TPM News

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who appears to currently be in the midst of a tea party conversion out of fear he'll become the next Bob Bennett, has found a new conservative hard line to cling to. At CPAC last week, it was beating up Washington. On Thursday, it was taking swings at Wisconsin protestors.

In a statement to reporters, Hatch said the thousands of state union workers gathered in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol were crossing the line by exercising their right to Freedom of Assembly.

"This is not the way public servants should behave," Hatch said.

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The Department of Justice has asked the Florida district court that voided the health care law for some clarification.

DOJ spokeperson Tracy Schmaler says the administration wants to confirm "that the court did not intend to disrupt the many programs currently in effect, including small business tax credits, the millions of dollars in federal grants awarded to states to help with health care costs, and other ongoing consumer protections while this case is on appeal." Depending on the court's response, the administration could still seek a stay from this court or the court of appeals.

You can read their entire motion below.

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Some of the missing Wisconsin Democratic state senators were located today -- but only briefly. The local ABC affiliate in Milwaukee reported that some of the Dems were found at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, a hotel in Rockford, Illinois, just a short distance over the state line. But now, Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson tells TPMDC that they've left that location.

"I can say that some of us were there, but there's nobody there anymore," said Larson.

I then asked Larson why they left. "Well, it came out, a reporter stopped, and we heard that there were others on the way," said Larson. "So we wanted to make sure the story is not so much about where we are, or where we're going, but where Wisconsin is, and where Wisconsin is going."

"We weren't all there, we haven't all been in the same location," Larson also added. "We're moving around."

When asked whether the Dems ever checked into rooms at the hotel, Larson said that he could not speak for all his colleagues who were there, but he personally never checked in.

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1||Similar to the changing seasons here on Earth, the Sun undergoes cycles every five to six years between periods quiet and stability, and of activity. 2011 marks the high season for solar activity including flares, sunspots, and solar wind that when buffeting the Earth, disrupts communications and satellites. On Wednesday this week, the sun released its largest solar flare in four years - the biggest since Dec 6, 2006.||NASA Goddard Photo and Video&&

2||A photo of solar activity. In the upper right there is a loop of superheated gas erupting from the sun's surface.||NASA&&

3||A photo of the Dec. 6, 2006 flare.||NASA Goddard Photo and Video&&

4||A close-up view of a sun-spot from 2007.||NASA Scientific Visualization Studio&&

5||The last time the sun was this active was in 2000-2001. This is a coronograph from 2000 depicting the sun's corona, the atmosphere of the sun composed of plasma and ions. The corona extends millions of miles above the surface of the sun.||NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory&&

6||A powerful solar flare from 2003.||NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory&&

7||A 1970s x-ray image taken of the sun's outer corona. Pictures like this helped astronomers and physicists discover how large the sun's atmosphere really is.||NASA Marshall Space Flight Center&&

8||A coronal loop exploding from the sun's surface. Thirty lined-up Earths could fit in this loop. || NASA Solarsystem Collection&&

9||Another photo of solar activity. Solar flares send gas into space at more than five million miles per hour.||NASA&&

10||The bright spots and streaks around this 1997 coronograph are according to NASA, "High energetic (E>100 MeV) protons accelerated at the site of the flare."||NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory&&

11||A photo of solar activity taken Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011.||NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center&&

12||This 2003 photo captures what was then the largest solar flare to date. It released over a billion tons of gas and matter from the sun.||NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory &&

13|| ||NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory &&

14||A NASA illustration comparing the size of Earth to the size of the Sun. Over 900,000 Earths could fit inside the Sun. ||NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Collection&&

15||Four different views of the sun.||NASA Goddard Photo and Video&&

16||A 2009 photograph from Earth of the Space Shuttle passing in front of the Sun.||ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

17||||NASA Solar System Eclipse Gallery&&

Mark Miller, the Democratic Minority Leader in the Wisconsin state Senate, spoke via phone to CNN Thursday afternoon, saying that Republicans would have to convince Democrats they could "enter into a responsible dialogue" and drop Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union budget proposals, in order to end the Democrats' walkout to block a supermajority quorum for the state budget.

Miller was also asked where he and the Democrats were, in response to reports that the missing politicians had left the state in order to prevent authorities from forcing them back to the legislature. Miller would not get specific -- though he did make it clear the Dems aren't all together.

"We are located in what we consider a secure location outside the Capitol," said Miller. "We are not all in one place at this time."

Separately, Dem state Sen. Jon Erpenbach has said that he believes all 14 Democratic legislators are outside the state.

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As you've probably heard, Wisconsin state Democratic senators are playing hooky to create legislative gridlock and block governor Scott Walker's attempt to roll back public worker rights.

Republican Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald countered by dispatching the Sergeant at Arms and the state police to round up Democrats-on-the-lam and herd them back to the Capitol.

Except they're nowhere to be found -- and many of them have reportedly crossed state lines, leaving Fitzgerald powerless.

If you feel like you've seen this all before, it's because you have.

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As Democratic legislators flee the Wisconsin state capitol in protest of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget and its limits on bargaining powers for public employee unions, one of Wisconsin's most prominent progressive leaders is coming out swinging.

Former Rep. David Obey (D-WI), a 41-year veteran of the House, the former chairman of the Appropriations Committee and an icon in Wisconsin politics, assailed Gov. Scott Walker for engaging in "political thuggery" and accused him of channeling toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before his fall.

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