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November 28, 2012

Pa.'s Shuster to chair transportation committee

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., was elected chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday by the House of Representatives Republicansfor the upcoming 113th Congress. The 52-year-old, seven-term Altoona-area lawmaker scored a plum post that puts him in position to help Pennsylvania with its highway and transportation needs. Shuster's 9th Congressional District covers south-central to southwestern Pennsylvania.

The large committee has jurisdiction over roads, aviation, maritime and waterborne transportation, mass transit and railroads

"Transportation issues are among the most critical that we face in Congress and as a nation," Shuster said in a statement. "Working together in the 113th Congress, the committee will focus on strengthening America's transportation networks to make us more efficient, more competitive, and more prosporous."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, hailed Shuster as "an experienced and well respected member of our conference and as the incoming chairman of the transportation and infrastructure committee his leadership will be critical to our important work next Congress."


The White House, awash in holiday cheer

Michelle Obama unveiled the 2012 holiday decorations at the White House, kicking off a season that will bring 90,000 guests to the first family's adopted house.

Obama5There are a whopping 54 Christmas trees, including the official one, as well as handmade decorations, wreaths, candles, bows, topiaries, stars, lights and garland. 

The 300-pound gingerbread house consists of more than 175 pounds of gingerbread and 50 pounds of chocolate.

The combination of wheat, rye, and white-flour gingerbread mimics the color of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the house was first painted white.

It even includes chandeliers that light up, the First Lady’s garden and, of course, Bo, the first family's dog.

Continue reading "The White House, awash in holiday cheer" »

President Obama on Susan Rice: "Couldn't be prouder"

President Obama today offered an unqualified boost to Susan Rice, the UN ambassador under fire from Republicans for her appearance on several Sunday TV talk shows after the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.

"Susan Rice is extraordinary," Obama said in response to a question shouted at him before a Cabinet meeting. "I couldn't be prouder of the job she's done."

Obama's remarks come after Rice's second closed door meeting with Republican senators, including Maine's Susan Collins, who told reporters she was troubled by Rice's remarks.

Press Secretary Jay Carney earlier dismissed what he called an "obsessive focus" on Rice's TV appearance, calling it "misplaced and misguided." He said she was using "unclassified talking points that were developed by the intelligence community, and provided not just to her, not just to the executive branch, but to the legislative branch. And they represented the best assessment by our intelligence professionals about what had happened in Benghazi at that time."

Continue reading "President Obama on Susan Rice: "Couldn't be prouder"" »

Obama launches a new Twitter hashtag over tax breaks

President Obama is launching into full campaign mode to convince Congress to extend tax breaks for people making less than $250,000. The effort includes a trip Friday to Pennsylvania -- and a photo opp and Twitter launch today to encourage taxpayers to prod their members of Congress.

"The place where we already have, in theory at least, complete agreement right now is on middle-class taxes," Obama said from the White House, a crowd of supporters behind him. "If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year. Starting January 1st, every family in America will see their taxes go up."

To amp up the pressure -- Republicans want to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts -- Obama is asking taxpayers to share what the estimated $2,000 would pay for -- and share it with their member of Congress.

"Write them an email, post it on their Facebook walls," Obama said. "You can tweet it using the hashtag 'My2K.' Not 'Y2K.' 'My2K.' "

The White House is retweeting the responses: "#My2k is almost one entire monthly paycheck," one woman wrote. "3 months of rent. It's food for a year. 5 student loan payments. It's life."

WH suggests Obama-Romney lunch a celebration of democracy

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said there's no agenda for tomorrow's lunch between President Obama and his vanquished challenger, Republican Mitt Romney.

But he suggested the closed-door meal could be seen as a celebration of U.S. democracy, noting "we consistently have elections...without violence, anguish and disruptions" seen in other countries.

Despite a request from Fox News' Ed Henry, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, no cameras will be allowed to record the event.

"We're going to let the two men who spent a great deal of time in the public eye over the course of the past year, both of them, have a private lunch together," Carney said.

Obama said at his first post-election press conference that Romney had had some ideas he agreed with; but Carney -- asked about whether Romney might be up for an open Commerce Department slot -- said Obama "does not have a specific assignment for Gov. Romney."

Moderate GOP senator has concerns about Rice

Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, Wednesday echoed concerns of her more conservative Republican colleauges about the possibility of embattled United Nationa Ambassador Susan Rice being nominated secretary of state following her comments about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

Collins and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., met with Rice behind closed doors Wednesday morning.

"I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go in the Sunday shows to present the administration position," Collins told reporters after a 95-minute session with Rice. "In addition, it is interesting to me that ambassador Rice emphasized in her presentation not that this was terrorist attack by al Qaida but rather it had begun with a protest, that we now know was non-existent."

Collins went on to say that she was "very troubled" that Rice was assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in 1998 when embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed. The senator said there are eerie similarities between the Benghazi and Tanzania and Kenya attacks in that diplomats at all three facilities repeatedly requested additional security but were turned down by the State Department.

"Ambassador Rice said (at) the beginning of our session that she felt the real issue here was the protection of our people and our facilities," Collins said. "And I agree. And that's why her actions and whether or not lessons were learned from the 1998 attacks on our embassies in Africa are important questions. And I have asked for additional information there." 

Collins said it's premature for her to say whether or not she could support a Rice nomination to replace departing Sectretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama hasn't formally nominated Rice and White House officials have declined to say whether the president intends to choose Rice.

"I would need to have additional information before I could support her nomination," she said. "There are many different players in this. And there is much yet to be learned."

But Collins made it clear that she would prefer that Obama nominate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to the Foggy Bottom post over Rice.

"I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," Collins said.






Obama to hold first post-election Cabinet meeting

President Obama will hold his first meeting with his Cabinet since his re-election win this afternoon, according to his public schedule.

Several of those Cabinet members are expected to leave in the coming months, leaving Obama searching for replacements for key vacancies.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have said they’ll step down. (One of the top contenders for State has run into some opposition on Capitol Hill.)

No other Cabinet members have said they plan to leave, but the heads of the departments of Defense, Justice and Transportation may quit in the coming months. The position of commerce secretary already is vacant.

Check out our story on vacancies and possible replacements.

Obama and Romney to meet Thursday

President Obama will have lunch with former Governor Mitt Romney at the White House on Thursday, the White House announced Wednesday.

It will be the first meeting between the two since Obama won re-election over Romney three weeks ago.

In his statement, Press Secretary Jay Carney said there will be "no press coverage of the meeting." 

November 27, 2012

House Republicans recommend committee chairs

    House of Representatives Republicans will formally pick committee chairmen Wednesday for the 113th Congress, which starts in January.
    Here are the recommendations from the House Republican Steering Committee:

Agriculture – Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)

Appropriations – Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)

Armed Services – Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)

Budget – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Education and the Workforce – Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

Energy and Commerce – Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)

Financial Services – Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)

Foreign Affairs – Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA)

Homeland Security – Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX)

Intelligence – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)

Judiciary – Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

Natural Resources – Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA)

Oversight and Government Reform – Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Rules – Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Science, Space, and Technology – Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

Small Business – Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)

Transportation and Infrastructure – Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA)

Veterans’ Affairs – Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL)

Ways and Means – Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)

White House defends Obama's trip to Pennsylvania

President Obama doesn't have any meetings yet scheduled this week with members of Congress -- but he's traveling to Pennsylvania on Friday to press his case on how they can averting a looming fiscal crisis.

But press secretary Jay Carney insisted the trip wasn't "about politics.

"It's about a policy debate that's happening in Washington," Carney said.


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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