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After learning that Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) had an affair with a staffer, two House Republican leaders felt compelled to inform the ethics committee of the matter. Why?

Taking that step appears to be part of a new M.O. when leadership hears about an allegation of misconduct: tell the ethics committee quickly to inoculate yourself and your party against accusations of inaction later on.

"That's the new standard: the leadership ratting out its members where there's an allegation of misconduct," Stan Brand, a former House general counsel, tells TPMmuckraker.

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Fox News host Neil Cavuto was rather hard on Michael Steele today, trying to get a straight answer from the RNC Chairman about some of the "bad blood" between establishment Republicans and tea partiers.

Steele denied that he was among the establishment Republicans, saying "have you been reading my press lately? The last thing you can say about me is that I'm part of the establishment."

Cavuto replied: "Well that's true because everybody hates you. I'm kidding!"

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The day after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway secured the Democratic Senate nomination he took direct aim at his Republican opponent, Rand Paul, calling the tea party favorite outside the mainstream.

Conway pointed to several positions Paul has publicly taken -- including support for repealing the American With Disabilities Act and abolishing the Department of Education -- and suggested he's going to run hard against the way Paul has rallied the tea partiers.

"I understand there's frustration in the country. I understand there's frustration in Kentucky," Conway said when I asked him about Paul's tea party base. "But my question is, how do we use that passion? Metaphorically, do we want to heat the building or do we want to burn it down?"

Conway said Paul's approach was "destructive rather than constructive" and would hurt him in the end. "These are not the views of mainstream Kentuckians," he said.

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Two progressive Democrats joined 39 Republicans this evening to block a final vote in the Senate on Wall Street reform, putting the two parties in the same position they found themselves in nearly one month ago when the entire GOP held together, for several days, to delay the bill from coming to the floor.

Now, just as then, Democrats will bring to bear a relentless campaign of public pressure on key Republicans and private arm-twisting on hold-out Democrats, in order to corral the 60 votes they need to end debate on the bill. And they'll have an opportunity to do just that tomorrow, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid holds a revote.

Back in April, though, that effort led to a broad capitulation by the GOP. This time, Republican senators and aides say it will only net them the handful votes they need to get over the top. One top GOP aide predicted the filibuster will break tomorrow.

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Ken Cuccinelli is trying to allay intense concerns from Virginia's scientific and academic communities about his investigation of a former University of Virginia climate scientist.

"The same legal standards for fraud apply to the academic setting that apply elsewhere," the attorney general told a crowd on Tuesday at a fundraiser for -- what else? -- an abstinence-only education group, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "The same rule of law, the same objective fact-finding process will take place."

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An overnight snap poll from Research 2000/Democracy For America suggests that Bill Halter is potentially beginning the Democratic primary runoff for Senate in Arkansas with a lead over incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

The numbers: Halter 48%, Lincoln 46%. The survey of people who voted in Tuesday's first round of the Democratic primary has a ±4.5% margin of error.

The TPM Poll Average gives Lincoln an insignificant edge of 45.2%-45.1% in a direct two-way race with Halter -- but keep in mind that this data set is almost entirely from polls taken before the primary, and has a lot of asterisks and caveats to go with it.

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Vice President Joe Biden released the following statement today on last night's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania:

Arlen Specter is one of my closest friends. He has served Pennsylvania with determination, wisdom, and skill for many years. I was proud to play a role in his return to the Democratic Party; his votes to pass the Recovery Act and health insurance reform were courageous and critical to our success. I look forward to working with him during the rest of this year, and remaining in close contact with him after his term in Washington is finished.

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), the No. 3 Republican in the House and an Indiana colleague of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), informed the ethics committee that Souder was having an affair with a staffer after Souder informed him of the matter on Sunday, a Pence spokesman said today.

It's not clear why Pence went to the ethics committee about the affair.

Pence first heard about the Souder affair after a journalist approached him last Wednesday, he said at a press conference earlier today. Pence says he approached Souder on the House floor about the matter, and Souder told him about the affair.

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Senate Democrats failed this afternoon to get the 60 votes they needed to end debate on the financial reform bill.

Two Republicans crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats. But with multiple Democrats voting against cloture, and another absent, the Democrats fell just short. The final vote was 57-42.

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