TPM News

In what may be another small dose of that precious change we can believe in, the Obama administration is taking steps to crack down on one of the Bushies' favored tactics for politicizing government: burrowing.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, we told you about some political appointees who had landed career jobs, with civil-service protections, at their departments -- allowing them to continue to exert influence under the new government, and making them difficult to remove. In fact, the Bushies were far from the first group to try this. The Washington Monthly's Charles Peters, who has chronicled the workings of the federal government since the 1960s, used to call it the "headless nail" phenomenon.

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Rand Paul, a candidate in the Republican primary for Senate from Kentucky, had a meeting yesterday with the state's top Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- following a gaffe in which Paul failed to commit to supporting McConnell for GOP leader.

The meeting came after Paul, an ophthalmologist and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), made a gaffe in an interview this past weekend, when the ABC affiliate in Louisville asked whether he would support McConnell for Republican Leader, if given the choice of the very conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). "I like both of them and I don't know that I could make a judgement," Paul said at the time, adding: "I have to win the primary first. So I don't think I'd make a judgement on how I'd vote for leader, but I think obviously Kentucky having a leader is good for Kentucky."

Paul's opponent in the primary, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, has pounced on him for this. Paul apparently worked to undo the damage. "I have nothing but high compliments about his job as minority leader," he told reporters. "I have no reason not to support him."

"We had a very cordial conversation," Paul explained "I think it's probably better not to go into any detail about what we talked about."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chair of the homeland security committee, released a statement today urging Attorney General Eric Holder and the administration to "reconsider" plans to bring five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to New York City to stand trial. Here is the full statement:

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) today strongly differed with Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to prosecute the individuals charged with committing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in civilian courts in the United States.

Senator Lieberman said, "The terrorists who planned, participated in, and aided the September 11, 2001 attacks are war criminals, not common criminals. Not only are these individuals not common criminals but war criminals, they are also not American citizens entitled to all the constitutional rights American citizens have in our federal courts. The individuals accused of committing these heinous, cowardly acts of intentionally targeting unsuspecting, defenseless civilians should therefore be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States."

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Reporters asked Attorney General Eric Holder about the departure of White House counsel Greg Craig, and Holder said he was "a little surprised" by the news.

Holder also said Craig was getting "unfair proportion of the blame" for the delay of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"Greg Craig is a great lawyer, he has been a great friend to the Justice Department," Holder said.

Holder also thanked Craig for his role in the "success" of the Obama administration, including the "effort" to close Gitmo.

In a press conference this morning, Attorney General Eric Holder said he will seek the death penalty against five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including self-proclaimed mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when they are tried in civilian court in New York City.

Holder said another five terrorist suspects, including those allegedly involved in the bombing of the USS Cole, will be referred to the Department of Defense. All 10 are currently being held in Guantanamo Bay.

He said he is confident the trials will result in conviction.

"I would not have authorized prosecution if I was not confident our outcome would be a successful one," he told reporters.

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Sigh. Washington waited through a slow holiday week with bated breath for a CBO analysis of Senate health care legislation, which had been expected today. But now sources say the report won't likely be ready until early next week.

The development calls into doubt the likelihood that the bill itself will be introduced on the Senate floor next week. Democratic leaders have vowed to post the bill online for 72 hours before moving the bill toward the floor, and in those 72 hours, they will have to corral all Democratic caucus members into agreeing to proceed to debate.

This week, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested Democrats would be lucky to get the bill on to the floor before Thanksgiving recess. Looks like they'll be pushing up against that deadline.

A new Rasmussen poll of Texas has Gov. Rick Perry ahead in his Republican primary in 2010, in which he is being challenged by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The numbers: Perry 46%, Hutchison 35%, with a ±3.5% margin of error. Two months ago, when Hutchison had officially launched her campaign and was touring the state, she had a 40%-38% lead.

One key question should give Hutchison pause: "Should Kay Bailey Hutchison remain in her position as senator while she is running for Governor?" The answer here is Yes 60%, No 26%. Hutchison has indicated that she will resign from the Senate -- a move that could possibly be hurting her.

Faced with the charge of hypocrisy for providing employees health insurance that covers abortion, the Republican National Committee has moved to strike the benefit from their policy.

"Money from our loyal donors should not be used for this purpose," said chairman Michael Steele. "I don't know why this policy existed in the past, but it will not exist under my administration. Consider this issue settled."

With one exception--Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) who voted 'present'--House Republicans voted unanimously for an amendment to health care legislation that forbids women who receive government insurance subsidies from buying policies that cover abortion.

Of course, given the definition of "insurance," the RNC can only really escape the sin of financing abortions by buying insurance from a company that has a blanket policy against covering abortions.

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