TPM Cafe: Opinion

During last fall's New Jersey gubernatorial contest, which Gov. Chris Christie used as a rehearsal for a 2016 presidential bid, the media were so mesmerized by his outsize personality that they paid little attention to his track record as governor. Contrary to his carefully-crafted image, Christie has not been a can-do bipartisan pragmatist but a hard-line conservative. When he plays the no-nonsense tough guy, it is usually aimed at the most vulnerable people in society. But he gets all warm and fuzzy when it comes to the rich and powerful.

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Congress is poised to pass its $1 trillion appropriations bill to implement the broad budget deal worked out last year by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). With another round of across-the-board sequester cuts looming to the scientific research budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds most biomedical research around the nation, the budget deal produced a near-audible sigh of relief from scientists across the country.

The deal that Ryan and Murray negotiated and that Congress is set to pass in a final appropriations bill reverses $63 billion of sequester cuts for 2014. When the agreement was announced, the White House released a statement that the act “clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries.” The final agreement still keeps the National Institutes of Health budget below 2012 levels, but it does avert about $1 billion in cuts, keeping the total budget at $29.9 billion.

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When Supreme Court announces which cases it will take up for review, pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion activists alike hold their breath. This time, those who support the right to legal, safe abortion are sighing with relief now that the court has announced it will not take up the Arizona law that banned abortion after 20 weeks — but really 18 weeks post fertilization — leaving it blocked and unenforced.

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Who knows how the “Bridgegate” scandal is going to work out? Maybe Chris Christie will turn out to be a blast from the Nixonian past and his career is already circling the drain. Perhaps his effort to straddle wounded victimhood and brave responsibility will work out and staunch the bleeding.

The one thing we do know, however, is that Christie’s already suffered enough high-profile damage that it’s very unlikely he will offer Republicans in 2016 the devilish temptation of invincible electability. And that’s a real problem for those in and around the Republican Party who are determined to save the GOP from itself.

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Over the last three years, anyone who has followed the pitched battle over letting eligible American citizens vote or not should be familiar with the political dynamic behind it. Following the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans made major gains across the country, a tsunami of bills were introduced that were clearly designed to throw up obstacles to voting for traditionally Democratic constituencies: African Americans, low income people, immigrants, among others. Remarks made by a number of Republican officials — like Pennsylvania state House Republican leader Mike Turzai who came straight out and said the state’s voter ID law would “allow” Mitt Romney to win in 2012 — hardly helped make the objective behind these laws a secret.

Important new empirical research published in December in the journal Perspectives on Politics by Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. Obrien at the Univeristy of Massachusetts-Boston, however, shines a bright light on just how crass this effort has been and how clear the motives of the Republican state lawmakers have been in proposing and passing laws that would deny eligible citizens the right to vote.

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This morning I was a guest on MSNBC’s “Up With Steve Kornacki” where Steve Kornacki offered up some new reporting on the September 2013 George Washington Bridge closures. (See segment #1 and segment #2) After that segment Steve had me offer some context regarding the politics of real estate development in New Jersey in general and in this case in particular.

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In January 2006, I was a student at NYU School of Law, home for holiday break. I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out. I remember that, because I was on a lot of painkillers, and I kept thinking that maybe my cloudy brain just wasn’t comprehending what I was reading on an anonymous message board created for law students, called AutoAdmit. There were hundreds of threads about me, with comments including:

"Official Jill Filipovic RAPE thread"

"I want to brutally rape that Jill slut"

"I'm 98% sure that she should be raped"

“that nose ring is fucking money, rape her immediately”

“what a useless guttertrash whore, I hope that someone uses my pink, fleshy-textured cylindrical body to violate her”

“she deserves a brutal raping”

“Legal liability from posting pic of Jill fucking?”

“she’s a normal-sized girl that I’d bang violently, maybe you’d have to kill her afterwards”

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Fights over the laws governing voting rights are nothing new – but 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for court decisions that will determine whether millions of Americans will face new and unnecessary barriers at the polls.

Since the disputed 2000 elections, states have increasingly moved to change voting rules, and litigation on these issues has more than doubled.

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As Congress confronts the Jan. 15 deadline to extend the United States’ spending authority, members should prioritize addressing the nation’s youth unemployment crisis. Monday, Young Invincibles released a report that for the first time puts a price tag on the country’s millions of unemployed young people. The numbers are staggering. In the United States, chronic youth unemployment results in a net $8.9 billion annual loss. That breaks down to $53 per taxpayer. Lost tax revenue accounts for nearly all of it. The takeaway is clear: youth unemployment is a problem that affects not just one generation, but the entire economy.

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At some point in 2014, many members of the punditocracy will tire of writing about the same handful of competitive congressional seats and notice elections are occurring in the several states. Let’s give them a head start, because the dynamics of gubernatorial and legislative races this year are a bit of a fascinating mystery.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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