TPM News

Could the long-running FBI corruption probe into former Pennsylvania GOP congressman Curt Weldon be winding down, without charges?

That's what the Philadephia Daily News suggests, noting the fact that the Justice Department recently sent letters to people whose conversations were intercepted as part of the investigation, including the paper's own reporter, William Bender.*

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Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a vocal conservative who serves as a deputy Republican whip, appears to have just admitted openly that the GOP's policies are irrelevant.

In the new Time article on the current sorry state of the party, McHenry decried the endless rhetoric about tax cuts -- and apparently declared that the era of Reagan is over:

The most urgent question is the meaning of economic conservatism. Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a conservative who keeps a bust of Reagan on his desk, surprised me by declaring that the Reagan era is over. "Marginal tax rates are the lowest they've been in generations, and all we can talk about is tax cuts," he said. "The people's desires have changed, but we're still stuck in our old issue set."

Tom Ridge will not be challenging Pat Toomey for the Republican Senate nomination in Pennsylvania in 2010. In a statement released today, the former governor and Homeland Security chief said, "[a]fter careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate."

I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.

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Yesterday, Greg Sargent flagged a report that GOP pollster Frank Luntz had authored a strategy memo rehashing some of the themes Republicans used 16 years ago to torpedo Hillary Care. Greg noted that though "such messaging was very effective 16 years ago, the recycling of it could leave Republicans open to charges that they don't understand how much the landscape has changed since then."

Then Ben Smith dug up the memo itself, which is striking for a couple of reasons. First it advises Republicans to use many of the same banal platitudes they already use when arguing against comprehensive health reform. "Stop talking economic theory and start personalizing the impact of a government takeover of healthcare," Luntz warns.

They don't want to hear that you're opposed to government healthcare because it's too expensive (any help from the government to lower costs will be embraced) or because it's anti-competitive (they don't know about or care about current limits to competition). But they are deathly afraid that a government takeover will lower their quality of care - so they are extremely receptive to the anti-Washington approach. It's not an economic issue. It's a bureaucratic issue.


So what sort of language should Republicans resort to instead? Luntz says "too many politician [sic] say 'we don't want a government run healthcare system like Canada or Great Britain' without explaining those consequences."

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Is Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher really quitting the Republican Party? That's what a new Time article on the current sad state of the GOP says.

"Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, tells TIME he's so outraged by GOP overspending, he's quitting the party -- and he's the bull's-eye of its target audience," the article says.

Mr. The Plumber has been a figurehead among Republican activists since last October, when a chance encounter with Barack Obama and the active promotion by McCain campaign turned him into the face of blue-collar conservatism. If he's not willing to call himself a Republican, they're really in trouble.

But even here on spending, there's a catch when it comes to the ideological purity: "But he also said he wouldn't support any cuts in defense, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid -- which, along with debt payments, would put more than two-thirds of the budget off limits."

Huh???

There's been a lot of schadenfreude on the right (and to some extent on the left) about the fact that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has, at least for now, lost his seniority on various committees, particularly the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.

But while that continues to be the case, Senate leaders have reportedly reached a compromise of sorts. Specter, according to The Washington Post, will assume the chairmanship of the Judiciary's Crime and Drugs Subcommittee. To make room for him, that subcommittee's current chairman--Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL)--will step down and assume the chairmanship of the reconstituted Human Rights Subcommittee.

It's a small bone--he's still lost much of his power on the pork-able Appropriations Committee--but they've thrown it to him. Just as Reid suggested they would yesterday.

Karl Rove's long-awaited testimony before Congress about the US Attorney firings will likely occur around early June, according to Rove's lawyer.

Robert Luskin told TPMmuckraker that the Obama White House has been painstakingly sorting through the documents related to the firings, and is providing them to Rove and to the House Judiciary committee simultaneously. It's that process, said Luskin, that's driving the scheduling of Rove's testimony. Luskin stressed that the discussions have been cordial on all sides.

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Obama To Seek $17 Billion In Budget Cuts President Obama is set to announce today a proposed $17 billion in budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. Already, the proposed cuts are getting some pretty negative reviews from the Associated Press and the Washington Post, as being too small. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag defended the cuts this morning on MSNBC: "But $17 billion a year is not chump change by anyone's accounting."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 10:35 a.m. ET from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the proposed budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2010. At 12:45 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer. At 2:45 p.m. he will meet with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. At 4:15 p.m. ET he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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