In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a top 2016 contender, has reiterated his support for a Wisconsin bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy,
with no exceptions for rape or incest.

With 20-week abortion bans gaining momentum on Capitol Hill and in states nationwide, Walker’s office confirmed to the Daily Beast this week that the governor intends to sign the bill, which supporters expect will move quickly through Wisconsin's GOP-controlled legislature. A joint state House and Senate committee hearing on the bill is scheduled next week.

The issue of rape exemptions nearly tanked a federal version of the bill in the U.S House of Representatives, when female Republicans objected to a provision that required assault victims report their rapes to the police if seeking an exemption. A compromise that broadened the exemption passed the House earlier this month. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is also considering a presidential run, has promised to introduce a Senate version of the 20-week ban soon.

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Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, became the latest lawmaker involved in the drafting of President Obama’s health care law to undermine the case against the legislation currently being considered by the Supreme Court. In an interview with the New York Times, Snowe, who left office in 2013, said that the language at the heart of the suit was perhaps the product of “inadvertent language” and “never part of our conversations at any point.”

The plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, King vs. Burwell, say a phrase in the law -- “established by the state” -- means that only those participating in exchanges set up by the states have have access to federal tax subsidies to offset their premiums. Currently, residents in the 34 states that did not chose to set up their own exchanges have access to the subsidies through a federal exchange marketplace, which plaintiffs say contradicts the four words in question.

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All four of the GOP governors with 2016 ambitions are facing budget shortfalls back home that their critics would argue are disasters of their own doing. It puts them in a politically difficult position: consider tax increases that put their fiscal conservative credentials on the line, or move forward with ugly cuts that risk high-profile showdowns with their legislative counterparts.

Complicating matters, three of the four -- Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich -- have signed the anti-tax pledge heralded by conservative activist Grover Norquist, while New Jersey’s Chris Christie has verbally promised to not raise taxes. That limits their options to address revenues that have fallen short of expectations.

“Post-Tea Party there are new requirements for being a successful candidate if you’re a Republican,” Norquist told TPM. “And that includes reining spending more than some are willing to do.”

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With an executive order issued Tuesday evening, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made clear he intended to enforce his own version of a religious freedom proposal that hours earlier the state House had killed in committee. However, Jindal's intentions aside, legal experts tell TPM the executive order will have little practical effect.

"As far as real world effects in Louisiana? Probably not much," Keith Werhan, a professor of law at Tulane University said. But it's important to recognize, Werhan said, that this amounts to a state symbolically "legitimizing discriminatory treatment against same-sex couples."

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Jeb Bush's foundering response to the question of whether he would have invaded Iraq sparked a wave of responses from the rest of the 2016 GOP field that amounted to a broad retrenchment on the issue.

But the politics were unmistakeable. The well-funded Bush was bleeding in the water, and his rivals were happy to be the hungry sharks. Bush has now conceded it was a "bumpy" few days. But he wasn't alone in struggling with the question.

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Let a fellow student conduct an "invasive" transvaginal ultrasound on you while your teacher calls you "sexy" and suggests you should be an "escort girl," or be "blacklisted" from working at local hospitals. That is the choice sonography students at Valencia College, a community college in central Florida, allegedly faced, according to a lawsuit filed last week by two former students.

While asking students to participate voluntarily in certain procedures is not uncommon in education programs, medical professionals told TPM, forcing them to do so goes against established standards of the medical education field.

The lawsuit alleges Valencia College officials unconstitutionally forced students in its medical sonography program to submit to the “extremely invasive and often painful" transvaginal ultrasound procedure. The plaintiffs were threatened with academic and professional punishment when they brought up their concerns, including the presence of a male student who would be performing the procedure on them, the suit says.

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As Jeb Bush was tying himself into a pretzel over the Iraq War last week, a curious silence emanated from the usual cadre of Iraq War architects, boosters, and hangers-on.

The willingness of Bush's Republican primary rivals to criticize him for initially saying he supported the war — even knowing what is known now — was itself remarkable and suggests a watershed moment in the GOP's reckoning with disaster of the Iraq War. But also notable was the dog that didn't bark.

TPM reached out to a number of key figures in the run-up to the Iraq War, most of whom would not comment. We did find some Iraq War supporters who would talk, but rather than affirmatively defending the decision to go to war, they dismissed the line of questioning Jeb Bush faced as "unfair" or attributed the Iraq War failures to big government "throwing money" at the problem.

Then there was James Woolsey, the former CIA director and Iraq War advocate. He said what would have changed his support for the invasion was not 20/20 vision about WMDs or the difficulty of the occupation, but seeing how Barack Obama has handled the war.

"'I should have said in '03, ‘No, I don't want us to go to war under Barack Obama," Woolsey said.

The upshot is that the right-wing sound machine which for more than a decade came loudly to the defense of the war and savaged its critics was for the first time almost subdued in its response.

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While the country waits for a Supreme Court decision next month on gay marriage, the Republican presidential field is still grappling with gay adoption -- which is much more widely accepted by the American public than gay marriage is. None of the major GOP presidential contenders has voiced support for allowing gay adoption, and some remain opposed, even as the prevalence of gay adoption and broadening support for it has made the practice commonplace.

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