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

Noting that GOP donors and base voters will be tightly aligned in this fight, Matt Yglesias predicts Senate Republicans won't confirm any of President Obama's coming nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals later this year.

Here's my #slatepitch in response: Obama will get some, if not all, of his nominees confirmed. I'd personally put my money on one or two.

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You may have seen this news yesterday, but if you missed it, please click through and give it a read.

The spoiler version is that out in California, where the state government and advocacy groups are actually interested in doing Obamacare right, things are looking pretty good. They're standing up their exchanges and it turns out premiums for basic bronze and more comprehensive silver health plans will actually come in lower than anticipated.

This is almost unambiguously good news for Obamacare.

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Something unexpected and newsworthy happened on the Senate floor Thursday morning during an otherwise commonplace argument between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell over confirmations and the "nuclear option."

It had nothing to do with truly imperiled nominees like Rich Cordray over at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or Tom Perez at the Department of Labor. But it nonetheless reveals a great deal about power dynamics between the leaders as the Senate builds toward a showdown over key confirmations -- and perhaps another effort to change the Senate's filibuster rules.

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Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would hold a vote on Richard Cordray's nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before the Senate skipped town for Memorial Day.

Plans change. Cordray will now most likely get his chance after immigration reform legislation clears the Senate. And not because Reid is giving up on Cordray's nomination, but because he wants to turn Cordray and a handful of other nominees into a test of the GOP's vows to filibuster top Obama picks, including two designated cabinet secretaries.

The move serves two purposes: First, it removes one of the largest pretexts Republicans will have to walk away from immigration reform. Second, it puts Republicans on the spot in an exquisite -- and in Reid's mind necessary -- way, thus providing the nominees their best chance at confirmation, and leaving Democrats little choice, if the GOP blocks them, but to change the rules to immunize executive and judicial nominees from filibuster.

"The more likely scenario is that cloture is filed on some or all of them, because that is more substantive than a unanimous consent request," says a senior Democratic aide. "But that determination hasn't been made yet."

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At the risk of stating the obvious, one big reason the James Rosen and AP controversies have become front page news is that "the news" is a key stakeholder in the story itself. Replace 'reporters from accredited outlets' with 'nihilistic hackers' or 'advocacy orgs' and the tone of the coverage we're reading, and questions we're hearing, would be much, much different. Instead reporters are, quite naturally, behaving in both their normal journalistic capacities here and in their ancillary roles as trade association members -- and so the whole thing has taken on much more valence with the press than we've come to expect when the DOJ is discovered taking liberties with its investigative powers.

That's something everyone should consider the next time we learn a non-media figure has been subjected to secret, invasive federal subpoenas, etc. Until then, I'd note that in this case the coverage disparity is due in part to the fact that -- to coin a recently misquoted White House official -- the reporting does not reflect all relevant equities.

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At the end of the day, a big budget agreement that passes both the House and Senate is pretty unlikely. But before it can happen, there have to be negotiations, and before there are negotiations, Republicans have to allow themselves to negotiate.

In the Senate, what's holding that up is an effort on the part of the tea party backed members to block formal negotiations until Democrats agree that the debt limit will be off limits -- so that in the event the chambers do finalize a budget, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and other Republicans can still demand concessions in exchange for increasing the debt limit later this year. After four years of blistering Democrats for not passing a budget, this has an unwanted downside of making the party look terrible. And now Republican frustrations with Cruz's and Paul's tactics are bubbling to the surface.

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who opposed emergency disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy and called the bill a "slush fund," suggested he'll support legislation to provide similar assistance to victims of the tornado in Moore, Okla., provided it's tailored narrowly enough to prevent federal dollars from being appropriated to other states.

"[Sandy aid] was totally different," Inhofe said on MSNBC Tuesday morning. "They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen in Oklahoma."

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The Secret Service is following up on recent comments by right wing radio host Pete Santilli, who claimed to want to shoot former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the vagina and see President Obama tried and shot for treason.

"We are aware of Mr. Santilli's comments and will take the appropriate follow up action," Edwin M. Donovan, a Secret Service spokesperson, told TPM on Monday. "He certainly has a right to free speech, but the Secret Service has a right and an obligation to determine what a person's intent is when making comments like this."

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Sources with knowledge of key congressional briefings earlier this year on administration emails regarding the Sept 11, 2012 Benghazi attack tell TPM that those in attendance were provided clear information that the White House remained neutral in adjudicating a dispute between the State Department and the CIA over talking points at the center of a months-long controversy.

In walking members and their staffs through the internal emails, the administration provided extensive explanations of how the talking points evolved, sources in attendance tell TPM. The extent of the information provided in the classified briefings calls into further question how a summary of the emails that was leaked to ABC News overstated the White House's role in crafting them. An intelligence official who participated in the briefings and spoke to TPM says that the discrenpacy between the emails he briefed Congress about and the ABC News report "speak for itself."

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Republicans haven't been able to resist the temptation to link the IRS scandal to the Affordable Care Act, and use it to build support for mucking up or slowing implementation of the law.

IRS will administer key ACA revenue and subsidy provisions, and a major scandal at the agency offers the GOP a unique opportunity to question the wisdom of expanding its authority.

But some conservatives hope to draw a less direct, but in theory much more consequential, connection between Obamacare and IRS malfeasance -- one which they hope will result in denial of benefits to millions of uninsured taxpayers, and perhaps the unwinding of the entire law.

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