TPM News

Conservative anti-tax group Club For Growth is warning Republican lawmakers that when it comes to debt talks, it's balanced budget or bust.

The White House is reportedly discussing a broad deal with the House GOP that could reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade with as much as $1 trillion coming from new revenues. But a spokesman for the group, Barney Keller, told TPM that they were married to Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) "Cut, Cap, and Balance" proposal, which demands that Republicans make the successful passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment a precondition for any deal.

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Beleaguered former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has written a tell-all book, describing how he wound up in jail and blaming many of his troubles on a number of "enemies" who were threatened by his election. "Their bottom lines for me, then, became simple. Get rid of me. And they're not finished," he writes.

"Like any political saga of epic proportions, there are no simple explanations for the direction in which my career went. But there are two sides to the story and probably three. The world has heard the press' side for almost 10 years, and it's caused a tidal wave of sentiment against me," Kilpatrick writes in the memoir, according to excerpts published by the Detroit Free Press.

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Republican presidential candidates going through Iowa will now be asked to take new marriage vows -- that is, a pledge to uphold traditional marriage.

David Brody at the Christian Broadcasting Network reports, the actual title of the document is "The Marriage Vow -- A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family." It is being put forward by the social conservative group the Family Leader, headed up by 2010 gubernatorial candidate and 2008 Huckabee state campaign chair Bob Vander Plaats.

Among the points for candidates to pledge are personal fidelity to his or her spouse, opposition to gay marriage and support in legal fights for the Defense of Marriage Act, opposition to sex trafficking and pornography, and opposition to "anti-women" Sharia Islamic law.

Hmm...a strict Sharia adherent would also oppose gay marriage and pornography, and likely demand the legal defense of DOMA. Oh well.

The details are still extremely murky. But House Speaker John Boehner might well break the Republicans' no-new-tax-revenue pact in a grand bargain that would have President Obama agree to trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

How we got from "hell no!" to "maybe!" is a still-evolving story. But the fact that it's a story at all reflects a key dynamic in the political fight over raising the debt limit: As much as Republicans oppose tax increases -- even new tax revenues -- they're also feeling pinched by a growing line of criticism that their anti-tax zeal is unreasonable, particularly compared to Democrats' openness to major spending cuts.

We saw this in a couple different ways yesterday. At his weekly Capitol briefing on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) made what sounded to many like a concession on taxes.

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Michele Bachmann has her first TV ad up in Iowa, further reminding Republican voters in the first caucus state of a theme she has been stressing throughout her new presidential campaign -- that the congresswoman from Minnesota is originally from Iowa. Also, she is with them on issues of spending, taxes and the debt.

"As a descendant of generations of Iowans, I was born and raised in Waterloo," Bachmann says. "As a mom of five, a foster parent, and a former tax lawyer, and now a small-business job creator, I know that we can't keep spending money that we don't have. That's why I fought against the wasteful bailout, against the stimulus.

"I. will. not. vote. to increase the debt ceiling. I'm Michele Bachmann, and I approve this message."

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Two Congressional leadership aides -- one Democratic, one Republican -- confirmed elements of Wednesday night's big developments in high-stakes talks to increase the national borrowing limit.

President Obama and leaders on Capitol Hill have committed themselves to moving ahead with a larger deficit reduction deal than negotiators once thought possible in the weeks ahead. In sum, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), along with other GOP and Dem leaders are now aiming for a 10-year goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, which would include defined cuts in entitlement, defense, and domestic discretionary spending. The cuts would amount to about 75 percent of the overall savings, and the biggest question now is whether the GOP will truly give ground on taxes -- in specific ways, that produce real revenue. The alternative is that those changes will remain ill-defined in ways that fail to guarantee deficit reduction, and convince already-uneasy Democrats to throw up their hands.

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Whether the country pays its bills on time or not rests for now on the answer to a key question: Which, if either, party will cave first on the question of tax revenues? At best, Republicans say they're willing to look at new Dem-proposed revenue sources...but only if they can give that money right back to stakeholders in the form of additional tax cuts.

"If the President wants to talk loopholes, we'll be glad to talk loopholes," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters at a Wednesday Capitol briefing. "But, listen, we are not for any proposal that increases taxes, and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else."

So rigid are Republicans on this score that Senate Democrats plan to force a symbolic vote Thursday, asking whether wealthier Americans should have to contribute to deficit reduction at all, in any way. The so-called "sense-of-the-Senate" resolution is a clever gambit -- a theatrical bid to illustrate the point that Republicans don't really want shared sacrifice if "shared" includes rich people.

But the outcome won't clarify whether Republicans do in fact see other ways for well-off Americans to help reduce the national debt short of increasing their tax burden. So we put that question to several high-profile Republican senators. Their answers are best summed up in the form of another question: What more do you want them to do?

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