TPM News

Conservatives on and off Capitol Hill are pointing to a new study released today in their fight to derail the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Produced by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist with LECG Consulting, the study asserts that EFCA would cause the U.S. to shed 600,000 jobs in the second year after the bill's enactment, as a consequence of increased union membership. Sounds scary -- but what's scarier still is who paid for the study: the Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs, a front for the business lobby's heaviest lobbying hitters.

Its members include the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the HR Policy Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Real Estate Roundtable. The same group paid for another ostensibly independent take-down of EFCA last month, written by University of Chicago law school professor Richard Epstein.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is at it again. In an appearance today on Bill Bennett's radio show, she gave the now-standard Republican line that the GOP has to do everything they can to stop President Obama's agenda -- and managed to slip in a line that Obama is enacting the policies of Ward Churchill:

Said Bachmann: "But what I think we're seeing is an implementation of all of the radical ideas that Bill Ayers and Ward Churchill -- the radical ideas that we've seen on some college campuses, they're now being implemented in our government, and they're taking a nefarious route when it looks at the economic recovery."

Ward Churchill, you might recall, is the radical former college professor who wrote an essay saying the victims of 9/11 had it coming. And Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress, thinks the President of the United States subscribes to Churchill's ideas and is working to enact them into law.

(Via Think Progress.)

Joe Biden addressed the AFL's Executive Committee in Miami this morning. Transcript of the event is finally out. Here are Biden's comments on the Employee Free Choice Act. Does not sound like any backing down:

So, folks, that's why there's no one thing we have to do. This is all going to be difficult, and one of the most difficult things will be to reinstitute that basic bargain. And I think the way to do that is the Employee Free Choice Act. (Applause.)

Folks, let's get it straight -- we're not asking -- we're not asking for anything we don't deserve. And we're not asking for anything that wasn't intended when the NLRB said we should be encouraging -- encouraging -- unions. We just want to level this playing field again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think President Obama said it best when he said -- I'm quoting -- "I don't buy the argument that providing workers with collective bargaining rights somehow weakens the economy or worsens the business environment." If you've got workers who have a decent pay and benefits, they also are customers for your business. (Applause.)

So let me add to that and say that I have a simple, basic belief, one that we're going to work hard to put into action: If a union is what you want, a union you're entitled to have. (Applause.)

Thanks to the White House's excellent live streams of today's health care summit, anyone could hear the remarks of senior members of Congress and administration aides as they discussed the political realities of the issue.

And I sat up straight in my chair once Rep. Joe Barton (TX), the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, started speaking towards the end of his session. (Committee Chairman Henry Waxman [D-CA] was also in the room.) Barton began fairly predictably, remarking that "I don't consider what happened in the '90s to HillaryCare as a failure ... The Clinton administration took a bunch of real smart people behind closed doors, presented a plan to Congress, and said 'take it or leave it.'

Then he took it to an interesting place (emphasis mine):

This is a different approach. [Sen. Chuck] Grassley and [Sen. Max] Baucus working together in the Senate is great ... we can get a different result. You can't oppose the president's principles. It's in the details, though, and how you put the plan together. But this is a good step.

Caveat aside, that approach to President Obama is a long way from wanting him to fail. Here's hoping Barton won't have to apologize to Rush for his openness...

Are we still a center-right nation, as many Republicans continue to insist? And can the GOP revive itself through a return to the spirit of Ronald Reagan, as Rush Limbaugh has said?

Check out this question from the new Fox News poll: "What do you think the nation's economy needs more of right now -- the economic policies of Ronald Reagan or the economic policies of Barack Obama?"

The answer: Obama 49%, Reagan 40%.

Late Update: Some other interesting observations about this whole poll, after the jump.

Read More →

The potential field of candidates for President Obama's Senate seat -- for which Roland Burris may or may not be running -- keeps on growing.

The Hill reports that Bill Daley, former Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton, is on the verge of entering the race for President Obama's former Senate seat. Daley is the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Daley was also a co-chairman of Obama's presidential campaign, and has reportedly spoken to top political talent including Larry Grisolano -- who works for David Axelrod and David Plouffe's campaign firm, AKPD Message and Media.

Meanwhile, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has already filed paperwork for an exploratory committee, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky has also been mulling a bid in the Democratic primary.

The 2008 election may be over, but the voter suppression wars that went along with it certainly aren't.

Eleven Democratic senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island today introduced a bill designed to make GOP operatives think twice about launching indiscriminate challenges on people's right to vote. The bill would outlaw challenges to voting eligibility that are based on unreliable information.

The bill appears targeted at the GOP's "caging" tactic -- in one manifestation of which, Republicans in Michigan and other states considered challenging the eligibility of voters who were on a list of people whose homes were subject to foreclosure.

It would also appear to cover the GOP effort we reported on in New Mexico last fall, in which the state party publicly announced its intention to challenge 28 mostly Hispanic voters, based on a grab-bag of suspicions. All of those voters were later shown to be valid.

Whitehouse said of the bill:

Last year's historic election proved that the right of an eligible voter to cast his or her vote is essential to our democracy.

The full press release, featuring quotes from many of the other senators, follows after the jump ...

Read More →

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding a hearing today on the waiver request by California, as well as more than a dozen other states, to allow higher auto fuel-efficiency standards under the Clean Air Act.

The Detroit Three -- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler -- are not sending direct spokesmen to the event. But one of their home-state senators, Carl Levin (MI), is there, and his argument tracks with what the auto industry wants: a "single national standard" to govern auto tailpipe emissions.

That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Well, the Clean Air Act did allow California to set its own environmental regulation standards and give other states the authority to opt in, but let's assume that a national standard would be the best solution for automakers as well as the nation. Now where should the national standard be set?

When I asked Levin this question last week, he said any national standard should simply be "fairly achieved" and that the specific fuel-efficiency level should be "left to the experts."

But Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign and the Sierra Club's former senior global warming advocate, sees the "national standard" push in a different way: as Detroit's code for urging rejection of the California waiver. "When they say 'one national standard,'" Becker told me, "what they mean is ... [that] California['s waiver] should be obliterated and the EPA should keep its nose out. That ain't gonna happen."

What may happen? The automakers may end up ruing the day they advocated for a uniform national standard.

Read More →

Yesterday, we noted a report in the Wall Street Journal that Merrill Lynch's top ten execs were each paid more than $10 million last year. The ten made slightly more than the top ten earners for 2007, despite the company's collapse last year.

Now, the Journal follows up by reporting that several of those execs have been subpoenaed in New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation into Merrill's awarding of billions in bonuses.

Among the group are Andrea Orcel, who was Merrill's top investment banker, Thomas Montag, who led global sales and trading, and Peter Kraus, who ran strategy. They all now work at Bank of America, which took over Merrill after its collapse.

Another of the top ten, former Merrill CEO John Thain, has already spoken to Cuomo's investigators.

Bank of America, whose role in the bonus fiasco is also being scrutinized by Cuomo, filed a court petition yesterday to try to keep the pay information secret. B of A CEO Ken Lewis reportedly refused to answer investigators' questions on the subject when he met with them last week.

We now have our first poll in a long time out of Minnesota, from Rasmussen, testing what people think of the never-ending Senate race -- and it raises as many questions as it answers.

When asked, "Who will ultimately be declared Minnesota's next U.S. Senator: Al Franken or Norm Coleman?" the poll shows 47% of likely voters seeing Franken as the eventual winner, to 35% who think Coleman will come out on top.

This question was asked next, and is sure to be used as political ammunition by the GOP: "Should there be a revote for the Senate seat between Al Franken and Norm Coleman?" The result: Yes 46%, No 44%. The narrow plurality for a new election, within the ±4% margin of error, certainly does suggest that a lot of voters aren't satisfied with the situation as it is now -- obviously Republicans are almost all for it, but it also leads by 12 points among independents.

We'll see what other polls have to say as Coleman's revote gambit continues to play out in the local media -- for example, a small-town newspaper that endorsed Coleman in 2008 has now declared their opposition to it.