In it, but not of it. TPM DC

WASHINGTON — New York Sen. Chuck Schumer won't be the Democratic leader for 21 months. But the man who has locked up the support of top Democrats to replace Harry Reid is already facing a tough leadership test.

It's crunch time for President Barack Obama as he seeks to prevent Congress from achieving a veto-proof majority to scuttle a major deal to curtail Iran's nuclear program. Many Republicans are unhappy with the framework for an agreement to cut off Iran's paths to a bomb and are pushing legislation that the White House says would threaten the negotiations.

Republicans appear to have large majorities to pass it, and that includes support from a significant number of Democrats in both chambers. But the question of whether they achieve the two-thirds majority in the Senate could hinge on Schumer and the role he decides to play.

"He will play a big role," said one senior Senate Democratic aide.

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WASHINGTON — Rolling out his long-awaited presidential campaign on Tuesday, Rand Paul billed himself as "a different kind of Republican" who would defeat the "Washington machine."

"That's not who I am," he declared in Louisville, to cheers from an adoring crowd. "Both parties and the entire political system are to blame."

But how different is he from the traditional Republican politician?

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WASHINGTON — Loretta Lynch received a boost recently when Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois announced his support for her nomination as attorney general, bringing her tally to 51 supporters in the Senate.

That's enough for the chief federal prosecutor in Brooklyn to win confirmation.

But the fate of the high-profile nomination rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who decides if and when she gets a vote and has delayed it indefinitely by entangling Lynch in an unrelated political battle over abortion.

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WASHINGTON — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) says he's leaning heavily toward joining local Indiana Democrats calling for a full repeal of a controversial religious freedom law that critics say is a thinly-veiled move to legalize gay discrimination.

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has decided not to sign the religious freedom bill the Republican legislature sent to his desk a day earlier.

Instead, Hutchinson said at a press conference on Wednesday, he would send the bill back to the state legislature to amend it so it better reflects the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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