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8 Firsts Of The New Congress

8 Firsts Of The New Congress

1. First Black Senator From The South Since the Reconstruction

Tim Scott, Republican from South Carolina

2. First Openly Gay Senator

Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin

3. First Buddhist Senator

Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii

4. First Hindu Member of Congress

Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii

5. First All Female Delegation – New Hampshire

Congresswoman Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster both Democrats. Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

6. First Openly Bi-Sexual Member of Congress

Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat from Arizona

7. First Female Combat Veterans Elected to Congress

Tammy Duckworth, Democrat from Illinois; Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat from Hawaii

8. First Senate With 20 Female Senators

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House Republicans Face Decision On Fighting Gay Veterans’ Spousal Benefits

House Republicans Face Decision On Fighting Gay Veterans' Spousal Benefits

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — The House Republican leadership faces a Thursday deadline to decide if it will continue to defend laws that limit veterans benefits to opposite-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down a similar provision in the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We’re reviewing the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, and don’t have any announcement to make at this time,” House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, told BuzzFeed on Wednesday when asked if the defense of the veterans’ statutes would continue.

The day after the Supreme Court ruled in Edie Windsor’s challenge to Section 3 of DOMA that the federal definition of marriage that excluded gay couples in DOMA is unconstitutional, Judge Richard Stearns asked the parties in another lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts and addressing the rights of service members and veterans and their spouses, to give “any reasons why judgment should not enter for plaintiffs in this case.”

The plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case, filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne & Park, argued in a Wednesday filing in the case that the decision in Windsor’s case controls the outcome in their case and that Stearns should decide in their favor.

In addition to challenging DOMA, the plaintiffs — led by Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, a judge advocate general in Massachusetts Army National Guard, and her wife, Casey — challenge two statutes in Title 38 of the U.S. Code regarding veterans’ benefits that define “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex.”

As with Section 3 of DOMA, which Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner in February 2011 that the government would no longer be defending in court challenges because the administration had decided the statute is unconstitutional, Holder informed Boehner in February 2012 that the Justice Department would be not be defending the challenged provisions in Title 38.

“The language of the Title 38 provisions is identical in material respects to the language of Section 3 of DOMA: Those provisions, like Section 3, define the term ‘spouse’ (or ‘surviving spouse’) as ‘a person of the opposite sex,’” Holder wrote in the Feb. 17, 2012, letter.

In the Wednesday filing in the Massachusetts case, the plaintiffs argue that Windsor “is plainly dispositive,” noting that “the same logic that required DOMA to be invalidated applies with equal force to the definitional provisions for the term ‘spouse’ and phrase ‘surviving spouse,’ as used in [Title 38].”

Since the February 2011 letter, the House Republican leadership, through its control of the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, defended Section 3 of DOMA. It continued with that defense as to the veterans’ provisions, in the Massachusetts case and in a similar case brought in federal court in California by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris.

Stearns’ request in the Massachusetts case contained a 21-day deadline, which is Thursday. Neither the Justice Department nor BLAG have yet responded to his request.

Update – 1:25 p.m., EST: A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the two Democrats on BLAG, asked Boehner to stop the defense in a statement to BuzzFeed.

“Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, it’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop spending scarce taxpayer dollars defending discrimination. The Court was clear: The federal government must respect all marriages equally and fully. Rather than trying to delay justice for particular married gay and lesbian couples and their families, House Republicans should be working with their Democratic colleagues in Congress and the Administration to bring federal government into compliance with Court’s ruling as quickly as possible,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement.

Read The Plaintiffs’ Wednesday Filing:

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The Time Donald Rumsfeld Was “Delighted” With Al-Jazeera

The Time Donald Rumsfeld Was "Delighted" With Al-Jazeera

After calling Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq War “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” in 2004, Rumsfeld agreed to be interviewed by Sir David Frost in 2011 and was happy to praise the network for its coverage during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Rumsfeld: “[Al-Jazeera] can be an important means of communication in the world … I am delighted you are doing what you are doing.”

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With NSA Source’s Flight To Hong Kong, Obama Has No Good Choices

With NSA Source's Flight To Hong Kong, Obama Has No Good Choices

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, walk at the Annenberg Retreat of the Sunnylands estate Saturday, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — If President Obama wants Edward Snowden back in the U.S. to face trial, he’ll have to rely on the Chinese government giving up a potential espionage goldmine to do it.

Snowden, the 29 year-old NSA contractor who came forward Sunday as the source of the massive intelligence leaks that dominated the news this week, popped up on Chinese turf in Hong Kong as Obama concluded a weekend with China’s new leader Xi Jinping.

“The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me,” he said. Snowden doesn’t appear to have a long-term plan in place, but he did tell the Guardian he could see seeking asylum in Iceland. He said he chose Hong Kong in part for its “strong tradition of free speech.”

When the United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997, the city was granted a degree of autonomy that allows it to continue some of the democratic traditions established under British rule while joining with the Communist party-controlled Chinese mainland. That leads to some legal gray areas that Snowden appears hoping to exploit. For example, Hong Kong has a bilateral extradition agreement with the U.S. while China does not.

That agreement, which includes an exemption for “political” cases, was signed with Beijing’s consent, the Guardian reported — and Beijing “also has a right of veto if it believes the surrender of a fugitive would harm the ‘defence, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy’ of the People’s Republic of China.

Hong Kong has cooperated with American authorities in some high-profile recent cases, such as when Hong Kong authorities captured and extradited the notorious immigrant smuggler known as Sister Ping.

But Snowden told the Guardian he’s hoping Hong Kong will protect him from U.S. authorities for the time being.

There’s little doubt U.S. authorities will want to get their hands on Snowden. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence Sunday referred questions “on any further specifics of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by a person with authorized access” to the Department of Justice. Also Sunday, the Republican intelligence committee chair in the House and his Democratic counterpart in the Senate both called for the prosecution of the person behind last week’s leaks.

But China may have two reasons to be reluctant to let Snowden go. For one, he has expert knowledge of American intelligence gathering methods. But he’s also a remarkable political pawn for China in the global argument over the balance between human rights and government power; Chinese dissidents living under American protection have been some of the Communist regime’s most strident critics.

The Snowden episode comes just as Obama is trying to build stronger ties with China. At a picturesque summit with Xi in California this weekend, both leaders said it was time for “a new model” for U.S.-China relations and reportedly found grounds for agreement on climate change and North Korea. Still, serious divisions between the two countries remain, particularly on espionage issues.

But then, China may also see the public relations value in handing over to the Americans a man who accuses the U.S. of being too much like China.

Update: Urður Gunnarsdóttir, spokesperson for the Iceland Foreign Ministry, told BuzzFeed the ministry has had no contact with Snowden. Citizenship questions are handled by the Interior Ministry, Gunnarsdóttir said.

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Obama: No, George W. Bush Was Not Better On AIDS Than Me

Obama: No, George W. Bush Was Not Better On AIDS Than Me

Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — It’s a criticism that has dogged President Obama since the first months of his administration and has followed him along his current trip through Africa: AIDS activists complaining he has failed to fight the spread of the disease as hard as his predecessor did.

On Monday, a day before Barack Obama and President George W. Bush are scheduled to make a joint appearance in Tanzania, Obama told reporters during a press conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete that the activists who continue to compare him unfavorably to Bush on AIDS have their facts wrong.

“There’s been an objection that we’ve reduced our commitment there,” Obama said. “We are serving four times the number of people today than we were when PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] first began, but because we’ve gotten better at it and more efficient at it, we’re doing it at reduced costs. We’re not taking that money out of global health, what we’re doing is putting it pack in to tuberculosis and malaria.”

Obama praised Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS through PEPFAR, calling the program one of Bush’s “crowning achievements.” And Obama said he’ll use the joint appearance with Bush to “thank him on behalf of the American people for showing how American generosity and foresight could end up making a real difference in people’s lives.” Obama also shouted out Bush’s AIDS work at a South African clinic over the weekend.

AIDS activists have kept up their criticism of Obama, using his trip to Africa to renew their concerns that the president hasn’t significantly boosted funding to PEPFAR as he promised he would on the campaign trail in 2008.

“It’s been a disappointment,” Hilary Thulare, an official at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told the Washington Post.

Throughout his Africa trip, Obama said his administration has continued, and improved upon, the work Bush began. The Post reported that behind the scenes, administration officials “bristle at the comparison to Bush.” In a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One as the plane flew across Africa over the weekend, Obama said the reason there hasn’t been an increase in PEPFAR funding during his administration is due to “budget constraints” in the current political environment.

“For us to try to get the kind of money that President Bush was able to get out of the Republican House for massively scaled new foreign aid programs is very difficult,” Obama said. “We could do even more with more resources.”

In South Africa, Obama said his administration is helping African countries to take over AIDS prevention work and find sources of money to fund it that aren’t U.S. aid. During the Air Force One gaggle, the president said that despite a Congress reticent to boost international aid spending, he’s still capable of pushing Bush’s fight against the spread of AIDS to the next level.

“If we’re working smarter, the amount of good that we can bring about over the next decade is tremendous,” Obama said.

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BuzzFeed Veepstakes: Hitting The Road

BuzzFeed Veepstakes: Hitting The Road

Welcome to BuzzFeed Veepstakes, your daily guide to Mitt Romney’s search for a running mate.

Mitt Romney is in New York today before heading up to Boston.

Tim Pawlenty is passing through Boston tomorrow before heading up to New Hampshire for four scheduled events for Romney. No word on if he’s meeting with anyone from the campaign.

WSJ Siren: Why Not Paul Ryan. Editorial board joins conservative caucus for the budget chairman to be Romney’s veep. Reality check: It’s unlikely given the unpopularity of Ryan’s Medicare plan in a state Romney absolutely must win — Florida.

Questions? Comments? Contributions? Email

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: Ryan’s prospects as VP pick widely debated
“In the crescendo of speculation over Mitt Romney’s choice for running mate, few names on the shortlist inspire such wildly different judgments as Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, the House budget chairman from Janesville whose national influence within his party has soared in recent years.”

The Daily Caller: ‘Throb Portman’ roasted in hilarious 1991 White House farewell party invitation

“When Rob Portman left his job as director of the Office of Legislative Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration in 1991, his colleagues inside the White House had some fun at his expense when they sent out an invitation for a farewell party in his honor.”

USA Today: Wikipedia locks pages for potential Romney VPs
“Wikipedia has locked the pages of several Republicans being mentioned as possible running mates for Mitt Romney, perhaps as a response to some shenanigans from Stephen Colbert.”

The Washington Examiner: Obama camp asks Ohioans for oppo research on Portman
“From the makers of Attack Watch: The Obama campaign is mobilizing their grassroots base in Ohio to do opposition research on Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in case Mitt Romney makes him the Republican candidate for vice president.”

CNN: TRENDING: Portman: ‘I think I’ll end up being’ in the Senate
“Denver (CNN) – Ohio Sen. Rob Portman threw cold water on the idea of becoming Mitt Romney’s running mate on Wednesday, saying he thinks he’ll “end up staying” in the Senate. ‘I just got elected two years ago. I think that’s where I’m going to end up staying,’ Portman said when asked his thoughts about possibly leaving the Senate and becoming vice president.”

Nola: Gov. Bobby Jindal, two others to stump Colorado for Romney on Thursday
“BATON ROUGE — Gov. Bobby Jindal and two western state politicians join forces Thursday to stump Colorado for putative GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A news release from the Romney campaign, confirmed by Jindal aides, sats the governor is expected to accompany U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez of Colorado, for the campaign swing.”

Politico: Rob Portman to deliver $500K to Mitt Romney
“As Mitt Romney closes in on picking a running mate, Sen. Rob Portman is about to deliver a halfmillion dollars to the campaign.
The Ohio Republican, a top vice presidential contender, headlined two Buckeye State fundraisers that were expected to pull in more than $500,000 for Romney Victory, two GOP sources with knowledge of the figures told POLITICO.”

Washington Post: Romney veep shortlisters Portman, Pawlenty to blitz Colorado, Michigan
“Ohio Sen. Rob Portman ® will stump for Mitt Romney in Colorado this week, becoming the latest potential vice-presidential contender to hit the trail for the presumptive GOP nominee amid intensifying speculation over who Romney will choose as his running mate.”

The Atlantic: The Risks and Rewards of Picking Rob Portman as Running Mate
“As Mitt Romney’s selection of a running mate looms, Rob Portman occupies a strange niche: He is the consensus prediction for the vice presidential nomination in the political class, but remains almost entirely unknown outside of Ohio.”

Time: How Can Rob Portman Win Ohio for Romney If Its Voters Don’t Know Who He Is?
“With Mitt Romney’s vice presidential selection expected in the next week or so, the insiders’ wisdom (read: What I saw on the Internet) points to two guys in the top tier of contention: Ohio’s Rob Portman and Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty. Here and elsewhere, the reasons Romney might want one of these midwesterners on the ticket have been well covered. But skimming through Nate Silver’s exegesis of all the potential picks’ home state polling, something really puzzled me about Portman, the longstanding favorite of Washington prognosticators.”

New York Magazine: Wikipedia Tries to Keep the Riffraff Out of Veepstakes Entries
“By now, everyone and their respective mothers, and probably fathers too, are aware that someone working for a certain android candidate for president might try to edit the Wikipedia entry of the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate before such a selection is announced and the nation’s lazy voters immediately flock to that person’s first Google result.”

Vanity Fair:
Scary Stories from People Who’ve Survived Rob Portman’s Haunted Hotel

“Lightning strike! Ominous thunder! Unexplained creaking noises! Yahoo reports that the family of vice-presidential contender Rob Portman owns a haunted hotel called the Golden Lamb Inn. ‘Haunted how?,’ you didn’t ask. Haunted because people previously died there, one room contains ‘a bed full of creepy dolls,” and “the doors to the TV case pop open all the time and it’s not the latch.’”

Wall Street Journal: Pros and cons of leading Romney veep candidates:
How Pawlenty, Portman or Rubio could help or hurt Mitt Romney

“At some point in the next three weeks, Mitt Romney will lift the veil on his running mate, to the delight — or disappointment — of his fellow Republicans.”

Wall Street Journal: Romney can’t win on economic platitudes alone
“WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate won’t save his campaign. The only one who can do that is the candidate himself. But the current speculation about potential vice presidential candidates is reminiscent of the flavor-of-the-week hype that marked the Republican primary campaign, when the party seemed anxious to have anyone but Romney.”

Wall Street Journal: Political Perceptions: Pros, Cons of Paul Ryan
“There’s been a bit of a boom lately in Rep. Paul Ryan’s stock as a potential running mate to Mitt Romney. It started with a column by Stephen F. Hayes and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, which urged Mr. Romney to pick Mr. Ryan, of Wisconsin, or Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the vice presidential nominee.”

Financial Times: Romney warned on ‘bold’ VP pick
“Mitt Romney’s approach to choosing his vice-presidential running-mate has much that mirrors his dealmaking background in private equity – it has been quiet, methodical and structured to gain a jump on the competition.”

New York Magazine: Reading the VP Tea Leaves: Paul Ryan Vacation Edition
“For hundreds of years, various cultures around the world have practiced the art of tasseography, in which the pattern of leaves at the bottom of a tea cup (or coffee grounds on the bottom of a coffee cup) are interpreted to predict fortunes. In politics, “reading the tea leaves” refers to the quest — usually the media’s — to find clues to some significant future event.”

The Atlantic: Why a Paul Ryan VP Selection Wouldn’t Add Up for Mitt Romney
“If whispers are any gauge — and who knows? — Rep. Paul Ryan seems to have made a late charge into the shortlist for Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential nominee. The New Yorker just published a long profile of the Wisconsin wonk, and he scored a high-profile boost over the weekend when The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes and Bill Kristol wrote a plea for either Ryan or Marco Rubio to be the running mate.”

The New Republic: Why The Palin Fiasco Argues FOR Kelly Ayotte
“I’ve generally avoided the veepstakes—better, it seemed, to focus on matters such as what’ll happen to the nearly 100,000 Ohio voters who went to the polls on the final pre-Election Day weekend in 2008 but won’t be able to do so this year. But as Romney’s big day draws near, I’ll offer one pet theory of mine: that the pundits are wrongly counting out Kelly Ayotte, the new senator from New Hampshire.”

Ryan drove the Weinermobile in the days of old. “It was a great job,” Ryan said. “I actually sold Oscar Mayer products in Northern Minnesota.”

Questions? Comments? Contributions? Email

Graphics by John Gara

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Chris Matthews Made Elizabeth Warren Angry On-Air. Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That.

Chris Matthews Made Elizabeth Warren Angry On-Air. Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That.

Chris Matthews has a real problem with Democrats and Republicans not getting anything done. Can this famous senator set the record straight?

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