TPM News

Anti-abortion rights activist Randall Terry and anti-Islam Rev. Terry Jones -- undoubtably two of slickest self-promoting crusaders for their respective causes -- ran into one another outside the White House on Thursday, where Terry said the pastor "blinked" on his plan to burn copies of the Koran.

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Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals, has just beaten the Republicans in one of their key efforts to force Dems back to the state - by collecting his legislative pay.

Senate Republicans last week passed a rule suspending the direct-deposit of absent legislators' pay, requiring them to show up in person at the Capitol -- in effect, to provide a quorum -- in order to receive a check.

However, as WisPolitics reports, Erpenbach found a workaround: He granted power-of-attorney to two members of his staff, thus authorizing them to conduct many important personal decisions and financial actions on his behalf -- such as picking up his paycheck.

Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) put the check in the mail, instead of giving it to the staffers. Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse told WisPolitics: "We confirmed with our attorneys and with the chief clerk that was proper."

There appears to be some light between President Obama's position on arming Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while in Mexico and that of Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, just three weeks after ICE agent Jaime Zapata was shot to death in northern Mexico with a gun smuggled in from the U.S.

After a White House meeting between Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Obama seemed to convey a reluctance to arm ICE agents while they are traveling in Mexico.

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After revealing last month that he had sought treatment for mental health issues and that his medication could possibly be contributing to recent behavior some have labeled strange, Rep. David Wu (D-OR) told TPM on Thursday that he's been humbled by a bipartisan outpouring of support on the Hill.

"It's a heartwarming thing," a smiling Wu said. "The people who come up to say supportive things are almost equally divided between Democrats and Republicans."

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters last week that discussion of Wu's resignation was "premature" and that Wu had his support in his efforts to get healthy. "I understand that he has said he is seeking mental health services and that's the appropriate step for him to take. If he had a broken arm, he'd get it fixed," Hoyer said.

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If the money pouring in is any indication, supporters of union workers in Wisconsin like the TV ad campaign launched by two national progressive groups on Wednesday.

The groups behind the ad, which targets Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the Republican majority in the legislature, tell TPM they've raised "over $225,000" from "10,000 grassroots donors" since the ad and its accompanying online fundraising campaign went live yesterday.

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Wisconsin Senate Republicans briefly convened the chamber on Thursday, in order to lay down yet another ultimatum to the 14 Democrats who have fled the state in order to block budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals: Return by 4 p.m. Central Time...or you're in contempt!

The state Senate has previously issued "calls of the house," under which the authorities could compel to the Dems to come to the chamber. This new resolution appears to be a slightly more severe wording of the same effort -- which didn't work the first time around, of course, because the Dems are out of state.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the resolution passed by the state Senate orders the Sergeant at Arms, if the Dems don't show up by 4 p.m., to "take any and all necessary steps, with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement officers, by warrant or other legal process, as he may deem necessary in order to bring that senator to the Senate chambers so that the Senate may convene with a quorum of no less than 20 senators."

Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson told TPM: "I keep joking that they're gonna be pushing more and more for a power grab. So I find it unfortunate -- they're already off the edge of the cliff, but they're finding new cliffs to jump off of in terms of divisiveness in our state."

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For Rep Ron Paul (R-TX), education and medical care are not rights but rather "things that you have to earn."

In an exchange about U.S. credit policy with MSNBC's Cenk Uygur on Wednesday, Paul was asked whether people should be able to borrow money to buy a house, or car. "Oh, in a free market, you can do that," Paul said, but only so long as that credit is backed up by real money, and not something that "comes out of thin air."

Uygur asked the Congressman if students who can't afford tuition should be able to get government loans. "No one has a right to anyone's wealth, I don't have a right to come to you and say my poor kid needs 500 dollars for an education," Paul replied, "an education is not a right, medical care is not a right."

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Roger Vinson, the Florida district court judge who voided the entire health care law has issued a stay of his own ruling, giving the Obama administration a week to file an appeal.

His decisions sowed confusion -- sometimes opportunistic confusion -- about whether states were required to implement the law during the appeal process. The Department of Justice sought clarification from Vinson last month to ease that confusion. In his clarification, Vinson also stayed his own decision, on the condition that the DOJ file its appeal with a higher court within seven days.

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has confirmed it: He will be rolling out the early stages of a presidential campaign Thursday.

As CNN reports, Gingrich announced on Martha Zoller's Georgia talk radio show that he will launch a web site later today, "Callista and I prepared to see if there are enough folks who want to see if we can get this country back on the right track."

As the Associated Press reports, Gingrich will make a further announcement in a news conference at the Georgia state Capitol. However, Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler also told the AP that Gingrich "is entering the exploratory phase" -- but this is not a full-fledged exploratory committee, as Gingrich and his wife Callista must tie up various business and non-profit ventures before taking that step.