TPM News

Obama Makes Recess Appointment Of Medicare Official President Obama is recess-appointing Dr. Donald Berwick to head up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, after Republicans had threatened a tough confirmation process over Berwick's past comments on health care rationing and his praise of the British National Health Service. "Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog. "But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors' care under the Affordable Care Act, there's no time to waste with Washington game-playing."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 10:30 a.m. ET with senior advisers. At 11:25 a.m. ET, Obama will deliver remarks on the administration's commitment to export promotion. Obama and Biden will receive a briefing at 12 p.m. ET on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. They will meet at 2 p.m. ET with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and they will meet at 3:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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As he's often done during his tenure as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele last week put the phone to his ear to save his embattled rear. On Friday, Steele arranged a raft of conference calls to explain his remarks that Afghanistan was a war of President Obama's "choosing," and tried to offer members now very used to his gaffe-prone tendencies context for the remarks.

"When the video broke Mike sent out a gargantuan amount of emails to members, to senators. He emailed by the pound," an RNC member told TPM in an interview. Steele even called conservative columnist Bill Kristol who began the drumbeat that the chairman should go in hopes of setting him straight. (Steele's friends complained that Kristol has not introduced himself to the chairman.)

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Harry Reid isn't letting threats of a lawsuit stop him -- he' sticking with his Web campaign against "the real Sharron Angle." After the Angle campaign sent the Reid camp a cease-and-desist letter last week demanding that they take down their reposting of Angle's old campaign website, the Reid camp has now made just a few modifications and put it right back up.

After she won Nevada's Republican Senate primary, Angle's campaign took down most of its website, and later replaced it with a relaunched (and somewhat toned down) version. But the Reid campaign saved the old version, and put up a website called "The Real Sharron Angle," reproducing the old content. Then on Friday, the Angle campaign sent them a cease-and-desist letter, alleging violation of copyrights for Reid having reposted Angle's old campaign literature.

The Angle campaign also claimed that by leaving fill-in boxes for e-mail addresses intact, the Reid campaign was in a position to gain contact information of Angle's supporters who were deceived into thinking this was actually her site. Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said in a press release: "Make no mistake, the Reid campaign was forced to take this site down because they were breaking several laws and trying to deceive the voters."

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A new report from the USDA, via The Atlantic, examines the potential effect of a soda tax as a possible obesity curb.

Not surprisingly, since you wouldn't expect a government agency to say that a tax wouldn't help the government, the USDA's conclusion is that such a tax would work.

Here is is in a nutshell.

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Republicans aren't giving up yet on forcing a special election in West Virginia this year for the Senate seat of the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, the Hotline reports, with RNC and West Virginia GOP lawyers exploring a possible lawsuit.

"It's an open question," a Republican source in West Virginia told TPMDC, who confirmed that the conversations are happening. "There's probably something there. If not, the Attorney General, who is a Democrat, wouldn't be looking into the ruling that the Secretary of State made. How much is there, and whether it's substantial enough to overturn the Secretary of State's interpretation of the law, I don't know. That's why we're looking at it closely, and haven't made a decision yet."

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) announced last week that there would not be an election, but instead a gubernatorial appointment to last through November 2012, when the term would have been up anyway. This result, which struck many people as odd, was actually the product of the state's very confusing statute on the subject, and in fact had a binding precedent from the 1990s. Tennant herself has called for the law to be changed, though it remains unclear whether any change will be made at all, either in the legislature or in the court.

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), the Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat of retiring Dem Evan Bayh, has launched his first TV ad of the campaign. Ellsworth cast himself as an anti-Washington candidate taking on Washington lobbyists -- a not-so-subtle attack against his Republican opponent, former Sen. Dan Coats, who had been a lobbyist for the past decade.

"One thing that 25 years as a sheriff teaches you is zero tolerance for bull. There's too much at stake. But out in Washington it's like they live and breathe the stuff," Ellsworth says. "They waste our money. They take care of special interests. And they don't care if lobbyists write the laws or if our jobs get shipped overseas. I'm Brad Ellsworth and I approve this message because the special interests and lobbyists already have enough senators on their side."

Ellsworth never directly mentions Coats in the ad, but appears to be laying the groundwork for further attacks down the road. Ellsworth begins this general election as a severe underdog, with the TPM Poll Average giving Coats a lead of 49.4%-33.6%.

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If you're wondering whether Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) thinks his seat is under threat this November, look no further.

Poised to face wealthy Tea Party favorite Ron Johnson in the general election this fall, Feingold is trying to draw attention to the support he's had in the past from some of the most conservative people and organizations in Republican politics.

In a release accompanying his first radio ad in Wisconsin, Feingold's campaign runs through a laundry list of conservative supporters. "The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, the 'nation's premier grassroots organization committed to advancing every individual's right to economic freedom and opportunity' and a major backer of the Tea Party movement, praises Feingold, saying 'I applaud Senator Feingold for voting against the 2009 Omnibus Spending bill and truly respect his principled stand against wasteful earmarks.'"

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Thinking of going back to school, but don't want to pay good money to those elitist institutions with their liberal values and their hoity-toity accreditations?

Well, Glenn Beck's new "Beck University" kicks off tomorrow evening, and provides the perfect curriculum for someone looking to brush up on his or her knowledge about "faith," "hope," and "charity."

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President Obama might be on the verge of signing a Wall Street reform bill that makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable to a major financial crisis. At least, that's the view of some experts, both in the Obama administration, on the Hill, and outside, who believe that, amid the anti-bailout fervor consuming the country, Congress and the Treasury Department became too eager to eliminate all future bailouts, and robbed the government of the legal authority they might need in the future to save the economy.

"In general, this is a symptom of the panic that Congress has developed about being seen to allow any form of future bailout," says Doug Elliott, a financial expert at the Brookings Institution, "I say 'panic' because it has prompted a number of limitations that we may come to sharply regret in a few decades when we hit the next truly severe financial crisis."

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