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The race for Pennsylvania's sixth Congressional district was turned on its head with Rep. Jim Gerlach's decision to seek reelection. Thanks to the turmoil, a candidate once backed by the Republican establishment is reaching out to the tea party movement.

PA-06 sparked our interest last week as several GOP contenders sought to identify with tea partiers and portrayed businessman Steve Welch as the National Republican Congressional Committee favorite.

But when Gerlach ended his gubernatorial bid and said he wants to keep his seat, the NRCC decided it had to support one of the Republican party's leaders, leaving Welch in the cold.

State Rep. Curt Schroeder, the candidate who seemed to reach out most to the tea partiers ended his bid last night and Welch is charging ahead, with a top aide wanting us to know Welch likes the tea party, too.

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It's become conventional wisdom at this point that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can't accept any major changes the House might make to his health care bill, because he needs to retain the support of all 60 of his members. But what happens if Martha Coakley loses her Senate race, and that number drops to 59--one shy of the threshold needed to stop a filibuster? There may be an out. Technically.

For a bill to become law, the House and Senate have to pass identical versions of the same legislation. Because the Senate already passed a health care bill, if the House just adopted it word for word, the President could sign it, and health care reform would be done.

Senate aides are aware of this backdoor, though they caution that it would create major political problems. House Democrats aren't exactly big fans of the Senate language, and wouldn't take too kindly to the notion that they should scrap all the hard work they put into their own reform bill.

"There is not a snow balls chance in hell that the House will pass the Senate bill," one top Senate aide noted.

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We told you yesterday about the fears among Tea Party activists that a planned national convention, at which Sarah Palin will speak, is too expensive for regular folks to attend -- and may be a bid by corporate or political interests to co-opt the movement. (TPMmuckraker -- or half of it -- talked about the issue with Rachel Maddow last night.)

And it sounds like at least one influential conservative voice agrees.

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Obama Considers Levy For Rescued Firms President Obama is reportedly considering a new fee for bailed-out financial firms, to recover tax dollars in the midst of controversies over large bonuses at companies. The TARP law does not trigger efforts to recover money for another four years, so pursuing the levy would require changing the law.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will depart the White House at 9:20 a.m. ET, arriving at 10:15 a.m. ET in New Castle, Delaware. At 11 a.m. ET, they will attend funeral services for Mrs. Jean Biden, the late mother of Vice President Joe Biden. They will depart from New Castle at 1 p.m. ET, and arrive back at the White House at 1:50 p.m. ET. Obama will greet the U.S. Ladies Professional Golf Association team at 4:05 p.m. ET. Obama will meet at 4:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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January 5, 2010: On the first Tuesday of the New Year a series of surprising resignations shocked the political world. The announcements capped off a year full of retirements from Capitol Hill. Lawmakers from both parties have declared their plans to leave Congress for a host of reasons. Some left to seek another office, others resigned from public life altogether. And a few legislators decided to walk away rather than face a difficult election. The retirements have reshuffled the Congressional deck and created hurdles for both Democrats and Republicans.

Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-ND) announced that he would retire from the Senate. The decision had a significant impact on the political landscape, giving the GOP a solid chance to pick up a the seat in 2010.

February 13, 2009: Early in his Presidency, Obama made the odd offer of his Commerce Secretary seat to New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. After briefly flirting with the position, Gregg withdrew his name citing irreconcilable differences. In his withdrawal, Gregg also announced that he would not run in 2010 -- giving the Democrats a fairly good opportunity to take the New England seat.

January 4, 2010: 74-year-old Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) began the new year with an announcement that he would retire.


January 13, 2009: Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) announced he would leave his relatively cozy House seat to run for Mel Martinez's old Senate job.


January 8, 2009: Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) officially announced his plans to retire, leaving the GOP to defend the seat in what has become a swing state.

February 19, 2009: Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced he would be leaving his House seat in an attempt to move to the Upper Chamber, vying for the seat opened by Sen. Bond.

May 27, 2009: After departing from the Republican Party, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has moved fairly rapidly to the left on several issues. But these changes haven't deterred Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who will resign from his seat to challenge Specter in a primary.

cc: aflcio2008

July 27, 2009: Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) announced he will not seek re-election in 2010 in a move that may have helped the GOP in the Bluegrass State.

August 27, 2009: Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) announced his plans to leave his Southeastern Louisiana seat to challenge embattled Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

February 2, 2009: In Topeka, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) declared his intention to run in the state's Senate primary. He has since cast himself as a strong conservative by endorsing Doug Hoffman's failed NY-23 bid.

March 30, 2009: Outspoken Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) announced he would be leaving Capitol Hill to make a run for governor. In addition to Hoekstra, a string of Representatives have also declared their plan to enter gubernatorial races.

Jeff Malet /

February 28, 2009: Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) confirmed her decision to leave the House and run for Governor of Oklahoma.

February 9, 2009: Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) announced his plan to run for Governor.


May 1, 2009: Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) throw his name into the hat for Georgia's governor race. Deal is leaving the House after being the only Member of Congress to sign on to a letter requesting Obama's birth certificate.


January 5, 2009: Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) announced he will resign from his House seat to vie for the Governor's mansion in Nashville.

March 5, 2009: Rep. J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) announced his plans to leave his seat representing the state's third district to run for Governor.

February 19, 2009: Florida Representative Adam Putnam (R-FL) announced his plans to leave Congress to run for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.

October 6, 2009: To the delight of the national GOP, Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), the sole House member from Delaware, announced his plan to run for Vice President Biden's former seat.

July 20, 2009: Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) jumped headfirst into the upcoming race for President Obama's former Senate seat, now held by the exiting Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL).


November 6, 2009: Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS) announced his plans to run for U.S. Senate.

November 23, 2009: Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) became the first in a series of Blue Dog Democrats to announce their plans to resign in 2010.

December 2, 2009: Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) joined Rep. Moore as another conservative Democrat to abandon a swing seat.

December 9, 2009: In another swing district, Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his plans to retire.

cc: robert scoble

December 11, 2009: Candidate for Hawaii Governor, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), announced his resignation from a relatively safe Congressional seat for Democrats.


December 14, 2009: The retirement of Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) was a cause for concern for Democrats.

December 29, 2009: Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) announced his retirement in California.

January 5, 2010: Facing surmounting electoral obstacles, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) declared he would not run again in 2010 after 35 years in the Senate.

Jeff Malet /

The candidates in the Massachusetts special election met tonight for their final debate, with tough attacks flying between Democrat Martha Coakley, Republican Scott Brown, and independent libertarian Joe Kennedy. And again, there was a frequent reminder that the fate of the health care bill in Washington could be riding on this election.

It wasn't hard to keep this in mind. David Gergen, the moderator for this event, openly introduced the debate by telling the audience that this election may very well determine the result of the health care debate. He then began the debate by asking the candidates whether this election should be seen as a referendum on the health care bill -- perhaps setting up a ready-made spin of the election result for himself and other commentators.

Brown was first. "The health care bill that's being proposed in Washington is broken," Brown said. "The back-room deals, Nebraska, Louisiana, we all know about it. We need to start over." He added a short while later: "I would be proud to be the 41st vote, and go back to the drawing board."

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Democratic candidate Martha Coakley has a very tough new ad in the Massachusetts Senate special election, hammering Republican Scott Brown as a right-winger not cut out for this Democratic state.

"Who is Scott Brown, really?" the announcer says. "A Republican. In lockstep with Washington Republicans. Blocking tougher oversight of Wall Street. More tax breaks for the wealthiest. No new prescription coverage for millions of seniors."

"Brown even favors letting hospitals deny emergency contraception to rape victims," the announcer says, juxtaposing the smiling Brown photo with video of a cowering young woman, presumably meant to signify a rape victim. "He lacks understanding and seriousness. In times like these, we can't afford a Republican like Scott Brown."

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As House Democrats return to Washington and prepare to huddle with leadership on health care, an anti-abortion group is going after 13 pro-life Democrats by staging rallies in their district offices and urging them to oppose the final plan.

A House Democratic leadership aide told TPMDC today that abortion provisions are still a big question left unresolved as the House and Senate attempt to reconcile their versions of the health care plan in hopes of getting something to President Obama within the month.

Another leadership aide said the broader questions about how to pay for health care will be the first thing that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team will discuss during a caucus meeting tomorrow night. The abortion question will be decided later during the negotiations, the aide said.

But Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) is pressuring Democrats to oppose the final plan, saying the language Sen. Ben Nelson had inserted in the Senate version isn't tough enough.

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Appearing on Hardball tonight, former Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) made a clear declaration for Chris Matthews, as Ford gears up to challenge appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the New York Democratic primary.

Ford, who lost a Senate campaign in his native Tennessee in 2006, said that he lives in New York, he and his wife plan to start a family there, and he's paid taxes there. "And once you pay taxes there, you feel like a New Yorker," Ford quipped.

Matthews asked Ford to declare that he is a New Yorker. Ford replied: "I am a New Yorker. I am a New Yorker. I am a New Yorker. I am a New Yorker." It was certainly entertaining -- and if this New York thing doesn't work out, he'll have no chance of ever running for office in Tennessee again.

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