TPM News

Madison, WI -- In a major victory for the protesters at the Wisconsin state Capitol -- who were supposed to clear out at 4 p.m. CT today, but have remained inside in the hundreds -- Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs has announced that those protesters still in the building will be able to stay the night.

Protesters will be able to sleep on the ground floor, as cleaning is done of the upper floors. Tubbs said there had been no decisions made yet on what the policy would be for successive nights.

"There will be no arrests, as we said before, there will be no use of force," Tubbs said. "We want the people to continue to cooperate and work within the guidelines and the laws of the state of Wisconsin. So there'll be no one asked to leave the Capitol tonight."

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MADISON, WI -- The Wisconsin state Capitol is still bustling with loud protesters, more than an hour after the state's official 4 p.m. CT closure time came and went. So far there have been only a limited signs of people leaving -- and zero signs of arrests or compulsion to leave.

If anybody does leave, of course, they will not be able to get back in. Thus, I am holed up in the Capitol's press room, on the second upper floor, as I write this dispatch surrounded by other reporters.

A few hundred people are crowded on the first upper floor, continuing to go through the chants that have been heard throughout the demonstrations: "This is what democracy looks like!"; "Recall Walker!"; singing of "Solidarity Forever," "The Star-Spangled Banner," and many more.

Even the multiple police officers that I've spoken to say that they do not know whether there are plans to make any arrests.

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The state Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin, is now overflowing with protesters, in a demonstration that is even bigger than last Saturday's massive demonstration -- and in freezing, snowy weather to boot.

Last Saturday's protest was huge, with estimates of 55,000 or more. But many other reporters I've spoken to agree that there are even more today. The Wisconsin State Journal posted at 12:30 p.m. local time -- before the rally began -- that the crowd size was almost 70,000 people. I should add that it has only gotten significantly bigger since then.

On top of that, last Saturday was sunny and relatively warm for February, while this afternoon it's 17 degrees Fahrenheit with heavy snow coming down.

So take this as a clear sign that even if the Wisconsin Assembly has passed Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, with its anti-public employee union proposals, the passion of demonstrators here is not dying down. The bill is still stuck in the state Senate -- where the minority Democrats have left the state in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum -- and each step of this process might only turn up the political heat.

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The protests that have deluged the Wisconsin Capitol are now being wound down -- at least the ones insides are -- with the Capitol Police announcing today that the building will close down on Sunday.

Preparations for the shutdown have already begun, with protesters asked to remove items such as mattresses, tables, chairs, appliances and boxes from the building. On Saturday, protesters will no longer be allowed to bring blankets or sleeping bags inside.

Key quote from the press release:

"We are closing the Capitol for a short period of time for public health reasons, as well as for general building maintenance," Chief Tubbs said. "Everyone agrees that our State Capitol is a source of pride for our state and that we should take a break to take care of the building. People have been very respectful of the building, law enforcement and staff to this point. Since the beginning, protest organizers have worked very cooperatively with law enforcement. Based on discussions with them about the need to return to normal business hours, Capitol Police is anticipating that a thorough cleaning can begin at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. As always, the top priority of Capitol Police is ensuring the safety of everyone at the Capitol. I thank everyone in advance for their cooperation.

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Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) just held another press conference at which he urged the 14 state Senate Democrats who have left the state to come back and no longer block the three-fifths budget quorum.

Interestingly, of the five questions that the state reporters asked Walker, none were about the issue that took up considerable time in his Wednesday and Thursday pressers: His phone call with blogger Ian Murphy, who was posing as Republican financier David Koch. Instead, all questions were about the issues of the budget process, possible layoffs of state and local employees, and the protests that have been going on in the Capitol.

Walker started by praising the State Assembly for all its work in its marathon, 60-plus hour debate on the budget -- with its controversial anti-public employee union provisions -- which ultimately passed late last night. "They're doing what we hope the Senate Democrats will do," Walker said, "and that is actually showing up and having a vote."

Walker said he'd also travelled around Wisconsin today, to Kenosha, Green Bay and Rhinelander -- that is, to the districts of Democratic state Senators Robert Wirch, Dave Hansen and Jim Holperin -- saying that he hoped "ultimately to make an appeal to the constituents in their districts, and the constituents of all those who are missing in action."

Newt Gingrich knows a thing or two about presidential impeachments. And after the Obama's administration's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, Gingrich says the smell impeachment is in the air once again.

Speaking with Newsmax, the former House Speaker and oft-rumored 2012 presidential contender said that the Obama administration's decision to no longer defend DOMA in federal court is a "a violation" of President Obama's "Constitutional oath and clearly it is something which cannot be allowed to stand."

The host asked Gingrich "is what Obama's doing impeachable in your view?"

Gingrich: "I think that's something you get to much later."

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After a week of escalating rhetoric, House Republicans appear to be backing away from a possible shutdown, offering an olive branch to Senate Democrats with a short-term resolution to fund the federal government.

Late Friday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee put out a new plan to extend funding for two weeks beyond the March 4 deadline to pass a continuing resolution or shut down the government. Included in the proposal are $4 billion in cuts broadly in line with Democratic proposals -- $1.24 billion from programs that President Obama has already called on Congress to cut and another $2.7 billion from removing all earmarks, another plan with White House backing.

"This is a vitally important measure to prevent a government shutdown and we sincerely hope that Senate Democrats will join us in supporting this reasonable measure that contains cuts and terminations that they have voiced support for," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement. Earlier that day, Cantor said in a conference call with reporters that a shutdown "is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans."

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Yesterday we told you about the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, the group behind the website behind that sketchy poll of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposals. But the trail doesn't end there. Turns out, there is another group that's behind the Franklin Center: the conservative, Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance.

The groups share a conservative philosophy and opaque financing, and it turns out that the Alliance is behind another conservative group making its presence felt in Wisconsin these days: American Majority, the organization behind last Saturday's pro-Walker counter-rallies in Madison.

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Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is backing President Obama's hard line on mortgage abuses with his own wide-ranging investigation into foreclosure fraud.

Obama has been trying to broker a deal that would have the nation's largest mortgage lenders agree to cough up as much as $30 billion in fines to settle state and federal claims they abused borrowers and illegally foreclosed on homes, according to media reports citing state and federal officials engaged in the discussions.

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Liberal is a four letter word.

Citing polling data culled from a year of nationwide surveys, Gallup found that there are more self-identified conservatives than liberals in every single state in America. Even in deep blue Rhode Island, where 29.3% called themselves liberals, even more people, 29.9%, identified as conservative.

That does not mean that that there are more Republicans than Democrats. but it does show that the conservative brand has a far more positive connotation than liberal does. Republicans -- especially those with presidential aspirations -- are quick to tout their conservatism at events like CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee. Democrats, meanwhile, are hardly rushing to form LPAC.

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