TPM News

The sudden retirement of Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) has created a clear weakness for Democrats, in holding on to a seat that was narrowly carried by John McCain in 2008. The first order of business: Finding a new Democratic candidate.

A Democratic source said that it is far too sudden and early to definitively name new Democratic candidates, but with that caveat some possible names are state Rep. Barbara Lifton, state Rep. David Koon, state Rep. Susan John, Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni, and Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan. The source acknowledged that this is a "tough district" for Democrats, but argued that it's too early to assess the state of the race.

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Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) became the 35th senator to declare support for passing a public option via reconciliation, her office confirms to TPMDC.

Cantwell told the Huffington Post that she'd vote for a public option under reconciliation, if the Senate parliamentarian OK's it.

"If the parliamentarian says you can and it can all work, yes," she said. "If it works, fine."

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Authorities are investigating the winning bid of a politically connected group of investors -- including a prominent rapper and a former congressman -- to transform a Queens horse track into a "racino" amid suspicions that the contract, doled out by Gov. David Paterson, was awarded improperly.

In the long-awaited deal made by the state, a consortium of companies called Aqueduct Entertainment Group will develop the 50-year-old Aqueduct Race Track in Queens into a "racino" with over 4,000 video slot machines, restaurants, a large "entertainment center," and a hotel.

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Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY), told TPMDC today that accusations that he was taken by surprise by allegations that his New York co-delegate, Rep. Eric Massa, harassed a male staffer. He also said Massa's decision not to seek reelection came "out of the blue."

In an interview with me, Nadler (D-NY) said it came to his attention for the first time yesterday, but cautioned that the facts of the situation--which are still not publicly known--would affect how Congress should react.

"And by the way, I don't know the nature of the accusation. Was this an adult or a kid? Remember the situation we had a couple years ago with Foley was an intern--a page. Is the accusation--if it's a consensual sexual relationship with an adult, I'm not sure it's any of our business," Nadler said.

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The air wars have begun in the 2010 Arkansas Democratic Senate primary. A day after Lt. Gov. Bill Halter launched his first TV ad of the race, the woman squaring off against him to keep her job, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, went on the air with her own commercial, aimed squarely at Halter's message.

Lincoln's ad focuses several of her stances that have drawn the ire of national progressives. She touts her decisions to oppose cap-and-trade, the health care public option and other bills as evidence she stands against the norm in Washington.

"Some in my party didn't like it very much," Lincoln says of the votes, "but I approved this message because I don't answer to my party."

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared last night on Larry King Live, with the two eminently quotable legislators debating health care policy. Bachmann used the opportunity to call for an investigation of the Obama administration.

"I think that we can come together. But I think a big question that has to be addressed right now, Larry, is, what in the world is going on in the White House?" said Bachmann. "Because today, the president offered a judgeship to the brother of a member of Congress. Tonight, the president has that same member of Congress at the White House, pressuring him to change his vote on health care." She then called for an investigation.

Grayson responded: "Well, my esteemed colleague from Minnesota has just deployed another weapon of mass distraction that the Republicans use from time to time to try to change the subject away from health care."

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Despite an ever-strengthening primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) still has plenty of powerful friends in Washington. But after today, Lincoln can't count EMILY's List, one of the strongest support networks for pro-choice women candidates in the country, among her allies.

In a strongly-worded rebuke of Lincoln on the the group's blog this morning, EMILY's List chair Ellen Malcolm rejected the woman whom her group once counted among its rising stars.

"Since she wasn't there for us," Malcom wrote, "we won't be there for her."

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Republicans jousting in a primary to challenge Rep. Travis Childers are now sparring over a GOP proposal to privatize Social Security and create a voucher system for Medicare.

Support is growing for the Rep. Paul Ryan's plan on Capitol Hill, and he picked up another supporter in Angela McGlowan, a former Fox News analyst and candidate in Mississippi's First Congressional district.

McGlowan backs private Social Security accounts, according to the Commercial Appeal. The newspaper reported last week "McGlowan has been criticized for her suggestion the public should be allowed to invest at least some of the social security money the federal government deducts from paychecks."

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Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) will take over as Ways and Means Committee chairman, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats today following Rep. Charlie Rangel's decision to step down from the post temporarily.

Levin will be "acting chair," Democrats say.

Early reports after Rangel's announcement had been that Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) would get the position. But a Democratic aide told TPMDC there were concerns that Stark was too liberal to head the tax-writing committee.

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Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), fresh off a filibuster that delayed the extension of unemployment benefits and ground the Senate to a virtual halt, got the royal treatment on Fox News this morning. Fox newsman Brian Kilmeade went so far as to call the GOPer a "rock star."

"People looked at you as a rock star because the average American, for the first time, is concerned about spending," Kilmeade said.

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