TPM News

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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Muslim constituents repeatedly challenged Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) at an emotional town hall meeting in Charlotte Thursday, with Myrick scrambling to distance herself from the Islam-bashing co-author of the book Muslim Mafia, whose foreword was written by the congresswoman herself.

Myrick has had a tense relationship with her district's Muslim community for many years, but it's been aggravated recently by her campaign to investigate undercover Muslim intern "spies" on Capitol Hill.

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March 2, 2010: Thing 2, The Cat In The Hat, and Thing 1 wave to children in the audience as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on. Obama celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday and the National Education Association's (NEA) 2010 Read Across America Day by reading The Cat In The Hat to elementary school students at the Library of Congress.

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Obama greets some of the 200 students present at the event, all clad in traditional red-and-white striped Dr. Seuss hats.

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The First Lady also took questions from the audience.

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Obama listens as Education Secretary Arne Duncan reads Horton Hears A Who! to the students.

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NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and the First Lady.

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Obama reads "The Cat In The Hat."

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Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who has become a one-man filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment benefits, apparently placed a hold on all presidential nominees last week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office confirms to TPMDC that Bunning has placed the holds.

"It turns out that not only has he been blocking the unemployment insurance bill, he has also been blocking the confirmation of nominees since last week as well," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

Bunning's spokesman tells TPMDC that he doesn't know about the holds.

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Senate Democrats have posted a YouTube video, rounding up examples of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) being praised from the Senate floor by other Republican Senators for the hold he has placed against passage of the unemployment benefits extension.

The video, which is clearly designed to counter any possible perception that Bunning might be acting alone, features video of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), all describing Bunning as demonstrating "courage."

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held an unexpected press conference today, where she acknowledged--unsurprisingly--that the divide between Democrats and Republicans on health care reform is unlikely to be bridged. But, when asked if and how she can cobble together the votes within her own caucus to pass a bill with controversial abortion and immigration language in it, Pelosi had no answers.

Pelosi acknowledged what has long been known--that neither abortion nor immigration can be dealt with in the budget reconciliation process. The issues, she said, are "not central to the budget--in order for them to be part of the budget bill, they have to be central to the budget."

But she wouldn't say how she plans to overcome the 216-vote threshold she'd likely face if either or both of these issues causes rebellion among members of her caucus. The next step, she said is to send legislation to CBO and, once CBO reports back, to see what the Senate can pass through the reconciliation process. Then it'll be time to sell that to her caucus.

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