TPM News

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will hold the most high-profile hearing yet Wednesday in his investigation into Project Gunrunner, the controversial program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which apparently let weapons the agency was supposed to keep tabs on end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

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Things are heating up in Minnesota this summer where the state government is facing a $5 billion deficit. If a budget deal isn't reached by the end of the month, it's lights out.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is looking to increase taxes on the top 2 percent of wealthy Minnesotans and cut spending, while Republicans propose balancing the budget entirely with spending cuts.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court has now ruled against a challenge to Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation, which had been mounted against the law based on the procedures used to pass it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had struck down the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.

The full opinion can be read here. As a very quick review shows, the court's 4-3 conservative majority eviscerated Dane County (Madison) Judge Maryann Sumi, who had blocked the law: "This court has granted the petition for an original action because one of the courts that we are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature."

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Update: Republicans respond to web ad.

The special election to replace the retired Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) just took a turn for the spectacular. A new web video aimed at boosting the Republican chances for an upset win is dropping jaws at the Democratic candidate's headquarters and prompting calls for a bipartisan condemnation of the shockingly negative attack.

The election pits Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) against businessman Craig Huey, a tea party Republican who's second place finish in one of California's first jungle primaries came as a surprise to most. The race to the July 12 runoff has fallen to the national backburner as attention shifted to the NY-26 race and a more general discussion of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R) budget plan.

That could be about to change, thanks to the web ad produced by the brand-new Turn Right USA PAC, which filed its official paperwork last week.

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Wow, the new Mitt Romney really is an easy-going kind of guy, huh?

During a campaign stop Tuesday morning at a New Hampshire diner, Romney posed for a photo with a group of four waitresses -- and then melodramatically jumped up, joking that one of them had grabbed his posterior.

He then assured the women, who were indeed laughing about the whole thing, that he was just joking.

It is true that the voting public likes to see some sense of humor and personal familiarity from presidential candidates -- but this might be a bit off the beaten path.

Here is the video of the event, courtesy of Chris Matthews on MSNBC:

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A federal judge has rejected the argument by supporters of California's gay marriage ban that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker -- who ruled the ban unconstitutional -- was biased because he is gay.

"It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings," U.S. District Judge James Ware wrote in his ruling Tuesday.

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Republican state Sen. Roy McDonald announced Tuesday that he'll back New York's marriage equality bill when it comes up in the Senate this week.

"I'm trying to do the right thing," McDonald said, Capitol Confidential reports. "Rather than wait I worked with the governor. ... I'm not out to alienate anybody. This is driven by compassion."

He added that he thinks the vote will be on Friday.

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Before the last Senate recess, Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY) made an epic demand: No raising the debt limit, unless Congress also agrees on a bipartisan basis to unspecified cuts to Medicare.

The strategy was clear. Republicans in both the House and the Senate are suffering politically back home after having voted for the GOP budget, which would phase out traditional Medicare and replace it with a private insurance system. One way to trigger voter amnesia on that vote, Republicans reason, is to replace it with another vote -- a bipartisan vote, with President Obama's support -- to "cut" Medicare.

That would become law, McConnell noted, and thus become the true -- and more warranted -- focus of voter reaction.

Democrats are biting -- but carefully. At a Capitol press conference, Democratic Senate leaders drew a clear line: Medicare cuts can be on the table, but not Medicare benefit cuts.

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