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The Edge: Does the Tea Party Still Matter?

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Does the Tea Party Still Matter?

After months of suspended animation, conservative firebrand Michele Bachmann and her House Tea Party Caucus are getting the band back together Thursday night. But the caucus and its leader come back to a changed political world.

Bachmann returns to the caucus after a tough reelection win and months spent out of the limelight. And while the tea party movement has cooled since its early days, it has also gotten more Washington savvy. Tea partiers now have a lobbyist and a political adviser.

With a core issue like the debt-limit fight looming, the Tea Party Caucus is picking a good time to reconvene. The movement has been most successful when it has had a huge national issue to animate it—think “Obamacare”—and the coming fight cuts to the heart of the tea party’s belief in smaller government and lower taxes.

This summer’s spending battle will be a key indicator of how potent a force a more mature tea party will be.

Chris Frates


BIDEN TEES OFF ON ‘TWISTED, PERVERTED’ BOMB SUSPECTS AT SERVICE. Vice President Joe Biden called the brothers alleged to have set off bombs at the Boston Marathon “twisted, perverted, knock-off jihadists” at a memorial service address for Sean Collier, an MIT police officer killed during a shootout with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, The Hill reports. As many as 10,000 people attended the event in Cambridge, Mass., according to some reports. Read more

TSARNAEV INCLUDED ON TERROR WATCH LIST, NOT ‘NO-FLY’ LIST. Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was included on a U.S. terror watch list but federal authorities do not routinely monitor everyone in the database, Reuters reports. Because officials did not deem Tsarnaev an “active threat,” he was not added to a no-fly list or a separate list that would have made him subject to additional screening at airports. His January 2012 departure for Russia was flagged by that system but his return to the U.S. was not captured because his status was automatically downgraded in the absence of new information. Read more

  • Investigators questioning Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have found no links between the Tsarnaev brothers and foreign terrorist groups. Read more

PLOT THICKENS IN RICIN CASE; AUTHORITIES SEARCH SECOND HOME. After a federal judge in Mississippi dismissed charges against entertainer Paul Kevin Curtis on Tuesday in the case of ricin-laced letters mailed to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., authorities searched the home of martial-arts instructor James Everette Dutschke, who has a history of conflict with Curtis. Dutschke, who denies involvement in the case, said, “I guess Kevin got desperate. I feel like he’s getting away with the perfect crime.” Read more

EIGHT SENATORS WHO HOLD IMMIGRATION REFORM IN THE BALANCE. While an immigration bill is likely to pass in the Senate, supporters want a strong showing—say, at least 70 votes—to give it the necessary momentum in the conservative-dominated House. So it’s useful to look at the positioning of key conservative senators to get a sense of how the legislation is faring with the GOP base. National Journal’s Michael Catalini has eight senators to watch in the coming debate. Read more

ISSA: OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE WILL HOLD ANOTHER HEARING ON BENGHAZI. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled an additional hearing on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said today that the committee “will examine new facts about what happened and significant problems with the administration’s own review of Benghazi failures.” Issa and the chairmen of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Intelligence committees released a report Tuesday on the investigation to date. Read more

  • A group of high-ranking House Democrats, including John Conyers, D-Mich., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the chairs of their respective committees that in issuing the report, Republicans are “sacrificing accuracy in favor of partisanship.” Read more

SCHWEITZER: GREAT PROGRESSIVE HOPE? It didn’t take long for liberals to rally around former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as a potential replacement for outgoing Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. Schweitzer, as National Journal’s Elahe Izadi reports, appeals to progressives when it comes to issues like health care; he’s a vocal supporter of a single-payer health care system, and he’s had a chilly relationship with Baucus since the senator’s role in the health care debate in Washington. But he’ll likely disappoint on stricter gun control, though he sounds open to background checks. Schweitzer hasn’t made a decision on a run yet. Read more

ADMINISTRATION AWARE OF POSSIBLE FISKER DEFAULT IN 2010. The Obama administration was notified in 2010 that Fisker Automotive was at risk of defaulting on its loan obligations, the Associated Press reports. An Energy Department loan official wrote in a June 2010 e-mail that the electric-car maker “may be in limbo due to a lack of compliance with financial covenants,” while an earlier message noted milestones missed by Fisker. The department eventually halted disbursement of funds in June 2011, after Fisker had received $192 million of the original $529 million loan guarantee. Department spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy said the June 2010 e-mail has been “taken out of context.” Read more

SENATE CONFIRMS BURWELL AS OMB DIRECTOR. The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell today as the next director of the Office of Management and Budget in a landslide vote, 96-0, Politico reports. Burwell, a veteran of the Clinton administration, sailed through her confirmation hearings. “Sylvia has spent a career fighting for working families, and she was part of an OMB team that presided over three budget surpluses in a row,” President Obama said in a statement. Burwell was president of the Walmart Foundation. Read more

HARKIN POSTPONES HEARING ON PEREZ NOMINATION. A Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee vote on the nomination of Thomas Perez to serve as Labor secretary, slated for Thursday, has been postponed, Politico reports, following Republicans’ announcement of a plan to invite as a witness Frederick Newell, who has criticized Perez’s handling of Newell’s whistleblower lawsuit against the city of St. Paul, Minn. “While I continue to believe there are no impediments to Mr. Perez’s confirmation, I am agreeing to postpone his Committee vote until May 8th, in order to allow those Senators who have asked the time to request additional information they believe they need, and to evaluate his qualifications,” committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said today. Read more

SEQUESTER CLAIMS NEW YORK’S FLEET WEEK. The sequester has claimed New York City’s famed Fleet Week, as the U.S. Navy announced today that cuts to its budget necessitated the cancellation. “Unfortunately, there will be no Navy ships in New York this year for Fleet Week and no additional Sailors or Marines,” Navy spokeswoman Beth Baker said. Last year was the 25th anniversary of the event, which brings in tens of millions of dollars to the city, CBS New York reports. Read more


OBAMA TO ATTEND TEXAS MEMORIAL SERVICE, CANCELS PLANNED PARENTHOOD KEYNOTE. Obama will attend a memorial service for those killed in last week’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The White House announced today that out of a desire to stay longer in Texas, the president would not be delivering a keynote address at a Planned Parenthood gala Thursday evening. The president will instead address the group Friday morning. Read more

OBAMA TO ATTEND OPENING OF BUSH LIBRARY. On Thursday, the president and the first lady will attend the dedication ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. House Speaker John Boehner will also be attending, among others. National Journal’s Jill Lawrence wonders whether historians will ever get on Bush’s side. Read more


“What we’ve said to the girls is, ‘If you guys ever decided you’re going to get a tattoo, then mommy and me will get the exact same tattoo in the same place. And we’ll go on YouTube and show it off as a family tattoo. And our thinking is that might dissuade them from thinking that somehow that’s a good way to rebel.” —President Obama on the Today show Wednesday.


‘I’M NOT READY TO SIGN UP FOR THIS YET’—THE FOOD STAMP DECISION. In Florida, the epicenter of America’s growing senior demographic, it’s people like Dillie Nerios’s job to “enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds,” writes Eli Saslow for The Washington Post. “Alleviate hunger, lessen poverty: These are the primary goals of her work. But the job also has a second and more controversial purpose for cash-strapped Florida, where increasing food-stamp enrollment has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion each year into the state…. It also adds to rising federal entitlement spending and the U.S. debt.” Saslow documents how those eligible frequently blanch at the prospect of receiving government help. Read more


SEQUESTER HITS AIRLINES. During his presidency, George W. Bush was a very popular topic for late-night hosts due to his verbal mishaps and gaffes. So, it’s no wonder Late Show’s David Letterman was quick to jump back to Bush jokes with the news of his presidential library opening soon. On NBC, Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon also jumped back to jokes about ex-presidents while doing a Bill Clinton impression. On Comedy Central, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart spent some time on the Stock Act. Leno mocked air-traffic controllers sleeping on the job and said pilots could use the delay time to “sober up.” Stephen Colbert used a sight gag to illustrate delays. Watch it here


JUST HOW LONG IS THE IMMIGRATION BILL? Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, seemed a bit surprised Tuesday at Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she said she had read the entire, 844-page immigration bill. “Then that must have been a busy weekend,” Cruz quipped. But just how long is it? With the wide margins, large font, and gaping spaces between paragraphs, it’s actually more dime store novel than epic tome. The bill has 161,346 words—roughly 140,000 if you subtract the numbers on each line. That’s fewer words than a typical John Grisham paperback or most of the Harry Potter books. And it’s a quarter of the number of words in War and Peace. But that’s still pretty long, and officials only had six days to read it before the hearing. Read more


THE PUBLIC ISN’T SO MAD ABOUT THE GUN BILL FAILURE. A new Washington Post-Pew Research poll shows that some 47 percent of Americans say they are “angry” or “disappointed” in the failure of the recent gun bill, but a relatively high 39 percent describe themselves as “relieved” or “happy,” results that are at odds with a widely cited figure that roughly 90 percent support expanding background checks. The split was almost even among those who say they “very closely” followed the vote, indicating a so-called “passion gap” between supporters of gun rights and gun-control advocates. Read more

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