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Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Brian

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' July employment report mixes middling news under very promising top lines.

The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs last month, according to an initial survey issued Friday morning, keeping pace with analyst expectations that the labor market is recovering at a steady pace.

Better still, the unemployment rate dropped 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent -- the lowest its been since before the Great Recession. But that's due in part to the fact that people left the job market, driving down the labor force participation rate.

And it gets worse from there.

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Republicans have dealt with some embarrassing moments on the House floor over the past year, but none so revealing or damning as today's snafu, when they yanked a bill to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Even the recent farm bill fiasco wasn't as significant an indictment of the GOP's governing potential.

It might look like a minor hiccup, or a symbolic error. But it spells doom for the party's near-term budget strategy and underscores just how bogus the party's broader agenda really is and has been for the last four years.

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This should go a long way toward dissuading White House advisers that President Obama should nominate Larry Summers to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

"Given the level of opposition to Larry Summers within our caucus, confirming him would be a huge challenge and probably a pretty ugly process," a Senate Democratic leadership aide tells TPM.

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No sooner did the White House leak details of its new(ish) corporate tax reform plan than John Boehner and Mitch McConnell very publicly trashed it, which led to a familiar and predictable dust up wherein Democrats condemned Republicans for reflexively opposing things President Obama supports and Republicans complained (apparently falsely) that the White House didn't contact them about the plan before promoting it in the press.

These are all key ingredients for substance-free paint by numbers news stories about Washington dysfunction, or picayune laments that the proposal has nothing to do with the deficit. Tastes vary.

But so long as we're approaching this story from a political rather than substantive vantage point, I'd just say all of the point-scoring going on between the White House and GOP leaders is a big distraction.

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If the House of Representatives can't get its act together and immigration reform fails all over again, the country will be stuck with existing immigration policies, probably for years.

The "good" news -- and this reflects horribly on Congress and the GOP's House majority -- is that doing nothing won't cause a government shutdown or threaten a default on U.S. credit obligations.

But there are huge constituencies across the country banking on comprehensive reform, who will benefit if the effort succeed. Here are the eight biggest losers if it fails:

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In my experience, Obamacare opponents are equally adamant about two things: that the law should and will fail; and that nobody should ever say anything mean about them.

They bristle visibly when you note -- as Norm Ornstein just did -- that the implementation hurdles they've erected amount to "sabotage."

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I think it's fair to say that the White House has had a hard time previewing President Obama's forthcoming economic speech, and Republicans are gleefully trolling the whole event as a result. Ok, they'd probably be trolling it anyhow. But because the remarks aren't tied to a big event, or new administration initiative -- won't be a to-do list for Congress, but will supposedly have some policy heft to it -- they're not easily distilled in briefings with reporters, who understandably want to break some news.

It lacks an obvious hook. But the hook is there -- it's just one the president can't dwell on too transparently.

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Once upon a time, House Speaker John Boehner could use the threat of a debt default as leverage, and people would take him seriously.

Just two years later it's quaint -- a longing for a time when House Republicans could call the shots on Capitol Hill and Democrats had little choice but to acquiesce. Now, when Boehner tries to set the legislative agenda -- as he did on Tuesday, insisting "we're not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending. It's as simple as that." -- Democrats, and a group of Senate Republicans shake their heads and return to the business of governing.

The following won't sound terribly momentous, but it should alarm Boehner and the rump of conservatives in the House who think they run the show in Congress. Indeed, what's happening in the Senate right now is a recipe for the ultimate humiliation and defeat of the House GOP. Namely, the Senate is currently debating bipartisan legislation to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, before appropriations expire at the end of September.

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You know things have gone weird in the runup to Obamacare's big rollout when Republicans are quoting big-name union leaders to make the case for scrapping the whole law.

But it turns out this alliance of convenience is bound by two interwoven acts of self-interest: the GOP's unwillingness to fix one flawed piece of the law; and certain unions' efforts to create a special carveout for their members -- to offset potential disruptions Obamacare might create for workers and unions -- at a politically vulnerable moment for the ACA.

Ironically, when Republicans side with labor against Obamacare, they're unintentionally and obliquely endorsing efforts to secure tax subsidization for unions.

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Earlier this year, House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, they voted to delay its individual mandate for a year, which would severely undermine the roll out of the law. Later this year, some Republicans will insist again on defunding implementation under threat of a government shutdown. I wouldn't be surprised if those same Republicans try to axe Obamacare during the fight over raising the debt limit.

But after that, I think there's a good chance that the legislative assaults against the ACA will stop. That all depends on how smoothly the roll out goes. But if enrollment goes as planned, and the problems are minor and temporary, the whole question of repealing the law will take on a completely different character than it has right now. Right now, repealing the law entails rescinding some real, but fairly ancillary benefits. After January 1, voting for repeal will mean voting to kick a small country's worth of people off of their health insurance.

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