In it, but not of it. TPM DC

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand can rest easy, at least for now: Her absentee ballot in the NY-20 special election, which had been challenged by the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco, has been counted, and is included in the current vote totals that put Democrat Scott Murphy ahead by 264 votes.

However, this is not quite the end of the story, and the potential remains for it to be un-counted later on, though it doesn't seem likely that such a thing would actually happen.

Tedisco's campaign alleged on Tuesday that Gillibrand was ineligible to vote absentee because she was in her home county on Election Day. Gillibrand denies that she was there when the polls were open -- that she only arrived after the polls had closed. And it's also worth noting that the current governing case law in New York says that the ballot would still be counted.

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In huge news for environmentalists (and, more generally, anybody who worries about the fate of human life), the EPA, with the support of the White House, has determined that greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health. This has been coming down the pipe for some time, but now that it's official, it opens the door for the EPA to begin regulating Carbon Dioxide. But before they do, the House and Senate will probably take a stab at climate change legislation, and this ruling will no doubt affect the speed and thoroughness with which they act.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) responded with typical couth. "Today's action by the EPA is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America's global competitiveness," Inhofe said. "It's worth noting that the solution to this 'glorious mess' is not for Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, which replaces one very bad approach with another. Congress should pass a simple, narrowly-targeted bill that stops EPA in its tracks."

We await the introduction of that legislation.

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It's no surprise that Republicans have supported Norm Coleman's (now all but doomed) effort to be reelected in Minnesota. After all, the Senate's closely divided and Republicans hate Franken who has been tweaking them for a decade. But at some point, I think, Republicans will give up the fight not only because there will be pressure on them to do so but because they'll realize that they are better off with Al Franken in the Senate than without.

I also think the fact that Coleman, who no doubt would like to run again someday, will bow to Minnesota's good-government culture and not stretch this thing out, thereby giving Pawlenty the space to certify Franken. I could be wrong. Maybe they'll make this a scorched earth policy for months to come, the opposite of Gore's exit after the legal battle was lost. But I don't think so. Coleman's self preservation instincts will combine with the need of GOP's consultant culture to put Franken in the Senate. Mitch McConnell won't like it but I think he'll be stuck with it.

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The latest score in the NY-20 special election shows Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 264 votes, as more absentee ballots were tallied in the Murphy strongholds of Columbia and Warren Counties.

In the absentee ballots counted so far, Murphy's percentage of the vote has been better for most counties than his Election Night totals were on a county by county basis. The only exceptions have been Saratoga County, the single largest county and a Tedisco stronghold, and Otsego County, which only cast about two percent of the total absentees. But the overall trend elsewhere has more than outweighed those two.

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We've reported on the conservative anger over this Department of Homeland Security report (pdf). Note that the reaction hasn't just been unnecessarily partisan (the report wasn't commissioned by President Obama, and was written under the auspices of a Bush appointee), it has also been curiously sensitive. The report, after all, isn't about the conservative movement in any way, but rather about the potentially growing ranks of radical right wing groups.

In response, conservatives have largely ignored the true origins of the report, and, enabled by the mainstream media, continue to direct their outrage at the new administration. But on the second point--the curious sensitivity--they've countered that their real anger has more to do with the fact that the DHS assessment suggests that veterans are particularly susceptible to the allure (whatever it is) of such groups when they return from service.

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Here's some good news (kind of) for the cause of Constitutional Unionism: According to a new Rasmussen poll, only 31% of likely voters in Texas think the state has the right to secede.

When asked the question, "Do individual states have the right to leave the United States and form an independent country?" the numbers come out at 31% Yes to 55% No.

Rasmussen also asked this follow-up question: "If you could vote on the issue, would you vote for Texas to remain in the United States or to secede from the United States and form an independent country of Texas?" The numbers come out at 18% for secession, to 76% against it.

Via ThinkProgress, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) thinks Illinois residents want to shoot their elected officials.

"I think that the decision to raise taxes by 50 percent in Illinois is political suicide," Kirk said of [Illinois Governor Pat] Quinn's proposal to raise the tax rate to 4.5 percent from 3 percent, coupled with an increase in the personal deduction. "I think the people of Illinois are ready to shoot anyone who is going to raise taxes by that degree."

From 3 to 4.5 percent. In the wake of the Tea Party protests, we've been following mainstream conservatives' and elected Republicans' flirtations with the extreme right, and we'll continue to do so.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates poured more cold water on the idea that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed anytime soon. "If we do it," Gates said, "it's very important that we do it right, and very carefully."

Lest you think Gates just misspoke, though, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times said he resorted to conditional language more than once, adding that "if we do go down that road [it's important] we do it right and in a way that mitigates any downsides.''

Emphasis mine.

Back in January, of course, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, in no uncertain terms, that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be repealed. But the administration's been slowly walking that back ever since.

WaPo: Banks Seek To Pay Back TARP -- But Are Taking Other Government Money The Washington Post reports that J.P. Morgan and other major banks are seeking to repay TARP money, which CEO Jamie Dimon called a "scarlet letter." On the other hand, the company is seeking to repay TARP money while still benefiting from other federal programs, which have in fact paid out even more money. Says the Post: "Other large banks are attempting the same combination of breakup and embrace."

Obama At The Summit Of The Americas President Obama is in Trinidad today, attending this weekend's Summit of the Americas. The gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders will address such issues as the drug war, global warming, and the economy. And as the Associated Press points out, the biggest job Obama will have will be to just improve relations with America's neighbors, after the tumult of the Bush years.

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