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Rick Santorum told about 50 members of the group Catholic Citizenship that he was "frankly appalled" that America's first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, once said "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

"That was a radical statement," Santorum said, and did "great damage."

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House Republicans are holding an emergency meeting of the Rules Committee on Wednesday to take up legislation that would block funding to NPR in the wake of James O'Keefe's hidden camera prank on the news organization.

The meeting will examine HR 1076, introduced by Republican congressman and NPR-nemesis Doug Lamborn of Colorado, which would bar the government from providing any funding to NPR and its affiliate stations. The House already passed an amendment to its Continuing Resolution funding the government through September that would defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports both NPR and PBS, but the Senate defeated the bill and the latest CR only cuts $50 million in scheduled increases to NPR's funding that the White House had already cut from its own budget proposal.

According to a spokeswoman for Lamborn, Catherine Mortensen, the new standalone bill would only target NPR. And unlike the CR amendment would have defunded public broadcasting through the 2011 fiscal year, HR 1076 would permanently prohibit all federal funding to NPR and affiliate stations.

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The House of Representatives just passed stopgap legislation to prevent the government from shutting down when funds expire on Friday by vote of 271-158.

The spending measure, known as a "continuing resolution," will keep the federal lights on for three weeks, while congressional leaders and the White House hammer out a compromise package that can pass both the House and the Senate. This continuing resolution lost nearly 70 votes compared to the last stopgap, and could not have passed without Democratic support.

House conservatives staged a mini-rebellion over the CR, which they say doesn't sufficiently slash discretionary spending, and doesn't contain key Republican policy measures -- including abortion restrictions and a rescission of funds to implement the health care law.

Overall, 54 Republicans broke ranks with GOP leadership and voted against the measure. A total of 85 Democrats voted for the measure. It is expected to pass the Senate late this week.

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The Wisconsin state Senate Republicans backed away Tuesday afternoon from a controversial sanction they handed down against state Senate Democrats, who had fled the state in an attempt to block passage of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Senate President Mike Ellis will not enforce the contempt declaration handed down against the Dems -- which, as Fitzgerald said Monday, stripped the Dems of the right to vote in committee proceedings.

In addition, Republicans will not enforce the fines, of $100 for each additional missed session day, that they handed down late during the Dems' absence,

"The name of the game is moving this state forward, putting this stuff behind us," Ellis said. "Let's get on with the people's business. Let's stop all the bickering."

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House Republican leaders are mounting their own legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act following President Obama's decision to drop support for portions of the bill, slamming the White House for abandoning legislation that passed with overwhelming support under President Clinton. But according to one poll commissioned by a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, the White House is on the right side of public opinion today.

According to the poll, which was conducted by Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Americans oppose DOMA 51%-34%, including a similar 52%-34% split among independents. A similar proportion disagree with the Republican decision to defend the law, 54% to 32%.

DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing gay marriage in states where it is legal, a provision of the law the Department of Justice says is unconstitutional.

Of all the undeclared candidates presumed to be running for the Republican presidential nomination, four names continue to cluster at the top of the field: Huckabee, Palin, Romney, and Gingrich.

That trend continued Tuesday with the release of a new PPP poll of registered Republican voters that shows those four candidates still bunched closely at the front of the pack. And while there has been some shifting of percentages, there is no significant movement to show anyone considerably pulling ahead or slipping behind.

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Lobbying expenditures from the payday loan industry more than doubled from $2,045,000 in the 109th Congress to $4,182,550 in the 110th Congress, according to a new report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

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Correction: This post originally attributed the op-ed critical of Sen. Snowe to the editors of the Portland Press Herald. In fact, the op-ed was penned by former Snowe rival and ex-Rep. Tom Andrews (D-ME). As such, the op-ed is not evidence of Snowe losing support from moderate Republicans as this post initially suggested. We regret the error.

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Recent polling suggests Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) would have much better luck running for re-election as an independent than as a Republican, to avoid a tea party-backed candidate from the right. But that would mean abandoning her party, its institutional support, her seniority in the Senate and so on. In a Tuesday op-ed in the Portland Press Herald -- an influential newspaper in Southern Maine -- former Rep. Tom Andrews (D-ME), who lost to Snowe in the 1994 race in which she was first elected to the Senate, takes Snowe to task for what he claims is her pandering to tea partiers in her party.

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