Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Is anyone listening to this?

In remarks yesterday before the Bond Market Association -- one of the hardest partying groups on the street -- Treasury Secretary John Snow explicitly linked the administration's efforts to cut the deficit to the push to partially phase-out Social Security. The logic of that statement points to only one conclusion: the deficits the administration has run up with upper-income tax cuts will be reduced by benefit cuts in Social Security.

It's not about strengthening Social Security; it's about cleaning up the mess created by the president's tax cuts.

Our TPMCafe pitch (hint, hint, hint) may have temporarily displaced the links to our Fainthearted Faction and Conscience Caucus, but that doesn't mean we've stopped keeping score.

In fact, in our next update you'll see that the Conscience Caucus list continues to grow, mostly <$NoAd$> out of sight of the national press.

But there's an article today in Roll Call (subscription req., unfortunately) which sheds some new light on happenings in the Fainthearted Faction. Under the headline, "White House, Democrats Meet, Quietly," Emily Pierce reports ...

Although Republicans have been publicly hammering Democrats for refusing to “come to the table” on a plan to overhaul Social Security, many moderate Senate Democrats have been meeting privately with White House officials to talk about what they may or may not be able to support.

On balance, when you get through the whole story, it's basically the same old story: lots of meetings, but no sign of real movement.

Of interest to TPM Readers, though, will be Pierce's list of the three senate Dem gettables. Sens. Conrad and Nelson of Nebraska are already down in the Senate Faction. But she also lists Sen. Pryor of Arkansas ...

“I have not yet heard an idea that I can vote for,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who noted that he met with Bush administration officials to discuss Social Security two weeks ago. “I’m someone who is open and listening, but not someone who is supportive at this point.”


Pryor and Conrad, along with Nelson, are seen by the White House as the three Democratic Senators most likely to be persuaded to back President Bush’s proposal to allow workers to divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts.

Though he refused to confirm which Members the Bush administration is targeting, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said conversations that administration officials have had with select Democrats “have been very positive discussions and active discussions, which we view as very encouraging.”

Duffy added that the Democrats who have come to White House “want to keep the lines of communication open so we can solve the problem now.”


“They were still at a conceptual stage. It’s not like they had a real firm proposal,” said Pryor. “I told them, ‘You all need to come to Congress with a proposal, even if you have to use a back channel.’”

Now, as I said, Conrad and Nelson are old Fainthearted Faction regulars. And Sen. Lieberman has remained there not so much because of new statements or actions (most of which have been pretty supportive of Social Security) but what we might call accumulated soft-on-Social-Security mojo. Actually, I think Lieberman is the only member of Congress who's gone on and then back off of the list multiple times. But with this new information, we're taking Lieberman of Connecticut off the list and replacing him with Sen. Pryor (D) of Arkansas.

Here's a question with some particular relevance to the Bolton nomination, but with a broader relevance to how business is conducted in Washington today: If a foreign government provides money to a Washington think tank to produce studies or hold meetings about that foreign government's relationship with the United States, should those payments have to be disclosed?

I understand that the voting cardinals who took part in the conclave that elected Benedict XVI as the new pope took an oath of perpetual secrecy about what happened in the conclave. And yet many of them now seem willing to discuss rather precise details of what occurred on the record for the daily papers. I'll let the canon lawyers decide whether that's a problem for the cardinals. But it makes for good journalism. This piece out in Thursday's Post gives one of the first clear narratives of how Benedict came to be chosen.

As noted earlier, if you would like to contribute to our TPMCafe.com fundraiser by check rather than by PayPal, we've now posted instructions for doing so here. Once again, thanks so much for making our new venture possible. Every contribution is greatly appreciated.

So true, so true. President Bush today, while signing the Bankruptcy Bill: "If someone does not pay his or her debts, the rest of society ends up paying them."

Tell it to the Trust Fund.

First, a very sincere thank you to everyone who's contributed so far in our fundraiser for launching TPMCafe.com (see this post for more details on the new site). As of mid-afternoon, we're coming up on 250 contributors so far. So that puts us a decent notch toward our eventual goal.

A number of you have written in to say that you would prefer to send a check rather than use PayPal. So this evening we'll be posting instructions for sending contributions by check through the mail.

If you haven't had a chance to contribute yet, well ... there's no time like the present! Just click right here and you can send us a contribution toward our new effort in just a couple minutes time.

The JTA is reporting that AIPAC is now "negotiating severance packages" with Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two staffers at the center of the espionage investigation that broke last fall involving Pentagon civilian employee Larry Franklin, AIPAC and the possible passing of highly classified US intelligence to Israel. See the top item under 'Breaking News' on their site.

Late Update: The Forward has more details in this story just posted on their website (which they've made available to non-subscribers).

According to a just-released Quinnipiac University poll, Democrat Robert Casey Jr. holds a 14 point lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) for next year's senate race. Quinnipiac has it at 49% to 35%, compared to 46%-41% in February. For Rick Santorum, phase-out may take on a whole new meaning.