Washington (CNN) - Rep. Eric Massa, D-New York, denied reports Wednesday that he harassed one of his Capitol Hill staffers - announcing, however, that he would not seek re-election because of health concerns.
A spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged that allegations of misconduct against Massa, 50, were under review by the House Ethics Committee.
Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said that a member of Massa's staff told Hoyer's staff about the allegations, and Hoyer gave the retired Navy commander 48 hours to take the matter to the Ethics Committee.
"Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa's staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations," Grant said. "Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of members was immediately involved to determine the facts."
The online journal Politico reported earlier Wednesday that Massa was stepping down "amid allegations he sexually harassed a male staffer," and a senior Democratic aide later told CNN that the allegations involved a male staffer who was made to feel uncomfortable.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions among staff were private on a sensitive matter and because of the ongoing Ethics Committee investigation, said the allegation involved "a sexual implication."
Washington (CNN) – A spokesman for the Republican National Committee sought to distance Chairman Michael Steele Wednesday from a controversial fundraising presentation that was first reported by the Politico.
RNC Communications Director Doug Heye sent an email to GOP allies, prior to the Politico posting the story on its Web site, telling them that Steele had never seen the document which portrays President Obama in clown makeup with a banner that said “Socialism.” The RNC document also likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Disney character Cruella DeVille and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Scooby Doo. According to Politico’s report, the document said that without control of the White House, the Senate, or the House, the RNC should pursue a fundraising strategy focused on saving “’the country from trending toward Socialism!’”
“The document was used for a fundraising presentation Chairman Steele did not attend, nor had he seen the document,” Heye said in the email to Republican allies that was provided to CNN. “Fundraising documents are often controversial. Obviously, the Chairman disagrees with the language and finds the use of such imagery to be unacceptable. It will not be used by the Republican National Committee – in any capacity – in the future.”
Washington (CNN) – A Utah congressman wants delinquent Capitol Hill staffers to settle up.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is set to introduce a bill Thursday that targets Congressional employees with unpaid taxes.
"It's pretty hard to find anyone who would disagree with this legislation," Chaffetz told CNN. When asked if his own staffers are current in paying their taxes, he indicated he had talked them before putting the bill together. "I hope they are all in compliance."
Rep. Chaffetz also said he wants to "model this after the IRS," which the Utah Republican says has the highest compliance rate in the federal government for employees paying taxes.
Chaffetz told CNN he got the idea for the legislation after he heard President Obama's remarks at the January 20 singing of a directive that blocks tax-delinquent companies from obtaining government contracts. At the time, Obama said "it is simply wrong for companies to take taxpayer dollars and not be taxpayers themselves."
According to Chaffetz, there are currently hundreds of Hill staffers with unpaid taxes. For the 2008 tax year alone, the freshman congressman estimates a total of $8 million in unpaid taxes owed by congressional employees.
Washington (CNN) - Polls show that Americans are concerned about federal budget deficits. Now House Minority Leader John Boehner wants them to chew over possible solutions – before they vote in the midterm elections on November 2.
Boehner proposed Wednesday that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama last month, issue its final report on October 1. That's two months earlier than the deadline set by Obama and, of course, a month before the midterms.
The 18-member debt commission has a huge task: It must suggest ways to start closing the gap between what Washington spends and what it collects in taxes. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have agreed to put the panel's recommendations up for votes before new lawmakers take office in early 2011.
So Boehner says it only makes sense that the commission should reveal its proposed fiscal solutions earlier "in order for the electorate to engage elected officials and candidates ... prior to the election." He also proposed that all commission meetings be held in public.
One problem with giving the panel a tighter leash: Time is already short. Only half of the panel members have been selected so far. Boehner, who gets to select three members, said on Wednesday that he isn't ready yet to make his picks.
Washington (CNN) – Rep. Eric Massa, a New York Democrat elected in 2008, will announce Wednesday that he will not seek a second term, two high-level Democratic sources confirm to CNN.
Massa has a 3:30 p.m. ET press call to discuss his decision.
(CNN) – It's enough to make a first term president have nightmares: a parade of past presidents all advocating that the current occupant of the Oval Office take action on a controversial reform measure in the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
That's exactly the conceit of a new Web video released Wednesday by comedy Web site Funny or Die.
In the video, President Obama, played by current Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen, and the first lady, played by SNL alum Maya Rudolph, go to bed in the White House. As the fictional Obama drifts off to sleep, the clip turns into a dream sequence featuring a number of Obama's predecessors.
(CNN) - Forget about her possible White House ambitions. Is Sarah Palin angling for a career slinging jokes on late-night TV?
Appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday, Palin, whom Leno called a "new comedienne from Wasilla, Alaska," tried her hand at delivering a monologue.
You can decide for yourself if Palin should stick to punditry and politics.
Her quips after the jump:
Washington (CNN) - Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, was remembered by colleagues Wednesday during a memorial service held in the U.S. Capitol building's Statuary Hall. Murtha died February 8 after complications from gallbladder surgery.
Among the speakers at the ceremony were Vice President Joseph Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James L. Jones, and several Democratic and Republican leaders.
Speaking towards the end of the service, Pelosi recalled Murtha as a courageous and loyal supporter of American servicemen.
"He was so interested in the soldiers. He could identify with and speak to them as one who had served in the military, but also his affection for them was as a father," Pelosi said.
The House Speaker also told a story about one of the many trips Murtha took to military hospitals to visit wounded war veterans, during which one soldier, dressed in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, waited in his room for Murtha in full salute.
"Jack loved that," Pelosi said.
(CNN) - Sen. Jim Bunning's decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits was a smack in the face to struggling Americans across the country.
The Kentucky Republican demanded the extension be paid for instead of adding to the deficit, although in the past, he voted for similar extensions that did not include budget offsets.
Bunning relented, but critics still blasted him as tone-deaf, a label stapled to much of Congress over the past year.
While it's "extraordinarily rare" for Congress to be admired by the public, right now, the dissatisfaction with the legislative branch is intensified, said Norman Ornstein, a longtime congressional observer with the American Enterprise Institute.
"It's fairly clear that there's a high anger level that the public has with Congress - higher than we've seen it in a while, and up at levels comparable to what we've had with other wave elections that have brought substantial turnover," Ornstein said.