TPM News

The Obama administration has appealed a court decision ordering it to reinstate a gay former Air Force major discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A federal judge ruled in September that former Maj. Margaret Witt should be reinstated to the Air Force. Witt, a decorated reservist flight nurse, had been suspended from the Air Force in 2004, after 17 years of service, and eventually discharged in October 2007. She sued to be reinstated during her discharge proceedings in 2006.

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Robert Decheine, chief of staff to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), was arrested in Gaithersburg, Md. last Friday on charges of soliciting sex from a minor. Decheine, who had been with the Democrat's office since 2003, was fired immediately after the congressman consulted the House Counsel about his arrest, Rothman spokesman Aaron Keyak told The Hill in a statement.

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Two Democratic Congressman -- one old, and one new -- have conceded defeat to their challengers in this year's Republican wave.

In Texas's 27th District, Rep. Solomon Ortiz conceded last night to Republican challenger Blake Farenthold. Ortiz had previously demanded a recount, but only picked up about 150 votes -- still losing to Farenthold by about 650 votes. Ortiz was first elected all the way back in 1982. The district was carried by Barack Obama in 2008, by a margin of 53%-46%, but previously voted for George W. Bush by 55%-45% in 2004.

In New York's 25th District, Democratic freshman Rep. Dan Maffei has conceded to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, by a margin of less than 600 votes. Maffei was first elected in 2008, picking up an open Republican-held seat after he'd narrowly lost a bid in 2006. The district voted 56%-43% for Barack Obama in 2008, and 50%-48% for John Kerry in 2004.

This brings the latest tally of Republican gains in the election to 63 seats.

Gentry Collins, the former Republican National Committe political director who ripped RNC chair Michael Steele in his resignation letter Nov. 16, is jumping into the race to replace Steele.

ABC News reports that Collins "has taken the first step toward running for RNC Chairman, filing papers with the IRS to create a 527 fund-raising committee called 'Collins for Chairman.'"

Collins' entry to the race brings the grand total of potential RNC chair candidates to, well, a whole heck of a lot. Just yesterday, two prominent insider GOP women got in the race and former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis is already out there running hard. Add to that list the half a dozen or so other names being floated as possible RNC candidates and you've got a race that could be extremely unpredictable.

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The Minnesota State Canvassing Board held a busy meeting this morning, as they begin to make some crucial decisions on how the recount will proceed in the gubernatorial race between Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer.

With the counties finished proofreading their spreadsheets, as well as routine hand recounts in randomly selected precincts to double-check the accuracy rate of the optical-scan machines, Dayton leads by 8,770 votes, or 0.42%. While this is within the 0.5% needed to trigger a statewide recount, many observers have doubted that Emmer could pull ahead, as Dayton's lead is probably too wide to be reversed barring any surprising discoveries in the hand count. However, a possible drawn-out legal contest could potentially result in Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty staying in office in the interim, with the opportunity to work with a newly elected Republican legislature.

With the State Canvassing Board formally declaring there would be a recount, today's meeting has been dominated by questions of how to conduct it, in light of the lessons learned from the thorough recount from the 2008 Senate race -- and the very thorough six months of extra litigation that followed it, with the result being within just a few hundred votes at the time. And a cast of familiar faces from last time, some of them in different roles this time around, grappled with these new issues.

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The election may be in the bag, but a lawsuit filed by Fox News against former Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D-MO) for using their footage in a campaign ad hasn't wrapped up yet.

Fox News on Monday requested that clerk in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Missouri enter a default judgment against Robin Carnahan for Senate, Inc. "on the ground that it has failed to answer or otherwise defend against the amended complaint in this action... within the time period prescribed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."

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Republicans and independents have decided that incoming members of Congress who ran against health care reform and still take their government-funded benefits are hypocrites. Democrats, not so much.

That's one conclusion from a new national poll from Democratic firm PPP, which shows big majorities of GOP and independent voters saying the politicians who ran against the health care reform law should forgo the health care benefits they're entitled to as employees of the federal government.

Just 28% of Republican respondents said that new anti-reform members should take their federal benefits, while a whopping 58% said they shouldn't. Among independents -- who voted for the GOP in big numbers on Nov. 2 -- 56% say politicians who made health care repeal a cornerstone of their campaigns should deny themselves their government benefits. Only 27% said they should take them.

The split is much narrower among Democrats, who presumably support the health care law and the idea of government-assisted health care in larger numbers. Forty percent of Democrats said that politicians who ran against the health care law should take their government care anyway, while 46% said they should decline it.

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Park51, the proposed Islamic community center and mosque in downtown Manhattan, has applied for federally-funded grants, prompting shrill cries that the "Ground Zero mosque" is looking for a taxpayer handout.

The Daily Beast reported yesterday that Park51 had applied for $5 million worth of grants. The organization, in a statement, acknowledged applying for a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Park51 says it would use the money both for its construction and services it plans to offer, including domestic violence prevention and foreign language classes.

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