TPM News

The 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference hasn't begun yet, and it's already producing fireworks.

Those fireworks took the form of a segment earlier today on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports in which GOProud co-founder & chair Christopher Barron hammered Family Council Research (FRC) President Tony Perkins for not only misrepresenting his group's agenda, but for also being anti-gay.

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During his interview last night on Sean Hannity's TV show, former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld bemoaned the sad fact about the prison camp at Guantanamo -- namely, according to Rumsfeld, that the Bush administration was unable to convince people of just how great it is!

"It is an exceedingly well-run prison. And the folks down there have done, and are doing, an excellent job," said Rumsfeld. "The heartbreaking thing with respect to Guantanamo is not that there's anything wrong with that -- it's one of the finest prison systems in the world. What is awkward is the fact that, for whatever reason, the administration was incapable of persuading people that that was a first class operation, that they were not torturing people, they were not hurting people.

"And it was then, and it is today, a fine operation, and the men and women who operate it for the United States military deserve a lot of credit. And they've taken a lot of heat, unfairly."

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Ahead of the GOP's official Thursday release of federal spending legislation, the House Appropriations Committee has unveiled a list of 70 specific cuts that package will include -- not a comprehensive list, but, according to a committee spokesperson, illustrative of the sorts of cuts that it will contain.

They are copied below the fold. Already interest groups that will be impacted by the cuts are lining up in opposition. According to today's sneak peak, the GOP will propose nixing the entire Title X family planning program (already the subject of some controversy among party leaders), and will slash $1.3 billion from Community Health Centers relative to President Obama's request. Compare that to the entire Internal Revenue Service, which would lose $593 million -- less than half that amount.

"The new anti-choice House leadership now wants to take away birth control and cancer screenings from millions of American women and men," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL/Pro-hoice America. "While these politicians attack abortion coverage from every angle, they now want to deny funding for birth control, even though that's the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy. Americans will not stand for this blatant hypocrisy."

You can read more about these specific cuts here. More when we learn it.

Keep in mind, the cuts listed are relative to President Obama's budget proposal, not to actual current spending.

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So does the retirement of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) increase the vulnerability that Democrats might face against Republican former Sen. George Allen, who narrowly lost to Webb in 2006? Perhaps not, so argues Public Policy Polling (D) -- and Allen doesn't seem like any sort of sure thing.

Back in mid-November, a PPP survey of Virginia found that Tim Kaine, the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee and formerly the governor of Virginia, tested just as well or perhaps even better than Webb. Against Allen, Webb led by 49%-45%, while Kaine scored 50%-44%.

PPP's Tom Jensen writes today: "24 hours ago Virginia looked like a toss up. And Jim Webb or no Jim Webb, I think it still does."

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1||Italian prosecutors announced that they planned to try Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges that he paid for sex with a woman under the age of 18 and then used his position to get her out of jail on unrelated theft charges. It's hardly the only time that Berlusconi's widely-reported dalliances with much-younger women have proved problematic.

Karima el Mahroug, a Moroccan dancer who uses the stage name "Ruby the heart-stealer" is pictured here with an ex-boyfriend. Berlusconi told the police when she was arrested on unrelated charges that she was a niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and they needed to release her.||Zuma/Newscom&&

2||"Ruby" appeared on the television show Kalispera and denied she had sex with Berlusconi, though she reportedly was the source of reports to police about parties at Berlusconi's mansion.||Zuma/Newscom&&

3||Veronica Lario, Berlusconi's estranged wife, met her husband while he was married and she was performing topless. She issued a public letter demanding an apology from Berlusconi in 2007 after he publicly told politician Mara Carfagna, now the Equal Opportunities Minister, that he would marry her if he were single. She filed for divorce in 2009 after reports of an alleged affair with the then-underage Noemi Letizia surfaced.||Sipa/Newscom&&

4||Barbara Berlusconi, the eldest of Berlusconi's three children with Lario. He had two other children with his first wife.||Sipa/Newscom&&

5||Berlusconi infamously attended Noemi Letizia's 18th birthday party and presented her with a gold and diamond necklace, prompting Lario to accuse him of consorting with underage women. Letizia and her middle class parents denied that she was Berlusconi's illegitimate child. ||PacificCoastNews/Newscom&&

6||Escort Nadia Macri claimed to have been paid for sex with Berlusconi. The 28-year-old also told the Daily Mail that she was uncomfortable with how young some of the other sex workers with whom she attended Berlusconi's parties were.||Zuma/Newscom&&

7||Francesca Pascale was a television showgirl before entering politics -- with Berlusconi's backing -- and becoming a regional councilor in Naples.||Provincia di Napoli&&

8||Grazina Capone is a former model hired by Berlusconi to help with media relations. ||Zuma/Newscom&&

9||Barbara Matera was one of several women from show business nominated or considered by Berlusconi to represent his party in the 2008 EU elections, raising many eyebrows (including Lario's). A former Miss Italy contender, Matera hit back at criticisms of her nomination by saying, in part "I've never been a showgirl." Hers was the only nomination to survive the controversy. ||Sipa/Newscom&&

10||Angela Sozio, the redhead, achieved a measure of fame in Italy by appearing on Grand Fratello ("Big Brother") and then in these paparazzi photos with Berlusconi. He later nominated the political novice to stand for his party in the 2009 European Parliament elections. ||Oggi&&

11||Berlusconi's flirtatious public comments to the former model (and now minister of equal opportunity) Mara Carfagna caused Berlusconi's wife to demand a public apology. Published reports in Argentina and Italy indicate that after she joined the cabinet, wiretaps installed as part of an anti-corruption investigation revealed that Carfagna and Berlusconi talked in explicit detail about oral sex.||Zuma/Newscom&&

12||Escort Patrizia D'Addario went to the police with tapes and photographs documenting what she said was her compensated night with Berlusconi -- one of at least two.|| imago stock/Newscom&&

13||Camilla Ferranti, an actress, was one of Berlusconi's original nominees to run for the European parliament. Berlusconi was also taped trying to get her television work, another favor he was known to provide the women in his circle.||Zuma/Newscom&&

14||Jazz singer Cristina Ravot was also short-listed by Berlusconi to stand for his party in the 2009 European elections.||frapir on Flickr/Creative Commons licensed&&

15||Berlusconi met dental hygienist Nicole Minetti while getting his teeth repaired following a May 2009 attack in Milan at a political rally. In February 2010, Berlusconi made her one of his party's candidates for regional office in Lombardy.||Zuma/Newscom&&

16||Berlusconi was also caught on tape attempting to get work for actress Elena Russo in 2009. She was subsequently hired by the Italian government to be the face of Naples in a PR campaign.||Zuma/Newscom&&

17||Eleonora Gaggiolo was one of the other actresses Berlusconi was caught on tape trying to drum up work for, and made his 2008 list of party candidates for the European Parliament.||Eleonora Gaggioli&&

18||Lario demanded an apology from Berlusconi both for his comment to Carfagna and for his comments to Venezuelan actress Aida Yespica, to whom he said "with you I'd go anywhere, even a desert island." Yespica claims that the parties described by others as "wild" (and which were reportedly attended by a variety of escorts) were actually karaoke parties at which Berlusconi and his guests "ate fruit."||Zuma/Newscom&&

19||Iris Berardi was also underage when she was reportedly paid to attend one of Berlusconi's parties and have sex with him.||Tomada de Internet/Newscom&&

20||Lisandra Silva, a 23-year-old Cuban beauty queen, was one of several women surreptitiously taped being driven to Berlusconi's mansion outside of Milan without being subjected to security checks.||Miss Atlantico&&

21||Model and actress Barbara Guerra admits to spending a weekend at a spa with Berlusconi. Gianpaolo Tarantini, who is accused of procuring many of the women for Berlusconi's parties, says that she is one of many women he helped arrange for Berlusconi to have intimate encounters with.||Zuma/Newscom&&

22||Twins Eleonora and Imma De Vivo appeared on a reality show on one of Berlusconi's television stations and were eventually given jobs as weathergirls on another. Prosecutors taped the twins discussing Berlusconi's deteriorating looks and increasing stinginess at a party that featured public intimacies between Berlusconi and at least one of the female guests as well as nudity.||Zuma/Newscom&&

23||Dominican model Maria Ester Garcia Polanco says she slept with Berlusconi because she was grateful that he helped her daughter get health care and got her a job on a television show.||Zuma/Newscom&&

24||Wiretaps indicate that Berlusconi paid actress and model Alessandra Sorcinelli over €100,000 to attend his parties between January 2010 and 2011. He continued to pay her despite the realization that he was under investigation.||Splash News/Newscom&&

When he was still leader of the Republican minority, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) put himself on the line and explicitly advocated raising the retirement age to 70. He stood by the comment for weeks until last month when he called it a mistake. Though he didn't disown the idea, he said that, as a party elder, he should not have been setting the terms for a debate that will fall to the entire Congress, if and when it happens.

As it happens that puts him in roughly the same position as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who as Majority Leader last year said all options -- including raising the retirement age -- should be on the table.

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Former Sen. George Allen (R-VA), who is seeking a comeback to the Senate after he was defeated for re-election in 2006, has released a statement on the announcement that the man who defeated him, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, is not running again.

"I respect Senator Webb's service to our country and the very personal decision that he and his family have made," writes Allen. "I did not enter into this race to run against any one person, but to fight for the families of Virginia to improve their opportunities in life. My campaign will continue to focus on achievable reforms that will help reinvigorate our economy, end reckless, runaway spending, and unleash our plentiful energy resources."

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In my morning piece I described, perhaps, the only sort of tax the GOP will happily support -- ones that makes it harder for women to get legal abortions. I focused most specifically on a provision that would eradicate tax-incentives encouraging employers to provide health benefits if those benefits include abortion coverage. But it goes further than that. As Nick Baumann writes, the proposal would impact smaller parts of the health-care financing market by forbidding self-employed people from writing off abortions on their taxes, and making it illegal for people to pay for abortions out of tax-exempt health-savings accounts.

Nick's been sitting on a great quote from Tim Jost, who's an incredibly reliable health law expert, a supporter of ObamaCare, and, it turns out, pro-life.

"Going after the tax subsidies that affect abortion" would represent a "substantial victory for the pro-life movement in America," Jost said.

So this isn't something the GOP came up with by the seat of its pants. It's, as I said, part of a plan to broadly phase out abortion coverage.