In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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.

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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 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.

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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.

Barack Obama kicked off his health care summit in the East Room of the White House today. In his opening remarks, Obama reiterated the importance of getting health care done as soon as possible and made the case for bringing all interested parties together. Is this going to help grease the budget negotiations. His remarks as prepared for release are here:

We are here today to discuss one of the greatest threats not just to the well-being of our families and the prosperity of our businesses, but to the very foundation of our economy - and that is the exploding cost of health care in America today.

In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages, and an additional nine million Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. And even for folks who are weathering this economic storm, and have health care now, all it takes is one stroke of bad luck - an accident or illness; a divorce or lost job - to become one of the nearly 46 million uninsured or the millions who have health care, but can't afford it.

We did not get here by accident. The problems we face today are a direct consequence of actions we failed to take yesterday. Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform nearly a century ago, we have talked and tinkered. We have tried and fallen short, stalled time and again by failures of will, or Washington politics, or industry lobbying.

And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again - that at a time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to fix our health care system as well.

Well, let's be clear: the same soaring costs that are straining our families' budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget too. Too many small businesses can't insure their employees. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts. And companies of all sizes are shipping their jobs overseas or shutting their doors for good.

Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget. Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets.

And at the Fiscal Summit we held here last week, the one thing on which everyone agreed was that the greatest threat to America's fiscal health is not Social Security, though that is a significant challenge; and it is not the investments we've made to rescue our economy; it is the skyrocketing cost of health care.

That is why we cannot delay this discussion any longer. And that is why today's forum is so important. Because health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year, in this Administration. Making investments in reform now, investments that will dramatically lower costs, won't add to our budget deficits in the long-term - rather, it is one of the best ways to reduce them.

Now I know people are skeptical about whether Washington can bring about this change. Our inability to reform health care in the past is just one example of how special interests have had their way, and the public interest has fallen by the wayside. And I know people are afraid we'll draw the same old lines in the sand, give in to the same entrenched interests, and arrive back at the same stalemate we've been stuck in for decades.

But I am here today because I believe that this time is different. This time, the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum - from doctors, nurses and patients; unions and businesses; hospitals, health care providers and community groups. It's coming from mayors, governors and legislatures - Democrats and Republicans - who are racing ahead of Washington to pass bold health care initiatives on their own. This time, there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable health care - the only question is, how?

The purpose of this forum is to start answering that question - to determine how we lower costs for everyone, improve quality for everyone, and expand coverage to all Americans. And our goal will be to enact comprehensive health care reform by the end of this year.

In the past month alone, we have done more to advance that goal than we have in the past decade. We've provided and protected coverage for eleven million children from working families, and for seven million Americans who've lost their jobs in this downturn. We've made the largest investment in history in preventive care; invested in electronic medical records that will save money, ensure privacy, and save lives; and launched a new effort to find a cure for cancer in our time. We have also set aside in our budget a health care reserve fund to finance comprehensive reform. I know that more will be required, but this is a significant down-payment that is fully paid for and does not add one penny to our deficit. And I look forward to working with Congress and the American people to get this budget passed.

Now, as we work to determine the details of health care reform, we won't always see eye to eye. We may disagree - and disagree strongly - about particular measures. But we know that there are plenty of areas of agreement as well, and those will serve as the starting point for our work.

We can agree that if we want to bring down skyrocketing costs, we'll need to modernize our system and invest in prevention. We can agree that if we want greater accountability and responsibility, we must ensure that people aren't overcharged for prescription drugs, or discriminated against for pre-existing conditions - and we need to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in government programs. We can agree that if we want to cover all Americans, we cannot make the mistake of trying to fix what isn't broken. So if you have insurance you like, you'll be able to keep that insurance. If you have a doctor you like, you can keep that doctor. You'll just pay less for the care that you receive.

Finally, we can all agree that if we want to translate these goals into policies, we need a process that is as transparent and inclusive as possible. That is why I have asked all of you - representatives of organizations, interests, and parties from across the spectrum - to join us here today. And that is why we asked concerned citizens like the folks on this stage to organize open meetings across America where people could air their views. More than 3,000 meetings were held in all 50 states and DC, and more than 30,000 people attended. I thank them for their input and ideas, and I look forward to reading the report that Travis has presented to me.

In this effort, every voice must be heard. Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table. There will be no sacred cows in this discussion. Each of us must accept that none of us will get everything we want, and no proposal for reform will be perfect. But when it comes to addressing our health care challenge, we can no longer let the perfect be the enemy of the essential.

Finally, I want to be very clear at the outset that while everyone has a right to take part in this discussion, no one has the right to take it over. The status quo is the one option that is not on the table. And those who seek to block any reform at any cost will not prevail this time around.

I did not come here to Washington to work for those interests. I came to work for the American people - the folks I met on the campaign trail, and who I hear from every day in the White House. Folks who work hard and make all the right decisions, but still face choices that no one in this country should have to make: how long to put off that doctor's appointment; whether to fill that prescription; when to give up and head to the emergency room because there are no other options.

I have read some of the many letters they've sent asking me for help. They're usually not looking for much. They don't want a handout or a free ride. Some are embarrassed about their situation and start by saying they've never written a letter like this before. Some end by apologizing -- saying they've written to me because they have nowhere else to turn; asking me not to forget about them and their families.

Today, I want them, and people like them across this country, to know that I have not forgotten them. They are why we are here today - to start delivering the change they demanded at the polls in November. And if we are successful, if we can pass comprehensive reform, these folks will see their costs come down and get the care they need, and we'll help our businesses create jobs again so our economy can grow again.

It will not be easy. There will be false starts and set-backs and mistakes along the way. But I am confident that if we come together, and work together, we will finally achieve what generations of Americans have fought for and fulfill the promise of health care in our time.

The Hill reports that Dr. Ada Fisher of North Carolina, one of three black RNC members, is circulating an e-mail among her fellow RNCers calling for Michael Steele to resign as chairman. But Fisher herself deserves a close examination, providing a very interesting look at just what sort of people make up the current GOP machinery and how it all works.

She was one of the documented Potemkin candidates of fundraising firm BMW Direct, which raised large amounts of money for GOP contenders in solidly-Democratic majority-minority districts, then kept almost all of it for themselves. As she said at the time, once the truth was revealed: "They sort of -- what shall I say? -- screwed me."

It also has to be noted -- which The Hill does -- that Fisher was a supporter of Steele's rival Katon Dawson during the chairmanship campaign, and even after Steele won she's been vocally criticizing him.

In an ominous sign, Fisher cites the danger of Steele having angered...Rush Limbaugh! "Limbaugh has already promised that 'His Conservatives' won't be giving to the RNC. I would suggest to you that that is a real bet," Fisher wrote. "If we can't raise money and continue to allow the alienation of the few varifiable (sic) red states remaining, we are foolish."

Fisher is also quite disgusted with Steele's public mannerisms: "I don't want to hear anymore (sic) language trying to be cool about the bling in the stimulus package or appealing to D.L. Hughley and blacks in a way that isn't going to win us any votes and makes us frankly appear to many blacks as quite foolish."