TPM News

The latest to ascend to the top of the GOP pile in Iowa is Ron Paul and with the role of front runner comes added scrutiny.

The issue that is getting the most attention is an old one, but one that still has the potential to put a drag on a candidate seen as having a more broad appeal than most.

Benjy Sarlin goes a little deeper in to Paul's past and puts it in to perspective:

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A top Senate Democratic aide says House Republicans have privately offered up the terms of their surrender on the payroll tax cut, pending sign off from their notoriously unwieldy caucus.

As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested Thursday morning, it will involve House Republicans passing a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut (and unemployment insurance and reimbursement rates for Medicare physicians) in exchange for Senate Dems agreeing to a formal conference committee to work out a year-long extension of all items.

The temporary extension won't be identical to the one Senate Dems passed. It will differ in very minor technical ways. House Republicans have already rejected the bipartisan Senate compromise bill, so they'll have to draw up essentially the same bill from scratch, pass it in the House and then have the Senate readopt it by unanimous consent.

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In the midst of the Fast and Furious scandal, the Obama administration just made it easier for immigrants in the United States legally to purchase weapons from licensed firearms dealers.

Under the Gun Control Act (GCA), individuals are generally prohibited from transferring firearms to "any unlicensed person who they know or have reasonable cause to believe does not reside in the State in which the transferor resides."

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi‪ released the following statement after House Republicans agreed to a two-month payroll tax cut extension:

“This is a victory for the American people. They spoke out clearly and, as a result, 160 million American workers will continue to receive their payroll tax cut – about $1,000 in the pockets of the average family. We are hopeful that the House and Senate will act tomorrow to provide certainty and economic security to American families.

“Along with President Obama, we remain committed to a yearlong agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, and ensure seniors can continue to see the doctor of their choice.”

One sign Mitt Romney's campaign may be emerging from the woods after the Newt Gingrich scare: they're racking up some big endorsements.

Former President George H.W. Bush offered an unofficial nod of support this week, making clear in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that he was going with Romney.

"I think Romney is the best choice for us," Bush said. "I like Perry, but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere; he's not surging forward."

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Yep, it's almost the end of the year, which means reams of roundup stories from all your favorite auto websites. Nope, we're not that different: We've got one too. Here's our take on the five most important stories--or perhaps themes--of 2011 in the growing world of green cars.

New fuel economy rules: 54.5 mpg CAFE by 2025
The biggest story of the year is the new gas-mileage requirements jointly issued by the NHTSA and EPA--under the encouragement of the Obama White House, and with signoff from most if not all of the major automakers. (Auto dealers are still fighting the rules.)

The new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules cover model years 2017 through 2025, and include rises of 3 percent per year for trucks and 5 percent for cars.

The result is that by 2025, the average vehicle will achieve 54.5 miles per gallon on its CAFE tests--which translates to the low to mid 40s on a new-car window sticker (due to outdated CAFE test cycles).

How will we get there? Sure, there'll be more hybrids and some plug-in cars. But the vast majority of the increased gas mileage will come from smaller, more efficient engines.

We're already seeing this, with four-cylinder engines becoming the de facto standard--neither the Hyundai Sonata mid-size sedan nor the 2013 Ford Escape compact crossover will offer a V-6--and V-8s being relegated to trucks and low-production sports cars like the Camaro and Mustang.

Even pickup trucks now come increasingly with V-6 engines. Just four months after Ford offered a 3.5-liter Ecoboost direct-injected and turbocharged V-6 in its F-Series pickups, that engine was racking up one-third of all F-Series sales.

A year after its launch, more Ford F-Series trucks are now sold with V-6s than with V-8s--which hasn't happened since 1985. As of yesterday, Ford said it had sold more than 100,000 EcoBoost direct-injected and turbocharged V-6 engines in F-Series pickups during 2011.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) says the House GOP’s acceptance of a two-month payroll tax cut extension is a “victory for middle-class taxpayers over tea party politics.”

Here’s Schumer’s full statement:

“In a year of divided government taken too far, Congress is thankfully going out on a bipartisan note.

“This is a victory for middle-class taxpayers over Tea Party politics. Even though this tax cut is only temporary, this breakthrough could have an enduring impact if it helps tame the faction of House Republicans that habitually tends toward brinksmanship.

“We now turn our attention to extending this tax cut for a full year, and we urge our Republican colleagues to seek common ground with us on how best to pay for it.”