TPM News

Democrats are riding high on their victory in Tuesday's special election in NY-26 -- a Republican district that turned blue largely because the GOP has now aligned itself with a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with subsidized private insurance. And Democrats won't let voters forget it.

In an implicit admission that they're now heavily vulnerable on this issue, Republicans -- particularly Senate Republicans -- are threatening to revisit their attack on Democrats for cutting Medicare as part of the health care law that passed last year. Underlying that threat is another one: if Democrats and Republicans reach a deal on the debt limit that involves further Medicare cuts then it's likely that for every Republican who supports privatizing Medicare, there will be a Democrat who voted at least once to cut Medicare.

In a Capitol press conference Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took on the major differences between cutting and basically eliminating.

Read More →

Late Update [7:08 pm ET]: MSNBC has suspended Schultz for one week.

MSNBC host Ed Schultz is known for his hyperbolic attacks on Republicans but it looks like he may have crossed the line on his show yesterday by labeling Laura Ingraham a "right wing slut."

"President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Mo., on Sunday but you know what they're talking about, like this right-wing slut, what's her name?, Laura Ingraham?" he said on his radio show. "Yeah, she's a talk slut. You see, she was, back in the day, praising President Reagan when he was drinking a beer overseas. But now that Obama's doing it, they're working him over."

Read More →

A new survey of Wisconsin from Public Policy Polling (D) finds some good news for Democrats in their efforts to take control of the state Senate in the upcoming recall elections, in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker's (R) anti-public employee union legislation: The state's voters want to recall Walker -- and they would rather have the Democrats in control of the state Senate, too.

The poll finds Walker with an approval rating of only 43%, with 54% disapproval. The poll also asked: "Would you support or oppose recalling Scott Walker from office before his term is up?" The result was support 50%, oppose 47%.

However, recalls in Wisconsin do not take the form of a yes-or-no question on the incumbent, but are effectively special elections pitting the incumbent against an opposing candidate. Thus, Walker was also tested in hypothetical match-ups against two potential Democratic nominees. Former Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost re-election after three terms in the 2010 Republican wave, leads Walker by 52%-42%. And Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee whom Walker defeated by a margin of 52%-47%, now leads Walker by 50%-43%.

"The enthusiasm for recalling Scott Walker is still there three months after the height of the protests in Wisconsin," writes PPP president Dean Debnam. "He'd be done if the vote was today, it's just a question of whether that desire to put him out can continue to be sustained in the coming months."

Read More →

America's kids don't know jack about the Constitution, and according to a national Tea Party group, the only way to save them is to have school's teach the nation's founding document with materials provided by a controversial conservative group whose founder is one of Glenn Beck's favorite historians.

Tea Party Patriots, the Georgia-based organization that counts around 1,000 chapters nationwide, is asking its members to pressure schools to teach the Constitution during Constitution Week in September, as they are required to do by a 2004 law. And when schools do teach the founding document, the group is suggesting that they use materials provided by the National Center for Constitutional Studies, a group that claims the country and Constitution were, "established by the hand of God."

NCCS's founder, W. Cleon Skousen, became a tea party favorite in recent years when Glenn Beck touted him on his program as an exemplary constitutional scholar. But Skousen's past is marred by accusations that his work is far from accurate, and at times rife with racism.

Read More →

by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica

ExxonMobil has been running a series of ads aimed at assuring people that shale gas drilling is safe. One of those ads, a full-page spread in Monday's New York Times and Washington Post, shows what a well looks like as it extends more than a mile and a half beneath the surface. It includes a close-up of the layers of steel and cement that are supposed to protect the surrounding earth from the gas and fluids inside the well pipe.

Read More →

Two good government groups are warning members of Congress that soliciting donations for "Super PACs" would be illegal. In a letter to members of the House and Senate, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter and Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer wrote that the members of Congress themselves would be breaking the law if they agreed to solicit funds on behalf of the groups.

Read More →

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) now says that she is staying with her original schedule for making a decision about whether to run for president, and intends to make an announcement in June rather than sooner -- though her comments do seem to lean heavily towards her making a run.

Bachmann had previously hinted that she might move up the decision. Also, there had been some speculation that Bachmann could announce this Thursday, in a speech before the Polk County (Des Moines) GOP.

However, she told the Des Moines Register, she wants to carefully plan such serious decisions in her life:

"We want to make sure that what we are doing is deliberate and focused. We want to be prudent and responsible in the decisions that we are making," she said. "So we've got our team together, and we're trying to lay a well-grounded plan."

She said that's the way she and her husband run their business and how she's proceeded with every case she's tried as a tax attorney. She said it's also the way she and her husband have planned their family. "I'm not speaking of birth control," she quickly clarified, with a laugh. "I'm just speaking of meeting the needs of our children and our family."

With his push to privatize Medicare increasingly becoming an albatross around the neck of the GOP, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is continuing his efforts to explain it clearly to the American public.

Ryan has released a new video, posted on the House Budget Committee's Web site, with no shortage of charts and graphs.

The video is entitled, "The Path to Prosperity (Episode 2): Saving Medicare, Visualized."

"Those in or near retirement should not be forced to reorganize their lives because of government's mistakes," Ryan says in the video. "That's why our budget ensures no changes for those 55 years old or older. But for current taxpayers and future generations, we need real reform.

"Rather than putting the government in charge, our plan provides financial support to help future Medicare patients pay for the insurance plan that works best for them and their families. Patients will have the freedom to choose from a list of guaranteed coverage options - the same kind of system members of Congress enjoy today. And insurance providers, competing for patients' business, will look to lower the costs and increase quality for their services - the way it always works when the consumer is in charge."

Read More →

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer made this argument in broad strokes on Monday. Hard numbers back it up.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has updated and refined a widely cited chart, laying out the origins of the country's current fiscal trajectory. And as before, the lion's share of the problem comes from ongoing George W. Bush-era policies -- particularly deficit-financed tax cuts, which eliminated Clinton-era surpluses and left the Treasury poised for a huge hit when the financial crisis and economic downturn further eroded federal revenues.

Read More →

The Paul Ryan budget is proving a difficult issue for Republicans across the spectrum to discuss. If you back it, you take a barrage of hits from Democrats for its plan to "essentially end Medicare," a potential death sentence in a tough race or if you have national ambitions. But if you vocally oppose it, a la Newt Gingrich, the base's wrath comes instantly crashing down on you. Fortunately for fence-sitting politicians there are ways to create some wiggle room without getting trapped in either camp. Here's a handy guide for how to spin like a pro:

Rule #1: Paul Ryan Is Awesome

If you're a Republican looking to avoid trouble from the right, this is the single most important thing to remember. Whether or not you agree with Paul Ryan's plan, nothing is more dangerous than suggesting for even a second that you think he was wrong to put it forward or that he is threatening seniors. Newt Gingrich is hardly the only Republican to disagree with his Medicare plan but he's suffered by far the most for his position in part because his comments were interpreted as an attack on Ryan, who is rapidly becoming a martyr figure on the right.

Instead, you could follow the example of Tim Pawlenty -- who has not backed the Ryan plan -- and praise the House budget chair for "offering real leadership in Washington." Or you could take the Mitt Romney approach and praise Ryan for "setting the right tone."

Calling him "courageous" never hurts, either.

Read More →

LiveWire