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Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   April 16, 2015    4:13 PM ET

Wisconsin voters' opinions of Gov. Scott Walker (R) have slipped since last fall, a new Marquette University Law School survey finds.

Forty-one percent now approve of Walker's performance, while 56 percent disapprove. In October, 49 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Marquette is the only non-partisan pollster to survey Wisconsin since the 2014 midterms. The results, coming after years of relatively steady ratings for the governor, could represent either a significant outlier from earlier polling or a marked drop in Walker's standing.

The survey finds an especially sharp drop among political independents, who approved of Walker by a roughly 3-point margin last year but now disapprove by a 24-point margin. While Republicans still support him by an overwhelming 73-point margin, that's down from nearly 90 points in October.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, Walker, a likely GOP 2016 contender, has spent increasing amounts of his time traveling, both to other states and abroad. Two-thirds of Wisconsin voters, including 69 percent of independents, say it's not possible for a governor to run for president and still handle the duties of their office. Walker also faced controversy from both the left and the right over his proposal for a new basketball arena, which voters overwhelmingly oppose.

Marquette surveyed 803 registered Wisconsin voters between April 7-10, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones. The partisan composition of the poll matched closely with that of the 2014 survey.

Amber Ferguson   |   April 16, 2015   12:45 PM ET

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) apparently forgot to silence his cell phone during work Thursday, because his ringtone, "Let It Go" from the Disney movie "Frozen," went off during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Roberts, a 78-year-old fourth-term senator, was hammering Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the Obama administration's policy to push biotechnology. Vilsack was in the middle of defending his position when the Idina Menzel tune started playing.

"Just let it go, mister," Roberts told Vilsack as he silenced his ringer. Snickers and laughs filled the room from senators and staffers.

The song became a hit after the 2014 movie "Frozen" was released. Last year the movie became the number one animated film of all time.

It's nice to know the theme song has such a large audience aside from 7-year-olds.

Watch the incident above.

Paige Lavender   |   April 16, 2015   12:31 PM ET

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill Thursday making medical marijuana legal in the Peach State.

The law allows for the use of low-THC cannabis oils to treat specific medical conditions, including end-stage ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and cancer, WSB-TV reports. Sales of marijuana remain banned in the state.

The bill, referred to as Haleigh’s Hope Act, was inspired by 5-year-old Haleigh Cox, who has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Haleigh's condition causes her to have "seizures that can't be controlled with medicine," according to her mother, Janea Cox.

In a January 2014 video about Haleigh's Hope Act, Cox explained that her daughter was maxed out on four types of potent medicine meant to help the seizures.

According to CNN, the family ultimately moved to Colorado in order to give Haleigh cannabis oil, a treatment that worked.

"Now she's thriving, she's healthy, she's happy, and they're absolutely shocked at the difference. So I think we've turned some nonbelievers into believers of cannabis oil," Janea Cox said.

Haleigh was given the state's first medical marijuana card on Thursday:

Rep. Steve Scalise Dropped Thousands In Campaign Cash On Vineyard Vines Swag

Maxwell Tani   |   April 15, 2015    6:28 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Nothing says party unity like matching ties and tote bags.

Perhaps that’s what House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was thinking when his campaign committee dropped $6,195 at the Stamford, Connecticut, branch of preppy retail outlet Vineyard Vines.

Scalise’s political director, Tyler Daniel, said the congressman spent the money on items for the whip team, a primarily private list of Republican lawmakers who represent different interests within the party. According to Scalise’s campaign team, the ties and totes were this year’s traditional whip team gift, which is given to members at the beginning of a new session of Congress.

“He takes being on the team pretty seriously. This was just a way to wear the team jersey,” Daniel said.

Daniel said the ties and tote bags were not adorned with Vineyard Vines' signature whales or even little Republican elephants. Daniel would not say which members of Congress are part of the whip team.

Though he’s occupied the whip job for less than a year, Scalise has proved himself to be a formidable fundraiser. Despite recent revelations about past ties to a group started by white supremacist David Duke, Scalise raised a record-breaking $1.5 million for his re-election campaign and leadership PAC between Jan. 1 and March 31. According to The Hill, the fundraising feat impressed Republican strategists and donors.

Daniel said the the scandal didn’t deter donors from giving to the congressman.

“Folks that have supported Mr. Scalise forever know his true character and know who Mr. Scalise truly is,” Daniel said.

The matching ties were only a small part of the congressman’s overall spending this year. According to, Scalise gave $350,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, as well as $250,000 to Republican members of Congress.

Alana Horowitz   |   April 15, 2015    2:02 PM ET

Hillary Clinton wants the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage, her campaign revealed on Wednesday.

“Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” a Hillary for America spokesperson told the Washington Blade.

The former secretary of state's stance on marriage equality has shifted over the years.

She first came out in favor of same-sex marriage in 2013, but she told NPR in June that she thought states should be able to decide whether or not to legalize it -- leaving many supporters wondering whether she backed marriage equality nationally.

"For me, marriage had always been a matter left to the states," she said. "And in many of the conversations that I and my colleagues and supporters had, I fully endorse the efforts by activists who work state by state, and in fact that is what is working."

During her 2008 presidential bid, she supported civil unions but stopped short of supporting full equality.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on same-sex marriage in June.

Christina Wilkie   |   April 13, 2015    9:39 PM ET

A federal judge in Connecticut is considering whether to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that a 9-year-old Little League player in Darien was demoted after his father proposed to build affordable housing units in the tony Fairfield County suburb,
the Hartford Courant reports.

Darien resident Christopher Stefanoni argues in the lawsuit that his son was moved from one Little League team to another with younger players in retaliation for Stefanoni's proposed real estate development project, according to the Courant. The 2013 lawsuit names Little League board members, who deny Stefanoni's allegations and recently filed the motion to dismiss the suit.

A town of 21,000, Darien regularly appears on lists of the nation's wealthiest communities, and according to the 2010 census, its population is 94 percent white. Stefanoni alleges in his lawsuit that the town's zoning and planning commission has systematically rejected applications to build affordable housing in order to keep minorities from moving into Darien.

"Darien is a little white enclave, sort of a holdout segregated town," Stefanoni told the Courant. "The attitudes that people in Darien have are very exclusionary, demeaning. When they go after your kids, they've crossed the line."

Stefanoni's claims about Darien blocking affordable housing mirror those of another housing developer, who has also sued the town in federal court, according to the Courant. That lawsuit is also pending.

Julia Craven   |   April 13, 2015    5:21 PM ET

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Katie Higgins’ dream as a little girl was to follow in her family’s footsteps and become a pilot.

Her dream came true in 2011, when she received her wings. But last weekend, she flew even higher when she became the first female pilot with the prestigious Blue Angels.

“I saw the Blue Angels fly when I was a young kid,” Higgins, a third-generation military aviator, told CBS News. “I was definitely inspired by that.”

The Blue Angels, a less formal name for the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, is the “second-oldest formal flying aerobatic team in the world” and one of the most exclusive jobs available to a Naval pilot.

Although other women have been on the Blue Angels team, none have ever been in the cockpit during a Blue Angels air show until now.

Katie Higgins

“I think by including a lady on the team, that just shows little girls and guys that women can do whatever they put their mind to," Higgins told CBS News. "Little girls have told me that they didn't even know that ladies could fly aircraft, that women could be in the cockpit."

Adding a woman to the flight roster of “one of the most elite outfits in U.S military aviation” is historically significant, said Robert Thomas, curator of Indiana’s National Military History Center.

“To get added to that group is extraordinary, seeing how far the military has come,” Thomas told The Baltimore Sun last year when Higgins’ addition to the team was initially announced.

Higgins told CBS News she didn’t join the team with the idea of breaking barriers in mind.

“It just so happened that I was the first female to perform in a demo here, and if that is inspiring to people, if that's inspiring to little girls around the country, then I'm doing my job,” she said.

Higgins, who has flown over 400 flight hours in combat and almost 1,000 since she joined the Blue Angels last September, said her goals of being a pilot didn’t truly manifest until her second-class midshipman year at the Naval Academy when she flew her first non-commercial aircraft.

“It was really intimidating but one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Higgins told The Baltimore Sun last year. “I could say I had a goal to do it because of my dad, but until I did it I didn’t know. It was a really cool experience.”

The Blue Angels has been retooling its culture and image since last year, when the Navy found that the commanding officer at the time fostered a workplace environment that condoned pornography and allowed sexual harassment.

Sam Levine   |   April 12, 2015   11:51 AM ET

Apparently, even former first ladies give their mother-in-law the final word.

That's what former first lady Laura Bush did when her mother-in-law Barbara said in 2013 that she thought there had been enough Bushes in the White House while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) considered a presidential run.

Laura Bush told ABC's Jonathan Karl on Sunday that even though she was "shocked" by the comment, she wasn't going to tell her mother-in-law.

“Do you think I would tell my mother-in-law something?” she said.

During a 2013 interview on the "Today" show, Barbara Bush said that she didn't want Jeb to run.

“I think it's a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it's not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes,” she said.

But as Jeb Bush has ramped up a potential campaign for a bid in 2016, Barbara Bush has told supporters that she changed her mind and now supports a Bush presidency.

Julia Craven   |   April 10, 2015    3:13 PM ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) attributes her success to three bags of M&Ms.

That’s what it took for Warren to potty train her daughter so that the then 2-year-old could be enrolled in daycare while she attended law school.

“I needed child care,” she said. “This became the central hurdle and it was a terrible hurdle.”

Warren touched on this and other topics that resonate with working mothers -- such as sexism in the workplace and the impact of the 2008 financial crisis on working families -- in a very personal keynote delivered on Friday at the Know Your Value conference in Philadelphia.

Warren told the audience she dropped out of college to get married at age 19. She then shared how she fought to follow her dreams of being a teacher despite pushback from her mother and then-husband.

"Knowing your value, to me," she said during the keynote, "means knowing when to stand up, knowing when to speak out and knowing when to fight for yourself and to fight for the people you love."

The Know Your Value tour is a series of day-long events across the nation, spearheaded by MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, that aim to uplift and empower working women. Tickets for the next event, which will be in Washington, D.C. on May 15, are available here.

Watch Warren's speech above.

H/T Laura Goldman

Laura Bassett   |   April 8, 2015    2:11 PM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) refused to say whether he supports legal abortion in cases of rape and incest in a Wednesday interview with The Associated Press and scolded the reporter who pressed him on it.

The 2016 presidential candidate said he does not want to get into the details of his opposition to abortion. "The thing is about abortion -- and about a lot of things -- is that I think people get tied up in all these details of, sort of, you're this or this or that, or you're hard and fast [on] one thing or the other," Paul said.

The senator added, "I've supported both bills with and without [exceptions], you know. In general, I am pro-life. So I will support legislation that advances and shows that life is special and deserves protection."

When the AP reporter pressed Paul on whether women who have been raped should be able to have an abortion, the senator became annoyed. "I gave you about a five-minute answer," Paul said. "Put in my five-minute answer."

The question of whether to include rape and incest exceptions in abortion bans is important enough to have actually sunk bills in Congress. The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy this year, which Paul has endorsed, but GOP leadership canceled the vote because some members objected to the narrow rape exemption.

"I'm going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem of rape," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said at Family Research Council's ProLifeCon in January. "We just need to find a consensus position on the rape exception."

The specifics of a candidate's position on abortion are also significant because the GOP-controlled Congress is poised to send a number of anti-abortion bills to the president's desk that could ultimately challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark abortion rights decision. If the same happened and Paul were in the White House and willing to sign a bill that would prevent rape victims from being able to have an abortion, the Supreme Court could take up that question in a future session.

But Paul continued to bristle at abortion questions in New Hampshire on Wednesday. "Why don’t we ask the DNC if it's okay to kill a 7 pound baby in the uterus?" Paul reportedly told a reporter.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, responded to Paul's comments on Wednesday.

"Here's an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story," she said in a statement. "Now your turn, Senator Paul. We know you want to allow government officials like yourself to make this decision for women -- but do you stand by your opposition to any exceptions, even when it comes to rape, incest, or life of the mother? Or do we just have different definitions of 'personal liberty'? And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without 'shushing' me."

This post has been updated with a statement from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Amber Ferguson   |   April 8, 2015    1:32 PM ET

During a debate Tuesday night, Tennessee state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R) told state legislators that it's harder for men to get vasectomies than for women to get abortions. He knows, he said, from personal experience.

Gardenhire, however, acknowledged he only has experience with one of the procedures, though it is not the one he proposes making laws about. "Men go through a lot more stringent process for a vasectomy than women, I assume, go through for an abortion,” Gardenhire told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Having personal experience in that field and also having one reversed I want to promise you that when ... you start talking to a doctor about them whacking on you down there, you want to wait a while and think about it,” he said.

Gardenhire's life experience was shared during debate over a bill that would require a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion in Tennessee.

Gardenhire’s comment came after state Sen. Sara Kyle (D) argued that increased regulations on abortions should also be extended to vasectomies.

“Here you’re putting all this burden on a woman. Why don’t we put these same standards on a man who wants to have a vasectomy?” Kyle asked.

A call to Gardenhire's office was not immediately returned.

Last week after the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee rejected a plan to expand Medicaid to some 280,000 state residents, Gardenhire, a member of the panel who voted with the majority, called an activist “asshole” after he was asked if he would give up his own state-subsidized health insurance.

Gardenhire, in a video of the incident, turned around and said something along the lines of "Not giving it up, asshole" or, perhaps, "Why don't you give it up, asshole?"

Odd as Gardenhire's argument may be, it does include one element that in a fundamental way gives up the game. The Nashville Scene picked up Gardenhire's accidental admission that he doesn't actually understand the process he is insisting on regulating:

That's right, in the middle of a debate over abortion, a state senator said "I assume."

Maybe we shouldn't just assume stuff when deciding to enact legislation?

Watch Gardenhire’s comment about vasectomies and abortions above, and his run-in with a constituent below.

Jesse Rifkin   |   April 6, 2015    1:56 PM ET

The Washington state capitol put up the Chinese flag last week in honor of Gov. Jay Inslee's (D) trade meeting with Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the United States. But on Saturday morning, a small group of tea party activists went and protested the flag, outraged that it was flying alongside the U.S. and state flags.

A video posted by conservative activist Maria Bosworth showed the individuals -- some carrying the Gadsden flag that has become a symbol of the tea party movement -- watching as the Chinese flag was lowered. A man who appears to be a state trooper stands nearby and observes the proceedings.

One participant, who appears to be conservative activist Anthony Bosworth, Maria's husband, points to him and says, "Now that's an Oath Keeper there, making sure the Communist flag comes down. That's an officer that I can support."

The Oath Keepers is a right-wing group of current and former law enforcement and military officers who vow to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from the government. There is no evidence that the officer was actually an Oath Keeper.

Anthony Bosworth also posted photos from the event on his Facebook page and put up a post about Washington state's "liberal, communist loving Governor."

Jaime Smith, Inslee's director of media relations, said it was simply a matter of protocol to fly the Chinese flag. State workers were lowering the flag while the protesters watched.

"The governor will often meet with dignitaries when they come to town. It's a matter of protocol to fly their home country's flag during their visit," said Smith. "Our state's Department of Enterprise Services was going to lower the flag shortly after that anyway."

Some Republican politicians were also not pleased with the flag's appearance.

"I was not amused to see this flag flying over our state capitol, particularly when our governor just made a big show out of ‘shaming’ Indiana for joining 19 other states with legislation to protect freedom of conscience," state Rep. Elizabeth Scott (R) told the conservative website PolitiStick. "So it’s okay to threaten a flower shop owner in our state with the loss of her house, business, etc., and we can mock other states for their attempts to protect freedom of conscience, but we’re totally fine flying the flag of a country that still throws people into prison camps because of their beliefs?"


CORRECTION: This piece originally stated that the tea party activists took down the flag. It was taken down by a state worker with the activists looking on.

Bobby Jindal Uncomfortable With Laws Banning LGBT Discrimination

Amanda Terkel   |   April 5, 2015   12:24 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) defended the rights of private businesses to deny some services to same-sex couples and expressed discomfort at providing nondiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Jindal appeared Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," where host Chuck Todd asked him whether he supports ordinances in cities like New Orleans that say it's illegal to discriminate against the LGBT community in housing, employment and public accommodation and facilities.

"I don't think, certainly, that there should be discrimination against anybody in housing and employment. That's not what my faith teaches me. I don't think that's appropriate, and I think the good news is that our society is moving in a direction of more tolerance," said Jindal.

"My concern about creating special legal protections is that historically, our country, we've only done that in extraordinary circumstances, and it's not evident to me -- it doesn't appear to be one of those moments today," he added.

The LGBT community wouldn't receive "special legal protections." Federal law already makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person's race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability. People can, however, still be singled out for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

And for many LGBT people, there may be "extraordinary circumstances" to move forward on civil rights protections. A recent poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign found that 63 percent of LGBT Americans surveyed say they've experienced discrimination.

Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also recently weighed in on the debate over Indiana's "religious freedom" law that could have opened the door to widespread LGBT discrimination. After significant national pressure, Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed new legislation to ameliorate those concerns.

But Jindal said Sunday that he believes bakers, florists and other businesses should be allowed to deny goods and services to gay couples looking to get married.

"If it is a sincerely held religious belief that it offends the owner's beliefs to participate in that wedding ceremony, absolutely," Jindal said when Todd asked him if a restaurant should be legally allowed to refuse to cater a same-sex wedding. "I don't think the government should be able to force somebody to contradict their own sincerely held religious beliefs to participate in a wedding ceremony, and that used to be a bipartisan consensus."

This issue may soon be on Jindal's doorstep. A Republican state lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would allow businesses to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage if it becomes legal in Louisiana. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, it would "allow a private company to not offer the same benefits to legally recognized same-sex married couples as other married couples, on the basis of a religious objection."

Jindal declined to take a stance on the legislation Sunday.

"Our session starts in a couple of weeks. I'll look at the bill," he said. "I am always in favor of defending religious liberties. Look, you are now raising issues regarding federal employment laws and benefit laws. Let me look at the details of the bill. I am, in general, though, very supportive of defending religious liberty, and I think we can do that without condoning discrimination."

Dianne Feinstein: Iran Deal Does Not Threaten Israel's Survival

Amanda Terkel   |   April 5, 2015   10:22 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the new nuclear accord with Iran will not threaten the survival of Israel, criticizing the stance taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CNN "State of the Union" host Jim Acosta asked Feinstein Sunday morning whether she believes the deal threatens Israel's survival.

"No, I don't," she replied.

"I don't think it's helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic, which is downhill -- a downhill dynamic in this part of the world," Feinstein continued.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that Iran, the United States and five partner countries had agreed on a framework for a comprehensive deal, aimed at assuring the international community that Iran’s nuclear program will be restricted to peaceful purposes. In return for reducing its stockpile of uranium and decreasing the number of centrifuges in its nuclear facilities, Iran will receive sanctions relief.

Netanyahu quickly blasted the agreement, telling Obama that it "would threaten the survival" of Israel.

Feinstein said on Sunday that she disagreed.

"The surveillance and inspection and transparency runs 20 to 25 years for everything, all the centrifuges, rotors, the mills, the production facilities for yellowcake go out to 25 years of IAEA surveillance and inspection," she said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

She noted that for the deal to succeed, "a precondition has to be that there's going to be a real re-dedication in the IAEA to do the kind of work that's going to be necessary to do 24/7, 365 days a year in the various facilities.'

"But," she added, "I think that having watched this for a long time and knowing this particular [Iranian] foreign minister, I think this is the best that's going to get done."

Netanyahu also appeared on CNN Sunday, telling Acosta he didn't trust Iran to keep up its end of the deal.

"I wouldn't bet the shop on inspections because totalitarian regimes have a way of cheating," Netanyahu said. "Iran has cheated in the past. North Korea ... What is happening with this deal is that what has been illegitimate is being legitimized. Iran's nuclear program is being legitimized."

Feinstein has been a frequent critic of Netanyahu. When the prime minister spoke to the U.S. Congress last month about the potential Iran deal -- at the invitation of Republicans and without coordinating with the White House -- Feinstein called his speech "humiliating, embarrassing, and very arrogant."