TPM News

Though two prominent Republicans have offered ideas for privatizing Social Security, the official GOP line in 2010 won't include that plan.

After Rep. Jeb Hensarling talked about wanting to privatize Social Security last night on MSNBC's "Hardball," TPMDC checked in with Republican aides on Capitol Hill.

Most of the GOP aides were reluctant to even entertain the question of whether Republicans will formally campaign on the idea, suggesting that it's a political third rail they would rather avoid. Indeed, the Democrats already jumped on Hensarling's remarks to suggest the GOP is "dusting off the old playbook."

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You'd think that if there were one Democratic initiative that Republicans in Congress might be bashful about opposing -- especially given the current anti-corporate climate in the country -- it would be a bid to stop foreign corporations from pouring money into our elections.

You'd be wrong. In fact, they're willing to stand up in support of those foreign corporations' right to do so.

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It's been apparent for quite some time that the Senate is unlikely to follow the House's lead in calling for the creation of an economy-wide market in greenhouse gas emissions. But today, at a town hall meeting in Nashua, NH, President Obama seemed, however reluctantly, to acknowledge the political reality.

"The most controversial aspects of the energy debate that we've been having: The House passed an energy bill, and people complained about, well, there's this cap and trade thing, and you just mentioned, you know, let's do the fun stuff before we do the hard stuff," Obama told former New Hampshire Rep. Dick Swett.

The only thing I would say about it is this. We may be able to separate these things out, and it-it's conceivable that that's where the Senate ends up, but the concept of incentivizing clean energy so that it's the cheaper more effective kind of energy is one that is proven to work and is actually a market-based approach.

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Rod Jetton, the former Missouri pol charged with assault after a November sexual encounter, is now reportedly under scrutiny in an FBI probe into the killing of a bill to regulate strip clubs.

Details of the pay-to-play probe -- including a grand jury interview with the legislation's sponsor today -- have been bubbling up for a while. The Kansas City Star first reported late last month that Jetton is under scrutiny.

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Testifying today before the Senate Armed Services committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Michael Mullen expressed their support for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But Pentagon officials say that a study of the repeal could take up to a year.

Gates announced that a civilian and a military officer will be in charge of the commission: Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon's legal counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.

Today's hearing was the first in 17 years on the military's policy, which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces.

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The interest groups who invested millions in gripping television ads to sway lawmakers to support or oppose health care reform seem to have gotten the message their money can be better spent elsewhere.

Analysts who track political advertising told TPMDC the spending has dramatically decreased since Scott Brown won a special Senate election in Massachusetts to become the 41st Republican vote.

One month ago, interest groups on both sides of the health care debate spent more than $1 million per day on television ads, with more than 390,000 ads airing in all of 2009 through today. Now, that spending has dropped off to just "barely" $1 million per week, said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis group.

Tracey said there was $210 million spent on health care ads in all of 2009 through January. Most of that was in the summer and fall of 2009, and only $12 million was spent in January.

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At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) expressed his concern that repealing the rule would pave the way for allowing "alcohol use, adultery, fraternization, and body art" in the military -- and that the army must "exclude persons whose presence in the armed forces would create unacceptable risk to the armed forces' high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion."

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Senate Democrats have pivoted, at times clumsily, from a universal focus on health care reform to a universal focus on jobs legislation. But is jobs destined to get bogged down by the same legislative morass that ultimately stymied health care? Democrats say not on their watch.

Yesterday, Politico reported that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) had told Democratic leadership that he'd like to take a crack at some elements of the Democrats' burgeoning job proposal in his Finance Committee. The news gave progressives, and rank and file Democrats flashbacks to the Baucus-led Gang of Six negotiations on health care reform, which dragged on for months and ultimately failed to secure any Republican votes.

But numerous Senate aides said today that the jobs push is--and will be--different. They say the sense of urgency is greater, and that leadership is busily figuring out how to enact a meaningful jobs package as expeditiously as possible.

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