Happy Hour Roundup

* Bridgegate keeps getting worse:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.

In a letter released by his lawyer, the official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order” and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago.

* However, here’s the letter from Wildstein’s attorney. It doesn’t have any additional detail on the evidence it says exists of Christie’s knowledge of the closures. So reserve judgment. It’s too early to know if this is real.

* Phil Klein has a fair post parsing what we know and don’t know about this latest development, and what would really make the difference on how serious this is.

* Excellent Brian Beutler post on the real meaning of the “Bette in Spokane” tale: “Republicans aren’t sincerely distressed about the things they hear from people like Bette. People like Bette are the goal.”

* Meanwhile, Steve Benen notes that this shows yet again how hard Republicans have to scrounge to prove the existence of the horrors they keep ascribing to the law.

* An immigration must read from Ed Kilgore unmasking the real game plan behind the right’s rhetoric about security triggers and legalization. Lays it bare.

* Chris Cillizza has the detailed case for why Republicans really are taking a big risk if they embrace immigration reform in 2014.

* Politico reports that at their private retreat, House Republicans privately discussed tying a debt limit hike to the repeal of the fictional Obamacare “bailout” fund. But this is the real news:

Republican leadership watched this session closely and was heartened by members’ reactions. Several top aides in the session said they didn’t sense many lawmakers digging in for a fight over the debt ceiling and many are cognizant they will likely have to settle for a clean debt ceiling sometime next month.

GOP leaders really don’t want another debt limit hostage crisis. Okay, so here’s a thought: don’t stage one.

* Meanwhile, Bloomberg adds a key point to the debt limit debate, from the Senate’s third ranking Republican:

“I suspect that with Democrats, there are probably enough Republicans in the Senate that would vote for a clean debt limit increase,” said South Dakota Senator John Thune.

If the Senate passes a clean debt limit hike, that would likely make it still harder for the House GOP to keep up any ransom charade.

* Jonathan Bernstein gets it right on the new Coburn/Hatch/Burr health reform plan: Anything that shows Republicans actually grappling with policy is in and of itself good news for those who want the GOP to move beyond its “post policy” phase already.

* This could make it politically harder for Obama to hold off on GOP demands that he green-light Keystone:

The State Department concluded in its final environmental assessment issued Friday that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly alter global greenhouse gas emissions, but officials cautioned that they were still weighing whether or not the project would meet the test of the president’s broader climate strategy.

* But Joshua Green ferrets out this key nugget:

The State Department concluded that the project would create 42,100 temporary jobs during the two-year construction period. But the report says once the pipeline enters service, it will support only 50 U.S. jobs — 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.

A key component of the GOP jobs plan is to create a lot of temporary jobs by building something? Okay, how about infrastructure repair, then?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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Greg Sargent | January 31