News, Straight to the Point

Even before it got to the Supreme Court, the latest challenge to Obamacare baffled the people who drafted the law and tracked its passage. Reporters, Hill staff, Congressional Budget Office analysts -- nobody recalled Congress intending for the law's crucial subsidies to be limited to state-run exchanges and invalid on the federal HealthCare.gov.

That's what the King v. Burwell plaintiffs allege, though. In recent days, weeks and months, more and more evidence has emerged that nobody who was involved thought that the law works the way its opponents now say it does. As The New Republic's Brian Beutler put it last week, the conservative version of events "has crossed the fuzzy line dividing revisionist history from X-Files-style conspiracy theory."

Those supporting the challenge dismiss the findings as ex post facto and irrelevant to the case. But nevertheless, here are some of the latest bits of evidence to emerge.

Read More →

How quickly the mighty fall: less than a week after longtime New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) was arrested on federal corruption charges, his fellow Democrats have decided to replace him.

Although the criminal complaint from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office hit at the very top of the legislature's food chain, Silver was merely the latest in a long line of state lawmakers who have been whacked with federal corruption charges. Bharara's office has convicted at least a dozen elected officials in recent years and is in the process of prosecuting even more.

Which all begs the question: Just how did New York state get so damn corrupt?

Some people have acknowledged the state's propensity for bad behavior. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made ethics reform a key part of his first term, creating a new body tasked with investigating corruption that was named the Moreland Commission. But Cuomo's goals were ultimately reduced to a bargaining chip in budget negotiations with, among other people, Silver.

As the New York Times reported last year, Cuomo eventually shuttered the Moreland Commission in March 2014 in exchange for the legislature agreeing to a scaled-back version of his ethics package. The irony is that Cuomo's closing of the commission is now also reportedly being investigated by Bharara.

TPM talked to some people who know New York politics to find out how the state got this way. Here are five points to know about the mess:

Read More →

Most state legislatures are opening for business this month, and that means that Medicaid expansion is once again becoming a hot issue. The last year has seen a number of Republican-led states start to bend on the program, and the new legislative sessions offer new opportunities to make headways in red America -- but could also put one pioneering state at risk.

Four or more conservative mainstays could expand Medicaid in the next year, while another state might become the first to back out of the program after first adopting it. Here's what you need to know.

Read More →

President Barack Obama faces a whole new landscape in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, buoyed by an improving economy and rising approval ratings but stymied by new Republican majorities in the House and Senate for the first time.

With five of his State of The Union addresses down and two more to go, including tonight's, here's the bare minimum you need to know about this overwrought oratorical anachronism that lives on despite itself.

Read More →

Fox News host Bob Beckel declared himself a proud "Islamophobe" Monday on "The Five" -- and it was only the latest in a long string of racist and offensive statements the network's token liberal has uttered on-air.

Beckel is the perfect liberal mouthpiece for the "fair and balanced" network. He serves as the lone counterweight to the other four hosts of "The Five," defending President Barack Obama's policies when his colleagues put him on the spot.

But in the next breath, Beckel is just as likely to slight the Muslim or Chinese communities as he is to drop a progressive talking point. He also falls back on his "old-timer" status -- he frequently uses the term "broad" -- to soften the landing of his demeaning comments about women.

Here is a sampling of the craziest, most racist things Beckel has said over the past couple years. It’s in reverse chronological order, for those of you keeping track.

Read More →

As the minority party in the 114th Congress, Senate Democrats are staking out specific policy areas to direct most of their focus.

Now that they no longer have a majority in either chamber, they're stuck with either blocking the Republican agenda or staking out positions of their own. Several key lawmakers have begun doing that.

"It's a smart way to bring new voices to the leadership table," Doug Thornell, a former top advisor to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and former deputy political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told TPM. "It also helps with accountability. It also helps people feel like they do have a role and that they're part of the team, rather than a top down leadership structure."

READ: Progressives Seek Control Of The Democratic Party Here are five policy areas and the Democrats who are going to have a laser focus on them going forward:

Read More →

The world looked on in horror Wednesday as three gunmen carried out out a deadly attack on the Paris offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

At least 12 people were killed in the attack, including its editor, a cartoonist and two police officers. One of the police officers had been assigned to guard the deceased editor Stephane Charbonnier, also known as Charb, after he received threats.

The Catholic church, and French and world politicians were some of the publication's favorite punching bags. It also frequently aimed its satire at Islam, and its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in particular caused trouble for Charlie Hebdo and its staff. The Associated Press reported that al-Qaeda published a threat to Charb in its magazine in 2013.

About 7.5 percent of France's population as of 2010 was Muslim, according to Pew. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are against Islamic law, and Charlie Hebdo angered that community over the last decade as it repeatedly turned to Muhammad to denounce terrorists in its cartoons.

Here are some of the keys to understanding Charlie Hebdo's place in French journalism and its history as a lightning rod for Muslims.

Read More →

Virginia ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday morning on 11 public corruption convictions for which prosecutors are seeking at least 10 years of jail time.

The governor's fall from grace has been excruciating. A six-week trial that culminated in McDonnell's conviction in early September revealed an apparently broken marriage and dredged up unflattering details of former first lady Maureen McDonnell's mental health. The defense tried to leverage both revelations to prove McDonnell couldn't have conspired with his wife to trade the prestige of the governor's office for more than $165,000 in loans and luxurious gifts from a Virginia businessman.

McDonnell's lawyers previously indicated they would appeal the convictions. In the meantime, the former governor's defense team amassed nearly 450 letters of support from family members, political figures and friends asking U.S. District Judge James Spencer for leniency in sentencing.

Here are some of the more high-profile figures to go to bat for the convicted ex-governor.

Read More →

The new Congress will convene on Tuesday and elect a House Speaker. That means renewed drama and speculation as to whether conservatives will finally topple Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and install one of their own to run the chamber.

It's highly unlikely. Here are five things to keep in mind.

Read More →

Harvard University faculty are distraught over changes being made to their health plan in part because of the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reported Monday.

They groused that it was a sign of the "corporatization" of the most renowned institution of higher education in the United States and that its effect would be "taxing the sick."

Here is what you need to know, via the Times' Robert Pear:

Read More →

LiveWire