TPM News

Republicans may have a point that Democrats are playing politics with oil subsidies. To understand why, look no further than the fact that the bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring to the floor for a vote Tuesday evening doesn't pass basic constitutional muster.

"The question is if the bill passes the Senate, it will run into a blue-slip problem," Reid said at his weekly Capitol press conference. Blue slipping is the process the House uses to reject Senate bills that impact tax and spending.

Reid joked, "That's the least of my worries."

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In a column for The American Spectator, Former Nixon speechwriter and TV game show host Ben Stein called the U.S. public's reaction to the arrest of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York City this weekend "shameful," and wondered aloud if "[Strauss-Kahn] is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn't he ever get charged until now?"

"If he's found guilty, there will be plenty of time to criticize him and imprison him," Stein wrote. "But nothing has been proved yet except that the way this case has been handled so far is an embarrassment to this country."

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Newt Gingrich is facing criticism for yet another idea he has floated during his presidential campaign -- that the country bring back tests for voting, which were banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a tool used to suppress African-American voters. Now, Think Progress reports, none other than Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL), an African-American, is disagreeing -- and referring to the sort of discrimination that his own parents faced.

Think Progress asked West about Gingrich's position that there should be a required knowledge of history in order to vote.

"I mean, that's going back to some, you know, times that my parents had to contend with," said West, who then segued into discussing his concerns with America's education system failing young people, and his admiration of a high school student in his district who has sought to be an intern for him.

He returned to the subject in conclusion: "I think that we need to do a better job educating our young men and women in school, but we don't need to have a litmus test, no."

In the pre-Voting Rights Act era, the Jim Crow states used literacy tests as a means of preventing African-Americans from registering to vote. Local registrars (who were all white) would often exempt white voters entirely or only give them a simple task, compared to a complex series of civics questions given to black citizens. (Here is an actual literacy test used in Alabama.)

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In an 8-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court said that police did not violate the Fourth Amendment barring "unreasonable searches and seizures" when they smelled marijuana outside a Lexington, Kentucky apartment, knock loudly, announced themselves and -- after hearing what they thought was the sound of evidence being destroyed -- entered without a warrant.

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It's been a rough few days for the newly-minted presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, and a new report about his personal spending surely won't improve things. As Politico reports, six years ago Gingrich owed a six-figure debt to Tiffany & Co jewelers:

Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, retired in 1999. But his wife, Callista Gingrich, was employed by the House Agriculture Committee until 2007, according to public records. She listed a "revolving charge account" at Tiffany and Company in the liability section of her personal financial disclosure form for two consecutive years and indicated that it was her spouse's debt. The liability was reported in the range of $250,001 to $500,000.

The most recent disclosure form covers the years 2005 and 2006.

Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler gave no comment to Politico, when asked about the nature of the debt and whether it was paid off. TPM also asked Tyler about the matter, and received no comment.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), fresh from a trip to Pakistan aimed at repairing deeply frayed relations with the United States, said Tuesday the two nations are at a critical crossroads and cautioned against either side taking precipitous action.

Kerry spent the weekend meeting with Pakistani officials and trying to determine steps that would assuage the deep distrust between the two nations after the discovery of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan and his subsequent killing in a covert operation by a Navy SEALs team.

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Republicans senators who in the past have supported ending tax subsidies to big oil companies are prepared to vote Tuesday night with their party leadership to keep those subsidies in place.

"I'm going to vote with my party," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during a Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. "I just think oil subsidies have to be part of a bigger package. If you had expanded drilling, I would consider reducing the subsidies or eliminating them if you got more drilling as part of the package.

"I'm leaning against it because it looks like it's political," said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

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Ousted from the Senate in 2010, Russ Feingold, may have fewer Democratic friends to count on if he chooses to enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI). The progressive icon eviscerated his former colleagues in an e-mail for his advocacy group Progressive United on Tuesday, accusing two prominent Democrats of enabling "corruption" by opposing new transparency measures on political donations.

"This culture of corporate influence and corruption is precisely what we as Progressives United want to change," he wrote. "So we've decided to take on those legislators who are unwilling to stand up to corporate power, and we're naming names."

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who is under fire for attacking Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) proposal to privatize Medicare, and has also backed away from his past support for an individual health insurance mandate, now has a message for the public: The issues are so complex, that his positions will be "evolving."

The Des Moines Register reported Monday night:

"The challenges that we face are so big, that no one has the solutions. And we're going to have to run a campaign where ideas keep evolving," the former U.S. House speaker said.

He said that would "drive the media crazy, because they'll want to play gotcha" and say his position had changed.

Gingrich also said he wanted policy input from the public: "We're entering an age when the challenges are so big, that we have to use the Internet and to use talk get many people helping us think things through so that they get used to the idea that they're part of the process and it's not being imposed upon them by Washington."