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Congress: Sotomayor debate begins

Senate debate begins today on Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, the L.A. Times writes. "[W]ith the outcome assured, the only remaining questions are whether the National Rifle Assn. can claim to have swayed votes against her and whether President Obama can claim a victory for bipartisanship."

The AP adds, "Republicans have lined up almost solidly against President Barack Obama's nominee, taking what strategists in both parties call a steep political risk in opposing Sotomayor, although a handful of GOP senators are siding with Democrats to support her."

Video: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, previews the Senate vote on the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

According to Roll Call, "Anyone looking for high drama or a nail-biter of a vote will likely be disappointed, as the outcome is all but guaranteed." Kennedy and Byrd are not expected to vote Thursday on her confirmation, which leaves 58 Democrats for her. And six Republicans for her (Graham, Alexander, Lugar, Snowe, Collins, Martinez). That would give 64 votes. The paper wonders if the Alaska senators might go the opposite way of their respective parties. "[T]he only major question marks on the final tally come from Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D). Murkowski, vice chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee, has often charted an independent course from her party, and she could join Alexander as the only members of the GOP hierarchy to back Sotomayor's nomination. Begich, meanwhile, is one of a handful of Democratic moderates whom conservatives and the National Rifle Association have targeted as possible converts in the waning days of the confirmation process."

The PMA bubble. Roll Call notes that the ethics committee looking into PMA contributions and Democrats involved is moving slowly and secretively. "It is not known whether the ethics panel is examining a small group of senior Democratic appropriators who received significant campaign contributions from PMA or the potentially larger pool of Members who designated earmarks for PMA clients or received campaign funds from those sources. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) and panel members Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) received about $4.8 million in campaign contributions over the past decade from PMA and its clients. The lawmakers helped those clients secure tens of millions of dollars in targeted projects during that period.
 
More: "Other lawmakers who have received notable contributions from PMA, including Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and Christopher Carney (D-Pa.), also did not return calls seeking comment. Aides to Rep. Norm Dicks (Wash.), the third-ranking Democrat on the Appropriations panel, and Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said Monday that their offices had not been contacted to date by the ethics panel." Could this bubble burst for Democrats in 2010 and cost them several seats, a la Abramoff in 2006 for the Republicans?