In it, but not of it. TPM DC

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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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made clear what would need to happen for him to jump into the speaker's race. But the conservative hardliners that have been roiling their own leadership aren't about to make it easy for him

"With a lot of the folks in the Freedom Caucus, he's still up in the air," Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) -- speaking of the group blamed for pushing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to resign and causing his presumed successor House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to withdraw his candidacy -- told TPM.

"Most folks have never been used to someone applying for a job and telling you, 'I don't do windows, I don't do beds," Salmon said

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Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has worn his promises that the House Select Committee on Benghazi's investigation is nonpartisan and "fact-centric" like armor ever since he took up the mantle of leadership on the panel.

But chinks in that armor are showing just days before Gowdy is set to grill Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a high-profile, public hearing. Ramped-up pressure from Democratic members of the panel in addition to GOPers' assertions that the investigation targeted Clinton have made Gowdy appear to be the lone voice still crying out for the "truth" behind the Benghazi attacks. The House GOP hasn't exactly sent in reinforcements for Gowdy, either, as its members continue to preoccupy themselves with finding a replacement for outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) who can satisfy both the establishment and insurgent wings of the bitterly divided chamber.

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States that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are now paying the price, literally.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation report released last week suggests that the Republican-controlled non-expansion states are seeing their share of Medicaid costs rise more sharply than expansion states.

The trend undercuts a popular argument against the Medicaid expansion in states where Republican leaders continue to resist opting into the program, under which the federal government pays 100 percent of costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent share after.

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As a Nov. 3 deadline to raise the debt ceiling looms, the House is set to vote on a bill this week that critics have labeled a cop out on Congress’ duty to raise the debt limit and avoid defaulting on the national debt.

The bill -- dubbed the “Default Prevention Act” -- would direct the Treasury Department, in the event of a debt ceiling breach, to continue to borrow in order to keep paying Social Security, as well the principal and interest on public debt. But the government would not be able to borrow for any of its other functions until the debt ceiling was raised.

The bill is moving forward even though Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is reportedly signaling privately that he will advance a clean debt ceiling hike with the help of Democratic votes before he leaves office, thereby avoiding a debt default.

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With Hilary Clinton scheduled to testify later this week, partisan infighting on the House Select Committee on Benghazi has reached a fever pitch. The ranking Democratic member called out Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Sunday for mischaracterizing Clinton's handling of classified information on her private email account, and Gowdy spent the day again defending the committee's work against charges of political gamesmanship. On Monday, Democrats on the committee ratcheted up the pressure on Gowdy again, releasing a report that aimed to debunk "wild Republican conspiracy theories" about Clinton's response to the 2012 attacks.

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It is looking more and more likely that Speaker John Boehner will stiff House conservatives and push through an increase in the debt limit with the help of Democratic votes before he steps down. It would be a fitting parting shot to end his speakership.

If the last few years of budget brinkmanship and debt ceiling showdowns were theater, then a standalone, drama-free debt ceiling vote arranged by Boehner on his way out would be the play's denouement. It was Boehner after all, who starting in 2011, escalated the strategy of using debt ceiling votes to seek concessions on spending from Democrats.

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While the first Democratic debate was, in theory, intended to create contrast among the party’s candidates, frontrunner Hillary Clinton wanted viewers to walk away with another message: Republicans are the real enemy and she is the one to take them on.

Time and time again on the Las Vegas stage, the former secretary of state pivoted from the nuanced differences between her and her Democratic foes to slam the GOP for being far behind where she and progressives want to lead the country.

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