TPM News

It's not budget season in Washington if Republicans and Democrats aren't upping the ante on imperious bromides about the deficit, and reporters aren't nudging those politicians toward the only acceptable solution to those budgetary woes: destroying entitlements.

Here's a fun exchange on CNN this morning that neatly encapsulates that culture. It starts with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee -- attacking President Obama's budget proposal for not reducing the deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. From there, Sessions dodges the expected questions about why his party doesn't take the first swing of the ax at Social Security. And after clumsily passing the buck back to Obama, Sessions admits that $1 trillion is a pretty good start ... when Republicans propose it!

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Usually when someone casts doubts on Obama's professed Christianity, it's accompanied by a claim that the President is actually a secret Muslim. Yet Bill Maher thinks Obama is faking his religion to hide a different secret: his agnosticism.

Maher argued that Obama only pretends to be a Christian because it would be political suicide to say otherwise. Similarly, he said that Obama also feigns his opinions about other contentious issues like gay marriage to appear more centrist and thus boost his popularity.

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Hawaii may soon become the first state to cancel its "Choose Life" license plate because of insufficient sales---but it won't be for lack of trying. Steve Holck, the founder of Aloha Pregnancy Care & Counseling Centers and sponsor of the specialty plate has offered to personally pay for the 50 plates needed to avoid cancellation---that is, if he can find anyone who wants one.

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Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose views on earmarks and government spending have made him a hero of the Republican party's fiscal right, is throwing his hat into the ring to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

Flake announced his candidacy at a press conference Monday morning, less than a week after Kyl said he would be retiring after more than two decades in Washington.

Democrats have not yet said what they'll do to contest the open Senate seat, though some have said the recovering Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) could make a run if she fully recovers. With Flake, the Republicans now have an imposing candidate with national credentials, who's sure to please the anti-government crowd.

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Here's the White House budget. As noted previously, it's weighted pretty heavily toward spending cuts. If fully enacted (which it won't be) it would reduce the deficit by $1.1 trillion relative to current law over the next 10 years.

The key thing to keep in mind about this budget is that the White House wants to make good on its pledge to pursue investments in education and infrastructure (the key ingredients in "winning the future") while also abiding by a self-imposed domestic discretionary spending freeze. That means they've had to shift money around from other priorities, which explains why, as leaked last week, they've proposed slashing heating and energy assistance to poor families, and why other existing progressive programs will be hit.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the Tea Party star and possible presidential candidate, says that there is no chance of a government shutdown.

"That's not going to happen because that won't serve anyone's interest," Bachmann said in an interview with Newsmax. "That's a bugaboo that the liberals right now are trying to throw out to scare the American people. No one is going to agree to a government shutdown. That will not happen. So let's just take that off the table."

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Shirley Sherrod, who was fired from her USDA job last year after Andrew Breitbart posted online an edited video of her, has filed a lawsuit for libel and slander against Breitbart in D.C. Superior Court. The suit was filed on Friday, and Breitbart was served with it this weekend, while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, according to The New York Times.

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Saturday Night Live released the "extended footage" from Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Obama, a clip rife with factual inaccuracies, interruptions, and a lightning round of pop culture trivia.

SNL's O'Reilly impersonator introduced the segment by claiming that the Super Bowl's 200 million viewers were really tuning in to see his interview -- which aired before the big game -- making his chat with the President the most watched show in human history.

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One Postal Service employee used his government travel card at adult entertainment establishments more than 50 times. Another paid for an Apple computer and his mortgage. Three others purchased airfare tickets (including tickets to Spain and Italy) for family and friends.

That's all according to a Postal Service Inspector General report issued last week on non-compliance with travel policies. The travel cards are actually placed in the employees names, so it isn't clear whether the government paid for the expenditures in question. But regulations do clearly state that "employees may not use their official government travel card for personal business," according to the report.

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