US Politics Digest: Hagel vote put back, Republicans cold on Obama’s SOTU and more


Top News

Final vote on Hagel pushed back
A Senate vote on whether to confirm Pentagon hopeful Chuck Hagel has been deferred, amid Republican demands for extra time to consider his nomination and calls for the White House to provide answers on unrelated questions.

barack-obamaA motion to cut off a GOP filibuster launched against Hagel’s nomination failed by just one vote on Thursday after senate Majority leader Harry Reid agreed to postpone a final judgement until the end of a scheduled recess. Reid had initially planned a vote on Hagel today but changed course following signals from top Republicans that the Nebraskan might be confirmed once a ten-day holiday was out the way.

GOP senators joined the filibuster for a variety of reasons. Defence hawks John McCain and Lindsey Graham had pledged to hold up Hagel until they received answers from the Obama administration regarding the attack on America’s consulate in Benghazi. Others sought to raise questions about the sources of Hagel’s income or preserve certain procedural rights within the upper chamber. President Obama has labelled use of the filibuster ‘unfortunate’.

The filibuster came after the Senate Armed Services Committee endorsed Hagel for the post of defence secretary. Members of the panel voted along party lines in an ill-tempered session which saw Democratic senators lash out at their Republican colleagues for implying Hagel was inappropriately linked to foreign nations such as Iran or North Korea. Hagel has since been accused by right-wing outlets of having ties to a non-existent terror group and of once having branded the State Department an adjunct of the Israeli foreign ministry.

In other news, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew came through a confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Senators McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayotte have said they will hold up CIA nominee John Brennan’s appointment over Benghazi. Their colleague from Kentucky Rand Paul is also dragging out Brennan’s nomination over the covert use of drones. 

Republicans cool on Obama’s SOTU measures

GOP legislators have given a tepid reception to proposals unveiled by President Obama in his State of the Union address.

During his keynote speech on Tuesday, Obama advocated increasing the minimum wage by over 20%, urged the expansion of preschool education and threatened executive action if Congress did not come up with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Obama also unveiled a presidential commission on voting rights, doubled down on his support for immigration reform and again backed tougher gun control.

The President has been following up his address with visits across the country designed to boost support for his agenda. However, Republicans have already signalled their scepticism about some of the policies he put forward. House Speaker John Boehner castigated Obama’s proposed minimum wage hike as a job killer, while South Dakota Senator John Thune queried how Obama planned to pay for greater access to early education.

One or two GOP lawmakers did imply they were willing to work with Obama on immigration (see below) and aspects of gun control. Critical reaction to the State of the Union was largely positive, although pundits differed on what they thought the president was trying to accomplish.

Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake said Obama had used his address to ‘go big on guns’ and make a ‘major play’ on climate change, a view contradicted by The National Journal’s political commentator Ron Fournier.

TPM’s Josh Marshall suggested Obama had tried to go beyond the normal list of policy aspirations, noting the lengthy passage devoted to educating the public about the sequester.

Foreign Policy’s Aaron Miller meanwhile argued Obama had stressed the need to fix America’s ‘broken house’ over dealing with major foreign policy challenges such as North Korea and Syria.Florida Senator Marco Rubio delivered a rebuttal on behalf of the Republican party which was well-received but overshadowed by his awkward use of a water bottle. Rand Paul gave a response for the Tea Party.

Related polling: [PPP] [WaPo]

Senate Dems agree on sequester plan

Democratic senators have settled on the details of a package aimed at averting sizeable spending cuts due to take effect at the start of March.

The Huffington Post revealed on Thursday that members of the Democratic caucus were agreed on $120 billion of savings to replace the sequester until December of this year. The package is made up of $55bn in revenue and $55bn in new cuts, as well as an additional $10bn of interest savings. It is uncertain whether this offer will win support from Republicans, especially with Speaker Boehner still demanding gargantuan cuts in the federal budget.

The Hill had earlier reported that several progressive senators were concerned with Majority Leader Reid and President Obama’s decision to advocate a 50-50 ratio of revenue rises and spending reductions in negotiations with Republicans. The lawmakers were concerned Obama and Reid would concede further ground on revenue as talks unfolded. Reid refused to back down, arguing an alternative should include “equal amounts of revenue and cuts.”

In a related development, GOP chiefs have aggressively sought to blame President Obama for creating the spending cuts. Speaker Boehner’s office said Obama bore more responsibility for resolving the current impasse as he was the first person to insist on the reductions, even though the Ohioan enthusiastically embraced them two years ago. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy also dubbed the package an “Obamaquester”, a quip that has angered the White House and fiscal conservatives who want Republicans to own the legislation.

WH eases tension over immigration trigger

The White House has downplayed suggestions it will not accept a final deal on immigration if a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens is made contingent on the security of the southwestern border.

Administration spokesman Tom Earnest said on Thursday that keeping reforms to the immigration system separate from a security ‘trigger’ was not a dealbreaker for the president. Obama himself told Senate Democrats in a private meeting on Wednesday that both border security and a pathway should be key planks of a bipartisan deal.

Senator Marco Rubio – who has been pushing the link between security and a pathway as part of bipartisan efforts to overhaul the immigration system – had earlier called on Obama to “accept the principle that security triggers must be met” before undocumented immigrants could apply for a green card. His intervention was prompted by comments from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who told the Senate that the security issue was too often invoked in the immigration debate as an excuse not to address “underlying problems”.

The section on immigration in President Obama’s State of the Union speech won plaudits from some Republican lawmakers. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan said he thought Obama had made a “productive” contribution, and many of his colleagues joined Democrats in publicly applauding the president’s words on the subject.  Speaker Boehner has indicated he will not call a vote on reform until he has seen the substance of legislation, although a group of representatives is currently attempting to craft a cross-party bill for the House’s consideration.

Veteran NJ senator calls it quits

New Jersey’s Senior Senator Frank Lautenberg will today announce he is not seeking re-election in 2014. The 89-year old was facing a primary challenge from Newark Mayor Cory Booker but had until recently insisted he would run for another term. Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone is now expected to challenge Booker.

Renewed questions for Menendez over donor affair

There has been no let-up in the pressure on the Garden State’s other senator Bob Menendez, who this week sought to bat away further accusations of misconduct.

Fox News spoke to sources on Tuesday who claimed Menendez had not acknowledged another flight he took to the Dominican Republic on a plane belonging to controversial donor Salomon Melgen. The trip was said to have taken place in 2008, and enabled the Senator to attend a private golf tournament in the Caribbean Island. The New York Times has meanwhile alleged Menendez discouraged the US government from donating port security gear to the Dominican Republic, lest it undermine the work of a firm part-owned by Melgen.

Menendez’s office has come out swinging against suggestions he accepted another flight from Melgen, describing the Fox report as “absolutely false”. However, his position as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is increasingly in doubt. The Times’s editorial board has called on Menendez to relinquish his chairmanship, while fellow Democrats on the panel are linking their support for him to an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Related polling: [Monmouth]

Band of House Republicans presses leadership on domestic violence law

A group of Republican representatives has called on the Speaker and House Majority Leader to enact a new version of the Violence Against Women Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

17 GOP congressmen sent a letter to John Boehner and Eric Cantor urging them to pass legislation designed to reduce domestic violence and protect women who are subjected to it. Boehner has hinted he could take up the Senate’s bill, but some members of his caucus have quibbled with a provision that would allow Native American tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of domestic violence offences against Indian victims. Native American activists have argued this change is necessary to curtail the large number of assaults on Indian women committed by non-Indian abusers.

News in Brief

  • Shooting victims testify at fresh Senate hearing [ABC News]; LaPierre slams president in SOTU response [TPM]
  • Obama in tribute to outgoing Pope [USA Today]
  • First family to take short vacation in Florida [Huff Post]
  • Israeli officials produce schedule for Obama visit [Politico]; Barak meets Panetta for last time [Al-Monitor]
  • US, EU set timetable for trade agreement [FT]
  • Allen given time to decide on NATO role [NYT]
  • Row over Bin Laden Navy SEAL healthcare claims [Huff Post]
  • Pentagon extends some benefits to same-sex couples [NYT]
  • Senators demand Obama act on LGBT workplace rights [WaPo]
  • Prez reappoints labour board members [NYT]; Senate GOP huddles with case lawyer [National Review]
  • Medicare may get confirmed director [WaPo]
  • NC governor says no to Medicaid expansion [WRAL] Walker declines but expands coverage [WaPo]
  • Landrieu in with fighting chance of re-election [PPP]
  • McConnell up nine in matchup with Judd [WaPo]
  • Senior GA conservative deferring decision on Senate bid until May [WaPo]
  • House of Cards takes Washington by storm [BuzzFeed]
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  • Newsbot9

    Yes yes, keep conflating yourself to everyone else.

  • Mick

    You’re one to talk, a cliche like you considering himself a genuine leftist.

    Oh, hang on…….

    Poor little Newsbot.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah yes, No True Scotsman. Is there an cliche you won’t use on yourself?

    Keep telling everyone else they’re poor and small like you!

  • Mick

    You’re the one who says kids are meat. And I suspect you think I conflate is because you think I’m as silly as you are.

    Poor little Spambot.

  • Mick

    Poor little Newsbot, the cliche machine!

  • Newsbot9

    Yes, keep confusing me with the mouse in your mirror.

  • Newsbot9

    Yes yes, you’re a spammer. And you’re not silly, you’re dangerous. Keep denying the class war cliche you’re using!

  • Mick

    If I was,it would still take one to know one.

    And I present a danger to poor little Newsbot? Proves you’re not so big after all.

  • Mick

    No, you’re not very big are you.

    Poor little Newsbot.

  • Newsbot9

    Nope, that’s another one of your cliches. And you’re a danger to this country. Your ideological buddies attempts to attack me personally haven’t ended well for them.

    And keep claiming that your internal “proofs” relate to the real world.

  • Newsbot9

    Yes, keep confusing the mouse in the mirror with me. Very confusing for you. It’s your world which is small and scary to you, not the real world to me.

  • Mick

    ALL those enemies can’t take down poor little Newsbot?!

    My word, however haven’t you become Prime Minister by now?!

  • Newsbot9

    Keep on pretending your far right are something special.

  • Mick

    If you see a mouse in the mirror, then it’s your own reflection.

    Logic. Which little Newsbot doesn’t have.

  • Newsbot9

    You can’t figure out that you see yourself in your mirror I see. Keep thinking everyone is like you!

  • Mick

    I’m not on the far right. But even if I was, they’re STILL more popular than mutualists!

    Get lessons from the BNP on winning elections. They have won more than your lot!

  • Mick

    Actually, everyone’s unique. Except Newsbot, who tries to be like the other mutualists.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah right, you’re on the extreme right. And you think that thugs are more popular than the Co-Op, John Lewis, etc.

    And why would I take a lesson in now to be an ineffectual and worthless, losing what gains I had because my councillors didn’t do their jobs?

  • Newsbot9

    You’re a snowflake, just like the other snowflakes you demand line up and be like you. As ever, you don’t have any idea about mutualism’s support for individualism, so unlike your totalitarianism.

  • Mick

    I am like a snowflake – completely unlike any other and floating down serenely.

    But poor little Newsbot and his pals, however, are the slush in the gutter. Which is why his people haven’t won as many elections as the BNP!

  • Newsbot9

    Why, it’s almost like we’re not top-down command and control types. You keep calling workers “slush in the gutter”, it’s always been bottom-up workers organisations who have defeated you. And always will.

    (There’s also the moderately mutualist cooperative party, who have more Cooperative & Labour MP’s than your BNP, but details!)

    And I see, you think you’re alone in the cold dark night. And that you’re superior to everything else..typical then.

  • Mick

    I don’t back the BNP. Just comparing like for like, such as the BNP and the mutuialists. Or Socialist Workers Party or Communist Party.

    And at least the BNP had a chance to get in. You people never got in at all!

  • Mick

    No, I call Newsbot slush in the gutter, compared to the snowflakes of people in the Public. And people in the public are a true variation.

    Well, where’s your co-operative Labour people now, eh? In the gutter with all the slush!

  • Newsbot9

    That’s right, keep trying to melt workers, unlike your amazing perpetual snowflakes in your 1%.

    Keep mistaking me for a Labourite, and keep trying to end democracy here.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah, I see, the BNP are not extreme enough for you. And you keep trying to conflate parties together like you conflate people.

    Keep pretending the BNP had any chance. More than you, but still..

  • Mick

    No, the BNP are like the mutualists, SWP or Communists because they are all small groups on the fringes.

    Well, the BNP had two MEPs and a stack of councillors once. And they still scare our masters in Parliament. Which isn’t the worst luck in the world for them.

  • Mick

    No, you told me you were worse than Labour. And I believe you.

    And if the workers are so good, why have they never elected Spambot to tell them what to think? THEY are not mutualists.

  • Newsbot9

    The BNP managed to lose them all through incompetence. And they are scary because they’re dangerous thugs.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah, you’re making things up again. And you really can’t understand the concept of bottom-up organisation I see…too fixated on your command and control top-down organisation.

  • Mick

    ..Whilst the SWP or Communists are EVEN MORE incompetent by not getting elected at all!

    And your co-operatives are also nowhere to be seen.

  • Mick

    You can only look from the bottom up as you’ll never be in power.

    And if you are, it WILL be a top-down rule, as all government is.

  • Newsbot9

    Yes yes, keep ignoring the cooperative party. Which is related to, but not the same as mutualism. Keep ignoring organisations like 38 Degrees as well, which have inflicted such painful defeats on your right.

    Keep thinking that everything depends on the number of MP’s you get elected…typical linear thinking on your part.

  • Newsbot9

    Why would we want to be “in power”. Again, you’re too fixated with command and control to realise what’s going on in the world. But that’s hardly unusual for your 1%, you think you can buy anything.

  • Mick

    Everything depends on whether the MPs are any good.

    And the co-operative party is so on the margins that it can’t get anywhere without hanging from the shirt tails of LABOUR. And what’s more, they ban members from being in any other party.

    Some co-operation!

  • Newsbot9

    Yes, now you’re moving the goalposts when you’ve thoroughly been debunked. Keep running!

  • Mick

    You want to be in power because that’s how you run the country by your dogma. You can’t just expect Labour to change, especially as they don’t really need the co-ops. And face it, the public don’t even know you exist.

    You need a movement, party, manifesto, election machine and plans for government. But if you keep a them-and-us attitude between yourselves and the world, people won’t be attracted.

  • Newsbot9

    Incorrect, you’re confusing my goals and yours again.

    For your top-down machine you do. Not for bottom-up organisations.

  • Mick

    Well how do you expect a country to be mutualist if you can’t be bothered to even run for election? That’s the only way to do it, as indeed you know by your movement hanging onto Labour.

    And there youy go again with your ‘them and us’ attitude.

  • Newsbot9

    I don’t. You’re confusing your goals and mine again. And the Cooperative Party is not “my” movement. I’m not associated with them.

    And nope, you’re the one who is dividing the world into you and your buddies and everyone else. I’m quite happy to be in the messy, pluralistic real world.

  • Mick

    Well that’s that then. You can’t tell me how, why, where and when Mutualism will be the nation’s ethos. You just go around blaming me for all the synthetic crimes you can think of.

  • Mick

    As I say below, you have no answers about how, when, why, if and how your policies can serve the nation.

    Smears against me mean nothing if you can’t explain yourself.

  • Newsbot9

    Nope, you simply don’t know. And I’m certainly not going to waste my time giving YOU the answers.

  • Newsbot9

    I don’t want to it be “the nation’s ethos”. You’re conflating your goals with mine again.

    And no, the people you’re trying to kill are not synthetic.

  • Mick

    What kind of debating tactic is that? Doing it your way, there would have been no point in Boswell writing his life of Dr. Johnson.

    Every time Boswell would have asked Johnson a question, Johnson would have said ‘I’m not wasting time telling YOU!’

    Anarchists. They wonder why people don’t understand them!

  • Mick

    Well there is. You can’t answer questions, so all you’ve left is spam again. As you’ll prove…

  • Newsbot9

    Why would I need to prove the contention you filled some time ago?

  • Newsbot9

    You seem to think that screaming at people is debating. And why would I want you to understand me? That’s just giving you free amo.

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