Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Filibuster against Frist hits the AP Wire.

Late Update: See their webcam here. The cam doesn't seem to be streaming at the moment. But soon enough I assume they'll get the live feed back up and running.

Duce! Duce!

From The Hill: "Reps. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) have been meeting with 30 House Republicans over the past few weeks to coordinate a more aggressive strategy to defend Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to a Republican source familiar with the meetings."

Lest anyone forget, both Feeney and Sweeney had high-profile roles in the Florida 2000 travesty.

Husband and wife physics team take up TPM faculty challenge to filibuster Frist, win glory and t-shirt!

According to our informants on the scene, this afternoon Edward Witten and Chiara Nappi approached filibuster organizers conducting their filibuster against Frist and informed them they were ready to take up the TPM challenge.

Photographs of their stints filibustering have been posted here.

By our interpretation of the faculty challenge rules, Witten and Chiara are entitled to two t-shirts. But apparently they only require one.

So two remain! Who will get them?

Late Update: We're told it's now started raining at the scene of the filibuster. So they're battening down the hatches. But the filibuster continues.

You can't stop fighting to save Social Security because he won't stop trying to phase it out.

According to afternoon wire reports, at the president's primetime press conference tonight, he will finally tell the public precisely what he does and doesn't support (aka, negotiating with yourself.)

Actually, in Scott McClellan's words, President Bush will "talk in more specific ways about his ideas for making Social Security permanently sound [and] some new proposals that he will talk about that he believes ought to be part of any solution." So, it's quite possible that we're just going to hear some more of the same mumbojumbo because he's still afraid to put something down on the table.

But clearly, with the failure of the Bamboozlepalooza Tour now conceded, the president wants to reshuffle the deck and force the debate on to some new phase.

So with that in mind, a few thoughts ...

First, you know what we'll hear. Democrats only say no. They don't have a plan. Wrong. Democrats do have a plan: it's called Social Security. And that's not mere rhetoric. It's an upfront, level-with-the-public statement of fact. What it means is that Democrats want to preserve Social Security as a defined-benefit system of social insurance. You can only say the Democrats have no plan if you take it as a given that the program must be radically restructured, like many of the talking heads in Washington. And Dems just don't agree.

Nor does this mean that they're flatly opposed to any changes. Social Security hasn't remained untouched for seventy years. Nor are the Democrats saying that every jot and tittle of all its complex tables of inflows and outflows are sacrosanct today. There are several quite detailed Democratic plans which have already been put forward, with mixes of minor benefits cuts and tax increases to bring the system into long-term solvency. What the Democrats oppose are radical cuts of the sort President Bush supports in order to fundamentally change the nature of the program, pay for his tax cuts and aide in not paying back the Treasury securities sitting in the Trust Fund.

The president was just reelected. He made phase-out his signature issue. His party controls majorities in both houses of Congress. It is not up to Democrats to do all his heavy-lifting for him and spell out every last detail. He was reelected. He said he wanted to lead. So lead.

So, as I said, Democrats have a plan: Social Security.

Second, and I'll be searchingly curious whether a reporter asks this at the news conference tonight: all of President Bush's scare-mongering about Social Security rests on the premise that the money borrowed from the Trust Fund either will not or cannot be paid back. If it is treated as a given that it will, little he is saying makes sense. So who will ask, specifically and on the point: Mr. President, will you guarantee that all the money that you and your predecessors (Clinton, Bush and Reagan) have borrowed from the Trust Fund will be repaid in full with interest, as prescribed by law? And if so, why are you trying to convince people that Social Security runs into any difficulties at the end of the next decade.

Third, keep your eye on the admittedly-much-diminished Fainthearted Faction. As we've said from the very beginning: this is in Democrats' hands to stop. Or, even a relative few of them, can start the ball rolling toward phase-out.

The long arm of Sen. Frist? Did Sen. Frist pull a little nuclear option (sort of a tactical nuke, I guess) on the students filibustering outside the Frist Campus Center?

Earlier this evening (or morning, whatever), we brought you word that the students on the Princeton campus were going into their second day of 'filibustering' outside the Frist Campus Center -- the building the senator's family paid a bunch of money to have named after him. And we linked to the impromptu, outdoor webcam they'd just set up to allow believers in constitutional government around the country to observe their on-going effort.

But at 2:52 AM this morning, just under two hours after we pointed to their webcam, we received a rushed email from one of our correspondents on the scene telling us that the campus police had arrived, trying to shut it down and asking to see paperwork showing they had permission to operate the webcam. Not long after, said protest webcam went dark. No word yet on whether the filibusterers have been taken to an undisclosed location or perhaps extraordinarily rendered.

Late Update: They're back online. When we find out what transpired, we'll let you know. (ed.note: Do you know what really happened? Believe me, not a clue.)

Truly Late Update: I'm told that as yet not a single member of the school's faculty has deigned to join the students in reading from the podium. A TPM Privatize This! T-Shirt for the first three faculty members to take a turn at the filibuster!

It all started on November 16th with the DeLay Rule and Shays Handful.

The DeLay Rule supporters then went out and tried to justify the rule to constituents. By way of example, here's how Rep. Dreier, Chairman of the Rules Committee justified the Rule to his constituents; here's page 1 and 2 of how Speaker Hastert did; and here's how the biggest single recipient in Congress, Rep. Ferguson of New Jersey explained what happened.

Eventually, the House Republican Caucus had to knuckle under on the DeLay Rule because of all the constituent outrage. But at the same time, figuring no one would notice, they eviscerated the House Ethics Committee so as to do everything in their power to protect the recidivist ethics rules violator DeLay.

A month later, just to make sure DeLay wouldn't be in any danger at all, Speaker Hastert purged the Ethics Committee of the three Republicans who had refused to vote for the DeLay Rule in the firt place (the so-called 'Night of the Long Gavels').

And now, here we are, almost three months later, and the Republican Caucus has once again been forced to repeal the DeLay-protecting rules they voted for and justified to their constituents only weeks earlier. By a vote of 406 to 20, the House today repealed all the rules passed in early January which deep-sixed the Ethics committee to protect Rep. DeLay from more scrutiny, admonishment and sanction.

Tonight, Rep. Chris Shays may not have the whole world in his hands. But he's sure got the whole House Republican Caucus.

Predicted Broder-Fineman-Russert co-spin: "Sure the DeLay Rule was unpopular. But what new ideas do the Democrats have? All they can do is say 'no'."

Bug Man Blues, performed by Jeff Birnbaum of the Post: "Now that it's clear that his controversial private-paid trips abroad will be put under a microscope in Congress, Tom DeLay is in serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules, legal experts say. Lawyers who specialize in ethics cases believe that the Republican House majority leader from Texas might be in technical breach of at least a few congressional regulations. According to published reports, a registered foreign agent paid for one of DeLay's overseas trips and a registered lobbyist used his credit card to pay for another foreign airfare -- actions the rules prohibit. DeLay may also have accepted gifts that exceeded congressional limits, taken an expense-paid trip overseas for longer than the rules allow and not disclosed all of the benefits he received."