franken attorney David Lillehaug has been cross-examining Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, who oversaw a great deal of the recount and was originally called by the Coleman side in order to probe into the fallibility that exists within the system. Lillehaug has used the cross-examination as a vehicle to explore a wrinkle in Coleman's new arguments about making sure every absentee vote is properly counted: Coleman originally opposed all similar efforts from the Franken camp during the recount.

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In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today, 60 House Democrats urged her to release emergency funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to help rebuild the the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of its war with Israel. The letter focuses on the need to rebuild Gaza's demolished infrastructure and remedy the shortage of medical supplies that has sparked a "humanitarian emergency."

Full text is after the jump, with the names of the Democrats who signed on.

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From Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) press briefing on the stimulus, going on right now:

Hoover was very interventionist. He raised taxes, increased spending, and tried very much to [intervene in] the economy.

"A lot of us would not like to have the level of government involvement" that the stimulus involves, Ensign added.

My friends at Politico, Jim VandeHei and Eamon Javers, have a piece this morning about those who advocate doing nothing in the face of our economic crisis. No stimulus, nada, these folks argue.

I think there's an argument for doing nothing but it's so outside the conventional mainstream, far to the right of the House Republicans, that it seems to me incumbent upon Politico, for whom I've written and which I admire, to have noted that some of the experts quoted in their piece have what we might call exotic histories.

The piece quotes Andrew Schiff, as "an investment consultant at Euro-Pacific Capital and a card-carrying member of the stand-tall-against-the-stimulus lobby." He tells Politico: "All this stimulus money is geared toward getting consumers spending and borrowing again. But spending and borrowing were the problem in the first place." This quote and identification make him sound like some typical money guy expressing the kind of fiscal prudence you expect from Hal Holbrooke in Wall Street.

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Great news from the House floor, where members are debating the $825 billion stimulus bill. An amendment from Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) -- restoring $3 billion in mass transit funding to an initial $10 billion pot that looked distressingly low to many urban-planning folks -- just passed by voice vote.

This brings the infrastructure portion of the stimulus a large step closer to the level of investment that has a genuine chance of expanding the nation's green transportation options. Amtrak, Metro, and subway riders, rejoice.

Late Victory Lap Update: Nadler just noted that hundreds of millions of dollars of this newly approved cash would go to often under-funded priorities in the crowded urban areas of New York and California. From his statement:

This amendment is crucial for fair distribution of transportation spending between urban and non-urban parts of the county. ... Investment in transit is a major step toward putting Americans to work right away in green jobs, reducing emissions and improving our transit systems.

The Washington Times reported today that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder has privately assured Sen. Kit Bond (MO) and other Republicans that the Obama DoJ will not prosecute intelligence officials who engaged in harsh interrogations.

A Bond aide told the Times that the senator "strongly considered blocking the nomination based on questions arising from some of Mr. Holder's public statements," but that Bond now planned to support the nomination after "having received assurances that [Holder] was not intent on going after intelligence officials who acted in good faith."

The implication of the piece is fairly clear: Holder promised Bond to eschew prosecutions, and Bond promised not to block his nomination. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- which approved Holder today -- strongly denied that such an exchange could have occurred.

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