Dick Durbin

It’s hard to overstate liberals’ sense of relief that Obama is finally negotiating like someone who’s encountered a deck of cards once or twice in his life. It wasn’t just the hard-ass opening bid he made last week—$1.6 trillion in revenue, higher tax rates for the top two percent, $50 billion in infrastructure, extended unemployment insurance, money for mortgage modifications… all in exchange for about $600 billion in spending cuts.

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If you happen to see an advertisement calling for repeal of something called “the Durbin amendment,” on the grounds that it provided an $8 billion windfall to retailers, don’t be misled into thinking the sponsor is some do-gooder consumer group. The sponsor (“The Electronic Payments Coalition”) is in fact a bunch of banks that don’t like new federally-imposed limits on “swipe fees” for retail transactions involving debit cards.

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If you happen to see an advertisement calling for repeal of something called "the Durbin amendment," on the grounds that it provided an $8 billion windfall to retailers, don't be misled into thinking the sponsor is some do-gooder consumer group. The sponsor ("The Electronic Payments Coalition") is in fact a bunch of banks that don't like new federally-imposed limits on "swipe fees" for retail transactions involving debit cards.

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When I read this morning that a provision in the House ethics bill had been dropped that would have required members of the political intelligence industry to register with the federal government, I had one question. What’s the political intelligence industry? The bill in question, a version of which cleared the Senate last week 96-3 with the political intelligence requirement—sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa)—intact, would outlaw insider trading by members of Congress. Grassley wasn’t pleased.

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At a Senate hearing on voting rights last fall, Democrat Dick Durbin pointed out that voter ID laws were nothing more than a coordinated Republican effort to block poor and minority voters from the ballot.

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The Saxby Swing

When asked about Paul Ryan’s deficit plan, one senator straightforwardly disapproved: “What he seeks to do is balance the budget over about a ten-year period simply by reducing spending. And you can’t do that.” When asked if some people were going to pay more in taxes, the senator added, “You bet.” Such a response was not unique, but the source of the opinion was surprising: conservative Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

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Matt Miller writes: The "truth-teller" du jour (who unveiled a tough New Jersey budget Tuesday that sensibly asks public workers to pick up more of their health and pension costs) did not have the guts to speak this particular truth. Christie merely said that Social Security's retirement age would have to be raised and Medicare would need to be tweaked lest it bankrupt us - things that less sexy pols, such as Democrats Dick Durbin and Mark Warner, have noted without anyone fainting in admiration. I agree with Miller's broader point.

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In the summer of 2008, Democrats had a serious oil problem. Just as the presidential primaries were winding down, gas prices were soaring toward $4 per gallon. Anxious voters were watching their budgets gobbled up by fuel costs, while truck drivers were protesting across the country—at one point circling the Capitol in hornhonking caravans. Republicans were dominating the message war: Newt Gingrich had just launched his “Drill Here, Drill Now” campaign, gathering more than 1.3 million signatures.

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Close Call

Last Wednesday, Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln took to the Senate floor and delivered about as fiery a speech as you’ll hear in the chamber, at least on the subject of financial reform. “Currently, five of the largest commercial banks account for ninety-seven percent of the [derivatives market],” she said.

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Double Take

Miguel Estrada seemed to be a shoo-in for the federal bench. Nominated by George W. Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001 when he was just 39, Estrada was born in Honduras. He arrived in the United States as a teenager speaking little English and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School and clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He then worked at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, arguably the most prestigious law firm in the nation, and, later, as an Assistant U.S.

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