TPM News

Texas state Rep. Leo Berman (R), last seen getting shellacked by Anderson Cooper over his birther bill, is pushing a state constitutional amendment that would prevent Texas courts from considering "religious or cultural law" when handing down rulings.

Though the amendment doesn't specifically say anything about sharia law -- like a recently-blocked law in Oklahoma does, for example -- Berman said of the resolution: "A lot of federal courts are referring to international courts and laws of other countries. We want to make sure our courts are not doing this, especially in regards to cultural laws. If that includes Sharia law, then so be it."

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The Justice Department on Thursday filed a motion justifying the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, appealing a federal judge's decision that the part of DOMA which defines marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.

But the appeal makes clear that the Obama administration doesn't support DOMA, and that the Justice Department was simply following tradition in defending even those laws the executive branch disagrees with.

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In what appears to be the first official reaction from a member of the Democratic leadership, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has now endorsed the call by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) that members of both parties sit together at the upcoming State of the Union address, rather than separate into the Democratic and Republican aisles as they normally do.

"A gesture like this won't make partisanship disappear, nor should it -- democracy is built on strong disagreements between the parties," Hoyer said in a statement. "But this gesture, which was first suggested by the independent group Third Way and supported by Senator Mark Udall, should help end the political theater of repeatedly seeing one side of the aisle rise in applause, as the other sits still."

Late Update: As Greg Sargent reported today, Chuck Schumer has also endorsed the idea over on the Senate side.

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Several weeks ago, NewsTalk 790 KNST in Tucson put up a billboard to advertise Rush Limbaugh's radio show. The text reads, "Rush Limbaugh/Straight Shooter," and the ad is riddled with images of bullet holes. In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 18 others on Saturday, KNST's parent company, Clear Channel, decided to take down the billboard.

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In an attempt to secure the release of Emerson Begolly, the 21-year-old Nazi-dressing alleged jihad enthusiast who allegedly bit two FBI agents, his defense lawyer alleged in court documents Wednesday that one of the agents had a romantic relationship with the suspect's estranged, alcoholic mother.

But Special Agent William J. Crowley of the FBI's Pittsburgh office told TPM that the bureau "categorically denies" any romantic relationship between Special Agent Bradley Orsini and Begolly's mother Joan Kowalski.

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An amendment to the bill authorizing military spending for 2011 now requires that all solar equipment purchased by the Department of Defense be manufactured in the United States. But in the face of stiff international competition for some solar manufacturers -- Evergreen Solar closed its Massachusetts plant because of Chinese competition and Chinese imports are on the rise -- can this Buy American provision help boost domestic production of solar equipment?

While the military is a growing market for the solar energy industry, solar equipment manufacturing "is a global business and companies are making their decisions where to manufacture on a number of factors," Monique Hannis said, a spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industries Association said.

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Police in Tucson have found a black bag containing ammunition near Jared Loughner's house and the FBI is analyzing it, according to local reports.

Investigators have been looking for the bag, which they say Loughner and his father fought over the morning of the shooting. According to police, Jared Loughner took it out of the trunk of his car and then argued with his father about it. When Jared drove away, his father reportedly tried to drive after him, but lost him.

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Mitt Romney's non-campaign is looking more and more like a real campaign.

Though Romney has yet to officially declare a presidential bid, Real Clear Politics reports that he's taken on a pollster and a political director. That news comes on the heels of Romney's decision to step down from the board of directors of Marriott International, a decision that seems to signal his intention to once again seek the Republican presidential nomination.

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In the wake of the shooting spree in Arizona, Democrats pressed Republicans to change the name of their health care repeal bill -- the bluntly titled "Repealing the Job Killing Health Health Care Law Act."

No luck. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says they're sticking with that name.

As first reported by Greg Sargent, that vote is scheduled for next week. In a statement sent my way, Cantor spox Brad Dayspring confirms, "As the White House noted, it is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week. Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new health care law and its effect on the ability to grow jobs in our country. It is our expectation that the debate will continue to focus on those substantive policy differences surrounding the new law."

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