(CNN) – After days of being criticized for an off-color joke about the daughter of Alaska's Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, late night TV talk show David Letterman got a vote of support from a fellow comedian.
Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time," called the apology that Letterman issued Monday "a real shame."
"David Letterman should not have had to apologize," Maher told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. "I've known David Letterman a long time."
"He's a very fundamentally decent Midwesterner. It's just not in his DNA to have said something that they're accusing him of saying," Maher added.
"It was an easy and obvious joke to make. It was funny. It was not offensive in any way," the HBO host said after detailing his take on the circumstances leading up to Letterman's controversial joke. "And they made it sound like he said something completely different. So he's apologizing for something he never meant, never thought, and never said."
Related: Palin accepts Letterman's apology
"I've been through this," Maher told Blitzer. "It stinks."
Maher's show appears on HBO, a sister network of CNN that also is owned by Time Warner.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A fundraising dinner featuring President Obama will raise around $3 million for congressional Democrats on Thursday, two sources familiar with the event tell CNN.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will split the $3 million haul, which falls far short of a recent GOP congressional fundraiser headlined by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Spokesmen for the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee said $14 million was raised at that event held earlier this month.
Still, the two fundraisers are difficult to compare because Democrats refused donations from registered lobbyists and political action committees for this dinner. Obama does not accept contributions from PACs and lobbyists.
One of the Democratic sources said that attendees at this week’s fundraiser are primarily new donors, while the other source noted that the ban on lobbyist and PAC donations was a temporary measure for this dinner and that those traditional contributors will continue to give to congressional Democrats.
Still, the sizable money gap raises questions as to why a popular president and the congressional Democratic majority were not able to pull in more money at a major fundraiser.
Eighteen months before the midterm elections, the congressional campaign committees are aggressively seeking to raise money. In the latest Federal Election Commission disclosures, The DSCC was carrying a debt of $4.6 million with a cash-on-hand balance of more than $2.6 million; the DCCC was $7 million in debt, and had $4 million in the bank; the NRSC had $2.6 million in the bank and no debt; and the NRCC was $5 million in debt and had about $3.7 million cash-on hand.
Updated: 7:40 p.m.
NEW YORK (CNN) - A protest rally against David Letterman over a failed joke about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her daughter attracted more members of the media than protesters Tuesday afternoon.
A crowd of 15 protesters upset with the late night comic held signs and occasionally shouted as they stood across the street from Letterman's studio.
But they were often hidden from view by the more than 35 members of the media there to cover the protest, and out-shouted by a few very vocal counter-protesters.
Radio talk show host John Ziegler - who is behind the FireDavidLetterman.com Web site that organized the protest, and who is an outspoken supporter of the former Republican vice presidential candidate - told reporters that the turnout at the event was not representative of the number of people who have responded to his site and e-mailed.
He also argued that Letterman should have been fired, and the only reasons that he hasn't been fired were "the media's love of David Letterman and the media's distrust and, I believe, hatred of Sarah Palin."
He also called Letterman's apology - issued on Monday's program and accepted by Palin - bogus and said that the comedian should make a charitable donation to an organization of Palin's choosing.
Ziegler made a film about the 2008 presidential campaign called "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted."
Before jumping in, McCain was overheard remarking that his new ride features a voice-activated navigation system and Sirius satellite radio.
Riding shotgun was McCain's buddy Lindsey Graham, who joked as he got into the passenger seat: "I hope I live to tell about this."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House passed a $106 billion supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Tuesday on a narrow 226 to 202 vote after all but five Republicans and 32 Democrats voted against the measure.
Last month, 168 House Republicans backed the bill, but GOP leaders urged their members to oppose the version that passed Tuesday because the Senate added $5 billion in guaranteed loans to the International Monetary Fund.
The 32 Democrats who opposed the supplemental were largely from the anti-war "Out of Iraq" caucus.
War opponents had hoped to whip up enough opposition to derail the bill, with several popular progressive blogs leading the charge. In the end, though, they fell seven short of the goal of 39 Democrats, and 12 short of actually stopping the bill because of the five Republicans who voted for it.
Those five Republicans were Reps. John McHugh of New York, recently tapped to be the Army Secretary, Anh Cao of Louisiana, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Peter King of New York, and Candice Miller of Michigan.
The bill also included $1 billion for the "cash for clunkers" program, a program designed to provide incentives for drivers of older vehicles to purchase newer, more environmentally friendly vehicles.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Congressional Budget Office has told Congress that one of the major health reform bills moving in the Senate would cost about $1.6 trillion over 10 years, multiple congressional sources told CNN.
That figure, based on the CBO's recent findings, is well above what leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, which is writing the bill, say is their goal - to bring the overhaul in for under $1 trillion.
When Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, was asked earlier Tuesday about a rumored sky-high estimate from CBO, he refused to confirm the figure but said it was outdated.
"That reflects policy of almost two weeks ago," he said. "And doesn't reflect savings in the bill."
When asked what had changed in two weeks, Baucus replied, "senators talking to each other" about "new, better ideas."
On Monday, the non-partisan CBO produced a cost estimate on a different Senate bill - one written by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - saying it would cost $1 trillion, but would not insure as many people as the Democratic leaders of that committee had hoped.
"The bottom line for Assembly Democrats is that we are committed to ensuring that the state's fiscal emergency isn't allowed to be misused to eliminate the safety net in California or to eviscerate our public education system. We are working closely with the Senate and the governor to resolve the budget deficit by the end of the month to avoid a potential cash crisis," Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in a statement last week.
The state's controller has said California will be out of money to pay its bills by the end of next month, and the governor says this is the time for hard choices because the state must get its fiscal house in order.
"I've heard accusations that I tried to shut down state government. I don't have to shut down state government because when they don't produce a budget on time we will run out of cash and therefore our government will shut down by itself," Schwarzenegger said Friday.
AIDS activists, unions and providers of senior services all have hit the streets in recent weeks to mount protests against the governor's proposed funding cutbacks.
For example, on the chopping block is $6 million for Alzheimer's research and more than $4 million in funding for adult care centers for those with the disease as well as nearly $500 million from programs for senior citizens.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – President Obama on Wednesday will finally lift the curtain on his long-anticipated plan to reorder how banks and other firms are regulated in the hope of preventing another financial collapse.
The far-reaching effort will include a proposal to get rid of the embattled Office of Thrift Supervision and merge it with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.
The OTS has been on the hot seat for months for its role as the overseer of American International Group and failed lenders IndyMac and Washington Mutual. The comptroller's office is a Treasury Department bureau that regulates national banks.
Obama will also call for the creation of a council of regulators to work alongside the Federal Reserve to monitor risk in the financial system, the official said. The Treasury secretary would chair the council.
In addition, Obama will propose the establishment of a new watchdog agency that would aim to protect consumers from deceptive or dangerous mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.
(CNN) - Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada Tuesday admitted an extramarital affair with a woman who had worked for him.
Ensign would not identify the woman, but said both she and her husband had been "close friends." Her husband, he said, also worked for him.
"Last year I had an affair," the senator told reporters outside his office in Las Vegas. "I violated the vows of marriage. It's absolutely the worse thing I've done in my life."
"I take full responsibility for my actions. I know I have deeply hurt and disappointed my wife Darlene, my children, my family, friends, my staff and those who believed in me. And to all of them, especially my wife, I'm truly sorry."
The senator's office also released a statement from Ensign's wife, saying, "Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation. This has been difficult on both families. With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger. I love my husband."
Ensign's spokesman, Tory Mazzola, told CNN that Ensign and a campaign staff member carried on the affair from December 2007 through August 2008. Her husband was an official Senate staff member for the senator.
Neither remained in Ensign's employ as of May 2008.
Updated: 7:29 p.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – While most sitting Supreme Court justices refuse to comment at all about current and future nominees to that bench, one member says she can't wait to welcome Sonia Sotomayor to that exclusive club.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - the only women on the nine-member court - told a group of lawyers and judges this past weekend she was "cheered" at the nomination of Sotomayor.
Ginsburg said the 54-year-old federal appeals court judge brings "a wealth of experience in the law and in life. I am glad to no longer be the lone woman on the court, and look forward to a new colleague well-equipped to handle the challenges our work presents." Her remarks were made at a semi-private conference in upstate New York.
The justice has made no secret of her desire to see greater gender diversity on her court. She has lamented the departure of her friend and colleague Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006.
She told USA Today just weeks before Justice David Souter announced his retirement that more women should join her. "Women belong in all places where decision are being made," she said. "I don't say (the split) should be 50-50. It could be 60 percent men, 40 percent women, or the other way around. It shouldn't be that women are the exception."