TPM News

The two top Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee went after the DOJ's ethics office today, blasting the torture memo report produced by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

"The first report was filled with gaping holes, shoddy legal analysis .. and a clear desire to punish Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bybee even if the facts didn't support it," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in his opening statement.

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There is no evidence that any members of Congress exchanged earmarks for campaign contributions with the PMA Group, the House Ethics committee has found, sources tell (sub. req.) Roll Call.

The paper reports that the committee will release a report on the matter later today, exonerating of wrongdoing seven Appropriations committee members who it had been looking into in connection with the now-defunct lobbying group.

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The White House has given Congressional leaders the all-clear to move ahead on health care reform, with both the House and Senate aiming to pass final legislation by April.

A top aide to House Democratic leadership told TPMDC this morning that tension remains between the House and Senate as members in the lower chamber remain wary the Senate might not honor a promise to fix their bill through reconciliation.

But the aide said the House is deciding whether to vote on the Christmas Eve-passed Senate bill first or the reconciliation measure including budget-related fixes to that Senate bill, namely changes to the tax on high-end insurance plans. But whether the House Democratic caucus will be able to keep its shaky voting coalition together remains an open question, Hill sources tell TPMDC.

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Recent polling suggests that a small majority of Americans don't want Democrats to invoke the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to fix and finish health care reform. But is it the majority-rule vote they oppose? Or is it the underlying health care bill?

A new poll by the firm Research 2000--commissioned by the advocacy groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and Credo--suggests it's the latter. After describing what reconciliation is, the survey asked "If the Senate passes a health care reform bill that you consider to be beneficial to your family, would you object to the Senate's use of 'reconciliation' rules to pass that bill with a majority vote, or not?"

Unsurprisingly, people are all for a majority-rule vote when they approve of the underlying legislation. The subtext here, of course, is that the public option is wildly popular--more popular than the rest of health care reform--and progressives are pushing Congress to include it in the reconciliation package they pass as part of the final push on health care reform.

Here are the results in the states of a handful of key senators:

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy just kicked off a hearing on the Justice Department torture memo report, and he immediately raised the question of John Yoo's missing emails.

"My first question will be, where are Mr. Yoo's emails?" Leahy said, promising to pose the question to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler.

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Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) is widely understood to be one of the upper chamber's crankiest members. But his latest episode could keep thousands of out of work Americans from receiving unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits. And it comes at a time when joblessness is through the roof.

Here's what's happening. Ninety-nine of the Senate's 100 members have agreed that people whose benefits are set to run out should be allowed to continue receiving them past the February 28 deadline. One senator--Bunning--disagrees. He says the benefits should only be extended if they're paid for with stimulus dollars. Democrats don't like that at all.

If Bunning were to relent, the extensions would be granted automatically. But, per the Senate rules, any single member can throw a wrench into an otherwise universal agreement.

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Less than 48 hours after the New York Times revealed in a bombshell story that the administration of Gov. David Paterson had intervened in the domestic violence case of a top aide, Paterson has decided to pull the plug on his campaign for governor, the Daily News and the Post are reporting.

No official announcement has been made, but the Post says one is expected later today. Two sources familiar with the decision confirmed to TPM that Paterson will end his campaign.

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Sarah Palin will be appearing at a major political event this spring, headlining the annual meeting of National Rifle Association this May.

CNN points out that the event's location in Charlotte, North Carolina, is in a media market that includes parts of South Carolina, a key early primary state.

"Governor Palin is one of the most requested speakers in America today," said NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre, in a statement to CNN. "She's an outdoorsman, hunter and a steadfast supporter of our Second Amendment freedom. We are pleased to have a fellow NRA member speak at our 139th annual meeting in Charlotte this May."

The Justice Department is being urged to probe claims that emails written by John Yoo could not be provided to internal investigators because they had been deleted and were unrecoverable.

As we reported last week, the Office of Professional Responsibility noted in its report on the Torture Memos:

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