TPM News

Health care reform advocates are wise to the hidden middle-class taxes that passed the House last week, and are doing their best to kill them.

The groups Families USA and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have argued publicly against the proposal, and House and Senate Democrats have circulated memos on the Hill to raise awareness of the impact the proposal will have.

As explained here, the penalties are designed to offset the cost of repealing a tax requirement on businesses. They work in several ways, but one would have particularly adverse consequences for middle-income consumers, and for the popularity of the health care law itself.

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The leading conservative newspaper in Massachusetts is not buying Mitt Romney 2012. At least that's the takeaway from this weekend's coverage of Romney's New Hampshire speech, which most in the press corps have viewed as the starting gun for Romney's second presidential run.

Romney, of course, was governor of The Bay State from 2003 to 2007 and highlighted his time in office with his signature on a state health care reform plan that looks awfully like the one President Obama signed into law last year. That fact has gotten Romney into more than a little hot water with the tea party faithful on the national stage, who want to know nothing from his mandates and required coverage options.

Romney's been backing away from the Massachusetts health care plan for a while now, and his speech in New Hampshire this weekend included yet another attempt.

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Wisconsin state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, head of the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals, has now sent a letter to Walker and GOP Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald offering to meet in person for negotiations -- at the Illinois state line.

Sunday night, Miller and the Dems were knocking back a report in the Wall Street Journal that they were soon to return to the state and allow a vote on Walker's plan. Instead, Miller is now reaching out to Walker to continue negotiations at the Illinois border.

Key quote from the letter:

I assure you that Democratic State Senators, despite our differences and the vigorous debate we have had, remain ready and willing to find a reasonable compromise. To that end, I would ask that you or your authorized representatives agree to meet with us near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to formally resume serious discussions as soon as possible.

The people of Wisconsin are overwhelmingly supportive of us reaching a bipartisan, negotiated compromise. Senate Democrats stand ready to do just that, we ask that you do the same.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirms to TPM that the Civil Rights Division has an ongoing investigation into whether a town council in Gwinnett County, Ga., denied a mosque a land use permit because of its religion.

As first reported by WSBTV, the Lilburn City Council has voted several times to deny the Dar-e Abbas Shia Islamic Center's rezoning and special use permit requests, which would allow the mosque to move to a larger property and build a cemetery.

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For all his tough talk and firm governing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is apparently making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy.

In a new Quinnipiac poll out Monday morning, registered voters nationwide gave Christie the highest average favorable marks of any current politician -- even placing him above President Obama. Yet while that says something positive about Christie himself, it does not bode so well for the Republican Party in general. That result, combined with the comparatively weak showing by the presumed candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, underscores the absence of an enthusing, true Republican front runner heading into 2012.

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Weeks away from the first debates of the Republican presidential primary and the pool of candidates is uncertain and getting smaller, leaving open the possibility of a much tinier and less predictable field than was widely expected.

It's more than just hesitance among potential contenders to form an exploratory committee or formally announce a campaign. Few, if any, observers doubt Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty will hop in the race, for example. But the two potential candidates with arguably the largest group of core supporters, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, are sending mixed signals about a possible run, with major implications for the rest of the field.

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