TPM News

Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) celebrity status as a national conservative icon is just getting bigger, with the Congresswoman set to travel to Ohio in February, where she will speak to the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Republican Party.

Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou told the Star Tribune that he personally invited Bachmann because of her new rising stature, and because the county has an active Tea Party movement.

"For me, it's about looking to the future," said Triantafilou. "And we could look back and have some ... of the grand poobahs of the party showing up or we can have somebody that is emerging onto the national scene. And that's why we thought she would be exciting."

Bachmann may only be a second-term Congresswoman in the minority party, but make no mistake -- she's a huge hit among the grassroots right nationwide.

This is not Bachmann's first venture outside of Minnesota or the D.C. area. As the Minnesota Independent points out, it was at an event in Colorado this past August that Bachmann called upon conservative activists to "slit our wrists" and become blood brothers, in a pact to stop the Democrats' health care proposals.

The Democrats just missed out on recruiting a top-tier candidate to run against party-switching Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL), with Alabama's Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks set to announce today that he won't be running.

Sparks is currently running for governor, but had been urged by national Dems to switch to the House race after Griffith switched from being a Democrat to the Republicans.

As of right now, Griffith's greatest danger is in the Republican primary, where he'll face plenty of criticism for his past Democratic allegiances, donations to Democrats like Howard Dean and Harry Reid, and the accusations of his detractors that his switch was motivated by political necessity instead of principle.

Blue Dog Rep. Bobby Bright (D-AL) is unlikely to vote for the final health care bill despite House leadership's confidence they will earn support from fiscal conservatives.

Bright, in one of the state's reddest districts, said in a Kiwanis speech reported by the local paper he thinks both the House and Senate bills don't do enough to curb rising costs.

"After it comes back from conference committee, unless it significantly reduces the expense that I know it's going to add to our budget, I will not be able to support it," Bright said.

He restated his opposition to a public option and told Kiwanis attendees he was "proud" the Senate's version did not include one but said the Senate bill is still "entirely too expensive."

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Rep. Peter King (R-NY) continued his quasi-defense of racial profiling today, saying on Today that "100% of the Islamic terrorists who are coming against us are Muslims," and adding that "if you were going after the Mafia, you'd go into Italian communities."

King also said that he wished President Obama had put the suspected Flight 253 terrorist before a military tribunal instead of in the criminal justice system.

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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is now jumping upon the the Northwest Airlines attack -- and using it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign, the Grand Rapids Press reports.

In the letter, Hoekstra denounces the Obama administration on a whole range of national security issues -- ranging from Flight 253 itself to Guantanamo Bay, investigation of the interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration, and what Hoekstra calls Obama policies that "impress the 'Blame America First' crowd at home and his thousands of fans overseas."

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We've already told you about Rep. Pete Sessions's email to Allen Stanford in the wake of charges being filed against the banker for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. "I love you and believe in you," wrote the GOP congressman to the alleged fraudster.

But Stanford may have had an even tighter bond with another member. After all, you have to be pretty close with someone to ask them to carry a message to Hugo Chavez on your behalf. Especially when that message is that you want the Venezuelan president to open a criminal investigation into an associate with whom you've fallen out. But according to McClatchy, that's what Stanford asked Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) to do. And, say the news outlet's sources, Meeks agreed.

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Democrats are pointing fingers at Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) for blocking the confirmation of Erroll Southers as the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, and the conservative senator is pointing right back.

DeMint's office said it's not an issue of blocking Southers but instead that the senator is seeking debate on the nomination.

DeMint isn't planning on revoking the hold.

A Senate aide told TPMDC that DeMint's objection was to the procedure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to use to approve the nomination - unanimous consent.

DeMint thought there should be a debate and a roll call vote, the aide said.

"Leader Reid can schedule consideration of this nomination any time he wants," the aide said. "But he felt health care was more important. Our view is if the Democrats are upset they've only got themselves to blame because Obama took forever to nominate him."

Southers was nominated in early September and his confirmation hearings were wrapped up earlier this month.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement TSA needs a permanent administrator.

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Talks To Merge Health Care Bill Bills Begin Behind The Scenes Roll Call reports that the Congressional aides have begun setting up the negotiations between the House and Senate for the health care bill, though at a very early stage. "Everything happening this week is happening behind the scenes," said a Senate aide. "Staff is taking the week to review documents. Informal staff meetings may happen, but nothing is scheduled just yet."

Health Lobby Takes Fight To The States The New York Times says that with the federal government poised to pass a health care reform bill, the states are set to become the new battlegrounds over issues of opting into some programs, opting out, or fighting them entirely: "Last year, for example, the drug industry poured more than $20 million into political contributions in states around the country. In California alone, the industry spent an additional $80 million on advertising to beat back a California ballot measure intended to push down drug prices."

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