TPM News

Is it possible that, for all his Sturm und Drang, Mitch McConnell's vow is empty? That he can't really to block debate on, well, everything until tax cuts and government funding are resolved?

Greg Sargent thinks he's a paper tiger, and that Don't Ask, Don't Tell can pass even if the tax cut fight drags on for days and days. Here's the evidence:

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Here is the latest update on the Minnesota gubernatorial recount, where Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton entered the recount leading Republican state Representative Tom Emmer by 8,770 votes.


(See here for an overview of their methodology, and both the necessary caveats and points in its favor, plus a primer on the issue of how ballots that are challenged by a campaign end up being handled.)

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A new survey of Missouri from Public Policy Polling (D) shows a close race in 2012 for Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill was tested against three potential Republican nominees, with all trial heats ending up within the margin of error: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder leads McCaskill 46%-44%; McCaskill edges former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who just declared her candidacy today, by 45%-44%; and former Sen. Jim Talent, who lost to McCaskill in the Democratic wave year of 2006, leads her 47%-45.

The survey of registered voters has a ±4.3% margin of error.

A key number here is that President Obama's approval rating in this perennial swing state is currently at just 43%, with 52% disapproval. McCaskill's approval rating as a senator is also only 43%, with disapproval at 44%.

The Department of Justice has dropped its investigation of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Ensign's office announced today.

"Senator Ensign is certainly pleased that the Department of Justice no longer views him as a target in their investigation, and has long-stated that he acted in accordance with the law," his spokeswoman said in a statement. "Our office and the Senator have been cooperative with this investigation, and it's important that the truth in this matter is finally coming to light. It is the Senator's hope that the Ethics Committee soon follows suit."

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It started with a lengthy story on the conservative site CNS.com and ended with a Smithsonian Institution museum removing a piece of video art depicting a crucified Jesus being swarmed by ants.

In between, though, the story blazed a fun path through the conservative noise machine, and into the mainstream media. The initial story described the entire exhibit in great detail:

"The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as 'homoerotic'".


After the initial story went live, the reporter who wrote it turned to House and Senate leaders of both parties to seek comment by email. That email, provided to me by a source, appears in full at the bottom of this post.

It reads in part: "The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian, is running an exhibition through the Christmas season that features an ant-covered Jesus and what the Smithsonian itself calls "homoerotic" art. Should this exhibition continue or be cancelled?"

The author -- Penny Starr -- did not return a request for comment.

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Republicans say no Senate business until tax cuts are extended and the government is funded -- presumably on terms favorable to the GOP. That apparently includes the START treaty. And now the man leading the resistance to ratifying the treaty during the lame duck says Dems have until Monday to come to terms with Republicans on those two issues.

"If the taxes all can't be resolved and voted on and completed and spending for the government for the next ten months completed by like next Monday, I don't know how there's enough time to complete START," Kyl told The Hill.

Remember, Kyl isn't just the driving force opposing START ratification. He's also the Senate Republicans top tax cut negotiator in bipartisan discussions with the White House. Some suspected that his participation would lead to a compromise involving ratification, but that will only happen if Republicans say so.

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Yesterday, The Daily Beast reported that the National Security Agency is aware that the FSB -- the post-Soviet KGB -- is closely monitoring Wikileaks, though the U.S. has no "direct evidence" that the Russians are behind the days-long denial-of-service attacks that have brought down the Wikileaks website over and over again.

But why would the Russians care that much? In part, because Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that between the leaked cables and other information he got separately, high-level corrupt Russian officials should be worried. And some observers think that Assange's efforts to expose corruption in Russia could be more harmful to his site and himself than exposing America's secrets have been. One law enforcement source told The Daily Beast, "The Russians play by different rules," adding that they would be "ruthless" in their attempts to stop him.

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San Diego County officials announced last night that they will torch a home "bomb factory" because the huge cache of explosives proved too dangerous to remove manually.

Last week, the San Diego Sheriff's Department suspended its investigation of the Escondido home of George Djura Jakubec due to dangerous conditions, resulting from at least nine pounds of explosives found in the home.

Jakubec pleaded not guilty last Monday to "12 felony counts of possessing destructive devices and 14 counts of possessing ingredients to make destructive devices, along with two bank robbery charges," according to KGTV news in San Diego.

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