TPM News

The Center for American Progress is the most influential Democratic think tank in Washington. It's president, John Podesta, led the Obama administration's transition effort, and the organization--which provides legislators and politicos everything from policy analysis to messaging and strategy--is tightly linked with the White House and Democratic members of Congress. So it may come as a surprise, that with Democrats on the Hill struggling to find a way out of the health care mess, CAP itself isn't chiming in.

In the days since last week's special election in Massachusetts, which cost Dems their 60th, filibuster-breaking vote in the Senate, TPMDC has tried to answer a simple question: How does CAP, as an institution, think House and Senate Democrats should proceed. We still don't have an answer. Numerous calls to CAP officials over the last several days went unreturned.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) called Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) yesterday, to apologize for telling her during a heated discussion on a radio program to "act like a lady."

"He called her last night on her cell phone, he apologized for his comments, and she accepted," Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok told MinnPost.

During an interview last week in Washington, hosted by a Philadelphia radio show, Specter and Bachmann had gotten into an argument, during which Specter became frustrated at Bachmann interrupting him. "Now wait a minute, I'll stop and you can talk," Specter said, also telling her: "I'll treat you like a lady, so act like one."

A new Gallup report finds that President Obama's first year in office has become marked by a record level of partisan polarization, with nearly universal approval from Democratic voters and rock-bottom numbers from Republicans.

Obama's average approval among self-identified Democrats has been 88%, to only 23% average approval among Republicans. The gap of 65% is higher than any other president at the one-year point since this poll began during the Eisenhower years.

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Rep. Joe Sestak may want to join Harry Reid in the United States Senate, but he thinks the majority leader could demonstrate, well, better leadership. He also was not bashful about sharply criticizing Sen. Ben Nelson and the rest of the Senate Democrats as lacking courage.

Sestak (D-PA) is battling Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic primary nomination in the Keystone State, going into rebel mode with calls to "fix the leadership problem" in the Senate.

TPMDC spent about 30 minutes interviewing Sestak Friday about health care and the political landscape in Pennsylvania. After hearing his pointed critique of the process, I asked him who in the Senate would make a better majority leader than Harry Reid.

After a long silence, Sestak offered, "I don't know them all well enough. I like Jack Reed. ... No one jumps to mind."

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The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a proposal to create a bipartisan debt commission charged with reducing soaring budget deficits, which are projected to be around $1 trillion a year for the next decade.

The commission would potentially have the power to force Congress into an up-or-down vote on systematic changes to the tax code and government entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security. That's got a lot of progressives worried -- and mad.

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Zeroing in on Rep. Steve Buyer's questionable charity, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington today asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Buyer "violated ethics rules by abusing a charity for private purposes and by trading legislative assistance for donations to the charity and a job for his son."

The watchdog is also asking the IRS to probe whether the Indiana Republican's Frontier Foundation "violated federal tax law by failing to operate for its stated public purpose of helping needy students and by doing little more than paying for the congressman to play golf with donors with interests before his committee."

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David Plouffe's official return to the Obama inner circle of advisors is as much to reassure nervous Democrats as it is to do the job he's been assigned to do.

Plouffe, who penned an op-ed in this weekend's Washington Post saying the party needs to emerge victorious and pass health care, has been regarded by Obama loyalists and supporters as a smart political outsider who helped the candidate make smart choices during the long presidential campaign. He will help oversee the White House effort to retain as many Congressional seats and governorships as possible for the Democratic party this fall.

The White House selectively leaked details of Plouffe's new "expanded" role to news outlets this weekend as Democrats are questioning Obama's decision-making. Congressional Democrats have called for Obama to take a stronger leadership role in the health care fight, political operatives say he allowed Republicans to win the messaging war over the bill and progressives say they haven't seen Obama demonstrate much if any of the change they voted for.

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