TPM News

Standard & Poors has a specific justification for downgrading the U.S. bond rating, and it's deadly for Republicans. It wasn't just that Congress showed itself to be reckless and dysfunctional, or that the GOP shows no sign of ever ending their anti-tax jihad. It's that for a period of weeks, some lawmakers (read: Republicans) were quite literally shrugging off the risks of blowing past the August 2 deadline, running out of borrowing authority, and missing payment obligations.

"[P]eople in the political arena were even talking about a potential default," said Joydeep Mukherji, senior directior at S&P. "That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable," he added. "This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns."

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It's been a fractious summer for Congress: the United States came close to the prospect of defaulting on our debt for political reasons instead of economic ones, there's another looming budget crisis when they return, and Americans hate the legislative body more than ever. So it's not a huge surprise in this era of lightning quick political reaction that Americans are swinging back to the party they just kicked out of the House, according to new Gallup data released Friday and a PPP(D)/Daily Kos survey from earlier in the week.

Both polls showed Democrats taking the lead in the Generic Congressional Ballot, a metric showing who voters generally feel they want to control the House and Senate. Gallup consistently measures it, and Democrats held a healthy lead throughout 2007 to the end of 2009, when the GOP started making gains and eventually led. The Republican high water mark was around election time in 2010, but it didn't last very long: early into 2011 Democrats surpassed them again, the data shows, and have opened up a lead. The newest rating is 51% in favor of a Democratic candidate versus 44% for a Republican one.

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By Tina Casey

A research team at Rice University has developed a new strain of E. coli that can create biofuel at a rate that is about ten times faster than other bacteria -- and they can do it on a cheap diet of glucose and mineral salts.

The discovery opens the door to a new generation of renewable biofuels that cost less than petroleum based fuels.

Researchers are beginning to focus on bacteria in biofuel production, using natural metabolic pathways to break plant sugars down more efficiently.

By deploying the bacteria's own energy to push the process forward, they can eliminate several costly, energy intensive steps that are needed in conventional biofuel production.

The Rice team, headed by associate professor Ramon Gonzales, focused on tweaking the metabolic pathway of E. coli. Short for Escherichia coli, the bug is better known as a common source of food poisoning.

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News that then-Governor Mitt Romney's office played up his predecessor's tax hikes to secure a better rating from Standard & Poor's may undercut his hardline anti-tax image. But the S&P story also revives a longstanding debate over Romney's own revenue raisers as governor, an issue that takes on greater significance than it did in 2008 thanks to the recent debt ceiling talks.

On Wednesday, Politico reported on a presentation Romney's office gave to S&P in 2004 touting the strength of the state's budget thanks in part to a 2002 tax increase that he opposed. The presentation also highlighted higher fees and newly closed loopholes that Romney championed himself. While Romney supporters have long argued these policies should not count as tax increases, critics have long insisted otherwise and the S&P story pushes the debate into the headlines once again.

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Rumours of an Elizabeth Warren Senate challenge to Republican Scott Brown (R-MA) grew Thursday as the champion of consumer protection penned a suggestive op-ed in the democratic blog Blue Mass Group.

Addressing Massachusetts voters, Warren gave a brief overview of her life story including a description of the fiscal constraints her family faced during her early childhood, her time in Washington establishing CFPB, and her desire to continue helping the middle class.

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Following Democrats' and organized labor's near-miss in the Wisconsin state Senate recalls, in which they fell just short of picking up the magic number of seats that would have flipped control of the chamber, the political world will now turn to a new battle: Ohio.

The Wisconsin fight was triggered due to newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation, which eliminated most collective bargaining rights that unions had previously enjoyed for decades.

Over in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich passed similar legislation, labor and other liberal groups have pursued a different tack under that state's election procedures: Triggering a referendum for this November, in which voters will be able to strike down the legislation directly, and which has in fact placed the very law itself on hold pending their decision.

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Debate host Byron York asked Michele Bachmann about her past quotes that she became a tax lawyer at her husband's insistence, citing Biblical passages that a wife should be "submissive" to her husband.

"As president, would you be submissive to your husband?" York asked -- prompting vociferous booing from the audience.

"Thank you for that question, Byron," Bachmann responded, to applause. "Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him, I'm so proud of him. And what submission means to us -- if that's what your question is -- is respect. I respect my husband...and he respects me as his wife. that's how operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other."

Bachmann then added that together, she and her husband had built a business, raised their children, and raised 23 foster children. "I'm very proud of him."

Remember that nice friendly New Hampshire debate from June when the GOP's fresh-faced field candidates, still basking in fluffy magazine profiles, joined hands to sing songs of President Obama's failed stimulus? That wasn't this debate.

Instead the candidates mixed it up early and often, even lashing out at the moderators. We compiled the pugilistic highlights, from Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann's snowball fight to Newt Gingrich's war on FOX News, into a video. Read on for the nitty gritty details after that.

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