TPM News

President Obama today will offer his final stamp of approval on a compromise health care reform measure that Democrats hope can pass Congress in the coming month. Obama yesterday offered an olive branch to Republicans by telling congressional leaders he will include four GOP ideas in his plan.

But Republicans immediately dismissed the ideas and issued scolding statements saying Obama should scrap a year's worth of work on health care and start over.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was first, telling Obama that including his party's ideas was just "political cover." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP was "disappointed with your latest proposal to simply paper a few of these commonsense proposals over an unsalvageable bill."

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Senate Passes Unemployment Benefits Extension, Obama Signs Bill The Senate last night passed an extension of unemployment benefits, after Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) relented on his efforts to delay passage. The final vote on passage was 78-19. The White House announced that President Obama has signed the bill into law.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:45 a.m. ET, and meet with senior advisers at 10:30 a.m. ET. He will deliver remarks at 1:45 p.m. ET., on health care reform. He will meet at 3:05 p.m. ET with National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Bobby Barrera. He will meet at 4:35 p.m. ET with American Legion Commander Clarence Hill. He will host a reception at 5:30 p.m. ET, to thank members of Congress for their efforts to restore the pay-as-you-go rule.

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Less than a week after the ethics panel found he violated House rules by taking corporate-funded junkets to the Caribbean, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) announced this morning that he has asked Nancy Pelosi for a "leave of absence" from his duties as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, pending completion of various ethics investigations.

Rangel took no questions from the press, but added that "from the very beginning I have offered this to Speaker Pelosi."

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will be the target of a new series of attack ads launched by the Sierra Club in Arkansas today. Lincoln's support for a plan to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions has drawn fire from environmental groups for a while now, and the new Sierra Club ad campaign is not the group's first on the subject.

But coming on the heels of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's decision to challenge Lincoln in the Democratic Senate primary, the Sierra Club's new attack on Lincoln puts the group in the company of the AFL-CIO, MoveOn and other national groups pouring money into Arkansas in opposition to Lincoln.

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Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who was being challenged in the Republican primary by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tea Party activist Debra Medina, has won renomination -- not just leading his competitors, but apparently surpassing the 50 percent of the vote needed to win outright and avoid a runoff.

It is not yet official that Perry truly did win more than 50% of the vote -- but it appears very likely. And in any case, Hutchison has conceded the race.

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Sen. Jim Bunning's marathon filibuster--which cut unemployment benefits and triggered thousands of furloughs--is over. But it's not forgotten. In a statement provided to TPMDC a Senate Democratic leadership aide notes that the episode highlights the need for the Senate to return to a time when filibusters weren't the norm--and that includes amending comprehensive health care legislation using reconciliation.

"Bunning lifted the curtain on the great lengths that Republicans go to drag out every single action taken by the Senate, no matter how routine," the aide says. "This is why we need to return to an era of more up or down votes and fewer filibusters. It's why all options are on the table moving forward, including reconciliation."

Obviously, Democratic leaders have been building a reconciliation strategy for weeks--it's not as if reconciliation was off the table until Jim Bunning went nuclear. But his filibuster crystallizes why it is Democrats have lost faith in the standard legislative process and help them justify the move.

It seems last week's admonishment of Rep. Charlie Rangel was the scandal that broke the New York Democrat's teflon coating. NBC news is reporting that Rangel has given up his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee this evening before his fellow Representatives had a chance to take it away from him.

Sources told NBC that Rangel "had been encouraged to step aside" by Democrats "before the House voted on a bill to strip him of his chairmanship."

Late Update: A few minutes ago, Rangel briefed reporters on Capitol Hill. Tweets from the appearance suggest the the situation is more fluid than NBC's original report might suggest.

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Progressives across the country have been overjoyed with Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's decision to challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the May 18 Senate primary. Activists on the left feel that Halter's candidacy offers them a chance to punish Lincoln for taking stands on key issues that run counter to the progressive agenda.

Much of the progressive effort before Halter entered the race was focused on attacking Lincoln, rather than building up Halter. To many on the left, she is the embodiment of the conservative faction in the Democratic Senate caucus that kept many key components of President Obama's agenda -- most notably health care reform -- from sailing smoothly through a Congress the Democrats control. Those angry at Lincoln got their wish Monday when Halter decided to enter the primary. But we wanted to know just how progressive a candidate Halter will be now that he's the standard-bearer for progressive discontent across the country. In a brief interview this morning, we got our answer.

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Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) has accepted a deal to drop his one-man filibuster of a bill that would extend expiring unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office has confirmed to TPMDC that Bunning accepted the deal, but declined to provide details.

Bunning, in exchange for dropping his objection, will get one vote on an amendment to pay for the bill, which will cost an estimated $10 billion. Bunning's amendment to pay for the bill will be the only amendment allowed on the floor. A final vote is scheduled to begin at 8:30 tonight.

Bunning will also get two votes on amendments for another bill which would extend unemployment benefits for one year, according to Roll Call. A spokesman for Reid would not confirm that detail.

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