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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

After a pretty crappy few days, Democrats awoke to the nice surprise that Mitch McConnell would join Michele Bachmann at a press conference today, along with some tea partiers who were targeted (we are to believe inappropriately) by the IRS.

Why? Because Bachmann was likely to say something fringe and wacky like, say, that everyone keeps asking her why President Obama hasn't been impeached already. Which is exactly what she did.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has bad news for Pentagon officials, defense contractors, national park vacationers and other powerful constituencies dealing with the consequences of sequestration: unlike the Federal Aviation Administration, you won't be getting any special treatment.

At a reporter roundtable in his Capitol Hill suite Wednesday, Reid claimed responsibility for Democrats' decision to provide the FAA -- and only the FAA -- unique flexibility under sequestration to move money between accounts, and thus to avoid scheduled tower closures and controller furloughs causing major travel delays that were expected to drag on for months.

"I take all the blame," Reid acknowledged.

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At a briefing for reporters at the White House Wednesday, senior administration officials -- including a senior intelligence official -- sought to stamp out the last embers of controversy surrounding the inter- and intra-agency processes that yielded official, early talking points about the attacks on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.

Responding to pressure from reporters and Republicans on Capitol Hill, the administration released what they claim are all emails internal to, and between, relevant government agencies drawing up the talking points that Susan Rice used when appearing on Sunday talk shows a few days after the attacks that left four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, dead. Those emails are characteristic of the laborious bureaucratic process required to finalize the talking points, but do reflect disagreements between senior officials in agencies outside the White House over what information the talking points should contain.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has bad news for ambitious Democratic governors with their eyes on the White House in 2016.

"I think most everyone knows if [Hillary Clinton] wants to run for President, she's going to get that nomination," he told a small group of reporters during a roundtable discussion in his Capitol suite Wednesday afternoon.

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If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to change the Senate filibuster rules -- either broadly, or more narrowly to fast track presidential nominees -- he'll need a strong case. Part of that case will rest on whether Republicans make good on their threat to block confirmation of Richard Cordray -- President Obama's non-controversial nominee to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- unless and until Democrats agree to weaken his agency's regulatory power.

To that end, he'll hold a vote on Cordray's nomination next week.

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It was inevitable once the IRS admitted it had inappropriately targeted conservative non-profits for excessive scrutiny that Republicans would blend the controversy into their ongoing attacks on the Affordable Care Act. After all, the Affordable Care Act tasks the IRS with administering tax collection and subsidy provision under the law, and will thus require it to hire new employees.

Conservatives and GOP members of Congress issued dire warnings shortly after the news broke. But the fact that the revelation came less than a week before the House of Representatives votes (again) to repeal Obamacare probably hastened a legislative linkage.

And here it is.

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For today's purposes, the Benghazi story, and the extent to which it constitutes a scandal, boil down to the subjective question of how unseemly it is for a cabinet department to defensively edit public communications in the wake of a national tragedy. Maybe you can stretch that out to implicate President Obama for wanting to downplay the implications of that tragedy ahead of the election.

But to spin that into a fatal liability for either Obama or Hillary Clinton requires pretending that the territoriality and defensiveness of government agencies is unprecedented, which doesn't really pass the laugh test. So why's the GOP training all of its artillery on this piece of the story?

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If you feel like the inmates have taken over the asylum in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wants you to know that your suspicions are totally correct.

At his weekly Capitol briefing Thursday, Boehner faced questions about two aging and increasingly questionable elements of the GOP's legislative strategy: repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continued efforts to extract partisan concessions from Democrats in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.

In both cases, Boehner acknowledged that the conservative wing of the House is driving the agenda.

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Your big Obamacare story of the day is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell won't recommend commissioners to the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- a panel designed to contain Medicare spending -- as the law asks them to.

This isn't a huge surprise given how, er, eager Republicans have been to smooth Obamacare implementation in general. But it's more revealing, and just as ironic, as their other efforts to break or hinder the law before it takes full effect.

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Starting around the time he launched a bogus attack on then-Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, Democrats have loved to hate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

They made sure as many as people as possible saw him condescend to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), as she tried to advance an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. When he launched a failed filibuster of more modest gun legislation the public relations backlash (nurtured by Democrats) made him persona non grata with some members of his own party.

Among Democrats, he is one of the most widely cited opponents of immigration reform.

And this week no less a powerbroker than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called Cruz a "schoolyard bully" and the "very junior senator from Texas," after Cruz blocked further formal budget negotiations absent a pre-emptive Democratic surrender.

Yup, Democrats can't stand Ted Cruz. Except that they also kind of love him.

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