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Johnathan Graffeo, spokesperson for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), send TPMDC the following statement after his boss decided to drop his holds on dozens of Obama nominees Feb. 8:

The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security - the Air Force's aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued.

The Air Force tanker acquisition is not an "earmark" as has been reported; it is a competition to replace the Air Force's aging aerial refueling tanker fleet. Sen. Shelby is not seeking to determine the outcome of the competition; he is seeking to ensure an open, fair and transparent competition that delivers the best equipment to our men and women in uniform. Sen. Shelby is fully justified in his concern given the history and current status of this acquisition. One would think that our Air Force's top priority would be to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the best, most capable equipment. Clearly, the draft RFP illustrates that is not the case.

Nor is the TEDAC a so-called earmark; it is a facility specifically requested by the Department of Justice and the FBI. They need such a facility to forensically examine Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere, including the device the Christmas Day Bomber was wearing. The FBI, along with their federal state and local counterparts use this forensic information from these retrieved explosive devices to catch terrorists throughout the world. This facility was to provide the FBI the capability to begin to address a 20-year backlog in collected IEDs from abroad and in the US. Forensic evidence that could help us identify and hunt down terrorists is being amassed in warehouses, while the FBI does their best to process it in a temporary and inadequate facility in a converted parking garage at Quantico.

Sen. Shelby is fully justified in his concern that the Obama Administration is seeking to rescind funds already appropriated for this vital national security purpose. He will continue to work through the appropriations process to ensure that the U.S. military, the intelligence community, and federal law enforcement personnel receive the funding and facilities they need to exploit and analyze intelligence information critical to fighting terrorism and ensuring American security worldwide. It is unacceptable that the Obama Administration wants to read terrorists our Miranda rights and try them in U.S. courts but is impeding the processing of evidence that could also lead to their conviction and the capture of others.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has dropped all but a handful of the 70-plus holds he placed on President Obama's nominees last week. Shelby's office told TPMDC today that the goal of the blanket holds had succeeded three days after it was reported and roundly attacked by Democrats and the White House.

"The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House's attention was to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security," Shelby spokesperson Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement, referring to two programs that would sent billions in taxpayer funds to Alabama. Shelby will continue his hold on several Air Force and Pentagon nominees.

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Congressional Republicans have been calling for more bipartisanship for months, decrying closed-door Democrats-only meetings on health care reform. So President Obama invited GOP leaders to the White House Feb. 25 for a televised, bipartisan summit on reform.

In response, House Republicans leaders yesterday sent a letter to the White House listing a series of "questions" they want answered before they participate.

"Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people?" write the leaders, Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor.

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Ramping up the push-back against GOP criticism of the handling of the attempted Christmas bombing suspect, a top Obama aide argues in a new op-ed that America's "system of justice" is fully capable of dealing with terrorists.

Writing in USA Today, Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan calls, essentially, for the United States to calm down.

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Cloture Vote On NLRB Nominee To Test Strength Of Dem, GOP Caucuses Senate Democrats are facing a key test today of their voting strength, with a cloture vote on the nomination of Craig Becker for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. Senate Republicans now have 41 members, thanks to the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has announced he will vote against Becker, meaning that Democrats need at least two Republicans to cross over, and to hold on to all 58 other members of the Democratic caucus.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will sign a memorandum on childhood obesity at 9:15 a.m. ET. Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET, and meet at 10:15 a.m. ET with bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, to discuss the economy and jobs. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12 p.m. ET. Obama will receive the economic daily briefing at 2:30 p.m. ET, and meet with senior advisers at 3 p.m. ET.

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) will join with Republicans to block cloture on a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board that President Obama has sent to the Senate. In a statement yesterday, Nelson lashed out at the nominee, Craig Becker, saying he'll "pursue an aggressive personal agenda" on the board.

Becker's nomination has been controversial among conservatives and Republicans since it was announced. The right views Becker's past as an SEIU lawyer as a harbinger that he'll take pro-labor stances that Republicans and business leaders have long viewed with trepidation.

In his statement yesterday, Nelson lent his voice to those concerns, citing Becker's past statements that Republicans have used in their campaign against the nominee.

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TPMDC has been searching far and wide for public supporters of Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap" budget blueprint, a measure that Republican leaders insist is Ryan's alone and which grips the political third rail of Social Security and Medicare cuts.

But it turns out Ryan, who says he is willing to lose his job over the plan if it means ending the deficit, isn't as lonely as it may seem.

He has nine Republican friends co-sponsoring the measure, which would effectively privatize Social Security if it becomes law. That's unlikely, and both GOP leaders and Ryan's office say this will not be the Republican budget alternative that gets a floor vote this spring.

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the House Republican Conference, today endorsed Marco Rubio, the conservative candidate challenging Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) for the Republican nomination for Senate.

Pence, who is rumored to have his own intention for higher (that is, Oval) office, said today that Rubio "will be a courageous check and balance on the current Washington establishment."

"Marco Rubio's faith in free markets, limited government and traditional moral values make him the right choice for Republicans in this race," Pence said in a statement.

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