David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

In response to a FOIA request, Gen. Petraeus' command has released to our Spencer Ackerman its methodology for calculating sectarian deaths. Sectarian deaths were a metric that Petraeus highlighted during his congressional testimony but until now how sectarian deaths were defined and counted remained unknown. Spencer has the details.

How would John Edwards have voted on the resolution condemning the MoveOn ad were he still in the Senate? We have the answer.

Fired Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay was given the Courageous Award by the Washington State Bar Association last night. (Thanks to TPM Reader DC for the link.)

As you've probably read here over the last few weeks, TPMmuckraker's Laura McGann has been tracking a strange earmark for a highway interchange project in Florida. And now she needs some help.

To get you up to speed, the Coconut Road project was funded (though not yet built) by a $10 million earmark from Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Now there are questions about why an Alaska congressman would take an interest in a highway project in faraway Florida and about the timing of campaign contributions to Young from the project's chief proponent. But the strangest thing about this earmark is how it made it into law in the first place.

The earmark was not in the final version of the bill that passed both the House and Senate. Got that? Somewhere after conference and after final passage by both chambers but before the President signed the bill, the earmark language was slipped into the text of the bill. It's pretty amazing and, from the experts we've talked to, pretty much unheard of for such a thing to happen.

So Laura set out to try to figure out how such a thing could happen. Literally, how it could happen. Where in the process could such tinkering occur? Which office? Which personnel? Which computer system? We wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of how Young or someone on Young's behalf or at his behest could make such a change and essentially have written into a law signed by the President language that Congress itself had not passed.

But as Laura went about her reporting she was stonewalled at every step: calls not returned, bounced from office to office and person to person. She has chronicled her efforts in this post.

Part of the trouble is that the earmark was slipped in back in 2005, when the GOP still controlled the House. The House clerk at the time is now long gone and there is probably some legitimate loss of institutional memory. But some of the memory loss may just be convenient.

Laura is going to keep plugging away at this. Maybe the House clerk will eventually return her calls. But if any of our readers on the Hill or elsewhere are familiar with the inner workings of the House and how such an earmark could be slipped in before the President puts his pen to the paper, Laura would love to hear from you.

The President is scared of horses? So says the former President of Mexico.

Breaking: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) taped by FBI in sting, CNN says, citing AP.

More shortly . . .

Here's the clip from CNN:

And from the AP:

The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public corruption sting, according to people close to the investigation. . . .

The recorded calls between Stevens and businessman Bill Allen were confirmed by two people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. They declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.

To be clear, the oil contractor referred to above is Veco, which has been at the center of the wide-ranging Alaska public corruption investigation. Allen has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and last week testified in trial in a related case that Veco had given unreported gifts to Stevens in the form of renovations on Stevens' home.

More than a few readers strenuously disagree with my assessment that making Senate Republicans actually go through with filibusters would be a pointless exercise for Democrats, in part because they lack 67 votes to override a veto.

TPM Reader JE:

I have to disagree here. It may be a pointless exercise in terms of passing legislation, but it is anything but pointless in terms of the making clear to the voters where the problem lies. . . .

For that very reason, the Democrats should make them filibuster, and use the term "filibuster" whenever they describe what the Republicans have done, not idiotic characterizations like "we don't have the votes." The only way to counteract Republican falsely blaming the Democrats for being "do-nothing" is to make it abundantly clear that Republicans are being obstructionist. *Make* them filibuster. Make it a true filibuster, which stops all other business until a cloture vote occurs. If anyone complains, or if anyone in the media doesn't get it, tell them that all you want is an up-or-down vote, but a minority of Republicans is preventing the business of the country from getting done, not to keep the bill from passing, but just so their president doesn't have to *bother* to veto it.

That's a heck of a lot less pointless than going through the motions of introducing bills you know won't pass because you "don't have the votes."

TPM Reader JC:

Hardly! The whole point is forcing Republican to defend their opposition to popular bills by obstructing the work of Congress with a filibuster. By meekly stepping aside after a failed cloture vote, Democrats basically allow the Republicans to make Democrats look like they are ineffective, and it's working. And when the Republicans tire of their filibuster or fail to follow through, it then forces the president to veto a popular bill, thus making things worse for him. The point is that it isn't the Democrat's pointless exercise. All they have to do is step back and let the Republicans hang themselves with filibusters and vetoes. Whose skin are they saving here?

TPM Reader AC:

Politics is the art of the possible. And when nothing concrete is possible, that leaves theater. I am baffled at Democrats' continual willingness to concede the stage. Veto or no veto, making the GOP filibuster a bill like Webb's is not pointless. It puts vulnerable GOP moderates on the hot seat, it puts the blame for obstruction on the minority where it belongs, and it may force a series of unpopular high-profile vetoes from Bush.

TPM Reader RT:

One reason why filibusters are popular is because they protect the President. Yes, the result may be the same as a veto and there may be no difference practically between the 60 and 67 vote threshold - but there is a huge image difference. The headline on a filibuster is "Senate Fails to Pass XYZ." The headline on a veto is "Bush Kills Stem Cell Research" or "Bush Rejects End to War." Republicans filibuster to prevent Bush from having these headlines. Keep it muddled and it all looks like a mess. A veto would provide clarity. Republicans don't want clarity on these issues.

TPM Reader NB:

[Q]uite frankly, I gotta call B.S. on the statement that the forced filibuster is a futile exercise. Yeah, the law would get vetoed, but a LOT of hay could be made by forcing the F-word and then HAMMERING the point that the GOP will go this far to NOT support troops. Done half-assed, this tactic could backfire in a big way, but if you think about all of the ABSOLUTE LIES that have become conventional wisdom through sheer repetition over the last few years, a forced filibuster along with a blitzkrieg PR campaign could actually force the 67. Especially with public sentiment the way it is, and a CRAPLOAD of presidential candidates.