TPM News

Looks like the deficit commission recommendations appeal to politicians to the right of Max Baucus and to the left of Paul Ryan.

In another fun development in the Minnesota gubernatorial recount, the campaign of Democratic nominee Mark Dayton has written a letter to the State Canvassing Board withdrawing all of its ballot-challenges that have been declared frivolous by local officials -- and savaging the campaign of Republican nominee Tom Emmer for issuing a lot more of such challenges than they have.

Essentially, Team Dayton appears to be letting Team Emmer make themselves look bad, and could be trying to ingratiate their own side with the board ahead of a meeting on Friday, which was scheduled ahead of time just to examine this very issue.

"The 2010 Gubernatorial Recount to date has been disrupted by a striking pattern of frivolous challenges to ballots validly cast by lawful Minnesotan voters, with clear expression of voter intent and devoid of any identifying marks," writes Dayton co-lead counsel Marc Elias (who previously served as Dem Sen. Al Franken's lead attorney in the 2008 Senate recount). "I urge this Board to put an end to this unfortunate effort to disenfranchise Minnesota voters."

According to the letter, Team Dayton had only lodged 42 frivolous challenges -- that's right, my fellow fans of absurdist comedy, 42 -- compared to 2,544 from Team Emmer as of the close of business on Wednesday.

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The House of Representatives voted 332 to 79 to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) on Thursday for violations of the body's ethics laws.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) read the censure on the floor of the House immediately following the vote.

Today's vote brought an end to the investigation of the long serving New York Democrat, who was found to have violated 11 of the House ethics rules. The charges centered upon four issues: that Rangel used Congressional resources to raise money for an educational center bearing his name; that he failed to report taxable income on a rental villa in the Dominican Republic; the he filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms; and that he used a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem as a campaign office.

Several members from both parties spoke in support changing the punishment from censure to reprimand (For more on how these punishments have played out in the past, see here.)

And Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a member of the ethics committee, proposed a motion to lessen the sanction from censure to reprimand that ultimately failed by a vote of 146-267. It had the support of 143 Democrats and three Republicans: Reps. Pete King (NY), Ron Paul (TX) and Don Young (AK).

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, yesterday succeeded in getting to boot Wikileaks off its servers.

Now, Lieberman says he's widening his scope.

"We've gotta put pressure on any companies -- like Amazon, [which] just cut Wikileaks off from its servers to distribute -- there's a company now in Sweden, I think it's called Bahnhof, which is providing that kind of access to the Internet to Wikileaks," he said on MSNBC this afternoon. "We've got to stop them from doing that."

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Senate Democrats are planning to force a vote on the House's just-passed middle-income tax cut bill and a second package to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a new, $1 million tax bracket, according to a Democratic aide.

The move is a sign of the leadership's frustration -- though both packages will likely be filibustered by Republicans, Dems are loath to simply wait for negotiations with Republicans and the White House to end on terms they suspect will be much more favorable to the GOP than to their own party.

At his press conference today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was non-committal about whether this would happen. And though the aide emphasizes that the plan isn't set in stone, it looks like this is the direction Senate Dems are headed. Reid would have to file for cloture tomorrow, resulting in a rare Saturday roll call. Dems would need 60 votes to overcome the filibuster.

The new survey of Missouri by Public Policy Polling (D) shows President Obama trailing in the perennial swing state that he narrowly lost to John McCain in 2008 -- unless, that is, the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Obama was tested against several possible Republican nominees. Mike Huckabee leads Obama by 49%-42%, and Mitt Romney leads Obama by 47%-41%. However, Gingrich only edges out Obama by 45%-44%. And Obama pulls ahead of Palin, by a margin of 46%-43%.

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who is widely seen as being a potential presidential candidate, has publicly responded to media coverage of a pardon that he and the state board made of a man who had pled guilty to statutory rape many years before -- and is now alleged to have been molesting his own daughter all the while.

Let's round up the information at hand, and get a good look at the circumstances of the case.

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Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.

Democrats were not united on the issue. Twenty voted with Republicans to kill the tax cut bill, as they hold out for extending additional cuts to wealthy Americans -- though 3 Republicans, including Reps. Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) voted for the tax cut extensions. However the outcome will (and was designed to) allow Democrats to draw distinctions between themselves and Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.

President Obama endorsed the plan many months ago, and continues to support it. But divisions within his party, the White House's soft push, and the new political reality after the November election have made it highly unlikely that this legislation will become law. It would need to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and Democrats lack the 60 votes they'd need to do that.

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