In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Democrats have said they have a virtually once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi but only if tea party darling and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) beats incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) for the Republican nomination. So it's easy to imagine the response when news broke that a Democratic operative has actually been helping Cochran's re-election efforts.

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said on Friday that he planned to act administratively to expand health coverage in his state, defying the Republican-controlled legislature that maneuvered to block him from expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

The specifics of McAuliffe's plan aren't clear. But he vetoed an item in the Virginia budget Friday that would have required the legislature to approve any expansion and asserted that he planned to "move administratively" to expand coverage to as many as 400,000 low-income Virginians.

"We are very encouraged," McAullife said at a news conference. His administration "has several options that we're looking at, but we're going to provide health coverage to our citizens," he added. "We're moving forward."

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The next third-ranking leader of the House Republican conference is a fierce conservative who has often voted against the initiatives of Speaker John Boehner and makes the existing leadership team look rather moderate by comparison.

Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise was first elected to the House in a 2008 special election. He represents a deeply conservative district in southern Louisiana that was most recently represented by Bobby Jindal and David Vitter and hasn't elected a Democrat since 1977.

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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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