TPM News

House Republicans and Senate Democrats have arrived at detente on spending, which should prevent a government shutdown through the Ides of March.

But it's a brief and fragile detente, and for now only masks a greater divide between the parties -- one that's less about spending levels and more about the right of the Obama administration to undertake routine functions in an era of divided government.

After a weeks-long stare-down over spending, both sides blinked last week, when they came to terms on a two week measure to keep the federal lights on after funding runs out March 4.

But Democrats blinked fastest.

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Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) labeled Republicans as hypocrites for accusing Wisconsin Democratic senators of obstruction for fleeing the state to avoid giving Republican Gov. Scott Walker a quorum for a bill that would weaken collective bargaining right for state employees.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Hoyer said that Washington Republicans' numerous Senate filibusters should destroy any credibility they have on the issue.

"38, 39, 40, 41 Republicans did that consistently over the last four years in the United States Senate," he said. "Now, they were here, but they simply would not vote to bring measures to the floor of the United States Senate. I see no substantive difference."

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The House Ethics Committee attorneys accused of bungling the case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) three months ago were still on the House payroll as of Jan. 31, as TPM reported late last week, and there are new questions about how they are managing to stick around.

House Ethics Committee rules clearly require the panel to approve all staffers at the beginning of each Congress.

"All staff members shall be appointed by an affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Committee," the rules state.

The vote shall occur at the first Committee of each Congress, according to the rules, and "as necessary" during the Congress.

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A Dane County, Wisc., judge has issued a temporary restraining order to reopen the Wisconsin Capitol building to the public. Capitol access was restricted over the weekend and again this morning, following days in which the building had been crowded with protesters. The Wisconsin State Employees Union, along with the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, filed the suit against the state of Wisconsin yesterday.

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Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Tuesday warned of Iran's growing influence amid the Middle East's turbulent political climate, underscoring other Republicans' calls for the U.S. to take a harder line on Iran.

The spread of pro-democracy movements across the region -- from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya -- is a positive step, Ridge said, but it also creates an opening for even more Iranian influence.

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) is rapidly losing support from his constituents as he continues to push budget proposals that would cut collective bargaining rights and benefits for most of the states public employee unions, according to new data from a PPP poll, a poll whose results TPM first reported on Monday. His support has slipped so much that, after just two months in office, voters are now evenly divided over whether he should be recalled.

A majority of Wisconsin voters now disapprove of Walker's job performance, a reversal from the positive approval rating he enjoyed immediately after election day. Further, most voters support collective bargaining rights for the state's public employee unions, and oppose Walker's proposal to cut those same rights.

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Newt Gingrich is now just one official announcement away from running for president next year. The quadrennial might-run candidate will soon launch an exploratory committee to suss out the potential for a full-scale bid in 2012.

ABC News first reported Gingrich's plans Tuesday morning, reporting that the former House Speaker will announce his committee "before the end of the week." National Journal confirmed the report today. The magazine reports Gingrich will make stops in Iowa and New Hampshire in the next couple weeks.

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Destroying the environment will save America's economy, according to Stephen Colbert.

On Monday night, Colbert hailed the efforts of Montana State Rep. Joe Read (R), who introduced a bill to declare that global warming was not only real, but that it was good for the state. Colbert agreed, saying it would surely boost the state's tourism industry.

"Visitors will flock to Glacier National Park once it becomes Glacier National Water Park," he said.

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