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Congress: Mass-a exodus

"Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he has used 'salty language' with staff but that it's not the reason he's retiring, The Hill writes. Massa announced he would retire from Congress after just one term, but said reports that he is under investigation for sexually harassing a male staffer are besides the point."

Roll Call: "Ironically, Massa prospered politically in part because of the whiff of scandal surrounding the man he ousted last cycle, then-Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.). When Kuhl was first running for the seat in 2004, details of a prior drunken driving arrest and his messy divorce became public -- including testimony that he had threatened his ex-wife with two shotguns -- and Kuhl never really regained his political footing, even though he won two House terms (defeating Massa by 3 points in 2006). Kuhl on Wednesday night hinted that he might run for his old seat, but he mostly sent best wishes to Massa in a two-paragraph statement."

Details of allegations of sexual harassment were not clear. "The incident, which was described only as a situation where a member of Massa's staff was made to feel uncomfortable, was relayed on Feb. 8 by a Massa staff member to the staff of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), according to Hoyer's office," The Hill notes, adding that "the exact nature of the complaint itself remains shrouded in mystery. A Democratic aide said a Massa staffer was made to feel uncomfortable but it was not detailed how… Democratic aides said they understood the Ethics Committee was still gathering information about the complaint, meaning the committee may not have informed Massa that they had launched a formal inquiry."

The AP adds, "The allegation involved a male staffer, a House aide told The Associated Press, but the aide wouldn't characterize the allegation further."

The New York Daily News, which broke the story of Massa's retirement, writes: "A top Washington Democrat compared Massa, 50, to disgraced former GOP Rep. Mark Foley, who quit in 2006 amid charges of sending sexually explicit messages to male congressional pages. 'Massa just killed us,' the Democrat said. 'It's like what Foley did to them in the last cycle.' That scandal tainted numerous Republicans who were accused of covering up for Foley."

Here's video of Massa's statement.

Turning to the Rangel/Ways and Means story… "Rep. Pete Stark (Calif.) may have the shortest chairmanship in the young history of the House Democratic majority," Roll Call reports, adding, "The leaders' original plan -- to keep the chairmanship in Stark's hands -- met stiff resistance Wednesday from committee members who feel the unpredictable Californian is too great a liability to helm the powerful tax-writing panel. After huddling for several hours Wednesday, panel members broke in the early evening with no decision and planned to reconvene in the morning."

"Junior Senate Democrats are pushing their leaders to take a much more aggressive stance toward the Republican minority, arguing that their defeat of Sen. Jim Bunning's (R-Ky.) unemployment benefits blockade this week proves a strategy of an active offense is far better than a passive defense," Roll Call writes.

"House Democrats are nearing a deal with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that could allow a vote on the Senate jobs bill Thursday, according to senior members," The Hill reports, adding, "To address CBC concerns, House leaders are considering a proposal to add $1.5 billion to the bill for a summer jobs program that sends funds to local organizations who hire unemployed youth during the summer, said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), the CBC vice chairman."