TPM News

Facing a pillory of environmental objections from Democratic leaders over its decision to scrap a composting program for the House cafeteria, the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration fired back on Wednesday, telling TPM that the plan was a wasteful mess.

Earlier this week, DCCC chair Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told reporters in a statement that "Evidently the Republican economic strategy for jobs is one word: 'Styrofoam,'" while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) issued their own condemnations of the new non-biodegradable utensils.

Salley Wood, Communications Director for the House Administration Committee, under whose jurisdiction the cafeteria falls, dismissed their complaints as misleading.

"I'm not sure what objection the DCCC has to us saving taxpayers $475,000 by suspending a program that failed to meet is objectives," Wood told TPM.

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Wisconsin state Senate Republicans have taken another move to put the screws to Senate Democrats who have fled the state in order to block a budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals.

As WisPolitics reports, the Senate has passed a resolution fining members who are absent without leave for two or more session days, at a rate of $100 per day of absence. AWOL members would also be required to "Reimburse to the senate the actual costs incurred in compelling the attendance of the member."

The Senate had previously taken other steps to make things hard for the Dems. The direct-deposit of their Senate pay was suspended, requiring them to show up in person at the Capitol -- in effect, to provide a quorum -- in order to collect a check. In addition, their staffers have lost access to the Capitol's copy machines, and must pay for all paper printed in their offices.

Democrats and pro-choice advocates have been howling for weeks about what's in the Republican abortion bills currently working their way through the House.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), ardently pro-choice, says it's time to focus on what's not not in the bills. Chu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee which will be taking up one of the abortion bills on Thursday, has offered two amendments she says clear up dangerously unaddressed abortion access questions in H.R. 3, the bill first criticized for it's now-dropped language regarding "forcible rape."

Chu wants to make sure the law protects women's access to emergency abortion care while ensuring that women will be informed of all their medical options, even if a provider is opposed to abortion. Neither subject is addressed directly in H.R. 3 as it currently stands -- and that's what worries Chu.

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With a looming March 4 deadline before the government runs out of funding, the Senate voted 91-9 to approve a House measure providing funding for two weeks while making $4 billion in cuts with bipartisan backing.

The move averts a shutdown, but the gulf between the two parties remains wide as Republicans are calling for $61 billion in cuts that Democratic leaders and the White House claim would costs hundreds of thousands of jobs. Democrats say they support scaling back spending, but only if the reductions don't damage the fledgling recovery or essential services.

"At some point we're going to have to come to some finality and not just kick the can down the road two weeks at a time," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told reporters after the vote.

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In a new political development in Wisconsin, two Republican legislators are proposing a bill to criminalize prank calls that fraudulently conceal the caller's identity. However, they say this is not motivated by Gov. Scott Walker's recent call with a blogger posing as Republican billionaire David Koch.

The bill is sponsored by GOP state Sen. Mary Lazich and state Rep. Mark Honadel. According to the Badger Herald, one of the two student-run papers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the sponsors deny that it is connected to Walker's recent call -- Honadel's spokesman said that they introduced it at the end of the last session, but ran out of time get it through, and are just re-introducing it now.

TPMDC has confirmed on Wisconsin's legislative site that the bill was introduced in the previous session.

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Congress passed a stopgap measure on Wednesday morning that prevents a government shutdown for another two weeks. But legislators would do themselves a favor by passing a long-term solution before that extended deadline, because polls indicate that if they fail to do so, Congress -- rather than President Obama -- would suffer the brunt of voters' ire.

Without a completed budget bill, the government would effectively shut down until one is passed, as happened in 1994. Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to that prospect; about 60% of respondents to surveys conducted by Gallup and PPP said they didn't want to see the government temporarily shuttered.

But if a shutdown does occur, polls have shown more Americans would pin the blame Congressional Republicans than on Obama. However, when surveys pit Obama and Congressional Democrats against Republicans in Congress, the blame gets spread more evenly.

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Tax cuts for millionaires and budget cuts to social programs are one thing, but touch House Democrats' paper coffee cups and you're in a world of hurt.

Democratic leaders have been waging a war of words against the GOP majority after Republicans canceled a composting program and replaced the cafeteria's biodegradable cups, plates, and utensils with styrofoam and hard plastic. Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA), who announced the move last month, said in a press release the House Inspector General concluded the process of composting the green utensils added $475,000 annually to the Capitol's operating costs with only marginal environmental benefits versus the usual approach of burning trash and using the heat to create energy. In addition, the biodegradable materials drew frequent criticism from cafeteria-goers, who complained the utensils broke easily and the cups could not hold coffee without overheating and even sometimes leaking out the bottom.

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Some semblance of negotiations are beginning in the standoff in Wisconsin, where state Senate Democrats have fled the state in order to block a budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union proposals -- but only a semblance.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen met on Monday in Wisconsin -- at a McDonald's in Kenosha, right near the Illinois state line.

Fitzgerald is taking the meeting as a sign that some Democrats could be itching to return home: ""There's six, seven, eight, nine of them that are starting to say, 'Listen, we're starting to look like we're out of touch with what's going on in Madison, and it's time to get back."

However, Cullen told the paper that a lone return will not happen. "No one will go back and be the 20th vote," said Cullen. "We'll go back as a group."

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