TPM News

Sue Lowden, a former Nevada GOP chair currently seeking the Republican nomination in the June 8 primary to run against Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, has detailed some of her alternative recommendations for health care policy: Encourage people to save as much money as they can in tax-free health savings accounts -- the number she mentioned was $20,000 -- and to barter with their doctors.

At a candidate forum this past Tuesday in Mesquite, Nevada, Lowden was asked what she would have done instead of the Democrats' health care bill. Lowden's message was generally deregulatory in nature, pointing to the ideas of interstate insurance policies and the legalization of stripped-down "mandate-free" policies. "I would have also allowed for us to have savings plans increase instead of being decreased like in this bill," said Lowden. "I would have said to all of you, if you have a health savings account, I don't really care how much you save, good for you. pre-tax, go ahead and save as much as you want. It's your -- it's for your health. And if you want to save $20,000, good for you. Save it pre-tax."

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The AFL-CIO is throwing its weight into the Hawaii First District special election, actively backing state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in a new pair of mailers -- and going further by attacking the other Democrat in the race, former Rep. Ed Case.

The mailers target two key union demographics, warning them of the dire consequences that the union says Case's positions would mean for them. Public employees are told of "layoffs," "cutting pensions" and other negative developments, while longshore workers are told: "Ed Case Will Put Your Job AT RISK."

This special election was caused by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who wanted to focus full time on his campaign for governor. The race has seen a potentially crucial split in Democratic support. It has been widely reported that the DCCC is unofficially backing Case, who enters the race with very high name recognition from unsuccessful but very close Democratic primary campaigns for governor in 2002 and a 2006 primary challenge against incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka. Meanwhile, the state Democratic establishment -- as embodied by Akaka and Hawaii's senior Senator Daniel Inouye -- are backing Hanabusa.

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An online news outlet in New York state has obtained dozens of emails, many of them racist and sexually graphic, which it reports were sent by Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of New York, to a long list of political and business associates. One email shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal," while another depicts hardcore bestiality.

Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo, would not comment on specific emails, but acknowledged to TPMmuckraker that Paladino had sent emails that were "off-color" and "politically incorrect," saying that few such emails represented the candidate's own opinion. Caputo accused Democrats of wanting to change the subject from substantive issues to "having sex with horses."

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The attorney general in Montana won't be suing the federal government over health care reform, charging that GOP requests to do so are just political theater. The Republicans say he's the one playing politics.

As the state lawsuits -- driven in every case but one by Republican officials -- over the new health care reform law pop up across the country, GOPers want in on the action. After being asked to join the suit, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) penned a letter to House Minority Leader Rep. Scott Sales (R) and state Sen. Robert Story (R) saying no way.

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The battle for health care reform brought out both the best and the worst in the tea party movement, according to activists. On the plus side, the conservative insurgency showed it could dominate the political dialogue and influence decision-making on both sides of the aisle. Activists say that shows tea partiers are becoming wiser and more seasoned politically.

But the health care debate also exposed rifts and deep vulnerabilities with in the tea party movement that could stop its path toward mainstream acceptance. Violent rhetoric and racial overtones in protests spilled over into actual death threats, property damage and the hurling of slurs. Whether or not the suspects in those incidents are actually tea partiers, movement leaders seem worried that they play into progressive arguments that the tea parties are just a new wrapping on right-wing extremism.

Now, with the movement's annual Tax Day Tea Party approaching, tea parties are actively trying to show that the sterotypes aren't true -- one more aware of the limelight shining on it.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said on Today this morning that if President Obama picks a Supreme Court nominee who's "clearly qualified," there's "no question" the confirmation process can move forward quickly.

If the president picks somebody who is clearly qualified, I think there is no question we can get that person through in a relatively short period of time.

"I don't see any problem if the person is highly qualified," Hatch said.

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Appearing on This Week yesterday, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said that a filibuster of President Obama's next Supreme Court nominee is "unlikely," but not out of the question.

I'm never going to take it off the table because of what the Democrats have achieved here, which is the possibility of a filibuster," said Kyl, referencing past Democratic filibuster threats. "President Obama himself attempted to filibuster Justice Alito, who now sits on the Supreme Court. So if the president isn't going to take it off the table, I'm not going to take it off the table. But I think it can easily be avoided by appointing, frankly, the kind of person that Senator Schumer just mentioned, someone who is mainstream enough that with intellect and the application of good law can persuade colleagues to support his position or her position.

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With the Republican Party's luminaries gathering in New Orleans late last week for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Michael Steele's closest allies were tired of speculation the embattled Republican National Committee chairman would be ousted, so they took matters into their own hands. On Thursday as the SRLC was kicking off, the roughly 20 Steele supporters dubbed the "kitchen cabinet" started working the phones and in 12 hours pulled in as many RNC members as they could to sign a letter stating once and for all that Steele would be staying.

One RNC member said in an interview that the letter came just in time, since the infighting was becoming a real threat to the party's success. "It got so bad I was calling people to say, 'Stop this,' to tell people to focus on 2010 and stop worrying about who is chairman," the member told me. "People griping about Steele are fanning the flames of this distraction, adding to the problem and are not helping the party."

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