TPM News

Congressional leaders from both parties have announced who they will be dispatching to participate in the tax cut negotiations President Obama announced earlier today.

Democrats have selected Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Sen. Max Baucus (MT) for the negotiations. Republicans have chosen Rep. Dave Camp (MI) and Sen. John Kyl (AZ). The White House delegation will consist of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House Budget Director Jack Lew.

All were announced this afternoon by their respective partisan leadership.

If President Obama has his way, the team will determine how to create a bipartisan *compromise between* Democrats who want to allow the tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans to expire and Republicans who want them extended for everyone. Obama announced the bipartisan negotiations after meeting with top leaders from both houses of Congress at the White House today.

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One of the more contentious points of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell debate was whether the Pentagon was considering building separate barracks and showers for gay servicemembers, with some fearing a "separate but equal" mandate.

But the Pentagon report on how best to repeal the policy, released today, recommends no separate facilities, saying such a move would "wrongly isolate and stigmatize" gay troops.

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The campaign of Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton just held a press conference, claiming that his lead in the recount has now grown by 205 votes, as of earlier this afternoon.

Going into the recount this week, Dayton led Republican nominee Tom Emmer by 8,770 votes, or 0.42%. While this is within the 0.5% needed to trigger a statewide recount, many observers have doubted that Emmer could pull ahead, as Dayton's lead is probably too wide to be reversed barring any surprising discoveries in the hand count. However, a possible drawn-out legal contest could potentially result in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty staying in office in the interim, with the opportunity to work with a newly elected Republican legislature.

At the press conference, Dayton recount director Ken Martin said that in the precincts that have been recounted thus far -- representing a bit over half of the total votes -- Dayton has gained 271 votes, to Emmer gaining 66 votes, for a net Dayton gain of 205, and a current lead of 8,975.

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The House today passed a bill authorizing the funding of two massive settlements, one for black farmers discriminated against by the USDA and another for American Indians whose oil, gas and water rights were mismanaged by the U.S. government. The vote was 256 to 152.

The funding will now go to the President's desk for his signature.

The $1.25 billion Pigford II settlement, for black farmers who were denied loans and other assistance in the 1980s and 90s, was settled in court in February. The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement for American Indians was settled last December. They've been attached to numerous bills since and repeatedly failed, largely due to objections from Republicans.

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by Ryan Knutson, ProPublica

A new document uncovered last week might help to clear up some confusion over comments made by the President's Oil Spill Commission earlier this month when its chief counsel, Fred Bartlit Jr., said, "To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety."

Bartlit's comments made a big splash because they appeared to indicate that the commission was exonerating BP of the allegation that it cut corners on safety in favor of saving money -- seeming to fly in the face of what the press and other investigatory bodies had lately uncovered. Even the Wall Street Journal blogged that Bartlit "all but acquitted BP of the gravest charge."

Bartlit and the commission later backtracked, saying the media reached "overarching conclusions" about his presentation, but that wasn't enough to prevent a group of 60 scientists from publicly challenging the statement.

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The House of Representatives moved one step closer toward censuring Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) over the 11 ethics violations he was found guilty of earlier this month.

House Resolution 1737, filed late Monday evening by Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), calls for "Representative Charles B. Rangel forthwith present himself in the well of the House for the pronouncement of censure." The short resolution would be read by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

A vote on the motion could come at anytime. The censure is likely to take place in the coming days, probably without much warning (a courtesy to the member so as to limit media coverage).

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Reps. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC), who will hold key chairmanships on military policy in the next Congress, have released a joint statement on the Pentagon report calling for the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military -- with these two House Republicans instead calling for "comprehensive oversight" of the recommendations.

McKeon will be the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Wilson will be heading up the subcommittee on Military Personnel. They note in their statement that they were briefed earlier today on the contents of the report, which said that there would be no serious disruption from an orderly repeal.

As McKeon says: "Today's briefing and the release of the Pentagon's report are the first steps in what should be a comprehensive process to study whether implementing these recommendations would undermine military readiness or negatively impact the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Wilson chimes in, as well, strongly opposing any effort to pass the repeal immediately, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for: "Using the last days of a lame duck Congress to hastily repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' would be highly irresponsible. Today's Pentagon report must be thoroughly examined by the committees of jurisdiction to determine potential impacts on military recruitment, readiness, and morale. Lawmakers and military leaders need to have as much information as possible before any action is taken on such a significant military policy."

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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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