TPM News

Just a few months removed from last year's midterm elections, the wave that swept Republicans to an epic victory has already receded, as they now trail Democrats in a generic election ballot, according to the latest TPM Poll Average.

Last year, Republicans held a huge edge in generic ballot surveys as voters turned against the party in power, Democrats. But since taking over control of the House of Representatives back in January, that big lead has quickly evaporated, giving Democrats an edge they haven't had in the TPM Poll Average in about a year and a half, since November 2009.

The poll that tipped the scales came this week from CNN. In that survey of adults nationwide, Democrats emerged with a 50% to 46% edge over Republicans. As a result, the TPM Poll Average shifted just enough to give Democrats a tiny lead, 42.4% to 42.2%.

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Republicans say they've found the problem in America -- and that problem is the basic framework of the Union as we know it today.

A group of Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states' legislatures to override any federal law they did not agree with.

The proposed constitutional amendment, a tea party favorite, is being touted by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the Senate and co-sponsored by Sens. John Barasso (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In the House, Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Paul Broun (R-GA) are leading the charge.

The goal, according to proponents, is to stop the tyranny of Washington over the economy and circumscribe other federal powers.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has officially launched his much-awaited campaign for president -- officially returning to electoral politics for the first time since 1998, when he resigned as Speaker and from the House after Democrats gained seats and weakened Gingrich's hold on the GOP leadership.

"I'm Newt Gingrich, and I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States," Gingrich says in a YouTube video, "because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget."

Also in the video, Gingrich sought to remind voters of his past accomplishments, by looking back on the 1980s and 1990s, when he served in Congress. "I worked with President Ronald Reagan, in a very difficult period," Gingrich says. "We got jobs created again, Americans proud of America, and the Soviet Union disappeared.

"As Speaker of the House, I worked to reform welfare, to balance the budget, to control spending, to cut taxes, to create economic growth. Unemployment came down from 5.6% to under 4. And for four years, we balanced the budget and paid of $405 billion of debt.

"We've done it before, we can do it again."

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Indiana women on Medicaid who rely on Planned Parenthood for medical care might want to start looking elsewhere.

On Tuesday, a federal judge denied Planned Parenthood of Indiana's request for a temporary restraining order that would have stopped HEA 1210 -- a controversial measure that cuts off all federal funding to the state's largest reproductive health care organization -- from going into effect.

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House Republicans are pushing through a series of bills aimed at easing restrictions on offshore drilling this week, but critics warn that buried in the legislation is a provision that would weaken the ability of affected states to take on big oil companies in court.

H.R. 1229, the "Putting the Gulf Back to Work Act," would weaken President Obama's moratorium on deep water drilling, which was imposed in the wake of the BP oil spill, but it also contains a provision that funnels civil suits regarding drilling permits to the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is calling foul, arguing that the provision strips states like Florida and Alabama with their own drilling operations of the ability to sue in their own states' courts. According to Deutch, the scheme is especially problematic because the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court has been criticized as especially close to oil companies -- in one recent suit against an oil company, so many judges had to recuse themselves over conflicts of interest that the court didn't have the necessary quorum of judges to hear the case. An investigation by a progressive legal advocacy group, Alliance For Justice, determined that several of the judges have extensive financial holdings in the oil industry and two frequently represented oil interests as lawyers.

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Retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who retired in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, has officially launched his campaign for the open Senate seat in Texas as a Democrat, after having reportedly been courted by national Dems to seek the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The San Antonio Express-News reports:

By filing today, Sanchez, 57, said he'll be free to raise and spend campaign funds. The race, his first, comes nearly five years after the end of a career that saw him lead the bloodiest American war since Vietnam and retire as one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in Army history.

...

As the top soldier in Baghdad, Sanchez grappled with the insurgency and the Abu Ghraib scandal. Cleared of wrongdoing, he called for creation of a commission to "address what happened to the country as a result of the suspension of the Geneva Conventions" by Bush.

The commission was never created.

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The death of Osama bin Laden gave a sizable boost to President Obama's approval ratings over the past week and a half. However, a PPP poll released on Wednesday finds that despite that bin Laden bump, Obama has not increased his leads over the big-name Republicans who may challenge him in next year's election.

Compared to one month ago, the latest survey did not show Obama pulling away from several prominent GOP candidates, though he did maintain his already comfortable leads over each of them.

In the poll, Obama beat each of the six Republicans tested against him, winning each contest by at least a five-point spread.

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New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) has vetoed a "right-to-work" bill passed by the Republican legislature, which would have restricted private-sector unions in the state. As of this juncture, a veto override could potentially occur, but is not a certain thing.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports:

The bill, HB 474, would bar contracts that require non-members to pay partial dues to unions that represent their rights in the workplace. The partial payments are meant to cover the costs of reaching and enforcing labor contracts.

The bill would also allow fines to be levied against companies that included the provision in a contract and deducted the payments.

...

Lynch wrote in his veto message, "States should not interfere with the rights of businesses and their employees to freely negotiate contracts. That is unless there is a compelling public interest, and there is no compelling public interest in passing this legislation.

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Diplomats in Athens, Malta and Hong Kong might soon have to say sayonara to the rest and relaxation benefits they were getting for enduring hardship postings thanks to a State Department Inspector General report which found the conditions at those locations no longer justified the benefit.

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