In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Hershey, Pa. — A Republican congressman is criticizing his party for overreaching with its new legislation to thwart President Barack Obama's deportation relief programs.

"I think it's a clear overreach," California Rep. Jeff Denham told reporters at the bicameral GOP retreat on Thursday at a resort in this Pennsylvania town. "I think not having a clear message on the issue is a drag on the party."

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The Democrats' progressive wing is enjoying a renaissance since the party's crushing defeat in the 2014 midterm election, chalking up victories and capturing the attention of congressional leaders on causes near and dear to their hearts.

Some of the change is structural. The election wiped out red state senators and House members in less progressive districts, reducing the new minority party to a more ideologically cohesive unit. The loss of the Democrats' Senate majority also breaks a four-year holding pattern in which leaders had to cut deals with the conservative-dominated House, making it somewhat easier for them to stand or fall on principle.

"It's very, very liberating," said one Democratic Senate leadership aide.

The left's determination to take the reins of the party is having an impact. Here are five prominent examples since the election.

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Updated: 1:10 PM EST

Government shutdown wars are back with a vengeance.

House Republicans teed up a new standoff on Wednesday with passage of legislation that overturns President Barack Obama's executive actions on deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The bill passed 236-191, with 10 Republicans voting against it and 2 Democrats supporting it.

The legislation is tied to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which expires on Feb. 28. The department will partially shut down if a bill isn't enacted by then. The rest of the government is funded through September.

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A new battle is brewing over Social Security in 114th Congress. The House passed a rule last week that critics say could hasten a crisis on the disability side of the program in late 2016, allowing Republicans to use the looming threat of benefit cuts as leverage in negotiations. New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has hinted at his hopes for a grand bargain on entitlements, and House Budget Chair Tom Price (R-GA) signaled Monday that he too had big ambitions for Social Security reform.

Social Security, in more ways than one the mother of all U.S. entitlement programs, has been the dragon that conservatives have succeeded in slashing, but never slaying, over its 80-year history. Their opposition has morphed from outright ideological grounds as the program was being debated during the New Deal era to a campaign masked in careful rhetoric once Social Security became virtually untouchable as a political animal.

Republicans know they have a new opportunity with the disability trust fund and a leverage point that comes along once every 20 years, and they're seizing it. Price floated some favorite proposals like means-testing, increasing the eligibility age, and individual accounts (otherwise known as privatization). He described it as the GOP's effort to "normalize the discussion and debate about Social Security."

Democrats have certainly undertaken and signed onto changes to Social Security opposed by its staunchest supporters. But the program has never been perceived by the left as an existential threat the way it has been by many on the right. To understand where conservatives are now, you have to understand how they got there. The following is derived in large part from "The Battle for Social Security," authored by Social Security Works's co-director Nancy Altman, and TPM's own consultations with other experts on the program.

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The House GOP's threatened shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security would not stop President Barack Obama's executive actions to grant temporary deportation relief and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants. But in an ironic twist, experts say it would hinder two priorities near and dear to Republican hearts: border security and deportations.

"If somebody were writing a play about this and they wanted to put a perverse circumstance in it that gave the president this smirk authority over the Congress, this is what we've done," Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a leading foe of "executive amnesty" in the House, told TPM.

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