TPM News

Are Senate Republicans prepared to throw House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) under the bus in the debt limit fight?

Some apparently would be -- though they obviously don't come right out and say it. Senate Republican leaders and aides say they will not vote for a debt limit hike without deep spending cuts, including to entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But they also say that defaulting is not an option. That leaves two possible outcomes. Either Democrats fold and agree to dramatic cuts, with no new revenues. Or Democrats hold firm, in which case Senate Republicans would be happy to let Democrats raise the debt limit in an up or down vote.

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The Justice Department wants Congress to mandate that internet service providers retain data on their users' internet usage for a longer period of time. And to illustrate how important the feds think the having access to that IP data is, they're using the story of how law enforcement failed to track down the maker of a video depicting the rape of a two-year-old girl.

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A mosque in the Shreveport-Bossier community of Louisiana was vandalized this week with strips of pork, which were put on the door handles of the building to evidently force worshippers to touch pork before entering.

Many Muslims refrain from eating pork, as Islam considers pigs unclean. Something similar occurred in South Carolina in October, when strips of bacon were left outside an Islamic Center, spelling out "PIG CHOPS."

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American Crossroads -- the political money group backed by Karl Rove -- has chosen to get behind the Republican in the tightening three-way race to fill the New York Congressional seat vacated by the humiliated Rep. Chris Lee (R).

And in keeping with American Crossroads' m.o., the group is backing Republican nominee Jane Corwin in a big, big way. The group has purchased $350,000 in television ad time this week on Corwin's behalf in the western New York district. A second run has been reserved as well. The first seven-day round of ads, which will be released publicly on Tuesday night, will begin running Wednesday. Election day is May 24.

Crossroads says it hopes the blanket of spots will help set things right in the Republican district, which appears in danger of falling into Democratic hands thanks to perennial candidate (and former Democrat) Jack Davis, who is this time running on the Tea Party platform.

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Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama's approval rating received an expected bump. Yet while his overall approval rating ticked up, his marks when it comes to the economy actually fell at the same time, dropping to a record-low in the latest NBC survey released this week.

That finding underscores the old political maxim that, "it's the economy, stupid," as it shows that Obama's overall presidency is still weighed down by the sluggish economy even while enjoying a major national security success.

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The media heat might be starting to get to Donald Trump. As he said last night on Fox News, he can see why another businessman who eyed the White House, Ross Perot, briefly dropped out of the race in 1992.

"I feel fine about it. I mean, ultimately, the country supersedes all of it, and I feel fine about it," said Trump. "But I have heard over a lifetime that if you have really accomplished a lot and done a lot, you cannot run for high political office -- and I can see why.

"I can see now why Ross Perot dropped out. You know, he dropped out of the race, and then he went back in a week later. But he dropped out of the race. And I heard from people that were involved that he was just getting hammered, because he did a lot. He did a lot of deals, a lot of everything. And he didn't like it. And I guess he had a second thought, and he went back in. But I can understand it, and it's certainly not that pleasant, but it's something I can handle."

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) offered cautious support Tuesday for the idea of adopting further means-testing of Medicare and Social Security to help shore up the finances of both programs. But the devil, he said, will be in the details.

"I don't want to get into means testing until we look at specific proposals," Hoyer said at his weekly Capitol briefing in response to a question from TPM. "Generally speaking, we do, as you know, have certain means testing in both Medicare and SS at this point in time. ... I think clearly we're going to have to make both of those programs sustainable over the long run, and I think to some degree it would be clearly appropriate to look at -- without endorsing any specific proposal -- the insuring that the least well off are protected and to do that look at the best off ... in terms of what level of support they get."

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), a co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in her state in 2008, told TPM on Tuesday that Romney needs to firmly address Republican fears that he'll use his health care law from Massachusetts as a national model.

Her comments come ahead of a speech from Romney this week on health care, which is widely considered his biggest vulnerability with Republican voters. President Obama has repeatedly credited Romney's health care law as governor of Massachusetts, which included an individual mandate now despised by conservatives, as a model for his own Affordable Care Act.

"I think what we don't want is for states to have mandates on them like what President Obama's done," Haley told TPM when asked about the governor's speech. "Massachusetts made a decision within their state and they decided that was right for them. It certainly is not right for South Carolina, it's not something I want to see, so what we want to hear from him is that this isn't something he's going to impose as President across all states in the country."

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