TPM News

After the 112th Congress convened yesterday, Jon Stewart celebrated his pick for the Senate's grumpiest member: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

"McCain's old-man crankiness has gone off the charts," Stewart said last night. "On the scale, he's clearly gone from a man of wisdom all the way to full Gran Torino."

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67-year-old Lorraine P. Levine of Arlington, Texas attempted to mow down a police officer directing traffic at the funeral for a recently slain police officer yesterday. Her excuse? She halved her dosage of Xanax that morning.

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The Deepwater Horizon blowout that lead to the worst oil spill in U.S. history was caused by poor management -- poor management that, according to the presidential Oil Spill Commission, is industry-wide.

The commission, which has released some of its findings on the causes of the blowout, says the blowout could have been prevented by better management by BP and its partners, Halliburton and Transocean.

"The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again," the report reads. "Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur."

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A former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates set up a plum position for himself at Old Dominion University -- a job he funded through legislation he introduced at the same time he was soliciting the gig, a federal grand jury charged in an indictment on Wednesday.

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A provision in a new package of Senate filibuster reforms meant to protect the minority from the majority's power has supporters both on and off the Hill nervous about its potential to invite poison pills.

One of the GOP's main criticisms of Harry Reid's leadership is that he too often "fills the amendment tree," which essentially eliminates the minority's power to offer amendments. To address that, reform leaders Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) included a measure in their rules package that would have guaranteed the majority and the minority votes on three germane amendments, regardless of whether the "amendment tree" was otherwise filled.

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Democrats' Defection From Pelosi Is Historic The Washington Post reports: "With 19 Democrats withholding support from Nancy Pelosi for House speaker on Wednesday, it represented the largest defection from a party's speaker nominee in nearly a century. The resistance in the Democratic Party to back now-former Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the ceremonial first vote of the 112th Congress registered higher than at any point since 1913, according to data from the Congressional Research Service."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 10:30 a.m. ET with senior advisers, and meet at 12:30 p.m. ET with Biden for lunch. At 3:40 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

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With White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs set to leave his post soon, we asked a former high-profile aide from another White House what issues can surround these kinds of transitions: Former Bill Clinton staffer and current CNN pundit Paul Begala.

"I don't know him very well personally, but I can tell you professionally I'm a huge admirer of Gibbs," Begala told TPM in a phone interview Wednesday. "Anything he turns to, he'd be good at it."

"Maybe he can spend 2011 doing other things that would only make him a more valuable assistant to President Obama. That team seems to have had a strategy in place for some time. It was an open secret that Axelrod is gonna leave after two years and Plouffe is gonna come in. I can't reveal my sources, but I was hearing that in the transition before President Obama was inaugurated. It just always seemed that would happen."

"It's good to bring people in who both already have a relationship with the president," Begala added, "but also aren't exhausted."

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The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats fell to 31% in 2010, matching the lowest level in at least the last 22 years, according to Gallup.

That finding, based on an aggregation of 21 surveys of more than 25,000 adults conducted by Gallup and Gallup/USAToday over the past year, matches the low water mark previously recorded by Gallup in 2003, 1995, and 1991. It's also down five points from the 22-year high of 36% of Americans who identified as Democrats just two years ago.

That speed of that five-point drop is almost without precedent in the Gallup average. In releasing the findings, Gallup noted:

While there is usually some year-to-year variation in party identification at the aggregate level, the changes are typically not large. Thus, the five-point drop in Democratic identification over the past two years, from the party's 22-year high of 36% (tying the 1988 figure) to its 22-year low of 31%, is notable.

Gallup has been releasing a yearly aggregate since 1988.

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