TPM News

Michele Bachmann has her first TV ad up in Iowa, further reminding Republican voters in the first caucus state of a theme she has been stressing throughout her new presidential campaign -- that the congresswoman from Minnesota is originally from Iowa. Also, she is with them on issues of spending, taxes and the debt.

"As a descendant of generations of Iowans, I was born and raised in Waterloo," Bachmann says. "As a mom of five, a foster parent, and a former tax lawyer, and now a small-business job creator, I know that we can't keep spending money that we don't have. That's why I fought against the wasteful bailout, against the stimulus.

"I. will. not. vote. to increase the debt ceiling. I'm Michele Bachmann, and I approve this message."

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Two Congressional leadership aides -- one Democratic, one Republican -- confirmed elements of Wednesday night's big developments in high-stakes talks to increase the national borrowing limit.

President Obama and leaders on Capitol Hill have committed themselves to moving ahead with a larger deficit reduction deal than negotiators once thought possible in the weeks ahead. In sum, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), along with other GOP and Dem leaders are now aiming for a 10-year goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, which would include defined cuts in entitlement, defense, and domestic discretionary spending. The cuts would amount to about 75 percent of the overall savings, and the biggest question now is whether the GOP will truly give ground on taxes -- in specific ways, that produce real revenue. The alternative is that those changes will remain ill-defined in ways that fail to guarantee deficit reduction, and convince already-uneasy Democrats to throw up their hands.

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Whether the country pays its bills on time or not rests for now on the answer to a key question: Which, if either, party will cave first on the question of tax revenues? At best, Republicans say they're willing to look at new Dem-proposed revenue sources...but only if they can give that money right back to stakeholders in the form of additional tax cuts.

"If the President wants to talk loopholes, we'll be glad to talk loopholes," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters at a Wednesday Capitol briefing. "But, listen, we are not for any proposal that increases taxes, and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else."

So rigid are Republicans on this score that Senate Democrats plan to force a symbolic vote Thursday, asking whether wealthier Americans should have to contribute to deficit reduction at all, in any way. The so-called "sense-of-the-Senate" resolution is a clever gambit -- a theatrical bid to illustrate the point that Republicans don't really want shared sacrifice if "shared" includes rich people.

But the outcome won't clarify whether Republicans do in fact see other ways for well-off Americans to help reduce the national debt short of increasing their tax burden. So we put that question to several high-profile Republican senators. Their answers are best summed up in the form of another question: What more do you want them to do?

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For a convicted murderer, Humberto Leal Garcia seems to have plenty of powerful people in his corner. In the last few days appeals for delaying the execution of this death row inmate have come from the Mexican ambassador, various UN officials and even the Obama administration's Solicitor-General.

However, it's not really Mr. Leal they're defending, but a point of international law; a point that many say the US is obliged to uphold, and which Texas Governor Rick Perry will violate if he doesn't halt the killing.

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With state parks and rest stops shuttered, and the state lottery frozen, Minnesota's government shutdown is losing the state money.

But how much, exactly? Thursday marks the seventh day of Minnesota's deadlock over a projected $5 billion deficit. Because some of the people who would calculate those costs are currently laid off by the shutdown, Minnesota Management and Budget spokesman John Pollard told TPM it's difficult to come up with an exact number.

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Mitt Romney's camp is out with a statement flagging dozens of prominent Utah Republicans who stand publicly with Romney. Though they don't say it out right, Team Romney's statement is a veiled attack on the man many still think could be his biggest rival once things really get going on the presidential campaign trail: Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman's firmly entrenched in nowheresville in current polling, but the former Utah governor's polish and perceived general election saleability still put him in the top ranks of presidential chatter. As the other Mormon in the race -- and the other candidate with strong Utah connections -- Romney's folks seem to think doing well in Utah shows they've got the upper hand on Huntsman.

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As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee drafts major legislation to overhaul government regulations on the transportation industry, railroad companies are speeding up their lobbying efforts to rollback regulations on the business.

Since 2007, railroads, affiliated companies and industry trade groups have spent more than $152 million on federal lobbying, according to a report to be released Thursday by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW's report points to news reports that indicated Osama bin Laden thought trains made good targets for a possible terrorist attack and contrasts that with the railroad industry's efforts to reduce the frequency of locomotive inspections and place a cap on their liability when carrying substances labeled as Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH) materials.

The report finds that at least four former members of Congress -- two of whom have sons currently serving on the railroad subcommittee -- are lobbying on the legislation and that contributions from the railroad industry to current committee members jumped over 25 percent between 2008 and 2010.

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Michele Bachmann might want to double-check her lingo on foreign policy -- at least, according to the rules of politics in this country and the Republican presidential race.

Early Wednesday evening, Bachmann tweeted:

I'm proud to cosponsor HRes 268, coming to the Floor tonight. The resolution supports peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. #jcot

Technically, Bachmann has fouled up the nomenclature here.

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The era of epic manned space flight may be over, but the era of personal aircrafts may be just beginning.

Or so believe some Americans, and some officials in Europe, who have just sunk a little over $6 million dollars into a research project on "personal aerial vehicles."

The European Commission has established a project called "MyCopter" to investigate the feasibility of such personal aircraft.

"It is now a question of when we'll get personal aerial vehicles, not if we'll get them," project leader Heinrich Buelthoff of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics tells the New Scientist. The Institute is based in Tuebingen, Germany.

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