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Defense Secretary Robert Gates today urged the Senate to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell before the end of the year, saying a Pentagon review showed repeal won't damage troop readiness. He warned that those who vote against repeal are "rolling the dice," risking the courts overturning the policy by "judicial fiat" -- a move that would, he said, hurt the military.

The review, ordered by Gates, found that most troops don't care if they serve alongside homosexual colleagues. Some 70 percent of troops overall said repealing the law would have positive, mixed or no effects. And a whopping 92 percent, according to the AP, of troops who've worked with a gay service member said the experience was either good or neutral.

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Worried your donation to the Human Rights Campaign could be diluted thanks to your Target habit and the company's support of anti-gay politicians?

The Sunlight Foundation has you covered with their new Checking Influence tool, which analyzes online bank account and credit card statements to show how your spending is being used to influence the political process. The tool allows users to determine if their spending habits are aligning with their political beliefs.

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Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is part of a class of Republicans who say they want to change the country fundamentally -- and to that end, Cantor isn't dismissing a plan by legislators in his home state of Virgina to blow up the Constitutional system and replace it with one that would give state governments veto power over federal laws.

For several weeks now, conservative legal circles have been buzzing with Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell's plan to amend the Constitution so that a 2/3 vote of the states could overturn overturn any federal law passed by the Congress and signed by the President. Howell first floated the idea in a September Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-wrote with Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett.

"At present, the only way for states to contest a federal law or regulation is to bring a constitutional challenge in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution," the pair wrote. "A state repeal power provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse."

The pair say the plan is a response to the federal overreach created by "two 'progressive' constitutional amendments adopted in 1913" -- the 16th Amendment creating a federal income tax and the 17th Amendment allowing for the direct election of U.S. Senators, which were previously appointed by state legislatures.

Undoing both those amendments has been a key tenet of tea party rhetoric for a while now.

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The Senate last week finally approved the multi-billion-dollar funding for the Pigford II and Cobell settlements, which will allow the government to pay out claims to African-American farmers and American Indians who were discriminated against in recent decades by government agencies. Now, the House -- which has passed the funding several times over -- will have to approve it, probably this week. The House, in fact, was voting on procedural motions surrounding the bill as this post was written.

That means the opponents are coming out of the woodwork.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who's been one of the most vocal opponents of the Pigford settlement for black farmers, has taken to cable news and the floor of the House to speak against the settlement. King's argument is that the bulk of the Pigford II claims are fraudulent because there are fewer black farmers than claimants -- a flimsy argument when you consider that many African-Americans lost their farms over the past few decades due, in part, to USDA discrimination that denied them loans -- which is the point of the settlement program.

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In his remarks following today's summit with Democratic and Republican leadership, President Obama announced that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Budget Director Jack Lew will "work with representatives of both parties to break through this logjam" on tax cuts. "I've asked the leaders to appoint members to help in this negotiation process. They agreed to do that. That process is beginning right away," he said.

Obama called the meeting "productive," and though he acknowledged the two parties did not agree on the tax cuts issue, "there was broad agreement that we need to work to get that resolved before the end of the year."

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The new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that Sarah Palin continues to hold a narrow national lead in the Republican presidential field -- and that she is also probably their worst possible candidate against President Obama in the general election.

The numbers: Palin 21%, Gingrich 19%, Romney 18%, Huckabee 16%, Ron Paul 5%, Pawlenty 5%, Thune 3%, and Daniels 2%. The survey of national Republican primary voters has a ±4.9% margin of error.

In the previous poll, from all the way back in June, Romney led with 25%, Huckabee had 22%, Palin was in third with 19%, followed by Gingrich at 15%, and Ron Paul 6%.

As for the general election, PPP's numbers released Monday showed Obama leading Palin by a solid 51%-42%. By contrast, he only edged out Romney by 47%-46%, led Gingrich 49%-43%, and led the lesser-known Marco Rubio by 48%-37%.

Incoming Republican House leaders told reporters this morning that House Democrats who are promising a vote on extending only the Bush tax cuts for middle class earners are rejecting the will of voters who cast ballots for a Republican-led House Nov. 2.

"I don't know what Speaker Pelosi didn't hear in this last election," Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who chairs the GOP transition team, told reporters. "But she sure didn't hear the American people."

Walden accused Pelosi and other Democratic leaders of presenting their tax cut extension plan -- which would allow the Bush cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire, thus saving billions in deficit spending -- in a way that would deny Republicans a chance to amend it. Walden and other Republican leaders gathered at the press event said they represented a bipartisan majority in favor of extending all the cuts and they continued to say that they weren't interested in any plan that didn't do that.

"No tax increases for nobody," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), incoming chair of the House Republican caucus, told reporters. "It's poor grammar, but it's great economics."

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The new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) has bad news for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: A strong plurality of GOP primary voters, just shy of a majority, want him gone.

The poll asked: "Would you like to see Michael Steele continue as chairman of the Republican Party or would you rather he was replaced?" The result was only 23% to have him continue, against 47% who want him replaced. The survey of national Republican primary voters has a ±4.9% margin of error.

Oddly, as PPP's Tom Jensen notes, the party's successes have done nothing to help Steele -- things have only gotten worse. In the previous PPP survey from July, 27% wanted him to stay, and only 28% wanted him replaced.

It should be noted that the RNC chairmanship is not up for popular vote, but is an insider's game voted on by the committee members. On the other hand, these numbers suggest that there is no popular constituency that might persuade the insiders to keep Steele around -- and if numerous press reports are to be believed, it's the insiders who really have it in for him.

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