TPM News

The man suspected of planting a backpack bomb along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon. Kevin William Harpham, 36, had been arrested earlier in day at his house near the small community of Addy, about 50 miles north of Spokane. He is charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.

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House Panel To Examine Muslim Radicalization Reuters reports: "The House of Representatives will investigate radicalization in the American-Muslim community, sparking outrage that the probe is a witch hunt akin to the 1950s anti-Communist campaign. With al Qaeda and its affiliates openly trying to recruit Americans and Muslims inside the United States for attacks, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King called congressional hearings on the subject 'absolutely essential.'"

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet at 10 a.m. ET with students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention, and they will deliver remarks at 10:35 a.m. ET. The President will hold a meeting on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act at 2:05 p.m. ET. He will meet at 3:05 p.m. ET with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

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Former NPR news analyst Juan Williams discussed his firing from the network last year in an interview with the Huffington Post, and said: "I think when it comes to NPR's decision to, without any reason, throw me out the door, I think that for them, I think especially for some of the people who created NPR, it's an all-white operation."

"I think that they felt they had never had much success with people who were black journalists, Hispanic journalists. More success with white women," said Williams.

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The big spending group founded by Karl Rove has succeeded in uniting unions and fiscal hawks -- in criticism of the group's new TV ad.

On Wednesday, Crossroads GPS launched a nationwide TV ad attacking the relationship between unions and Democratic politicians.

By the end of the day they had succeeded in putting the National Education Association and the anti-public sector union libertarian think-tank Cato on the same page: the ad, both said, is at best a stretch and at worse untrue. Crossroads disputes the claims and stands by its commercial.

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On the heels of their 18-1, Democratic Senator-free vote to roll back collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers, Republican leaders of the Wisconsin state Senate will head to a high-price fundraiser in their honor in DC.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel key players in the Wisconsin GOP will gather at the downtown DC headquarters of lobbying firm BGR Group March 16 for an event that donors "are asked to give at least $1,000 to the state Republican Party's federal account" to attend.

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Capping a dramatic turn of events, the Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday night passed a new, stripped-down "budget repair bill" -- which now excludes all the fiscal elements of the original budget repair bill, and simply includes the original's provisions to roll back the collective bargaining and organizational rights of Wisconsin's public employee unions.

With all 14 Democrats absent, having fled the state weeks ago in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum, the bill passed by an 18-1 margin, with only moderate Republican Dale Schultz voting no.

Gov. Scott Walker (R) has released this statement:

"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused. In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government. The action today will help ensure Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs."


Meanwhile, state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate has released this statement, vowing to recall all those Republican state Senators who are eligible under the state's recall laws, which require at least one year of a term to be completed -- and to recall Walker next year:

"Using tactics that trample on the traditions of our Legislature, the Republican leadership has betrayed our state. Republicans have rubber-stamped the desire of the Koch Brothers and their godshead Scott Walker to cripple Wisconsin's middle class and lower benefits and wages for every single wage-earner in our state. The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this never was about anything but raw political power. We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall."

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The special conference committee in Wisconsin -- convened in order to strip out the fiscal elements of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, in order to pass the anti-public employee union proposals and avoid the state SenateDemocratic boycott of the three-fifths budget quorum -- just met for roughly five minutes and passed the bill.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) attempted to make a motion to delay the meeting or make amendments -- and was not recognized for a motion by the chair, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Barca argued, over Fitzgerald's attempts to say there would be no motions, that the conference committee violated the state's open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice before a government meeting, unless there is good cause to act more quickly.

The bill then passed in committee on a 4-2, party-line margin -- and in a surreal sight, the online feed of the state equivalent of C-Span, Wisconsin Eye, faded out to tranquil music as the video was playing the shouting and ire of the meeting itself.

The bill to strip away most collective bargaining for public employee unions, and impose new limits on union organization, is now headed to the full chambers.

Late Update: Jessica Arp with the local CBS affiliate reports that the Senate has just passed the bill by a margin of 18-1 -- with only moderate Republican Dale Schultz voting no, in absence of the Democrats who had fled the state in order to block budget quorum.

Mary Spicuzza with the Wisconsin State Journal reports that the Assembly will move on the bill tomorrow.

Read our updated report on events in Wisconsin here.

Reports are coming in from Wisconsin that state Republicans could be on the verge of doing an end-run around state Senate Democrats -- who have fled the state in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum on Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill and its anti-public employee union provisions. The apparent solution: Convene a special conference committee this evening to strip out the fiscal elements of the budget repair bill -- and then pass the anti-union proposals with simple majority quorums.

Two weeks ago, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) had ruled out such a tactic, but it appears things may have changed as tense negotiations have dragged on. If the bill now passes in this form, most collective bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin would be stripped, and new limitations on union organization would be imposed.

The Associated Press reports: "Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch says he thinks Republicans plan to 'ram through' parts of the bill that take away collective bargaining rights but that don't cost any money."

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who has been in exile in Chicago, expressed his outrage to the Wisconsin State Journal. "They have been saying all along that this is a fiscal item, we've been saying it is not," said Erpenbach. "They have been lying. Their goal is to bust up the unions."

If this maneuver goes through, it would have some enormous political ramifications in the state, as unions are an important base of the Democratic Party organization in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the unions and Democrats have been actively organizing recalls of Republican state legislators -- leveraging the power of the tens of thousands of people who have protested the bill, and numerous opinion polls showing that Wisconsin voters oppose breaking the unions.

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In a statement Wednesday night, House Speaker John Boehner officially announced his intent for the House to intervene as a third party defendant in court cases challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Today, after consultation with the Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, the House General Counsel has been directed to initiate a legal defense of this law," Boehner said in the statement. "This action by the House will ensure that this law's constitutionality is decided by the courts, rather than by the President unilaterally."

In a letter to Boehner announcing the administration's decision not to defend the law in court, Holder nudged at the idea that Boehner could step in and do it himself. Not that they want the law to prevail in court, of course, but because they're perfectly happy for a GOP leader to become the face of what has become an unpopular cause.

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Faulty counterfeit electronic parts are ending up in the Defense Department's weapons systems, and the problem poses a critical risk to national security, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the panel, and John McCain (R-AZ), its ranking member, on Wednesday called the presence of counterfeit electronic parts in the DoD supply chain a "growing problem" and announced an investigation into just how they are ending up there.

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