TPM News

A spokesperson for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says the preeminent veteran in the U.S. Senate "misspoke" yesterday when he said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates never served in the U.S. military.

McCain dismissed Gates' claim that repealing the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian service members would have little or no effect on military readiness in an interview with NBC News yesterday by suggesting that Gates doesn't really know what ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell will mean for fighters on the ground. McCain, who continues to be opposed to repealing DADT, stated that Gates was not an objective expert on the matter because he's "a political appointee who's never been in the military."

In truth, Gates served in the Air Force as a second lieutenant for two years starting in 1967. (That was the same year McCain, a Navy pilot, was injured in a fire aboard the aircraft carrier Forrestal in the coastal waters off Vietnam.)

McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan told TPM that McCain knows that Gates served in the armed forces and "simply misspoke" when asked about DADT by NBC News.

"Obviously Senator McCain is aware of Secretary Gates' many honorable years in service," Buchanan said in an email.

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On the Senate floor this morning, in response to this:

"My Republican colleagues...know that the true effect of this letter is to prevent the Senate from acting on many important issues that have bipartisan support. With this letter, they have simply put in writing the political strategy that the Republicans pursued this entire Congress: Namely, obstruct, delay action on critical matters, and then blame the Democrats for not addressing the needs of American people. Very cynical, but very obvious. Very transparent.

The bipartisan group set to negotiate the issues surrounding the expiration of the Bush tax cuts is set to meet at 10:15 a.m. ET, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The roster:

• Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner

• Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob Lew

• Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

• Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

• Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the incoming ranking member of the House Budget Committee

• Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the likely next Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Jon Stewart last night opened his program by focusing on the ongoing coverage of WikiLeaks' release of secret State Department cables, and addressed Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) call for WikiLeaks to be declared a terrorist organization.

Clearly, Jon Stewart said, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is "Osama bin Laden, crossed with Magneto, and the albino from the matrix with more than a scootch of the Dyson vacuum guy."

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney is putting his clout behind one of the challengers to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, CNN reports, and will co-host an upcoming fundraiser for former Bush administration official Maria Cino:

Cheney's daughter Mary assisted in organizing the fundraising committee.

Cino served as a top Commerce Department official and Deputy Transportation Secretary under President Bush. She also worked at the RNC during Bush's two terms and managed the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The fundraiser will be held at the Virginia home of GOP strategist Mary Matalin and is hosted by several veterans of Bush-Cheney world, including former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, former New York Rep. Bill Paxon and former administration aides Melissa Bennett and Emily Lampkin.

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Below is a copy of the White House Fiscal Commission's final report, somewhat hilariously titled "Moment of Truth."

According to the panel's chairmen yesterday, today's deficit-reduction recommendations aren't dramatically different from those in their much-ballyhooed draft report: It still contains cuts to Social Security, and eliminates tax expenditures to broaden the tax base and dramatically flatten the system, making the top-bracket tax rates drop dramatically.

The commission was supposed to vote on a final package today, per the executive order President Obama signed when he created the commission. But dissent on the commission delayed the unveiling of these recommendations, so the vote will happen Friday.

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Just hours after Democrats and Republicans agreed to bargain on tax cuts, and fewer hours still after Defense Secretary Robert Gates implored Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year, word leaked that Republicans aren't really interested in any of it -- a major repudiation of Gates' authority.

According to a letter delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning, Republicans will block all debate on all legislation until the tax cut impasse is bridged and the federal government has been fully funded -- even if it means days tick by and the Senate misses its opportunity to pass DADT, an extension of unemployment insurance and other Dem items.

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Lawmakers Stand Firm On Taxes As Talks Start The Associated Press reports: "Democrats and Republicans are working to reach a deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year, but neither side is budging as negotiations begin in earnest. Even as they talk, House leaders are planning to hold a politically charged vote Thursday to extend middle-class tax cuts while letting taxes for the wealthy expire. The bill, even if it passes the House, stands no chance in the Senate. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he is considering holding a similar vote."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the economic daily briefing at 9:15 a.m. ET, and the presidential daily briefing at 10:15 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 10:45 a.m. ET with senior advisers, and will meet at 12:45 p.m. ET with D.C. Mayor-elect Vince Gray.

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Outgoing Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) received a heap of praise from a Senate colleague with whom he had an unlikely partnership. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) praised Feingold, who lost his election to Republican Ron Johnson: "I have to confess I think the Senate will be a much poorer place without Russ Feingold in it."

"I know that in my next term I will experience fewer occasions of inspiration because of the departure of Russ Feingold, a man whose courage and dedication to the principles that guided his Senate service often inspired me," McCain said.

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