TPM News

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a long-time advocate of filibuster reform, was the lone senior senator to publicly align himself with Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in their effort to change the Senate's rules.

Those efforts were neutered this week by the leaders of both parties. With the exception of some modest tweaks, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed that the rules would remain largely unchanged. Beyond that, though,they shook hands and agreed that for the next several years, neither party will attempt to change the filibuster rules on a majority-vote basis -- what's known as the "Constitutional option."

Under these circumstances, Harkin has given up hope that the Senate will ever reassess itself, and is looking to the courts to step in and shake things up.

"It's clear now that the Senate can not change its rules," Harkin told me in an interview Thursday evening. "It can not."

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After ignoring the issue of gun control for his entire presidency to date, aides to President Barack Obama said Wednesday he'd take up the issue within the next few weeks. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney has said he'd be okay with banning high-capacity clips in the wake of the mass shooting that nearly killed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and left six others dead.

But there's a whole other lot of Second Amendment supporters who, instead of discussing middle-of-the-road measures to curb gun violence, are advocating to rescind or roll back even current restrictions.

In state legislatures around the country, conservatives lawmakers are introducing some of the most enthusiastic right-to-bear-arms bills to date. Here's TPM's round up.

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Just two months ago, President Obama was reeling from his party's massive defeat in the midterm elections. He faced a number of critical legislative decisions, his approval numbers plummeted to the lowest levels of his presidency, and pundits began speculating whether he could survive a primary challenge in 2012.

Yet now, it seems like everything is coming up in Obama's favor. Buoyed by a surging approval rating, an improved economic outlook, and some popular legislative achievements, Obama is suddenly back on top.

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Five men in their teens and 20s were arrested in the United Kingdom on Thursday in raids coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States.

The men ranged in age from 15 to 26, and were arrested for alleged violations of the Computer Misuse Act, the Telegraph reported. They were taken to police stations in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London, according to the newspaper. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and the equivalent of a $7968.50 fine.

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A fugitive member of the 1970s drug smuggling racket known as Black Tuna was arrested yesterday in his West Palm Beach retirement village after 30 years on the lam.

Mark Steven Phillips, who is now 62, fled during his 1979 trial. He reportedly lived for years in Santiago, Chile, under a fake name, earning a living as a journalist and a commercial fisherman. He would pop up on the feds' radar screens from time to time, sometimes in Germany, sometimes in New York or Miami.

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Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor of Chicago. The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that Emanuel is eligible, overturning an appellate court decision, and ending months of legal back-and-forth.

In the decision, the higher court offered this criticism: "the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law."

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Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) will be headlining a big event to mark the late President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday: Delivering the keynote speech at the Reagan Ranch Center's commemoration, sponsored by the conservative Young America's Foundation. Oh, and former Vice President Dick Cheney will be there, too!

CNN reports:

Her speech on February 4th will "draw parallels to today while calling for young people to continue the Reagan revolution into 2012 and beyond," according to the release.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney will speak at the end of the celebrations on Saturday February 5th.

Reagan's centenary is turning into a big occasion for possible 2012 Republican candidates -- many others will be attending a mega-fundraiser for the state Republican Party in Reagan's original home of Illinois.

This should be a good gig for Palin. For one thing, the phrase "Morning in America" can fit on the average human hand.

House Speaker John Boehner was asked yesterday why President Obama didn't mention the notion of "American exceptionalism" in his State of the Union address. Boehner replied: "You can't get the left to talk about it. They don't -- they reject that notion."

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