TPM News

In what is perhaps a watershed moment in the long fight for gay rights, the current battle over the Defense of Marriage Act is being waged with at least tacit acknowledgment from all sides that it is a political winner for pro-gay-rights Democrats.

In the wake of President Obama's decision to drop support for portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, gay rights advocates have been unabashed in claiming that beyond the merits of their underlying argument they now have the political advantage as well. Not only does public opinion polling suggest they're right, but the reaction of gay rights opponents does, too.

On Wednesday, House and Senate Democrats held separate press conferences announcing the introduction of legislation to repeal DOMA. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the sponsors of the House bill, was asked whether Democrats were politicizing gay rights as a wedge issue against the GOP, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor alleged last month.

"What do I say to the idea that this is a wedge issue? I say 'Hallelujah,'" Frank told reporters. "The fact that we've now evolved to the point where the Republicans are complaining about the fact that we introduced this bill because it causes them political problems is a great sign of progress. It used to be the other way around."

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Larry Bliss couldn't find work in his home state of Maine so, like many unemployed, he broadened his search and located a job elsewhere in the country. Unlike most unemployed, however, Bliss had "state legislator" listed on his resume as his current title during his entire 16-month job hunt.

A Democratic member of the House of Representatives and then the Senate, Bliss was laid off from his position as an administrator at the University of Southern Maine in late 2009 after two decades with the school. Maine legislators work only part-time, collecting about $13,000 a year for their service, leaving Bliss raising three children on only his partner's full-time work as a low-income housing consultant.

"It's certainly not an easy decision," Bliss told TPM. "I really wanted to stay. My partner and I love it here and Maine is a very special place."

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The freshly installed Republican majority in the House of Representatives is getting a rude wakeup call as they transition from campaigning to governing.

Amid enormous voter discontent with the Democratic status quo and with concern running high over the economy last November, voters handed the keys over to Republicans, giving them a crack at dealing with government spending and the national deficit. Yet just two months into the new Congress, self-identified Republicans and Independents -- and particularly Tea Party sympathizers -- have already lost a great deal of faith in the GOP's ability to come up with a better approach to solving those problems, according to a newly released Pew poll of adults nationwide.

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They've asked the voters, they've filled the airwaves and now they're getting down to business: Starting Thursday, a coalition of national progressives is openly calling for the recall of several Republican state Senators in Wisconsin with new TV ads aimed directly at them.

Recall fever is catching among the Wisconsin left these days. The state Democratic party has collected just about half of the signatures necessary to make a run at recalling eight state Senators eligible to have their terms cut short (Wisconsin law says only a politician who's been in office for a year or more can be recalled.)

The progressive coalition of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America is banging the recall drum, too, after spending more than a half-million dollars on TV ads lambasting the Republican state Senate and Gov. Scott Walker (R). Now the groups are launching the first TV spots to call for recall directly.

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Congress To Buy More Time For Budget Dispute Reuters reports: "The Congress is expected to buy itself more time on Thursday to work out a much-delayed budget deal as the costs of the stalemate are increasingly being felt across the globe. The Senate is expected to pass a sixth stopgap bill that would keep the government running through April 8, more than six months after the fiscal year began. The House of Representatives passed the measure on Tuesday. Republicans who control the House and Democrats who control the Senate need to resolve a $50 billion gap between their two spending plans."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet at 10:30 a.m. ET with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, and Obama and Kenny will deliver statements to the press at 11:05 a.m. ET. Then at 12 p.m. ET, Obama, Biden and Kenny will attend a St. Patrick's Day lunch. At 7:05 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host a St. Patrick's Day reception, which Biden will also attend.

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For about 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon, a group of a couple hundred union workers, labor activists and progressives turned the lobby of a DC office building into a mini-Wisconsin State Capitol.

In a microcosm of the fight between labor and the Republican-led government in the Badger State, union protesters (and their progressive allies) stormed the lobby of a downtown DC office building that hold the headquarters of BGR Group, a lobbying firm that was hosting a fundraiser for, among others, several of the Republican state Senators who just voted to strip collective bargaining from thousands of Wisconsin union workers.

The protesters occupied the high-roofed marble lobby for about 30 minutes. They chanted, they spoke and they waved many of the same signs they've been waving across the Midwest for weeks. And upstairs, just as in the state Senate chamber in Madison, the targets of the protest said they were unfazed.

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James O'Keefe has been all over the news this month for his sting operation targeting National Public Radio. His undercover videos have strengthened House Republicans efforts to defund NPR.

Meanwhile, the fallout from one of O'Keefe's previous sting operations targeting the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) is still playing out in federal court, where lawyers for the conservative provocateur are claiming a California law banning audio recordings without the consent of the other party is unconstitutional.

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Responding to a new attempt by House GOP lawmakers to defund NPR, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hitting up supporters for cash to help defend the embattled public broadcaster.

"We can't let this outrage go unchallenged," a fundraising e-mail from DCCC chair Steve Israel on Wednesday read. "Republicans and their right-wing media backers are gearing up for this fight, and they're hoping grassroots Democrats like you will stay on the sidelines."

The House Rules Committee held an emergency hearing the same day on a bill that would prohibit any federal funding from going to NPR, with a vote expected in Congress on Thursday.

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