TPM News

Sen. John Ensign paid nearly $18,000 in the last quarter of 2009 to the law firm where he has retained counsel, Politico reports, based on filings released this afternoon. That compares to just $850 for the previous quarter.

The payments, which came from Ensign's campaign account, constitute further evidence that the federal probe said to be underway into the Nevada senator's sex-and-lobbying scandal may have heated up lately.

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Check out this astonishing political ad in the upcoming New Orleans elections. The ad from Dwight McKenna, a candidate for Orleans Parish Coroner, attacks the incumbent coroner, Frank Minyard, as a Dr. Frankenstein who sells body parts -- complete with an assistant Igor, from out of the old Universal Studios movies!

"Igor! Igor!" the mad scientist says.

"Yes, Doctor!" the hunchbacked assistant replies.

"We need a heart, a spleen, and a liver, for tonight's sale!"

"Yes, Dr. Minyard!"

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Speaking to House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore today, President Obama expressed frustration with the argument that the Democrats' health care reform effort is creeping socialism. Obama pointed to support from people such as former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker, plus former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and insisted that the proposed reforms have more moderate goals than some GOPers contend.

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At today's Q&A between President Obama and House GOP-ers, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) asked the president a long question about the budget and the deficit.

Hensarling claimed that Obama had increased the national deficit by the same rate per month as Republicans had per year.

But Obama (who continually referred to Hensarling as "Jim") wasn't having any of it.

Watch:

Talk about fits and starts.

A year ago Democrats committed to passing comprehensive health care legislation; six months ago, it became clear that their project wouldn't go smoothly; one month ago it was full speed ahead; and a week and a half ago it all fell apart.

Health care reform is now on life support. To mix metaphors, it's on life support and the back burner at the same time. How the Democrats' signature agenda item went from a foregone conclusion to a prospect in peril is a tale of missteps and bad luck. No single player or event brought us to where we are today. But if any of the below episodes had gone...more smoothly, this might've been a done deal.

You know how the saying goes: Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. And you can be sure that if health care reform fails, the people below will make like John Edwards--quick-like.

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Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) says he knows why the Obama administration is trying alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court.

"They [made the decision] because of the left-wing, liberal ideas that they have, that we have to go show that we are better than anyone else," he said during an interview on Fox News today. Hatch blamed "that liberal mentality" for what he described as an "absurd, stupid approach towards handling one of the biggest killers this country has ever known."

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Sen. Jim Webb is no stranger to butting heads with presidents, but his recent direct challenges to President Obama's agenda have been raising eyebrows and his national profile.

Polls had been closed in Massachusetts for less than two hours when Webb (D-VA) issued a statement putting the brakes on health care reform. He'd voted for the Senate bill, but that was after weeks of pressuring Senate leaders to be more transparent about the process and wavering on whether he'd actually vote to break a Republican filibuster.

Webb's latest critique is of the Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and he hasn't been shy about calling for something different.

Webb told reporters yesterday that "The people who really want to solve the problems in this country are going to start working across the aisle to get things done."

He cited his fight to pass a GI Bill of Rights and said he's proudest of "what I like to call my own management model, a leadership model" of working with others.

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