In it, but not of it. TPM DC

WASHINGTON — Democrats slammed the House GOP for targeting Social Security in its new budget resolution unveiled Tuesday, contending that the move is part of an emerging Republican strategy to create a crisis atmosphere and set the stage for dramatic changes in how the program works.

Though the budget was mostly similar to previous years' budgets, one major new item was a provision to prohibit a traditionally routine transfer of funds from the Social Security retirement fund (which is solvent through 2033) to the Social Security Disability Insurance fund, which has long been projected to become insolvent in 2016. It was a formal affirmation of a rule adopted by House Republicans on the first day of the new Congress to block such a "reallocation."

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WASHINGTON — After a day of filibusters and bickering, the Senate is no closer to breaking the impasse on an anti-human-trafficking bill that has hit a wall over Democratic objections to an anti-abortion provision.

And that has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisting she won't receive a final confirmation vote until the trafficking bill passes.

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WASHINGTON — It's common in Congress for the parties to rip each other apart over the contents of a bill. But it's exceedingly rare for one party to accuse the other of trying to sneak a law into existence without telling them.

An overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate bill to combat human trafficking hit a wall last week after Democrats said they discovered a provision to impose new limits on abortion rights, and threatened to filibuster the bill unless the provision is removed.

Senate Republican leaders now find themselves caught between wanting to show they can pass even the most noncontroversial legislation and the passions of the pro-life base they roped into the battle by making it a high-stakes proxy war over abortion.

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WASHINGTON — The new Republican-led Congress marched right up to the edge of its first cliff, peered over the precipice and nearly jumped.

It came within moments of shutting down the Department of Homeland Security over an unrelated dispute about immigration, but managed to avert the crisis. And yet, that was one of the easier tasks facing Republican leaders.

If the first 10 weeks of 2015 are any indication, they have a rough ride ahead. Anxious conservatives see these essential items as their only vehicle to force reforms they yearn for in the face of implacable Democratic and White House opposition.

Here are five major "cliffs" — deadlines by which legislation must be passed in order to avoid disruptions in major federal programs — on the horizon.

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Kentucky Republicans are poised to grant Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) wish to hold a one-time party caucus instead of the usual Republican presidential primary, allowing the likely presidential candidate to circumvent a state law barring candidates from appearing on the ballot multiple times in the same election.

On Saturday the Kentucky Republican Party's executive committee unanimously endorsed Paul's proposal to hold the caucus. It's not official until the proposal is formally approved by the Republican central committee in August, but it appears likely Paul will be able to run for the GOP presidential nomination and his Senate seat at the same time. Still, that doesn't solve the problem for Paul on a general election ballot.

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