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House Democrats today passed a bill doling out $26.1 billion to states to help them pay for teachers and emergency workers and to cover growing Medicaid costs. President Obama Tuesday morning hailed Congress for returning to Washington unexpectedly one week into the summer recess. Thanks to two Republican votes from Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both from Maine, the measure passed the Senate 61-39 last week.

The House passed the measure 247-161. Democrats and the White House estimate the new spending could save up to 300,000 teachers' jobs across the country. Supporters see it as building on the stimulus program from 2009. But like anything in an election year, the vote set off political nastiness.

It's a ready-made campaign commercial as Democrats plan to hail their own votes as heroic when states are facing massive budget crises. And -- you guessed it -- Republicans will say it's another big-spending government plan.

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The DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter that went down in Alaska last night, killing former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and carrying other officials, was a prime example of a sturdy, reliable aircraft wilderness pilots have flown for decades, aviation experts and bush pilots told me today.

A pilot on the ground in Dillingham, Alaska who is familiar with the exact aircraft that crashed told me that the DHC-3 Stevens was flying on was a "beautiful and well-maintained airplane" that was an example of the best of the best available to Alaskan bush pilots.

"It's a really well-built airframe," charter pilot Tom Schlagel told me. In his own Dillingham-based charter business, Schlagel uses a smaller version of the same DeHavilland plane that crashed, though, as he told me, his is "less fancy" than the one that went down last night.

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Former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) passed away as a result of a plane crash last night outside of Dillingham, Alaska. He was 86 years old. He leaves behind a wife, Catherine; five children from his first marriage to Ann -- Ben, a former state Senator, Susan, Beth, Walter, Ted Jr.; and Lily, his daughter with Catherine.

Stevens was the longest-serving Republican member of the United States Senate in its history, having first won election to it in 1968.

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1||August 10, 2010: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) is killed in a plane crash near Dillingham, Alaska. Here's a look back at the senator's career. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

2||March 4, 1997: Stevens, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) walk down the Senate steps. ||Newscom/CQ&&

3||1997: Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Stevens. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

4||April 28, 1981: President Ronald Reagan meets with Republican Congressional Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Majority Whip Stevens is third from the left. House Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) is on the right. ||Newscom/CNP&&

5||Stevens with astronaut John Glenn. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

6||February 8, 1978: Stevens meets with President Jimmy Carter. ||National Archives&&

7||1975: Stevens waits with a marching band for President Ford to disembark from Air Force One at Eielson Air Force Base.||Alaska's Digital Archives&&

8||1975: President Ford at Eielson Air Force Base, flanked by Gov. Jay Hammond (R-AK) on the left, Stevens and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on the right. ||Alaska's Digital Archives&&

9||April 21, 1997: Stevens and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) during a Senate rules committee hearing. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

10||May 6, 1969: Rep. Howard Pollock (R-AK), Stevens, Vide Bartlett, Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), and Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-WA) dedicate the E. L. Bartlett Memorial Auditorium in Washington D. C. with a bust of Bob Bartlett. ||Newscom/ShowCasePix&&

11||May, 2005: Stevens and former Senator Al D'Amato (R-NY) walk through the Ohio Clock Corridor to a Republican luncheon. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

12||September 3, 2003: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Stevens during a Senate commerce hearing. ||Newscom/CQ&&

13||September 16, 2004: Stevens, far right, at the groundbreaking for an Air Force Memorial. From left, H. Ross Perot Jr., Air Force Memorial Foundation president; Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Murray; Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff; James Roche, secretary of the Air Force; Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). ||Newscom/Scripps Howard News&&

14||June 26, 2008: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Stevens help pass out cake during an event celebrating 50 years of Alaska statehood.||Newscom/KRT&&

15||October 22, 2008: Stevens, with daughter Beth (left) and wife Catherine, arrives at a federal courthouse the day after Stevens' corruption charges went to a jury. Stevens had been charged with seven counts of ethical misconduct, and was found guilty on all seven counts in October 2008. But in April 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the charges against Stevens, citing prosecutorial misconduct. Full coverage here. ||Newscom/RollCall&&

16||January 7, 2002: Stevens with Vice President Dick Cheney at a mock swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol. ||Newscom/UPI&&

17||March 2, 2005: President George W. Bush speaks at a ceremony to award baseball great Jackie Robinson a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal as Stevens and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) look on. ||Newscom/UPI&&

18||May 19, 2005: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Stevens, and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), joke during a news conference on judicial nominees. ||Newscom/CQ&&

19||October 29, 2003: Stevens meets with Bill Frist and California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).||Newscom/ShowCasePix&&

With reports of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) being involved in a plane crash in Alaska, it should be noted that there have been many high-profile plane crashes in American politics. Let's take a look.

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The former aide to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) who reportedly told KTUU-TV in Alaska that Stevens had died in a plane crash last night is retracting that report.

Dave Dittman, the former aide, provided this statement to TPMDC through a spokesperson after we asked him to confirm the story he told to KTUU:

Dave received a call last night and was told that Senator Stevens had perished in a plane crash. That has not been confirmed. That is just what he was told. In the meantime he has talked with close friends of the family and it has not been confirmed to them either. And as recent as 8:50 AK time this morning it still had not been confirmed.

If Sen. Michael Bennet comes out on top in today's Democratic Senate primary in Colorado, he'll be ahead against either of his potential Republican challengers, a new PPP (D) survey shows. Democrat Andrew Romanoff, on the other hand, will be in a slightly tougher spot if he wins.

In its general election match-ups, the new PPP survey shows Bennet, the appointed incumbent, ahead of Republican Jane Norton 46%-40% and edging Republican Ken Buck 46%-43%. Andrew Romanoff, the Democratic challenger who sold his house to help fund his campaign, is down a point to Norton and up a point against Buck. The poll's margin of error is ±3.1 percentage points.

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In a long speech on the House floor today, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) vowed to continue fighting House ethics charges and promised he won't resign.

Rangel said he may have been "stupid" and "negligent," but he was never "corrupt."

To applause from some fellow Democrats, Rangel said he won't leave the House over the allegations. He also excoriated the ethics committee for not yet setting a date for his trial.

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One way or the other, today will mark the end of a surprisingly close battle in the Colorado Democratic Senate primary. A late-charging challenge from former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has put Sen. Michael Bennet on the defensive in recent days, and a once-civil campaign has taken a nasty turn.

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