TPM News

RNC chairman Michael Steele's new book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program For Defeating The Obama Agenda, has a lot of Republicans angry, the Washington Post reports -- because nobody knew it was coming out until it hit the shelves this week.

"The book came out and everybody went, 'Whoa, what happened?'" said an aide to a senior House Republican, who said his boss learned about the book on cable news. "No one in the House or Senate leadership knew he had a book contract."

As Greg Sargent reported yesterday, a serious question exists as to whether Steele might be using his position as RNC to financially benefit himself through book sales: "So if Steele is profiting while the party is losing donors, that will only give Steele's critics more to be irked about at a moment when they're already plenty upset with him."

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Last year's health care debate was dominated by a bruising--and ultimately losing--fight over the public option. But simmering on the back burner for weeks while the public option ran its course has been a battle among Democrats over how to pay for health care reform. And now, with the public option swept into the dustbin, the fight over taxes has come to the fore, and is testing relationships all the way up the Democratic ladder to party leadership and the White House.

At issue is whether expanding insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans should be paid for by wealthy Americans (as the House would like), or, as the Senate calls for, by people who have expensive health care plans--many of whom are middle class. The vast majority of House Democrats--and the public at large--oppose the Senate proposal. But the idea has one powerful ally: President Obama.

"The polling just hasn't moved an inch," Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) told me. Recent data indicates that the public opposes the Senate's so-called "Cadillac tax" plan by a two-to-one margin. "Frankly, it's the same polling that was there when Obama went after McCain on this."

According to Courtney many in the House believe that, after sacrificing the public option, Democrats should draw a line in the sand over the excise tax--including one Democratic leader.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), the freshman Congressman best known for his bombastic attacks against the Republican Party, had a very good fundraising quarter in the last three months of 2009, taking in $850,000.

The last three months have really been the period when Grayson's fame took off among the liberal blogosphere, and much of his money came from online. His fundraising immediately picked up after he declared that the Republican health care plan was for people who get sick to "die quickly," which happened just as the third quarter was about to end. He also heavily promoted a one-day "money-bomb" fundraiser in November, which brought in over a half-million dollars.

Grayson now reportedly has roughly $1 million cash on hand. Grayson's re-election is not assured, as he represents a swing seat that narrowly voted in 2008 for Grayson and Barack Obama after years of favoring Republicans.

Newt Gingrich is revising his advice to Republicans for their fall campaign lines to be that they would vote to "repeal" the health care bill, saying now they should use the world "replace."

We've been reporting on that campaign line, which Gingrich has been championing for several weeks.

In a brief stop in Atlanta this week, Gingrich said Republicans have ideas on health care, and that at least "400" pages of the nearly 4,000 pages in the Democrats' health care bill "have to be good."

Still, the line should be scrap it, Gingrich said.

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It's been reported in England and the U.S. in recent days that two years before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to blow up Flight 253, the college Islamic Society of which he was president organized a "War on Terror Week."

But the poster from that University College London event, which has a corner notation "Approved by Umar Farook," has not been in circulation. Check it out below.

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Momentum is building for hearings on what Tim Geithner knew and when he knew it about the New York Fed's effort to press AIG to keep secret details of its massive federal bailout.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who chairs the House Financial Services committee, told BusinessWeek: "To the extent that there were problems in that AIG situation, we have taken steps to prevent their occurrence."

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Sarah Palin has declined an offer to speak at CPAC, for the second year in a row. Why, exactly?

Dave Weigel wondered if it had to do with CPAC not paying guests any speaking fees or travel expenses, compared to Palin's lavish fees from the Tea Party convention. Politico cites an anonymous source close to Palin, who put the blame on CPAC, based on a report late last year that its parent organization, the American Conservative Union, had asked Federal Express for millions of dollars in exchange for its support and work on an issue campaign. "Palin is taking a stance against this just as she did in Alaska," the source said.

CPAC director Lisa de Pasquale told TPMDC that their interactions with the Palin camp were cordial, and Palin never walked away from any previous commitment to attend. "There was never an acceptance," de Pasquale said. "We were still working together as early as, I believe, early this week. They had told us that they were trying, they were rearranging her schedule, or looking at her schedule to make sure it could work."

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