TPM News

It's official: As expected in the big swing state of Ohio, where Republicans gained control of state government in the 2010 wave and then enacted a new law to limit collective bargaining for public employee unions, voters will now head back to the polls in November 2011 -- to potentially repeal that same law before it could ever take effect.

If the bill is repealed by voters, it would be a significant defeat to Republican Gov. John Kasich, and a potential dry run for the 2012 campaigns in the state. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that repealing the bill had a lead of either slightly under or over 20 points, depending on the wording of the question.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has certified that the petition process, which put the law completely on hold, has met the signature thresholds, and that the bill be put up to a referendum this November.

This move was widely expected, and was only a matter of working out the bureaucratic process, because it was already public knowledge that organizers had surpassed the minimum signatures by several times over.

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Without going into detail, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he's prepared his caucus -- including the most dug-in, conservative members who oppose raising the debt limit under almost all circumstances -- that they'll have to compromise. But he still can't say publicly, with certainty, that the votes will be there to raise the debt limit before August 2, and thus avoid a catastrophic default.

Asked by a reporter at his weekly Thursday Capitol press conference whether he's prepared his stubborn members for the fact that a deal to raise the debt limit will require compromise, Boehner said simply, "I have."

But he gave mixed signals about whether he'll be able to squeeze a debt limit bill through the Congress before August 2.

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Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), with the help of Republicans leaders, is launching a sneak attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the only quasi-independent ethics watchdog policing the behavior of members of Congress.

Watt, a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, may be looking for some retribution against the office for investigating him last year. Along with a bipartisan group of several other members, Watt was part of a wide-ranging OCE probe into the propriety of holding fundraising events with big players in the financial sector within days -- or even on the very day -- of a vote on the Wall Street reform bill. He and the other members were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing but not before the investigation leaked to the press and he and the other members made "under investigation" headlines.

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Stephen Colbert has only one explanation why politicians he doesn't vote for are elected: voter fraud!

Colbert on Wednesday addressed the rise of restrictive voter ID laws around the country, saying they ensure only the right people vote. Take New Hampshire Republican House Speaker Bill O'Brien. Back in March, TPM reported that he wanted to disenfranchise students who "just vote their feelings."

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Some "entrepreneurs" in Kunming, in the southwestern part of China, have taken the art of copying U.S. ideas and products to a whole new level -- they've created entire fake Apple stores.

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Well, so much for that.

Grover Norquist has walked back his claim to the Washington Post that allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire would not count as a tax increase, and now the Speaker of the House suggests Grover's views are neither here nor there -- he opposes letting even some of the Bush tax cuts to expire.

"I believe that would be raising taxes," John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters at his weekly Capitol press briefing.

So that's not going to happen. "I've never voted to raise taxes, and I don't intend to," Boehner said.

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Looking to spin his campaign struggles into a gritty turnaround story, Tim Pawlenty's latest Iowa ad is appropriately titled "The American Comeback."

The 30-second spot begins with shots of the 1980 US hockey team, who famously beat the heavily favored USSR in the "Miracle On Ice." It's a dual metaphor, with Pawlenty linking the come-from-behind image to both the American economy and his own campaign.

"Out here you're tested," Pawlenty says in the ad. "You face an opponent experts say can't be beat. You fight, you bleed, you prevail. Our country's down but we're not out. To come back we need a leader with a proven record, not just rhetoric."

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The big question bedeviling the Capitol Thursday is whether anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist just gave House Republicans the coded signal that they can vote for a bill to reduce deficits and raise the debt limit even if the plan contains new tax revenue.

In an interview with the Washington Post's editorial board, Norquist addressed the question of the Bush tax cuts -- which are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. "Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase," Norquist said. Would that violate his anti-tax pledge? "We wouldn't hold it that way," he said.

Democrats are latching on to this to press Republicans to back off their insistence that any debt limit package be revenue neutral. At a Capitol press conference Thursday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) read the quotes out loud to reporters. "I think Mr. Norquist has made a very important statement that I hope they each take into consideration," Hoyer said, referring to House Republicans.

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For decades we've been using flash memory to store pictures. For nearly as long, we've been promised that this type of memory will someday be fast and durable enough to replace computer memory.

That day is in sight, thanks in part to a laboratory advance from Korean electronics giant Samsung.

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