TPM News

Former Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN), who is gearing up to challenge appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the New York Democratic primary, has announced that he now supports gay marriage.

Appearing on the Today show, Ford pointed out that he'd previously supported civil unions. "My support for fairness and equality existed long before I moved to New York," Ford said. This is certainly a change for Ford. Back when he was in Congress, he voted in favor of amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage nationwide.

Matt Lauer asked Ford if this was a major change for him. "Maybe in the language," said Ford. "But I'm a believer that benefits should flow to same sex partners and if indeed the fiction of the language, the title, should be changed, much like Chuck Schumer who changed his mind on it and Bill Clinton's evolved, I'm of the opinion now that nothing is wrong with that."

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A former FEMA worker and her cousin have been charged in Mississippi with stealing $721,000 in disaster relief money, including allegedly diverting $58,000 directly from three victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Lashonda Booker, who worked in FEMA's Biloxi office processing Katrina disaster assistance claims, is accused of conspiring with her cousin to divert FEMA funds to bank accounts Booker controlled, according to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney Jan. 8.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said she is "thrilled" to become a contributor at Fox News, in a press release announcing the deal.

"I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at FOX News. It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news," Palin said in the release.

Bill Shine, the executive vice president of programming for Fox News, said, "Governor Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum and we are excited to add her dynamic voice to the FOX News lineup."

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wouldn't go so far as to say he'd oppose a health care bill that doesn't meet his goals this afternoon. But he did warn that members of Congress could suffer serious blowback at the polls this November if workers aren't pleased with the final health care bill.

"We said we have three issues: the public option, how it's funded, and the employer mandate," Trumka told reporters today. "We're still fighting on all three of those issues."

Asked whether workers would stay at home in November if the health care bill doesn't accomplish those goals, Trumka was blunt.

"I think there's that chance," he said. "I think the American public, and workers are out there and they're looking for a couple things right now. Health care is an important issue to them. Jobs are an important issue. I think those people that don't show a sense of urgency about both of them, I think they're going to face the scorn of workers at the polls."

NSC Spokesman Mike Hammer issued a statement today on National Security Advisor Jim Jones' travel to the Middle East. Here's the full text:

National Security Advisor Jim Jones is travelling to the Middle East this week to meet with key leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. During his trip, General Jones will discuss the full range of regional challenges and opportunities at this critical time in the Middle East.

Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK), one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, is not only predicting that the party will lose a significant number of seats in the House -- he's welcoming it, saying it will be a "good thing for Oklahoma and for me."

"If we have a tight majority one way or another, that puts me in the driver's seat," Boren told the Tulsa World. "In the 112th (Congress), I probably will have the most influence I have ever had, no matter who has the majority."

Boren did say that a Republican takeover of the House was a "tall order," but also added that the Democratic Party would be forced to move more toward the center politically with a smaller majority.

Speaking at the National Press Club this afternoon, AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka made a bold prediction: The Employee Free Choice Act--the flagship legislation of the labor movement--will pass in the first quarter of 2010.

"I think you'll see the Employee Free Choice Act pass in the first quarter of 2010," Trumka said. "You'll have it have some real effect. We'll start creating and making new jobs in this country again."

That will probably come as news to a lot of Democrats who are looking to make a quick pivot from health care to a jobs bill. Unless EFCA was attached to a bigger jobs package...

At today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama does not have any plans to campaign for Democratic candidate Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate special election.

"The president doesn't have any travel plans to campaign in Massachusetts," Gibbs said, in response to an initial question from Fox News' Major Garrett. Roll Call's Keith Koffler later followed up, asking why Obama wasn't going. Koffler asked whether there was any concern that with Obama's falling approval ratings, could he hurt Coakley's chances?

"No. No. No," said Gibbs, who later added: "We just -- it's not on the schedule as a trip the president's going to make."

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