TPM News

A top Tea Party leader who has publicly distanced his group from the GOP was recently paid by a campaign run by an influential California Republican business organization, to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that's long been a key goal of the state party.

Mark Meckler, one of two national spokespeople for the Tea Party Patriots, was recently paid $7,500 for "petition circulation management" by the "Citizen Power Campaign Supported by the Lincoln Club of Orange County," according to state disclosure records. Meckler's involvement with the campaign was first reported last month by the website Red County.

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In a statement today, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) called President Obama's latest health care proposal "polarizing" -- even though it will incorporate four GOP ideas.

Enzi went on to say that forcing Republicans to accept a "bloated, overreaching bill" isn't a "fair trade" for using a few Republican ideas.

Enzi is hardly the first Republican to reject the president's proposal.

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Sen. John Kerry today is meeting with the Senate committee chairmen to outline the bipartisan climate change legislation that is taking shape privately on Capitol Hill.

For months Kerry has been huddling with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) with backing from the White House and President Obama's Green Cabinet to come up with a bill that passes political muster. Political aides and Kerry declined to give a firm timeline or say whether something could actually get done in midterm election year, but Kerry told reporters Tuesday he feels "very positive" that the details his bipartisan trio is working through could become a specific proposal soon.

"I feel much more confident that we, all the three of us, and others who are engaged in this, have a clear sense of direction. What we're doing now is working through the details," Kerry said. "It's a puzzle, you have to fit all the pieces together."

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The man responsible for electing Democrats to the Senate, DSCC chair Bob Menendez, told MSNBC this morning that he stands with Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Arkansas Senate primary. Menendez wouldn't say whether the national party will spend money to defend Lincoln against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who's running against her for the Democratic nomination with the backing of national progressive and labor groups, saying only that the DSCC is supporting her as it does all incumbent Democrats.

Menendez said Lincoln remains the party's safest bet to keep the seat this fall. "I believe Blanche Lincoln would be our best candidate in the general election," he said. Yesterday, Christina reported that many in the national Democratic establishment feel the same way.

Check out the video after the jump.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today regarding Rep. Charlie Rangel's (D-NY) request to take a leave of absence from his chairmanship of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Here's the full text:

Chairman Charlie Rangel has informed me of his request for a leave of absence from his duties and responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. I will honor his request.

I commend Chairman Rangel for his decades of leadership on jobs, health care, and the most significant economic issues of the day.

Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY) voted for House health care legislation in November. But he says he's almost certain to vote no on the Senate bill when it comes up for a vote in the House later this month, according to a report in the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

"There would have to be some dramatic changes in it for me to change my position," Arcuri said.

Back in November, he was saying somewhat different things. "There are some parts of the Senate bill I like better, and some parts of this bill I like better than the Senate version. I look at this as piece of the whole - this is the first step in a process."

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Hmm, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) seems to be getting more and more supportive of the Census.

The Hill reports that Bachmann will vote yes on a resolution today to encourage Americans to participate in the Census, and promote March 2010 as "Census Awareness Month." "We are where we are right now in 2010, and she hopes the population is counted accurately as the resolution calls for," said Bachmann's communications director David Dziok.

What makes this really interesting is that Bachmann spent a decent amount of time last year repeatedly trashing the Census. Let's take a trip down memory lane.

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This morning, a reader alerted TPM to a flurry of police activity near the U.S. Postal Museum--adjacent to Washington's Union Station, and a quick walk down the hill from the Senate side of the Capitol.

Capitol Police confirm that they are working with D.C. Metro Police investigating a suspicious substance found on Massachuestts Ave. just west of the Museum. No further details are available at this time.

The top vote counter in the House says he thinks Democrats are in fine shape on health care reform.

On MSNBC this morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) laid out his logic.

"I think we're in good shape on this bill," Clyburn said. "I think that all of us in the House know that 220 people have voted for it, 219 Democrats. Now three of those Democrats who voted for it are no longer part of the body which takes us down to 216, but we've got four vacancies, so it means that what we need is 216 and not 218."

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