TPM News

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) stepped aside as House Ways and Means Committee chairman earlier today, to great fanfare from House Democratic leaders. But reading between the lines of their fond words, it's clear that they're relieved he's decided to take a (for now) temporary leave.

Rangel himself said his decision was rooted in a desire to keep the patina of scandal around him from imperiling the political fortunes of his fellow Democrats. Does leadership agree? After a House Democratic caucus meeting this afternoon, Caucus Chair John Larson told me Rangel's decision was a sign of "exemplary leadership." In other worse, they do indeed agree.

After all, Rangel initially put up a fight. As of last night he was insisting he would retain his chairmanship.

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Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) testified today before the House Budget Committee that a proposal to dramatically overhaul entitlement programs is "bold" and signed on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget "roadmap" plan which cuts and then partially privatizes Social Security and creates a voucher system for Medicare.

Inglis said in testimony today that he's "comfortable" with the plan, which he said would help "get our fiscal house in order." The Ryan plan also has new co-sponsors: Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN). (See correction below.)

TPMDC has been tracking where House Republicans stand on the Ryan "roadmap." Yesterday we detailed the lawmakers we've gotten on the record, with nearly a dozen refusing to say where they stand despite repeated requests.

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The conservative Club For Growth has launched a new attack ad against Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), who has become a top target for them in their quest each cycle to take out a Republican incumbent they deem to be insufficiently conservative.

Bennett has been in the Club's sights for quite some time. The new TV ad attacks Bennett for such big-spending programs as the TARP bailout and the "Bridge To Nowhere" in Alaska -- and even accuses him of colluding with liberals on health care reform. The ad then exhorts viewers to attend their local Republican Party precinct caucuses on March 23 -- a process that could potentially unseat Bennett, as explained below.

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A Louisiana sheriff plans to arm volunteers with shotguns, riot shields, batons, and a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a "war wagon," as part of "Operation Exodus," a program to provide security in the event of a terrorist attack or civic unrest. "It's a calling," he says.

The office of Sheriff Larry Deen of Bossier Parish, near Shreveport in the northwest part of the state, last month selected for the program 200 local residents -- mostly ex-law-enforcement personnel -- and began training them in "defensive techniques in the event of a struggle," reports the Shreveport Times. The plan calls for the new recruits to be sent to protect food from grocery stores, gas from gas stations, and other crucial local resources, should the situation demand it.

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TPMDC's Brian Beutler waited outside Rep. Eric Massa's office this afternoon in an attempt to get more than the short statement the Democrat read to reporters on the phone earlier.

Massa (D-NY) read a similar statement about his decision not to seek reelection to reporters staking out his Longworth office, and took no questions. Afterward, Brian chased him down the hallway to ask further about the allegations of harassment from a male staffer. Massa denied it and offered one more comment.

"I made my statement. The allegations are totally false. I'm a salty old sailor. That's that," Massa said.

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March 3, 2010: More than 100 same-sex couples lined up to apply for marriage licenses in Washington, D.C., today, as the city's new marriage law took effect. They were met by protesters associated with the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.

Above: Barbara and Carol Bustard-Burnside were the 14th couple to file a marriage application today.

Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Newscom/rollcallpix






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Newlyweds Morgan Murphy and Todd Williamson hold a "Love Wins" sign near the anti-gay protesters. They are a straight couple that had boycotted marriage for six years because of inequality.

Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




March 2, 2010: Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington perform at the Rayburn House Office Building, celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C.

Photo by cc/N.V. Jantzen






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Photo by Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine issued a statement after President Obama unveiled his plan for health care reform today. Here's the full text:

"Today, the President outlined the way forward on health insurance reform and called on Congress to act with dispatch to pass historic and long overdue reforms to our country's health insurance system," said Kaine. "Almost a year has passed since this process began, marking another year that American families and businesses have struggled under the budget-breaking reality of sky-rocketing health insurance costs, another year in which insurance companies have made decisions based on their bottom lines rather than the health of the American people and another year in which millions of Americans lack any coverage at all. Today, the President made clear what most Americans know all too well: we cannot delay any longer. The final march for reform begins now.

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