TPM News

Pushing his ongoing apology for attacking Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal to new heights, Newt Gingrich sent supporters an e-mail on Thursday requesting donations in order to promote the Ryan plan.

"The only way our country can win the future is by engaging our fellow citizens in serious discussions about major reform--not by avoiding hard choices," the e-mail reads. "Congressman Ryan has made a key contribution to entitlement reform, courageously starting the conversation about how to save and improve Medicare. And that's exactly the kind of national conversation I want our campaign to be about!"

As his e-mail demonstrates, Gingrich has been carefully following the approved spin manual for handling Ryan since condemning his Medicare voucher plan as "right wing social engineering" two Sundays ago on Meet The Press. In recent days he's lavished Ryan with praise, demanded that Democrats not use his prior criticisms in ads, and even lobbied congressional Republicans to support the Ryan plan. All without ever reversing his position on the Ryan plan itself.

It may be too late for Newt to recover, however. The latest polls show his support imploding among Republicans.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is either on the verge of announcing that she's running for president -- or she'll be holding the biggest let-down of a rally that ever happened in Iowa.

Bachmann spoke to Republicans in Des Moines Thursday night (via phone and Internet video, after she cancelled a much-promoted live appearance in order to stay in Washington and vote to renew the Patriot Act) and discussed her upcoming plans.

"We are starting the effort," Bachmann told reporters over a speakerphone, CNN reports. "We already have a hired staff in Iowa, New Hampshire, in South Carolina. We have every aspect that we need in this effort."

"When we make that all-important announcement - which will happen in the month of June - that announcement. I am pleased to tell you tonight, will be made in Iowa," she further added. "And I will also tell you that announcement will be made in the city where I was born, in Waterloo."

It's not exactly a confirmation that she is running -- but did anyone ever put together a big rally in Iowa, and then deliver a rip-roaring speech that they weren't running?

Senate Republicans are using a parliamentary trick to block President Obama from making any recess appointments during the Senate's Memorial Day break -- including a long-awaited nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Senate will remain in pro-forma session because Republicans objected to the unanimous consent required to adjourn. The parliamentary maneuver prevented the Senate from officially going into recess for a week, denying Obama a chance for recess appointments even though Republicans openly acknowledge that they don't expect any.

"Senate Republicans are doing this just in case," said a House GOP aide.

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Chalk up another Democratic win this week: Alabama State Rep. Daniel Boman, who entered the legislature as a Republican in November, is switching parties to become a Democrat after he says the GOP went too far in attacking teachers in the state.

It's just the latest example of mainline Republicans turning on their party following the November sweep which put them in control of the House. On Tuesday, the solidly-Republican 26th Congressional District in New York rejected the GOP in part over the party's decision to end Medicare in the House budget. A few days before that, the Democrats stunned the Republican city of Jacksonville by electing the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. In New Hampshire, Democrats picked up a surprising win in a legislative special election.

Now there's Boman, who's walking away from the GOP after it took on the state's public school teachers.

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Tim Pawlenty -- who has not yet released a plan to reform Medicare, only vague outlines of one -- is attacking President Obama for not having a Medicare plan and drinking Guinness in Ireland.

Earlier today, Pawlenty finally chose a side in the fight over Medicare, telling reporters in New Hampshire he'd sign Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan if he was in office -- but reiterating his promise to unveil his own plan at some point in the future. Democrats, who see Medicare as their path to fame and fortune in 2012, pounced immediately and called out Pawlenty for getting on board with what they say is an electoral loser.

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Facebook has hired two former White House Bush aides to help it to better influence the debate raging in Washington right now over how privacy regulations should be overhauled in the age of social media.

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The Senate voted 72-23 to extend three provisions of the Patriot Act which were set to expire at midnight. The House subsequently voted to extend the provisions and the bill was sent to President Obama to be signed into law.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had threatened to hold up the vote and allow three provisions of the act to expire unless he got a debate and a vote on his amendments. Ultimately both amendments failed, but Paul told reporters he was taking a stand.

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Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) confirmed on Thursday that he helped his former domestic partner secure a job at Fannie Mae, an institution that Frank was entrusted with overseeing as a member of the House Financial Services Committee.

The story was first reported in a new book on the 2008 financial crisis by reporter Gretchen Morgensen, Reckless Endangerment. According to Morgensen, Frank talked up then-partner Herb Moses' qualifications to Fannie Mae executives in 1991 to help him score a job with the mortgage giant. Frank later took Fannie Mae's side against claims it had grown dangerously large repeatedly during his time on the committee, which he eventually took over as chairman in 2007.

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Republicans are working on multiple fronts to stop President Barack Obama from making companies bidding on federal contracts disclose their donations to third-party political groups.

The chairmen of the House Oversight Committee and the Small Business Committee have introduced legislation that would ban the federal government from collecting or using information about the political expenditures of federal contractors, allowing them to keep their political donations to third party groups secret. Yesterday, the House passed an amendment to the 2012 defense bill which would prevent federal agencies from collecting such data.

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