Washington (CNN) - A nearly $140 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits and a host of expiring tax cuts cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate on a vote of 66-34, setting up passage of the bill possibly later in the day.
Eight Republicans joined with all Democratic senators except for Ben Nelson of Nebraska, on the vote to end debate on the bill, which still must be merged with a companion bill in the House.
One Republican senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, said he voted yes to "keep the process moving" but said he might vote against the final bill.
In addition to extending unemployment payments and assistance for the unemployed to buy health insurance, the bill staves off scheduled cuts in the payments doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.
The bill extends a wide range of tax cuts that were set to expire. They include a tax cut for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pocket; a tax cut for small businesses that pay workers called to active military duty; research and developments tax cuts; and tax cuts for restaurant and small business owners to depreciate improvements in their businesses.
Washington (CNN) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is pushing back against the March 18 deadline that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated was the target for a vote on health care reform.
Asked by a reporter about a potential health care vote on the 18th, Hoyer replied, "Your premise is incorrect. You mean that date that Mr Gibbs mentioned. None of us has mentioned the 18th, other than Mr Gibbs. We are trying to do this as soon as possible. That continues to be our objective."
Last week, Gibbs said he expected the House to vote on health care by that date, the same day President Obama departs for an overseas trip.
Hoyer declined to give a specific deadline for when the House would take up health care, saying only that it would be "soon."
(CNN) – The White House is dismissing former Rep. Eric Massa's claims that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel "is the son of devil's spawn" who once berated him in the nude for not supporting the president's budget.
Twice on Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Massa's recent accusations about Emanuel are "silly and ridiculous."
In the wake of a Politico report that Massa sexually harassed one of his male staffers, the Democratic lawmaker announced last week that he would not seek re-election and then, just days later, that he would retire - effective Monday evening.
In his last full day in office on Monday, the departing lawmaker took a shot at the president's chief of staff.
"Rahm Emanuel is the son of the devil's spawn," Massa told a caller Sunday during his radio program on WKPQ in upstate New York. "He is an individual that would sell his mother for a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive. If he doesn't like me, he can come after me personally."
On the broadcast, Massa also recounted a confrontation with Emanuel in the House gym.
"I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget," he said. "Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man? And by the way, what the heck is doing in the congressional gym? He goes there to intimidate members of Congress."
Washington (CNN) - In a new television commercial set to begin airing Wednesday in the nation's capital, the Republican National Committee blames House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, for recent ethical problems dogging congressional Democrats.
The RNC ad - titled "Pelosi's Failure" - highlights Rep. Eric Massa's sudden resignation from Congress following allegations that he sexually harassed a male staff member and Rep. Charles Rangel's decision to relinquish the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee as he battles his own ethical issues.
National Republicans are hoping to seize the mantle of honest governing from Congressional Democrats, who took back control of the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections largely on their promise to clean up the "culture of corruption" on Capitol Hill.
"The most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history," Pelosi is seen and heard saying in the opening of the commercial, which goes on to highlight Rangel's and Massa's problems.
The TV ad closes with a narrator saying, "Pelosi's wrong. It's time to change Washington."
An RNC spokesman said the ad would run on cable television stations in the Washington, DC media market. While the size of the ad buy was not disclosed it is expected to be in the "low five figures."
That's not a large purchase, but it is enough for Republican's to try and make their point.
Washington (CNN) - White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is accustomed to working in the shadows, but he now finds himself the subject of newspaper stories.
From the New York Times to the Chicago Sun-Times, the focus is on palace intrigue surrounding Emanuel's effectiveness as one of President Obama's top advisers. It comes as the administration is fighting to get the president's health care reform plan passed in Congress.
While some of the stories question whether Emanuel is effectively pulling off the behind-the-scenes work a chief of staff does - including wrangling members of Congress and dealing with White House staff - there are others that point out the speculation as Washington hype.
For those who have served in similar roles in the White House, front page criticism and praise comes with the job.
"At the end of the day when you're the chief of staff, no matter how able you are, whether Dick Cheney, who was Ford's chief of staff, or Jim Baker, who was Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, you get beat up," said Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor and Republican consultant.
(CNN) - Opponents of Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign have launched a Web site that relies on the public to help them "fully vet" the Republican candidate's credentials.
Wikimeg.com is marketed as a "bold new experiment in democracy."
The open source site encourages users to post information about the former eBay CEO in categories including "eBay Stories," "Meg History" and "Meg Sightings."
The site was launched Monday by Level The Playing Field 2010, a group run by California Democratic strategists who support Democratic candidate Jerry Brown.
Wikimeg.com discloses that "the structure of the project allows anyone with an Internet connection to alter its content," so its creators can't guarantee that what is posted is accurate. Users are asked to link to their sources or identify themselves if they are contributing first-hand information.
Sean Clegg, campaign manager for Level The Playing Field, said the site is monitored for editorial content, but the hope is that as the project moves forward, "the online community that's been created by it will begin to essentially govern itself."
Asked about the site, Whitman's campaigned deferred to its intern, Marcheta Marshall, who said in a statement: "Looks like these guys are pretty worried about Meg.
When it comes to immigration reform, are worker ID cards a good idea? (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
If you think health care reform is ugly, just wait until Congress tries immigration reform again.
The Senate has begun work on an immigration bill and at the center of this new plan is a controversial requirement for all American workers to get identification cards.
It's meant to prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants. Right. If you think the corporations that make huge profits on the backs of an illegal alien workforce are going to let something like that get through, think again.
Under the plan - all legal workers, including citizens and immigrants, would have to get an ID card that includes biometric information like fingerprints.
The Wall Street Journal reports the card would be phased in among all workers, including teens; and among all employers, starting with industries that rely on an illegal immigrant workforce. Now there's an idea.
Supporters say such a worker ID card would be a way to guarantee illegal immigrants don't come here for jobs because they wouldn't be able to get them.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here.
Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney has a message to Tea Party candidates nationwide: If you lose your Republican primary bids, stay on the sidelines.
The former Massachusetts governor on Monday warned the grassroots movement not to mount third party efforts in general elections, which he said would siphon votes from Republican nominees.
"If there is a conservative candidate that runs in the general election, then obviously, divide and fail is the result," Romney said in an interview with the conservative Web site Newsmax. "Hopefully Tea Party candidates will run in respective primaries and they will either win or lose. And if they win, they will go into the general. If they lose, they won't, and they will get behind the more conservative of the two finalists."
Romney explained that "dividing our conservative effort in the general elections" would "basically hand the country to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and that would be very sad indeed."
(CNN) - What do New Yorkers want their scandal-tainted governor to do? Several polls taken in the past week or so offer conflicting results on whether voters want Gov. David Paterson to quit his office or finish out the remaining 10 months of his term.
According to the latest one, a Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll released Tuesday, 68 percent of the state's registered voters want Paterson to stick it out, with 28 percent saying he should step down. The 68 percent who want Paterson to say in office is up 2 points from a Marist poll released a week ago.
"The jury is still out on Paterson in the court of public opinion until further information is known," says Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "In the short run, voters are giving him the benefit of the doubt."
A Siena College Research Institute survey released Monday indicated that 55 percent of New York State registered voters want Paterson to stick it out, with 37 percent calling on him to resign.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Friday suggested that New Yorkers were split, with 46 percent urging the Democratic governor to finish his term and 42 percent calling for the governor to step down. The 46 percent who said they wanted Paterson to stick it out was down 15 points from a Quinnipiac survey conducted days earlier.
Washington (CNN) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer dismissed Tuesday as "absolutely untrue" former Rep. Eric Massa's claim that he was forced out of Congress because of his opposition to health care reform.
Pressed by CNN about Massa's assertion that he was pushed out to save the health care bill and his criticism of the leadership tactics on the issue, Hoyer firmly responded, "It's absolutely untrue."
The number two House Democrat insisted repeatedly that there was no relationship between his actions regarding Massa and health care, emphasizing to reporters "Is anybody confused? Do I need to clarify that?"