TPM News

The controversial "right to work" bill the Indiana House Democratic caucus wanted killed when it fled the state on Tuesday is dead. But the self-imposed Democratic exile lives on.

After Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) urged the Republican majority in the House to drop the bill that led Democrats to pack up and leave the state, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) obliged, saying Tuesday night that the bill -- which died thanks to the lack of a quorum prompted by the Democratic absence -- would not be placed back on the legislative agenda.

But that hasn't brought the Democrats back to Indiana. Thanks to the rules of the Indiana Legislature, Democrats say they can kill a slew of other bills they don't like just by staying away. And it sounds like they intend to do just that.

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The honeymoon is over for President Obama, as a Gallup poll released this morning shows that his approval rating fell in all 50 states over his second year in office when compared to the first one. Yet a closer look at the results reveals that Obama isn't really in such a dire position as that statistic alone makes it seem.

Yes, Obama's average approval rating was lower in every state last year than it was the year before. But that mainly reflects his approval rating having leveled off after the post-inaugural highs he enjoyed at the start of 2009.

At the time of his inauguration, Obama boasted a sparkling 66% approval rating nationwide, according to Gallup. Almost without exception, Gallup has found presidential approval ratings dipping after an inauguration, as presidents moved from campaigning to governing. Soon after his inauguration, Ronald Reagan's approval shot up to nearly 70%; at the end of year two, it was hovering around 40%.

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The U.S. Marshals Service on Tuesday released their booking photos of Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused of attempting to assassinate Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and killing others in a mass shooting spree in Tucson.

The photos were taken after the widely-circulated mugshot taken by the Pima County Sheriff's office before Loughner was placed in federal custody.

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Teachers will be the death of America's kids, according to Stephen Colbert.

Wading into the Wisconsin standoff last night, Colbert asked why the public employee unions keep refusing to give up their collective bargaining rights. He brushed aside the notion that unions were already compromising enough by agreeing to Gov. Scott Walker's (R) other budget proposals, which would effectively reduce their take-home pay.

"Sure they sound reasonable, but that's just the Wisconsin accent," Colbert said. "It makes everything sound reasonable."

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The latest episode in the long-running drama over whether U.S. drivers will be offered gasoline with more ethanol in it came very early Saturday morning.

The House of Representatives adopted an amendment to a continuing resolution on Federal spending through September 30 that would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from acting on its plan to permit distribution and sale of gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol, known as E15. The measure now goes to the Senate, where ethanol enjoys more support. A compromise continuing resolution must be passed by March 4 to avoid a shutdown of the Federal government.

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Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal has a plan to ensure no federal money helps fund abortions: eliminate virtually all federal spending, and print a special pro-life currency.

Her proposal came in response to House Republicans voting to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood last week. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), in a clip aired by The Daily Show, even warned on the House floor that Planned Parenthood had made the procedure so commonplace that women in her home state were "picking up Starbucks, living their daily lives, and stopping off for an abortion."

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In an interview Tuesday night, former Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold characterized Governor Scott Walker's crusade against public sector unions as an "assault on Wisconsin's traditions," and called on him to drop his bid to ban state and local workers from engaging in collective bargaining.

Feingold took particular issue with the threat Walker issued in his fireside chat Tuesday evening -- that if Democratic state senators don't return to Wisconsin and help him pass his legislation, thousands of state workers will lose their jobs.

"This is not about the budget at all this is about trying to destroy people's right to collectively bargain," Feingold told me. "If you begin with a dishonest approach...and begin making threats, it's a really an assault on Wisconsin's traditions. It's really something a new governor shouldn't be doing."

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MADISON, WI -- It has been a wild first day for me reporting in Madison, Wisconsin, where protests have been going non-stop at the state Capitol against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, which would not only require greater employee contributions to state benefits packages but also strip state employees of most of their collective bargaining and union rights.

As I write this, I sit inside the state Assembly chamber, where members of the Democratic minority have been speaking almost non-stop against the bill, with only occasional speeches by Republicans or questions from the GOPers to the Dems. But they aren't the only voices being heard in this chamber -- there is an ever-present sound of demonstrators in the Capitol building, chanting and banging drums against the proposal. Their volume rises and falls, from a subtle background noise to clearly audible objections inside the chamber.

When Walker's address to the state this evening, which was billed by the media as a fireside chat, came on the monitor screens in the Capitol from Wisconsin Eye -- the state equivalent of C-Span -- I could not hear even one word. He was instead drowned out by the protesters, who reached possibly their loudest volume of the whole day.

In order to understand why this proposal has struck a raw nerve in Wisconsin, to the point of having thousands or even tens of thousands of demonstrators picketing the Capitol day and night, it is important to understand the nature of progressive politics in the state -- something I learned firsthand when I was a resident of the state for six years. The Democratic Party in Wisconsin is, to an extent that is not true in most other states, a genuine labor party -- a party with deep ties to unions, with many politicians who have also been union officials, and which speaks for organized labor in key debates.

As such, a change to the state's union laws that would threaten the existence of organized labor in Wisconsin, would in turn threaten the existence of something else -- the Democratic Party in Wisconsin as people have known it for over half a century.

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