House Passes Stimulus Bill

The House of Representatives voted 246 to 183 to pass the $787 billion stimulus package. The measure received no Republican support.

The Senate is expected to vote later tonight. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he may hold open the vote until as late as 8 p.m. ET so that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has time to return from a memorial service for his mother in Ohio.

Gregg Denies Campaigning for Commerce Post

In an interview on CNBC, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) denied that he actively sought the nomination for Secretary of Commerce.

Said Gregg: “I think there have been conflicting stories… Everybody has their own perception of what happened. My own perception was that there was an intermediary who came to me and said would you be interested in doing this and I said I would listen. I think probably somebody went to the president and asked are you interested in doing this, and he said he would listen. I don’t think anybody was campaigning for this. I know I wasn’t.”

Yesterday, the White House offered a very different explanation: “Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce.”

Dorgan Surprisingly Strong Against Hoeven

A new Research 2000/DailyKos poll in North Dakota finds Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) holding up very well in a potential 2010 challenge from Gov. John Hoeven (R).

In fact, Dorgan beats Hoeven by 22 points, 57% to 35%, even though both politicians have very similar approval ratings.

Sununu May Run for Gregg’s Seat

The Hotline interviewed with former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu (R) who hinted that his son — former Sen. John E. Sununu (R-NH), who was defeated last fall in his re-election bid — has not ruled out a run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) in 2010. 

Said the elder Sununu: “I’m sure he has on his list of options some of the opportunities coming back into the political process. But he’s got to evaluate it on his own with his wife and kids and make a family-oriented as well as a state- and a nationally-oriented decision.”

Update: Several readers suggest Sununu will need to do much better than he did on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night. That was painful to watch.

Obama Preps for Next Fights

President Obama and his aides “are plunging ahead on a large and expensive agenda that virtually assures 2009 will be marked by intense partisan battles about the size and role of government,” Politico reports.

“For Obama’s next act, the program is the same as he has been planning for months: New Deal-style plans to rescue struggling homeowners and rewrite regulations on the financial markets, plus a budget proposal that lays the groundwork for sweeping health care reform.”

Key change in strategy: “Obama plans to travel more and campaign more in an effort to pressure lawmakers with public support, rather than worrying about whether he can win over Republican votes in Congress.”

Quote of the Day

“The last thing that I think we are looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove — anyone who’s read the newspapers for the last eight years would laugh at that.”

— Obama strategist David Axelrod, quoted by the Washington Post, criticizing Karl Rove, who held the same job during the Bush administration. 

What Did Plouffe Say?

Though Obama campaign manager David Plouffe made his speech off the record  yesterday, Dana Milbank got several attendees to a provide full account of his nearly 90-minute talk.

On Sarah Palin: “She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall.”

On the primary victory over Hillary Clinton: “Really by February 17, mathematically, the night of the Wisconsin primary, it’s over.”

On McCain’s celebrity ad: “We just sat back and said he’s doing huge damage to himself with independent women voters. When you coupled Palin to it, it was explosive and really destructive.” 

On the crucial moment: “McCain’s suspension of his campaign… From that point on, people saw McCain as more unsteady and erratic.” 

Interesting, but didn’t we already know all of that?

The Limit of Bipartisanship

First Read: “Perhaps the biggest fallout from yesterday’s Gregg news is the realization that outside Collins, Snowe, and Specter, Obama isn’t going to receive much support from Republicans, no matter how many of them he tries to appoint to his cabinet, how many times he has them over for drinks at the White House, and how many times he meets with their conference.”

Expect the 2010 U.S. Senate races to become a lot more important than they already were with Democrats on the verge of a filibuster-proof majority.

House Republicans See Few Defections on Stimulus Vote

According to Mike Allen, House Republicans “are banding together once again and leaders now expect to lose at most 8 members on the final stimulus bill, after losing 0 the first time.” 

“Just two days ago, leaders had feared 20 or more defections.”

A vote in the House is expected this morning, with the Senate taking up the measure later today or even Saturday.

No Candidates for Commerce

With Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) out, White House officials said they did not have any leading contenders for commerce secretary, the New York Times reports. 

“It could be difficult, they feared, to attract a strong candidate who would be the third person selected for the post.”

Panetta Confirmed

The U.S. Senate confirmed Leon Panetta as director of the CIA, “placing the nation’s top spy agency in the hands of a government veteran valued for his skills as a lawmaker and policy manager rather than an expert at intelligence-gathering and analysis,” the Washington Post reports.

CQ’s Cabinet Tracker shows two Obama nominees still unconfirmed with two posts still needing nominees.

Congresswoman Loaned Money to Herself at 18%

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) “has pocketed more than $200,000 of political contributions by charging as much as 18% interest on money she loaned to her own campaign,” Bloomberg reports.

The congresswoman “made the $150,000 loan in 1998, when she was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Through Dec. 31, her campaign committee has used donations to pay Napolitano $221,780 of interest while reducing the principal by just $64,727, a review of her Federal Election Commission filings shows.”

First Read: “Allegations of ethical misconduct by Democrats is starting to add up: Blago, Richardson, Rangel, etc. Indeed, this Bloomberg story is a reminder of just how easy it is for ethically-challenged pols to get into Congress, and in some cases survive unpunished. There are examples on both sides of the aisle, sadly enough.”

On the Republican Strategy

Andrew Sullivan: “I have to say even I am a little taken aback by the force of the Republican assault. Even in a downturn as swift and alarming as this one, even after an election that clearly favored one approach over another, even after the most conciliatory efforts by an incoming president in memory, these people have gone to war against the president. The president should stay cool. The rest of us should realize what motivates the GOP: the opportunism of selective ideology.”

Gregg Backs Out

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew from consideration as Secretary of Commerce citing “irresolvable conflicts” over President Obama’s economic stimulus package and oversight of the Census Bureau. 

In a statement, Gregg noted that “nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision.”

Marc Ambinder: “Gregg’s decision to withdraw caught the White House by surprise. The press office found out about it at about the same time as the world did. If senior administration officials had advance notice, they did not widely disseminate it.”

Update: Statement from the White House: “Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce.  He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda.  Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways.  We regret that he has had a change of heart”. 

Update II: in a conference call, Gregg confirmed he will not run for re-election in 2010.

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