Political Highlights January 24, 2011: Obama & the State of the Union — Chinese President Visits White House — House Votes to Repeal Health Care Bill

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

STATS & POLLS

  • Who is Obama? Pragmatism makes him tough to define: A socialist? A steady hand? A sellout? Halfway through his first term — or only term, if Republicans can eject him in the 2012 elections — President Obama’s leadership style has made him something of a political enigma. His health care law ushered in the most sweeping social legislation since the 1960s, but he abandoned the government-sponsored coverage he embraced during his campaign. His tax-cut compromise with Republicans to extend unemployment benefits and provide relief to the middle class discarded a key campaign promise to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for top earners. His Wall Street bailouts alienated some of the Main Street workers he said he was trying to help. His soaring rhetoric from the campaign often dried up during debates on health care and jobs, but it re-emerged powerfully this month as he honored the victims of the mass shooting in Tucson.
    Two years into his presidency, who is Barack Obama? Ronald Reagan stood firm for limited government and against communism. Bill Clinton stayed focused on the economy. George W. Bush launched a post-9/11 war on terrorism. Obama’s political North Star is harder to define…. – USA Today, 1-18-11
  • Obama’s job approval rebounds in latest polls, but can it last?: The latest polls show Obama’s job approval back up to 50 percent. His response to Tucson and the bills passed by the lame-duck Congress are credited, but the economy remains a challenge.
    On the second anniversary of his inauguration – and days before his State of the Union address next Tuesday – President Obama is on the rebound with the American public. A slew of major polls now show Mr. Obama with more public approval than disapproval of his job performance, many of them putting him over the 50 percent mark. A survey of the latest polls by RealClearPolitics shows Obama averaging 50 percent approval versus 45 percent disapproval. The last time the positive outweighed the negative was in July. The last time that gap was at least 5 percentage points was a year ago…. – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • President Obama’s approval rating surges at midpoint of term: Several polls note a rise in public approval for Obama. The bump comes after his Tucson shooting speech and a productive lame-duck congressional session.
    The same polling shows that although new Speaker of the House John Boehner is getting favorable reviews early on, Americans don’t expect that much from the new Congress.
    A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday night showed Obama’s job-approval rating at 53%, an eight-point jump from mid-December and his highest rating since July 2009. Surveys from CNN/Opinion Research and ABC News/Washington Post also put Obama’s approval rating above the 50% threshold.
    An aggregation of polling data by Real Clear Politics shows Obama with a net approval rating of 5%, a jump of 8% from mid-December and at the highest level since January 2010…. – LAT, 1-20-11
  • Poll shows high marks for Obama on Tucson, low regard for political dialogue: Evaluations of President Obama’s handling of the Jan. 8 tragedy are highly positive across the political spectrum, with nearly eight in 10 giving him high marks for his response to the incident. A robust 71 percent of Republicans say they approve of his leadership following the shootings.
    The strong reviews of the president’s response to the Arizona incident – which included giving a prime-time eulogy at a memorial service for the victims – have helped boost Obama’s overall approval rating to its highest point since last April. Fully 54 percent of all Americans now approve of the way he is handling his job as president, while 43 percent disapprove…. – WaPo, 1-17-11

2011 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

The President gives the 2010 State of the Union Address
  • State of the Union – NYT
  • The State of the Union and You: On Tuesday, January 25, at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. We have been working on a number of ways citizens can get involved in the State of the Union and ask their questions of President Obama and senior Administration officials. You can find all the details on the brand new State of the Union page.
    Here’s the lineup of events next week. Be sure to tune in to watch the speech live at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and find a way get involved.
    Tuesday at 9 PM: Live Stream of the State of the Union Watch the live stream of the State of the Union Address on WhiteHouse.gov.
    Tuesday Immediately After the Speech: Open for Questions Immediately following the State of the Union Address, stay tuned for a live Open For Questions event where Senior White House officials will answer your questions about key issues addressed in the speech live from the White House…. – WH, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s speech will expose partisan divide on spending: President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech will emphasize “winning the future” for America by strengthening the nation’s ability to compete in a changing world, according to White House talking points provided Monday by a Democratic source. Tuesday night’s annual speech to Congress, a nationally televised event considered the president’s biggest address of the year, brings together the three branches of government for an assessment of where America stands and where it is heading.
    “The president will lay out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world,” said the White House talking points. “He will talk about the need to take responsibility for our deficits, by investing only in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t, and reforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century.”… – CNN, 1-24-11
  • State of the Union: It’s the economy, again: Standing before a nation clamoring for jobs, President Barack Obama will call for targeted spending to boost the economy but also for budget cutting in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, his first in a new era of divided political power.
    To a television audience in the tens of millions, Obama will home in on jobs, the issue of most importance to the public and to his hopes for a second term. Though war and other concerns bid for attention, the president has chosen to lean heavily on the economy, with far less emphasis on Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism and foreign affairs.
    Specifically, Obama will focus on improving the education, innovation and infrastructure of the United States as the way to provide a sounder economic base. He will pair that with calls to reduce the government’s debt — now topping a staggering $14 trillion — and reforming government. Those five areas will frame the speech, with sprinklings of fresh proposals.
    Yet no matter how ambitious Obama’s rhetorical reach, his speech at the halfway point of his term will be viewed in the context of his new political reality…. – AP, 1-24-11
  • Obama to Press Centrist Agenda in His Address: President Obama will outline an agenda for “winning the future” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, striking a theme of national unity and renewal as he stresses the need for government spending in key areas and an attack on the budget deficit.
    “My No. 1 focus,” he said, “is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.”
    “These are big challenges that are in front of us,” Mr. Obama also said in the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, his network of supporters from the 2008 campaign. “But we’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people — Republicans, Democrats, independents — as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people, as long as we’re willing to find common ground even as we’re having some very vigorous debates.”… –
    NYT, 1-23-11
  • Tensions rise between Supreme Court, politicians: The moment lasted about 20 seconds. But its political reverberations have endured for a year and exemplify today’s knotty confluence of law, politics and public perception.
    At last year’s State of the Union speech Jan. 27, with six Supreme Court justices in attendance, President Obama denounced a recent campaign-finance ruling, saying it reversed a century of precedent and warning that it would “open the floodgates” for corporate spending on elections. Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true.” That tense moment has been viewed on youtube.com more than 650,000 times in the past year. It was singularly controversial but not the only headline-grabbing interaction between members of the political branches and the Supreme Court in the past twelve months.
    A series of events, most recently Justice Antonin Scalia’s acceptance of an invitation to speak to Tea Party members, has made clear that against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized Washington and the 24-hour media frenzy, interactions between justices and the two elected branches have become more politicized…. – USA Today, 1-24-11
  • State of Union Near, Republicans Draw Line on Spending: Congressional Republicans, seeking to recapture the debate over the country’s economic recovery in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address, warned Sunday that they would oppose any new spending initiatives and press ahead with their plans for budget cuts in every realm of government, including the military…. – NYT, 1-23-11
  • State of the Union speech to focus on jobs: Obama: President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would use his annual State of the Union address to urge both parties to act to lift U.S. growth and create more jobs.
    “My number one focus is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future,” he said in a video e-mailed to members of his Organizing for America grassroots movement.
    Obama’s speech on Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress will show how he plans to rise above the political gridlock that marked his first two years in the White House, shaping his 2012 re-election prospects…. – Reuters, 1-22-10
  • Obama touts U.S. innovation in State of the Union preview: In his weekly address, Obama hails American economic potential and efforts to ‘win the future.’ In their response, Republicans focus on the repeal of the healthcare overhaul law.
    President Obama hailed the economic potential of increased American exports and green technology Saturday, previewing themes expected to be at the heart of his second State of the Union address Tuesday night. In his weekly address, Obama referred to Wednesday’s state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao and his own trip to a General Electric plant in New York on Friday as examples of how innovation and opening new overseas markets to American products will help “win the future.”
    “Countries around the world are upping their game and giving their workers and companies every advantage possible. But that shouldn’t discourage us,” he said. “We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy.”
    Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a doctor, pressed the Democrats who still control the Senate to bring a repeal bill up for a vote in the chamber. “We are now one step closer to victory in the fight for a healthcare policy that puts Americans first — not Washington,” he said. “Our job won’t be done until we repeal and replace this bad law.”… – LAT, 1-22-10
  • A ‘state of the union’ fight ahead over US government spending: How furiously to cut government spending is likely to be a major point of departure between Obama, who gives the State of the Union address on Tuesday, and congressional Republicans…. – CS Monitor, 1-22-10
  • Obama’s economic agenda: Boost US competitiveness: Under pressure to energize the economy, President Barack Obama will put job creation and American competitiveness at the center of his State of the Union address, promoting spending on education and research while pledging to trim the nation’s soaring debt.
    Obama hopes this framework will woo Republicans as he searches for success in a divided Congress and will sway a wary private sector to hire and spend money it’s held back. The economy is on firmer footing than when he took office two years ago, and his emphasis on competitiveness signals a shift from policies geared toward short-term stabilization to ones with steady and long-term growth in mind.
    Obama will speak to a Congress shaken by the attempted assassination of one of their own. Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head two weeks ago during an event in her district in Tucson, Ariz.
    The president has appealed for more civility in politics, and in a nod to that ideal, some Democrats and Republicans will break with tradition and sit alongside each other in the House chamber Tuesday night during a joint session of Congress…. – AP, 1-22-10
  • In this year’s State of Union, seating could blur party lines: Flash-forward now to the Congress of today, the Era of I-Hate-Your-Guts-And-Want-To-Rip-Your-Lungs-Out-You- Unpatriotic-Jerk. Weary of a climate that has grown so toxic that Congress should earmark money for a political Hazmat team, some lawmakers have a solution. When President Barack Obama comes to Capitol Hill Tuesday night to deliver the State of Union speech to a joint session of Congress, Democrats and Republicans should sit together, not in opposing camps of red and blue. The opposing camps idea has been the tradition since 1913, when Woodrow Wilson became the first president since Thomas Jefferson to personally deliver the annual speech to Congress…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s Tuesday speech to stress economy, civility: President Barack Obama, midway through his term and mindful of positioning himself for next year’s re-election campaign, will use the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to recast himself to voters and regain the confidence of centrists and independents. Expect the economy to serve as the major focus of the speech, both short-term job creation and his plans for long- term stability, with a secondary theme being a call for civility and compromise.
    “The great majority of the speech will be on the steps that the president believes our country has to take to continue that economic recovery,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • GOP taps Paul Ryan to give rebuttal to Obama’s speech: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a rising Republican star who’s stirred controversy with his approach to budget-cutting, will give the GOP response Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The choice is aimed at showcasing the commitment of Republicans, who earlier this month took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four years, to deficit reduction.
    Previous Republican responses to Obama’s State of the Union addresses were given by governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia.
    Ryan, 39, a seventh-term Wisconsin Republican, is known for his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for reducing federal budget deficits that includes permitting younger workers the option of setting aside Social Security tax payments for “personal retirement accounts.”
    In addition, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a favorite of the tea party movement, will deliver a separate reaction to Obama’s speech on behalf of the Tea Party Express, one of the movement’s largest groups. The broadcast, following Obama and Ryan, will be broadcast on live streaming video at http://www.TeaPartyExpress.org or at http://www.TeaPartyHD.com…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Scenarios: Possible themes in Obama’s State of Union speech: President Barack Obama faces a new political reality when he gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday: greater Republican power in Congress that will hamper his ability to make sweeping policy proposals. So the president, a Democrat, will make an even greater attempt to highlight areas of common ground with the opposition party on areas that are priorities for both sides such as boosting the economy and reducing the deficit. Here are a few potential areas he may touch upon…. – Reuters, 1-21-11

REMEBERING SARGENT SHRIVER: PEACE CORPS FOUNDER, DIES AT 95

https://i0.wp.com/multimedia.heraldinteractive.com/images/20110118/7dae46_Shriv_01192011.jpg
  • R. Sargent Shriver has died: Robert Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee, has passed away.
  • Sargent Shriver, former Peace Corps director, Dies — NYT Slideshow
  • Sargent Shriver eulogized at funeral Mass in Maryland: Maria Shriver, the former NBC reporter and wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her family took comfort in ‘knowing that Daddy is in heaven with God and with Mummy.’… – LAT, 1-22-10
  • Sargent Shriver remembered at star-studded funeral: Maria Shriver and husband Arnold Schwarzenegger helped carry the casket of Sargent Shriver today at a funeral mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Shriver family’s church in Potomac, Md. President Bill Clinton, First lady Michelle Obama, U2’s Bono and Oprah Winfrey attended the funeral. Others on the guest list included Muhammad Ali, Clint Eastwood and congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, reports AP. Wyclef Jean played piano and sang All the Ends of the Earth as guests including the Shriver family clapped along. Later, Vanessa Williams sang Soon and Very Soon.
    At a wake held for Shriver on Friday, some of Washington’s most notable figures extended condolences to the family. Shriver, the husband of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died Tuesday at age 95…. – USA Today, 1-22-

Smiling at the Life of R. Sargent Shriver at His Funeral Mass

  • R. Sargent Shriver remembered for heritage, hugs: R. Sargent Shriver was honored Saturday as much for his passion for helping others as his loving hugs and enjoyment of baseball. Shriver, who fulfilled his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy’s campaign promise by starting the Peace Corps, developed the aid organization into an international force. Philanthropists and politicians who have worked to help others through charities were among hundreds honoring Shriver at a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Shriver family’s church in Potomac, Md.
    Former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama, U2 frontman Bono and singer Wyclef Jean were among those in attendance, along with members of the Kennedy and Shriver families.
    One by one, some of Shriver’s 19 grandchildren read short remembrances about their grandfather, recalling his passion for helping people, his hugs and his love of baseball.
    Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington told Shriver’s grandchildren to live with the same courage and fortitude of Shriver and his late wife, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Wuerl spoke of Shriver’s legacy and belief that the world could be filled with peace, compassion and love. “Ask your parents to tell you stories. Read what your grandfather has written,” Wuerl said. “When you think of him, rejoice in the heritage he has given you.”… – AP, 1-22-10

  • Sargent Shriver’s family, veterans of social programs honor his life at wake: On Friday, Koskin was among hundreds who stood in a long but fast-moving line outside Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown to pay tribute to R. Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps. Shriver died Jan. 18 at age 95. Koskin met Shriver a couple of times and has fond memories. “I’m here to celebrate a man who was an extraordinary role model for anyone who values what a just and civilized society should be,” said Koskin, an Arlington County resident who works in the Treasury Department’s inspector general’s office. “If you go to the Peace Corps building, his spirit is very much alive. You feel an incredible optimism for what is possible. Anyone who ever worked in that building comes away with an intolerance for the word ‘No.’ ” Mourners included dowagers in full-length fur coats, Special Olympians, civil servants and young college students who said Shriver inspired them to aim for a life in public service. Former Peace Corps volunteers, who formed the largest contingent at Friday’s wake, said they carried their idealism into middle age. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac. Cardinal Donald Wuerl will deliver the homily…. – Washington Post, 1-21-11
  • R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95: R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, a United States ambassador to France and the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 95. Mr. Shriver was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and on Sunday was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he died. He had been in hospice care in recent months after his estate in Potomac, Md., was sold last year.
    White-haired and elegantly attired, he attended the inauguration of his son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Republican governor of California in the fall of 2003. Mr. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a former NBC News correspondent. But in recent years, as his condition deteriorated, Mr. Shriver was seldom seen in public. He emerged in one instance to attend the funeral of his wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of John F. Kennedy; she died in 2009 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 88…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • ‘Sarge’ Shriver, founder of Peace Corps, dead at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., founder of the Peace Corps and husband of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
    The 95-year-old former vice-presidential candidate, known fondly as “Sarge,” “went to heaven to join the love of his life,” the family said in a statement.
    Shriver died at a Maryland hospital surrounded by his five children — Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony — their spouses and 19 grandchildren. His death came less than two years after his wife died in August 2009 at age 88.
    “He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm and commitment. He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful and compassionate place,” the family statement read. “We will miss him forever.” – Boston Herald, 1-18-11
  • Sargent Shriver, founding director of Peace Corps, dies at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., husband of the late Eunice Kennedy and father of five children, spent more than seven decades in public service.
    R. Sargent Shriver, who was tapped to create the Peace Corps by his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy and crafted 1960s-era programs that remain cornerstones in the federal government’s efforts to combat poverty, died Jan. 18 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, a family spokesman said. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
    A Yale-educated lawyer from a prominent Maryland family, Mr. Shriver was a businessman and aspiring political leader when he married Eunice Kennedy in the early 1950s. He served in three presidential administrations, including a stint as U.S. ambassador to France, and ran for president and vice president. His ambitions were as much propelled as they were frustrated by his connection to his in-laws, the powerful political dynasty from Massachusetts.
    When the family received word in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson was considering Mr. Shriver as a running mate, Eunice balked. “No,” she reportedly said, and then invoked her brother Robert’s name. “It’s Bob’s turn.” Kennedy aide Ken O’Donnell was more straightforward, telling Mr. Shriver that if any of the inner circle were to run, it would be Bobby – not “half a Kennedy.”
    Still, it was Mr. Shriver’s status as an almost-Kennedy that landed him the role for which he is perhaps best known, as the leader of the Peace Corps during its infancy…. – WaPo, 1-18-11
  • Shriver family gave voice to ‘silent epidemic’ Public figure’s battle with Alzheimer’s helped normalize disease: Battling Alzheimer’s disease is often a private struggle, with few champions who speak on behalf of patients and their loved ones. But the family of R. Sargent Shriver, who died Tuesday, helped shed light on the disease and spur support and research for its causes.
    Since his diagnosis in 2003, the family of the influential public servant and founder of the Peace Corps had sought to change the public perception of people with Alzheimer’s so they would not be viewed as victims, said geriatrician William Thomas, professor at UMBC’s Erickson School of Aging.
    “Instead, he was a person living with Alzheimer’s, and that’s an absolutely crucial distinction,” Thomas said. “What the Shrivers were about were sort of normalizing this disease. It is important for people of stature, like the Shrivers, to step into the light and to be seen and to tell their story, because so many other people feel like they can’t do that.”… – LAT, 1-18-11
  • Statement by the President on the Passing of Sargent Shriver: I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time. – WH, 1-18-11

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN RETIRING IN 2012

  • Joseph I. Lieberman’s Life and Career, NYT Slideshow
  • Joe Lieberman to retire in 2012: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will retire in 2012, according to two Democratic sources familiar with the decision. Lieberman is expected to announce his decision tomorrow.
  • For Lieberman, an Exit Forged in Alienation: Mr. Lieberman barely alluded to this in his speech, saying only that “I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.”
    The senator looked past the bad blood with Democrats, back all the way to John F. Kennedy, who he said had inspired him to pursue public service. He said Kennedy’s principles — “service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense” — were still his politics.
    “So maybe that means J.F.K. wouldn’t fit neatly into any of today’s partisan political boxes either,” Mr. Lieberman ventured. To his supporters, that is precisely the point: the party left Mr. Lieberman behind, not the other way around… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman says he will retire in 2012:Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced Wednesday that he will not seek a fifth term, ending a political career spanning four decades in which he evolved from a reliably Democratic state legislator into an independent U.S. senator who backed the war in Iraq and the Republican candidate for president. While Lieberman’s supporters lamented his decision not to run in 2012, many constituents, especially Democrats, said they were pleased because the “Joe” they knew as a state lawmaker and activist state attorney general is already long-gone.
    With his extended family standing behind him, Lieberman announced his intentions to retire before a crowd of several hundred supporters at a downtown Stamford hotel, near the site of his childhood home. While he acknowledged that he’d likely face a difficult re-election campaign, Lieberman, 68, downplayed speculation he was backing down from a tough race.
    He invoked a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes in explaining his decision: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” “At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the U.S. Senate and 40 years in elective office. For me, it is time for another season and another purpose under heaven,” he said.
    Lieberman said he’s had a history of winning tough political battles since the 1970s, including the 2006 race where he lost the Democratic primary, only to win the general election as an independent. “I know that some people have said that if I ran for re-election, it would be a difficult campaign for me. So what else is new,” Lieberman said…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Joe Lieberman Quips: When Regis Retires, I Retire: Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut confirmed on Wednesday that he will not seek another term. When he addressed a crowd of supporters and press at a Marriott hotel in Stamford, the politician said his wife Hadassa once asked him how long he was going to stay in the Senate and he came up with this response: “I promise you, that when Regis leaves television, I’ll leave the Senate,” he quipped. “And here we are.”
    Lieberman first became a Senator in 1988. Al Gore picked him as his running mate in 2000, and since then, Lieberman’s relationship with the Democratic party has been a little rocky. TV personality Regis Philbin announced his retirement from his long-running daytime show on Tuesday.
    “I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes,” he said Wednesday. “Maybe you’ve noticed that.”… – WNYC, 1-19-11
  • Joe Lieberman’s approach out of step with the times: By the geriatric standards of the Senate, the retirement of 68-year-old Sen. Joe Lieberman comes at a relatively young age. But Wednesday’s news that the Connecticut Democrat plans to leave the stage in 2012 surprised no one: It was clear the role he played was outdated and even clearer that he was thoroughly unsuited for the modern political era.
    The circumstances surrounding Lieberman’s decision not to seek reelection attest to that. In the span of just a decade, he went from celebrated vice-presidential nominee—he was the first Jewish candidate on a major party ticket in American history—to near-pariah status within his own party. The speed and arc of his political decline is stunning: In 2000, Lieberman won reelection to a third Senate term in a landslide, even as he spent the bulk of his time campaigning outside his home state as Al Gore’s running mate. By 2006, Lieberman couldn’t even win the Democratic nomination for his own seat. He was forced to run as a third-party candidate, winning with a bare 50 percent of the vote.
    The pendulum swung so far for Lieberman that he got a serious look to be Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Both Gore and McCain saw in Lieberman the same thing, in mirror image: a moderate-to-conservative grown-up, whose very presence would signal to voters that the man at the top of the ticket wasn’t as extreme as he might appear at first blush, either to the left or to the right.
    But these days, at a time when most politicians prefer to pledge devotion to bipartisanship while not actually practicing it, a man with a foot in two parties really has no party. And therefore, really, no political future…. – Politico, 1-19-11
  • Norton: Lieberman’s exit a loss for the District: With Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) announcing Wednesday that he will not run for reelection in 2012, plenty of members of his old party and liberal commentators are happy to see the Democrat-turned-Independent go. But at least one Democrat is sorry to hear the Connecticut lawmaker’s decision — Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
    “The people of the District of Columbia have no senator of their own, but they have had in Senator Joe Lieberman an unfailing champion of their rights,” Norton said in a press release. “Senator Lieberman has been the lead sponsor of virtually every bill for our rights since I have been a Member of the House. As conditions allowed, he was always there for this city, first for statehood, then for seats in the House and Senate, and finally for the House vote. Beyond sponsorship, Joe Lieberman has been our chief advocate and strategist in the Senate.”… – WaPo, 1-19-11
  • No Fifth Term for Lieberman: Mr. Lieberman, 68, whose term is up in January 2013, has chosen to retire rather than face a difficult campaign for re-election, according to aides and others who spoke to the senator on Tuesday.
    “He believes that if he were to run for re-election it’d be a tough fight,” said Marshall Wittmann, a member of Mr. Lieberman’s Senate staff. “He’s confident he could’ve won that fight. He’s had tough fights before. But he wants to have a new chapter in his life.”
    News of Mr. Lieberman’s plans surfaced on the same day that Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, announced he would retire.
    Democrats say the decision by Mr. Lieberman, which his office declined to confirm, increases the likelihood that their party will capture his seat next year. Among other things, Democrats noted that President Obama, who won Connecticut overwhelmingly in 2008, would be on the ballot in 2012…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • Lieberman Decision Could Set Off a Wild Race: Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut plans to announce Wednesday he will not seek a fifth term in office, setting the stage for what will likely be a wide-open Democratic primary and perhaps another deep-pocketed campaign by former wrestling executive Linda McMahon.
    Mr. Lieberman’s decision would end a remarkable and unusual political career when his current term expires in January 2013. His independence has made him an important factor in close Senate votes, but it has not endeared him to the Democrats and left-leaning independents in his state…. – WSJ, 1-18-11

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: SHOOTING IN TUCSON, ARIZONA

  • Updated rehab aims to give Giffords her life back: She inspired the nation with her fairy-tale recovery. Now Rep. Gabrielle Giffords must inspire herself through the ordeal of rehabilitation, and doctors say it’s likely to be the hardest work she’ll ever do. Just a couple of decades ago, rehab was little more than physical therapy for shuffling stroke victims and wheelchair-bound quadriplegics, a last resort after doctors had done all they could.
    Now it’s a sophisticated science at the forefront of treating people like Giffords, who was shot in the forehead two weeks ago while meeting constituents in Tucson. An early start on rehab is key to limiting permanent damage, and the Houston hospital where she will be treated uses high-tech tools to push the brain to rewire itself.
    The Arizona congresswoman arrived Friday at the Texas Medical Center, where she is expected to spend a few days in intensive care before moving to TIRR Memorial Hermann rehab hospital. Instead of doctors making you well, rehab means “teaching you how to help yourself” to get your life back, said Dr. William Donovan, a former medical director of the rehab hospital who still works there part-time…. – AP, 1-22-11
  • Doc: Giffords heard cheers leaving Ariz., smiled: She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes. The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation….
    By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately. After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center’s rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann. Giffords has “great rehabilitation potential,” said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann…. – AP, 1-21-11
  • Doctor: Giffords felt sunshine from hospital deck: Gabrielle Giffords on Thursday felt the sunshine on her face for the first time since she was shot, as doctors prepared her to leave behind the Arizona hospital where she dazzled them with her rapid recovery. Her next stop will be a Houston rehab center, where she will face an even more arduous task: Getting life back to normal.
    Her husband said he’s hoping she’ll make a full recovery, calling her “a fighter like nobody else that I know.”
    The doctors who will help her offered a more sober outlook. “Not everyone always gets 100 percent restoration, but we help them to get to a new normal,” said Carl Josehart, chief executive of the rehab hospital that will be the Arizona congresswoman’s home for the next month or two…. – AP, 1-20-11
  • Federal grand jury indicts Ariz. shooting suspect: A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the suspect in the deadly Arizona shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The indictment against Jared Loughner, 22, accuses him of attempting to assassinate Giffords and trying to kill two of her aides. It does not include two murder charges listed in an earlier criminal complaint for the deaths of Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30, and U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63. Those are potential death penalty charges. A statement from the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, said those require a more painstaking process under Justice Department rules. Burke said the initial indictment issued by a grand jury in Tucson was just the beginning of federal legal action against the 22-year-old Tucson resident…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Giffords to relearn basic skills in Houston rehab: Less than two weeks after surviving a bullet through the brain, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is to be moved to Houston to begin an arduous journey of intensive mental and physical rehabilitation. She’ll have to relearn how to think and plan. It’s unclear if she is able to speak or how well she can see. And while she is moving both arms and legs, it’s uncertain how much strength she has on her right side. Her swift transition from an intensive care unit to a rehab center is based on the latest research, which shows the sooner rehab starts, the better patients recover. Giffords’ family hopes to move the Arizona congresswoman on Friday to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where her husband lives and works as an astronaut. The exact day of the move will depend on her health.
    “I am extremely hopeful at the signs of recovery that my wife has made since the shooting,” Mark Kelly said in a statement released by Giffords’ congressional office. The staff at University Medical Center in Tucson “has stabilized her to the point of being ready to move to the rehabilitation phase.”… –
  • Giffords stands with assistance, may move to rehab center Friday: A federal grand jury indicts Jared Lee Loughner on charges of attempted murder… Giffords has the strength to stand and lift her head… Giffords is to be moved to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston… Her husband, Mark Kelly, says Giffords feared for her safety… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • The congresswoman and the astronaut: A love story: STORY HIGHLIGHTS: The world has gotten a glimpse into the love affair of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly… The pair met in China in 2003, wed in 2007… Friends say Kelly is Giffords’ “rock” and they are devoted to each other… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • In Tucson, a Staff Mourns While Asking, ‘What Would Gabby Do?’: They still greet every visitor. They still help veterans file for disability benefits and retirees sign up for Medicare. They still send out press releases, though now they are signed by the chief of staff instead of the boss. There is an empty desk where a key aide of Representative Gabrielle Giffords sat inside Suite 112 of a modest stucco building here. And though the boss herself is not returning anytime soon, the rest of the staff is struggling every day to adapt to what one of them called “the new normal.” Ms. Giffords’s aides opened Suite 112, the congresswoman’s district office, two days after the shooting that left her with a severe bullet wound to the head, and the office has stayed open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday since. It has been one of the staff’s few constants since a gunman opened fire at a community event on Jan. 8, killing six people and wounding the congresswoman and 12 others. Staff members have dived into their jobs as a means of coping with the tragedy. The mantra has been “What Would Gabby Do?” and the answer has been clear — keep working…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • Gabrielle Giffords responds well to skull surgery, doctors say: Physicians in Tucson say they repaired damage to Gabrielle Giffords’ eye sockets on Saturday, and that she has responded well. They are still unsure about her ability to speak…. – LAT, 1-17-11
  • More Progress Reported for Giffords: Doctors at the University Medical Center said on Monday that the condition of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot through the head Jan. 8, continued to improve, and that she appeared to be focusing her eyes, a sign of progress in her recovery.
    At a news conference at the hospital, doctors told reporters that Ms. Giffords had made it through the most dangerous period as far as potential swelling of her injured brain was concerned, but that she still faced the risk of serious complications, including infection.
    Her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, a naval officer and astronaut, said in a television interview that Ms. Giffords had rubbed his back for 10 minutes, which doctors said was another positive sign. “It does imply that she is interacting, perhaps, in a more familiar way with him,” said Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr., the chief neurosurgeon at the hospital…. – NYT, 1-17-11
  • Will Gabrielle Giffords keep her House seat?: It’s unclear when or if the Arizona congresswoman recovering from gunshot wounds might return to work, but her staff is keeping her offices running, and not even political opponents are talking about vacating her seat.
    Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University, said a decision on vacating the seat would probably be as much about emotions as the law. “It would still be very tough for someone to move to declare her seat vacant,” Zelizer said. “She has become a symbol to much of the nation, a symbol for the nation for hope about the political process.”… – LAT, 1-18-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama vows to ‘unlock the productivity’ of Americans: US President Barack Obama expressed his determination Saturday to “unlock the productivity” of American workers to make the country more competitive in a technology-driven economy.
    “I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “We just have to make sure we?re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America?s economy,” he added.
    The president also referred to a raft of trade deals worth $45 billion the United States and China announced Wednesday as the two powers tried to narrow disputes by tethering their economic fortunes…. – AFP, 1-22-10
  • Hawaii law bars release of Obama birth info: A privacy law that shields birth certificates has prompted Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie to abandon efforts to dispel claims that President Barack Obama was born outside Hawaii, his office says.
    State Attorney General David Louie told the governor that privacy laws bar him from disclosing an individual’s birth documentation without the person’s consent, Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Friday.
    “There is nothing more that Gov. Abercrombie can do within the law to produce a document,” said Dela Cruz. “Unfortunately, there are conspirators who will continue to question the citizenship of our president.”
    Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama’s parents and knew him as a child, launched an investigation last month into whether he can release more information about the president’s Aug. 4, 1961 birth. The governor said at the time he was bothered by people who questioned Obama’s birthplace for political reasons. But Abercrombie’s attempt reached a dead end when Louie told him the law restricted his options… – AP, 1-22-10
  • Obama pays short visit to House Democratic retreat: Lawmakers who gathered here for the annual House Democratic retreat may have been disappointed to get no preview of the State of the Union address from President Obama when he paid a quick visit tonight. They were treated, however, to a display of the president’s dance moves. Obama met with more than 130 House Democratic lawmakers and their spouses for about 90 minutes, entering the first-floor ballroom at the plush Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay shortly before 7:30 p.m. Democrats have been at the sprawling bayside resort since Thursday afternoon, discussing their strategy and messaging after a midterm shellacking that saw their party lose 63 seats in the House. The resort is the same one that hosted House Republicans after they lost the majority in 2006…. – WaPo, 1-21-11
  • The reality of death panels ObamaCare’s end-of-life planning comes down to economics: SUPPORTERS OF President Obama’s health care reform law have relentlessly derided Sarah Palin’s notion of “death panels’’ as a vulgar rhetorical technique, with no basis in reality, devised merely to scare a gullible, uneducated citizenry into rallying to repeal the law. The death panel notion persists, however, because it denotes, in a pithy way, the economic realities of scarcity inherent in nationalizing a rapidly developing, high-technology industry on which people’s lives depend in a rather immediate way. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that vulgar notions (and jokes) invariably contain a “subtle and spiritual idea.’’ The subtle and spiritual idea behind “death panels’’ is that life-prolonging medical technology is an expensive, limited commodity and if the market doesn’t determine who gets it, someone else will…. – Boston Globe, 1-21-11
  • Sasha Obama spoke Chinese to who?: Nine-year-old First Daughter Sasha Obama has been learning Chinese in school, but who does she speak to outside the classroom? The answer might surprise you. China’s President Hu Jintao is introduced to nine-year-old Sasha Obama by US President Barack Obama as they greet the crowd during an official south lawn arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House in Washington Jan. 19.
    President Barack Obama’s nine-year-old daughter, Sasha, wanted to test her developing Chinese skills this week while Hu Jintao was in town.
    Just whom did she want to practice them with? The Chinese president himself, according to a White House official who recounted the story on Thursday after a formal state dinner the previous night.
    “The president pointed out last night at the state dinner that his daughter, Sasha, is a very young girl but her class is studying Chinese,” Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, told a video conference with Chinese bloggers. “She’s under 10 years old and they’re studying Chinese, and she wanted to have the chance to practice her Chinese with President Hu.”
    Sasha attended Hu’s welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn on Wednesday morning with friends and could be seen waving a Chinese flag excitedly as her father and Hu walked around the grounds. The two presidents paused to visit when they reached the nine-year-old and her friends behind the rope line…. – CS Monitor, 1-21-11
  • Liberal group fights campaign finance decision opposed by Obama: The liberal advocacy group Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to investigate what it says are potential conflicts involving two Supreme Court justices whose votes helped clear the way for unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions and others. President Obama cricized the ruling when it was rendered last January. Now Common Cause, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, says Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas participated in strategy sessions with corporate leaders who benefitted by the decision inCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The advocacy group referred to political retreats sponsored by Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kan.-based energy company owned by brothers Charles and David Koch. Common Cause says the Koch Industries political action committee spent $2.6 million in the 2010 elections…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
  • Campaign finance ruling: Should Supreme Court justices have recused themselves?: The liberal group Common Cause asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas should have stepped aside in a major campaign finance reform case a year ago.
    The liberal advocacy group Common Cause announced on Thursday that it has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether two US Supreme Court justices should have recused themselves from consideration of a major campaign finance reform case last year.
    Common Cause President Bob Edgar said the group has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to examine whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have stepped aside rather than vote in the Citizens United case.
    The case, handed down a year ago on Friday (Jan. 21), struck down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that had barred corporate expenditures for political advertisements during campaign season…. – CS Monitor, 1-20-11

Photo courtesy of White House

  • Summit yields gains for both China and U.S.: Chinese President Hu Jintao’s just-concluded summit with President Obama was a win both for the Communist Party and for Hu himself, demonstrating once again the Chinese government’s reliance on ceremony to bolster its standing among its people. China’s state-run newspapers ran enormous photographs of Hu with Obama, a not-so- subtle message that China is now the United States’ equal on the world stage.
    For the Obama administration, the meeting went smoothly and yielded some progress on difficult issues – but it also served as a reminder that the U.S.-China relationship will continue to be among Washington’s most nettlesome.
    “The most important thing they did was, for the time being, put a floor under the relationship after a very bad year,” said Michael Green, a former National Security Council senior official. “No one expected a transformational summit, but if you graded it pass-fail, I say they passed.”… – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • Business Leaders Make Cut at State Dinner With Hu: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter made the cut. So did Bill Clinton and his wife, the secretary of state. The heads of Microsoft, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Boeing and Walt Disney were on the list. So were the singer Barbra Streisand, the ice skater Michelle Kwan, the violinist Yo Yo Ma, the architect Maya Lin and the fashion designer Vera Wang. But Fred Hochberg, the chairman of the Export-Import Bank, didn’t make it to President Obama’s state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China, even though trade was a major theme of the day. Neither did Aris Candris, the CEO of Westinghouse Electric, who attended a business leaders’ meeting with the two leaders, or Jim Sasser, the former ambassador to China, whose invitation to a State Department lunch with Mr. Hu might have served as a consolation prize.
    The 225 guests at Wednesday night’s glittering White House affair were, in a certain sense, survivors. All made it through an intense winnowing-down process by a White House confronted by some of the most intense jockeying for invitations in recent memory. The White House was intensely private about the planning, for fear of offending the Chinese. The theme for the evening was “quintessentially American,” with a menu that featured farm-fresh vegetables, poached Maine Lobster, dry aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions, topped off by old fashioned apple pie with ice cream. The entertainment, in the White House East Room, was the most quintessential of American music – a parade of jazz greats, including Herbie Hancock…. – NYT, 1-19-11
  • With Obama, Hu concedes China’s rights need help: In a rare concession on a highly sensitive issue, Chinese President Hu Jintao used his White House visit on Wednesday to acknowledge “a lot still needs to be done” to improve human rights in his nation accused of repressing its people. President Barack Obama pushed China to adopt fundamental freedoms but assured Hu the U.S. considers the communist nation a friend and vital economic partner.
    Hu’s comments met with immediate skepticism from human rights advocates, who dismissed them as words backed by no real history of action. Hu contended his country has “made enormous progress” but provided no specifics.
    Still, his remarks seemed to hearten and surprise U.S. officials, coming during an elaborate visit that centered on boosting trade and trust between the world’s two largest economies.
    More broadly, Hu and Obama sought to show off a more mature and respectful relationship, not the one often defined by disputes over currency, sovereignty and freedoms. Hu said he wanted even closer contact with Obama; Obama sought again to embrace China’s rise, and the two men shared some unexpected laughs…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Obama’s day: Dealing with China: On this day in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower first agreed to something that is now essential to White House life: A news conference filmed for television. It’s a day of high level diplomacy for President Obama, as he summits with President Hu Jintao of China. After Vice President Biden greeted Hu at the airport yesterday, the Chinese president and Obama held a small private dinner at the White House. Today, it’s down to work…. – USA Today, 1-19-11
  • U.S. Shifts Focus to Press China for Market Access: A year ago, the fight over how China’s cheap currency was hurting American companies in marketplaces at home and abroad was shaping up to be the epic battle between the world’s biggest power and its biggest economic rival.
    But when President Hu Jintao walks into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with President Obama on Wednesday to face a group of 18 American and Chinese business leaders, much of the clash will be about a new economic battlefield — inside China itself…. – NYT, 1-18-11

112TH CONGRESS

John Boehner talks with reporters as he makes his way to his office from the House floor after the repeal of the Healtch Care Reform Act passed. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

  • Lawmakers’ soft words hide spending cuts’ pain: Terms like “cutting spending” and “raising taxes,” though they sound straightforward enough, are becoming battlegrounds in the Republicans’ and Democrats’ bids to frame the debate over how to cope with the growing national debt. Newly empowered congressional Republicans are playing down the big impact their proposed spending cuts would have on millions of Americans, according to Democrats and some bipartisan groups…. – AP, 1-21-11
  • House Republicans Plan Their Own Health Bills: Less than 24 hours after voting to repeal the new health care law, House Republicans said Thursday that they would pass discrete bills to achieve some of the same goals, but with more restraint in the use of federal power. At the same time, the speaker, John A. Boehner, said House Republicans would push for much stricter limits on abortion in federal programs, including those created by the new law. By a vote of 253 to 175, the House on Thursday directed four committees to draft legislation that would replace the health care law. The directive sets forth 13 objectives…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • House panel announces investigation into healthcare reform: A day after the House voted to repeal the healthcare reform law, a powerful House committee is launching a probe of the Obama administration’s efforts to implement the law. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are flexing their new oversight powers by calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to explain why some groups were given waivers to a key requirement of the reform law and why the department recently reorganized an office created just months ago.
    The health department’s power to provide temporary exemptions to certain groups on annual insurance-limit requirements included in the reform law is “troubling,” according to a letter from Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). The committee is asking the department to provide a list of every individual, organization, business, state or other entity that requested a waiver, obtained a waiver, or has been denied a waiver for any part of the reform law. The probe seeks “all documents” relating to the granting of waivers or exemptions for any reform law requirement…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • House votes to repeal Obama’s health care law: Swiftly honoring a campaign pledge, newly empowered Republicans pushed legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care overhaul through the House Wednesday night, brushing aside implacable opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama. The 245-189 vote was largely along party lines, and cleared the way for the second phase of the “repeal and replace” promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall. GOP officials said that in the coming months, congressional committees will propose changes to the existing legislation, calling for elimination of a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage, for example, and recommending curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits. Republicans also intend to try to reverse many of the changes Democrats made to Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to the traditional government-run health care program for seniors. Like the repeal bill itself, these other measures will require Senate approval and a presidential signature to take effect, and the prospect is for months of maneuvering on the issue. AP, 1-19-11
  • House votes to repeal health care law against long odds: McConnell pledges Senate vote… Democrats Boren, McIntyre and Ross voted for repeal… “It’s a promise kept,” a leading Republican says… The repeal bill is unlikely to survive the Senate, however…
    The House of Representatives voted to repeal the Obama administration’s signature health-care legislation Wednesday evening, a vote the newly elected Republican majority called a fulfillment of their No. 1 campaign promise. The bill, dubbed the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed 245-189. Three Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus on the vote.
    The legislation is unlikely to make it past the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he won’t bring it to the floor for a vote. And even if it did, it would face a certain veto by President Barack Obama. But Rep. Mike Pence, a leading GOP conservative, dismissed Democratic criticism that Wednesday’s vote was a “gimmick.” “We have another term for it on our side of the aisle: It’s a promise kept,” he said. “And House Republicans are here to stand with the American people and say with one voice, ‘We can do better.’ We can do better than their government takeover of health care.”… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • Health care: Now comes the really hard part: The vote passed Wednesday 245-to-189 — with unanimous GOP support, plus three Democrats. But the repeal bill is destined to die in the Senate, so Republicans will use their newly acquired power in the House to wage a long-term campaign to weaken the law.
    The next steps — hearings, testimony from administration officials, funding cuts — lack the punch of a straight repeal vote, but Republicans said they will keep at it, hoping the end result is the same: stalling implementation of the $900 billion law.
    Republicans promise to hold a series of hearings and oversight investigations into the law, attempt to repeal individual provisions and craft an alternative health care plan. Some of the first issues they will tackle are the cost of the law, the mandate on larger employers to provide coverage and the impact of the legislation on the states.
    But the GOP is expected to be thwarted at every turn by the Democratic-controlled Senate — and ultimately President Barack Obama, who has said he is willing to “improve” the law but “we can’t go backward.”
    “This is not symbolic,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on the floor. “This is why we were sent here, and we will not stop until we put a president in a position in the White House who will repeal this bill. … Make no mistake, we are here to stay and our resolve is firm.” Politico, 1-19-11
  • Debate To Repeal Health Care Law Begins: The house of representatives gets back to work on capitol hill for the first time since the Tucson shooting that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital.The first item of business – repealing the new healthcare law. Debate unfolded on the house floor and in a series of news conferences.Republicans showed off piles of petitions from Americans demanding a repeal. While democrats showcased the personal stories of people who say repealing the law will negatively affect them.
    Rep. Tom Price says: “In our pledge to America, we said we would do in our pledge to America, we said that if given the privilege of leading once again, one of the things we would do would be to vote in the House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare. “Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says: “Why we are doing this other than playing to the vanity of extremely conservative right wing of the Republican party, is beyond me.”
    The repeal is expected to sail through the house. But it’s not expected to get through the democratic senate or the president’s veto. A final vote is expected Wednesday afternoon or early evening. – Fox News 12, 1-18-11
  • Congress tones down the rhetoric after shootings: Born of bloodshed, a self-proclaimed Age of Civility dawned in Congress on Tuesday. Republicans and Democrats of the House spoke without angry shouts and debated legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care law without rancor. By unspoken agreement, manners mattered, although there were few overt references to the reason — the shooting rampage in Arizona 10 days ago that left six dead, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded and lawmakers of both parties stunned.
    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said no directives had gone out to rank-and-file lawmakers cautioning them about their behavior as the House convened to debate a highly controversial bill. “We expect the debate to ensue along policy lines,” he said, suggesting one that did not stray from the merits of the legislation itself.
    Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat, agreed. “My expectation is that members will heed their own advice and will address the issues in a way that will deal with them on the merits,” he said. In the past, he added, too much of the public debate was “about incitement rather than informing . about making people angry, disrespecting the … point of view of the other side.”
    The change in tone was evident from the opening moments of the debate about a bill Republicans promised in last fall’s campaign to make an early 2011 priority…. – AP, 1-18-11
  • GOP set to assail healthcare law and seek alternatives: Civility gets its first test in the House since the Tucson shootings in a debate over repeal of Obama’s healthcare overhaul…. – LAT, 1-17-11
  • House set for health care repeal vote: The House of Representatives is set to vote on a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul this week, fulfilling a campaign promise of congressional Republicans and setting up a clash with the White House and Senate Democrats.
    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has scheduled a floor debate on the measure for Tuesday and a vote on Wednesday. The new GOP majority, in keeping with its “repeal and replace” mantra, will instruct various House committees to craft alternatives to the law.
    “Repealing the job crushing health care law is critical to boosting small business job creation and growing the economy,” Boehner wrote online Monday…. – CNN, 1-17-11
  • Some House rivals spar — cautiously — on eve of health care repeal vote: House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) noted that during last year’s debate over the health care law, he had argued that the overhaul amounted to the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century.
    “We’re hearing some of the same rhetoric around patients’ rights that we heard around voting rights,” Clyburn said. “But does this mean that some changes should not be made? Absolutely not. When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, it did not cover public employees. When the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965, it did not cover congressional redistricting. The Fair Housing Law wasn’t perfect when it was passed, and bipartisan changes were made to all of these to improve the measures.” Clyburn added that as the House debates repeal, “I hope we can look at bipartisan changes and modifications that would increase efficiency and effectiveness but do not repeal this fundamental right.”A few minutes later, however, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) had some stronger words for Republicans’ efforts to repeal the entire law.
    “Every minute that we spend fruitlessly debating the repeal of health care reform — which we know is ultimately not going to happen — is one less minute that we are spending creating jobs and focusing on getting people back to work and turning this economy around,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Why we are doing this other than playing to the vanity of the extremely conservative right wing of the Republican Party is beyond me.”

    At their weekly pen-and-pad briefings with reporters, both House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that leaders had not given any specific instructions to members of their caucuses to soften their rhetoric.
    “There’s been no discussion about acceptable language or non-acceptable language,” Cantor said. “What we’ve said, and the speaker has said, is this: We’re about a policy-oriented debate here. This is an issue of policy that was hotly debated over the last Congress, something that has great consequences for this country and deserving of a civil discourse in the House of Representatives, and that’s what we expect.”
    Repeal HealthCare Act Chairman Ken Hoagland, who also spoke at the event, called the petitions “an example to the rest of the world how even dramatic change in public policy can be effected through peaceful means.” “There is no room in our country for violent tactics to change public policy,” Hoagland said. “Our founding fathers left us every tool we need to change public policy peacefully, and that is what we intend to do. Now are the people who signed this petition angry? Yes, they are. … To suggest that that axiomatically leads to violence is just a wrong conclusion.” WaPo, 1-18-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Ala. governor apologizes for remarks on Christians: Two days after being sworn in as Alabama governor, Robert Bentley apologized Wednesday for proclaiming to a Baptist church audience that only Christians were his brothers and sisters and vowed to work for people of all faiths and colors. His comments Monday shocked and offended some believers of other faiths, but the backlash didn’t seem to be a serious political wound for the retired dermatologist and Southern Baptist deacon. In a conservative state with some of the highest levels of church attendance in the country, some Christian leaders defended the remarks and the Republican will likely get a fair chance to pursue his agenda in the coming legislative session.
    “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way,” he told reporters Wednesday after meeting with leaders of other faiths in his new office. After he took the oath of office at the Alabama Capitol on Monday, Bentley headed across the street to a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at King’s first church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. During his speech, he remarked: “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”… – AP, 1-18-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

  • Emanuel Raises $10 Million in Mayoral Bid: Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff, has raised more than $10 million in his quest to become mayor of Chicago. Filed with state election officials on Thursday, the campaign reports of Mr. Emanuel and his opponents offer a first real look at the financial side of this city’s first competitive race for mayor in years. In addition to the money he collected by the start of this year, Mr. Emanuel, who formerly served in Congress, also moved $1.1 million from a federal campaign fund into his mayor’s effort for a total of $11.7 million; he has already spent $3.4 million, the report showed…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Bill Clinton to campaign in Chicago for Emanuel: Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago Tuesday to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, but his visit is the cause of some controversy. While the former White House chief of staff hopes Clinton can persuade voters to cast their ballots for him Feb. 22, a former mayoral contender has warned that Clinton is risking his popular standing with the African American community by backing Emanuel rather than a black candidate.
    Clinton is scheduled to appear with Emanuel at the Chicago Cultural Center Tuesday morning. The candidate touted the visit in his campaign mailings over the weekend, mixed with an appeal for campaign donations. “I’m honored to have President Clinton’s support,” Emanuel told supporters in the e-mail on Sunday. “I’m excited to show President Clinton the great Chicagoans who’ve made this campaign possible.”… – WaPo, 1-17-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Obama could survive some bumps on road to 2012 reelection: Two years later, though, many analysts and observers have forgotten the breadth of Obama’s victory in the wake of the devastating and across-the-board (not to mention down-the-ballot) losses the Democratic Party suffered in the 2010 midterms. And yet, a detailed examination of the national map heading into 2012 suggests that the president still sits in a strong position for reelection – able to lose half a dozen (or more) swing states he carried in 2008 and still win the 270 electoral votes he needs for a second term…. – WaPo, 1-23-11
  • Evangelical/Romney supporter calls for new litmus test: Mark DeMoss, a well-connected figure in the evangelical community and Mitt Romney supporter, sent a memo last week to Christian conservatives urging them to consider “a new litmus test” beyond traditional cultural issues
    1. Who is most capable of winning the Republican nomination?
    2. Who is most capable of mounting the kind of campaign (raising money, recruiting staff and volunteers, presenting a clear message) necessary to upset a sitting president?
    3. Who is most capable of actually being the president of the United States—governing and serving as the CEO of the largest enterprises on the planet?
    Romney, argued DeMoss, was well-positioned financially and in the polls to meet the electability standard and, because of his background in business, is up for the job… – Politico, 1-23-11
  • Mitt Romney easily wins New Hampshire Republican poll: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney easily won a poll of several hundred Republican delegates Saturday about whom they would choose to take on Democrat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Also at the meeting, conservative Tea Party activist Jack Kimball beat Juliana Bergeron to be New Hampshire’s new state Republican Party chairman — an outcome that could influence presidential campaigning in the state.
    Romney won 35 percent of the poll, trouncing Texas Congressman Ron Paul, with 11 percent, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, with 8 percent, and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who took 7 percent. Some 20 names were listed on the poll, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York…. – Reuters, 1-22-10
  • Republican hopefuls lay groundwork for 2012: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and other potential presidential candidates have been stockpiling cash as they test the waters for a run. Nobody’s making anything official yet…. – LAT, 1-21-11
  • Poll: Mike Huckabee Takes Lead Among Potential GOP Presidential Picks: While Mike Huckabee has been cagey about whether he’ll make another run for the White House, a new poll out Friday finds the former Arkansas governor leading the pack among potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012. The Public Policy Polling survey has Huckabee with a solid 24 percent support among respondents, ahead of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, the ex-governor of Massachussetts, who are tied at 14 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comes in third with 11 percent, followed by Tim Pawlenty, the ex-governor of Minnesota, with 8 percent.
    PPP called Huckabee “the big winner” in this poll, citing his increased appeal to both moderates and conservatives within the Republican Party. Romney isn’t so lucky, according to PPP. He’s not particulary popular among conservative voters, who give him only a 55 percent favorability rating. That’s compared to 74 percent favorability from conservatives for Huckabee and 73 percent for Palin…. – Politics Daily, 1-21-11
  • Bachmann ‘encouraged’ after Iowa visit: Michele Bachmann of Minnesota says the reactions she received in her Friday meetings with Iowa Republican leaders and conservative activists in the leadoff presidential caucus state have encouraged her to explore running for president.
    “I am very encouraged by what I heard and the level of support that I saw today,” Bachmann told The Des Moines Register after a gauntlet of meetings in Des Moines.
    Bachmann’s visit stirred up the quietly developing race for the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, a little more than a year away.
    Bachmann spoke Friday night at a reception for Iowans for Tax Relief, an influential advocacy and political group with roughly 55,000 conservative and Republican-leaning members across the state. “It is not too late to change course and save this great nation,” Bachmann told her audience at a downtown Des Moines hotel. “I believe we can save America. I believe we can preserve this exceptional nation — this land of promise — for our children and grandchildren.”… – USA Today, 1-21-11
  • Palin Inches Toward 2012 in Iowa, Nevada: Sarah Palin may be inching toward a presidential run in 2012 as she heads next week to Nevada for two speeches and her advisers quietly begin talking to Republican activists in Iowa. Both states will be key to winning the Republican nomination, and Ms. Palin’s advisers are determined to do the groundwork necessary should she decide to jump into the campaign. The informal conversations in Iowa, reported by the Web site Real Clear Politics, are the first baby steps in what would have to become a much more elaborate turnout effort if Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor, decides to run.
    And her speeches in Nevada to two outdoors groups — including one on the same night that President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech in Washington — give her a platform to talk about hunting and guns in the wake of the shootings in Arizona this month.
    “There are a lot of Republican activists who want the governor to run and want to get involved and want to help,” said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of Ms. Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Obama Will Move Political Operations to Chicago: President Obama will close the office of political affairs at the White House in preparation for the establishment of his re-election headquarters, which will open its doors in Chicago by late March to concentrate on building a national fund-raising and grass-roots operation to rival his first campaign, aides said.
    The president has signed off on the plan to set up his campaign headquarters away from Washington, a first for a modern-day presidential re-election campaign. To avoid turf battles, chaotic communications and duplicated efforts, aides said, a significant realignment is under way in the West Wing, with the duties of the political office being taken up by the Democratic National Committee.
    Mr. Obama intends to make a formal declaration of his candidacy in about two months by filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, aides said. That step would allow him to raise money and hire a team of advisers, who would seek to make Mr. Obama follow Bill Clinton as the second Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be elected twice to the White House…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Pence urged to enter race for president in 2012: An independent campaign to draw GOP Rep. Mike Pence into the 2012 presidential race is under way, with a veteran of the Reagan White House launching a petition drive on Monday urging him to enter the primary contests.
    Ralph Benko, a deputy counsel to Ronald Reagan, announced the America’s President Committee to encourage a Pence- for-president bid. Former Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., is also helping the campaign to collect signatures from conservatives and tea party activists.
    “Mike Pence extraordinarily exemplifies the optimistic, pro-growth, pro-job creation Reagan-Kemp wing of the GOP. Grass-roots conservatives, Republicans, the tea party and populists are looking for a man or woman of principle who can champion and unite the newly energized and engaged citizenry,” Benko said. “Mike Pence is the best choice to lead us into a new era of peace and prosperity.”… – AP, 1-17-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
  • Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader on “Fox News Sunday.”: “With all due respect to our Democratic friends, any time they want to spend, they call it investment, so I think you will hear the president talk about investing a lot Tuesday night. This is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas.”
  • Sen. John McCain praises Obama: ‘Doing a Lot of the Right Things’: Speaking on Face the Nation, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain praised President Obama, saying the first-term president has done “a lot of the right things.” “The president, I think, has learned a lot in the last two years as any president does. He is a very intelligent man. I think he’s doing a lot of right things,” he said.
    “I’m told already that the Democrats may agree with us on some changes,” Mr. McCain said. “There needs to be a lot more changes than what they’re willing to agree to. It has to be the subject of a national debate.” – The State Column, 1-23-11
  • Weekly Address: “We Can Out-Compete Any Other Nation”: Remarks of President Barack Obama The White House January 22, 2011: Here’s the truth about today’s economy: If we’re serious about fighting for American jobs and American businesses, one of the most important things we can do is open up more markets to American goods around the world.
    That’s why I met with China’s President Hu Jintao at the White House this past week. We’re now exporting more than $100 billion a year to China in goods and services. And as a result of deals we completed this week, we’ll be increasing U.S. exports to China by more than $45 billion, and China’s investments in America by several billion dollars. Most important, these deals will support some 235,000 American jobs. And that includes a lot of manufacturing jobs.
    That goal is why I fought so hard to negotiate a new and better trade deal with South Korea – a deal with unprecedented support from business and labor – that will support more than 70,000 American jobs. And that’s why I traveled to India last fall to help pave the way for $10 billion in new deals for American businesses and more than 50,000 new American jobs.
    Now, these may just sound like statistics. But yesterday, I saw what that means firsthand when I traveled to a GE plant in Schenectady, New York. This plant is manufacturing steam turbines and generators for a big project in India that resulted from a deal we announced around that trip – a project that’s helping support more than 1,200 manufacturing jobs and more than 400 engineering jobs in Schenectady. Good jobs at good wages, producing American products for the world.
    At the same time, GE has also been investing in innovation, building a clean energy center, an advanced battery manufacturing plant, and other state-of-the-art facilities in Schenectady that are resulting in hundreds of new American jobs and contributing to America’s global economic leadership.
    Leading the world in innovation. Opening new markets to American products. That’s how we’ll create jobs today. That’s how we’ll make America more competitive tomorrow. And that’s how we’ll win the future.
    While I was in Schenectady, I announced that Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO and one of the most imaginative and visionary business leaders in America, has agreed to head up our new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The purpose of this council is to help us find ways to grow our economy by investing in our businesses here at home. And under Jeff’s leadership, I’m confident that they’ll generate good ideas about how we can spur hiring, educate our workers to compete in the 21st century, and attract the best jobs and businesses to America rather than seeing them spring up overseas.
    We’re living in a new and challenging time, in which technology has made competition easier and fiercer than ever before. Countries around the world are upping their game and giving their workers and companies every advantage possible. But that shouldn’t discourage us. Because I know we can win that competition. I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend. – WH, 1-22-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Watch Live: The China State Visit: The President hosts Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the White House for a State Visit, marking the third State Visit of the Obama Administration. President Hu’s visit highlights the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China on bilateral, regional, and global issues, as well as the friendship between the peoples of our two countries. The President, who visited China in November 2009, looks forward to welcoming President Hu to Washington to continue building a partnership that advances our common interests and addresses our shared concerns. Watch the Arrival Ceremony, State Dinner toasts, and more on WhiteHouse.gov…. – WH, 1-19-11
  • State Dinner with President Hu of China: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host President Hu of China at a State Dinner at the White House. January 19, 2011…. – WH, 1-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama Welcomes President Hu of China to the White House: At a time when some doubt the benefits of cooperation between the United States and China, this visit is also a chance to demonstrate a simple truth. We have an enormous stake in each other’s success. In an interconnected world, in a global economy, nations — including our own — will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together.
    The United States welcomes China’s rise as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations. Indeed, China’s success has brought with it economic benefits for our people as well as yours, and our cooperation on a range of issues has helped advance stability in the Asia Pacific and in the world.
    We also know this: History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful, and the world is more just, when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being.
    Mr. President, we can learn from our people. Chinese and American students and educators, business people, tourists, researchers and scientists, including Chinese Americans who are here today —- they work together and make progress together every single day. They know that even as our nations compete in some areas, we can cooperate in so many others, in a spirit of mutual respect, for our mutual benefit.
    What Deng Xiaoping said long ago remains true today. There are still great possibilities for cooperation between our countries. President Hu, members of the Chinese delegation, let us seize these possibilities together. Welcome to the United States of America. Hwan-ying. (Applause.)… – WH, 1-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Palin explains ‘blood libel’ comment: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, defending herself against criticism following the Tucson, Ariz., shootings, said Monday that she used the term “blood libel” to describe comments made by those who falsely tried to link conservatives to the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Speaking out for the first time since she used the term in a video, Palin said on Fox’s Sean Hannity show that the term referred to those “falsely accused of having blood on their hands.” Some Jewish groups strongly protested her use of the term, which historically was used to accuse Jews of using blood of Christians in religious rituals. “I think the critics again were using anything that they could gather out of that statement,” she said. “You can spin up anything out of anybody’s statements that are released and use them against the person who is making the statement.” Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the criticism won’t stop her from speaking out and accusing Democrats of taking the country in the wrong direction. “They can’t make us sit down and shut up,” she said…. – AP, 1-17-11
  • Cheney: Obama has Learned that Bush Policies were Right: President Obama has “learned from experience” that some of the Bush administration’s decisions on terrorism issues were necessary, according to former Vice President Dick Cheney. In his first interview since undergoing major heart surgery last July, Cheney said he thinks Obama has been forced to rethink some of his national security positions now that he sits in the Oval Office…. – Fox News, 1-17-11
  • Tom Daschle to Barack Obama: Meet, eat with GOP leaders: As Washington begins another period of divided government, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle urged President Obama to reach out to Capitol Hill by holding more regular meetings with congressional leaders of both parties.
    “I would love to see the President of the United States hold a weekly breakfast with the four leaders, two Republican and two Democratic,” Daschle said in a recent interview with POLITICO. The former South Dakota Democrat, one of Obama’s earliest supporters and still an outside adviser, suggested the president and congressional leaders alternate venues. “I think it would be refreshing to have the President come down to Capitol Hill and meet down there,” he said…. – Politico, 1-17-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: What Obama can learn from Clinton, Reagan: Many political analysts are urging President Obama to give a State of the Union Address that is conciliatory toward Republicans and that acknowledges that voters are unhappy with the direction of his policies.
    Ever since he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts in a compromise with Republicans, his poll numbers have been improving, and Obama has filled several key positions in his administration with moderate Democrats. There is reason to think that the president will continue this path….
    He can use this opportunity to answer some of the big questions surrounding his presidency. He can explain how and when the government can solve certain problems better then markets. He can explain to Americans how his health care bill will help contain costs for citizens. He can share with the country how he balances concerns over the deficit with the need to stimulate the economy and what exactly is the path he envisions toward a stronger economy.
    By tackling these and other questions, Obama has to use this opportunity to explain himself and his presidency, providing voters a stronger understanding of who he is and what policies he will defend as he enters into discussion with a Republican House…. – CNN, 1-24-11
  • ‘State of the Union’ Could Mark Turning Point for Obama, Historian Says: President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union address comes at a critical moment in his presidency and could set the tone in Washington for years to come, says a presidential historian at the University of Indianapolis. This won’t be the first State of the Union delivered amid economic woes and stiff partisan opposition, Associate Professor Edward “Ted” Frantz says. Previous examples include Bill Clinton in 1995, Ronald Reagan in 1983 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1935.
    “The fundamental challenge for Roosevelt was getting business interests to trust him, and they never did,” Frantz says. In that case, however, Roosevelt was able to continue his New Deal economic reforms with the help of large Democratic majorities in Congress, an advantage Obama does not have…. – Newswise, 1-24-11
  • Reagan and Kennedy Are Role Models for Obama Obama’s message in Tucson was the kind of speech Kennedy and Reagan would have given: But historian Robert Dallek says both Kennedy and Reagan retain a grip on the popular imagination for similar reasons. “Kennedy and Reagan are the darlings of the public,” he says. “People remember them as inspirational voices. They gave people hope.” Dallek recalled a comment by historian Richard Hofstadter that Theodore Roosevelt, another iconic leader, was “the master therapist of the middle class.” Kennedy and Reagan played the same role. “Kennedy and Reagan made people feel good,” Dallek adds. “Kennedy and Reagan have become mythological figures, iconic figures.”… – US News, 1-21-11
  • What Would Ronnie Do?: Obama starts the second half of his term with a set of obstacles similar to those that bedeviled Ronald Reagan. On Reagan’s centennial, the president is looking to the past for inspiration…. – Newsweek, 1-23-11
  • Ari Berman: Obama: Triangulation 2.0?: Immediately following the Democrats’ 2010 electoral shellacking, a broad spectrum of pundits urged President Obama to “pull a Clinton,” in the words of Politico: move to the center (as if he wasn’t already there), find common ground with the GOP and adopt the “triangulation” strategy employed by Bill Clinton after the Democratic setback in the 1994 midterms. “Is ‘triangulation’ just another word for the politics of the possible?” asked the New York Times. “Can Obama do a Clinton?” seconded The Economist. And so on. The Obama administration, emphatic in charting its own course, quickly took issue with the comparison. According to the Times, Obama went so far as to ban the word “triangulation” inside the White House. Politico called the phrase “the dirtiest word in politics.”…. – The Nation, 2-7-11
  • House votes to repeal health-care reform: What happens now?: Though the House has repealed health-care reform, it won’t be repealed by the Senate, meaning the effort is virtually dead. But House Republicans can still try to dismantle the law by other means.
    “We have a bill that expanded coverage, put new regulations in place, but it’s not clear it cuts the cost of health care,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “That’s a criticism you saw from left, right and center.” “If the debate moves in that direction, there’s room to form some kind of bipartisan support for more stringent cost controls,” he adds. “But on the other hand, both parties also have a stake in posturing going into 2012 elections.”… – CS Monitor, 1-19-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Can Boehner’s GOP deliver on promises?: Following a traumatic week for the nation in the wake of the Arizona shootings, Congress will get back to business this week. As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s spokesperson announced, “It is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill.”
    On Capitol Hill, Republicans find themselves in a position that seemed inconceivable a few years earlier, even to most conservatives. Although Democrats retain control of the White House and Senate, many Republicans were elated when they won control of the House and had the votes to elect John Boehner as speaker….
    The ways in which the Republican Party responds to these challenges will play an important role in defining what kind of political party Republican candidates will be able to champion in 2012 — and what kind of party President Obama will be able to attack on the campaign trail…. – CNN, 1-17-11
  • ‘Historian’ Douglas Brinkley: Obama ‘like’ Martin Luther King, Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian: “I thought President Obama did a wonderful job this evening. I thought that he really brought people together. I mean, when he, in the middle of the speech, said, ‘Gabby opened her eyes, Gabby opened her eyes,’ & you could almost hear a Martin Luther King-like inflection — And he carried that throughout a lot of the speech. “I was, like David Gergen earlier, a little put off by the atmospherics, 14,000 cheering people. But the president, I think, worked his way into that atmosphere. So, by the end of it, you could almost feel people hugging in the excitement, in the warmth & the love in the arena.”… – CNN, 1-13-11
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Political Highlights January 16, 2011: Looking Back, A Nation Heals after Giffords / Arizona Shootings, McCain v. Palin on Obama as Healer in Chief — Aftermath & Attempts at Bipartisanship

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks at Richard Holbrooke's Memorial

STATS & POLLS

  • AP-GfK Poll: Raw feelings ease over health law: As lawmakers shaken by the shooting of a colleague return to the health care debate, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds raw feelings over President Barack Obama’s overhaul have subsided. Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House this week, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, close to the lowest level registered in AP-GfK surveys dating to September 2009. The nation is divided over the law, but the strength and intensity of the opposition appear diminished. The law expands coverage to more than 30 million uninsured, and would require, for the first time, that most people in the United States carry health insurance. The poll finds that 40 percent of those surveyed said they support the law, while 41 percent oppose it. Just after the November congressional elections, opposition stood at 47 percent and support was 38 percent. As for repeal, only about one in four say they want to do away with the law completely. Among Republicans support for repeal has dropped sharply, from 61 percent after the elections to 49 percent now. Also, 43 percent say they want the law changed so it does more to re-engineer the health care system. Fewer than one in five say it should be left as it is…. – AP, 1-16-11
  • Obama’s Approval Rating Rises to 48 Percent in Quinnipiac Opinion Poll: President Barack Obama’s approval rating has climbed to 48 percent, the highest figure since the 50 percent recorded in October 2009, a Quinnipiac University poll shows. The percentage of voters who support Obama’s job performance rose 4 percentage points from the previous Quinnipiac poll in November, taken shortly after that month’s midterm elections. Registered voters in the new survey split almost evenly, 47 percent to 45 percent, on whether Obama’s presidency is a success or failure as the president reaches the midpoint of his term…. – Bloomberg, 1-13-11
  • AP-GfK Poll: Obama, GOP improve their standing: Americans give higher marks to President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans after a holiday season of compromise paid dividends for both, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. At the start of the divided government era, the survey found that 53 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is doing his job, his best numbers since the divisive health care vote 10 months ago. And, compared with just after the November elections, more now express confidence that Obama and the new Republican-controlled House can work together to solve the country’s most urgent problems, chief among them the struggling economy…. – AP, 1-12-11
  • Poll: Emanuel expands lead in Chicago: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has a double-digit lead in a new poll for Chicago mayor. Emanuel leads former U.S. senator Carol Moseley Braun, 42%-26%, in a survey commissioned by the Chicago Teamsters. Emanuel led with 36% in the Teamsters’ November poll. Voters in the Windy City go to the polls on Feb. 22 to pick a successor to Richard M. Daley, Chicago’s longest- serving mayor…. – USA Today, 1-11-11
  • Poll: Huckabee most liked, Palin best known: Republicans with an eye on the White House have some work to do on improving their image and recognition by voters. A new Gallup Poll shows Mike Huckabee is the most liked and Sarah Palin is the best known in the crowded field of potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and winner of the 2008 Iowa GOP caucuses, has a net favorable rating of 30% among Republicans and is recognized by 87%. Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, comes in fourth in favorability (22%) but is recognized by 95%…. – USA Today, 1-10-11

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: SHOOTING IN TUCSON, ARIZONA

  • Arizona shooting: a week of agonizing, arguing, praying, investigating: US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, targeted in last week’s Arizona shooting, continues to improve; a Tucson Safeway store reopens; and investigators work to build their case against Jared Loughner. A week has passed since America – and Tucson, Ariz., in particular – was horrified, revolted, and grieved by a mass shooting at a congresswoman’s routine event with constituents outside a Safeway supermarket. In that time President Obama has three times spoken to the nation, in a bid to comfort and unite. In that time three of the six people killed in the shooting have been laid to rest. In that time the Safeway has reopened, with store spokeswoman Cathy Kloos on Saturday noting employees’ desire to “reconnect with their customers” and affirming, “We’re doing OK.” The initial round of castigation – liberals and conservatives feuding over who’s more at fault for a climate of political “vitriol” and whether that played into the tragedy – has subsided. Lawmakers in Congress are considering whether Republicans and Democrats ought to intermingle in the audience at the upcoming State of the Union address, in a gesture of comity. Doctors say Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), the apparent target of the attack, continues to improve after being shot in the head and is off a ventilator, raising hopes for her recovery, and 10 of the 13 wounded have been released from the hospital. Things will never be the same, especially for families who lost loved ones. But for many they are starting to be manageable, if still not explainable…. – CS Monitor, 1-15-11
  • Senator: Giffords moving both sides of her body, breathing on her own: U.S.Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition after a shooting at a January 8 public event, is moving both sides of her body and is able to breathe on her own, a fellow member of Congress said Sunday. “She’s doing great,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York and a friend of the Arizona congresswoman, on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Gillibrand said she spoke to Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, on Saturday night and that Giffords is “making progress every day.” Gillibrand told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Giffords is moving both sides of her body and is “showing people that she can communicate well by, you know, holding our hands and moving her arms and legs and looking at us. So she’s making great progress.”… – CNN, 1-16-11
  • Who had the Worst Week in Washington? Sarah Palin: In moments of crisis, great politicians rise to the occasion. Bad ones tend to fall flat. Sarah Palin learned that the hard way this past week, when a statement she released hoping to quell the controversy that surrounded her after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) only helped create a new and even larger controversy. At issue was a map that Palin’s political team published during the 2010 campaign. It had cross hairs on 20 Democratic districts – including Giffords’s – that Palin was targeting as politically vulnerable. In the aftermath of the Jan. 8 shootings, many on the left unfairly blamed Palin for somehow inciting the gunman. (The details that have emerged since last Saturday suggest that the suspect, Jared Loughner, was deeply troubled and without any coherent political philosophy.) Palin, rightly, felt aggrieved. But her 1,141-word statement issued via Facebook not only cast her as a victim (not good), but also used the phrase “blood libel,” a loaded term with deep anti-Semitic roots (double not good). Palin’s folly was exacerbated by the speech that President Obama delivered Wednesday night, a stirring address that made the former Alaska governor’s words seem small and self-interested by comparison…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • McCain, Palin Appear to Be Split on Obama Senator Says Obama Is a Patriot While Former Governor Believes President Trying to Weaken US: There appears to be a serious difference opinion at the top of the 2008 Republican ticket, with John McCain and Sarah Palin split on the issue of President Obama. Much has been written about turmoil and infighting during that campaign. But the conflict now has nothing to do with politics in 2008, and everything to do with the direction of the Republican Party in 2011. One says the president actively wants to help America, the other, actively hurt it. In Sunday’s Washington Post, Sen. McCain wrote an Op-Ed lavishing praise on President Obama for his speech Wednesday night in Tucson. “President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night,” the senator wrote, “[he] “comforted and inspired the country.” And in notably gracious language, McCain added, “”I disagree with many of the president’s policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country’s cause.” Read that carefully. He called President Obama a “patriot” who wants to “advance our country’s cause.” Now contrast those words to language used by former Gov. Palin a little more than a week ago, when she said the President was, “Hell-bent on weakening America.” That statement came during an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show that has drifted into that background a bit because of the discussion about the Arizona shootings, not to mention “cross-hairs’ and “blood libel.” Palin used that notably strong language the day before the Arizona shootings in a discussion with Ingraham on raising the national debt ceiling, which she opposes, and the White House currently supports. Palin told Ingraham that by supporting raising the debt ceiling, “what Obama is doing–purposefully weakening America.”… – ABC News, 1-16-11
  • After Tucson, a thaw between Obama and McCain?: Could the long-icy relationship between President Obama and his 2008 presidential opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), be thawing? McCain took a significant step toward reconciling with the president in a graceful op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post. If that article marks a genuine fresh beginning, it would be one positive thing to come out of the horrific shooting spree in Tucson eight days ago. McCain and Obama will never be comrades in arms. They have too much history, too much mutual ill will and too many philosophical differences for that. In the two years since McCain went down in defeat against Obama, the tension between them has been evident in almost every public setting in which they’ve appeared. But in praising the president’s speech at Wednesday’s memorial service in Tucson, McCain has reached out to Obama with an open hand. Not since his gracious concession speech on the night of the election has McCain spoken so generously of his rival. Obama should not let the opportunity pass to reach out to McCain in return…. – WaPo, 1-15-11
  • The Suddenly Quiet McCain: As politicians across the spectrum weigh in on the Arizona shooting, the state’s senior senator has been surprisingly silent…. – Newsweek, 1-15-11
  • For Giffords, Tucson Roots Shaped Views: Gabrielle Giffords grew up in an old house filled with old things at the edge of a city being remade by the new. While strip malls and subdivisions were rising everywhere else, her rambling brick residence was surrounded by 18 arid acres of cactuses and mesquite trees and decorated with Mexican art and Southwestern relics. When she gave up her big-city dreams in New York to come home and run her family’s tire business, she passed on a new condominium or house in the suburbs, instead moving into an adobe duplex in an old neighborhood with shade trees, where crime might be higher but people knew who lived down the street. And when Ms. Giffords, now a congresswoman, married an astronaut years later, she borrowed her Vera Wang wedding dress, served dinner on plates made of biodegradable sugar cane, had a cook make tortillas on the spot and invited fellow lawmakers to the working farm where she said her vows…. – NYT, 1-14-11
  • Arizona shooting victim arrested after threat: One of the Arizona shooting victims was arrested Saturday and then taken for a psychiatric evaluation after authorities said he took a picture of a tea party leader at televised town hall meeting and yelled: “you’re dead.” James Eric Fuller, 63, objected to something Trent Humphries said during the forum taped for a special edition of ABC’s “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, Pima County sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan said. Fuller was in the front row and apparently became upset when Humphries suggested that any conversations about gun control should be delayed until all the dead were buried, KGUN-TV in Tucson reported. Fuller was arrested on misdemeanor disorderly conduct and threat charges, Ogan said. While Fuller was being escorted out, deputies decided he needed a mental health evaluation and he was taken to a hospital, where he remained Saturday evening…. – AP, 1-15-11

REMEMBERING RICHARD HOLBROOKE

  • Richard Holbrooke’s Lonely Mission: The late diplomat never lost his passion for peacemaking, but it turned out that some of his toughest adversaries were on his own side…. – Newsweek, 1-16-11
  • A Leading Diplomat Is Remembered With Affection and Humor: There are not many people who can pack a Kennedy Center hall with 1,100 people — including five world leaders — and not only personally know just about every single one of them, but have all of them believe that they have a personal relationship with him. On Friday afternoon, Richard C. Holbrooke appeared to do just that. His memorial service drew an array of the world’s brightest diplomatic lights. There was President Obama, sitting next to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who sat next to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who sat next to the former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who sat two seats down from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all came to pay homage to the man who, in the words of Mr. Obama, was “the leading light of a generation of American diplomats who came of age in Vietnam.” It was perhaps Mr. Obama’s misfortune that he, of the 14 people who spoke, knew Mr. Holbrooke the least. As Mr. Obama’s larger-than-life envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Obama had only two years together before Mr. Holbrooke died last month of an aortic tear. So Mr. Obama could not sprinkle his remarks with the personal remembrances offered by speakers like Mr. Clinton (“He wanted to interview me to see if I was qualified to be president.”) or Mrs. Clinton (when he wanted something, “he would follow me onto a stage when I was making a speech, into my hotel room, into a ladies’ room — in Pakistan”)…. – NYT, 1-15-11
  • Holbrooke Eulogized by Obama as ‘Leading Light’ of U.S. Diplomatic Efforts: President Barack Obama eulogized the late Richard Holbrooke as a “leading light” of U.S. diplomacy whose career formed a chronicle of American foreign policy. Holbrooke, who died Dec. 13 at the age of 69, was at the center of U.S. foreign affairs from the war against the communists in Vietnam to the fight against the Taliban and al- Qaeda in Afghanistan. “He was the leading light of a generation of American diplomats who came of age in Vietnam,” Obama said. It was a generation that came to know the tragic limits and awesome possibilities of American power.” Obama was among the dignitaries who gathered for a memorial service for Holbrooke, special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Those in attendance included former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Vice President Joe Biden, who just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq…. – Bloomberg, 1-14-11
  • Richard C. Holbrooke, 1941-2010 Strong American Voice in Diplomacy and Crisis: Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009 and a diplomatic troubleshooter who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s and oversaw the negotiations that ended the war in Bosnia, died Monday evening in Washington. He was 69 and lived in Manhattan. His death was confirmed by an Obama administration official. Mr. Holbrooke was hospitalized on Friday afternoon after becoming ill while meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in her Washington office. Doctors found a tear to his aorta, and he underwent a 21-hour operation. Mr. Holbrooke had additional surgery on Sunday and remained in very critical condition until his death. Mr. Holbrooke’s signal accomplishment in a distinguished career that involved diplomacy in Asia, Europe and the Middle East was his role as chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. It was a coup preceded and followed by his peacekeeping missions to the tinderbox of ethnic, religious and regional conflicts that was formerly Yugoslavia. More recently, Mr. Holbrooke wrestled with the stunning complexity of Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to the region while fighting a resurgent Taliban and coping with corrupt governments, rigged elections, fragile economies, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan, and the presence of Al Qaeda, and presumably Osama bin Laden, in the wild tribal borderlands…. – NYT, 12-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

The President & First Lady after his remarks in Tucson

  • Obama may face new kind of crowd at State of the Union: It’s starting to sound like President Obama will be speaking to a different kind of audience at this month’s State of the Union, and there will be less of a pep rally atmosphere. Two prominent senators from different parties — Democrat Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — said today that they will sit together during Obama’s annual address, and hope that congressional colleagues will follow suit. “We hope that many others will follow us,” Schumer said today on NBC’s Meet The Press. “Now that’s symbolic, but maybe it just sets a tone and everything gets a little bit more civil.” Obama’s nationally televised address will be the night of Jan. 25. Other lawmakers have also expressed interest in mixing party members during the speech in a show of national unity in the wake of the Arizona shooting. The idea was proposed by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Col0. Coburn, who appeared with Schumer on Meet The Press, said, “Chuck and I have been able to work on multiple bills, because we sit down, one on one, and work things out. And what we need to do is have more of that, not less of it.” Traditionally, Republicans sit on one side of the chamber and Democrats on the other during the annual address. In recent years, that arrangement has produced alternate standing ovations from each side of the chamber, depending on the nature of the proposals being made and the party of the president making them…. – USA Today, 1-16-11
  • Obama, Republicans plan more civil health care debate: Things return more to normal in Washington this week, include a long-awaited House vote to repeal President Obama’s health care bill– though the tone of the discussion is likely to be different in the wake of the Arizona shooting. “I think you’ll see a more civil debate than you would have had otherwise,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., today on CBS’ Face The Nation. Flake added that “I’m not sure the substance of the debate will change that much,” and that the Republican-run House probably has the votes to repeal the bill that it says will increase health care costs and compromise medical care. It’s likely to a symbolic move — members of the Democratic-run Senate said they will not take up the measure, and Obama would veto it in any case…. – USA Today, 1-16-11
  • Pawlenty opposes raising federal debt ceiling: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, says he opposes raising the nation’s debt ceiling and is urging Republicans in Congress to do the same. Pawlenty says lawmakers should take action that prevents the government from defaulting on its obligations, then have a debate over what spending should be reduced…. – AP, 1-16-11
  • Obama’s education focus faces big hurdles: Signs of trouble are arising for President Barack Obama’s plan to put education overhaul at the forefront of his agenda as he adjusts to the new reality of a divided government. Giving students and teachers more flexibility is an idea with bipartisan support. Yet the debate about the overdue renewal of the nation’s chief education law, known as No Child Left Behind, is complicated by political pressures from the coming 2012 presidential campaign and disputes over timing, money and scope of the update. While education might offer the best chance for the White House to work with newly empowered Republicans, any consensus could fade in the pitiless political crosscurrents, leaving the debate for another day, perhaps even another presidency…. – AP, 1-16-11
  • G.O.P. Elects a New Chairman as Steele Drops Out: The Republican National Committee selected a new leader on Friday, with its choice, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled chairman, as party officials demanded new leadership to fortify the party for the 2012 presidential race. Mr. Priebus, who broke away from Mr. Steele’s close circle of advisers to run against him, said he would work to rebuild the trust of major contributors who had lost faith in the party and begin preparing to challenge President Obama. He pledged to heal any divisions among Republican constituencies. “We all recognize that there’s a steep hill ahead of us,” Mr. Priebus said, delivering his first remarks as party chairman. “The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.” NYT, 1-14-11
  • G.O.P. Leader’s Promise: Humility and Hard Work: For Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, politics has long been more than simply a hobby. It provided the entertainment for the first date with his wife. More than a decade ago, when Representatives Henry J. Hyde of Illinois and James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin were delivering keynote speeches at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Kenosha, Wis., Mr. Priebus reserved two tickets and turned the event into part of his courtship. “I know. Nerd alert,” Mr. Priebus said in an interview a few hours after he was elected on Friday to lead the national Republican Party. His voice was filled with self-deprecation as he recalled the moment. “But we went to a movie after that.” Humility was a key selling point for Mr. Priebus as he embarked on a two-month campaign to overthrow Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, and begin the challenging task of rebuilding a committee that is more than $21 million in debt and competing for relevance in an age when the political establishment is no longer the most popular place to be…. – NYT, 1-15-11
  • New chairman targets GOP team setting up 2012 national convention in Tampa: There’s a new Republican National Chairman in office, and he’s about to clean house on the team putting together the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa. Responding to complaints about excessive spending by the RNC’s convention team, newly elected chairman Reince Priebus told Republican U.S. House members in a closed door meeting Saturday that he was going to replace the RNC’s convention team in Tampa Bay with his own team, Politico reported Saturday. The RNC has about a half dozen staffers working on the convention out of donated office space in downtown Tampa, but the work has drawn considerable criticism and helped fuel opposition to former RNC chairman Michael Steele. For instance, he hired his former assistant, Belinda Cook, for $15,000-per-month, and she spent thousands of dollars renting a 3,200 square foot waterfront Treasure Island home…. – St Petersburg Times, 1-15-11
  • Reince Priebus replaces Michael Steele as GOP chairman: The Republican National Committee selected Reince Priebus as its new chairman, replacing Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Steele’s two-year tenure was marked by high spending, financial debt and verbal gaffes. Priebus won late Friday afternoon after seven rounds of balloting. He received 97 votes out 168 ballots cast. Steele, the party’s first African-American chairman, sought a second term, but conceded midafternoon. “I think the party is ready for something different,” Steele said. Priebus is the Wisconsin GOP chairman and a former general counsel for the RNC…. – USA Today, 1-14-11
  • Reince Priebus: “We Can Defeat Barack Obama in 2012”: The Republican Party will face significant challenges in the 2012 election cycle: A geared-up Democratic electorate excited to see President Obama back on the ballot, a rowdy and somewhat unpredictable Tea Party base, funds flowing through multiple outside organizations. On top of all that, the Republican National Committee must deal with its splintered membership and more than $20 million in debt. New RNC Chairman Reince Priebus today acknowledged as much after his fellow committee members chose him to put him at the helm of the organization. “We recognize that the Democrats have taken this country on the wrong path, and it isn’t going to be easy or glamorous, but together we must lead,” he said. Priebus, a 38-year-old lawyer who served as chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said he plans to keep his head down and get to work. That means restructuring the RNC’s financial operation, hiring a top-notch staff, improving the lines of communication with state parties and — perhaps most importantly — restoring the faith of the party’s donors. “Together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012, together, unified as a committee,” Priebus said…. – CBS News, 1-14-11
  • Michael Steele’s many blunders led to defeat in RNC chair reelection campaign: Republicans emerged from a 2008 electoral drubbing not only lacking a telegenic spokesman for the party but virtually any major officials who were not white, a major void after the election of the nation’s first black president. Michael Steele seemed like the right man at the right time: an African-American Republican who loved going on television. But instead of turning into a solution for the GOP, critics say Steele blundered so many times in his first few months as chairman of the Republican National Committee that party officials openly considered replacing him well before the first quarter of his two-year tenure had ended. Republicans completed the dumping of Steele on Friday, voting out the party’s first-ever black chairman…. – WaPo, 1-14-11
  • Outgoing Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele’s 10 best gaffes: Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele abandoned his re-election bid Friday after four rounds of balloting left him far short of a second term. Steele, who just finished his first two-year term in the job, dropped out as four other hopefuls competed to become his successor. Steele, 52, urged his backers to give their support to GOP operative Maria Cino, who worked in George W. Bush’s administration, but Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, ultimately was elected after seven rounds of voting. The GOP’s first black chairman received a standing ovation from the party regulars after pulling out of the race. His spotty two-year reign included huge victories by the GOP in the November elections, but for many, Steele is known more for his verbal gaffes than his electoral accomplishments…. – NY Daily News, 1-14-11
  • Dewey Clayton Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville: Michael Steele’s legacy will be a mixed one. On the one hand, Steele first and foremost will be remembered as the first African-American to be elected as chairman of the RNC. Secondly, it was under Steele’s stewardship that Republicans gained the majority in the House in 2010. Many saw Steele’s election as an effort by the Republican Party to reach out to African-American voters and portray an image of being open to all and not as an exclusive party. To that end, two black Republicans were elected to Congress in 2010. They will be the first black Republicans in Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003. And they are also the first black Republicans in the House since Reconstruction. Unfortunately, much of the attention that Steele received during his tenure was negative. He was criticized for often acting too independently, people questioned some of his paid speaking engagements, and there were issues of excessive spending. I think the controversy surrounding Steele may have caused many Republican donors to scale back their contributions to the RNC. Because of this, his lack of fundraising will be a lasting legacy. It’s hard to say whether Steele did more harm than good. He was a charismatic leader and some of the controversy during his tenure was not really his fault. I think that ultimately, he did more good than harm and the Republicans did gain the majority in the House under his leadership. The next chairman, assuming that Steele does not win another term, should probably maintain a lower profile and concentrate on improving the level of fundraising.. – Politico Arena, 1-14-11
  • Bruce Reed: Another Clinton centrist joins Obama White House: Bruce Reed will be Vice President Biden’s new chief of staff. He was a senior aide to President Clinton and a leader in centrist Democratic policy circles. Does this bode ill for liberals’ agenda? The Obama White House is beginning to look like a reunion of the Clinton administration. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden announced that Bruce Reed will be his new chief of staff. Though not a household name, Mr. Reed is well known in Washington for his role as a senior aide to President Bill Clinton and for his continued leadership in centrist policy circles. He recently served as executive director of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, and since 2001 has been chief executive officer of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. “I’ve known and admired Bruce for over 20 years,” said Mr. Biden in a statement. “We worked closely together to pass the crime bill in the 1990s, and I’ve frequently sought his advice and counsel in the years since.” CS Monitor, 1-14-11
  • In Seoul, Gates Reaffirms American Support for South Korea: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with President Lee Myung-bak and South Korea’s defense minister here on Friday as South Korea and the United States again declared solidarity against North Korean aggression. In comments to reporters at the start of a meeting with the defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, Mr. Gates reiterated that the United States was concerned that “North Korea’s continued belligerence and repeated provocations” had raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula…. – NYT, 1-14-11
  • Miss. Gov. Barbour to speak at House GOP retreat: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who’s contemplating a 2012 presidential run, will be dispensing political advice to congressional Republicans this weekend during their private retreat in Baltimore. Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said the governor flew Thursday from Mississippi to the nation’s capital. “He’s got kind of a mixture of meetings in Washington,” said Turner, adding that some meetings are for state business and some are for politics. Barbour and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the potential presidential candidates speaking during congressional Republicans’ three-day retreat. Turner said the governor is skipping the Republican National Committee meeting Friday in Washington, where a new chairman is being chosen…. – WaPo, 1-13-11
  • Economy facing headwinds, but Bernanke hopeful: Jobless claims hit a 10-week high last week while producer prices shot up in December, pointing to headwinds for an economy that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said was showing fresh vigor…. – Reuters, 1-13-11
  • Ariz. GOP official quits in wake of Giffords shooting, says he received threats, feared for life: A prominent Republican in Arizona resigned in the wake of Saturday’s shooting, saying that threats from Tea Party members had him fearing for his life. Anthony Miller, the chairman of Arizona Legislative District 20 and the only black Republican to hold a chairmanship in the state, was reelected to a second one-year term last month. He said he was stepping down due to constant verbal threats against him and his family from people with Tea Party ties, The Arizona Republic reported. “I wasn’t going to resign, but decided to quit after what happened Saturday,” Miller told paper. “I love the Republican Party, but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone.”…. – NY Daily News, 1-13-11
  • Obama Administration Reverses a Mountaintop Removal Permit: In nearly four decades since the Clean Water Act was passed, the Environmental Protection Agency has never vetoed any mining permit retroactively. That changed this morning. Word is just coming down via Coal Tattoo that the Obama administration EPA has just vetoed the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history. The permit was initially awarded during the previous very fossil-friendly Bush administration, after a fractious decades-long court battle. By retracting the Clean Water Air permit for Arch Coal’s 2,300-acre mine proposed for the Blair area of Logan County, West Virginia, the EPA is effectively suspending most major activity…. – Reuters, 1-13-11
  • Obama to deliver State of the Union address on Jan. 25: ‘We welcome an opportunity to hear your proposals,’ House Speaker John Boehner says in his formal invitation to President Obama to deliver the State of the Union address. The new GOP majority in the House and the Tucson shooting are expected to add drama to the speech…. – LAT, 1-12-11
  • Joe Biden tells Afghans the U.S. is there for them, even beyond 2014: Vice President Joe Biden backs away from his earlier promise that, no matter what, the U.S. would be ‘totally out’ of Afghanistan by 2014. LAT, 1-12-11
  • Man arrested after threats to Rep. Jim McDermott: ‘I’ll kill his family’: FBI agents arrest a California man who called Rep. Jim McDermott’s Seattle office in December and left two threatening messages linked to the Democrat’s stand on extending the Bush tax cuts…. – CS Monitor, 1-12-11
  • US could take Sudan off state terror list by July: Sudan could be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism as early as July if Khartoum recognizes the results of the referendum on independence for the south, a US official said Tuesday. “Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,” Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP. “It is a process that takes some time, but by beginning the process in the wake of the referendum, the hope is if they meet all the conditions it can be done by July,” Lyman said. The referendum is widely expected to lead to mainly Christian and animist southern Sudan seceding from the predominantly Muslim north of the country. Results are expected around the end of the month, US officials said…. – AFP, 1-11-11
  • Assange Lawyers See U.S. Extradition ‘Risk’: If WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden to face a sexual-assault investigation, there is a “real risk” the U.S. would seek to extradite him from there, Mr. Assange’s lawyers argued in documents published Tuesday. The attorneys cited a risk the U.S. could detain Mr. Assange at Guantanamo Bay or subject him to the death penalty. A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawyers’ document or on the likelihood of Mr. Assange being charged with a crime in the U.S. The Obama administration has said it is trying to close Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Assange’s lawyers didn’t say in their document which charges they believe the U.S. might levy that could lead to the death penalty for Mr. Assange, who is a citizen of Australia…. – WSJ, 1-11-11
  • DeLay Sentenced to 3 Years in Money Laundering Case: Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday after convictions for money laundering and conspiracy stemming from his role in a scheme to channel corporate contributions to Texas state races in 2002. Mr. DeLay, once one of the most powerful and polemical Republican congressmen in the state’s history, was ushered out of Travis County Court after the sentencing and was taken by sheriff’s deputies to the county jail, where he was expected to post a $10,000 bond and be released pending an appeal. After listening to Mr. DeLay say he felt he had done nothing wrong, Judge Pat Priest sentenced him to three years in prison for the conspiracy count and 10 years’ probation for the money laundering count. The judge rejected arguments from Mr. DeLay that the trial had been a politically motivated vendetta mounted by an overzealous Democratic District Attorney. “Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law,” the judge said just before pronouncing the sentence…. – NYT, 1-10-11
  • Supreme Court declines to rein in Congress’ regulatory powers: The justices reject a constitutional challenge to a law that makes it a federal crime for a felon to have body armor or a bulletproof vest. The case involves the same point of law that is at the heart of pending legal battles over the healthcare law. The Supreme Court gave a strong hint Monday that the justices are not anxious to rein in Congress’ broad power to pass regulatory laws under the Constitution’s commerce clause, the key point of dispute in the pending court battles over President Obama’s health insurance law. By a 7-2 vote, the justices turned down a constitutional challenge to a 2002 law that makes it a federal crime for a felon to have body armor or a bulletproof vest. The law came in response to several shootouts involving police, including a bank robbery in North Hollywood where the robbers came equipped in body armor. But the dispute in the Supreme Court concerned only whether Congress had the power to enact a law regulating the possession of a product — in this instance, body armor. An appeal filed on behalf of Cedrick Alderman, a Seattle man, argued that the possession of a bulletproof vest had nothing to do with interstate commerce and, therefore, was beyond Congress’ power…. – LAT, 1-10-11
  • Supreme Court: Did it just hint at stance on a health-care law challenge?: The Supreme Court refused to take up a case examining Congress’s authority under the commerce clause, a key issue in a legal challenge to Obama’s health-care law. Two justices dissented…. – CS Monitor, 1-10-11
  • Colo. man accused of threatening Sen. Bennet staff: A Colorado man is accused of threatening to set fire around Sen. Michael Bennet’s office and shoot members of his staff, prompting authorities to step up patrols around the senator’s home and office. John Troy Davis, 44, faces a charge of assault on a federal employee. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The alleged threat happened two days before six people died in Saturday’s shootings at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was meeting constituents. A federal judge, a congressional aide and a young girl were among the six killed, while Giffords and 13 others were wounded… – AP, 1-10-11
  • Former Capitol Hill Aide, Wife of White House Staffer Found in Burned Car Ashley Turton Was Found Dead in Burning Car in Southeast Washington: Ashley Turton, a former aide to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and the wife of White House staff member Dan Turton, was found dead this morning in her burned-out car in the garage of her home in Southeast Washington, D.C. Turton, a mother of 3-year-old twins and a 1-year-old, worked as a lobbyist for Progress Energy… – WaPo, 1-11-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Schumer Pushes for Military to Report Applicants’ Drug Use to Prevent Gun Purchases: If someone admits to a federal official that he’s used illegal drugs, that information should be sent to the FBI so that person can be disqualified from purchasing a gun, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday…. – Fox News, 1-16-11
  • House panel will probe health overhaul, gas curbs: President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, new rules overseeing the Internet and administration plans to curb gas emissions will be scrutinized in congressional hearings, the Republican chairman of a House subcommittee said Friday. The announcement by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., was the latest signal from GOP leaders that they will use their control of the House over the next two years to aggressively pick through administration actions in a broad range of areas. Republicans are hoping to help their business allies and blunt some Obama initiatives while providing fodder for next year’s presidential and congressional elections. “My priority will be on job creation and removing government barriers to economic growth,” Stearns said in a written statement…. – AP, 1-14-11
  • House set to vote on healthcare repeal: The U.S. House of Representatives will resume action next week on repealing President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul, a House Republican spokesman said on Thursday. The House had been expected to act this week on the repeal bill, but the vote was postponed after a shooting spree in Arizona killed six people and critically wounded U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. “As the White House noted, it is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new healthcare law and its effect on the ability to grow jobs in our country,” he added. The vote is set for Wednesday, said another Republican aide who asked not to be identified…. – Reuters, 1-13-11
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison Won’t Seek Reelection: Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas announced Thursday that she will not seek reelection in 2012. “When my current term is up, I will have served Texas for 19 years in the United States Senate,” she said in a statement. “I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state. The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period.” Hutchison, who took office in 1993, vowed to continue to “fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt; the government takeover of our health care system; and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy” until her term ends next year. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Eric Schultz: “We look forward to running a competitive race in Texas as the Lone Star state is now one of several Democratic pick-up opportunities next November.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called Hutchison “a trusted advisor and friend, a senator who always serves Texas first.” “Fortunately, she’s not leaving soon,” he said in a statement. “While I’m confident she’ll continue to be a powerful advocate for her state and nation over the next two years, the Senate will miss her strength and energy when she leaves.” CBS News, 1-13-11
  • No cut in U.S. funds for Lebanon, but more scrutiny: Lebanon’s political turmoil will not trigger an immediate cut in U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces but will likely sharpen U.S. Congressional scrutiny of how the money is used, analysts said on Wednesday…. – Reuters, 1-12-11
  • House tribute to Giffords: ‘Violence cannot silence’: House Speaker John Boehner has formally introduced a resolution paying tribute to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the Arizona shooting spree that left her gravely wounded and six others dead. The four-page resolution is simply written, with sections honoring Giffords, each of the deceased, the wounded, and people such as Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez and event attendee Patricia Maisch who tried to save lives and apprehend the shooter. The resolution offers the condolences of the House and reaffirms the belief of lawmakers “in a democracy in which all can participate and in which intimidation and threats of violence cannot silence the voices of any American.” The first of the deceased recognized in the “whereas” clauses is Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest of those slain. The 9-year-old girl and her life story have captured the nation’s attention. As the House resolution states, Christina was at Giffords’ “Congress on your Corner” event on Saturday because she had “an avid interest in government.” Boehner will gavel the House to order on Wednesday and then open four to six hours of debate on the resolution. A bipartisan prayer service honoring Giffords and the Arizona shooting victims will be held at 1 p.m. ET…. – USA Today, 1-11-11
  • House Resolution Honors Heroes, Victims of Tucson Tragedy: 112TH CONGRESS 1ST SESSION H. RES. ___ Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Mr. BOEHNER submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on lll RESOLUTION Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, on January 8, 2011. Whereas on January 8, 2011, an armed gunman opened fire at a “Congress on your Corner” event hosted by Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, killing and wounding at least 14 others…. – ABC, 1-11-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Mayoral candidates debate for first time Four major candidates face each other before Chicago Tribune editorial board: The four major candidates for Chicago mayor debated each other for the first time at a forum before the Tribune editorial board Friday. Here are excerpts from their exchanges…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-15-11
  • Former President Bill Clinton to Stump for Rahm Emanuel Next Week: Former president Bill Clinton will campaign for Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel at a rally next Tuesday, according to a campaign spokesperson. Emanuel served as a senior advisor to Clinton at the White House from 1993 to 1998. Clinton will speak at a rally at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77. E. Randolph St., on January 18 at 11 a.m. The event is open to the public. Tickets are available at chicagoforrahm.com/clinton – Fox Chicago, 1-13-11
  • Emanuel Not Tied to New Political Group: Aide: Mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel has not injected himself in the City Council races but could get involved at some point in the campaign, his spokesman said Thursday. But campaign aide Ben LaBolt said Emanuel has no involvement in a new political action committee created by his former political aide to help candidates for council. “Rahm does not plan to endorse City Council candidates, though we are not ruling out dedicating resources to candidates who share his vision for the city,” LaBolt told the Chicago News Cooperative. He added that Emanuel is taking the same wait-and-see approach to the other two city-wide races, for treasurer and clerk…. – Chicago News Cooperative, 1-13-11
  • Barbour pushes for Mississippi civil rights museum: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour drew mixed reactions from analysts on Wednesday for his decision to push for a civil rights museum for his state ahead of a possible presidential bid. Barbour urged the state’s legislature during an annual address to build the $50 million museum in a state that became notorious during the 1950s and 1960s for violent enforcement of racial segregation and opposition to civil and voting rights. Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, says he is mulling a bid to be his party’s nominee in 2012 where he would likely face President Barack Obama vying for a second term in the White House. “I urge you to move this museum forward as an appropriate way to do justice to the Civil Rights Movement and to stand as a monument of remembrance and reconciliation,” Barbour said in the speech late on Tuesday. “The civil rights struggle is an important part of our history, and millions of people are interested in learning more about it. People from around the world would flock to see the museum and learn about the movement,” he said…. – Reuters, 1-12-11
  • >Bill to abolish death penalty awaits Ill. governor: More than a decade after Illinois put all executions on hold, a bill to abolish the death penalty altogether awaits only the governor’s signature. But Pat Quinn’s approval is hardly assured. While he says he supports capital punishment when properly applied, he has not yet indicated whether he will sign the proposal, despite intense pressure from fellow Democrats. “I think it’s important, given the importance of this measure, that people from all over Illinois express their opinions,” Quinn said Wednesday, a day after lawmakers sent the historic bill to his desk. “I’m happy to listen and reflect, and I’ll follow my conscience.” And as he listens, the world watches…. – AP, 1-12-11
  • Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan at a glance: Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday proposed $12.5 billion in cuts to a wide range of state programs and $12 billion in revenue, partly from an extension of tax increases, to close California’s budget deficit. Here are some of his proposals…. _ Total spending, including special funds and bond payments, is $127.4 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year, slightly ahead of the current total spending of $125.2 billion. _ General fund spending is $84.6 billion, slightly less than the $86.5 billion adopted for the current fiscal year. _ The deficit is $8.2 billion in the current fiscal year and $17.2 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1…. – AP, 1-10-11

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • The GOP Wildcard, The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza wants to upend the race for the 2012 Republican nomination: Any day now, one of the many Republican worthies who long to be president will make an announcement, everyone else will follow in rapid succession, and the 2012 presidential campaign will officially be under way. Feels like it is already, doesn’t it? And has been for eons? Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney never stopped running. Newt Gingrich has been running since the ’90s. The rest of the field is likely to include Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, and the list only gets duller from there—none could be accused of inciting a crowd. Are we doomed to a dull campaign? Not if the Hermanator has his way. If you don’t attend Tea Party rallies or listen to political talk radio, the name Herman Cain may not register. Cain intends to rectify that. He’s planning to seek the GOP nomination, so he’s spreading his blustery, relentlessly upbeat right-wing social and economic message, which can be heard weeknights from 7 to 10 on WSB in Atlanta. Cain is so exuberantly confident of his message that he has upgraded its status: he bestows upon audiences not speeches or talking points but “The Hermanator Experience.” He’s even trademarked the phrase…. – The Atlantic, 1-13-11
  • Herman Cain inches closer to presidential run: Atlanta businessman and conservative activist Herman Cain announced Wednesday he was launching a presidential exploratory committee, bringing him one step closer to a bid for the GOP nomination in 2012. “We are now going to test the waters for voter support and financial support,” Cain told Fox News’ Mario Cavuto Wednesday afternoon. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO confirmed his plans to Condace Pressley, assistant program director at 750 AM and now 95.5 FM News Talk WSB, where he hosts a nightly talk show. On that show Wednesday, he said he is considering a run for office to “make this a better world” for his three grandchildren. He said the White House needs a president “that will listen to the people first” and who is “a problem solver… that’s what I’ve done my entire business career.” He said the “American dream is under attack” by excessive legislation, regulation and taxation…. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1-2-11
  • Priebus leads Steele in race for GOP chairman: The election for chairman of the Republican National Committee is on Friday and some of the focus is on front-runner Reince Priebus, a lawyer and chairman of the Wisconsin GOP. In the latest whip count, Priebus has the committed support of 38 RNC members — more than a third of the way toward the 85 votes needed to win — according to a tally by National Journal’s Hotline. He’s followed by incumbent chairman Michael Steele with 17 commitments. The chairmanship is crucial as Republicans try to defeat President Obama, win control of the Senate and keep their majority in the House…. – USA Today, 1-11-11
  • Can Tim Pawlenty light a fire with Republicans?: Can Tim Pawlenty light a fire with Republicans?… Pawlenty criticizes Palin’s crosshairs map… Right Turn: Tim Pawlenty’s Reagan-esque agenda… Pawlenty’s book pushes blue-collar appeal Even his adversaries say they can’t help but like former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who left office on Jan. 1 and is on a book tour, the next step in a campaign for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination that he has been quietly running for more than a year. But there is one thing that gets a rise out of Pawlenty, and that is to suggest that he lacks a certain . . . pizazz. “Compared to who?” Pawlenty retorted in an interview. “I’ll concede that Sarah Palin is in a league of her own, and a force of nature. As to most of the rest in the field? If you get to know me, I don’t think that’s an accurate rap. I mean, you think about all the other people running. With the possible exception of Mike Huckabee, and Palin, there aren’t exactly a bunch of Lady Gagas.”… – WaPo, 1-11-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

  • Weekly Address: “Before We are Democrats or Republicans, We are Americans”: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery The White House January 15, 2011: It’s been one week since tragedy visited Tucson, Arizona. We properly spent much of the week mourning the victims and remembering their lives. We also discovered stories that serve to lift us up – stories of heroism and bravery, of courage and community – stories that remind us that we are one American family, 300 million strong. One of the places we saw that sense of community on display was on the floor of Congress, where Gabby Giffords, who inspires us with her recovery, is deeply missed by her colleagues. One by one, Representatives from all parts of the country and all points of view rose in common cause to honor Gabby and the other victims, and to reflect on our shared hopes for this country. As shrill and discordant as our politics can be at times, it was a moment that reminded us of who we really are – and how much we depend on one another. While we can’t escape our grief for those we’ve lost, we carry on now, mindful of those truths. We carry on because we have to. After all, this is still a time of great challenges for us to solve. We’ve got to grow jobs faster, and forge a stronger, more competitive economy. We’ve got to shore up our budget, and bring down our deficits. We’ve got to keep our people safe, and see to it that the American Dream remains vibrant and alive for our children and grandchildren. These are challenges I believe we can meet. And I believe we can do it in a way worthy of those who sent us here to serve. So as business resumes, I look forward to working together in that same spirit of common cause with members of Congress from both parties – because before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans. And as we perform the work of this nation, my prayer is that we stay true to our words, and turn to those examples of heroism, and courage, and perseverance, to bring out the better in all of us…. – WH, 1-15-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Honoring Holbrooke: “Because We Could Make a Difference…”: To Kati, Anthony, David and Elizabeth, to all the friends and admirers of Richard, we come together to celebrate an extraordinary life. In 1999, at the height of the crisis in Kosovo, Richard gave an interview in which he addressed the question of why the United States was engaged in bringing peace to that war-torn corner of the world. Why bother? His answer was simple: “Because we could make a difference.” Because we could make a difference. That is the story of American leadership in the world. And that is also the story of Richard Holbrooke. He made a difference…. The list of places he served and the things he did reads as a chronicle of American foreign policy. Speaking truth to power from the Mekong Delta to the Paris peace talks. Paving the way to our normalization of relations with China. Serving as ambassador in a newly unified Germany. Bringing peace to the Balkans. Strengthening our relationship with the United Nations. And working to advance peace and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan…. He understood American power, in all its complexity, and believed that when it is applied with purpose and principle, it can tip the scales of history. And that coupling of realism and idealism, which has always represented what is best in American foreign policy, that was at the heart of his work in Bosnia, where he negotiated and cajoled and threatened all at once, until peace was the only outcome possible…. Richard is gone now, but we carry with us his thirst to know, to grasp, and to heal the world around him. – WH, 1-14-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Memorial Service for Richard C. Holbrooke Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State The Kennedy Center Washington, DC January 14, 2011: Well, I am last because my office is on the 7th floor which is as close to heaven as you can get, so I end the program by being and bringing you with me to be as close to Richard as we can be. I’m very, very moved by the outpouring of love and admiration and respect that has been sent to me on behalf of our country from so many places across the world. And in this audience this afternoon are so many who have worked with Richard in the past and were working with him today. If we had time, each and every one of you would have you own stories. … There are few people in any time, but certainly in our time, who can say, I stopped a war. I made peace. I saved lives. I helped countries heal. Richard Holbrooke did these things. He believed that great men and women could change history. And he did. He wanted to be a great man so he could change history. He was, and he did. His time with us ended far too soon. And yet he lived enough for 10 lives. So while we mourn, we have reason for joy – joy for the life that Richard lived, joy that we were able to be part of it – that we went along for the ride…. – State.gov, 1-14-11
  • John McCain: After the shootings, Obama reminds the nation of the golden rule: President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night. He movingly mourned and honored the victims of Saturday’s senseless atrocity outside Tucson, comforted and inspired the country, and encouraged those of us who have the privilege of serving America. He encouraged every American who participates in our political debates – whether we are on the left or right or in the media – to aspire to a more generous appreciation of one another and a more modest one of ourselves. The president appropriately disputed the injurious suggestion that some participants in our political debates were responsible for a depraved man’s inhumanity. He asked us all to conduct ourselves in those debates in a manner that would not disillusion an innocent child’s hopeful patriotism. I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. We should respect the sincerity of the convictions that enliven our debates but also the mutual purpose that we and all preceding generations of Americans serve: a better country; stronger, more prosperous and just than the one we inherited…. – WaPo, 1-14-11
  • SHMULEY BOTEACH: Sarah Palin Is Right About ‘Blood Libel’ Judaism rejects the idea of collective responsibility for murder: The term “blood libel”—which Sarah Palin invoked this week to describe the suggestions by journalists and politicians that conservative figures like herself are responsible for last weekend’s shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz.—is fraught with perilous meaning in Jewish history. The term connotes the earliest accusations that Jews killed Jesus and enthusiastically embraced responsibility for his murder, telling Pontius Pilate, “His blood be upon us and our children” (Matthew 27:25). Thus was born the legend of Jewish bloodlust and of Hebrew ritual use of Christian blood for sacramental purposes. The term was later used more specifically to describe accusations against Jews—primarily in Europe—of sacrificing kidnapped Christian children to use their blood in the baking of Passover matzos…. How unfortunate that some have chosen to compound a national tragedy by politicizing the murder of six innocent lives and the attempted assassination of a congresswoman. To be sure, America should embrace civil political discourse for its own sake, and no political faction should engage in demonizing rhetoric. But promoting this high principle by simultaneously violating it and engaging in a blood libel against innocent parties is both irresponsible and immoral. – WSJ, 1-14-11
  • President Obama in Tucson: “The Forces that Divide Us are Not as Strong as Those that Unite Us”: Last night the President spoke to an emotional crowd at a memorial event in Tucson, Arizona. The grief for the victims of the tragic shooting there was overwhelming, but so too was the admiration for the heroes who risked their lives to prevent even greater loss, as well as the hope for the survivors to see full recoveries. The President asked those in the hall and across America to channel their emotions toward the pursuit of a more perfect union, saying that “If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate — as it should — let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.”… – WH, 1-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Text Obama’s Remarks in Tucson: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared address on Wednesday to honor those killed and wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8, as released by the White House…. But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds. Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath. For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind. So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future…. That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union. And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle…. – NYT, 1-12-11
  • Sarah Palin: America’s Enduring Strength: ….The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic. Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible. There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure…. – Sarah Palin on Facebook, 1-12-11Video

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: America’s search for civility It’s time to return to the notion of ‘malice toward none’ and ‘charity for all’: The tragic Arizona rampage that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six citizens, including 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who wanted to see “how our government works,” has triggered the predictable recitations about America’s long history of political violence -without any evidence that this was a political crime. That vast numbers of shocked observers immediately concluded that the gunman’s lunatic actions were in some way linked to the present fervid red-blue debate in the United States speaks volumes about the overheated rhetoric that has come to characterize much of America’s political discourse in recent years. But political civility has an equally long and robust U.S. pedigree. We should appreciate the coalition-builders, not the partisans; the statesmen, not the demagogues; the magnanimous uniters, not the cranky dividers. In matters political, the big broad tent with stakes driven deep into America’s rich soil is more constructive and more lasting than partisan lean-tos tilting left or right…. – Montreal Gazette, 1-13-11
  • Historian Douglas Brinkley says Tucson will be a place in ‘history like a Selma or Birmingham in the 1960s’: As the shock wanes from the aftermath of Saturday’s Tucson tragedy, how might this event be remembered historically? According to noted historian Douglas Brinkley, a fellow at the Baker Institute and a professor of history at Rice University, it will rank up there with one of the bloodiest times in U.S. history, the Civil Rights Era in Alabama, including the September 15, 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and the March 7, 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma. “Well you know Tucson now is one of these places people are going to talk about in history like a Selma or Birmingham in the 1960s,” Brinkley said. “It seems like a war zone spot and if you go to Selma or Birmingham today, they cope with that past. They have museums and memorials. This is the beginning of the healing for that community of Tucson and it’s very significant that President Obama’s coming, and hugging people, talking to people – making them know he feels the pain of the entire community and the nation.”… – The Daily Caller, 1-13-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: The health care will not be an inevitable problem for Romney. He can also position himself as the Republican who tackled health care, but did it the “right” way. In this political world it won’t be hard for him to claim there are major differences between what he did and what the president did. Romney also offers some pluses for the GOP — he has been in the business world, he is very intelligent and he looks like a president. Moreover, he can claim to be a Republican who has a chance to win moderate and independent votes. It would be a mistake for Republican challengers to dismiss him. – Politico Arena, 1-14-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: A Country of Guns: Assassination Throughout History: It’s sad that this is on the rise now, and I do think we need to ask these questions: Do our congresspeople and federal judges need better protection than we’re giving them, in a world where semi-automatic weapons and guns with scopes are just so easy to acquire?… – — The Daily Caller, 1-11-11, Mp3

March 22, 2010: Congress Passes Health Care Bill

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama delivers remarks following the health care vote

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • House passes Democratic changes to health bill: The House has passed key changes to its just-approved overhaul of health care legislation. The changes are part of a prearranged agreement to guarantee passage of the historic legislation. The changes passed by a 220-211 vote. That bill now goes to the Senate for final approval, where it only requires a simple majority to pass…. – AP, 3-22-10
  • Reagan ‘GE Theater’ tapes restored, go to library: All 208 episodes of television’s “General Electric Theater,” hosted by then-actor Ronald Reagan, were delivered to former first lady Nancy Reagan on Wednesday as part of the two-year celebration of the late president’s 100th birthday. The 1954-1962 “General Electric Theater” tapes, most believed to be damaged or lost, were recently uncovered in the General Electric/NBC Universal archives. They were restored to broadcast quality for use in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Reagan traveled the nation as GE’s goodwill ambassador to its plants during the 1950s. “The opportunity to represent GE back in the 1950s, and the encouragement he received from the employees he met along the way, really launched Ronnie’s career in public service,” Mrs. Reagan said in a statement released Wednesday. “I know he would be honored by this tribute.”… – AP, 3-17-10 Reagan Centenniel Site
  • Fox News Poll: 68% Say Vote Out All Incumbents: Fox News poll shows 68 percent of voters would oust all incumbents, while 20 percent would keep all lawmakers in office. AP, 3-19-10
  • NBC News poll: Americans hate the Congress: In a poll jointly released today by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, the American public overwhelmingly agrees: The nation is on the wrong track, the economy has negatively affected the country and Congress is broken – just 17% of Americans approve of Congress’ job, according to the poll…. 48% of respondents approve of Obama’s job as president, and 47% disapprove 50% of respondents would vote to replace every single member of Congress, if given the opportunity Nearly 3 in 4 still agree with this even if it means Democrats keep the majority Nearly 3 in 4 agree with this even if it means Republicans take majority…. – Monsters and Critics, 3-17-10

THE HEADLINES…

President Obama met with House Democrats in Washington Saturday, including Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

President Obama met with House Democrats in Washington Saturday, including Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

  • On final day, Obama works vote outside public view: Capping a long day and a consuming political journey, President Barack Obama celebrated the passage of health care legislation on Sunday with hugs, high fives and an emboldened attitude. Said the president to the nation, “Tonight, we answered the call of history.” At nearly midnight in Washington, with a big swath of country asleep or headed that way, Obama strode into the ornate East Room with Vice President Joe Biden backing him. There was no hour too late for the president to embrace this moment.
    “I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality,” Obama said as the top members of his own health care team stood beaming nearby. “I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote.”… – AP, 3-22-10
  • House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Legislation: The House of Representatives on Sunday passed a sweeping $940 billion health care bill in a historic vote that will dramatically change the U.S. health care system and expand health insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans over the next decade. “Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party … it’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense,” President Obama said in a statement after the vote. He added: “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. It will not fix everything that’s wrong with our system, but it will move us in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”…. – PBS Newshour, 3-22-10
  • House Approves Health Overhaul, Sending Landmark Bill to Obama: House Democrats approved a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health system on Sunday, voting over unanimous Republican opposition to provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans after an epic political battle that could define the differences between the parties for years. Reporters gathered around Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, at the Capitol on Sunday. Ms. Pelosi called the health care bill “liberating legislation.”
    With the 219-to-212 vote, the House gave final approval to legislation passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve. Thirty-four Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the bill. The vote sent the measure to President Obama, whose yearlong push for the legislation has been the centerpiece of his agenda and a test of his political power. After approving the bill, the House adopted a package of changes to it by a vote of 220 to 211. That package — agreed to in negotiations among House and Senate Democrats and the White House — now goes to the Senate for action as soon as this week. It would be the final step in a bitter legislative fight that has highlighted the nation’s deep partisan and ideological divisions…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • With the vote, a new stature for Obama: President Obama scored a stunning political and legislative victory on health care last night that not only will earn him a place in history books, but promises to establish him as a stronger leader of the Democratic party after a tumultuous first year…. Boston Globe, 3-22-10
  • Obama achieves health law success that eluded past: Rarely does the government, that big, clumsy, poorly regarded oaf, pull off anything short of war that touches all lives with one act, one stroke of a president’s pen. Such a moment has come. After a year of riotous argument, decades of failure and a century of spoiled hopes, the United States is reaching for a system of medical care that extends coverage nearly to all citizens. The change that’s coming will reshape a sixth of the economy and shatter the status quo. To the ardent liberal, President Barack Obama’s health care plan, passed by the House on Sunday night, is a shadow of what should have been, sapped by dispiriting downsizing and trade-offs. To the loud foe on the right, it is a dreadful expansion of the nanny state…. – AP, 3-22-10
  • Clinton pokes fun at Dems, GOP and himself: Former President Bill Clinton poked fun at Republicans, Democrats, his own health and his audience of reporters Saturday night, telling the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner he was there because “I really didn’t have anything much better to do tonight.” Clinton, who stood in for President Barack Obama, said Democrats are going to pass health care. “It may not happen in my lifetime, or Dick Cheney’s, but hopefully by Easter,” he said referring to his and the former to vice president’s heart ailments…. – WaPo, 3-21-10
  • U.S.-Israel rift adds tension to AIPAC meeting: After more than a week of tense relations between the United States and Israel, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech on Monday will be closely watched to see if the Obama administration’s get-tough approach continues or whether Clinton will emphasize common ground. Last week, the administration used strong diplomatic rhetoric to express indignation over Israel’s announcement that it will build 1,600 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, a declaration that came during a visit by Vice President Biden…. – USA Today, 3-21-10
  • Proposed Changes in the Final Health Care Bill: To avoid the threat of a filibuster by Senate Republicans, Democratic leaders are planning to pass health care overhaul in a three-step process. The House completed the first two parts on Sunday by passing both the health bill approved in December by the Senate and a separate package of changes in a budget reconciliation measure — which can be adopted in the Senate by a simple majority. A look at key provisions of the Senate bill and the changes proposed in the reconciliation bill passed by the House Sunday…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • Stage is set for historic healthcare vote: House Democrats scrap plans to use a controversial move and are expected to pass the biggest change since Medicare…. – LAT, 3-21-10
  • Democrats, Hunting Final Health Votes, Predict Slim Margin: With the stage set for a historic showdown over landmark health legislation in the House on Sunday afternoon, the White House and Democratic Congressional leaders winnowed their hunt for votes to a slim list of lawmakers, including several opponents of abortion who were demanding assurance that no federal money would be used to pay for insurance coverage of the procedure. Democrats late Saturday night said the 216 votes needed to pass the bill were nearly within their reach, but acknowledged that the margin of victory would likely be razor thin even under their most optimistic scenario. Republicans said they still held out hope of derailing the legislation…. – NYT, 3-21-10
  • Budget estimate key to health bill passage: Many people find it hard to understand how the health care legislation heading for a decisive vote Sunday can cost $940 billion over 10 years and cut the horrendous federal budget deficit at the same time. A turning point for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts to pass the legislation, came Thursday when the Congressional Budget Office said the measure would reduce the deficit by $138 billion in the first decade, and as much as $1.3 trillion the decade after that…. – SF Chronicle, 3-19-10
  • Latinos increasingly critical of Obama’s record on immigration: As tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters prepare to demonstrate in Washington on Sunday in favor of an immigration overhaul, the Obama administration is finding its relationship with this largely Latino community complicated by its mixed and misunderstood record on immigration enforcement. Compared with the Bush administration, Obama officials have substantially cut back on job-site roundups of illegal workers in favor of less controversial measures, such as auditing employers’ books and expanding programs that target unauthorized immigrants convicted of crimes…. – WaPo, 3-19-10
  • Health Showdown Is Set Bill Gets Boost From New Cost Estimate; Obama Delays Trip for Weekend Vote: Democrats made a final sprint toward a weekend vote on their health-care bill, pressuring wavering lawmakers as the Congressional Budget Office put the cost of the legislation at what party leaders see as a politically palatable $940 billion over the next decade…. – WSJ, 3-19-10
  • SC gov agrees to pay ethics fine, gets divorced: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has closed two chapters of his life, agreeing to pay $74,000 in fines to resolve ethics charges brought against him after last summer’s revelation of an extramarital affair, and receiving word that a judge had formally ended his 20-year marriage to his wife, Jenny…. – WaPo, 3-19-10
  • Bill Proposes Increased Aid to the Needy for College: The federal government would provide $36 billion in new financing for Pell grants to needy students over the next 10 years under legislation announced Thursday by Congressional Democrats. The maximum annual Pell grant would rise to $5,975 by 2017, from $5,350 this year. The new Pell initiative includes $13.5 billion to cover a shortfall caused by the sharp increase in the number of Americans enrolling in college during the recession…. – NYT, 3-18-10
  • 2 Senators Offer Immigration Overhaul: Two senators, a Democrat and a Republican, unveiled the outlines on Thursday of a proposal to overhaul the immigration system, which would require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law before they could gain legal status and require all workers in the United States to carry a biometric identity card to prove that they are eligible to work. In carefully choreographed moves, the senators, Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, described their proposal in an editorial posted at midafternoon on the Web site of The Washington Post…. – NYT, 3-18-10
  • Holy War Erupts Among Catholics Over Abortion Language in Health Care Bill: The abortion language in President Obama’s health care reform bill has ignited a holy war among Catholics, sharply dividing them on whether the legislation would subsidize the termination of pregnancies…. – Fox News, 3-18-10
  • Health bill picking up key votes Healthcare bill gains momentum: President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confer after a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol President Obama and Democratic leaders gathered momentum for their sweeping healthcare overhaul Wednesday, picking up support from Democratic factions where defections were most feared: liberals, abortion opponents and backbenchers. Working into the night to put the finishing touches on the legislation, Democratic leaders said they continued to expect the balloting to be a cliffhanger…. – LAT, 3-18-10
  • Nuns in U.S. back healthcare bill despite Catholic bishops’ opposition: Their letter to Congress urging passage reflects differing views on whether it would lead to federally funded abortions…. – LAT, 3-18-10
  • Obama appears on Fox News, long White House target: After weeks of the White House belittling Fox News, President Barack Obama has appeared on the cable network to sell his embattled health care overhaul. During an interview Wednesday punctuated with interruptions and chiding, Obama defended his health care plan and the process by which it is heading toward becoming law. In the interview with Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier, Obama several times emphasized the upside of the proposals and dodged questions about how Congress might pass it…. – AP, 3-17-10
  • Obama speaks in district of Kucinich, old campaign foe and current critic: The liberal Ohioan, a former mayor of Cleveland, has been a persistent critic of Obama’s health care plan, saying it doesn’t go far enough. He voted against an Obama-backed health care bill in November. – USA Today, 3-27-10
  • Health bill gains ground but release delayed: President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care legislation won precious support from a longtime liberal holdout in the House on Wednesday and from a retired Catholic bishop and nuns representing dozens of religious orders — gaining fresh traction ahead of a climactic weekend vote. “That’s a good sign,” said Obama, two weeks after taking personal command of a campaign to enact legislation in what has become a virtual vote of confidence on his still-young presidency. But Democrats delayed the planned release of formal legislation at least until Thursday as they sought to make sure it would reduce federal deficits annually over the next decade…. – AP, 3-17-10
  • US wants Osama bin Laden alive, US commander in Afghanistan says: General Stanley McChrystal said Wednesday that given the opportunity, the US would like to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden alive, appearing to contradict comments made Tuesday by Attorney General Eric Holder…. – CS Monitor, 3-17-10
  • Democrats Consider New Moves for Health Bill: As lawmakers clashed fiercely over major health care legislation on the House floor, Democrats struggled Tuesday to defend procedural shortcuts they might use to win approval for their proposals in the next few days. House Democrats are so skittish about the piece of legislation that is now the vehicle for overhauling the health care system — the bill passed by the Senate in December — that they are considering a maneuver that would allow them to pass it without explicitly voting for it. Under that approach, House Democrats would approve a package of changes to the Senate bill in a budget reconciliation bill. The Senate bill would be “deemed passed” if and when the House adopts rules for debate on the reconciliation bill — or perhaps when the House passes that reconciliation bill…. – NYT, 3-17-10
  • Health bill will pass, Sebelius says: Consumers will see immediate benefits through increased transparency from insurers under health care reform that the House is hoping to pass this weekend, President Barack Obama’s top health official said Tuesday. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said having health plans report their premiums to the government would help slow their rise because insurance companies will have to justify the rate increases. Chicago Tribune, 3-17-10
  • Obama’s health-care reform speech in Ohio convinces a few skeptics: Retirees who voted Republican in the last presidential election, Carol and Paul Gerhardstein were unhappy about Democratic plans to overhaul the nation’s health-care system. But they showed up at a rally this week to hear President Obama defend his proposals, and a funny thing happened. “He convinced me that we are doing the right thing. He’s going to look out for us,” Carol Gerhardstein said after Obama’s motorcade departed in a cold drizzle Monday. “I gained a little more trust in him.”…. – 3-16-10
  • Obama to Take Questions From Fox News: President Obama will give a rare interview on Wednesday to Fox News, the cable network that a top administration official once accused of being a political arm of the Republican Party. The interview, with Bret Baier, an anchor and a former chief White House correspondent for Fox, will be broadcast at 6 p.m., at the height of a week in which Democrats, including Mr. Obama, are pressing allies and lawmakers to push ahead to get the health care bill passed in the House despite solid Republican opposition and the lessening of public support for the legislation…. – 3-16-10
  • Pelosi: Dems will have votes to OK health care: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by at least a dozen restless babies at a news conference Monday, declared that when she brings health care reform to the House floor, likely by the end of this week, “we will have the votes.” If she is correct – and no one is more skilled at the inside legislative game than the San Francisco Democrat – Pelosi will have delivered a monumental victory for President Obama and an achievement that Democrats have promised for decades. Driven by what she has described as a moral and political imperative, Pelosi said last summer that health care reform is what Democrats “were born to do.”… – SF Chronicle, 3-15-10
  • House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it: After laying the groundwork for a decisive vote this week on the Senate’s health-care bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Monday that she might attempt to pass the measure without having members vote on it. Instead, Pelosi (D-Calif.) would rely on a procedural sleight of hand: The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed…. – WaPo, 3-16-10
  • Amid Democratic Impatience, Senators Move on a Jobs Bill: The Senate cleared the way on Monday for final Congressional approval of a Democratic plan to spur job creation as Democrats grew impatient with delays in enacting what they hope is the first in a series of economic measures. By a bipartisan vote of 61 to 30, the Senate eliminated the final procedural obstacle to approval later this week of a bill that would exempt employers from payroll taxes through the end of the year on newly hired employees who have been out of work for at least 60 days…. – NYT, 3-15-10
  • ObamaCare plays on Americans’ fears: As a candidate for president, Sen. Barack Obama rejected “the politics of fear.” Well, he won. So now he’s playing the fear card to the hilt. Monday President Obama went to Strongsville, Ohio, to warn that unless his ObamaCare passes, middle Americans should be very afraid of the day when they (Fear No. 1) lose their job or income, then (Fear No. 2) fall seriously ill, and then (Fear No. 3) receive the health care they need, but lose valued assets…. – SF Chronicle, 3-15-10 <>
  • Mistress of Edwards Ends Silence on Affair: In an interview with GQ magazine, Rielle Hunter talks publicly for the first time about her relationship with former Senator John Edwards, which began during his presidential campaign. NYT, 3-15-10 CQ Interview
  • Israel rejects U.S. calls to halt East Jerusalem plan: Prime Minister Netanyahu says construction will go ahead, despite a diplomatic flap…. – LAT, 3-16-10
  • US Israel criticism ignites firestorm in Congress: The Obama administration’s fierce denunciation of Israel last week has ignited a firestorm in Congress and among powerful pro-Israel interest groups who say the criticism of America’s top Mideast ally was misplaced. Since the controversy erupted, a bipartisan parade of influential lawmakers and interest groups has taken aim at the administration’s decision to publicly condemn Israel for its announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting on Tuesday and then openly vent bitter frustration on Friday…. – AP, 3-15-10
  • U.S.-Israel crisis: This time, it’s serious: Last summer, when the relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations was getting off to what appeared to be a rocky start, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was at pains — twice — to deny that he had been “summoned” to the State Department for a dressing down. One such “meeting” was actually a friendly phone call, he said, and the other was a routine getting-to-know-you meeting. The distinction was key, he told journalists: When the State Department actually “summons” an envoy, “That’s serious.”… – JTA, 3-15-10 The U.S.-Israeli flap: discuss

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • McCain, Palin to campaign together in Arizona: John McCain and Sarah Palin are scheduled to campaign together in Arizona next week for the first time since they conceded the presidential election in Phoenix in 2008. Palin and McCain will be at a rally and picnic in Tucson on March 26, followed the next day by a rally in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa…. – AP, 3-15-10
  • Democrat Enters N.Y. Governor Race as Republican: Steve Levy, a longtime Democrat, in Manhattan on Friday after announcing his candidacy for governor as a Republican: Fresh off an announcement that jolted the New York political world, Steve Levy, the Long Island Democrat who abandoned his party to run for governor as a Republican, is working to secure endorsements as he tries to gain an edge in the contest for the nomination. His candidacy barely a day old, Mr. Levy, the Suffolk County executive, has already siphoned away the support of several influential county leaders from former Representative Rick A. Lazio, who until this week appeared to be the Republican front-runner…. – NYT, 3-19-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

President Obama, with the vice president at the White House, hailed the passage of the health bill.

  • This is What Change Looks Like: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America’s families and America’s small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.
    Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.
    Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard — it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up — let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you….
    Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense…. – WH, 3-22-10
  • “Make True on that Promise”: Remarks by the President to the House Democratic Congress Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium, Washington, D.C.: In his remarks to the House Democratic Caucus yesterday, President Obama put the upcoming health insurance reform effort into a larger context with some powerful thoughts about how he got invovled in politics and what moments like now mean for the country. …
    And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I’ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.
    Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow. – WH, 3-21-10 WH, 3-21-10
  • Fiery Boehner: ‘Hell no you can’t!’: In his final words from the floor of the House before a vote on health care reform legislation, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) led a fiery round of rhetorical questions….
    “Can you say it was done openly with transparency and accountability, without backdroom deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?,” Rep. Boehner asked. “Hell no you can’t!”
    “Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s assessment?” he asked. “Hell no you haven’t.”
    The acting speaker then banged his gavel, saying calmly, “Both sides would do well to remember the dignity of the House.”
    “By our actions today, we disgrace their values. We break our ties to history in this chamber,” Rep. Boehner said…. – NECN, 3-21-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Urges Action on Financial Reform Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address March 20, 2010: …Now, I have long been a vigorous defender of free markets. And I believe we need a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, offer a new service. But what we have seen over the past two years is that without reasonable and clear rules to check abuse and protect families, markets don’t function freely. In fact, it was just the opposite. In the absence of such rules, our financial markets spun out of control, credit markets froze, and our economy nearly plummeted into a second Great Depression.
    That’s why financial reform is so necessary. And after months of bipartisan work, Senator Chris Dodd and his committee have offered a strong foundation for reform, in line with the proposal I previously laid out, and in line with the reform bill passed by the House.
    It would provide greater scrutiny of large financial firms to prevent any one company from threatening the entire financial system – and it would update the rules so that complicated financial products like derivatives are no longer bought and sold without oversight. It would prevent banks from engaging in risky dealings through their own hedge funds – while finally giving shareholders a say on executive salaries and bonuses. And through new tools to break up failing financial firms, it would help ensure that taxpayers are never again forced to bail out a big bank because it is “too big to fail.”… – WH, 3-20-10
  • Obama appeals to Iranian people in Internet video: In a fresh appeal directly to the Iranian people, President Barack Obama says in an online video that the United States wants more educational and cultural exchanges for their students and better access to the Internet to give them a more hopeful future.
    “The United States believes in the dignity of every human being and an international order that bends the arc of history in the direction of justice — a future where Iranians can exercise their rights, to participate fully in the global economy and enrich the world through educational and cultural exchanges beyond Iran’s borders,” Obama said in the video, which had Farsi subtitles.
    Even though the United States and Iran continue to have differences, Obama said, “we will sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people — for instance, by increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities and through our efforts to ensure that Iranians can have access to the software and Internet technology that will enable them to communicate with each other and with the world without fear of censorship.”…. – USA Today, 3-20-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, carries the gavel that was used when Medicare was passed while walking with other congressional Democrats to the Capitol before the health care vote Sunday.

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, carries the gavel that was used when Medicare was passed while walking with other congressional Democrats to the Capitol before the health care vote Sunday.

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Pelosi emerges as powerhouse in D.C.: The passage of health care will certainly rank as one of the major political achievements of recent decades. Legislation that will eventually extend health care coverage to more than 30 million more Americans, greatly expand the number of options that citizens have when purchasing health care, bring healthy citizens into the pool of the insured and thus lower costs and create important regulations on health care companies will be remembered as one of the biggest domestic policy changes since the Great Society of the 1960s.
    While most attention will focus on President Obama for pulling off a Herculean task that eluded many of our great presidents, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington. She has pursued a clear ideological agenda but through pragmatic political tactics. Like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, she stands for something, yet knows how to round up votes…. – CNN, 3-21-10
  • DAVID E. SANGER: News Analysis A Major Victory, but at What Cost?: The House’s passage of health care legislation late Sunday night assures that whatever the ultimate cost, President Obama will go down in history as one of the handful of presidents who found a way to reshape the nation’s social welfare system. After the bitterest of debates, Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core. Skeptics had begun to wonder. But he showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital onto the table, he could win, if by the narrowest of margins. Whether it was a historic achievement or political suicide for his party — perhaps both — he succeeded where President Bill Clinton failed in trying to remake American health care. President George W. Bush also failed to enact a landmark change in a domestic program, his second-term effort to create private accounts in the Social Security system…. – NYT, 3-22-10
  • With the vote, a new stature for Obama: “Some were saying the bloom was really off the rose,” said Roger Wilkins, a historian and author who served as an assistant attorney general in the Johnson administration. “There’s a ‘Bambi’ quality to him. When you look at him, there’s this lithe young man who likes to play backyard basketball. “I think that everybody who thought that Bambi had moved into the White House knows that’s not true today.” Wilkins continued. “He is one tough fellow, and he has proved himself to be pretty good at politics as well.” – Boston Globe, 3-22-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama risks being called ‘The Undecider’: President Obama has had trouble sticking with his decisions. In several high-profile cases during his first year in the White House, there has been a pattern where the president takes a position on an important matter, feels the political heat for what he has said, and then backs off.
    If President George W. Bush was the self-proclaimed “The Decider” who insisted on staying the course regardless of how many problems emerged with a policy, President Obama is starting to run the risk of becoming known as “The Undecider” who is unable to stand firm after announcing a position. In the case of President Bush, what might have been a source of political strength turned into a political weakness….
    With President Obama, it seems that the danger is just the opposite. On national security, there have been several instances when the president has backed off critical decisions….
    President Obama can’t afford to become “The Undecider.” If he wants to re-energize his presidency and improve his legislative scorecard, opponents need to know that when the White House proposes something it will fight tooth and nail for it. Supporters need to know that when they stand behind the president, he will not walk away. – CNN, 3-18-10

March 15, 2010: Obama Administration Health Care, Education & Israel

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President delivers the Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Republican resurgence among young adults: A new poll shows 18- to 29-year-old Republicans are more politically energized than young Democrats and are more inclined to vote in this fall’s elections. Young adults are also extremely concerned about the economy.
    Forty-one percent of young Republicans say they plan to vote in November, compared with 35 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Independents, according to the poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP), a nonpartisan group. Fifty-three percent of those who voted for Sen. John McCain (R) of Ariz., in 2008 say they will definitely vote in midterm elections, compared with 44 percent of those who voted for President Obama…. – CS Monitor, 3-9-10
  • Poll: Financially pinched, young adults lose faith: Young adults are financially anxious, worried that they can’t meet their educational, housing and health care needs, according to a new poll that exposes a growing pessimism about achieving the American Dream. The poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that six out of 10 of those surveyed worry they may not meet their current bills and obligations. Nearly half of those attending college wonder whether they will be able to afford to stay in school. And more than eight out of 10 said they expect difficulty finding a job after graduation. Fewer than half said they believe they will be better off than their parents when they reach their parents’ age…. – AP, 3-9-10
  • Poll: U.S. has lost global standing under Obama: A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than two years ago and believe President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, according to a poll by two left-leaning groups.
    The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin – 51 percent to 41 percent – Americans think the standing of the United States has dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
    “This is surprising, given the global acclaim – and Nobel peace prize – that flowed to the new president after he took office,” the pollsters said…. – Washington Times, 3-9-10
  • New poll spells potential trouble for Democrats: A new poll on Monday found signs of trouble ahead for President Barack Obama and his Democrats on national security issues such as the handling of terrorism suspects. The poll was conducted jointly by Democratic Corps, a Democratic organization, and Third Way, a progressive non-profit organization. It was done mainly to gauge voters’ views on Democrats’ handling of national security.
    The poll found 60 percent of Americans believe the United States is on the wrong track. It also found that people rated Democrats at about the same level as Republicans, in what amounted to an erosion of the advantage Democrats have held.
    “We would not want the election to be held today, with this poll,” said Democracy Corps’ chief pollster Stan Greenberg. “If the election were held today, this would be a ‘change’ election.”… – Reuters, 3-8-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Agencies lag in following Obama’s openness order: President Barack Obama is having difficulty getting all federal agencies to follow his order to deliver “a new era of open government,” according to a study of how they administer the Freedom of Information Act. The National Security Archive, a private group that publishes declassified government information and uses the act and lawsuits to pry out official records, found a decidedly mixed record in an audit of how 90 agencies responded to Obama directives to open more records, and the guidelines and training sessions that followed from the Justice Department…. – AP, 3-14-10
  • Catholic hospitals support health care bill: A group representing Catholic hospitals is rallying behind President Barack Obama’s health care bill. Support from the Catholic Health Association could help persuade anti-abortion lawmakers to provide critical votes in the House for the overhaul. The group’s chief executive, Carol Keehan, writes on the association’s Web site that the legislation isn’t perfect, but is “a major first step” toward covering all Americans and would make “great improvements” for millions of people….- AP, 3-13-10
  • Reports: U.S. Pressuring Israel to Scrap Building Plan: The controversial plan to build 1,600 apartments was approved during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the region last week…. – AP, 3-15-10
  • GOP Lawmaker: White House Job Offer to Sestak Would Have Been a ‘Crime’: A GOP lawmaker says that the White House committed a “crime” if it offered Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak a federal job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa…. – FOX News, 3-13-10
  • Obama promise: Brighter education futures for kids: President Barack Obama is promising parents and their kids that with his administration’s help they will have better teachers in improved schools so U.S. students can make up for academic ground lost against youngsters in other countries.
    A plan to overhaul the 2002 education law championed by President George W. Bush was unveiled by the Obama administration Saturday in hopes of replacing a system that in the last decade has tagged more than a third of schools as failing and created a hodgepodge of sometimes weak academic standards among states.
    “Unless we take action — unless we step up — there are countless children who will never realize their full talent and potential,” Obama said during a video address on Saturday. “I don’t accept that future for them. And I don’t accept that future for the United States of America.”
    In the proposed dismantling of the No Child Left Behind law, education officials would move away from punishing schools that don’t meet benchmarks and focus on rewarding schools for progress, particularly with poor and minority students. Obama intends to send a rewrite to Congress on Monday of the law…. – AP, 3-13-10
  • Coffee vs. Tea: A political movement is brewing: The new Coffee Party movement deemed its official kickoff Saturday a “huge success,” with dozens of talks held at coast-to-coast coffee shops as members came together to discuss the issues most important to them.
    Billed by many as an answer to the conservative Tea Party movement, the Coffee Party was born on Facebook just six weeks ago. While the group has become an instant hit online — it boasts more than 141,000 Facebook fans as of Saturday — gauging the success of this weekend’s coffee meetups was predicted to be an indicator of the group’s strength…. – CNN, 3-13-10
  • Democrats move toward grouping health reform with student-aid bill: Democratic leaders said Thursday that they were increasingly inclined to release a final health-care bill that could accomplish two of President Obama’s top domestic priorities: guaranteeing coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans and vastly expanding federal aid for college students…. – WaPo, 3-12-10
  • Health Care Bill ‘Still a Jump Ball,’ White House Official Says: Passage of health care reform bill is “still a jump ball,” official tells Fox News, as Democratic leaders point to progress…
    The prospects for Democratic victory on health care reform, the president’s signature domestic initiative, have improved, but “it’s still a jump ball,” a top White House official intimately involved in the ongoing health care negotiations with House and Senate Democrats told Fox News late Friday. That assessment confirms that the White House and Democratic leaders so far lack the votes to pass health care in the House. And it undercuts somewhat the declaration Friday from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that President Obama finally feels the wind at his back on the issue…. – Fox News, 3-12-10
  • Obama prepares for showdown on health care: This time, the President acts as if he has set a deadline he can believe in… – Globe & Mail, 3-12-10
  • Clinton Rebukes Israel for Housing Announcement: In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a “deeply negative signal” about Israeli-American relations, and not just because it spoiled a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
    Such blunt language toward Israel is very rare from an American administration, and several officials said Mrs. Clinton was relaying the anger of President Obama at the announcement, which was made by Israel’s Interior Ministry and which Mr. Netanyahu said had caught him off guard…. – NYT, 2-12-10
  • Scott Brown to give GOP rebuttal to President’s weekly radio address: US Sen. Scott Brown, who was elected on a wave of opposition to current health care reform plans, will give the GOP rebuttal to President Obama’s weekly address as the White House ramps up their reform efforts. The high-profile address comes as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced yesterday he would push to pass the reforms through reconciliation…. – Boston Herald, 2-12-10
  • Senators give Obama a bipartisan plan on immigration: The president is encouraged, but healthcare politics could jeopardize the proposal…. – LAT, 3-12-10
  • At U.N., Clinton rallies for more women’s opportunities worldwide: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told government delegates and activists here Friday that violence against women remains a “global pandemic” and that their “subjugation” constitutes “a threat to the national security of the United States.” Speaking on the final day of a two-week U.N. conference on women’s rights, Clinton urged U.N. member states to expand opportunities for women and end practices that subject them to discrimination and violence…. – WaPo, 3-12-10
  • Dems look to health vote without abortion foes: House leaders have concluded they cannot change a divisive abortion provision in President Barack Obama’s health care bill and will try to pass the sweeping legislation without the support of ardent anti-abortion Democrats. A break on abortion would remove a major obstacle for Democratic leaders in the final throes of a yearlong effort to change health care in the United States. But it sets up a risky strategy of trying to round up enough Democrats to overcome, not appease, a small but possibly decisive group of Democratic lawmakers in the House…. – AP, 3-12-10
  • Dems Abandon Abortion Deal, Ready Health Vote: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel emerged from a meeting in the Capitol with top Democratic lawmakers Thursday night saying, “We made a lot of decisions. We’re getting towards the end.”… – AP, Fox News, 3-12-10
  • Obama Lists Who Will Get Prize Money From Nobel: President Obama has made good on a promise to give his $1.4 million in Nobel Peace Prize money to charity, releasing on Thursday the names of the organizations that will benefit.
    “These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “I’m proud to support their work.”
    Mr. Obama put Fisher House, an organization that provides housing for the families of those being treated at major military and Veterans Affairs medical centers, at the top of the list with a $250,000 donation. Fisher House was followed by the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, the project his two immediate predecessors are running to raise money for relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti, which will get $200,000… – NYT, 3-11-10
  • Senate approves $138-billion spending bill: The legislation, which must be reconciled with the House version, would extend jobless benefits and tax measures created to boost the economy, and help states pay for Medicaid…. – LAT, 3-11-10
  • Key senators balk at adding student loan overhaul to health-care legislation: As they push to finish health-care legislation by the end of the month, Democratic leaders in Congress are weighing whether to add another of President Obama’s priorities to the package: a popular proposal to overhaul the federal student loan program. The move could clear the way for Obama to claim victory on two of his most significant domestic initiatives in a single signing ceremony. Administration officials and House leaders have pressed aggressively for the addition in recent days. But key senators are objecting to the move, arguing that political resistance in the Senate and the rapidly rising cost of the education measure could jeopardize efforts to push health-care reform to final passage…. – WaPo, 3-11-10
  • It’s Obama vs. the Supreme Court, Round 2, over campaign finance ruling: Roberts calls scene at State of the Union ‘very troubling’ In remarks during a question-and-answer session with law students at the University of Alabama, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. protested the timing of President Obama’s State of the Union disapproval of the court’s decision in a major campaign finance case.
    President Obama and the Supreme Court have waded again into unfamiliar and strikingly personal territory. When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told law students in Alabama on Tuesday that the timing of Obama’s criticism of the court during the State of the Union address was “very troubling,” the White House pounced. It shot back with a new denouncement of the court’s ruling that allowed a more active campaign role for corporations and unions…. – WaPo, 3-11-10
  • Bill Clinton, Bill Gates unite in foreign aid plea: Former president Bill Clinton and Microsoft founder Bill Gates called Wednesday on US lawmakers to boost foreign aid to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria in the world’s poorest nations. The leading philanthropists went to Capitol Hill to boost support for the so-called Global Health Initiative (GHI) and promote a crucial health aid budget bill proposed in 2009 by President Barack Obama’s administration.
    “I hope you will pass this bill,” Clinton said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It is a very good bill, I think, and I think it is the next logical step” in US efforts to boost global health care… – AFP, 3-10-10
  • Obama Gets Tough on Health Care Fraud: President Obama continued his drive for a health care overhaul on Wednesday, ordering a crackdown on Medicare and Medicaid waste and fraud, while in Washington, House leaders said they hoped to have a completed bill to present to rank and file members Thursday morning….
    “The health care system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care, and they’re lost each and every year to fraud and abuse and massive subsidies that line the pockets of insurance company executives,” Mr. Obama told about 500 mostly supportive local residents in the gymnasium of St. Charles High School here…. – NYT, 3-10-10
  • Obama backs bipartisan crackdown on healthcare cheats: President Barack Obama, making a final push for healthcare reform, will back bipartisan plans to stamp out waste in government-run medical programs for the old and needy, the White House said on Tuesday… – Reuters, 3-9-10
  • Mitt Romney: Tea Party movement is great as long as they vote Republican: Mitt Romney is supportive of the Tea Party movement but draws the line when it comes to a third party. CS Monitor, 3-9-10
  • Ex-Congressman Massa says groping wasn’t sexual: Former Rep. Eric Massa, a New York Democrat who resigned his seat Monday amid a sexual harassment investigation, goes on TV to defend himself…. – LAT, 3-10-10
  • Obama takes hard-sell health pitch to Pa.: President Obama stepped up pressure Monday on his fellow Democrats to retool the nation’s health care system, decrying those who put politics above policy. Saving his harshest rhetoric for the insurance industry, Obama began his latest attempt to pass his 10-year, $950 billion measure by declaring, “The issue here is not the politics of it.”
    “It’s hard for some members of Congress to make this vote. There’s no doubt about that,” Obama said. In contrast, he said, “What’s hard is what millions of families and small businesses are going through because we allow the insurance industry to run wild in this country.”,…. – USA Today, 3-8-10
  • Obama hails contributions of ‘daring’ women: Crediting their role in the American story, President Barack Obama on Monday praised the nation’s “daring, indomitable” women — including the one-time political rival who is now his secretary of state. “Women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, throughout her career, has put millions of cracks in America’s glass ceiling,” Obama said in the grand East Room packed mostly with women. “It’s because of them — and so many others, many who aren’t recorded in the history books — that the story of America is, ultimately, one of hope and one of progress, of an upward journey.”
    “We’re doing all of this not only because promoting women’s empowerment is one of the best ways to promote economic development and economic success,” Obama said. “We are doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I say that not only as a president, but also as the father of two daughters, as a son and a grandson, and as a husband.” – AP, 3-8-10
  • Joe Biden in Israel to press Mid-East peace talks: US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel to promote a new round of Middle East peace talks more than a year after they stalled. Mr Biden – the highest-ranking Obama administration official to visit the region – will meet both Palestinian and Israeli officials. Iran’s nuclear intentions are expected to be at the top of Israel’s agenda…. – BBC News, 3-8-10
  • Pa. Sen. Arlen Specter is penning a book: Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party last year, is writing a book about his experiences… – USA Today, 3-8-10
  • Healthcare overhaul comes down to Pelosi and Obama: A bill’s fate depends on whether the House Speaker can land enough votes – and whether the president can take control of the debate, which Democrats complain he has not done…. – 3-8-10
  • Democrats Voice Health-Bill Doubts: Some House Democrats wavering over whether to back a health-care overhaul questioned whether it would effectively curb the country’s health costs, highlighting a difficult issue that the White House and congressional leaders must address in the final negotiations on the measure. The issue is one of several that have been raised by Democrats over the bill, which President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are pushing to pass by the end of March. Conservative Democrats have raised questions over the bill’s language on abortion and tax increases, while liberals are unhappy with its failure to include a government plan that would compete with private insurers…. – WSJ, 3-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Voter turnouts for primaries ‘a concern’: The red-hot race in Texas earlier this month between Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination helped drive the state to its biggest primary turnout in 20 years. And just how many people showed up for the election? About 1.5 million Texans cast ballots in the March 2 GOP primary for governor, according to the secretary of State’s office. That means only about 1 in 10 of the 15.3 million Texans 18 and older who were eligible to vote actually cast a ballot, according to Curtis Gans at American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate… – USA Today,
  • McCain campaigns for NH Senate candidate: Arizona Sen. John McCain told New Hampshire voters Saturday that if the current health care bill passes, opponents will immediately launch a nationwide movement to repeal it.
    “We can repeal it, but I would hate to have to have that task; obviously because there’s still the same resident of the White House,” he said at a town hall meeting reminiscent of those he held during his two presidential campaigns.
    On Saturday, McCain was stumping for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Judd Gregg…. – Boston Globe, 3-12-10
  • Bush keeps Crist in his gun sights: Former Gov. Jeb Bush has been increasingly critical of Gov. Charlie Crist, but his election endorsement is still pending. There’s been a lot of speculation about when Jeb Bush will finally make his preference official and endorse Marco Rubio for the Senate. But it strikes us that Rubio is better served for now with the popular ex-governor continuing with his current role: ostensibly neutral and taking increasingly tough shots at Charlie Crist from the sidelines…. – St. Peterberg Times, 3-14-10
  • GOP nominates newcomer to succeed Murtha: Republicans last night selected a political newcomer who has never sought elected office as their nominee in the special election to succeed the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha. Tim Burns, a self-made millionaire from Eighty Four, Washington County, and a native of Mr. Murtha’s hometown of Johnstown, handily defeated Bill Russell, who mounted a strong challenge to Mr. Murtha in 2008…. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3-12-10
  • Palin will make an appearance at fundraiser for Bachmann: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will bring her star power and fundraising prowess to Minnesota next month to help U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann with reelection. Bachmann announced Thursday that Palin will host a fundraising dinner April 7 at a Minneapolis hotel. There will be a private reception and photo opportunity at 4:30 p.m., a general reception at 5 p.m. and a dinner at 6 p.m. It’s not known how much tickets will cost…. – Star Tribune, 3-11-10
  • Cuomo Hands Paterson Case to an Ex-Judge: Facing growing political pressure, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday appointed an independent counsel to take over his office’s investigation into the Paterson administration’s response to a domestic violence case. Mr. Cuomo said Judith S. Kaye, the former chief judge of New York, would lead the inquiry, along with an investigation into whether the governor lied when he was questioned by the State Commission on Public Integrity about his office’s solicitation of Yankees World Series tickets…. – NYT, 3-11-10
  • With a huge lead in Florida polls, Rubio dazzles crowd: The second poll in a week shows him more than 30 points ahead of Gov. Charlie Crist…. – Jacksonville.com, 3-11-10
  • Romney Ties Decision on Presidential Bid to Outcome of November Elections: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suggested Sunday that his decision on whether to run again for president may hinge on the outcome of the November midterm elections….
    “I don’t really have the pros and cons laid out yet,” he said. “It’s something which we won’t have to decide until some time after the November elections. My guess is after those elections are over and we see where the country is, and we see the features in our own lives that may affect a decision like that, we’ll sit down and make a decision.”… – Fox News, 3-8-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) Delivers Weekly GOP Address on Health Care: In the Weekly Republican Address, newly-elected Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts explains that the Democrats running Washington have their priorities all wrong. Sen. Brown says Americans “told me that they want their President and Congress to focus on creating jobs and reviving Americas economy. Instead, for more than a year now, we have seen a bitter, destructive, and endless drive to completely transform Americas health care system.”
    “Somehow,” Sen. Brown notes, “the greater the public opposition to the health care bill, the more determined they seem to force it on us anyway. Their attitude shows Washington at its very worst the presumption that they know best, and theyre going to get their way whether the American people like it or not.”
  • Sen. Brown says, “I havent been here very long, but, I can tell you this much already: Nothing has distracted the attention and energy of the nations capital more than this disastrous detour. And, the surest way to return to the peoples business is to listen to the people themselves: We need to drop this whole scheme of federally controlled health care, start over, and work together on real reforms at the state level that will contain costs and wont leave America trillions of dollars deeper in debt.” – You Tube, 3-13-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama to Send Updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act Blueprint To Congress on Monday Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address March 13, 2010: Under the leadership of an outstanding Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, we launched a Race to the Top, through which states compete for funding by committing to reform and raising standards, by rewarding good teaching, by supporting the development of better assessments to measure results, and by emphasizing math and science to help prepare children for college and careers.
    And on Monday, my administration will send to Congress our blueprint for an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act to overhaul No Child Left Behind. What this plan recognizes is that while the federal government can play a leading role in encouraging the reforms and high standards we need, the impetus for that change will come from states, and from local schools and school districts. So, yes, we set a high bar – but we also provide educators the flexibility to reach it…. – WH, 3-13-10
  • The Conscience of a Florida Conservative: “They voted for somebody they’d never heard of in Barack Obama because he ran on the platform of a very devoted centrist.” That’s the answer from Marco Rubio when asked about his stunning rise to national prominence as a Republican challenger to a popular Republican officeholder in the key electoral state of Florida. Underlying this strange political season, says Mr. Rubio, is the president’s rapid uncloaking in office as anything but the postpartisan that voters thought they had elected. “Within weeks,” says Mr. Rubio, “he began trying to implement what appears to everyone else to be the left-of-center politics of the last 50 years, but in a much more aggressive way, using the excuse of a severe economic downturn as justification for growing and in essence redefining the role of government in America.”… – WSJ, 3-15-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Tevi Troy: Health Care: A Two-Decade Blunder: …Fast-forward 19 years: it is the Democrats who are now faced with divining the results of another underdog’s victory. In January, a little-known state senator named Scott Brown defeated Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in a special election for the United States Senate. Universal health care was once again on center stage. This time around, though, the Republican seized on widespread antipathy to what has come to be seen as an incoherent Democratic scheme for an unworkable federal takeover of health care…. – Commentary Magazine, 4-10
  • Tevi Troy: Nerd is another word for smart Republicans have long been viewed as those who get gentleman’s “C” in the national classroom. In fact, it is almost a liberal trope to call Republican presidents “dumb.”
    Democrats, in contrast, are usually cited as the smart ones in American politics….
    But this simplistic analysis of smart Democrats contrasted with dumb Republicans does not fit reality. – Politico, 3-12-10
  • Fred Greenstein: Obama Gets High Scores on Leadership Report Card: That’s according to presidential historian and author Fred Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University. The author of the new Inventing the Job of President has just updated his initial Obama report card and declared the president a “rare political leader.”
    In a scholarly paper, Barack Obama: The Man and His Early Presidency, Greenstein looks at six key leadership qualities and seems to find that the nation’s first African-American president is up to snuff. “Barack Obama is a fascinating political specimen,” writes Greenstein, whose books include The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama; The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader; and How Presidents Test Reality: Decisions on Vietnam, 1954 and 1965.
    “Indeed,” adds Greenstein, “he may turn out to be the rare political leader who is marked by both a first-rate temperament and a first-rate mind.”… – US News, 3-12-10
  • Julian Zelizer: GOP health care refusal could backfire: Most Republicans have opposed President Obama’s health care bill from the first day he proposed reform. If the House passes the Senate bill in the next few days, it will probably do so without any Republican support.
    Regardless of whether the legislation passes, Republicans can already claim a victory, given that the struggle for legislation has lasted more than a year and tied up the rest of the Democratic agenda….
    Yet Republicans should be wary about celebrating too much. The strategy of obstruction poses significant risks….
    A recent leaked document from the Republican National Committee suggests that the party is planning to base its 2010 campaign on fear and negative attacks, rather than hope and ideas. Sometimes, in the enthusiasm over a battle, armies can lose sight of the war.
    Republicans might have regained their fighting spirit over health care, but the strategy could prove to be costlier than they expect. – CNN, 3-8-10

March 8, 2010: Obama, Passing Health Care Reform

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President delivers the Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: U.S. has lost global standing under Obama: A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than two years ago and believe President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security, according to a poll by two left-leaning groups.
    The Democracy Corps-Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin – 51 percent to 41 percent – Americans think the standing of the United States has dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
    “This is surprising, given the global acclaim – and Nobel peace prize – that flowed to the new president after he took office,” the pollsters said…. – Washington Times, 3-9-10
  • New poll spells potential trouble for Democrats: A new poll on Monday found signs of trouble ahead for President Barack Obama and his Democrats on national security issues such as the handling of terrorism suspects. The poll was conducted jointly by Democratic Corps, a Democratic organization, and Third Way, a progressive non-profit organization. It was done mainly to gauge voters’ views on Democrats’ handling of national security.
    The poll found 60 percent of Americans believe the United States is on the wrong track. It also found that people rated Democrats at about the same level as Republicans, in what amounted to an erosion of the advantage Democrats have held.
    “We would not want the election to be held today, with this poll,” said Democracy Corps’ chief pollster Stan Greenberg. “If the election were held today, this would be a ‘change’ election.”… – Reuters, 3-8-10
  • Bill Clinton Bests Former Presidents to Handle Crisis Today, Newsmax/Zogby Poll Finds: The Newsmax/Zogby poll asked respondents: “Of the current living former presidents, which do you think is best equipped to deal with the problems the country faces today?” Bill Clinton got 41 percent of the vote, trouncing the others in the field of four. George W. Bush received just 15 percent, George H.W. Bush got 7 percent, and Jimmy Carter, just 5 percent. (Only 7 percent of Democrats surveyed opted for Carter.) But 26 percent chose “none,” and 5 percent were “not sure” (figures are rounded). Clinton finished first among Democrats with a solid 69 percent, and among independents (40 percent). George W. Bush far outpaced Clinton among Republicans, 37 percent to 8 percent, although 33 percent of Republicans chose “none.”… – Newsmax, 3-7-10
  • Gallup poll suggests President Obama trusted more than GOP or Congress on healthcare: The Gallup poll results released on Friday, March 5th, 2008 notes: “Americans remain more confident in the health care reform recommendations of President Obama (49%) than in the recommendations of the Democratic (37%) or Republican (32%) leaders in Congress. But these confidence levels are lower than those measured in June, suggesting that the ongoing health care reform debate has taken a toll on the credibility of the politicians involved.”… – Examiner, 3-6-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama takes hard-sell health pitch to Pa.: President Obama stepped up pressure Monday on his fellow Democrats to retool the nation’s health care system, decrying those who put politics above policy. Saving his harshest rhetoric for the insurance industry, Obama began his latest attempt to pass his 10-year, $950 billion measure by declaring, “The issue here is not the politics of it.”
    “It’s hard for some members of Congress to make this vote. There’s no doubt about that,” Obama said. In contrast, he said, “What’s hard is what millions of families and small businesses are going through because we allow the insurance industry to run wild in this country.”,…. – USA Today, 3-8-10
  • Obama hails contributions of ‘daring’ women: Crediting their role in the American story, President Barack Obama on Monday praised the nation’s “daring, indomitable” women — including the one-time political rival who is now his secretary of state. “Women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, throughout her career, has put millions of cracks in America’s glass ceiling,” Obama said in the grand East Room packed mostly with women. “It’s because of them — and so many others, many who aren’t recorded in the history books — that the story of America is, ultimately, one of hope and one of progress, of an upward journey.”
    “We’re doing all of this not only because promoting women’s empowerment is one of the best ways to promote economic development and economic success,” Obama said. “We are doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I say that not only as a president, but also as the father of two daughters, as a son and a grandson, and as a husband.” – AP, 3-8-10
  • Joe Biden in Israel to press Mid-East peace talks: US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel to promote a new round of Middle East peace talks more than a year after they stalled. Mr Biden – the highest-ranking Obama administration official to visit the region – will meet both Palestinian and Israeli officials. Iran’s nuclear intentions are expected to be at the top of Israel’s agenda…. – BBC News, 3-8-10
  • Pa. Sen. Arlen Specter is penning a book: Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party last year, is writing a book about his experiences… – USA Today, 3-8-10
  • Healthcare overhaul comes down to Pelosi and Obama: A bill’s fate depends on whether the House Speaker can land enough votes – and whether the president can take control of the debate, which Democrats complain he has not done…. – 3-8-10
  • Democrats Voice Health-Bill Doubts: Some House Democrats wavering over whether to back a health-care overhaul questioned whether it would effectively curb the country’s health costs, highlighting a difficult issue that the White House and congressional leaders must address in the final negotiations on the measure. The issue is one of several that have been raised by Democrats over the bill, which President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are pushing to pass by the end of March. Conservative Democrats have raised questions over the bill’s language on abortion and tax increases, while liberals are unhappy with its failure to include a government plan that would compete with private insurers…. – WSJ, 3-8-10
  • Abortion and the Health Bill There is no middle ground. Either taxpayers will fund it or they won’t: It’s now becoming clear that Barack Obama is willing to put everything on the table in order to be the president who passes health-care reform. Everything, that is, except a ban on federal funding for abortion. Last September, the president promised that “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.” Yet the legislation most likely to move forward in Congress would be the single greatest expansion of abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The White House knows how to turn Mr. Obama’s September commitment into legislative action. I met with senior White House officials and told them that only adding a so-called Hyde Amendment to the health-care reform bills would fulfill the president’s promise to protect Americans from subsidizing abortion…. – WSJ, 3-6-10
  • New York Gov. David Paterson says he won’t resign: He seems to be using as a guide the consensus of a group of influential black leaders that he should retain his post, despite facing two scandals and declining public support…. – LAT, 3-6-10
  • Obama’s Health Care Push: The Race is On: After months of pleading with President Obama to be more hands on in the health care debate, congressional Democrats are finally getting their wish. First, the president put out his own proposal. Second, he held the Blair House summit (which the White House saw as a way to show once and for all that efforts at bipartisanship are fruitless)…. The time for listening appears to be over. The president is taking charge, and his message is the same one he so sternly delivered Wednesday in his speech at the White House: (1) Here’s my bill. (2) Stop dilly-dallying around and pass it. (3) Now…. – AP, CBS News, 3-5-10
  • Jan Crawford: 9/11 Trial Move an Obama Failure: When President Obama decided to try five accused 9/11 conspirators in a civilian court, they were reversing one of the Bush administration’s most strongly-held beliefs — that terror suspects must be tried in a military court, with fewer constitutional protections afforded other criminal defendants. After a barrage of pressure, it seems they are changing their position, according to Washington Post, which reports that Mr. Obama’s advisors will likely recommend a military trial for the self-professed mastermind of the September 11 attacks…. – CBS News, 3-5-10
  • Romney: Obama is another Jimmy Carter, The former presidential candidate is promoting his book: Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday that President Barack Obama is hurting, not helping, the economy in a way not seen “since the days of Jimmy Carter.” Speaking to the National Press Club as part of a media blitz launching his new book, Romney said that Obama has put too much focus on health care reform and not enough on jobs. Threats to raise taxes on capital gains and add a tax on carbon emissions, Romney added, along with rising deficits also are thwarting the economy. “These are the types of things that have led to the reaction in the private sector that says this is a frightening time,” Romney said. “And rather than encouraging the private sector to grow and add jobs, it has had exactly the opposite effect that the president might have intended. I think this has been the most anti-investment, anti- entrepreneur, anti-employment, anti-job agenda since the days of Jimmy Carter.”… – The Salt Lake Tribune, 3-5-10
  • Congressman Accused of Harassment Resigns: Representative Eric J. Massa, a freshman Democrat from upstate New York who faces an investigation after being accused of harassing a male aide, said Friday that he would resign next week. Mr. Massa was reported to the House ethics committee last month after a member of his Congressional staff accused him of harassment, according to a senior Congressional official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter…. – NYT, 3-5-10
  • Obama looking to give new life to immigration reform: In an effort to advance a bill through Congress before midterm elections, the president meets with two senators who have spent months trying to craft legislation…. – LAT, 3-4-10
  • Obama urges Dems to seize moment on health care: Support from his own party in doubt, President Barack Obama summoned more than a dozen House Democrats to the White House Thursday, pleading with them to put aside their qualms, seize a historic moment and vote for his massive health care overhaul. It’s the opportunity of a generation, he told them — and a chance to revive the party’s agenda after his rough first year in office…. – AP, 3-4-10
  • Obama Meets With House Dems on Health Care: President Obama has been busy today whipping the House’s looming health care vote himself in a series of meetings with House Democrats. The meetings have included progressives who have denounced the Senate bill, which has served as a basis for President Obama’s own proposal, and members of the New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of moderate Democrats…. – The Atlantic, 3-4-10
  • Obama reasserts Volcker rule, Senate bill seen: The Obama administration reasserted its commitment to banning proprietary trading by banks with draft legislative language on Wednesday, despite signs that Congress is unlikely to adopt such a rule. In a scant five pages from the Treasury Department, the administration put a two-year phase-in on its “Volcker rule” to curb “prop trading” — or buying and selling of investments on financiers’ own books unrelated to customer needs. Reuters, 3-4-10
  • Sarah Palin shopping reality TV series Sarah Palin — reality TV star?: The former Alaska governor is teaming with uber-producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) to shop a reality series about her home state, network sources confirm. Palin and Burnett made the rounds at least three of the major broadcasters (NBC, ABC and Fox) while in Los Angeles for her taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” this week…. – Reuters, 3-4-10
  • The $50 question: Grant or Reagan?: Should Ulysses S. Grant, the legendary Union general and 18th president of the United States, be bumped from his 96-year stint on the $50 bill? Yes, according to one North Carolina Republican. Rep. Patrick McHenry announced that he will introduce a measure that would replace Grant’s face with Ronald Reagan’s, just in time for the 40th president’s 100th birthday next February…. – CNN, 3-3-10
  • Congressman Wants Reagan on $50 Bill, Joan Waugh objects to call to replace Grant on the $50 bill with Reagan: “President Reagan is indisputably one of the most transformative presidents of the 20th century,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican, said in a letter to his fellow members of Congress. “Like President Roosevelt on the dime and President Kennedy on the half-dollar, President Reagan deserves a place of honor on our nation’s currency.”
    “I’m outraged,” Joan Waugh, UCLA history professor and the author of “U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth,” told AOL News. “I think it’s a bad idea, and particularly troublesome coming from Southern Republicans.”
    The commanding general who led the North to victory in the Civil War, Grant was not a beloved figure in the Deep South, Waugh says. “But for the rest of the country, he was an incredibly popular two-term president.”… – AOL News (3-3-10)
  • House to Vote on Modified $15 Billion Jobs Bill: The House of Representatives will vote on a $15 billion jobs bill on Thursday after modifying it to address the concerns of centrist Democrats, a House aide said on Wednesday. The Senate, which passed the bill last week, will have to vote on it again before President Barack Obama can sign it into law…. Reuters, 3-3-10
  • Obama names Scott Matheson Jr. to 10th Circuit Court of Appeals: President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he has nominated Scott M. Matheson Jr. to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Matheson — a former U.S. attorney for Utah, gubernatorial candidate and University of Utah law school dean — is currently the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair at the U.’s S.J. Quinney College of Law…. – Deseret News, 3-3-10
  • Scott Brown’s first legislative proposal is ‘Immediate Tax Relief Act for America’s Workers’ amendment: Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown is introducing his first substantive piece of legislation Wednesday morning, the “Immediate Tax Relief for America’s Workers” amendment to provide an six-month cut in payroll taxes for an estimated 130 million taxpayers…. – Washington Examiner, 3-3-10
  • Obama’s new health care reform plan to include GOP ideas: In a last-ditch attempt to craft a bipartisan health care reform bill, President Obama will release a new proposal Wednesday that will include Republican ideas on tort reform and health savings accounts, according to Democratic officials familiar with the plans. But top Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, immediately said the new proposal is not good enough and reiterated calls for the president to scrap the plan and start over. The situation is setting up a likely showdown that top Democrats say will end up with the president trying to pass the health legislation with only Democratic votes through the legislative shortcut of reconciliation… – CNN, 3-2-10
  • Scott Brown to join Senate homeland security, military committees: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who campaigned on the idea of freezing federal worker salaries to control the deficit, may soon get to explore the topic further. Senate Republicans announced Tuesday that Brown will join the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as well as the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees…. – WaPo, 3-2-10
  • In Paterson’s Attempt to Reassure the Public, a Flashback to That ’70s Show: Richard M. Nixon, the only American president who resigned from office, lived for a time in New York City. He was never a central figure in political life here. Yet 16 years after his death, his spirit endures, certainly the part of him that wallowed in self-pity and that deflected responsibility when things went haywire. For some refugees from the 1970s, Nixon came to mind the other day as they watched Gov. David A. Paterson raise his right hand, like a witness at a criminal trial, and swear his innocence. His hand flourish was not particularly Nixonian. But his words were. “I give you this personal oath,” the governor said. “I have never abused my office — not now, not ever.” His statement evoked Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” statement, uttered in 1973 as the horror show known as Watergate enveloped him and ultimately forced him into exile…. – NYT, 3-1-10
  • GOP moderates poised to gain ground in Congress: Several joined with Democrats to block a filibuster on a jobs bill, a watershed moment for this Republican faction…. – LAT, 3-1-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Romney Ties Decision on Presidential Bid to Outcome of November Elections: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suggested Sunday that his decision on whether to run again for president may hinge on the outcome of the November midterm elections….
    “I don’t really have the pros and cons laid out yet,” he said. “It’s something which we won’t have to decide until some time after the November elections. My guess is after those elections are over and we see where the country is, and we see the features in our own lives that may affect a decision like that, we’ll sit down and make a decision.”… – Fox News, 3-8-10
  • Mitt Romney’s pick of John McCain a blow to J.D. Hayworth camp: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s recent endorsement of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s re-election was widely viewed as another sign of how far the relationship between the two fierce rivals from the 2008 Republican presidential primaries has evolved. More cynical observers noted that Romney, a leading GOP 2012 White House prospect, likely wants to remain on the good side of McCain, his party’s 2008 nominee…. – The Arizona Republic, 3-6-10
  • Scott Brown campaigns for McCain in Arizona: Facing the toughest re-election battle of his career, John McCain enlisted a rising star of the Republican Party in a bid Friday to lock down support among conservative primary voters. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown made his first campaign trip as a senator when he visited Arizona. The appearance also marked a key test of Brown’s popularity among Republican activists and his ability to raise contributions for candidates after he recently broke with GOP leadership to side with Democrats in supporting a jobs bill. Brown joined McCain at Grand Canyon University, a small Christian school in Phoenix. “We need good people, honest people, people who are greatly respected, people who are not out for themselves,” Brown told a crowd of about 1,000 people. “And he’s right here,” he said of McCain…. – AP, 3-5-10
  • Gov. Perry defeats Hutchison in Texas GOP primary: Texas Gov. Rick Perry tapped into a rising wave of anti-Washington ire and rode it to an easy Republican primary win over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, once seen as the candidate who could block his march toward four more years in the state’s highest office. Perry emerged from the rancorous battle with Texas’ senior senator and a third candidate backed by some in the tea party movement to face a Democrat in many ways his polar opposite. Former Houston Mayor Bill White, a calm consensus-builder, easily defeated six opponents to win his party’s nomination.
    “Texas voters said no to Washington bureaucrats … and yes to leadership that controls spending, fights for individual freedoms and the United States Constitution,” Perry told cheering supporters at the famous Salt Lick barbecue restaurant in Driftwood, just outside Austin. “Hardworking Texans sent a simple, compelling message to Washington: Quit spending all the money!”… – AP, 3-2-10
  • With Jerry Brown’s move, the governor’s race is on: Jerry Brown’s official entrance into the governor’s race Tuesday begins to frame a key question about who should lead California through its most difficult period in decades: The 71-year-old Brown is billing himself as the experienced veteran of the race, albeit one with “an outsider’s mind” to go with a 40-year record in public service that includes stints as governor, mayor of Oakland and the state’s current attorney general. “The state is in serious trouble,” Brown said in his online candidacy announcement, “and the next governor must have the preparation and the knowledge and the know-how to get California working again. That’s what I offer, and that’s why I’m declaring my candidacy for governor.”… – Sacremento Bee, 3-2-10
  • Zuckerman says he’s not running for NY Senate: Real estate tycoon and newspaper publisher Mortimer Zuckerman won’t run for the U.S. Senate in New York, his newspaper reported Tuesday. Zuckerman, 72, told the Daily News he did not have time to campaign or to devote himself to working in Washington. “It demands unhindered attention, which I am unable to give at this time,” he said…. – AP, 3-2-10
  • Jerry Brown to announce bid for governor Tuesday: California’s attorney general, who was twice elected governor in the 1970s, is expected to officially launch his candidacy online… – LAT, 3-2-10
  • Ford Decides Not to Run for Senate Seat: Harold E. Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who has sought to parlay his star power and Wall Street connections into a political career in New York, has decided not to challenge Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in the Democratic primary this September, according to friends and advisers…. – NYT, 3-1-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: Health Reform Will Benefit American Families and Businesses This Year Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address March 6, 2010: Now, despite all the progress and improvements we’ve made, Republicans in Congress insist that the only acceptable course on health care is to start over. But you know what? The insurance companies aren’t starting over. I just met with some of them on Thursday and they couldn’t give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums – by as much as 60% in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this. They will continue to drop people’s coverage when they need it. They will continue to refuse coverage based on pre-existing conditions. These practices will continue. That’s why we must act now. That’s why the United States Congress owes the American people an up-or-down vote on health insurance reform…. – WH, 3-6-10
  • Obama turns up the heat for health care overhaul: Facing a tough political environment, President Barack Obama on Saturday turned up the heat for the health care overhaul that has been his top priority for a year yet has not been passed by Congress. The president used his weekly radio and Internet address to attempt to sway a public that has soured on the topic — and especially Democratic lawmakers who are wavering. Republicans, recognizing the public’s mood, are repeating their call to start from scratch on a proposal that would potentially reshape how all Americans receive health care.
    “Now, despite all the progress and improvements we’ve made, Republicans in Congress insist that the only acceptable course on health care is to start over. But you know what? The insurance companies aren’t starting over,” Obama said in prepared remarks. “I just met with some of them on Thursday, and they couldn’t give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums — by as much as 60 percent in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this.” – AP, 3-6-10
  • Cable Exclusive With Mitt Romney on Explosive New BookFox News, 3-3-10
  • President Obama Follows Up on Thursday’s Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform: Thank you again for the time, energy, and preparation you invested in last Thursday’s bipartisan meeting on health insurance reform. I have always believed that our legislative process works best when both sides can discuss our differences and common goals openly and honestly, and I’m very pleased that our meeting at Blair House offered the American people and their elected representatives a rare opportunity to explore different health reform proposals in extraordinary depth.
    The meeting was a good opportunity to move past the usual rhetoric and sound-bites that have come to characterize this debate and identify areas on which we agree and disagree. And one point on which everyone expressed agreement was that the cost of health care is a large and growing problem that, left untended, threatens families, businesses and the solvency of our government itself.
    I also left convinced that the Republican and Democratic approaches to health care have more in common than most people think… – WH, 3-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Donald Ritchie: Partisan bickering in Washington is nothing new: “We’ve had partisanship ever since we’ve had federal government,” Senate historian Donald Ritchie said. “Bipartisanship is really the exception to the rule.” AP, 3-6-10
  • Matt Dallek: Health reform’s last stand: “It’s most likely the end of bipartisanship on health care,” said Matt Dallek, a historian and visiting scholar with the Bipartisan Policy Centre, a think-tank created by moderate former lawmakers in Washington. Dallek said a mix of political calculations and ideology had doomed the chances of passing a bill with broad support…. – DPA, 3-8-10
  • Al Felzenberg: Advice to House: Don’t Take Any Obama Wooden Nickels The Senate may trick the House into passing its bill: “It’s always a bad sign when a chief executive tells members of Congress of his own party to ignore the politics,” says presidential historian Al Felzenberg. “It usually means he’s got a bad product.” – WSJ, 3-5-10
  • Julian Zelier: Democrats face health care hurdles amid talk of reconciliation: Julian Zelizer, a political historian and CNN.com contributor, said the Democratic leadership must be proactive in responding to reconciliation criticism.
    “They will have to explain that reconciliation is a legitimate process by pointing to the history,” he said in a CNN.com commentary. “They will also have to connect the dots for voters frustrated with the ineffective government by explaining that the constant use of the filibuster has turned the Senate into a supermajority institution where both parties have found it extraordinarily difficult — virtually impossible — to pass major legislation.” CNN, 3-1-10
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