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The Most Vulnerable Seats in the Senate

April 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Ken Rudin of NPR's Political Junkie blog has a rundown of what he thinks are the top five most vulnerable Senate seats heading towards 2010. Three are likely to stay with the same party and two are currently held by Republicans, but likely to be picked up by the Democrats....

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Congress will investigate a controversial intelligence-gathering program after officials within the National Security Agency said it may have overstepped its bounds in conducting electronic surveillance on Americans. According to a story first reported in the New York Times, officials with the Justice Department, along with NSA personnel, discovered the irregular activity during a regular review of the program. DOJ staff discovered NSA had eavesdropped on domestic e-mails and telephone calls o...

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A Cram-Down Deal

April 16, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Congress's leading bill to address the foreclosure crisis has been stuck in the Senate for the past five weeks, but a deal may have finally been reached. It looks like the main provision of the The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, which would let bankruptcy judges rework mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure, including a "cram-down" of the principle, would be significantly weakened.

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Sen. Gillibrand's Ballot in Dispute

April 14, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Starting to get a little absurd up in NY-20: Republican Jim Tedisco has challenged the absentee ballot of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the special election for Gillibrand's former House seat in upstate New York. [...] A spokesman for the New York Board of Elections, John Conklin, said that similar challenges have occurred before but with little success. In most cases, courts have ruled that the ballot should be counted if the voter did not intend to be in the district on Election Day...

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The Best Campaign Finance Data Around, for Free

April 13, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The Center for Responsive Politics' amazing OpenSecrets website, which tracks information on who is funding federal lawmakers' campaigns, is opening up its data for web developers to reuse and remix however they like. From their blog: For the first time in CRP's 26-year history, the nonprofit research group's most popular data archives are fully and freely downloadable for non-commercial purposes from the Center's website, OpenSecrets.org -- a four-time Webby winner for best politics site on...

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Closing the Wealth Gap

April 13, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Wealth Gap

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Save My Pawn Shop

April 12, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Pawn shop owners are worried that Sen. Durbin's bill to cap interest rates on all kinds of loans at 36 percent would put them all out of business. The high-interest, short-term loans that pawnbrokers give out, backed by undervalued jewelry, camera, instruments and the like, would be covered under the bill.

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Congress Going Easy on Payday Loan Dealers

April 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

In light of our current debt-fueled economic crisis, Congress is looking at reforming one of the most predatory forms of lending -- payday loans. But according to a range of consumer, community and civil rights groups the leading bill in Congress to deal with the issue, the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009, would actually protect the "predatory payday loan business model and will stall or stop the significant progress that has been made at the state level to curb usurious lending."

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House Members' Online Earmark Disclosures

April 8, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Earmarks are such a hot topic because of the potential for abuse (as we'll see below), while proponents argue they enable lawmakers to fund projects that are needed and requested by constituents. With Sen. John McCain taking his principled stand against earmarks during the 2008 Presidential Election, it's not a surprise that the practice would fall under increased scrutiny during the 111th Congress. Turns out members of the House were required to disclose their earmark requests for 2010 this past weekend.

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Lincoln Will Not Support EFCA

April 6, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Another key senator has come out against the Employee Free Choice Act, basically sealing its death (in its current form). Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] today announced that she will vote against the bill, and against moving it beyond a Republican filibuster. Senator Lincoln voted in favor of the bill in 2007.

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Obama's Budget Dissenters

April 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Not surprisingly, the vote over Obama's $3.6 trillion budget (H. Con. Res. 85) tonight was a deeply partisan affair. Not a single Republican voted in favor. Republicans have been very good this session of Congress with holding their party together in opposition to the Presidents' most significant measures. The Democrats, on the other hand, always tend to lose some votes to the other side. On Obama's budget, a full 20 Democrats votes with the Republicans against Obama's budget

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House Passes Tobacco Regulation Bill

April 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With somewhat less support than last year, the House has once again approved the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256) which would put tobacco products under regulation from the Food and Drug Administration, but would not allow the agency to ban the products altogether. In the previous session of Congress, the House passed the bill by an overwhelming vote of 325-102; despite an expanded Democratic majority in the House, today's vote was 298-112. Twenty-one representati...

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House Committee Release Draft Climate Bill

April 2, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

If you read my climate change primer, you know that House leaders were expected to push for a comprehensive energy package, tying together a climate change bill and legislation for a renewable energy standard, changes to nations electrical grid, and energy efficiency. On Tuesday, a draft of that House package was released by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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Stevens Cleared of All Charges

April 1, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens involving $250,000 in undisclosed gifts from an oil company have been thrown out by the Department of Justice. Stevens' conviction on seven felony counts of ethics violations caused him to lose his seat in the Senate last year after serving Alaska for 40 years.

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