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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 way D.C. political operatives are reacting to the news that Liz Cheney is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi in the Wyoming GOP primary, you'd think the Republican Party had another Sharron Angle on their hands -- someone so much more conservative and rhetorically unrestrained than the incumbent or establishment candidate that she wins the primary only to lose a winnable general election race by a wide margin.

Well, Cheney is famously unrestrained. But that's about where the similarities end. Wyoming is so deep red that the winner of the GOP primary will sail through the general, no matter who it is. And though no one doubts her conservatism, there's a decent argument to make that Sen. Liz Cheney would actually move Wyoming and the Senate to the left.

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Here's why I'm experiencing a little schadenfreude over the news that Liz Cheney's gonna run for Senate. And it has almost nothing to do with her dad, or the possibility that she'll win her primary and give Democrats an opening to run nationwide against the return of Cheney.

Liz Cheney is the über-Republican. She personifies the fusionist nature of her party better than anyone I can think of. She spouts the kind of extreme rhetoric you might expect to hear from paranoid, socially conservative base voters and certain back-bench members of the House GOP, but her politics are textbook Beltway hawkish conservatism -- axe social insurance programs, cut taxes, deregulate industries, swagger in foreign affairs, etc.

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Obamacare supporters are taking a much-needed victory lap this morning over the news that the law will dramatically reduce individual market premiums in New York state.

That's a political coup for Democrats, both because the headlines look nice and because they point to the reality that the law will make life better for thousands of people. New York's a big state!

But as I'm sure others have already pointed out, New York's also a unique state. And the health policy status quo there makes today's news entirely predictable.

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Just a quick observation. The director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau serves a five year term. Ignoring Rich Cordray's ambitions beyond consumer protection for a second, if the GOP had confirmed him in, say, early 2012, his post would have expired in 2017, just as President Rubio was taking office.

If he decides to stick it out the full five years, he'll be running things until mid 2018.

If you take one thing away from the de-escalating nuclear option fight in the Senate, it should be that there's very little appetite among senators for doing away with the filibuster on the merits. In fact, if you thought that the fight reflected a growing sense among Democrats that the Senate's anti-majoritarian rules have crippled the body, you weren't paying enough attention.

What the outcome establishes is that there's a limit to norm-breaking in the Senate, and that Harry Reid and the Democratic caucus will reluctantly and narrowly change the rules if those norms aren't ultimately restored. But they'd really prefer to leave minority powers in tact if at all possible. And ironically, the whole fight underscores how much those limits have been stretched in just the last eight years, since the old GOP majority used the same threat to similar effect.

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Imagine the public outcry if the Department of Justice -- Eric Holder's Department of Justice no less -- were to take legal action against George Zimmerman, notwithstanding his acquittal this past weekend.

Zimmerman has perversely become a folk hero to some conservatives, many of whom also believe Holder wants to confiscate guns and is perhaps a Manchurian candidate operating DOJ on behalf of the New Black Panthers.

A federal Zimmerman prosecution would thus fuse two fringe views into one giant conspiracy theory. And it could happen.

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Popular former Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Saturday morning that he will not run for Montana's open U.S. Senate seat in 2014, an announcement that complicates Democratic efforts to retain their majority in next year's elections.

Schweitzer told The Associated Press that he doesn't want to leave Montana and go to Washington, D.C.

He had been considered the Democrats best candidate for holding onto the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus next year. Schweitzer said he felt compelled to consider the race only because many in his party said they needed him to run.

"I love Montana. I want to be here. There are all kinds of people that think I ought to be in the United States Senate," Schweitzer said. "I never wanted to be in the United States Senate. I kicked the tires. I walked to the edge and looked over."

But ultimately, he said, "people need to know I am not running for the United States Senate."

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Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian writer who cultivated Edward Snowden as a source and has broken numerous stories about the nature and extent of secret U.S. surveillance programs, says harmful national security information will be released automatically if "something happens" to the notorious NSA leaker.

"Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had," Greenwald said in an interview with the Argentinean paper La Nacion. "The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare."

It's the most explicit confirmation yet that among the documents Snowden sneaked out of the NSA are some that could harm the U.S. and that these are being used as leverage against the United States as the government seeks his arrest and extradition. It's unclear what actions would trigger such an indiscriminate, mass leak, and who would authorize or execute it. 

Whether there's an immigration reform bill or not depends to a large degree on how House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) chooses to run the House. But if there is going to be an immigration reform bill, it won't be Boehner's show alone.

As Boehner effectively acknowledged Thursday, passing legislation that could conceivably become consensus comprehensive immigration reform will require both Democratic and Republican votes. And that means Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will have tremendous sway over what the House produces.

But for now Pelosi's being cautious with that power. Though she's urged Republicans to pass a single, bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and to move with deliberate haste, she's stopped short of nixing the process the GOP has chosen to move immigration legislation and is even tolerant of the rhetorical games Republicans are playing as they try to cobble together a majority for provisions dealing with the 11 million immigrants currently in the country illegally.

And she won't go anywhere close -- yet -- to introducing what's known as a "discharge petition" -- which, with 218 signatures, would force a House vote on the Senate's comprehensive bill.

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After a two-hour meeting Wednesday in the Capitol basement, House Republicans were no closer to an immigration reform consensus other than that they don't like the Senate bill, they don't like big bills, and they don't like a "pathway to citizenship" -- if not the policy, then at least the term.

The summary statement from House GOP leaders released after the meeting betrays some of those internal divisions, and underscores the difficulty reformers will face getting the elements of a comprehensive bill through the House, let alone to a negotiated agreement with the Senate.

But if there's a way to get there, the public will actually get clearer instructions from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi than anyone in the GOP.

In a wide-ranging sit-down interview with TPM on Wednesday, Pelosi described her own bright lines and areas of flexibility -- her procedural dos and don'ts and her policy limits -- which ironically are the parameters that matter most when evaluating whether a bill is possible.

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