TPM News

There are now multiple fronts to Republican health care repeal efforts in the Senate.

The first began quietly Tuesday night, when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used a procedural prerogative to bypass the committee process and usher the House-passed repeal bill on to the Senate calendar.

Wednesday morning, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), spearheaded a separate effort by introducing a separate repeal bill of his own, along with 34 cosponsors.

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A woman who embezzled $6 million from the insurance company where she worked, spent $175,000 on political campaigns and blamed it all on her split personalities has been sentenced to six years in prison.

Prosecutors say that Phyllis Stevens, who is 59, siphoned money off Des Moines-based Aviva USA for years by creating fake insurance agents and paying them huge commissions, which were wired into a bank account that Stevens and her wife, Marla, held in another state.

The Stevenses donated some $175,000 to state and federal candidates in 2006 and 2008, They chose mostly Democrats, including former Rep. Betsey Markey (D-CO) and Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Democratic groups, like MoveOn and the Democratic Party of Iowa, but also gave to some Republican women.

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who is reportedly about to jump into the 2012 presidential race, is quickly making the rounds to blast President Obama's State of the Union address from last night.

Gingrich appeared this morning on Fox & Friends, and had some stern words of ridicule for Obama -- along the lines of the common attack that Obama is an elitist who looks down on ordinary folks.

"Look, the tragedy of this president is that he's very, very clever -- and assumes the rest of us are very, very slow," said Gingrich. This country's in a constant conversation with itself. Within three or four days, the average American is gonna realize, he didn't offer to cut spending, he didn't focus on jobs, he didn't tell us the truth about reforming government.

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The bomb found along a Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., may have been packed with a blood-thinning chemical that's found in rat poison in an effort to inflict worse injuries.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich told the Spokesman-Review that the bomb -- which officials have already described as sophisticated, with the potential to be devastating -- had some sort of chemical in it, and authorities have speculated that it may be a chemical found in rat poison. The bomb, which was defused without incident last Monday, has been sent for testing to a lab at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va..

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Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) clashed over opening statements at the first hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Both sides say Issa told Cummings 30 minutes before today's hearing that there would be no opening statements issued at the hearing, which focused on government oversight over money distributed under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

Spokesman Kurt Bardella told TPM that Issa killed the idea of opening statements in order to skip the "political speechifying" which ate up time. "The American people wants Congress to listen more and talk less," Bardella said.

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In a brief interview Wednesday, just above the Senate chamber, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) rejected President Obama's State of the Union call for broad infrastructure upgrades, citing his opposition to new spending projects and claiming that existing mechanisms for funding current transportation infrastructure projects are basically adequate.

"I understand the goal, but right now this is going to be -- anytime you talk about 'investment' it means new spending," Thune told me. "When you talk about new spending at a time when we've got this financial picture, I don't know how he's going to accomplish all the things that he wants to get done, and then still talk about a five-year freeze on discretionary spending. You can't do it all."

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