TPM News

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) visited his newfound party last night, speaking at a Philadelphia Democratic Committee fundraiser -- and commenting on the big change he's made in recent weeks.

A reporter asked Specter how Democratic gatherings differ from Republican ones. His answer: "There are a lot more people here than when Republicans get together."

That fact alone seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle -- after all, it was the decrease in moderate registered Republican voters in Pennsylvania that helped spur Arlen Specter to switch parties in the first place.

Specter also remarked of his transition: "There are a few bumps in the road. But I've got good shock absorption."

A Congressional Quarterly article about GOP efforts to get conservative Democrats to oppose major legislation contains an interesting admission from Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH).

Acording to the piece, Republicans "have vowed to block, reshape or defeat a number of Democratic initiatives in coming months, even though Specter's defection has left the Senate Republican caucus with just 40 members."

But in a 99-member Senate, 40 votes are enough to keep Democrats from cutting off debate on major legislation. "Usually you need 41 votes to get anything done around here. But right now, you can do a lot with 40 votes,'' said Judd Gregg

In a 99-seat Senate, 40 votes isn't nearly enough to "get anything done." Not at all. It is rather the bare minimum necessary to make sure nothing gets done. And it explains why so many Republican senators will routinely vote against cloture on major Democratic agenda items. It's called a filibuster--and it isn't typically thought of as way to "get stuff done."

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has officially announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, giving the Republicans an immediate frontrunner in this perennial swing state.

Crist faces a primary against conservative challenger Marco Rubio, the former state House Speaker who will likely blast Crist's support for the stimulus bill. Rubio put out a statement declaring: "My campaign will offer GOP voters a clear alternative to the direction some want to take our party."

The GOP establishment has made its choice clear: NRSC chairman John Cornyn put out a statement endorsing Crist: "With his record of reform in Florida, I know that Governor Crist will bring a fresh perspective to Washington in our efforts to fight for lower taxes, less government, and new job creation for all Americans."

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I've now had the chance to read through the Franken campaign's rebuttal brief in Norm Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and there are a few themes that run through it. (Check out Rick Hasen's take, as well.) Coleman's arguments are derided as internally sloppy, inconsistent between each other, and overall a cause of harm to the state for delaying the seating of the rightful winner of the election -- Al Franken -- a situation that should be remedied as soon as possible.

"Even if this Court were to take Appellants claims at face value, each fails as a matter of law. In most cases, Appellants' claims are also barred as a procedural matter, and, even more fundamentally, they fail for simple lack of proof," the brief argues. "On each of these grounds, Respondent respectfully requests that the Court affirm the trial court and make clear that Al Franken is entitled to receive the certificate of election."

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We tore through the first big Bear Stearns book this year, William Cohan's House of Cards, in hopes of some substantiation of reports that the bank's former CEO (and former billionaire; he's now a "mere eight figure-aire) Jimmy Cayne liked to smoke weed. But Cohan skipped the issue entirely, as he had in a Fortune interview with Cayne last year. We might say we read those 468 pages in vain, except that we are not convinced marijuana played a significant role in the financial crisis, especially since the Cayne depicted and quoted by Cohan sounds more like an angry drunk than a stoner. Here's an abridged version of his rant about then-New York Fed President Tim Geithner:

"The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan," he said. "Like he was the determining factor, and it's like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a hardon, saying, 'Raise the bridge.' This guy thinks he's got a big dick. He's got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I'm not a good enemy. I'm a very bad enemy.
But he is also a marijuana enthusiast, according to Street Fighters, the new book on Bear written by Kate Kelly (a "cunt...whose capability is zero" according to Cayne.)

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller's office has released a new statement on what he was and wasn't told by the CIA about torture.

Says Rockefeller, referring to the CIA document released last week:

We are not in a position to vouch for the accuracy of the document. We can tell you that in the particular entry stating that Senator Rockefeller was briefed on February 4th of 2003 with an asterisk also noting him as later individually briefed -- that is not correct, or at least is not being reported correctly by people reading the document. The Democratic staff director attended a briefing on Feb. 4, but Senator Rockefeller was not present and was not later briefed individually by anyone in the intelligence community. He was first personally briefed by the intelligence community on Sept 4th, 2003.

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It was one thing when the Philadelphia Inquirer gave a column to hard-core right-winger Rick Santorum. But that looks like a responsible decision compared to their latest hiring...

Will Bunch, of the Philadelphia Daily News (a unit of the Inquirer), reports that in late 2008, the Inquirer quietly signed a contract with John Yoo, giving a monthly column to the architect of Bush's torture program.

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Harold Koh has been reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 12 to 5 vote, according to a committee spokesperson. Ranking member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) voted with the committee's 11 Democrats to advance Koh's nomination to be the State Department's Legal Adviser to the Senate floor.

Koh's vote in committee had been scheduled for last week, but, without explanation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) delayed that vote until today's hearing, and then opposed the former Yale Law School Dean. Republicans could potentially use similar tactics to delay a full vote, and a number of conservative activists are hoping to spike the nomination entirely.