TPM News

Did Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the Homeland Security committee, hold hearings on identity theft with the goal of scaring credit-card companies into making political donations? That charge is at the heart of a set of issues being investigated by the House Ethics committee, reports the Washington Post.

Last March, Thompson held hearings on whether credit-card companies should be forced to bolster security in order to protect customers from identity theft -- something the companies oppose.

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A new Rasmussen poll suggests that the Tea Party movement is far and away more popular than the Republican Party it seeks to influence -- so much so that if it were a full-fledged political party, it would overtake the GOP on the generic Congressional ballot.

The question was phrased as follows: "Okay, suppose the Tea Party Movement organized itself as a political party. When thinking about the next election for Congress, would you vote for the Republican candidate from your district, the Democratic candidate from your district, or the Tea Party candidate from your district?"

The results: Democratic 36%, Tea Party 23%, Republican 18%.

The pollster's analysis makes clear that for multiple reasons an actual political party would be unlikely to stay viable -- but the potential exists for the Tea Party crowd to gain traction within the existing institutions, such as taking over the GOP. "In practical terms, it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates," the analysis says. "The rules of the election process -- written by Republicans and Democrats -- provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties. The more conventional route in the United States is for a potential third-party force to overtake one of the existing parties."

Administration To Slash Bailout Cost Estimate The Obama administration is set to cut the estimated cost of the TARP bailout program, to at least $200 billion less than the $341 billion estimate in August, and is looking at using some of the savings for new job creation efforts. The lowered cost has come from fast repayments by big banks, and less spending on some rescue programs than was originally thought.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET, and the economic daily briefing at 10:15 a.m. ET. Obama will meet with senior advisers at 10:45 a.m. ET. Obama and Biden will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at 11:30 a.m. ET, and they will have a working lunch at 12:15 p.m. ET. Obama and Biden will meet at 3:30 p.m. ET with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. AT 7:30 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host a holiday reception for members of Congress.

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Whether he's in Connecticut or Washington, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) won't be able to hide from his controversial position on the public option. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee will run the below ad in Lieberman's home state and the District of Columbia, starting tomorrow.

"Joe Lieberman promised Connecticut voters in 2006 that he would support core Democratic issues like health care reform," said PCCC co-founder Adam Green in a statement. "This tongue-in-cheek ad holds Lieberman accountable for putting his own ego ahead of the overwhelming will of Connecticut voters who demand a public health insurance option."

The initial buy is $40,000, to be supported by additional online fundraising.

Former President Bill Clinton is wading into the race to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy, backing Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley before Tuesday's Democratic primary.

The Coakley campaign said Clinton recorded a robocall for 500,000 primary voters asking them to choose the Democratic candidate and saying, "You can trust her to get results in the Senate."

"Martha Coakley will go to Washington to fight every day to create good jobs with good benefits and to get health reform with a strong public option," Clinton says on the call, which you can listen to here.

The jury is still out on whether President Obama has cinched 60 needed votes for health care legislation. But before there's any clarity liberal and conservative Democrats will have to reach accord on the public option--an issue Obama eschewed in his presentation to the caucus this afternoon. So where are things now?

With the blessing of leadership, and the help of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), liberal and conservative Democrats are continuing to meet to find a solution. "I called and personally asked five moderates and five progressives to work things out and the issues that they care a lot about: Public option, small business," Reid said at a press conference after a rare Sunday caucus meeting. "And they've had, I don't know how many meetings, but many."

"Progress is being made and that's not just talk. They've made a lot of progress."

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President Obama evoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the creation of Social Security today in a rare weekend meeting with the Democratic caucus, in a bid to keep his party united behind a historic health care reform bill currently being debated on the Senate floor. But liberal and conservative members, who are struggling to reach an agreement on the public option and other issues, didn't sound as if they were any closer to resolving their differences.

"He reminded us why we're here," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). But, he cautioned they're not quite there on the public option and abortion. "Close on both, not quite there," he said.

A number of senators suggested Obama's remarks provided the party and the legislation with much-needed momentum.

"I think it helped, more than significantly," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

"I can tell you, it would be very hard to have listened to the president's presentation and not have been persuaded of the historic importance of what's being discussed here," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND). "It was a powerful speech."

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New York Times columnist, three-time Pulitzer winner and bestselling author Thomas Friedman compared Afghanistan to "a special needs baby" on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS today.

This is nation building. This is nation building 101 in the most fragmented country in the world. Fareed, we're talking about Afghanistan. And we're talking about America in the middle of the great recession. I feel like we're like an unemployed couple who just went out and decided to adopt a special needs baby. You know, I mean, that's really kind of what we're doing. And that's like, whoa, y'know, that terrifies me.

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On Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) warned that the Democrats' plan for health care reform would create "a health care gulag."

It will limit people's choices to, in many cases, to a government-run program like Medicaid which is essentially a health care gulag, because people will not have any choices but to take that poorly performing government plan.

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