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Good afternoon, Daily Kos readers. This is your afternoon open thread to discuss all things Hill-related. Use this thread to praise or bash Congresscritters, share a juicy tip, ask questions, offer critiques and suggestions, or post manifestos.

Some the Hill news that's fit to blog is over the fold . . .

Sen. Gregg R-NH sounded a bit like David Brooks on the floor of the Senate today during the Bernanke debate and mentioning his reaction to the State of the Union address. Take it away, Matt.

Brooks here is trying to say that by criticizing, say, Goldman Sachs for mass thievery — criticizing a bank for selling billions of dollars worth of worthless subprime mortgage-backed securities mismarked as investment grade deals, for getting the taxpayer to pay them 100 cents on the dollar for their billions in crap investments with AIG, for forcing hundreds of millions of people to pay inflated gas and food prices when they manipulated the commodities market and helped push oil to a preposterous $149 a barrel, and for paying massive bonuses after receiving billions upon billions in public support even beyond the TARP — that in criticizing the bank for doing these things, people like me are primarily interested in being divisive and "organizing hatreds."

Sen. Gregg is afraid of populism on the let and the right. And it appears he is also afraid of hard questions.

Gregg responded with his usual complaints about government spending and his desire to "control the rate of growth of government." When Francis said that sounded "good in theory," Gregg got upset, retorting, "that’s not theory. Don’t tell me that’s good in theory"
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After Gregg calmed down and ticked off a list of the ways he thinks the Obama administration has been fiscally irresponsible, Brewer interjected that Francis was "really asking for specifics" of "which programs" he was willing to cut. "Are you willing to tell schools ‘no money for you?’" asked Brewer, setting Gregg off again

No wonder he wants to punt this to a commission. Actual decisions are hard. Only deficit are apparently allowed to be mad.

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The House website were shut down after the State of the Union. Someone more competent than the kids in New Orleans succeeded in disabling something.

As of mid-morning Thursday, several websites were down for maintenance, including those of Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.).

It was unclear how many sites had been affected by hackers and how many had been taken down for maintenance as a precaution.

The CAO is working with GovTrends to get the sites back online. GovTrends oversees the maintenance of about 100 member sites and is one of a few outside technological specialists approved by the CAO.
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Many of the affected lawmakers’ websites have fallen victim to hackers in the past. Last August nearly a dozen websites of members were hacked and defaced due to what their site host, GovTrends, said were uncomplex password configurations.

This sounds like a project for the Geek Squad and a jobs bill. Sites from both sides of the aisle were hit, and coincidental one of those in the list reported is my father's representative.

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And the House is not in session today. You ask Why not? Well, you remember that warm and fuzzy moment last night between the President Obama and the Minority Leader Boehner?

The president's midday speech, to be followed by a private question-and-answer session with the Republican lawmakers, is an election-year attempt at bipartisan outreach to a group that has been extremely hostile to his agenda.
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The meeting, at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, is being underwritten by the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit organization that has sponsored similar Republican retreats since the late 1980s.

The organization's involvement has attracted criticism in the past because members of its board of directors, including lobbyists who make $25,000 contributions to support the group's activities, are allowed to mingle with lawmakers at a private reception and dinner during the retreat.

The Inner Harbor in Charm City, searching for their inner bi-partisan selves. Just as the Republican National Committee is having its winter meeting in that exotic location, the State of Hawaii.

In the meantime the parallel movement is having some unraveling. Rep. Blackburn R-TN  has opted out of the event to be held in Nashville. Rep. Bachmann R-MN has decided to not participate. And this is based on, wait for it, the profit motive of the organizer, but on oil commissioner governor Sarah Palin.

But lately, the convention has come under fire from some Tea Partiers who view it as inauthentic, and believe organizer Judson Phillips and his outfit, Tea Party Nation, are out to make a profit. And now, Blackburn, of Tennessee, has changed her mind about appearing, citing just such fears.
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Meanwhile, conservative darling Bachmann, of Minnesota, has said she too is considering backing out, because of concerns over violating ethics rules -- though its not clear which ones.

And Mother Jones reports that Palin, too, is coming under pressure from Tea Party activists to back out, though she has given no indication that she will. Her speaking fee has been reported to be as high as $100,000.

I thought the GOP was all for free markets? Makes you wonder if this all will become inconvenient for Dick Armey and his for-profit clients at some point. Or has Speaker Gingrich's right hand man been holding bake sales?

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Well, the drama of the Bernanke vote is over. Cloture was invoke 77 - 22 Several Senators voted differently on cloture than final confirmation, whic was 70 - 30

Boxer, Franken, Harkin, Dorgan, Kaufman, Whitehouse, LeMieux

Wonder what Sen. Bayh D-NH thinks of that?

After the vote Sen Ben Nelson D-NE asked the chair, Sen. Sheehan D-NH, several parliamentary inquires. I am paraphrasing, but I know that the exact working is necessary from the 16:14 EST question. (That quarter after four in DC)

Is a cloture vote required on the reconciliation conference report? No

Is is true that under the Budget Act debate is limited to 10 hours? Yes, that is correct.

Mr. Nelson is asking for bi-partisanship from the GOP in his press release to avoid the reconciliation route, this time, this reform, this president.

"If Republican colleagues are serious about fixing our health care system and want to avoid using the reconciliation process, then I will go to the negotiating table with them," Senator Nelson said. "If Republican senators join me at the table, we can use bipartisanship for health reform rather than use reconciliation, which needs only 50 votes to approve legislation."

All his other reconciliation votes were so last decade.

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And now for the Most Important News of the Day TM: He can see into the future!

Sen. John Cornyn's office sends over an entry in the classic genre of pre-written attacks on big speeches, meant* to be printed after the speech and to appear as though Cornyn was actually reacting to it.

These are sometimes defensible under the excuse that the speech has been circulated and read, but Cornyn's prepared statement appears to indicate that, as of 9:11 p.m. today, he had already heard and appreciated Obama's delivery and his rhetorical "gift."

The intersection of Article III courts and the Article I legislative branch is supposed to happen, on paper. Surely, Sen. Cornyn will be able to see the judicial activism, legislating from the bench, on the right as clearly as he saw judicial activism on the left, and sadly, justified the reaction to it from the fringes.

Originally posted to CA Berkeley WV on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 02:53 PM PST.

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