TPM News

Kelly Ayotte, the frontrunner in New Hampshire's Republican Senate primary and a Sarah Palin-approved "Mama Grizzly," has two new TV ads out touting her record as a tough-on-crime state attorney general. The new spots -- one 60 seconds long, the other 30 seconds -- tell the story of Mike Briggs, a police officer shot and killed in the line of duty. It was Kelly Ayotte, the ads say, who brought Briggs's killer to justice by seeking the death penalty.

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With the help of a handful of Republicans, Senate Democrats this morning broke a filibuster on legislation that will provide needed aid to states, preserving jobs for teachers, and boosting federal contributions to Medicaid. But with passage now imminent, Democrats have a problem: the House just adjourned for a five week recess, and until they too pass the legislation, the aid to states is only hypothetical.

This afternoon, though, a House leadership aide confirmed to TPMDC that party leaders may call members back from their districts to pass the bill and allow President Obama to sign it into law.

Most Republicans oppose the legislation, characterizing it as a bailout for unionized teachers. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid secured the votes of Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) by making sure the package does not add to the federal deficit.

We'll follow up when we know more.

Here's something you don't hear very often: a prominent Republican's policy position is too conservative for Alan Keyes. Speaking at a Tea Party Express-sponsored event in Washington this morning, Keyes said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is being irresponsible by suggesting, as he did recently, that the 14th Amendment may have been a bad idea.

Graham told Fox News that he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would remove automatic birthright citizenship for all babies born in the United States, even if their parents are here illegally. Graham and other Republicans have been whipping up opposition to the 14th Amendment, which they say encourages illegal immigrants to come to America with the plan to have babies who will automatically become U.S. citizens.

Keyes suggested that he shared the concern over so-called "anchor babies" with Graham and his allies, but he said that "the 14th Amendment is not the problem." Rather, he seemed to suggest, it's a mistaken interpretation of the amendment that's at fault. Changing the wording of the amendment would be a mistake, Keyes said -- and talk like Graham's is downright dangerous.

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With a depleted majority expected next January, Democrats will have a decision to make: accept (no) business as usual in the Senate; or change the rules to erode Republicans' ability to obstruct legislation. It's an issue that few in the caucus are prepared to grapple with, and many would prefer to ignore, but a cadre of Democratic freshman plan to force it on day one of the 112th Congress. At stake will likely be the functioning of the federal government, and the party's ability to restore the economy and deliver on their agenda. Yet despite such a stark choice, some in their own party are encouraging them to back off, and even supporters are damping expectations of success.

The leader of the push for rules reform is Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), whose black cowboy boots and western twang complement his rebellious streak: he thinks the Senate is enamored of itself, hostile to change, and that it's time for all that to end.

"You have to be responsive to what you see, and what you see is a broken institution, and you have to reform that institution," Udall told TPMDC in his Senate office this week.

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli today spoke candidly about already preparing for a reelection bid in 2013, saying that he knows his office's challenge to the Obama administration is attracting national attention.

In an interview on MSNBC's Daily Rundown this morning, Cuccinelli (R) said the lawsuits against environmental regulations and health care reform and a ruling that police can check immigration status means he's getting on the radar.

"I'm not a fool, I'm becoming a target, and I know I'm going to get a bigger target," he said.

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Yet another high-ranking Republican is eyeing the notion of changing the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship for children who are born in the United States but whose parents are illegal immigrants. And this time it's a very senior name -- Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Grassley's communications director Jill Kozeny told the Iowa Independent: "For the past few years, Sen. Grassley has told constituents he's concerned about the number of births in the United States by illegal immigrants wanting only to secure citizenship and benefits, and that he'd consider legislation to clarify the 14th amendment, especially if a comprehensive immigration bill is put forward. He'd agree that a hearing with legal experts and other parties of interest would help determine if changes are warranted."

Grassley joins the ranks of other top Republicans in calling for a review of this as an issue, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and possibly -- depending on some ambiguity -- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

A new CNN poll finds that more than a quarter of Americans are birthers -- or at least "birther curious."

The poll, released today, reports that 11% of Americans think President Obama was "definitely" not born in the United States, while an additional 16% think he "probably" isn't a native-born citizen. Twenty-nine percent of Americans think Obama "probably" was born in the U.S., and only 42% are certain he was.

The poll's results show a clear partisan disparity. A full 41% of Republicans think that Obama was "definitely" or "probably" born outside the U.S., views shared by 29% of Independents and 15% of Democrats. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats believe that the president "probably" or "definitely" is a native-born citizen.

CNN's poll has a margin of error of ±3.0 percentage points.

Appearing on Fox News today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) fired back at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) criticism of Republicans like himself who favor changing the 14th Amendment in order to eliminate birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrant parents.

Graham was asked about Reid's statement that Republicans backing this idea -- including Graham, who has said he wants to introduce a new constitutional amendment -- have "either taken leave of their senses or their principles."

"Have I taken leave of my senses by looking at a law that rewards people who break our own laws, that incentivizes the next wave of illegal immigration?" said Graham. "Am I being unfair to say that we're gonna grant citizenship on our terms, not yours? Am I being unfair to say that we don't want laws in place that will require the third wave of illegal immigrants to be dealt with.

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While yesterday's vote in Missouri against national health care reform will have little substantive impact on the federal health care reform law, Republicans nonetheless are hailing it as a major victory for their side. Voters in the Show Me State overwhelmingly voted to change Missouri statutes so the mandate for insurance coverage wouldn't apply, a symbolic gesture that everyone acknowledges is highly unlikely to have any effect on the federal health care reform law (absent major and unexpected changes to established legal precedent).

But don't tell RNC Chairman Michael Steele, House Minority Leader John Boehner or former Alaska governor Sarah Palin that.

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