Tag Archives: Jay Newton-Small

It Is 1995 Again And We Are Wearing Doc Martens, Listening To Everclear

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

Congress has until March 4 to figure out how to fund the U.S. government. And as of right now, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are more than $60 billion away from a consensus. It’s a high stakes game, given that last time the federal government shut down, all sorts of important functions were halted (passport/visa processing, toxic waste cleanup, museums, monuments and 368 national park sites all closed, etc). So who stands to benefit from all this brinkmanship?

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been working behind the scenes to draft a two-week stopgap measure to avert a government shutdown that would include $4 billion in immediate cuts, according to House and Senate GOP aides.

The House would move first – the Rules Committee could meet as early as Monday. Boehner is hoping to pass the bill by Wednesday. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have been in discussions but if a deal is not reached ahead of time Senate Republicans would offer Boehner’s proposal as a substitute to Reid’s bill. The cuts will include reductions that President Obama has suggested and other non-controversial items in the hopes of luring support from moderate Senate Democrats who are facing tough reelections. No details were immediately available on what cuts Boehner and McConnell are looking at. “Senator Reid’s position that they will force a government shutdown rather than cut one penny in spending is indefensible – and it will be very hard for them to oppose a reasonable short-term funding measure that will cut spending,” says a House GOP aide. If nothing is done by March 4 the government will shutdown.

Reid’s office said Wednesday he still plans to move forward with a 30-day spending freeze at current levels. The House on Saturday passed a bill funding the government through the end of the fiscal year. But that bill slashes funding by $100 billion — cuts that are not likely to survive the Democratically-controlled Senate. The Senate has proposed cutting $41 billion from Obama’s 2011 request, but that translates into funding the government at roughly the same level it’s at right now. “While Republicans are making a genuine effort to cut spending and debt, Washington Democrats can’t seem to find a single dime of federal spending to cut, insisting on the status quo, even for a short-term spending bill,” McConnell said Wednesday in a statement to TIME. “But keeping bloated spending levels in place is simply unacceptable. So it is our hope that Democrats will join us in a bill that actually reduces Washington spending.” Both sides agree that more time is needed to negotiate a compromise and Boehner has said he will not allow even a temporary extension without some cuts.

The competing bills amount to a game of chicken between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate. Both sides claim they are trying to avoid a shutdown, but if one happens both are laying the ground work to blame the other. While both Parties say they want cuts, Republicans want immediate results while Democrats have been taking more of a “scapel” rather than a “meat axe” approach, as Reid put it yesterday on a call with reporters.

Annie Lowrey at Slate:

So what actually happens if Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution and the coffers dry up? Certain necessary activities would continue—anything related to defense, inpatient or emergency medical care, air traffic control, securing prisoners, or disaster assistance, for instance. But legally, federal agencies would have to wind down nonessential business. That means hundreds of thousands of employees would go on furloughs, from Treasury to Health and Human Services to the Department of Education, to be paid whenever a continuing resolution passed. Thousands more contractors would just lose their gigs. Parks would shut down. Offices would clear out. Phones would go unanswered.

Nobody knows exactly how it would shake out, not just yet. The president has broad discretion to decide what counts as necessary and what does not, says Stan Collender, a longtime budget expert and a partner at Qorvis, a D.C. communications firm. Right now, the White House Office of Management and Budget says it is helping agencies review their protocols in the event that March 4 comes and goes without a continuing resolution on Obama’s desk. (The OMB has required federal agencies to keep an updated contingency plan on file since 1980.) Officials are looking at who will go and who will stay, and how they will tell whom to go where, just in case.

But everyone dreads the prospect. The last time the government shut down was during the Clinton administration. For five days in November 1995 and 21 days between December 1995 and January 1996, the lights went off. In the first shutdown, 800,000 workers stopped heading into the office. In the second, about 284,000 stayed at home, with an additional 475,000 working on “non-pay status.” These were not just pencil-pushers either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave up on monitoring the outbreak of diseases. Workers at 609 Superfund toxic-waste sites stopped cleaning up.

Ezra Klein:

This isn’t just about the spending bill. The stakes are higher even than that. At this point, no one side really knows how the power dynamic between the House and the Senate will shake out. House Republicans feel their preferences should take priority because they won the last election. Sharp cuts to non-defense discretionary spending are nothing more than their due. Senate Democrats counter that they still control not just the Senate, but also the White House — the House Republicans are a minority partner in this play, and don’t get to decide what the government does or doesn’t do merely because they control one of the three major legislative checkpoints. An uncompromising force is meeting an unimpressed object. But this won’t get settled in an arm wrestling bout, and it’s looking less and less likely that it’ll get settled in negotiations, either. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly possible that this will ultimately get decided when both sides put their theory to the test and take their case to the people during a government shutdown.

The Economist

David Corn at Politics Daily:

What would be the reasonable course of action in a situation like this? The answer is obvious: pass a short extension of the current continuing resolution — say, for a few weeks — to cover the time needed to hammer out a compromise between the House GOPers and Senate Democrats. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has done just that, proposing a stopgap bill that would fund the government at current levels until the end of March. Boehner, though, has declared he won’t accept a temporary measure unless it includes spending cuts. So if he sticks to that extreme position and he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid don’t reach a compromise by March 4, much of the federal government will shut down.

In such a scenario, it would seem that Boehner would deserve most of the culpability. Just like Gingrich. But would Boehner pay the same price?

The political dynamics are different this time. And Boehner is playing to two audiences that each is looking for a different show. Much of the tea party crowd — in and out of Congress — would cheer a government shutdown. These folks see the federal government as the enemy. They’d be delighted to strangle it, even if only for a few days. Yet independent voters, whom both parties need to court, would probably not be as happy. These people usually want their representatives in Washington to make the system work. They aren’t looking for showdowns or games of chicken. By forcing a shutdown, Boehner can appease his right — but at the cost of potentially alienating the middle.

Of course, if a shutdown comes, Boehner will try to blame it on Democrats and President Obama, claiming that their unwillingness to accept spending cuts created the problem. He’ll bash them for not listening to the people, and he’ll depict himself as a champion of principle. If it comes to this, it will be the climax of the GOP’s just-say-no strategy of the past two years.

Capitol Hill Democrats say Boehner is riding the Overreach Express and risks coming across more as a tea party bomb-thrower than as a responsible legislator. At least, that’s their hope. It will certainly take some deft maneuvering for Boehner to cause a shutdown, accuse the Democrats, and be hailed as a spending-cut hero of the republic. But it’s hard to know where the American public is these days. It generally detests overall government spending, but opposes many of the individual cuts the Republicans have passed. And though the American electorate sent a band of conservative ideologues to Washington this past November, many Americans fancy the notion of bipartisan cooperation. It’s no sure bet that the public will embrace a politician who throws this switch.

Boehner might be the player who has the most to lose. Obama and the Senate Democrats are already viewed as politicians who consider government a positive force that can be used to resolve the nation’s problems. If they draw a line against severe GOP cuts and ask for more time to forge a compromise, that’s hardly a news story. But Boehner, who is still a new figure on the scene, has benefited by not being regarded as an ideologue. If he refuses to back a measure that keeps the government functioning while the politicians look for a bipartisan deal, he could end up becoming identified as an I-know-best, anti-government extremist. That will, no doubt, be a badge of honor in certain circles. But it may not go over well beyond those quarters.

Boehner has a choice: reasonableness or ideology. In 1996, Gingrich chose the latter and crashed. At that time, Boehner was in his third term as a House member. The next two weeks will show what lessons he learned — if any.

Major Garrett at The Atlantic:

House GOP leaders held a conference call with freshmen GOP members on Wednesday to lay out the strategy. More than half of the 87-member class participated in a call with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; and House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. The call gave more detail to an outline of the strategy GOP leaders gave the freshmen class before it left Washington for this week’s recess.

The GOP aides said the thrust of the trimmed-down CR is to avoid a government shutdown and make the GOP spending cuts as hard as possible for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House to ignore or criticize. “What we will end up saying is we have passed two bills to prevent a shutdown and then we will ask the Senate: ‘How many bills have you passed to prevent a shutdown?’ ” an aide said.

Senate Democrats dismissed the idea that the House proposal represented any kind of concession.

“The Republicans’ so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow,” said Jon Summers, Reid’s communications director. “This isn’t a compromise; it’s a hardening of their original position. This bill would simply be a two-week version of the reckless measure the House passed last weekend. It would impose the same spending levels in the short term as their initial proposal does in the long term, and it isn’t going to fool anyone. Both proposals are non-starters in the Senate.”

The GOP freshmen, according to senior House GOP aides, backed the approach, even though it amounts to a retreat from the $61 billion in cuts from enacted fiscal 2010 spending levels (and $100 billion from Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget proposal that the previous Congress ignored). The House approved the $100 billion in cuts after the freshmen rejected the GOP-leadership-backed plan to cut $32 billion from fiscal 2010 spending levels.

According to several GOP sources, the freshmen and many senior conservatives are girding for an eventual retreat from the bigger CR because they know GOP leaders are fearful of the political consequences of a government shutdown and want to wage the spending-cut battle over many cycles–instead of betting all their chips on this first showdown with Reid and Obama.

Boehner and Cantor have pleaded with the freshmen to take the long view of the budget war and not risk a political backlash over the CR dispute. GOP leaders have instead argued to win as many spending cuts as they can during the CR debate and follow up with more when Congress must raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling later this spring and find still more when the fiscal 2012 appropriations bills are written.

This approach reflects Boehner’s deep-seated belief that the 1995 Gingrich-led Congress risked everything in its shutdown confrontation with President Bill Clinton, and in the aftermath Republicans not only lacked the stomach to fight for more spending cuts, they veered in the opposite direction and targeted federal spending to vulnerable districts to protect the GOP majority.

“We have a totally different mindset and approach than 1995,” said a senior House GOP source. “We don’t want to shut the government down. But we do want to cut spending. And we will. And the CR will do that one way or the other.”

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Not Exactly A Moment Of Zen

Jon Stewart’s last show of 2010

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

In his last show of the year, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart took Congress and the media to task for not making the Zadroga bill a priority. Named for James Zadroga, a 911 first responder who died in 2006 of respiratory disease, the bill would create a trust fund to cover the health care costs of surviving police, firemen, emergency medical technicians and clean up crews who toiled for months in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The bill passed the House but has been stalled in the Senate due to GOP concerns that it would, in essence, create a new — albeit relatively tiny — entitlement.

(Stewart may have taken outrage lessons on the issue from his buddy Rep. Anthony Weiner with whom he’s shared a South Hampton summer sublet.)

In the wake of Stewart’s show, ABC’s Jonathan Karl ran a story on World News and the cable nets seem to have woken up to the bill’s existence. On Sunday, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand announced that a revised version of the bill, which reduces the cost from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion – the measure is offset by closing a corporate tax loop hole – had gained at least some GOP support. Indeed, several prominent Republicans have come out in support of the bill with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace calling it a “national shame” that the legislation has yet to be enacted.

With Senate Democrats upping the pressure for passage of the bill giving health benefits to sickened 9/11 responders, it’s going to get increasingly hard for GOP Senators to maintain their opposition. That’s because even right-leaning commentators and political operatives are growing mighty uncomfortable with the Senate GOP’s stance.

Case in point: This morning Joe Scarborough ripped into GOP opponents of passing the bill, which is called the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He said Republicans were taking a big risk, and the crucial point Scarborough made is that this should be a national issue, not a New York one

Matt Negrin at Politico:

Paging Jon Stewart: The White House needs your help.

Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes the Comedy Central host can persuade enough Republican senators to vote for a 9/11 health bill so it can head to the president’s desk.

“If there’s the ability for that to sort of break through in our political environment, there’s a good chance that he can help do that,” Gibbs said in his briefing. “I think he has put the awareness around this legislation. He’s put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that’s good. I hope he can convince two Republicans to support taking care of those that took care of so many on that awful day in our history.”

Stewart has dedicated lengthy segments on “The Daily Show” to the legislation that would help the first responders on Sept. 11.

“It seems, at the end of a long year around the holiday season, a pretty awful thing to play politics about,” Gibbs said Tuesday. “That’s a decision that 42 Republican senators are going to have to make.”

Steve Benen:

I’m glad Stewart’s efforts are garnering attention, because it’s really not an exaggeration to say the bill would have no chance without his coverage. Indeed, major media outlets — at least in broadcast media — almost completely ignored the Zadroga bill every step of the way. When a GOP filibuster blocked the most recent attempt at passage, despite 58 votes in support of the proposal, it looked like Republicans had killed the bill.

But then “The Daily Show” ran a bunch of segments on this, noting not only the legislation’s merit and the inanity of Republican talking points against the bill, but also calling out news organizations for blowing off an important story regarding 9/11 heroes who need a hand.

And sure enough, Stewart’s public shaming paid off — news shows that couldn’t be bothered to even mention the bill in passing started talking about it. The visibility took a story that was entirely overlooked by the mainstream and made it a national issue, which in turn prompted Republican senators to begin talking to Democratic sponsors again.

The New York Daily Newsnoted this morning, “Thanks in large part to relentless television advocacy by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show,’ the 9/11 bill has risen up the agenda.”

It’d be an exaggeration to say Stewart was solely responsible. Other voices in media (including, ahem, the one you’re reading now) were reporting on the importance of the bill several weeks ago, and as soon as the tax deal was settled, Republicans who were at least open to the Zadroga bill were willing to start talking again.

Christopher Beam at Slate:

In the never-ending debate about whether Jon Stewart is a comedian with opinions or an activist who happens to make jokes, he’s always argued for the former. When Tucker Carlson accused Stewart of liberal hackery on Crossfire in 2004, Stewart famously played the joker card. “You’re on CNN,” he said. “The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.”

It’s true—Stewart leans left, but the jokes always come first. At October’s Rally To Restore Sanity, which many observers considered his coming-out party as the anti-Glenn Beck, Stewart was careful not to cross the line into advocacy. He didn’t even tell people to vote. He’s just not “in the game,” he told Rachel Maddow in an interview in November. “I’m in the stands yelling things, criticizing.”

Last week, Stewart stepped onto the field. The change came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in medical benefits to firefighters, police officers, and health workers who got sick from working at Ground Zero on and after 9/11. Stewart didn’t just mock the 42 Republicans who refused to consider the bill until the Bush tax cuts were extended. He ripped them apart. “I can’t wait for them to take to the floor to talk about why their party hates first responders,” he said. He shredded Sen. Mike Enzi’s argument that the bill would lead to waste, fraud, and abuse by pointing to Enzi’s support for corruption-riddled spending in Iraq. Last week, he did a follow-up segment, “Worst Responders,” in which he called the refusal to pass the 9/11 bill “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.” The bill would even be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes. “It’s a win-win-win-win-just [bleep] do it!” he yelled. He also blasted the media for failing to cover the story, noting that the only cable news network to devote a full segment to the issue was Al Jazeera. He then interviewed four first responders—a fireman, a police officer, a Department of Transportation worker, and an engineer—who suffered illnesses as a result of their work at Ground Zero. The segment had funny moments. But the jokes didn’t come first.

[…]

Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp—9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake!—isn’t taking a political stance. It’s taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it “the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010.” But stripped of the funny, that sounds a lot like what a politician would say. So did Stewart’s cheap shot about Mitch McConnell crying over the departure of his friend Sen. Judd Gregg—but not, Stewart seemed to suggest, about 9/11. Republicans may have had a flimsy case for blocking the bill, and Stewart rightly mocked the GOP for failing to help 9/11 workers after milking the tragedy all these years, but by shaming them in the name of 9/11 workers, he was engaging in demagoguery himself. It may have been for a good cause, but it was political demagoguery all the same.

Atrios:

If Jon Stewart Can Do It

Then maybe a charismatic fairly popular tall skinny guy with a fancy podium and the ability to get people to point TV cameras at him almost any moment can figure out how to do it.

Glenn Thrush at Politico:

New York Democrats hoping for quick action on a bill to give health care compensation to ground zero workers are about to run into Tom Coburn.

The Oklahoma Republican senator and physician — known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for his penchant for blocking bills — told POLITICO on Monday night that he wouldn’t allow the bill to move quickly, saying he has problems with parts of the bill and the process Democrats are employing.

Another Republican, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, said he had concerns with the measure and that it should instead move through the committee process.

“I’m not trying to fight it; I’m trying to get it right,” Enzi said. “There are 30 things that ought to be changed real quick in committee but very difficult on the floor. To finish a bill at this point of time, we’re not going to be able to amend it.”

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

It’s a huge victory at the very last minute–the lame duck Congress delivering the 9/11 First Responders bill–and a moment in history.On Fox News, Shepard Smith, who railed against the Republicans who blocked the bill in the face of 9/11 heroes, asking “how do they sleep” at night, was on set to report the passage this afternoon.

At times visibly teary-eyed, Smith called it a “compromise of utmost importance for those who put their lives on the line.”

Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni described how the deal got done:

“Everybody saw the writing on the wall, the time was running out, Republicans might get a black eye for not supporting the 9/11 responders if they blocked the bill, and Democrats wouldn’t have a chance to get quite as good a deal if they waited for the next Congress.”

Smith’s coverage of the 9/11 First Responders bill even earned him praise from the most unlikely of quarters–at MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow gave due props for Smith creating a “hullabaloo” about the bill: “All hail Shep Smith at Fox News,” she declared. “And I’m not kidding.”

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Congress After Dark, Where No One Can See What’s Going On

What’s happening in Congress right now?

David Rogers at Politico:

Senate Democrats abruptly pulled down an omnibus spending bill after senior Republicans – caught with their hands in the cookie jar — deserted the measure in an effort to square themselves with tea party activists and conservatives in the party.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the announcement and signaled he would substitute a short-term spending resolution for the much more detailed year-long $1.1 trillion plus measure which many in the GOP had been quietly rooting for just weeks ago.

With Washington facing a funding cutoff Saturday night, the result is a genuine fiscal crisis — at once serious and rich in political farce.

Democrats have only themselves to blame for failing to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the day-to-day operations of the government. At the same time, Republicans contributed mightily to this failure and are going through their own culture war — torn between the Senate’s old-bull pork-barrel ways and the more temperate fiscal gospel of their new tea party allies.

The Senate passed its version of the tax deal by a wide margin this week, but in the House, the plan appears to be in jeopardy.  Democratic leadership had to pull the rule governing the debate on the bill after liberals in their caucus revolted and threatened to send it to a defeat.  One Democrat called it a “speed bump,” but as of yet the road to passage has not opened:

A final House vote on President Obama’s tax proposal could be delayed after Democratic leaders were forced to pull a procedural measure off the House floor Thursday.

The House was set to vote on the rule governing debate on the broad tax bill, but the measure was withdrawn at the last minute when leaders realized it was likely to be rejected. Liberals opposed to the deal Obama struck with Republicans were upset that the procedure approved by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday did not allow them a clean opportunity to vote on the legislation the Senate passed on Wednesday. A final vote on the tax deal had been planned for Thursday evening.

“We’re just trying to work out some kinks,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a floor manager for the tax bill, told reporters. He characterized the decision to pull the procedural measure off the floor as “a bump” and said he did not think the House would have to delay a final vote past Thursday. Yet he said it was unclear what the next move was and said Democratic leaders were huddling over how to proceed.

Ironically, this resulted from an attempt to “deem-and-pass” the tax deal.  The rule would have allowed an amendment for the sake of altering the estate-tax portion of the deal Barack Obama cut with the GOP; had it then passed, the House would have deemed the rest of the deal to have passed as well and sent the amendment to the Senate. If not, then the House would have held a clean vote on the Senate bill.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

House progressives just nearly brought down the Bush tax cuts bill over lingering anger at the compromise President Obama worked out with Senate Republicans. Democratic leaders had hoped that an amendment built into the package changing the estate tax provisions would sway enough liberals to vote to proceed to the bill and for the legislation on final passage. But the leaders were forced to yank the rule — which outlines the debate and procedure to pass the bill — off the floor when it became clear it was going to fail. Progressives are demanding a clean vote up or down on the original package — unamended — so they can register their opposition.

Overall, the nearly $900 billion bill extends all of the Bush tax cuts by two years, provides a fix for the Alternative Minimum tax, extends renewable energy tax credits passed in the stimulus and extends unemployment insurance to millions of Americans. It also ups the estate tax level from 55% of estates worth $1 million to 35% of estates worth $5 million or more. House Dems want to see that rate lowered to 45% on estates worth $3.5 million or more. If the amendment to lower the rate succeeds in the House, it will ping-pong the bill back to the Senate where the changes could bring it down.

Rep, Jim McGovern, the Massachusetts Democrat who is managing the bill on the floor, told reporters that the problem was “just a bump,” and leadership sources say they still expect final passage of the bill today after they add an amendment to the rule. Meanwhile, a caucus meeting has just been called for 3:45pm, so this could be a late night for the House.

Now that Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe have come out for the stand-alone bill in the Senate to repeal don’t ask don’t tell, there’s no longer any doubt as to whether there are the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to get this done. The only issue, Harry Reid tells us, is this: Will there be enough time to vote on repeal before the end of the lame duck session?

As a matter of fact, there is a simple way that Reid can make the time necessary to ensure this gets done, aides involved in the discussions tell me. Reid needs to schedule a debate and vote on DADT repeal beginning as soon as this weekend, once the issue over government funding is resolved. Reid can do this before New START is resolved, or at least while it’s getting resolved.

On MSNBC just now, Joe Lieberman called on Reid to fast-track DADT repeal in this fashion. “I believe instead of going back to the START treaty, we should go to the independent stand-alone repeal of don’t ask don’t tell Saturday night,” Lieberman said. “We can get it done by Monday, maybe Tuesday at the latest, and then go back to the START treaty.”

Here’s why this is the way to go, as spelled out by an aide involved in the discussions. If Reid waits until New START is done before holding the vote on DADT, Senators could start going home once the treaty is resolved, dooming DADT repeal. But this scenario would be averted if Reid slips in the DADT vote before START. By contrast, if the DADT repeal debate and vote are done first, no Senator will leave Washington before START is resolved. So doing DADT repeal first doesn’t imperil START.

What’s more, if worst comes to worst, START could be resolved early next year. DADT repeal, meanwhile, can’t be resolved next year, because by then the votes simply may not be there in the Senate to pass it. The votes, however, are there right now, and GOP moderates have signaled that it’s time.

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:

The debate over New START officially began on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, as Democrats and Republicans staked out seemingly irreconcilable positions as the Christmas holiday approaches.

A vote to move to debate on the treaty Wednesday passed 66 to 32, indicating that there is not enough Republican opposition to stop the process from moving forward. Democrat Evan Bayh (D-IN) missed the vote but is expected to support the treaty. The vote is giving treaty supporters confidence in the chances of ratification, but there are to be many more twists and turns before that can happen.

Nine Republicans voted to begin the debate: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), George Voinovich (R-OH), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Scott Brown (R-MA), and Bob Bennett (R-UT).

Following the vote, leading Senate Democrats and Republicans held dueling press conferences on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon in what has turned into a high-stakes game of legislative chicken. Only three GOP senators have publicly announced their support for New START, and nobody knows for sure if there are 6 additional Senate Republicans who will buck their own party’s leadership to support the agreement when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls the vote, probably before Christmas day.

One large looming question is whether the White House will insist on holding the vote if it hasn’t secured assurances of the 67 “yes” votes needed for ratification when the clock runs out on the lame duck session.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA), in a press conference today, said that Vice President Joseph Biden told him he’d rather take the risk that the treaty is defeated this year than take the risk of delaying consideration until the new Congress is seated in January.

Acknowledging that it’s the White House’s decision whether to call the vote and risk defeat, Kerry said that Biden told him personally that the outlook in the next Congress is worse than the outlook now.

“We’d rather lose [the vote on New START] now with the crowd that’s done the work on rather than go back and start from scratch [next session],” Kerry said that Biden told him.

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The Hammer Is Dropped

Josh Gerstein and Mike Allen at Politico:

After almost six years of investigation, the Justice Department has decided not to bring corruption charges against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay over his involvement with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other ethics issues, DeLay and his attorneys said Monday.

“I always knew this day would come. My only hope was that it would come much sooner than the six years we’ve been doing this,” DeLay said Monday during a conference call with reporters. “While I will never understand why it took so long for the Justice Department to conclude that I was innocent, I am nevertheless pleased that they have made their determination.”

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up

Ryan J. Reilly at Talking Points Memo:

The Justice Department notified DeLay’s lead attorney, McGuireWoods Chairman Richard Cullen, about the decision last week, the lawyer said.

“The federal investigation of Tom DeLay is over and there will be no charges,” Cullen told Politico. “This is the so-called Abramoff investigation run by the Public Integrity section of DOJ. There have been a series of convictions and guilty pleas since 2005.”

Cullen said that DeLay “voluntarily produced to the prosecutors over 1,000 emails and documents from the DeLay office dating back to 1997. Several members of Congress objected to producing official government records under Speech or Debate Clause concerns,” Cullen said.

“DeLay took the opposite position, ordering all his staff to answer all questions. He turned over more than 1,000 documents, and several of his aides gave interviews and grand jury testimony.”

Reached by TPMMuckraker, Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment.

Peter Stone at The Daily Beast:

From the start of the scandal, when Abramoff’s influence-peddling network was exposed in numerous stories in the national press, DeLay’s role, and especially that of his key aides, in facilitating Abramoff’s rise to power was crucial.

DeLay’s office often let Abramoff’s clients and would-be clients, Indian-owned casinos and the impoverished Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, know that if they wanted access to the Texas Republican they needed to go through Abramoff, which meant one thing: Hire him for his big fees.

While he served in Congress, DeLay took three lavish junkets paid for by Abramoff’s clients to Scotland, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Russia. These trips helped Abramoff cement his image and business: DeLay famously returned to Washington in early 1998 from the Marianas, where he golfed with Abramoff, and spearheaded successful efforts to block efforts to extend the U.S. minimum wage laws to the island’s poorly paid immigrant garment workers. And DeLay extolled the Marianas’ lack of regulation as a “perfect petri dish of capitalism.”

Abramoff cultivated his ties with DeLay not only through these trips, but also through his stellar fundraising for the Texan’s campaigns, political action committee, and favorite charities. The close links between Abramoff, aka “Casino Jack,” and DeLay, aka “the Hammer,” seemed symbiotic ones to some former GOP leadership aides who knew both men well. “Jack raised money for the pet projects of DeLay and took care of his top staff,” one ex-Capitol Hill aide told me a few years ago. “In turn they granted him tremendous access and allowed Abramoff to freely trade on DeLay’s name.”

Little wonder that DeLay was in a gloating mood on Monday when he held a phone-in press conference with reporters and declared he was “exonerated.” DeLay, who publicly announced he was going to resign from Congress not long after Rudy pleaded guilty, criticized the federal investigation as an example of the “criminalization of politics and the politics of personal destruction…”

It was the old Tom DeLay in full attack and spin mode, showing off the conservative political footwork he famously parlayed into a short-lived performance on Dancing With the Stars.

He even boasted that “the case was so weak that I was never interviewed by the investigators.”

Some lawyers familiar with the Abramoff scandal told me they think the Justice Department’s failure at least to interview DeLay, after all the time and energy it put into the probe, seems a bit odd. Even DeLay’s lead attorney, Richard Cullen, who publicly stressed how much information DeLay gave the department, told me that “we most likely would have granted the request” if DeLay had been asked for an interview.

Even if the probe into DeLay was reaching a dead end, some white-collar attorneys point out, the Justice Department should have interviewed him. “You don’t know what someone’s going to say until you talk to them,” one attorney said. “It’s a difficult decision to understand.”

Don Suber:

The Bush administration blew it.

Perhaps the prosecutorial powers of the federal government need to be reined in.

Ted Stevens, Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby…

Yikes!

One was convicted ILLEGALLY.

One was exonnerated TOO LATE.

And one is in the 14th day of jury deliberations with only 2 of 24 counts decided.

Disgusting

Ed Morrissey:

Nonetheless, the travails of DeLay and the GOP in 2006 should serve as a “stark” lesson for Republicans in the midterms.  DeLay authored the notorious “K Street Project” that attempted to build a permanent Republican majority by marrying the party to lobbyists.  That resulted in an explosion of pork and a curious predilection with so-called “big government conservatism” that exploded spending after George W. Bush took office.  That marriage of the federal government and special interests discredited the GOP as an alternative to Democrats, which combined with the scandal led to their downfall in 2006 and 2008.

No more K Street Projects, and no more big-government conservatism.  The next Republican majority had better focus on actual reductions in federal government and the end of pork-barrel spending to woo lobbyists.

And now that the Abramoff case has closed, maybe the American media can pursue the story of Paul Magliocchetti and PMA with at least half the vigor of their pursuit of the Abramoff scandal.  After all, we have another well-connected lobbyist allegedly laundering campaign contributions and winning legislative gifts for his clients.  Are they less interested in a similar scandal tied to Democrats?  And if so … why?

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

DeLay still has one charge pending in Texas court. “I’m sure he’s very eager to see that done,” says Cullen, who is not representing DeLay in that case. A hearing in that case is scheduled for August 24 and is expected to come to trial in the fall. An email to DeLay’s office seeking comment was not immediate answered.

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Jackson Pollack And Groucho Marx Comparisons Abound, Part II

Eric Lipton at NYT:

A House investigative panel has found “substantial reason to believe” that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career.

The finding means that the 80-year-old congressman must face a public trial before the House ethics committee, the first member to be forced to do so since 2002, when former Representative James A. Traficant Jr. was expelled from Congress after taking bribes.

The investigative panel did not disclose any details about the nature of the violations.

But two Democrats with knowledge of the investigation said the committee found evidence to support accusations that Mr. Rangel wrongly accepted four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan and misused his office to preserve a tax loophole worth half a billion dollars for an oil executive who pledged a donation for an educational center being built in Mr. Rangel’s honor.

The committee also found evidence to support a charge that Mr. Rangel failed to report or pay taxes on rental income from his beachfront Dominican villa.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

The last time such an open process was used was for former Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat who was expelled from the House in 2002 for taking bribes, racketeering, filing false tax returns and forcing aides to perform household chores on his Ohio farm and DC houseboat (which was, coincidentally, parked not far from Duke Cunningham’s houseboat). Traficant served seven years in prison and is now a radio host in Ohio. He recently filed papers to make an independent run for his old seat.

Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay skipped such a step when his ethics investigation went right from the exploratory phase to admonishment — a first in ethics committee history.

Rangel first asked the committee two years ago to look into newspaper allegations that he’d failed to report income from a Caribbean rental, that he used Congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a charity in his name and that he broke New York rent subsidy laws. The alleged tax lapses were particularly worrisome as the chairman of the Ways & Means Committee is Congress’s top tax writer. Politico reported that Rangel was seen arguing with ethics committee chair Zoe Lofgren shortly before today’s announcement was made. Zofgren had, reportedly, been encouraging Rangel to follow a DeLay route and skip the adjudicatory process. As of August 2009, Rangel had spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending his actions to the committee. If he’s found in violation of House rules the committee’s evidence could be turned over to prosecutors to pursue a criminal case

James Richardson at Redstate:

In the same way that Republican ethics violations loomed large in the 2006 midterm elections that saw the House of Representatives change hands, Rangel’s ethics misdeeds threaten to undermine Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to run the “most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in History.”

But for now, the specific nature of charges against Rangel remain unknown — and will likely remain as such until next Thursday when he makes his case to the ethics panel. In the meantime, a list–that is, unfortunately, in no way comprehensive–of the 80-year-old lawmaker’s ethics lapses:

  • Violating New York state and city zoning laws, Rep. Rangel rented in 2008 several rent-stabilized Harlem apartments and used one for a base of operations for his reelection effort.
  • Days later it was revealed Rangel had used congressional letterhead to solicit funds for his personal foundation, the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
  • The following month, in August of 2008, the New York Post reported that Rangel had failed to disclose income from renting his beachfront villa on a Dominican Republic resort. In total, Rangel failed to disclose $75,000 in rental income since 1988. Rangel secured a seven-year fixed rate loan at 10.5 % for the property, but two years later the interest on the loan, which was awarded by a company for which the congressman was an early investor, was waived. Rangel paid $10,800 in back-taxes for his 2004, 2005 and 2006 tax returns for the unreported rental income.
  • Rangel violated House rules and failed to report income to the IRS when he left his 1972 Mercedes in a House parking lot for several years without registering the car. The car, without license plates and covered by a tarp, occupied a space for several years valued a $290 per month.
  • In November 2008, the Post’s muckrakers discovered that Rangel had improperly received a “homestead” tax exemption on a property he owned in Washington, D.C., while occupying his four rent-stabilized apartments in New York City.
  • Rangel secured tax benefits for a company whose chief executive he was courting as a donor for his private foundation.
  • And most recently, a House panel admonished the scandal-plagued congressman for wrongly accepting reimbursements for two Caribbean trips in 2007 and 2008.

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

Rangel’s lawyer tried to settle but was rebuffed. The man who writes the tax law you must follow

Gateway Pundit

Allah Pundit:

This is five months in the making, starting with his admonishment back in February over staff members having accepted free trips to the Caribbean and culminating a week later in his removal from Ways and Means — albeit supposedly only on a temporary basis. Anyone think he’ll be returning to the committee after this, even if he beats the rap?

The next step is a trial by subcommittee. Given that the most ethical Congress ever had a decidedly lackluster reputation on ethics until now, I wonder how much pressure for and against charging Rangel there is on the Democratic side. On the one hand, this is going to push ethics back on the campaign menu. On the other, if they beat up on Rangel, it makes them look forthright. Stand by for updates.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

While nothing short of a mobilized Allied army seems capable of forcing Rep. Charlie Rangel out of Congress, the House ethics committee will charge him with official ethics violations, essentially setting up a trial — the first in eight years.The violations have not been officially filed yet, so the specific violations they’re pursuing out of his career’s 10 billion worth aren’t fully clear. Probably related to this stuff, though, which people who’ve followed Rangel’s investigation are quite familiar with:

The committee had been investigating claims that Mr. Rangel improperly rented four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem at a price well below market value, despite rules forbidding House members from accepting gifts worth more than $50.

It also had been investigating allegations that he improperly used his office to provide legislative favors for an oil-drilling company that pledged a $1 million donation for an academic center named for Mr. Rangel and improperly failed to report taxable income received from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.

Maybe we’ll get something else, though? Something a little more blog-friendly? Sex, maybe?

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin

Ed Morrissey

Nicole Allan at The Atlantic

Jesse Zwick at The Washington Independent

UPDATE #3: Steve Krakauer at Mediaite

Ed Morrissey

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Your Daily FinReg Centerfold

Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:

With the Wall Street reform legislation agreed to by House and Senate negotiators now in serious doubt in the Senate, what happens if the final bill can’t muster the votes? At his weekly press availability this morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hinted that they may have to make some changes.

“We’re trying to work with the Senate to ensure that we both take up a version that does in fact have 60 votes,” Hoyer said.

But the conference report, passed late last week, can not be amended on the House or Senate floors. It’s an up-or-down, yes-or-no proposition. If they need a new ‘version’ that has 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, they’d have to reconvene the conference committee, strip the language that offends Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and try again.

Kevin Drum:

In the wake of a historic economic collapse caused largely by a financial industry allowed to run rampant, Sen. Russ Feingold (D–Wisc.) has decided to vote in favor of doing nothing at all to address this:

As I have indicated for some time now, my test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis. The conference committee’s proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it. During debate on the bill, I supported several efforts to break up ‘too big to fail’ Wall Street banks and restore the proven safeguards established after the Great Depression separating Main Street banks from big Wall Street firms, among other issues. Unfortunately, these crucial reforms were rejected. While there are some positive provisions in the final measure, the lack of strong reforms is clear confirmation that Wall Street lobbyists and their allies in Washington continue to wield significant influence on the process.

Can I vent for a minute? I know Feingold is proud of his inconoclastic reputation. I know this bill doesn’t do as much as he (or I) would like. I know the financial industry, as he says, continues to have way too much clout on Capitol Hill.

But seriously: WTF? This is the final report of a conference committee. There’s no more negotiation. It’s an up-or-down vote and there isn’t going to be a second chance at this. You either vote for this bill, which has plenty of good provisions even if doesn’t break up all the big banks, or else you vote for the status quo. That’s it. That’s the choice. It’s not a game. It’s not a time for Feingold to worry about his reputation for independence. It’s a time to make a decision between actively supporting something good and actively supporting something bad. And Feingold has decided to actively support something bad.

Scott Brown, the junior Senator from Mass:

Dear Chairman Dodd and Chairman Frank,

I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.

It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis.  While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me.

I have always strongly opposed a bank tax because, as the non-partisan CBO has said, costs would be passed onto the millions of American consumers and small businesses who rely on major U.S. financial institutions for their checking, ATM, loans or other services.  This tax will be paid by consumers who will have to pay higher fees and the small businesses that won’t get the funding they need to invest and create jobs.

Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure.  I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.

Sincerely,

Senator Scott P. Brown

John Carney at CNBC:

Democrats on Tuesday planned to strip out a controversial tax from their landmark financial reform bill in order to win the swing votes needed to pass it through Congress.

With crucial Republican moderates threatening to withdraw their support, Democrats were weighing alternative ways to fund the most sweeping rewrite of the Wall Street rulebook since the 1930s.

Though a supposedly final version of the bill had been hammered out last week, Democrats in charge of the process called a fresh negotiating session, which got under way shortly after 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

Democratic lawmakers and aides said they planned to remove a $17.9 billion tax on large financial institutions. Instead, they would cover most of the bill’s costs by shutting down a $700 billion bank-bailout program.

“I haven’t talked to everybody, but I gather from a number of people they like this option,” said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, one of the lawmakers in charge of the bill.

The bill had been expected to pass both chambers of Congress this week in time for President  Obama to sign it into law by July 4. But supporters have been forced to scramble for votes in the Senate, putting that goal in jeopardy.

Analysts said while that timetable may slip, the bill was still likely to become law.

“We believe that this legislation will pass, timing and the bank tax remain the final question marks,” wrote FBR Capital Markets analyst Edward Mills in a research note.

Jay Newton-Small at Time:

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd stood an hour ago in the Senator’s Retiring Room off of the Senate floor in an intense conversation with Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown – one of surely many they will have today. Dodd is trying to get Brown, one of four Republicans who voted for the Senate version of financial regulatory reform, to pledge his support for final passage. House and Senate negotiators last week worked out a deal to combine the two measures only to find that Brown couldn’t support $18+ billion in new bank fees. To complicate matters, Democrats are now down a vote due to the untimely death of Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.

Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and House Financial Service Chairman Barney Frank are planning on taking the unusual step of reopening the conference committee this afternoon. Lucky for them it wasn’t formally closed or reopening it would’ve taken votes from both chambers of Congress. They have been negotiating with the four Republicans – Brown, Maine Senators Olympia Snowe Susan Collins and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley — on new offsets for the $18+ billion. Dodd says that 90% of the $18+ billion would now be paid for by the immediate end of TARP, the unpopular bank bailout fund due to expire October 3. The additional offset would come from raising fees the banks pay to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, exempting all small banks under $10 billion capitalization (Dodd says he’s spoke to Sheila Bair on this and she’s fine with it). Some Republicans still have reservations that such a move, though, wouldn’t prompt the banks to pass the cost on to consumers. “Repealing TARP definitely appeals to me,” says Snowe, who met with Dodd in her office last night and again this morning.  “At this point other issues are not related to the TARP part, we’re still looking at how you replace those fees. So things are still in motion here, there are a lot of conservations developing.”

Brown, emerging from his meeting with Dodd, says he’s waiting to see the final product and hasn’t made any decisions yet. Brown sent Dodd and Frank a letter this morning announcing his opposition to the $18+ billion in fees, prompting today’s dramatics. Collins told reporters she was pleased with her meetings with Dodd but that she also had made no final decision. Grassley was nowhere to be found. “I gather there were a number of people who were uneasy with the earlier pay-for who like this alternative and so the present plan is to probably reconvene the conference this afternoon,” Dodd said, heading into a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s offices. If all four Republicans sign on, Dems should have enough votes to pass the Senate as they race to finish the legislation by the end of the week.

Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent:

Rather than charging the hedge funds and big banks considered most responsible for the financial crisis a reasonable fee for implementation, the conference committee will settle for ending a government stability program and spreading the pain around to all federally insured banks — including small community-focused banks — to satisfy the demands of one Republican. So it goes in Washington.

Felix Salmon:

It would be a fiasco of tragic proportions if the banks managed to remove these taxes from the final bill, essentially absolving themselves from cleaning up after their own mess. The arguments against the taxes are weak indeed: either you simply oppose all taxes on principle (which seems to be the Scott Brown stance, and which is fiscally disastrous), or else you’re forced into John Carney’s corner.

Carney is worried that we don’t know exactly where the tax will be applied — but that’s a feature, not a bug. Setting up the tax in great deal ex ante is essentially just asking banks to spend millions of dollars on tax consultants who can help them skirt the new levies. And as the risks in the system evolve and change, so to should the way that they’re taxed. It’s right and proper that the newly created Council for Financial Stability will be charged with taxing systemic risk, rather than having a bunch of politicians try to do so at the beginning and then watch as the banks and other financial institutions nimbly sidestep the new taxes.

An increase in the FDIC premium would be a gift on a platter to banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley which don’t have insured deposits — not to mention non-bank players like Citadel which are systemically very important. I’m unclear on what exactly this Republican “procedural hurdle” is — I thought that after reconciliation, you just needed a simple majority to pass a bill. But I’m getting very annoyed about it.

UPDATE: Russell Berman at The Hill

UPDATE #2: Eric Zimmermann at The Hill

Noam Scheiber at TNR

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On The First Day Of Kagan Hearings, My True Love Gave To Me…

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

KAGAN: Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin for Elena Kagan. They are expected to be the opposite of nasty and brutish, and with the former senior senator from Delaware now occupying his time elsewhere, they will be short. (That is, of course, a kind-hearted jab.) Kagan’s active participation in Clinton-era policy debates and the controversy over Harvard’s military recruitment policy will no doubt be flashpoints, but they’ll be of little consequence. Kagan’s confirmation is virtually assured.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan pledged on Monday that if the Senate confirms her nomination to the Supreme Court, she will adopt a “modest” stance toward her power and will be “properly deferential” to the policy decisions of Congress and the president, according to excerpts from her prepared opening statement released by the White House.

On the first day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Kagan referred to the years she spent in the other branches of government — including four years in the White House during the Clinton administration — to reassure lawmakers she would not trample on the role of elected political leaders.

The democratic process “is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests,” she said. “The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

Day 1 is done in Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s hearings to become the 112th Supreme Court justice. Thus far there has been relatively little about Kagan herself. In between memorials for Senator Bobby Byrd and Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband, Republicans griped that no matter what Kagan says, they don’t think they’ll be able to trust her responses given their experience with Sonia Sotomayor last year. Sotomayor’s answers, Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, were bland and reassuring. “And now she’s demonstrated herself to be one of the most liberal activist justices on the court,” Sessions told reporters during a break in Monday’s proceedings. Kagan, he asserted, would do the same no matter what questions they pose of her.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

As Kagan confirmation hearings begin, Republicans struggle for line of attack.”  That’s the headline of today’s Washington Post front-page report by Anne Kornblut and Paul Kane on the Elena Kagan hearings. Isn’t it strange how a story by objective Washington Post reporters mirrors the opinion of the Democratic president?

The analysis that the news cycle has crowded out stories on Kagan is fair enough, but the reporters go out of their way to dismiss Republican criticism of Kagan. If you doubt that this story, which neatly frames hapless Republicans versus a near-perfect nominee, is biased, consider this: Kagan’s discrimination against military recruiters at Harvard is never once explicitly mentioned. Kornblut and Kane merely allude to the discrimination: “Republicans have tried to make an issue of her years as law dean at Harvard.” You see, whatever it is that Kagan did at Harvard is not really an issue–Republicans are simply trying to “make an issue” out of nothing.

Never mind that liberal writer Peter Beinart called Kagan’s discrimination against the military her “Achilles heel” and wrote: “Barring the military from campus is a bit like barring the president or even the flag. It’s more than a statement of criticism; it’s a statement of national estrangement.” And never mind that Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, laid out the case against Kagan last week, arguing that it was hypocritical of Kagan to discriminate against the military while keeping quiet about the Saudi gifts Harvard was receiving.

Michelle Malkin:

Places, places everyone.

Today, the curtain officially opens on the Senate “battle” over Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. “Battle” gets ghost quotes because all the poohbahs on Capitol Hill are already treating her confirmation as a “foregone conclusion.”

Beltway Republicans will put up just enough of a fight to placate grass-roots conservative activists on Kagan’s radical social views, while the nutroots will pout (but not too loudly) that Kagan isn’t enough of a liberal activist for them. And GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham, after several minutes of obligatory grandstanding mixed with obsequious suck-uppage, will cast his vote with Kagan and Obama — as he did with Sonia Sotomayor (whom he praised as “bold” and edgy”).

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Internal Senate emails confirmed by NRA Board Members are highlighting just how far the National Rifle Association has fallen.

The organization recently collaborated with the left to obtain a carve out of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation designed to silence bloggers and outside interest groups like tea party activists. This was a first amendment issue and the NRA gladly took a position and campaigned for its members to take a position on the DISCLOSE Act.

One of the NRA’s chief arguments was that it needed the carve out to be effective in its advocacy of Second Amendment issues. But here’s the problem: these internal Senate emails confirmed by NRA Board Members show that the National Rifle Association’s management team has explicitly and directly told the NRA’s board they are prohibited from testifying about second amendment issues during the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings.

That’s right: the foremost gun rights lobby in the nation is prohibiting its board from testifying in the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings about the second amendment.

The NRA did issue a statement on Friday after the internal Senate email began leaking out informing people of the gag order. The statement noted Kagan’s problematic record on guns, but that’s just smoke and mirrors. Don’t believe them when they say they are working with Senators to investigate her record. If they were really working with Senators, they would have accepted an invitation to testify on the Kagan nomination when they were invited. The gag order on board members is not limited to providing testimony, but it prohibits board members from coming out against Kagan in their individual capacity.

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