TPM News

The first questions about gun rights during Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings today came not from Republicans -- who always attempt to make the Second Amendment an issue -- but from Democrats. Kagan quickly ended the line of inquiry by declaring citizens' rights to own guns as "settled law."

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Calling into question years worth of polls, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas said today his site will sue pollster Research 2000 after a statistical analysis showed that R2K allegedly "fabricated or manipulated" poll data commissioned by Kos.

Two weeks ago, after Kos dropped R2K for inaccuracy, a group of three of what Kos calls "statistics wizards" began looking at some of the firm's data and found a number of "extreme anomalies" that they claim may be the result of some kind of randomizer.

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Democrats are preparing to oppose the latest GOP plan to hold oil companies accountable for spill damages in the future.

A new plan, authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), and passed my way by a source, would give the President the authority to set liability caps, based on congressionally approved guidelines, on a spill-by-spill basis. The idea is that this legislation would replace the Democrats' bid to simply lift the liability cap, exposing companies to the full cost of their spills. An Inhofe spokesman says they want to work with Democrats on the GOP proposal and use it as a substitute when the Environment and Public Works committee meets to consider the Democratic plan tomorrow.

Democrats who support lifting the cap altogether say no way. They're preparing a list of objections to Inhofe's plan, highlighting the fact that it leaves the President -- and future, more oil-friendly Presidents -- tremendous discretion to set low liability caps, and that spill damages can not be predicted ahead of time.

We'll see how this pans out tomorrow when EPW meets to mark up the Democrats' bill. Dems seem to be trying to get out in front of this one, worried perhaps that some of their members might get thrown for a loop by the Inhofe plan.

With the Wall Street reform legislation agreed to by House and Senate negotiators now in serious doubt in the Senate, what happens if the final bill can't muster the votes? At his weekly press availability this morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hinted that they may have to make some changes.

"We're trying to work with the Senate to ensure that we both take up a version that does in fact have 60 votes," Hoyer said.

But the conference report, passed late last week, can not be amended on the House or Senate floors. It's an up-or-down, yes-or-no proposition. If they need a new 'version' that has 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, they'd have to reconvene the conference committee, strip the language that offends Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and try again.

Hoyer declined a followup question this morning. Neither his office, nor the office of conference committee chairman Barney Frank were immediately available for comment. But keep an eye on this as an increasingly likely option for Democrats, as they try to save the financial reform bill.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), whose Senate campaign has run into trouble due to his past misstatements about his military record, bluntly admitted at a press conference today that his words had been "careless."

The Chicago ABC station reports that Kirk was asked by reporters what he was thinking when he made the misstatements. His response: "I was not thinking."

Kirk had previously claimed to have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also that he had received the Navy's Intelligence Officer of the Year award. Neither of these statements were quite true -- Kirk's unit had received a different award, the Rufus L. Taylor Intelligence Award, and Kirk had served in the Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but not in Iraq itself.

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