TPM News

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said flatly Wednesday that President Obama is open to using the debt limit as a vehicle for long-term budget cuts.

At a Capitol press conference with congressional Republican leaders ahead of Obama's deficit reduction speech, a reporter asked if Obama had signaled that he'd be open to signing something other than clean legislation to raise the debt ceiling.

"Yes," Boehner said.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is waging a one-man war with the White House over $50,000 for a project in his home state that was nixed in the budget deal, but he really has his rock-ribbed conservative, Tea Party-loyalist South Carolina colleague Sen. Jim DeMint to blame for losing the money for a study on deepening the Port of Charleston.

Graham publicly blasted the Obama administration Tuesday for failing to include the funding for the study in its budget request laid out in February and threatened to block all of the President's nominations in the Senate because it was left out of the budget deal.

Graham on Tuesday took pains to say he is not requesting an earmark, but there have been several attempts to earmark money for the port study. DeMint effectively killed every one and refused to join a letter to the White House with the rest of the South Carolina delegation requesting the funds.

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Questioned Wednesday about his threat to "tie the Senate into knots" over $50,000 for a South Carolina port left out of the shutdown-averting spending deal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) launched into an impassioned defense of the role of government in job creation.

"If you're a Republican and you want to create jobs, then you need to invest in infrastructure that will allow us to create jobs," he said at a press conference with Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee on Social Security in response to a question from TPM. "Congress, Republicans and Democrats, talk about creating jobs. How can you create jobs by shutting a port down that 260,000 people depend on?"

Graham said the $50,000 study now on the chopping block was crucial to advancing a $350 million joint federal and state project to ready the port for larger ships. Without it, Graham said, President Obama would have difficulty meeting his goal of doubling exports within five years.

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In his first major interview since launching his presidential exploratory committee, Mitt Romney was asked about the likely albatross of his campaign: His Massachusetts health care reform and its individual mandate to buy insurance, which Democrats have taken to publicly citing as an inspiration for President Obama's health care reform law.

Kudlow asked: "Are you going to, in this campaign, acknowledge that Romneycare in Massachusetts was a mistake?"

"Well, it wasn't perfect. The nature of all experiments, as it was, is that you have things that worked well and things that didn't work well, and that's true of what we did in Massachusetts," said Romney. "But I'm also going to recognize that that's the nature of our--of our free society, in a constitutional society, which is federalist, which says, look, let states experiment, find out what works and what doesn't, take the things that are good and build on them."

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In his first major interview after launching his presidential exploratory campaign, Mitt Romney stated in unambiguous terms that he is not a birther.

In a lengthy interview on CNBC, Larry Kudlow asked Romney about potential rival candidate Donald Trump's recent activism for the birthers.

"Now, he [Trump] has made a fetish, really, an obsession over questioning President Obama's citizenship and the birth certificate from Hawaii," said Kudlow. "Let me ask you on that subject, first of all, do you agree with Trump that Obama should be questioned on this? Do you feel that Mr. Obama has passed all the citizenship tests?"

"I think the citizenship test has been passed. I believe the president was born in the United States," Romney said.

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Freshman Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) will oppose the spending agreement negotiated last week, telling his constituents via a message on his website that he believes the measure failed to cut enough spending.

"I made a commitment to support the House in its pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget - a budget that should have been passed last year, when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress and the presidency," he said. "I did so because I believe it was important to take that first step in enacting real spending cuts. This is the first CR that does not achieve that level of spending reduction. As a result, I will vote no when this CR comes before the Senate."

Johnson added that "We can do better; we must do better," and called for hard spending caps, a demand that many Republicans are expected to push for as part of a vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Mitt Romney threatens to spoil the rampant craziness of the GOP presidential primary with his blandness, according to Jon Stewart.

Tuesday night, Stewart noted some of the more outrageous comments from potential Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and his claim that abortion had broken Social Security. He then compared that to Romney, saying that the former Massachusetts Governor just didn't bring the same level of excitement.

"Oh no, not Captain Buzzkill," Stewart said. "Not the guy who looks like everyone who ever fired your dad."

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