TPM News

by Dafna Linzer, ProPublica

Obama administration officials say they plan to reject Congressional efforts to limit the president's options on Guantanamo, setting the stage for a confrontation between the president and the new Congress on an issue that has been politically divisive since Inauguration Day.

The Guantanamo provisions, which include limits on where and how prisoners can be tried, were attached to a spending bill for military pay and benefits approved by Congress late last year. White House aides are recommending that President Obama sign the spending bill and then issue a "signing statement" challenging at least some of the Guantanamo provisions as intrusions on his constitutional authority.

The statement, officials said, would likely be released along with a new executive order that outlined review procedures for some -- but not all -- of the 174 Guantanamo prisoners still held without charge or trial.

Obama has used signing statements in the past, but this one would carry political significance as the first test of his relationship with a Congress in which the House is firmly in Republican control.

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You know the story and you know the names: states like Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and California are supposed to be in huge financial trouble thanks to bloated governments, business-unfriendly regulations, and strong public sector unions.

After a crisis-free 2010, investors are expected to punish these hotbeds of bad governance in a muni bond market rout, at least if pundits like Meredith Whitney are correct.

But there's one state, which is fairly high up on the list of troubled states that nobody is talking about, and there's a reason for it.

The state is Texas.

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A few years ago, Tim Griffin was a key figure in of the biggest scandals in the Bush administration. Democrats said -- and the Justice Department Inspector General later concluded -- that the Bush White House and Justice Department pushed out U.S. Attorney H.E. "Bud" Cummins III to give Griffin, a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove, a plum spot as interim U.S. attorney that would pad his resume.

Now Griffin, who was elected to Congress from Arkansas in November, has been named by House Republicans to be a member of the House Judiciary Committee -- the very same committee which took a close look at his own role in the scandal that ultimately lead to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is facing his four opponents at the RNC chair debate today -- and in his opening remarks, he set out to tell the tough crowd how hard he has worked in the past two years' successful effort to improve the party's fortunes.

Steele is widely tipped to lose his re-election campaign, due to the party's large debts and his history of making gaffes. But at the debate, he opened up by saying just how badly off the party was when he first found it.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Michael Steele's Summer Vacation: Elect Republicans, Then Reelect Me!]

"When I began this job in 2009, we couldn't find anyone to say they were a Republican, let alone run for one," Steele said. "We couldn't find people who actually believed that we could do it, that we still had value. Time magazine claimed that we were an endangered species in 2009 -- not that long ago.

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After making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows yesterday, incoming House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa today laid out his agenda for the next session of Congress and oversight of the Obama administration.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella told TPM that the hearing list so far would focus on these six topics: the impact of regulation on job creation; Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's roles in the foreclosure crisis; the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the failure to identify the origins of the financial crisis; how to combat corruption in Afghanistan; Wikileaks; and issues of food and drug safety at the FDA. Issa also announced the lineup this morning on his Twitter account. Bardella also emphasized that there was a difference between holding a hearing on a topic and launching an investigation.

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For Steve King, life begins at conception -- and abortion talk begins in kindergarten.

In an interview with last week, King (R-IA) said: "I often go into a high school auditorium, or meet with people at even the K-12 level in their entirety, and I'll tell them, you'll be asked to answer one of the most profound moral questions of our age, and that is: 'Where do you stand on the abortion issue?'"

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Appearing over the weekend on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Rep.-elect Allen West (R-FL) stood by talk radio host Joyce Kaufman, who almost became his chief of staff but withdrew as a result on media coverage of her various controversial remarks -- and, he added, she interviewed his actual incoming chief of staff for him.

Wallace: Congressman West, you chose and we can now put her picture up on the screen, a radio talk show host, Joyce Kaufman, as your chief of staff. But when it came out that she had called Nancy Pelosi "garbage" and told a Tea Party rally, "if balance don't work, bullets will," she stepped down. What did you learn from that whole experience?

West: Well, I think first of all what you saw was an attack from the left against Joyce Kaufman -- and there are some other issues with that -- but they did not play the full clip of her speech when she gave that, I think it was the 4th of July. So once again, it was the editing sound bite.

And I didn't learn anything from it, because you just adjust and you continue on. So Joyce Kaufman was a very instrumental and helpful person in our campaign, and she was the one that interviewed our current chief of staff, because she knows the good match.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was one of the few establishment Republicans out there to suggest -- even slightly -- that the new tea party emperors of the GOP might have no clothes. But now, after the tea party wave washed what was left of Republican moderation to the political fringe, Graham is changing his tune. Those tea partiers he was skeptical of just a few months ago? Turns out they rule.

Back in the hot and sticky days of July 2010, Graham -- who at the time was fashioning himself into the next GOP Senate maverick -- had some straight talk for the tea party:

"It will die out," he told the New York Times.

Why? "The problem with the Tea Party, I think it's just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country," Graham said.

What a difference a string of tea party-fueled Republican primary upsets can make, it seems.

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After the outbreak of Islamophobia in 2010, CBS news anchor Katie Couric thinks she has a solution: "Maybe we need a Muslim version of The Cosby Show."

In a round-table discussion with Politico's Jonathan Martin, comedian Mo Rocca and's Sheryl Huggins-Salomon, Couric said "the bigotry expressed against Muslims in this country has been one of the most disturbing stories to surface this year."

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