TPM News

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is a firebreather. It's a significant part of her charm. But as polls show her to be a serious candidate in the Iowa caucuses -- and, therefore, the race for the nomination -- Bachmann's been up on TV rounding off some of her sharper edges.

No longer is President Obama "un-American," as Bachmann said in 2008. Nor is eliminating the minimum wage the top priority it was back in 2005. As she steps into the national spotlight -- with the help of big-time campaign strategist Ed Rollins -- Bachmann is presenting a kinder, gentler face.

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Republicans may be suffering politically for voting to phase out Medicare. But they moved the needle on the policy debate way to the right, and, as such, cutting Medicare now is basically a fait accompli.

The latest plan comes from Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). This is an interesting political coalition for a few reasons. Recall that Coburn left the Gang-of-Six Senate debt talks for proposing dramatic cuts to Medicare, and has now found comfort in the arms of liberals' darkest bete noire.

What they propose doesn't seek to replace Medicare with a private insurance scheme as does the GOP budget. Nonetheless it has already been rejected by the top Democrats on Capitol Hill -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

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Pretend you're angry that someone improperly leaked some details of a military survey that showed the vast majority of service members wouldn't care all that much about serving alongside gay troops. Say that disclosure was perfectly timed to jolt congressional support for repeal of the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

How do you get back? By leaking the Defense Department Inspector General's report on the leak of that survey to an anti-gay group that fought against the repeal of the 'Don't Ask' policy, of course!

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Michele Bachmann might be a proud "American Girl" -- but she can't blast it over the P.A. systems anymore.

Rolling Stone has confirmed reports that after Bachmann's campaign played Tom Petty's song "American Girl" at her campaign announcement rally in Waterloo, Iowa, Petty's management sent her a cease-and-desist letter for her unauthorized use of his music.

For a presidential candidate who warns that President Obama is allegedly destroying the private-sector economy, this treatment of other people's intellectual property might not be the best way to start off the campaign.

This is not Tom Petty's first run-in with Republican politicians purloining his music. Back in 2000, the George W. Bush campaign played his song, "I Won't Back Down" -- and were quickly told to, well, back down. At the request of Petty's management, the song's official publisher told the Bush camp to stop, saying that the use of the song "creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that ... [the Bush] campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true."

Seeking to breathe new life into its prospects, on Tuesday Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) chaired the first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act. The bill, which was initially proposed in different form in 2001, would grant citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants who "have maintained good moral character since entering the U.S.," and who either attend college or serve in the U.S. armed forces.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) ground the Senate to a halt on Tuesday, threatening to block "business as usual" until Democrats submit a budget.

Johnson began his broadside by objecting to a quorum call, blocking the Senate from proceeding with a vote. Quorum calls, like many basic Senate procedures, are approved by unanimous consent and Johnson threatened in a floor speech to wreak havoc on these uncontroversial motions.

"Business as usual is bankrupting America," he said in a floor speech. "It must stop."

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The House Ethics Committee has hired six new staffers, ending a nearly seven-month period when the panel suffered an exodus of aides and investigative functions were at a standstill, the House Ethics Committee said in a statement Tuesday.

The hirings complete the staff roster and come one month after the committee unanimously tapped Daniel Schwager, a former counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee, as its staff director.

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Senate Republicans are threatening openly to throw up their hands and let Democrats vote to raise the debt limit on their own if President Obama doesn't cave and agree to trillions of dollars in entitlement cuts and zero tax increases. Here's how NRSC chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) put it, speaking to reporters Tuesday:

"I am wondering if as the deadline approaches, whether our Democratic colleagues in the Senate have realized that unless the President's willing to do a grand bargain that's good for the American people how much he's opening his own political party -- candidates running for 2012 in the United States Senate -- to a referendum on his failure to reach a grand bargain," Cornyn said. "Obviously if it's possible to deal with the spending problem and the entitlement reforms, that's our first choice. But if the President and his party refuse to do the right thing, then in the Senate they're going to be required to vote to raise the debt limit and we'll have a referendum in 2012 on that decision. I don't think if I were a senator on the other side of the aisle I would view that prospect with a lot of pleasure."

Translation: give us what we want, or we'll leave it to you to avoid default, then spend the next year and a half running against you on the grounds that you voted to give President Obama a blank check for massive government spending.

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