TPMDC Morning Roundup

Specter: “Do I Want To Stay In The Senate, Of Course I Do”
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) held a town hall event last night in his home state, re-introducing himself to voters as their new Democratic Senator. Specter bluntly acknowledged that a desire to remain in office was a reason for his switch. “Do I want to stay in the Senate, of course I do,” said Specter. “Do you like your jobs? Sure you do.”

Obama’s Day Ahead
President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet with Democrats from the Energy and Commerce Committees, at 10:30 a.m. ET in the State Dining Room. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. Obama will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres at 2 p.m. ET. At 3 p.m. ET, he will meet with senior advisers.Biden’s Day Ahead
Vice President Biden is having breakfast this morning with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. At 9:30 a.m. ET, he will speak at the AIPAC annual policy conference. He will then meet with Obama and the Democrats from the Energy and Commerce Committees at 10:30 a.m. ET, and have lunch with Obama at 12:30 p.m. ET. In the afternoon, he will hold conference calls on Recovery Act implementation, one with a group of mayors and the other with a group of governors. He will also meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres. In the evening, he will host a dinner for Pakistan experts at the Naval Observatory.

Bernanke To Speak To Congressional Committee
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will speaking at a 10 a.m. ET hearing of the Joint Economic Committee, giving them an update on the economic outlook. The Associated Press reports that Bernanke will likely say the economy is starting to improve, with the economic indicators not as bad as they were before — though he’s likely to face a tough crowd.

Hatch: Obama Promised Not To Nominate A Radical For SCOTUS
President Obama called Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) yesterday to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy. Hatch told reporters that Obama promised “he will not pick a radical or extremist.” Hatch added a word of caution, that there could be a big Senate fight if Obama “nominates someone contrary to what he told me.”

Gates: There Is No “Grand Bargain” With Iran
Sec. of Defense Robert Gates told reporters on his Middle East trip that the Obama administration is trying to reach out to Iran, but so far Iran’s response has not been positive. “We’re not willing to pull the hand back yet because we think there’s still some opportunity,” said Gates. “But I think concerns out there of some kind of a grand bargain developed in secret are completely unrealistic.”

Palin To Join GOP’s Town-Hall Initiative
Sarah Palin has officially accepted an invitation to join the Republican Party’s new town-hall meeting initiative, the National Council for a New America. As CNN points out, this comes shortly after Rush Limbaugh had vocally criticized the group for not including Palin, though it does appear at least possible that there was a genuine communications lag between the NCNA and Palin’s office.

NYT: LaHood Has GOP Résumé, Cabinet Post, Odd Jobs
The New York Times profiles Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood, finding a man who is not so much an expert in transportation as he is an expert in Washington and working with Congress. “I don’t think they picked me because they thought I’d be that great a transportation person,” LaHood said bluntly, going on to explain: “They picked me because of the bipartisan thing, and the Congressional thing, and the friendship thing.”