TPM News

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) -- on the short list of contenders for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2012 -- has an explanation for why the deficit exploded under George W. Bush. And it's not the massive Bush tax cuts, which Daniels helped shepherd as Bush's director of the OMB.

"The nation went into a deficit then because the bubble burst and we had a recession," Daniels told CNN this afternoon. "It wouldn't have mattered what policies you tried to implement, we were going to have a great big reversal."

Daniels' presidential ambitions could be hampered by the fact that he was one of the men in charge of the Bush budget that dramatically increased the size of federal government spending and slashed revenues thanks to the tax cuts. That helped create the gigantic federal deficit that Republicans used as a rhetorical cudgel to bludgeon the Democratic House majority to death in November. Tea partiers also like to use the deficit cudgel on Republicans, especially those that voted for Bush's budgets. (Daniels has other problems with the GOP base, too, such as his suggestion that it's time for a "truce" on social issues, which ticked off the values voters something fierce.)

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1||White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will step down form his post in February, ending a two-year run as the President's primary spokesperson. Gibbs has served alongside Obama since April 2004--when he worked on the then virtually unknown Democrat's bid for the United States Senate--and says he plans to remain a close adviser to the President. As Gibbs prepares to relinquish the podium, TPM takes a look back at some of the memorable moments from his tenure.

Here, Gibbs is pictured at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in May 2010||Ron

2||Gibbs and the president's personal secretary, Katie Johnson, at an oval office meeting in May 2009.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

3||Gibbs is the latest member of Obama's administration to step down. Here, Gibbs is pictured with Obama, former Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, and Obama's former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

4||Following a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, President Obama is presented with a picture of a young Robert Gibbs, who played soccer for North Carolina State.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

5||Gibbs concluded his March 12, 2010 briefing by removing a Canadian hockey jersey to reveal an American team jersey. He'd begun the day wearing the Canadian colors after losing a bet with his Canadian counterpart.|| Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.COM/Newscom&&

6||Gibbs, not fighting Luke Skywalker, but in costume for Halloween at the White House.||Newscom/UPI/Kristoffer Tripplaar&&

7||Gibbs again as Darth Vader, alongside his son Ethan, who dressed as Boba Fett.|| Kristoffer Tripplaar/ABACAUSA.COM/Newscom&&

8||Gibbs with President Obama at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner in Washington in June 2009.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

9||President Obama speaks to members of his staff at a NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

10||Gibbs and President Obama watch First Lady Michelle Obama break ground on the White House garden.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

11||Members of Obama's staff planning a visit to Baghdad in April 2009.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

12||Gibbs with President Obama after a town hall meeting in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, May 14, 2009.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

13||President Obama, Gibbs, and Rahm Emanuel, following a June 2009 meeting with South Korean Presidnet Lee Myung-bak.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

14||Gibbs and Obama, with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), at a Washington Nationals game in April 2010|| KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom&&

15||President Obama warms up before throwing out the first pitch at the 2010 MLB All Star Game||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

16||Gibbs sits in the dunk tank at the Congressional Luau in June 2009||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

17||President Obama and Gibbs laugh with aide Reggie Love prior to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception in October 2009||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

18||Gibbs walks with President Obama, Senior Adviser David Axelrod, and aide Reggie Love after Obama taped an appearance on The Daily Show.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

19||President Obama with members of his staff in November 2009.||Official White House photo by Pete Souza&&

Freshman Rep. Alan West (R-FL) stood in the Speaker's Lobby after John Boehner took over this afternoon and reflected on an election season that saw the tea party -- of which West is one of the most colorful elected members -- ascend to the halls of power in Washington. It's been a long road for conservatives like West, and he told me that to sit in the room and watch Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reign come to an end was pretty darn great.

"We've crossed the Rubicon," he said, flashing a huge grin. But he acknowledged that today's pomp and circumstance on Capitol Hill are just the first steps on what is likely to be a tough road ahead for the divided Congress, and even the House GOP caucus, of which West is an ultra-conservative part.

"My biggest concern is that in the 90 to 120 days we start showing the positive trends so that the American people know that we are working toward a limited government that is effective and efficient, that we are working toward the spending and the debt and deficit and we are working toward getting people back to work," West said.

That's a goal West likely shares with most if not all of his Republican colleagues (and his Democratic colleagues too). But going about doing that is not as easy as, say, handing the gavel to Boehner, as the House Republicans unanimously voted to do today.

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The minority has almost no power in the House of Representatives, but they usually do have the prerogative to force a single uncomfortable procedural vote. These motions leave the majority to choose between voting against something popular, or voting to scuttle or complicate their own agenda. This is how Republicans managed to wrongfoot Democrats on the 9/11 health bill and other issues in the last couple Congresses.

Democrats just offered their first "motion to commit" the new House rules. The goal? To amend the package to force new members to announce whether or not they'll be taking their government health care.

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In a surveillance video shot two days before John Wheeler's body was found in a landfill, the former Republican appointee and champion of Vietnam Veterans appears disoriented and shoeless as he walks around a downtown Wilmington parking garage.

Police in Newark, Del., who are investigating what they've deemed a homicide, released surveillance video of Wheeler walking around the building last Wednesday, two days before his body was found in a landfill.

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President Obama will give a speech on the economy and jobs next month to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group he's often battled during his presidency

The speech is scheduled for February 7 and was reported by The Wall Street Journal. It appears to be an attempt by the White House to court the business community and broaden support for their efforts to boost the struggling economy. In December, Obama met with the CEOs of 20 U.S. companies to discuss ways for moving the country forward.

The decision to address the Chamber of Commerce is also likely intended to mend relations with the chamber itself.

The Chamber of Commerce has fought the president on a number of his signature initiatives, including the health care overhaul and financial regulator reform. Obama struck back at the organization this past fall, questioning whether the business lobby was using foreign donations to finance Republican candidates in the midterm elections. The chamber--which is not required by law to reveal its donors--spent at least $75 million in the elections, the bulk of it on Republicans, prompting many on the left to question where the money came from.

Issa's bringing high-def video into the Oversight Committee room. No, really.

"A major pillar of House Republicans' Pledge to America is to reform Congress and restore public trust so that we can put power back in the hands of the people." says John Boehner. "Increasing transparency by making more high-quality government video available and easy-to-find represents a significant step in doing just that".

Contrarianism: Won't high-def going to make it harder, not easier, for people to access hearing footage?

Let's be clear that the reforms Tom Udall introduced today aren't radical at all. Sure, Republicans are in high dudgeon about them, calling the move an unprecedented power grab, etc, etc.

But going through them one by one, you'll see just how modest they really are.

1). Eliminating Anonymous Holds: This has broad bipartisan support, and wouldn't change much of anything -- at the very least, anybody who might drop a hold out of embarrassment could just as easily enlist a shameless proxy to place the hold for them.

2). The Talking Filibuster: This doesn't eliminate the 60 vote requirement. It just makes the minority work harder to sustain its filibuster. But rotating people on and off the floor in brief intervals isn't an insuperable hurdle, even for a modestly determined minority.

3). No Filibustering Debate: This privileges the motion to proceed to debate. Unlike the above changes, it actually does reduce the minority's leverage, particularly to demand votes on amendments, or changes to a bill before it hits the floor. But the idea of allowing the majority to debate whatever they want doesn't eliminate the minority's right block debate from ending. And, for what it's worth, the notion of blocking debate in what is supposedly the world's greatest deliberative body is ridiculous to everyone but, well, senators themselves.

4). Guaranteed Amendments: This actually strengthens the minority's hand...slightly. If the majority leader "fills the tree" and files for cloture on a bill, the minority still gets one more shot at changing it...but only after cloture. Then they're promised up to three germane amendments. Not a huge bonus, but not bad.

5). Expedited Confirmations: This saves about 28 hours for every nominee, or group of nominees, that gets filibustered. Since the 30-hour "post-cloture" clock is designed to allow for more amendments, and you can't amend a nominee, this winnows that time down to two hours. No wasting time for wasting-time sake.

Taken together, these reforms would grease things a little bit. But even if they were all adopted, it wouldn't end the era of the de-facto 60 vote requirement. Not even close.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) -- the man Democrats chose to go toe-to-toe with incoming House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) -- is making the rounds on cable news and showing off the aggressive style that helped him win the spot.

Cummings said that he expects to see the tougher version of Issa -- in other words, not the Issa who walked back his harshest statements and said he wanted to work with the administration -- and said his staff is ready for an "avalanche of subpoenas coming out and all kinds of inquires" similar to what happened during the Clinton administration.

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