TPM News

Senate Republicans have been playing a neat trick to squeeze Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal off the Senate calendar. On the one hand, as the year comes to an end, they're eating up the last days of floor time and refusing to debate any issues until the tax cut fight is resolved and the federal government is funded into next year. On the other hand, they're laying out arbitrary -- and totally new -- benchmarks for how long it should take to debate the Defense Authorization bill (the vehicle for DADT repeal) to argue that there isn't enough time to debate it this Congress.

Speaking on the Senate floor back in September, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed, "The Defense authorization bill requires 4 or 5 weeks to debate."

This weekend on "Meet the Press," he revised that figure down to two weeks. "Once you get on the defense bill, it typically takes two weeks," he claimed.

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A report out of the U.K. this morning alleges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has created a "poison pill" document drop-filled with "damaging secrets" to be released in the event he's arrested or killed.

Reports from London suggest an arrest by Scotland Yard could come as early as Tuesday, if Assange is-as has been rumored-hiding out in Britain.

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Some key developments took place over the weekend in the Minnesota gubernatorial recount, with Republican nominee Tom Emmer's withdrawing almost all of its ballot-challenges that were deemed to be frivolous by the local officials at the counting table. But on the other hand, even though he is mathematically guaranteed to lose the recount, he also says he's not going away.

As the Star Tribune reports, the Emmer campaign had challenged 2,604 ballots in heavily Democratic Hennepin County (Minneapolis), with almost all the challenges being declared frivolous. At Friday's State Canvassing Board Meeting, Emmer lead attorney Eric Magnuson (a former state Chief Justice who previously sat on the board in the 2008 Senate recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman) promised to bring the number down.

Then on Saturday, out of 2,604 challenges, the Emmer campaign reviewed the ballots and brought the number down to...24. Magnuson said that the large number of withdrawals "doesn't mean I agreed they were frivolous ... but I was not going to take them before the Canvassing Board."

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The national Tea Party Nation group is planning to send a letter to Sarah Palin asking the former governor of Alaska and John McCain sidekick to run for chair of the Republican National Committee.

Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips says in his letter to Palin that without her at the helm of the RNC, the party will fall back into "establishment" hands.

"We need you as Chairman of the RNC. You have shown in the past no hesitation to take on the establishment. You did it in Alaska," Phillips writes in the letter. "If we end up with establishment control of the GOP and their support for an establishment candidate in 2012, Obama and the socialists will have won...We need someone who will put conservatives in control of the party apparatus, not RINOs."

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will follow Sen. John McCain's lead on Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, he said this weekend on "Meet The Press."

McCain, the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, spent much of last week's repeal hearings railing against a Pentagon report that the policy can be repealed with minimal damage.

McCain has vowed to block the bill from coming to the floor until more hearings are held.

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Bernanke: 'The Unemployment Rate Is Just Not Going Down' Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in an interview with 60 Minutes: "The unemployment rate is just not going down. Unemployment is just about the same as it was in mid-2009, when the economy started growing. So, that's a major concern. And it looks that at current rates, that it may take some years before the unemployment rate is back down to more normal levels."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:15 a.m. ET. He will depart from the White House at 9:50 a.m. ET, and depart from Andrews Air Force Base at 10:05 a.m. ET, and will arrive at 11:05 a.m. ET in Greensboro, North Carolina. He will tour Bio Tech Facilities at Forsyth Technical Community College at 11:45 a.m. ET, and deliver remarks to workers at 12:20 p.m. ET. He will depart from Greensboro at 1:55 p.m. ET, arriving at Andrews air Force Base at 2:55 p.m. Et, and back at the White House at 3:10 p.m. ET. He will meet at 3:15 p.m. ET with senior advisers.

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A tax cut deal looks all but certain now, so this is mostly just an intellectual exercise. But on the off chance that the deal gets derailed, and the Bush tax cut expire...what then?

Broadly speaking, there are two possible outcomes if that happens: the Dems win, or the Dems lose, and everyone decides the should've just caved in December. Both start at the same place: The tax cuts expire on January 1, touching off a huge spin war between the parties. Republicans call it the largest tax hike in history, point, perhaps, to sinking stock prices, hammer away relentlessly in a way that only Republicans know how to do. Democrats continue their current approach, argue that Republicans have held tax cuts hostage until millionaires get a bonus tax cut, point to this past weekend's votes as proof, and so on.

Messaging will be a huge part of it. But bigger (and, of course, related) will be the maneuvering on Capitol Hill. I envision two basic tracks.

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