Tom Kludt

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Tom

The average approval rating for Congress in 2012 was the lowest in Gallup's 38 years of testing the question, the polling organization revealed Friday. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill earned an average approval rating of 15 percent last year, much lower than the 38 percent average approval rating since Gallup first began asking the question in 1974. 

And the new year did nothing to make the public more optimistic about the legislative branch, with Gallup's first poll of 2013 showing a mere 14 percent of the public approving of the job Congress is doing. 

The PollTracker Average illustrates the anemic Congressional approval rating that spanned 2012.


Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Friday released a letter sent to Vice President Joe Biden in which they called for a law to provide better access to mental health and substance use services to be included in the forthcoming gun policy recommendations.

From the letter:

"Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, millions of Americans with health insurance are entitled to access to a full range of mental health and substance use disorder services. However, while this historic law was passed four years ago, the administration has yet to issue a final rule, potentially leaving many Americans who need and have a right to these services without access to them."

Read the entire letter here.

It is still unclear if Cory Booker (D) will square off with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in a primary for the 2014 U.S. Senate race, but a report published Friday in Politico suggested that the longtime senator took umbrage to the high-profile Newark, N.J. mayor's decision to pursue his seat.

The story quoted an unnamed senior adviser to Lautenberg, who had choice words for Booker.

“This guy is self-absorbed and disrespectful,” the adviser said of Booker, who filed his campaign papers with the Federal Election Commision for the Senate race earlier this week. “It’s shameful that he avoided challenging a Republican just so that he can take on a long-serving, loyal Democrat."

Booker said during an appearance on CNN Monday that he has yet to meet with Lautenberg, noting he wants to give the 88-year-old incumbent "space to make his own decision." Lautenberg has yet to announce if he will seek a sixth term, but a poll released Thursday indicated that New Jersey Democrats would prefer to see Booker hold the seat.

Attempting to counter critics who mocked a segment he conducted on the evening panel program "The Five," Fox News host Eric Bolling on Friday floated the thoroughly debunked claim that deceased Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein "financed" the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:


The League of Conservation Voters on Friday issued a statement to endorse Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) for U.S. Senate in the expected Massachusetts special election, saying there has been "no greater champion in Congress" for clean energy than the longtime congressman.

The statement:

“There’s been no greater champion in Congress for the clean energy economy than Ed Markey.  He has never stopped fighting for Massachusetts – promoting new technologies and green jobs, standing up to corporate polluters, and putting the health of our families first.  Ed Markey is the leader Massachusetts needs in the U.S. Senate,” said Scott Nathan, Chairman of the League of Conservation Voters.

 “It’s not often we have the chance to elect to the Senate an environmental hero like Ed Markey, who has written some of the most historic environmental legislation ever considered by Congress. Ed Markey has spent his career on the front lines of the fight to create clean energy jobs and combat climate change, and we need his leadership in the United States Senate. LCV Action Fund is proud to endorse Ed Markey,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski.


From climate change to public lands protection to holding Big Oil accountable, it’s hard to find an environmental issue that Markey hasn’t led on. Markey helped write the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a landmark comprehensive clean energy and climate change bill. The passage of this bill through the House of Representatives in 2009 marked the first time either house of Congress had approved a comprehensive bill to reduce climate change pollution. He also chaired the now-defunct House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, holding more than 80 hearings on clean energy and climate change during its nearly four-year existence.   


A member of the Natural Resources Committee since 1976 and its current Ranking Member, Markey has also pushed to protect public lands, leading the fight to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He’s also pushed to strengthen drilling safety following the catastrophic BP oil spill in 2010, reform the antiquated 1872 Mining Law governing hardrock mining and been an ally as LCV works to end Big Oil subsidies.


His voting record has earned Markey an impressive 94% lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard. The non-partisan scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental and clean energy issues. Based on key environmental votes in the House and Senate, it is often used by the media to quickly describe a Member’s position. For more information, visit http://www.lcv.org/scorecard.


Markey is featured on LCV Action Fund’s GiveGreen website, http://www.givegreen.com, the only bundling website devoted exclusively to raising money for environmental champions and candidates.




Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Friday elaborated on his opposition to the nomination of Jack Lew to serve as the next secretary of the treasury, arguing that the post should be filled by someone who is willing to stand up to the "incredible wealth and power" on Wall Street. 

"Well, I think, the problem is that Wall Street right now, Thomas, is the most powerful entity in the United States of America," Sanders told MSNBC's Thomas Roberts. "And I think we need people in a variety of positions, including the secretary of the treasury, who is prepared to stand up to their incredible wealth and power. Let me give you just one example. The six largest financial institutions in this country have assets equivalent to $9 trillion, which is two-thirds of the GDP of the United States of America. Three out of the four largest financial institutions today are bigger than they were before we bailed out because they were quote-unquote too big too fail."

Sanders said the next treasury secretary should be committed to breaking up the most powerful financial institutions, something he doubts Lew will be willing to do.

"So, I think what we need is a secretary of treasury who is going to say, 'Sorry, you guys are too big. You're too powerful. We have to break you up. We have to bring more competition into the financial industry,'" Sanders said. "Do I think Jack Lew is going to be doing that? I do not."

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a statement Friday in which he expressed confidence that retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will be replaced by an "independent-minded Democrat" in 2014.

The statement:

"For more than a generation, Senator Rockefeller has been a dedicated public servant, a brilliant legislator, and a loyal colleague in the US Senate. While we will greatly miss him in our caucus, I am confident we can elect an independent-minded Democrat to his seat next November. Democrats maintain nearly a two to one voter registration advantage over Republicans in West Virginia and I know there are a number of leaders there who will consider taking this next step to serve their state."

The chart above, courtesy of The Sacramento Bee, provides a comparison of gun-related homicides in the United States to other industrialized countries with populations of 20 million or more and a GDP of at least $30,000. 

(Photo credit: Staff/MCT/Newscom)