TPM News

The legislative fallout from GOP Reps. Pete Sessions' and Mike Fitzpatrick's decision to skip the House swearing-in ceremony Wednesday has been neatly cleaned up by the pair's Republican colleagues in the House majority. But that doesn't bring an end to the story, which now shifts to whether Fitzpatrick and/or Sessions broke the law by holding a prohibited political fundraiser at the Capitol rather than going to the ceremony with the rest of their colleagues.

The event Sessions and Fitzpatrick attended instead of the swearing in was a reception for Fitzpatrick supporters held in the massive underground Capitol Visitors Center complex, part of the larger Capitol campus and attached to the Capitol basement. Sessions is the chair of the NRCC, so he spends a lot of his time appearing with/raising money for/spending money on House candidates. Fitzpatrick's victory was a sweet one for the GOP (he re-won the seat he lost in 2006 to Democrat Patrick Murphy) and it's not really surprising that Sessions might want to make an appearance at Fitzpatrick's victory celebration. Sessions apparently reserved the room for the event as well.

Exactly what that celebration was is the center of the continuing controversy about Wednesday. If it was a fundraiser -- which the Huffington Post's Ryan Grimm reported it was, pointing to a website set up for the event by Fitzpatrick's campaign -- then it could be a violation of election law. The law strictly prohibits fundraising on Capitol complex grounds.

Momentum is building around the idea a law may have been broken. But an election law expert I spoke to today says it's more likely that the only real law Fitzpatrick and Sessions violated was Thou Shall Not Allow Poor Optics.

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Nevadans just sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid back for another term, and a new PPP poll indicates they're leaning toward reelecting another Democrat, President Barack Obama, as well. Obama led all hypothetical challengers in the poll by a comfortable margin -- except Mitt Romney, who Obama leads by just one point, 47%-46%.

Romney was the only challenger who polled within single digits of the president, and the only one who kept Obama's support below the symbolic 50% threshold. Huckabee came next closest, lagging 51% to 41%, while Gingrich trailed 51% to 40%. Palin fared worst against Obama, as she has consistently done in recent PPP surveys, trailing the President 52% to 39%.

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The new chair of the House Judiciary Committee has passed over Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the super-conservative hard-line immigration foe, for chairman of the immigration subcommittee.

King was the ranking member of the subcommittee and was expected to take the chair. But the committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chose Rep. Elton Gallegly of California instead.

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In a bid to attract Republican support for filibuster reform, Democrats led by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley have proposed a new rule that would guarantee the minority party the chance to offer three amendments to any legislation.

It may have worked too well. A senior Senate Republican leadership aide says GOP members would be "giddy" if they were given that right.

Here's why. Those amendments would be filibuster-proof -- among the only pieces of legislation in all the Senate to enjoy that privilege -- and would therefore be a recipe for poison pill amendments on both sides.

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We told you yesterday about the State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a group of conservative state lawmakers who want to force a Supreme Court fight over the 14th Amendment, by passing state citizenship laws that are sure to be challenged.

But there's another prong to their attack. They also want Congress to allow states to mark the birth certificates of children born on U.S. soil -- that is, U.S. citizens -- who are born to illegal immigrants. This would create two categories of certificates: One for those whose parents are citizens or legal immigrants, and one for those whose parents are here illegally.

The lawmakers say they don't want to create two classes of citizens. They just want to force Congress to discuss the issue.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared today on ABC News's Top Line, where she did not say "no" about the possibility of running for president. But at the same time, based on her other statements in the interview, it seemed like this could be more about seeking a platform to speak on the issues she cares about.

Jonathan Karl asked Bachmann point blank whether she was thinking about running for president.

"I am going to Iowa," Bachmann responded with a smile. "There's your answer. I'm going to Iowa."

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Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a potential presidential candidate, seems to be downplaying the task he might face if he had to run against Sarah Palin.

As ABC News reports:

"I don't think it's fair to say people are afraid of her," he said, laughing. "It's fair to say she is somebody who's got a lot of influence and can use it for good, if she chooses to."

Pawlenty wouldn't speculate on a Pawlenty-Palin presidential battle, except to say, "I've got a long way to go to get people to even know my name, much less worrying about whether I could beat, you know, the force of nature that is Sarah Palin."