TPM News

by Marie C. Baca, ProPublica

For more than two years, the natural gas drilling debate has focused primarily on the use of hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells. But expert testimony submitted for a government hearing next month challenges long-held assumptions about the safety of deep vertical drilling and exploratory wells, which operate in many states with limited regulatory oversight.

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Obama's Tax Cut Extension Part Of Strategy To Show Bipartisanship The Washington Post reports: "Although his liberal supporters are furious about the decision, President Obama's willingness to extend all of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts is part of what White House officials say is a deliberate strategy: to demonstrate his ability to compromise with Republicans and portray the president as the last reasonable man in a sharply partisan Washington. The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party's midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10:05 a.m. ET. Obama will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. ET. Obama will receive the economy daily briefing at 2 p.m. ET. He will meet with senior advisers at 5 p.m. ET.

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Add Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to the list of Democrats who say the Senate should stay open long enough to give Republicans the time they require to bring the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers to an end. Asked by TPM yesterday if he supported Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) call for the Senate to keep the lame duck session going past the scheduled break if necessary to get repeal passed, Levin's office confirmed his endorsement of the idea.

Levin's the chair of the Armed Services Committee, and a powerful backer of repeal. But he's just the latest Democrat to say he'll work through Christmas if it means bringing the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers to an end. Yesterday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) signed on via her Twitter feed.

A Democratic leadership aide tells TPM that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is working behind the scenes to get Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed this year, but didn't commit to keeping Senators in town longer than planned to get it done. In order to keep the doors open longer than scheduled, Reid would need the vote of the entire Democratic caucus

"Senator Reid is focused right now on working out an amendment strategy that will get the necessary 60 votes to pass a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the aide said. "This is a law he thinks should be addressed once and for all this Congress, before we adjourn for the holidays."

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A three-judge panel heard oral arguments yesterday in the legal challenge against Proposition 8, the ballot measure that made same-sex marriage illegal in California. The arguments, made before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, hinged on two things: First, whether the same-sex marriage opponents who filed the appeal actually have the standing to do so; and second, whether the ban is constitutional.

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Insufficient resources, lack of training for investigators and a variety of other problems have plagued the Defense Department system intended to investigate allegations of retaliation against military whistleblowers, according to a recently disclosed government report. At the same time, the number of military whistleblower retaliation allegations has "more than doubled" from fewer than 300 in 1997 to nearly 600 in 2007, according to the report.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained a copy of the 2009 report, "A Review of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General's Process for Handling Military Whistleblower Reprisal Allegations," which was written by the Justice Department Inspector General's office at the request of the Department of Defense Inspector General Gordon Heddell.

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Democratic Congressional leaders are steamed at President Obama for locking in a deal with Republicans to extend all the Bush tax cuts temporarily. It's just caving, they say, and it punts the tax cut fight into the next election. But in exchange for agreeing to the extension, Obama got Republicans to agree to a year-long extension of unemployment benefits, and a year-long, two percentage point reduction in the payroll tax, meant to mimic a temporary extension of the tax breaks that were in the stimulus bill. Each of these concessions will inject much-needed demand into the economy. Could this silver lining be bright enough to make the extension of all the cuts worth it?

According to progressive economists, it will help, but won't make a huge dent.

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This Wednesday, before we ever get to votes on the tax cut compromise, we're going to see a flurry of activity in the Senate with four separate cloture votes, including big ticket items like the DREAM Act, and a Cost of Living Adjustment for seniors. It's in the nature of how this stuff works, though, that if you move like this simultaneously on four things at once, you're basically announcing that you know at least three of them will fail.

And given this, it's almost certainly all four.

Senior White House officials tonight put a positive spin on the tax cut framework President Obama has agreed to with the GOP, while insisting, repeatedly, that they oppose -- and will only reluctantly swallow -- a two year extension of the Bush tax cuts. But the tentative deal is now subject to the consideration of Congressional Democrats who have already telegraphed serious concerns with the plan.

On a conference call with reporters, administration officials boasted of securing nearly $200 billion in new stimulus measures -- a one-year, two-percent payroll tax cut, and a year-long extension of unemployment insurance -- in exchange for giving the wealthiest Americans two further years of tax cuts. But though this framework will punt the tax cut fight into the 2012 elections, frightening a number of Congressional Democrats, the officials insist that they will not shy away from the fight as election season heats up.

Addressing the media tonight, President Obama outlined the compromise.

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1||December 5, 2010: Celebrities and politicians gathered over the weekend to celebrate this year's Kennedy Center honorees. Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, country singer Merle Haggard, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones received the cultural accolade. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined the recipients during the gala held at the Kennedy Center in Washington. A recording of the event is scheduled to air December 28 on CBS.

Here are more photos from the weekend's events.||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

2||Former Beatles bassist Paul McCartney at a reception in the White House's East Room.||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

3||Bill T. Jones (left), Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey during a reception in the East Room.||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

4||Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

5||Legendary television host Oprah Winfrey||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

6||Country singer/songwriter Merle Haggard||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

7||Actress Julia Roberts opened the ceremony, describing Oprah's show as a "universal conversation starter."||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

8||Actor Alec Baldwin introduced Paul McCartney's tribute.||Gary Fabiano/SIPA/Newscom&&

9||First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at the Kennedy Center in Washington.||Gary Fabiano/CNP/Newscom&&

10||President Obama delivers remarks during a reception in the White House's East Room. From left, Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Bill T. Jones, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.||Gary Fabiano/UPI/Newscom&&

11||December 4: Politicians and family alike arrived on the red carpet for the Artists Dinner at the State Department.

Former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith (center) with William Kennedy Smith and Victoria Reggie Kennedy.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

12||Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) with his wife, Abigail.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

13||Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' Face the Nation with his wife, Patricia.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

14||Iconic singer Smokey Robinson, a 2006 Kennedy Center honoree.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

15||Kenneth Duberstein, who served as former President Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, arrives with his wife, Jacqueline.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

16||Actor John Lithgow||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

17||CBS President and CEO Les Moonves with his wife, Julie Chen.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

18||Gwen Stefani, singer for the Grammy-award winning band No Doubt.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

19||Actor Laurence Fishburne and his wife, Gina.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

20||Actress and singer Christine Ebersole and her husband, William Moloney.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

21||Musician Norah Jones and Michael Martin.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

22||Actor John Travolta on Sunday decided to skip dinner and visit the Peking Gourmet Inn, a restaurant made famous by former President George W. Bush.||MeetTheFamous/Mark Wilkins/Newscom&&

23||Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) with his wife, Lucy Calautti, back at the Artists Dinner at the State Department.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

24||Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and an unidentified guest.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

25||Tennis legend John McEnroe arriving Sunday for the Kennedy Center Honors.||MeetTheFamous/Mark Wilkins/Newscom&&

26||Legendary singer Diana Ross, a 2007 Kennedy Center honoree, arrives at the Artists Dinner with her son.||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

27||Actor Kelsey Grammer and his fiance, Kayte Walsh.||PAPFIRST/Splash News/Newscom&&

28||Former House Speaker and potential 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, arrive at the festivities Sunday.||MIKE THEILER/UPI/Newscom&&

29||Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and his wife, Alma, on Sunday.||TRIPPLAAR KRISTOFFER/SIPA/Newscom&&

30||U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and her husband, Gary, arrive at the Artist's Dinner.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

31||Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and his wife, Marjorie Anne.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom &&

32||Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his wife, Janet.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

33||Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

34||Michael M. Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.||WASHINGTON POOL/SIPA/Newscom&&

35||Bill T. Jones, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey||Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom&&

The White House and GOP reached an agreement in principle today to extend all the Bush tax cuts for two years, TPM has confirmed.

In exchange, the GOP has agreed to the Kyl-Lincoln estate tax compromise: raising the estate tax on estates larger than $5 million to 35 percent for two years and continuing to exempt smaller estates. The GOP has also agreed to a temporary stimulative payroll tax cut: instead of extending the making-work-pay tax credit in the stimulus bill, they've reportedly tentatively agreed to a one-year, two percent reduction in the payroll tax. Lastly, the Republicans have agreed to a extend unemployment benefits retroactively from December through the end of 2011 -- 13 months altogether.

These details were first reported by the Daily Caller.

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