TPM News

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has died at the age of 77, after serving in Congress for 36 years.

Murtha had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit last week due to complications following a gall bladder surgery.

Murtha's office released the following statement this afternoon:

Congressman John P. Murtha (PA-12) passed away peacefully this afternoon at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA. At his bedside was his family.

Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in February of 1974, Murtha dedicated his life to serving his country both in the military and in the halls of Congress. A former Marine, he became the first Vietnam War combat Veteran elected to the U.S. Congress.

This past Saturday, February 6, 2010, Murtha became Pennsylvania's longest serving Member of Congress.

A complete biography is available on his website.

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Top Democratic aides and health care reformers are of basically a single mind about President Obama's planned February 25 health care summit: Why the heck not!

Moments after Obama made the announcement in an interview with Katie Couric, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued pre-cooked statements supporting the President's call, suggesting a high degree of co-ordination. That could ease the concerns of liberals, some of whom worried that Obama might be repeating the same mistakes he made last year in a quixotic quest for bipartisanship.

"If this is what it takes--if doing this will make Democrats say, ok, go ahead and use their majorities to pass reform, then do it," said Richard Kirsch, director of the reform campaign Health Care for America Now.

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Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito may not have wanted to hear it during the State Of The Union address, but a new poll shows the majority of Americans agree with President Obama's take on the Citizens United ruling. More than 60 percent of respondents say it was a bad idea.

The opposition was found across party lines, and according to the pollsters was especially common among independents -- the group both parties have desperately fought over for a decade now. The pollsters said that result suggests that the parties would be well-served to take on the ruling and reinstate campaign finance regulations canceled out by the ruling with new law.

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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) fired back today at the assertion yesterday by John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, that four Republicans didn't object when Brennan told them in December that suspected Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was being held in FBI custody.

Hoekstra didn't dispute Brennan's account that he was one of four Republicans who was briefed by Brennan shortly after Abdulmutallab's arrest. But Hoekstra maintained that they were only told that Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody.

"We weren't told that he was going to be read his Miranda rights," Hoekstra said.

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Birther queen Orly Taitz reappeared recently to bring the birther movement -- which questions the president's birthplace and citizenship -- to a new frontier, Russian TV. On her way to this weekend's National Tea Party Convention, she sat down for an interview with 'Russia Today.' In it, she stressed the presence of fellow tea partying birthers, saying concern about the legitimacy of Obama's presidency is 'widespread' in the tea party movement.

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In her keynote address Saturday night to the National Tea Party Convention, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin encouraged competitive primaries in 2010 races, calling for conservative candidates to challenge the Republican establishment.

"This year there are gonna be some tough primaries, and I think that's good. Competition in these primaries is good. Competition makes us work harder and be more efficient and produce more," she said.

"And I hope you'll get out there and work hard for the candidates who reflect your values, your priorities. Because despite what the pundits want you to think, contested primaries aren't civil war. They're democracy at work, and that's beautiful," she continued.

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House Democrats want to kick House Republicans where it hurts, and are exploring ways to force the minority party to take a stand on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget "roadmap" that has become a political minefield in advance of this fall's elections.

A Democratic leadership source told TPMDC they are considering options for putting the Ryan plan on the floor, forcing Republicans to vote for or against a plan they don't want to talk about. This appears to be the Ryan bill, with seven GOP co-sponsors.

While conservative groups love the plan - which cuts Social Security and Medicare benefits before effectively privatizing the entitlement programs - and Ryan says he's willing to lose his job over presenting new policy ideas, GOP leaders are backing away.

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Remember how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted there'd be a vote on a jobs bill today? Well, maybe that was a bit premature.

Two major obstacles now stand between Democrats and the jobs package they'd like to pass before next week's President's Day recess: A ton of snow, and equally substantial GOP obstructionism. The question is: which will thaw first?

The snow has pushed the Senate floor schedule back at least a day--a significant amount of time given the crowded nature of the calendar. But Democrats still don't have enough votes to overcome a filibuster, and unless they can win over at least one Republican, they may adjourn this coming weekend empty-handed.

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Seeking to protect the oil industry, the Alaska state legislature has appropriated $1.5 million to fund an astroturf campaign to weaken the Endangered Species Act and put on a conference questioning the listing of polar bears as a threatened species.

Over the objections of some members who warned of "PR damage" to the state, a group of lawmakers late last week decided to move ahead with reviewing bids from public relations firms for the polar bear contract, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

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A top member of President Obama's health care team said today that his summit with Republicans and Democrats will help move the health care reform measure forward.

"I think he sees this as a step to actually accelerating the process forward. He wants to move forward. He wants a bill at his desk and he sees this as kind of closing the loop and let's go," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Huffington Post after a speech today at an event sponsored by health care magazine Health Affairs and Academy Health.

She also said Obama wants to tell Republicans, "Rather than just sitting on the sidelines and saying 'We don't like this, we don't like that,' come forward and show us your plan."

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