In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Rep. Steve Scalise trounced his two opponents in the race to be the next House majority whip on Thursday afternoon.

The Louisiana Republican defeated Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), the chief deputy whip, and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) on the first ballot, an impressive showing that surprised insiders who suspected none of the candidates would get the outright majority to avoid a runoff election.

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House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California will be the next majority leader.

As expected, Republicans elected McCarthy to replace ousted Rep. Eric Cantor once he steps down from the post on July 31. McCarthy defeated upstart Rep. Raúl Labrador, a second-term congressman who enjoyed some tea party support.

It was a secret ballot election so the vote tally won't be announced.

So, what does this mean for Congress?

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Senior administration officials would not rule out military action in Syria to combat the extremist Islamic group driving the ongoing crisis in Iraq when asked about such action in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

The officials were asked specifically about military strikes in Syria being part of any potential action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has made gains in northern Iraq in recent days and has been advancing toward the capital Baghdad.

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Senate Democrats hit pause on a government funding bill on Wednesday night after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) demanded a vote on an amendment targeting the Obama administration's new rules to combat climate change.

Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) pulled consideration of the energy and water bill -- one of various measures to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 -- after the top Senate Republican offered his amendment to prevent funding for the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's rules on coal-fired power plants until the administration certified that it wouldn't harm jobs or raise utility rates.

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Obamacare premiums look like they will increase modestly in 2015, at an average of 8 percent, according to an analysis released Wednesday based on publicly available information.

Avalere Health, an independent consulting firm, put out the report, which drew on initial 2015 premium filings in nine states. If the trend documented by Avalere holds, it would severely undermine the claims from Obamacare critics earlier this year that premiums would "skyrocket" in Year Two.

There was already isolated evidence that premium increases would be fairly tame, but Avalere's analysis is the first comprehensive look at the public data currently available.

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The White House fired a warning shot to Republican senators on Wednesday after several of them expressed interest in using a must-pass government funding bill to block the Obama administration's environmental regulations.

"If Republicans want to repeat their government shutdown play to protect the profits of big polluters, they're placing a pretty risky bet," a White House official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter on the record, told TPM.

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An elected Hinds County official may have been responsible for a trio of supporters of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) entering the Hinds County Courthouse after hours where ballots were kept on June 3, the night of the Mississippi Republican primary.

That's according to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith who plans to release the findings of his investigation into the incident either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

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Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) has the edge in the race to succeed Kevin McCarthy if and when the House majority whip ascends, as expected, to the position of majority leader.

The secret-ballot election is Thursday and the insurgent candidate, tea party-backed Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), has the backing of some staunch conservatives but likely not enough to win, Republican lawmakers suggested on Wednesday. The two men pleaded their cases in a closed-door forum Wednesday for the coveted No. 2 position.

The whip race is the "one of intrigue," Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said. It's among Scalise, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), the chief deputy whip and upstart conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN).

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If early Republican enthusiasm is any indication, the upcoming Sept. 30 deadline to keep the federal government open could turn into an all-out war over President Barack Obama's executive actions to combat climate change.

As TPM reported earlier this week, senior House Republicans are considering using appropriations legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency's new restrictions on coal-fired power plants, aimed at cutting climate-warming pollution by 30 percent by 2030.

On Tuesday, numerous Senate Republicans expressed strong support for the idea.

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Let's face it, this isn't the most productive Congress. In fact it's even less productive than Harry Truman's famous "do-nothing Congress."

But one lesson House Republicans are taking home from Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning defeat is that any hint of cooperation with Democrats comes at a potentially career-ending price. Cantor was -- at least proclaimed to be -- committed to bridging deep divides over several complex and controversial bills.

Three legislative projects -- an Obamacare alternative, immigration reform and a Voting Rights Act fix -- were a heavy lift even before Cantor lost to tea party-backed economics professor David Brat in his GOP primary last Tuesday.

Now they're even more doomed.

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