TPM News

The University of Washington tried to organize a debate on whether the health-care reform bill is constitutional. But it couldn't find a law professor to argue that it isn't, reports the Seattle Times.

"I will say that we tried very hard to get a professor who could come and who thinks this is flat-out unconstitutional," said the moderator. "But there are relatively few of them, and they are in great demand."

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As anybody who followed the year-long fight over health care reform no doubt recalls, sometimes the most turbulent part of the legislative process comes after both the House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill. Though financial regulatory reform legislation isn't as likely to twist in the wind for months a la health care, there will still be several differences between the two packages that need to be ironed out.

One regulatory reform expert, Doug Elliott of the Brookings Institution, points to two major potential flashpoints: consumer financial protection, and measures designed to give the federal government power to unwind failed financial institutions.

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Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who recently lost a Republican primary for governor of Texas, is expected to announce today that she will serve out her full Senate term through 2012.

For the past year and more, Hutchison had challenged incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary. She had previously planned to resign her office during the primary campaign itself, but had reversed her decision in November, though she kept the door open to resigning after the March 2 primary. Had Hutchison resigned, the seat would have been filled with a temporary appointment by Perry, along with an expedited special election.

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, on CNBC this morning, suggested the administration will no longer use the term "cap and trade" to describe climate change legislation.

"I think the term 'cap and trade' is not in the lexicon anymore," Salazar said, adding that supporters -- including senators working on legislation -- will focus more on ideas such as slowing pollution, creating jobs and becoming energy independent. "It's in that context" the Senate will move forward, he said.

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The federal prosecutor who brought charges against members of the Hutaree Christian militia tells CNN that authorities are fine with "peaceful" militias in Michigan, but Hutaree "really crossed the line."

"They advocated that government was their enemy and that federal, state and local police officers were their foot soldiers and they refer to them as 'The Brotherhood,'" said Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan, in an interview with CNN.

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In the latest sign of Tea Party rancor, the key backer of last month's national convention at which Sarah Palin spoke is suing the event's organizer, charging that he reneged on a deal to continue working together on Tea Party business.

Bill Hemrick, the founder of the Upper Deck baseball card company, loaned Tea Party Nation $50,000, which went towards the $100,000 speaking fee given to Palin. He says the money was loaned on the condition that he could remain involved with the conservative political action committee that TPN founder and convention organizer Judson Phillips said he was putting together. Hemrick says that Phillips backed out of the deal, and even barred Hemrick from attending Palin's speech. He also claims that Phillips defamed him by writing an email to supporters saying he was not "reputable" or "trustworthy."

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Obama To Allow Oil Drilling Off Virginia Coast President Obama will announce today that he will allow oil drilling 50 miles off the Virginia shorelines, a reversal of a long-standing ban on offshore drilling. The change is being pitched as a way to reduce reliance on foreign oil and create jobs.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET. He will deliver remarks on energy security at 11:05 a.m. ET. He will meet at 2:40 p.m. ET with the family of Cesar Chavez, and sign a proclamation in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks at a closing session of the Forum for Workplace Flexibility.

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On MSNBC this morning, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) said RNC Chairman Michael Steele has a lot to explain about committee expenses if he wants to keep his job. Shadegg also said extravagant expenditures, like a $2,000 nightclub bill, don't jibe with Republican ideals.

"At this point, I'm not calling for [Steele's] resignation, but I think there has been excessive spending and I don't think it's defensible," Shadegg said. "The Republican party and its donors need to be doing their best to raise money and spend that money to advance our philosophy and elect our candidates, not for frivolous wastes of money."

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So what does Mitt Romney think of the fact that President Obama has publicly cited him as a source for ideas on the newly-passed health care bill -- a bill that has been fiercely criticized by Republicans of all stripes, including Romney himself?

When asked for comment, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told TPMDC that Romney does like something about the Obama plan -- but there are other things he doesn't like at all.

"Governor Romney likes the idea of exchanges where people can shop for affordable private policies. That was part of his Massachusetts plan," Fehrnstrom said. "What he doesn't like are the massive new tax increases, the cuts in senior care, the insurance price controls and the overreaching hand of the federal government. That was not part of the Romney plan."

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