TPM News

The Republican opening bid in the fiscal war of 2011 is to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, and to lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

The Democrats, by contrast, will enter the sweepstakes with ... the Simpson-Bowles recommendations?

For the uninitiated, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles co-chaired the White House's fiscal commission, and personally recommended a series of conservative leaning policy proposals for reducing deficits and debt over the long-term. They floated their proposals after the commission itself was unable to reach a consensus. Among their proposals were reducing top tax rates and simplifying the system by eliminating loopholes and giveaways in the code.

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Over the last few years in the hotly contested debate over Congress' ability to direct money to pet projects in their district, advocates of the practice, known as earmarking, have repeatedly argued that eliminating earmarks would only amount to a drop in the deficit bucket and have no real impact on overall spending.

The details of the deal to avert a government shutdown go a long way in undermining that point as the government is saving $10 billion by eliminating money usually set aside for earmark spending, including $630 million for so-called earmarks to nowhere, money for earmarks that has never been spent.

The latest measure that funds the government through the end of September even slashes $4.2 billion in Department of Defense earmarks, once a sacred cow of senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) released a personal, videotaped apology to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne on Monday for using one of the band's songs without permission in a campaign video last year.

Byrne brought a $1 million lawsuit against Crist for using the song "Road to Nowhere" in a campaign video attacking his then opponent Marco Rubio, in last year's elections. Crist's videotaped apology is reportedly part of an undisclosed settlement reached between the two parties.

"The use of David Byrne's song and his voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission was wrong and should not have occurred," Crist says in the video.

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As Americans pore over the newly released details of the bipartisan $39.9 billion in cuts agreed to last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid is defending the deal as a success for Democrats.

"While both parties may agree, in principle, that a budget is more than simply a collection of numbers, our priorities couldn't be more different," Reid said in a statement. He went on to list a number of areas where the GOP failed to secure their demands, repeatedly declaring that Democrats "stayed true to our values," and used the agreement to highlight key differences between the parties.

"Throughout this debate, we stayed true to our values," he said. "The American people noticed, and they're glad we did. By clear majorities, our constituents are glad we stood up for health reform, for women's health, for cleaner air, and on and on."

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The threat of a government shutdown could have been averted entirely if Democrats hadn't sucked so much last year, according to Jon Stewart.

Stewart said on Monday night that the entire budget debate this year was caused by Democrats' failure to pass a budget last year. Democrats, concerned about making unpopular decisions in an election year, punted on a number of legislative decisions until after last year's midterms.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the national Tea Party star who is considering a run for president, appeared Monday night on Sean Hannity's TV show to clarify something: If elected, she is not ruling out a second term.

Earlier in the day, the Des Moines Register reported Bachmann as saying: "I'm a principled reformer, and my goal is to see the country turn around. I'm also committed to being a one-term president if that's what it takes in order to turn things around, because this is not about a personal ambition." This was widely interpreted as a one-term pledge.

"Why would you say just one term?" Hannity asked.

"Well, I didn't say -- what I said is that if it would mean only serving one," said Bachmann. "I didn't close the door on two, but I think it's important to be serious enough about the issues that if it meant not being able to run for a second term, I think dealing -- we need to get serious now. We can't be about anyone's political career. We have to get serious quickly, now, and turn the country around, get it back on track."

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House Republicans and Senate Democrats have posted details of the bipartisan spending agreement that staved off a shutdown, providing a first look at where the $39.9 billion of cuts come from on a program by program basis.

Republican priorities can be seen throughout the agreement, with reduced funding for enforcing environmental regulation, scientific research, health care, and education all leaping out.

One of the hardest hit institutions is the Environmental Protection Agency, whose power Republicans have sought to curtail in recent years through a variety of legislative means. The agency will receive $1.6 billion less in funding than current levels, a 16 percent drop, including a $49 million reduction in climate change programs and $149 million cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In a press release, Senate Appropriation Committee Democrats noted that the EPA cuts, while tough, were nearly $1.6 billion less than Republicans' original proposal. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also saw a $142 million reduction in funding and is prohibited from creating a Climate Service.

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A 60 year old man, described by the FBI as an "extremely dangerous" transient, was arrested on Monday evening in Ohio, in connection with a powerful explosion that rocked a synagogue on Thursday morning in Santa Monica, California.

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by Marian Wang, ProPublica

"No leniency." That was the warning from Bahrain's Crown Prince last week as government forces continued cracking down on protesters, activists, journalists and doctors. It was issued alongside yet another promise of reform by the Bahraini government.

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Stephen Colbert had some fun with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Monday night over Kyl's argument that his hyperbolic claim about Planned Parenthood was never intended to be taken as fact.

In the heated budget debate last week, Kyl erroneously claimed on the Senate floor that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions; the real number is more like 3%. Rather than admit a mistake, Kyl defended that claim by saying it was, "not intended to be a factual statement."

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