TPM News

Democratic leaders and environmental groups are lashing out at House Republicans this week over their decision to replace the cafeteria's biodegradable utensils with -- gasp -- styrofoam. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), who made the call as chair of the House Administration Committee, says that the move will save $475,000 and that the program was inefficient by its own standards according to an audit by the Inspector General. But the whole flap really started with the crappy green-friendly cups, containers, and forks.

"The utensils it utilized were unusable," Lungren told TPM. "I had complaints -- bipartisan, Republican, Democrat, constituents, employees, members of Congress -- all saying 'Could you please give us implements at mealtime that actually work?'"

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You may not have heard much about it lately, but the state House Democrats in Indiana are still on the lam, shutting down a right-to-work law and, for the time being, much Gov. Mitch Daniels' (R) education reform agenda (not to mention his presidential ambitions).

The Republican majority in the State House, cooling their heels in Indianapolis while their Democratic colleagues hunker down at a hotel in Urbana, Illinois, have now found a way to up the stakes: hit the Democrats right in their wallets. Starting Monday, the Democrats will face a fine of $250 for each day they stay away from the legislature.

The Democratic response? M'eh.

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Given how much Fox News has called teachers unions greedy for their pay and benefit packages, Jon Stewart expected them to have a consistent record of calling out greed in other sectors as well -- perhaps even in the financial sector.

Big surprise: the record is hardly consistent.

On Thursday night's Daily Show Stewart began by pretending to buy into the Fox argument that teachers are grossly overpaid.

"They're not big shot teachers with their desks and seemingly endless supply of colored construction paper."

"Oh! And their number two pencils," Stewart went on. "I suppose Number three pencils aren't good enough for Your Majesty."

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Obama, GOP Start $50 Billion Apart The Hill reports: "The Obama administration opened talks on a budget deal Thursday with congressional Republicans and Democrats, but the two sides appeared miles apart on how much to reduce this year's spending. The White House offered to slash spending by an additional $6.5 billion a day after President Obama signed short-term legislation cutting spending by $4 billion to prevent a government shutdown. Republicans, however, want $61 billion in cuts, and some dismissed the new offer from Democrats as small grapes."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET. Obama will meet with senior advisers at 10 a.m. ET, will meet with Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel at 10:45 a.m. ET, and will meet with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at 11:15 a.m. ET. Obama will depart from the White House at 12 p.m. ET, will depart from Andrews Air Force Base at 12:15 p.m. ET, and will arrive at 2:40 p.m. ET in Miami, Florida. At 3:05 p.m. Et, he will tour a classroom at Miami Central Senior High School with former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and deliver remarks at 4 p.m. ET. He will deliver remarks at a DSCC fundraiser at 5:35 p.m. ET, and deliver remarks at another DSCC fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. ET. He will depart from Miami at 8:30 p.m. ET, arriving at Andrews Air Force Base at 10:35 p.m. ET, and arriving back at the White House at 10:50 p.m. ET.

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Mike Huckabee has said he won't step into the 2012 presidential race unless he knows he can win. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, he's at least poised to clear the first hurdle in that quest - the Republican primary.

In the poll, Huckabee drew support from fully one quarter of registered Republican voters, placing him at the front of a crowded GOP field. It's the latest of a number of recent polls to show Huckabee emerging as the top choice for Republicans heading into 2012, even though he -- and virtually every other potential candidate -- has yet to announce an official candidacy.

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Rev. Terry Jones, the man who rose to national prominence last fall when he announced (but later backed off off) a plan to burn copies of the Koran, was clad in a beat-up black leather jacket when he showed up to a park across the street from the White House a few minutes before noon on Thursday.

His black sunglasses resting a few inches above his signature handlebar mustache, Jones hopped up on a bench in Lafayette Park and announced that his organization Stand Up America was holding a rally.

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As the Ohio state House prepares to take up the controversial collective bargaining and union rights provisions contained in the just-passed state Senate Bill 5, union supporters and Democrats are looking ahead to a battle that will put the legislation in the hands of people they say are on their side: the voters of Ohio.

Though they plan to fight SB 5 tooth-and-nail as it works its way through the Republican-controlled House, leaders of the SB 5 opposition tell TPM that they don't expect to win there. There are 59 Republicans in the House and just 40 Democrats, meaning there's little chance for a repeat of the drama seen in the Senate, where SB 5 passed by just one vote.

But, thanks to the eccentricities of Ohio law, passage in the House doesn't mean SB 5 is guaranteed to go into effect. Though they more than likely can't stop it in the legislature, the opposition can potentially block its implementation by promising to take it on at the ballot box. That means the fight over SB 5 could extend for months -- maybe even all the way to November, 2012.

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Secretary of State Charlie White, the top election official in Indianapolis, is facing seven felony counts, including voter fraud, perjury and theft, all connected to what a prosecutor said was an attempt to hold on to his seat on the town council even though he was living outside of his designated district.

White was indicted by a grand jury in Hamilton County on three counts of voter fraud for allegedly lying about his address when he voted in last year's Republican primary, the Courier-Journal reports. In addition he's facing charges of perjury, fraud on a financial institution (for lying about his address) and theft for keeping the salary he received as a member of his town council after he moved out of his designated district.

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