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Congress: Boehner's free-for-all debate

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio waits to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington last week.

With the House set to finish work on the Continuing Resolution, the New York Times profiles House Speaker John Boehner. "For Speaker John A. Boehner, the budget-cutting frenzy taking place on the House floor merges two of his animating political passions — the need to shrink federal spending and the willingness to risk a free-flowing debate. Throw in a new conservative Republican majority and Mr. Boehner is confident of the outcome. 'I have no doubts in the coming weeks and months that people will see our resolve around solving our deficit problem,' Mr. Boehner said in an interview. 'We are going to cut spending. There aren’t any ifs, ands or buts about it.'"

But Boehner opposed one of those spending cuts. “[S]uch a free-for-all can have surprising results, and one of the biggest Wednesday was a victory for President Obama and a defeat for a Boehner-backed initiative,” the Washington Post says. “Many tea-party-backed freshmen broke ranks with their GOP leaders and joined liberal Democrats in voting to cut funding for an alternative engine for a fighter jet. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine project has long been a frequent but elusive target, as well as one that provided jobs in Boehner's home state of Ohio.”

“The rollout of the Senate Democratic agenda Wednesday marks the highest-profile output to date of a revamped message and policy operation quarterbacked by Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.),” Roll Call writes, adding, “The new Senate Democratic agenda, which was finalized last week at the party retreat, pays lip service to the public thirst for budget cuts by adopting President Barack Obama’s call for a five-year domestic discretionary spending freeze while trumpeting new spending that Democrats argue will create jobs. Democratic leaders also tied themselves to Obama’s State of the Union message that the country needs to ‘out-innovate, out-educate and out-build’ the rest of the world, but they want credit for taking initiative on their own to build an agenda.”

So what will it include? “The details included are relatively modest, recycled ideas that in the past have garnered at least some bipartisan support. The 20-item list includes finally passing a long-delayed highway bill, protecting stimulus smart-grid and clean-energy investments from Republican cuts, creating a Clean Energy Deployment Administration, and making the research and development tax credit permanent. Other items include perennials such as patent reform, tax reform and a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law. The messaging operation remains directed at House Republicans while largely making nice with their Senate Republican colleagues in an effort to appear moderate and sensible.” ‘The budget in the House is a road map to disaster,’ Schumer said. ‘We are being responsible; they are being reckless.’”

“Rebellious rank-and-file House Republicans are feeling pressure from leaders to toe the party line,” Roll Call writes. “While leaders aren’t whipping Members on some major votes — amendments to this week’s stopgap spending measure, for example — they have strongly tried to minimize defections on procedural matters and made it clear that unity is a priority.”

Dog Whistles: “Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Thursday it's not for her to say whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States — or a Christian,” The Hill writes. “‘That isn't for me to state; that's for the president to state,’ Bachmann, the leading Tea Party lawmaker in the House, said on ‘Good Morning America’ on ABC. ‘When the president makes his statements, I think they should stand for their own. … We should take the president at his word.’”

“Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) launched the Progressives United political action committee this week in response to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and to support progressive candidates,” Roll Call writes.

Head Start, PBS, and now National Endowment of the Arts funding…