TPM News

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) is now pitching a potentially controversial idea to deal with entitlement spending: Means-testing of Social Security's automatic cost-of-living increases.

As the Associated Press reports, Pawlenty told an audience in New Hampshire:

"Look, means testing isn't ideal, but amongst the choices -- the suboptimal choices we have in front of us -- means testing just the cost-of-living increases -- not the whole program -- is a reasonable step," Pawlenty said.

"What that means is, in the future, if you are wealthy, your increase to Social Security will be smaller than if you're middle income or lower middle-income or poor."

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President Obama will be making a move towards fiscal austerity in tonight's State of the Union.

Obama will call for a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, according to an administration official. The administration will also look for further cuts and efficiencies in areas outside the freeze, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates's plan to save $78 billion in the defense budget.

As ABC News pointed out, from the news: "The FY 2011 budget was $3.8 trillion; $1.415 trillion of which was discretionary spending. The president's proposal would save, according to estimates, roughly $400 billion."

Don't count Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among the members scrambling for bipartisan buddies to sit with at President Obama's second State Of The Union tonight. Asked this morning about the endlessly reported developments on who's sitting with whom at the big speech, McConnell threw cold water on the scheme and dismissed it as more or less completely ridiculous.

"I mean the seating arrangement at the SOTU in the end is going to mean absolutely nothing," McConnell told a gathering of journalists and DC observer-types gathered by Politico this morning. "The question is can we come together on substantive issues."

Later McConnell described what that process looks like from his perspective, but before then he took time to diss the plan for bipartisan BFFery tonight.

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Stephen Colbert brandished a broadsword last night and, as lightning flared around him, declared that he was claiming former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann's powers as his own.

"In punditry, as in The Highlander, there can be only one," Colbert shouted. "Keith Olbermann, your audience and your vocabulary are mine!"

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The Supreme Court appears to be dividing 6-3 -- on whether the nine individual Justices are attending tonight's State of the Union address.

As you might recall, last year Justice Samuel Alito got into some controversy when he reflexively mouthed out the words "not true" in response to Obama's criticism of the Citizens United ruling, which overturned a variety of limits on corporate spending in political campaigns.

Several weeks later, Chief Justice John Roberts said he was "very troubled" by the whole environment of the State of the Union: "To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we are there."

And as it turns out, some of the conservatives justices won't be there this time, either -- a new practice for Alito himself, and a long-standing one for others. But interestingly enough, Roberts is still going.

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Michele Bachmann was the subject of Anderson Cooper's "Keeping Them Honest" segment last night, for her comments last weekend that to America's diversity-conscious first settlers, "it didn't matter the color of their skin, it didn't matter their language, it didn't matter their economic status."

The segment was subtitled "Flunking History," which Cooper explained was because Bachmann's comments "are either a deliberate rewriting of our history, or signs that she has a shaky grasp on our history."

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Rahm Emanuel is fighting an appellate court's decision that booted him from the Chicago mayoral ballot. In a last-ditch appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, Emanuel and his lawyers call yesterday's decision "one of the most far-reaching election law rulings ever to be issued by an Illinois court."

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As I reported Monday, Republicans are torn between acknowledging the need for infrastructure modernization and appeasing the right flank of their party. This has typically been bipartisan territory, but suddenly top Republicans, dragged to the right by the activist wing of their party, must disavow most new spending. So they spin their wheels when asked how to improve transportation infrastructure without new spending. But they're also forced to reject projects they once cheered.

One of the main flanks of the Republican agenda is to reclaim the last unspent stimulus dollars -- many billions of which are pegged to high-speed rail projects.

"If there is one thing that I think all of us here on both sides of the political aisle from all parts of the region agree with, it's that we need to do all we can to promote jobs here in the Richmond area," said then House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, shortly after the stimulus bill passed in 2009.

He was talking about a high-speed rail stimulus project that he claimed would bring scores of thousands jobs to the region.

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