CBSN

Morning Bulletin: Monday, May 27, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
While President Obama is out west today talking climate change and the economy, his historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is dominating the news. (Click here for full coverage of Sotomayor's nomination.)

Republicans are trying to figure out their opposition to the first Hispanic and third woman to be nominated to the Court. Senate Republicans are being cautious, fully aware of their problems with women and Latino voters in recent elections.

"The GOP's dilemma on Sotomayor is the latest example of the party's internal struggle over how to reinvent itself at a time that its voter base is increasingly dominated by Southern, conservative white men," report the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Richard Simon.

"Some moderates have argued that the party must work to recruit more minorities and broaden its ideological foundation. But many leading conservatives have rejected that and see the latest Supreme Court vacancy as a chance to beat the drum on social touchstones such as abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action -- while also revving up their fundraising machineries. ...

"Beyond that, the choice of Sotomayor seemed politically astute for a White House eager to avoid a drawn-out partisan fight. She was first appointed to the federal bench by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, and has won Senate confirmation twice before -- with seven of the Senate's current Republican members approving her promotion in 1998 to be an appellate judge. The dispute within the Republican Party over how to approach the nomination broke out almost instantly. Conservative advocacy groups argued that the nomination could open an emotional battle over questions of race and affirmative action, citing a recent ruling by Sotomayor and two other judges on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals against white firefighters claiming racial discrimination in hiring and promotions."

Meantime, reports Politico's Jeanne Cummings, conservative groups are divided on how to proceed. "The early fissure among opponents to Sotomayor ... is over whether to push for a filibuster. 'The Republicans have got to take a stand on this one,' said Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a proponent of a filibuster. 'If they don't, they can kiss their chances of ever getting back into power away,' he added. ...

5039517"Meanwhile, the Judicial Confirmation Network, an umbrella group representing more than 60 organizations, is trying to build a more traditional case against Sotomayor by culling through her prior statements and cases and questioning her qualifications. 'We've always said a filibuster is not appropriate for judicial nominees,' said Wendy Long, counsel to the network. 'A filibuster is a legislative tool designed to extract compromises. A judicial nominee is a person. You can't take the arm or leg of a nominee. I think everybody should stand up, after a hearing, and vote yes or no. I know there is a respectful disagreement about that in some corners,' she added. ...

"The split is just the latest public division within a party torn between efforts to broaden its base and a full-throated defense of issues like abortion that have deep resonance within the GOP base. The filibuster is a particularly thorny issue for Senate Republicans, who railed against the Democrats for trying the tactic against Alito. Their mantra then: That the judicial nominees of President George W. Bush — or any president — deserve an up-or-down vote in the chamber. Those could be tough words to walk away from today."

Senate Republicans, on the other hand, are focusing on building their case against Sotomayor and grilling her at her confirmation hearing, reports the Associated Press' Julie Hirschfeld Davis.

(CBS)
"'I'd like it to be a hearing that people can be proud of,' said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. 'That means treating the nominee with respect but not minimizing the serious issues that are at stake.' Sessions also said it was 'possible' he could back Sotomayor's nomination, although he was one of several Republicans who opposed her when she came before the Senate as a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998. 'We ought to look at her record fresh,' Sessions said.

"Sotomayor's personal story and her academic and legal credentials earn her respect from all quarters, but conservatives see plenty to criticize in her rulings and past statements. They describe her as a judicial activist who would put her feelings above the Constitution."

A coalition of liberal pro-Sotomayor groups is out today with a new TV ad touting her record. The spot features President Obama saying, "I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind. Someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of peoples' lives. Whether they can make a living and care for their families. Whether feel safe in their homes. I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law; who shares my respect for the constitutional values on which this nation was founded." On the screen during the president's soundbite are highlights of her biography. The ad will run on network newscasts and cable TV in a six-figure ad buy beginning today.

The Associated Press' Jesse J. Holland has a helpful Q & A about what's next regarding Sotomayor's nomination:

More Sotomayor coverage:

Her record:

Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin and Nathan Koppel, "Record Shows Rulings Within Liberal Mainstream"

New York Times' Adam Liptak, "Sotomayor's Rulings Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow"

Los Angeles Times' David G. Savage and Christi Parsons, "Sotomayor's record sets off few ideological alarm bells"

Politico's Josh Gerstein and Eamon Javers, "Key cases reveal few Sonia Sotomayor clues"

Washington Times' Stephen Dinan, "Sotomayor reversed 60% by high court"

New York Times' Jim Dwyer, "On the Bench, With Fairness and Empathy"

Personal profiles:

Washington Post's Amy Goldstein and Jerry Markon, "Heritage Shapes Judge's Perspective"

Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant, "Sotomayor rose from humble roots"

New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer"

Latino Reaction:

New York Times' Damien Cave, "For Hispanics, Court Pick Sets Off Pride, and Some Concerns"

Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Gerald F. Seib, "Selection Recognizes Latino Rise"

Washington Post's Eli Saslow, "Disparate Group United in Pride"

5041015CALIFORNIA SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: The Los Angeles Times' Maura Dolan reports, "The California Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to uphold Proposition 8 and existing same-sex marriages left in place all rights for California's gays and lesbians except access to the label 'marriage,' but it provided little protection from future ballot measures that could cost gays and other minorities more rights, lawyers and scholars said Tuesday.

"In a 6-1 ruling, the court said the November ballot measure that restored a ban on same-sex marriage was a limited constitutional amendment, not a wholesale revision that would have required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to be placed before voters. The court was unanimous in deciding that an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who married before the November election would continue to have their marriages recognized by the state."

"Gay leaders say they are moving into campaign mode with an eye toward trying to repeal Proposition 8 at the ballot box as early as next year after the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages," adds the Associated Press' Lisa Leff.

"Proposition 8 superseded the Supreme Court's May 2008 ruling that legalized same-sex unions by amending the state constitution to outlaw them. In that decision, the court invalidated California's marriage statutes, holding that denying same-sex couples the right to wed amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination. ...

"Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, two prominent litigators who opposed each other in the Bush v. Gore election challenge in 2000, are challenging Proposition 8 on those grounds in federal court. The pair filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of two gay men and two gay women, arguing that the marriage ban violates the U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

"Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general, said he hopes the case will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is a federal question,' he said. 'This is about the rights of individuals to be treated equally and not be stigmatized.' Meanwhile, gay rights groups are starting work gathering the 700,000 signatures required to place a repeal of Proposition 8 before voters in November 2010. Both Equality California and the Courage Campaign, a political action group based in Los Angeles, said they had polled their members in recent days and found overwhelming support for going back to voters next year instead of waiting until 2012."

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
BLAGO & BURRIS: Chicago Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki reports, "In a Nov. 13 conversation recorded by the FBI, Roland Burris told Rod Blagojevich's brother he feared he'd 'catch hell,' with the public if he gave the governor money at the same time he was lobbying for a Senate seat appointment.

Still, Burris ends the call with a promise: 'I will personally do something OK? And it will come to you before the 15th of December.' Such a promise of money is something Burris did not disclose to an Illinois House impeachment panel in sworn testimony after Rod Blagojevich appointed him to the U.S. Senate."

"The transcript provides a behind-the-scenes portrayal of the give-and-take world of Illinois politics. During the conversation, a restless Burris makes a hard pitch for the greatest job of his political career while Robert Blagojevich politely pushes back to try to get fundraising cash from a longtime supporter. In the end, little is agreed upon," add the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Coen and John Chase.

"The conversation adds new detail to the controversy over Burris' Dec. 30 appointment and his often-shifting explanation of his contacts with the Blagojevich camp, providing new fodder for both his defenders and his critics. The senator and his attorney said Tuesday that they welcomed the release of the transcript, done at the request of the Senate Ethics Committee investigating Burris' appointment. Burris said it bolstered his contention he never did anything inappropriate to win the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Rod Blagojevich announced his selection several weeks after he was charged with trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder."

Meanwhile, "Roland Burris isn't hiding one day after a judge allowed the release of a transcript in which the senator offers to "personally do something" for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund," reports the Associated Press' Mike Robinson. "Burris was scheduled to embark Wednesday on a two-day tour of central Illinois. The Democrat says he wants to talk to local officials, veterans, and business leaders, among others."

PRESIDENT'S FUND-RAISING: "On his first visit to Nevada since the November election, President Barack Obama played Fundraiser in Chief Tuesday night, delivering a 20-minute speech to a sold-out crowd at Caesars Palace, all for the benefit of Sen. Harry Reid," reports the Las Vegas Sun's Michael Mishak.

(AP)
"The event was expected to raise about $2 million for the Senate majority leader's campaign. Reid is up for re-election in 2010 and has proved a pivotal partner in helping Obama shepherd his agenda through Congress in the administration's first 100 days. And, even with Democratic majorities, the president will need Reid to corral a politically diverse caucus as Obama tackles the more difficult terrain of energy policy and health care reform."

"In the last three years, Harry has done an extraordinary job as leader of the U.S. Senate, and that's not easy, by the way", Mr. Obama said at the fund-raiser. Earlier, at a $2,400-per-person VIP reception, the president said, "It's hard to get things done if you don't have some great allies in Congress, part of what I appreciate about Harry is also that he just knows how to get things done. ... Make sure that Harry Reid continues to be our majority leader. As long as I'm president I want him to be my majority leader."

Outside Caesar's Palace, "As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama prepared for a fundraiser Tuesday evening to help get Reid re-elected, about 100 protesters worked the Strip in hopes of preventing just that," reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Lynnette Curtis.

"Carrying signs and chanting slogans such as 'Heave ho! Reid must go!' the protesters in front of Caesars Palace, where the fundraising concert was to take place, criticized Reid's 'tax-and-spend,' 'big government' ways. 'I'm not a big fan of what's going on in D.C.,' said the 6-foot-4, heavily tattooed Dan Stephens, a local tattoo artist who brought his three young daughters and also-heavily-tattooed wife to the protest. 'It seems like our representatives have forgotten who hired them.'

"The mostly Republican protesters said they want representatives who advocate for small government and are against tax increases. ... The protest was organized by Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a conservative, California-based political action committee that is campaigning against Reid's re-election. The committee held a news conference Tuesday morning in Las Vegas to highlight its $100,000 anti-Reid ad campaign. Radio, television and Internet ads calling Reid a tax-and-spender who does not respect the military were airing statewide, timed to coincide with the president's visit. Many of the protesters Tuesday evening said they heard about the event on talk radio. Passers-by cheered or jeered. Curious tourists stopped to ask: 'Who's Harry Reid?'"

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SCHEDULE: "The President and Senator Harry Reid will tour the solar photovoltaic array at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas," per a White House press release. "Following the tour, the President will deliver remarks highlighting the progress the country has made in the first 100 days of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the work that has been done to build a new foundation for America's economic recovery. Senator Reid will introduce President Obama at the event at the Thunderbird Hangar at Nellis Air Force Base." Tonight, Mr. Obama heads to Beverly Hills to attend a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser.

ALSO TODAY: Vice President Biden delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Also, "100 days since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law – Secretary Geithner will travel to Massachusetts to announce the national recipients of $1.5 billion in New Markets Tax Credit awards made possible through the Recovery Act," per a Treasury Department official.

"Secretary Geithner will be joined by Governor Deval Patrick, Congressman Barney Frank, and Congressman Mike Capuano at Project Hope, a New Market Tax Credit beneficiary in Roxbury, to announce the 32 organizations throughout the country receiving awards ranging in size from $10 million to $95 million each. Also joining Secretary Geithner will be Mike Psikarakis, a small business owner who followed his parents into the restaurant business in Brockton, where overall unemployment stands at 10.2%. Using New Market Tax Credit finances to renovate a vacant building, Psikarakis helped create temporary construction jobs and permanent restaurant jobs for local residents. The New Market Tax Credit program incentivizes private-sector capital investment in urban, suburban and rural communities around the country to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and jumpstart the lending necessary for financial stability."

HEALTH CARE

Boston Globe's Peter S. Canellos, "Analysis: Confirmation battle could complicate healthcare push"

Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, "Conservative Groups Fault Health-Care Agenda"

NY Times' Robert Pear, "Antitrust Laws a Hurdle to Health Care Overhaul"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

LA Times' Josh Meyer, "Obama merges homeland, national security staffs"

FUTURE RACES

2009 NJ Governor: Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Sataline, "Disappointment in New Jersey Governor Lifts Rivals"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman, "Candidates Make Pitch to Business Leaders"

2009 NYC Mayor: NY Daily News' Celeste Katz, Kerry Burke and Adam Lisburg, "Congressman Anthony Weiner officially drops out of race for mayor"

2010 CT Senate: Quinnipiac University Poll, "Dodd Gains On Challenger, But Approval Is Low"

2010 PA Senate: Allentown Morning Call's Josh Drobnyk, "Pat Toomey's wallet would take a hit if he wins Senate seat"

2010 PA-12: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Dem opponent for Murtha"

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    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.