In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) kicked off what will likely be a round of the GOP's presidential candidates bashing the bipartisan fiscal deal by vowing to filibuster the bill in the Senate. An aide for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was quick to point out, however, that Paul can't do much more than delay the process.

Paul -- who has been lagging in the polls -- made his vow to block the budget bill Tuesday afternoon in front of a group of reporters in Denver ahead of Wednesday's GOP presidential debate.

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Disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is expected to walk into a federal courthouse Wednesday morning in downtown Chicago and plead guilty to charges that stemmed from an alleged agreement to pay out millions of dollars in hush money to a mysterious "Individual A."

And people who have watched the case told TPM on Tuesday that thanks to the plea deal with federal prosecutors, reports of sexual misconduct against one of Hastert's former students will remain vague—at least for now.

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Citing immigration as a critical issue facing America, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) asked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to agree to specific limitations on immigration policy in exchange for his support of Ryan's speaker bid.

"Immigration is far and away the most important problem facing America because it changes the voter pool, thereby controlling the outcome of every single public policy challenge America faces," Brooks said in an interview with TPM.

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Before Speaker John Boehner hands over his gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), as expected later this week, he's offering the current Ways and Means chair an enormous gift: a big, almost-miraculous fiscal deal that takes off of the table most of the contentious issues facing Congress between now and the 2016 election.

According to initial reports, the emerging deal includes a hike to the debt limit, a two-year funding bill and even a re-balancing of the Social Security disability trust fund, which was expected to dry up next year. Additionally, short-term transportation legislation giving lawmakers a few more weeks to finish a multi-year bill is also moving forward. If those deals can make it through Congress as planned in the next few days, the initial months of Ryan’s presumed speakership will be a cake walk compared to the high-stakes deadlines he was previously facing.

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Gun owners feared President Barack Obama would use the "Jade Helm 15" military training exercise as cover for confiscating Americans' firearms and implementing martial law this summer. The exercise ended in September to little fanfare and without any guns having been confiscated.

But the underlying fear that Obama—and, now, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton—plans to confiscate Americans' guns hasn't gone away with the change in seasons. It's merely morphed and burst out into the mainstream after yet another mass shooting earlier this month at a community college in Oregon.

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Mitt Romney is finally ready to take credit for Obamacare.

Speaking to the Boston Globe for their obituary of Staples founder Thomas G. Stemberg, who died Friday, the former Massachusetts praised Stemberg for his involvement in pushing “Romneycare,” which in turn, Romney said, led to Obamacare, giving “a lot of people” health coverage.

“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney said. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”

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The House of Representatives passed Friday what was supposed to be their best shot at an Obamacare repeal measure to get through the Senate and onto the President's desk. The only problem is, yet again, it faces a math problem in the Senate: not because of filibustering Democrats this time, but a few Republicans who say it doesn't go far enough.

The plan for the bill, The Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, was that it would overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate by using a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation, which only requires a majority in the Senate for passage. That makes it immune to a filibuster from minority Democrats. But the process is complicated, in part because reconciliation can only be used on measures that decrease the federal deficit. Full-scale Obamacare repeal, the Congressional Budget Office has said, would add $353 billion.

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Tea Party hardliners are hoping they can use the chaos in the House leadership to insulate themselves from a Chamber of Commerce seeking to dethrone them. But the Chamber is show no signs of backing off, given the far right's obstruction of many of its key priorities.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Washington at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said it planned to "double down" in fighting the opposition it faces from hard right groups. He scoffed at reports that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is expected to be elected to speaker next week, had discussed with members of the House Freedom Caucus blocking the influence of the Chamber of Commerce in primary challenges. The Freedom Caucus -- the conservative group of members that have rocked the GOP conference -- has signaled that a speaker, as a condition of their support, would need to be willing to step in to block outside groups from funding candidates who challenge them.

"I'm glad about that," Donohue said, pointing to his earlier comments about doubling down in opposing the hard right.

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House Select Committee on Benghazi Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC), under siege from both Democrats and Republicans who've suggested the panel is pursuing a partisan investigation into Hillary Clinton, promised that new information would come out of the panel Thursday during the former secretary of state's high-profile testimony.

Yet the panel seemed to spend quite some time rehashing an old, debunked conservative conspiracy theory that Clinton deliberately blamed the attacks on a spontaneous protest in reaction to an anti-Muslim video before acknowledging that they were an act of terrorism.

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If one knew nothing about the 2012 Benghazi attack before Thursday’s special committee hearing, he or she would think that Sid Blumenthal -- a former aide to President Clinton -- had led the attacks.

Time and time again, Republicans returned to Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Blumenthal, who has never been in Libya nor served in Clinton’s Department of State. On numerous times they brought up the emails that he sent her, the influence of his advice, where his missives were passed along and whether his communications were truly unsolicited.

Their justification for their focus on a side character in Clinton's universe seemed Clinton emailed Blumenthal -- a personal friend of the Clintons-- more than she did Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of the four Americans killed in the attack. The name Sidney Blumenthal has become something of a dog whistle in right-wing circles -- for Clinton cronyism, rank politicization, and self-dealing -- but it remained unclear after hours of testimony how his emails further implicated Clinton in the Benghazi tragedy.

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