TPM News

After months of GOP obstruction, a bill to help 9/11 first responders cover their mounting health care costs is expected to zip through Congress. In addition to being a feather in the cap of New York and New Jersey Democrats -- who have been pushing the bill for months -- it will likely enjoy the distinction of being the last legislative item to pass the unusually productive 111th Congress lame duck session.

Republicans have blocked the bill in both the House and Senate over objections to its cost and financing mechanisms, but with a combination of tweaks and public pressure, Democrats say they've rounded up the 60 votes they'll need to break the filibuster. And with members eager to skip town for the holidays, the House and Senate have lined up to expedite final passage.

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President Obama carried the critical swing state of Florida in 2008, and according to a new poll, he's leading there again in 2012.

In a new PPP poll, Obama leads all five potential Republican challengers matched against him in the Sunshine State. Mitt Romney comes closest to catching Obama, trailing by just two points, 46% to 44%. Romney is the only challenger to come within the poll's 3% margin of error.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Speaker Newt Gingrich each came within five points of Obama. Huckabee trailed Obama 49% to 44%, while Gingrich garnered 42% to Obama's 47%. Against Florida's Sen.-elect Marco Rubio -- who has been touted in some circles as a rising conservative star -- Obama's ahead 48% to 40%.

Obama's only double digit lead in the poll came against Sarah Palin, whom he led 52% to 38%.

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The Central Intelligence Agency has created a new group dedicated to analyze the impact of WikiLeaks on the United States's foreign relationships and the agency's operations. The name of this new department is the WikiLeaks Task Force. WTF indeed.

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by Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica

Residents of Dimock, Pa., said they were surprised -- and in some cases upset -- by the settlement that state environmental regulators reached last week with Cabot Oil & Gas, which the Department of Environmental Protection says contaminated 18 water wells with methane from its gas drilling operations.

The homeowners were told in September that the DEP was going to provide them with fresh water by building a pipeline from a nearby water treatment facility. A state infrastructure fund would have fronted the $11.8 million cost of the project, and the DEP was going to seek reimbursement from Cabot.

But last week the DEP announced that the pipeline project was dead and that Cabot had agreed instead to give the homeowners $4.1 million and provide treatment systems for their well water. The 19 families who draw water from the wells will be offered payments equal to twice the value of their homes, with a minimum payment of $50,000. The settlement also gives the DEP $500,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.

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MSNBC's Rachel Maddow lauded Fox News host Shep Smith last night for his repeated walloping of Republicans for opposing the 9/11 first responders bill.

"Shep Smith making a hullabaloo on his show about the Republicans who are not supporting health care for 9/11 first responders means that those Republicans might feel compelled to explain publicly why they don't support health care for 9/11 first responders."

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President Obama this morning signed into law the bill repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"I am just overwhelmed," Obama said as he took the stage among chants of "Yes we can!" and whoops from the audience. "This is a very good day."

"No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military, regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay," he said. "No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie."

Obama was joined on stage by Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins and Harry Reid and Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran who had pushed for DADT repeal.

"In the coming days, we will begin the process laid out by this law," Obama said, adding that repeal will not go into effect immediately. "It is very important that servicemembers remember that."

He spoke directly to gay soldiers, and said he hoped those discharged under DADT will re-enlist once it is fully repealed.

"There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country," he said. "As the first generation to serve openly in our armed services, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models for all those who will come after you."

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Senate Poised To Ratify START The Associated Press reports: "The Senate is poised to approve a nuclear arms pact with Russia, handing President Barack Obama a huge victory on his top foreign policy priority...The approval would mark a big comeback for Obama's arm controls efforts after the treaty appeared all but dead just weeks ago. It also would allow Obama to continue efforts to improve relations with Russia."

Obama's Day Ahead -- Signing DADT Repeal President Obama will deliver remarks and sign the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, at 9:15 a.m. ET. He will meet at 10:15 a.m. ET with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

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Long before all this week's hoopla over Barbour's rose-tinted recollections of the segregationist Citizens' Councils, two major GOP donors who supported the controversial Swiftboat ads had already stopped their donations to the political action committee affiliated with Haley Barbour. The 527 organization known as Haley's PAC brought in $986,506 in 2008 -- but that number dropped to just $211,486 in 2009, according to recently disclosed IRS filings.

Though 2009 was an off-year in the election cycle, that remains a precipitous drop unmatched by other leadership PACs, including former Rep. Newt Gingrich's.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) did pretty well for herself in 2010. A prominent conservative figure who routinely appears on national television, she founded the tea party caucus, and was recently given a seat on the House Intelligence Committee. But after cruising to reelection victory in Minnesota, is she already setting her eyes on a 2012 senate run?

Bachmann's spokesman Doug Sachtleben told The Hill in a statement that "nothing's off the table for the future." Sachtleben declined to comment further to TPM.

Obviously, Bachmann's not running yet. But if she did -- how would she stack up next to first-term Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar?

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