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New York Members Back Obama

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) supporters in the Empire State delegation on Thursday afternoon endorsed her decision to withdraw from the presidential race and threw their support behind the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).

“The Democrats in the New York state delegation unanimously approved the decision by the Clinton campaign to support Sen. Obama and to work for party unity,” said Rep. Charlie Rangel, the delegation’s dean, with more than a dozen lawmakers behind him.

Clinton on Wednesday night said she will be suspending her campaign at an event set for Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) excused himself midway through his weekly press conference with reporters Thursday to take a call from Clinton.

Details of the conversation were being kept under wraps, but sources say Clinton was returning a call to Reid. Reid has said he would finally weigh in on the contest by the end of the week, lending Obama support from one of the last remaining superdelegate holdouts.

Speaking at Democratic National Committee headquarters, Rangel said the delegation was casting its collective support behind Obama.

The delegation’s statement caps a tumultuous two days for New York Democrats. They had backed Clinton’s presidential bid from its earliest days, but after Obama sealed the nomination Tuesday night, some bristled when Clinton failed to concede.

Rangel went public with his frustration on Wednesday, telling MSNBC that Clinton “could have been far more generous” in her Tuesday night speech and saying she needed to drop out and endorse Obama.

Rangel said the delegation was making its announcement now because most Members would not be able to attend the Saturday event. Rangel said Clinton had run a “great campaign” and thinks Obama should put her on his ticket.

“I don’t see how he could make a better choice,” he said.

Meanwhile, Obama moved Thursday to take control of the Democratic National Committee, installing Paul Tewes, a longtime advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to run DNC operations.

The Associated Press was reporting that the DNC would no longer accept contributions from political action committees and lobbyists, so as to comply with the standard for donations that Obama uses to govern his presidential campaign. The DNC could not be immediately reached to clarify the exact extent of the ban.

Meanwhile, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will remain as DNC chairman.

“I’m pleased to welcome Paul Tewes from the Obama Campaign who will help lead our team here at the DNC and ensure a smooth transition to our general election efforts,” Dean said in a statement released by the DNC. “We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

“I congratulate Senator Obama on becoming our party’s presumptive nominee,” Dean continued, “and look forward to working with him and his team as we work to ensure that he is the next president of the United States.”

Erin P. Billings contributed to this report.

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