TPM News

Is the noose tightening around John Murtha?

For months now, the Pennsylvania Democratic power-broker's name has been popping up in connection to a wide-ranging FBI investigation of defense contractors and lobbyists to whom he has ties. And yesterday brought more bad news...

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The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the Supreme Court on July 28, a week from today. The vote was originally scheduled for today, but Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) granted a delay request made by Republicans.

Leahy reportedly said he was disappointed in the stall, but still expects her to be on the bench for the Supreme Court's fall session. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee's ranking Republican, said he expects Sotomayor to be confirmed by early August.

In other news, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has announced she will vote for Sotomayor's confirmation. She is the fourth Republican to do so, after Olympia Snowe, Richard Lugar and Mel Martinez.

The Democratic National Committee is now seeking to mobilize support against Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) pronouncement that the Republicans can "break" President Obama on health care, and has sent out an e-mail last night with a petition and a donation button:

Their plan is simple: oppose health care reform as a political ploy to weaken the President and defeat his entire agenda of change. But if we follow the Republican "Party of No" and do nothing, we'll not only ensure more of the same, but saddle our children and grandchildren with a growing burden of exploding costs and declining care that they may never overcome.

We can't let this kind of slash and burn politics succeed. We can fight back by collecting as many signatures as possible backing the President's principles for health care reform. A huge response will show Washington and the media that when Republicans try to "break" the President, Americans are ready to stand up for what's right.

The e-mail is technically not a fundraising letter, as there is no explicit appeal for money -- only the standard donation button that is in all the DNC's e-mails -- though obviously they wouldn't be opposed to any contributions that might come in. Check out the full e-mail after the jump.

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President Obama has a few events today as part of his continued health care push. Here's what we'll be keeping an eye on:

At 12:15 p.m. ET, Obama will be making a short speech in the Rose Garden on health care reform. Watch live here.

At 12:45 p.m. ET, he'll hold a closed-door meeting with Democrats from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, several of whom are Blue Dogs, a key bloc Obama needs to approve his health care legislation.

Plus, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's briefing will be held at 1:45 p.m. ET, and we'll be keeping our ears on that as well.

A new USA Today/Gallup poll suggests that President Obama's ratings could be taking a hit on some key issues.

Obama's overall approval rating is 55%, with 41% disapproval. That might sound solid enough, but in fact it puts him 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents at the equivalent point in the term.

On the economy, his approval is 47%, with 49% disapproval, down from a 55%-42% rating in May. On health care policy, he is at 44%-50%, another upside-down rating.

In addition, 59% say his proposals involve too much spending, and 52% say the proposals call for too much expansion of government power.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) is firing back at Gov. Ed Rendell, who has called upon him to drop his primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak's spokesman gave a statement to Greg Sargent, casting Sestak as the underdog taking on the establishment:

Joe Sestak has great respect for Governor Rendell -- but we have to ask ourselves, what would happen if our leaders only stood up to challenges when the odds were in their favor? That isn't the spirit that created this nation, led Barack Obama to the Oval Office, or allowed Ed Rendell to become Governor of Pennsylvania when everyone said a Mayor of Philadelphia could never win.

What will happen if only those from what the establishment deems "safe seats" are advised to run for higher office? Where will the audacity come from, if not from those who have demonstrated the ability to galvanize a constituency against the odds? Political calculation is not what put the Democrats in power, and it isn't what's going to keep us there. The people are looking for leaders of conviction, not convenience.

The people of Pennsylvania don't want to hear that someone won't face a challenge because it will be too difficult. We should demand more from our leaders.

Health care legislation will "probably include some additional revenue from well-to-do people," President Obama said in a Today show interview with Meredith Vieira that aired this morning.

"It's not punishing the rich," Obama said. "The way I look at it is, if I can afford to do a little bit more so that a whole bunch of families out there have a little more security, when I already have security, that's part of being a community."

The president also claimed that, despite the "hew and cry" that he's a tax-and-spend Democrat, "the only tax change I've made is to cut people's taxes."

That's not exactly true. In March, Obama signed a law upping the cigarette tax by 62 cents a pack.

Obama said the Congressional Budget Office has looked at some of his administration's health care proposals, "and they've said, you know, this has a good chance of working."

The CBO has said the proposed House bill won't cut health care costs. Obama said some of his proposals haven't been adopted by Congress yet.

According to the president, the CBO is saying that "the cost savings that are in those bills right now, some of them may work, but they're not enough to offset the additional costs of bringing in 46 million new people."

"I'm actually optimistic," he went on, "that at the end of the day we will have a bill that assures we're driving down costs over the long term, and in the short term, people have more security."

Obama: I Would Veto Tax On Health Benefits President Obama said in an interview with Jim Lehrer yesterday that he would veto a health bill care that taxed medical benefits. "Essentially employers would stop providing healthcare," said Obama. "John McCain had suggested everybody gets a tax credit, but the concern was that the tax credit wouldn't be sufficient to actually buy health insurance on the market. So I am still opposed to that and would veto a bill if that was the approach."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will deliver remarks on health care reform today, at 1:05 p.m. ET. At 1:20 p.m. ET, he will meet with Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates at 4:30 p.m. ET. At 7:30 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host an event celebrating country music.

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On Friday, the New York Times dropped a bombshell on the labor movement with a report that Senate negotiators had scotched a provision commonly known as 'card check'--which would permit workers to form a union when a majority of a business' employees sign an authorization form--from the Employee Free Choice Act.

Some labor officials played it cool when the news broke, but SEIU president Andy Stern insisted that he expected Congress to vote on the provision one way or another. Now, Stern's turning to his online supporters to make sure that happens.

"The New York Times reported on Friday that the Senate is considering dropping majority signup from the Employee Free Choice Act," Stern writes to a 100,000 person mailing list.

By giving employees the free choice to join unions - and not their bosses - majority signup allows workers to have a voice on the job.

Congress needs to hear about your support for majority signup. Sign my petition to Congress in support of majority signup and the Employee Free Choice Act.

You can read the entire letter below the fold. Stern wants Congress to consider majority sign up, but that could simply mean a vote on an amendment--card check as a stand-alone provision--as opposed to a vote on a bill with the provision already written into it. Union-sympathetic senators have apparently concluded that EFCA will fail if it includes card check, but a vote on the provision alone would at the very least put senators--particularly conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans--on the record.

Meanwhile, at the insistence of Blue Dogs, who'd rather not be forced to take a public stand, the House earlier this year reportedly decided not to consider EFCA until the Senate finishes work on the bill. There's certainly a significant number of House progressives who support the provision. But those progressives will have to speak up very loudly. If the Senate officially rejects the provision before the House takes up the legislation, it will be an extremely tough sell not to go the path of least resistance.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India on Friday, July 17. From left to right: U.S. Ambassador-Designate Timothy J. Roemer, Secretary of State Clinton, Chief of Protocol Officer Sumit Mallik, Deputy Chief of Protocol Officer S.V. Bijoor.

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton signs a book commemorating the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.

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Secretary Clinton meets with India's business leaders. From left to right: Ratan Tata, Charmain of the Tata Group; Secretary Clinton; Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries.

U.S. State Department

Children present a decorated shawl to Secretary Clinton.

U.S. State Department

Members of the Self Employed Women's Association sing "We Shall Overcome" in Gujarati.

U.S. State Department

Father Fraser Mascarenhas, the principal of St. Xavier's College Mumbai, greets Secretary Clinton and Bollywood star Aamir Khan. From left to right: Aamir Khan, Vice-Principal Vivien Amonkar, Secretary Clinton, Father Mascarenhas.

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton and Bollywood star Aamir Khan enter the auditorium at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai.

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton and Self Employed Women's Association Executive Director Reema Nanavaty listen as women artisans share stories of their involvement with SEWA programs.

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Secretary Clinton and Minister for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh

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Secretary Clinton with Sharad Pawar, the Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (right); and Dr. Mangala Rai, the President of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (left)

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton shops at Dilli Haat, New Delhi.

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Secretary Clinton and Deepak Pental, vice chancellor of the University of Delhi, address an audience of 700 students, faculty and guests.

U.S. State Department

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Secretary Clinton

U.S. State Department

Secretary Clinton and Bollywood star Aamir Khan speak to students in Mumbai.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Secretary Clinton


Secretary Clinton shakes hands with Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi during their meeting in New Delhi. Gandhi is the widow of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991.