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February 28, 2013

McCain: Senate sequester votes a "charade"

Sen. John McCain didn't hold back Thursday on his thoughts about pending Senate votes on Democratic and Republican alternative bills to prevent more than $85 billion in automatic federal spending cuts from kicking in - a process called sequester.

"What we're about to go through is in some respects a charade because we know that the proposal on that (Democratic) side will not succeed with 60 votes...The proposal on this side of the aisle will not succeed with 60 votes," McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor. "Meanwhile  the clock moves on until some time tomorrow night."


Gallup: Americans split on whether sequester will harm personal finances

A new Gallup poll released Thursday found Americans divided about the impact of the automatic spending cuts due to take effect later this week.

44 percent said their personal finances would get worse, while 45 percent said they would not.

The survey, taken Feb. 25-26, also found Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to say the sequester should be allowed to happen, 40 percent vs. 34 percent.

A Gallup analysis explained, "Republicans are in fact divided over whether their member of Congress should let the budget sequestration go into effect as scheduled or vote for legislation to avert it (43 percent vs. 40 percent), whereas, by 47 percent to 34 percent, Democrats would rather avert it.

"In other words, Republicans -- who are paying significantly closer attention to the news about sequestration than Democrats -- are less eager than Democrats to prevent sequestration. At the same time, they are more concerned than Democrats that sequestration will have negative consequences for the economy this year and themselves personally," Gallup said.

The analysis saw many reasons for this divergence in Republicans' views.

"One possible explanation is that some Republicans may believe sequestration will cause short-term economic harm, but support it because they believe it will be beneficial in the long term," Gallup said. "Alternatively, Republicans may be more inclined than Democrats to ascribe negative results to cuts the federal government makes when the president is a Democrat. A third possibility: Republicans may legitimately believe the sequestration cuts would be harmful, but perceive that triggering sequestration will either force more responsible cuts to be enacted or cause more political harm to President Barack Obama than to the Republicans."

To read more: http://www.gallup.com/poll/160736/majority-says-sequestration-harm-economy.aspx

A threat? Woodward tells Sperling he welcomes "a little heat"

Politico has obtained emails exchanged between the White House and Bob Woodward that the Washington Post editor Wednesday said show were part of a White House threat that he'd "regret" writing a column that said Obama was "moving the goal posts" on sequestration.

Woodward on Wednesday told Politico and CNN that the White House reacted furiously to a column he wrote last weekend -- and threatened that he'd "regret" his words.

But the email exchange -- posted Thursday -- suggests Woodward was intially fine with the exchange, writing back that "This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should (be) more given the importance."

Woodward wrote that Obama was "moving the goal posts" by initially agreeing with House Speaker John Boehner to impose spending cuts only -- and not tax revenues -- in hammering out the details of the sequester. The White House says Obama has consistently pressed for a mix.

Woodward told CNN that a senior administration official emailed him and told him he'd "regret" writing the column. He went on to tell CNN that it makes him "very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'you're going to regret doing something that you believe in.' "

Woodward read the e-mail to Politico, which said the veteran Washington journalist made clear that he saw the words as a threat. He went on to tell Politico that the White House communications shop must "be willing to live in the world where they're challenged."

Continue reading "A threat? Woodward tells Sperling he welcomes "a little heat"" »

February 27, 2013

Bloomberg on gun bills: "It's up to Congress"

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters after a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House that he was pleased with the efforts the Obama administration was making in trying to urge Congress to act on bills to curb gun violence.

I walked away just thoroughly convinced that he and the president and this whole administration is committed, committed as you can possibly be to help end the scourge of gun violence," he said.

Earlier, Bloomberg said he met with four senators -- Republicans Susan Collins and John McCain and Democrats Mark Kirk and Harry Reid.

"I did walk away thinking that while none of them made a specific commitment...I walked away comfortable that they understand the issue and that they will be there."

"I can't handicap Congress...It's up to Congress. What I care about is results. I don't care about who gets credit." 

When do the spending cuts go into effect?

You know things are bad when the two sides can't even agree on when the deadline is they have bickering about for weeks.

White House officials say the cuts will take effect 12:01 a.m. Friday. Republicans on Capitol Hill say it's 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

What difference does it make?

Republicans are accusing President Obama of calling a meeting with congressional leaders Friday at the White House after the deadline has passed.

Obama did speak briefly -- for only a matter of minutes -- with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wednesday when the president joined leaders to dedicate a statute to Rosa Parks at the Capitol.

Continue reading "When do the spending cuts go into effect?" »

Duncan: Spending cuts will cause thousands of layoffs, shorter school calendars

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that the looming federal spending cuts, slated to go into effect Friday, will force school systems across the nation to layoff teachers and shorten the school yearin some places.

Duncan said one county in West Virginia has already issued pink slips in anticipation of the cuts. But when pressed by a reporter, he said he wasn't sure if the layoffs were related to the reductions. "Whether it's all sequester-related, I don't know, but these are teachers who are getting pink slips now," he said.

Duncan listed a series of cuts that will come in the department's biggest areas: $400 million from early childhood education, affecting 70,000 children, and 14,000 teachers; $725 million from a fun for poor children, which would impact 10,000 teachers; $600 million from special education, which would impact 7,200 teachers, $86 million in higher education, which means 70,000 college students could go without grants and work study, and $60 million from area that serve Native Americans and military families.

"For us to be thinking about taking steps backwards in all of these areas because folks in Washington can't get their act together in a level of dysfunction in Congress that -- it's just like unimaginable to me," Duncan said."I can't tell you how troubling that is to me and, frankly, how angry it makes me feel."

Continue reading "Duncan: Spending cuts will cause thousands of layoffs, shorter school calendars" »

VP Biden calls Ilinois primary win a message to politicians, the NRA

Vice President Joe Biden hailed the Democratic primary victory Tuesday night of Robin Kelly, an Illinois state representative who supports anti-gun legislation, saying, "voters sent a clear, unequivocal signal."

He said Kelly embraced gun control and "voters sent a message last night, not just to the NRA, but to politicians around the country. There will be a moral price as well as a political price to be paid for inaction (on gun control)."

Biden's remarks came as he urged a gathering of state Attorneys General to help the administration get its measures before Congress for a vote.

Biden, who was introduced as "Beau's dad," -- a nod to his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden -- told the state officials that he believes the elementary school shooting in Newtown changed the dynamics of the gun debate.

"It was a senseless act that not only shocked the conscience, I believe it changed and galvanized the attitude of the American people," Biden said. "The public mood has changed. The excuse that it's too politically risky to act is no longer acceptable. We can not remain silent. We have to become the voices of those 20 beautiful children."

He noted that in the 75 days since Newtown, more than 2,000 people have died as a result of gun violence, including a young Kentucky woman who was shot in a college parking lot after a domestic dispute and a four year old Kansas City boy, "who was probably just learning how to tie his shoes."

Biden's remarks to the 2013 Winter-Spring Meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General came as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposed assault weapons ban authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The NRA signaled its disproval of the legislation with the creation of a Twitter hashtag "StopFeinstein," and tweeting commentary including "In the hour that @SenFeinstein has been holding her hearing aimed at banning AR-15s, Americans have bought 150 more #StopFeinstein."

McConnell slams Democrats on sequester

Senate Republican Leader will meet with President Barack Obama Friday, but Wednesday, he was his usual fiery self, giving a Senate floor speech that blasted away.

“For months now, I’ve been coming to the floor to urge my colleagues on the other side to help us replace the President’s sequester proposal," the Kentucky Republican said. “Yet here we are, with just two days to go until the cuts hit, and the Democrats who control Washington still haven’t put forward a serious bipartisan plan; not the President and not his allies in Congress.

"They’ve preferred to keep it alive as a political issue instead," he said.  “Now, less than 48 hours before the clock runs out, all they’ve offered is a gimmicky tax hike that’s designed to fail. I hope they’re not expecting a round of applause for this particular act of political bravery."

“Is it any wonder the American people are so fed up with Washington? McConnell asked. “Look: the American people didn’t send us here to play games. They sent us here to solve problems. That means getting spending under control and putting the economy back on track. They’re tired of the gimmicks."

To read the rest of his speech:

Continue reading "McConnell slams Democrats on sequester" »

Obama to meet with congressional leaders about spending cuts

President Barack Obama will meet with congressional leaders Friday, the day across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to take place.

It will be the first meeting between Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. to speak about the reductions.

“The meeting Friday is an opportunity for us to visit with the president about how we can all keep our commitment to reduce Washington spending,'' said Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman. "With a $16.6 trillion national debt, and a promise to the American people to address it, one thing is perfectly clear: we will cut Washington spending. We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the President’s way with across-the board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.” 

The reductions – known inside the Beltway as sequestration – stem from a compromise between both parties to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011. Both sides agreed to the cuts as a last resort to try to motivate themselves to act. It did not work.

The first round of reductions – postponed from January – is estimated to be $85 billion. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that agencies will reduce spending by about $44 billion, with the remaining cuts coming in future years.

February 26, 2013

DeMint, Paul, Lee get perfect voting scores from conservative group

The conservative Club for Growth is out with its 2012 scorecard, and three Republican senators who served last year got perfect scores: Sens. Jim DeMint, who has since resigned, and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

 In addition, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had 2012 scores and LifeScores high enough to qualify for the organization's "Defender of Freedom Award."

Two other senators, new to the Senate this year, will get the award for their voting record as House of Representatives members: Republicans Tim Scott of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Other highlights include 18 current House members with scores of 90 percent or better in 2012 also had LifeScores of 90 or better to qualify for the award.

Other features:

•   Three members of Congress received 100 percent ratings in 2012. Of those, two also have 100 percent LifeScores: Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich. and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas. Repl. Paul Broun, R-Ga., got a perfect rating last year and has a LifeScore of 99 percent.

•    One Senate Democrat scored zero in 2012: Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. 13 House Democrats scored lower than ten percent.

To read more: http://www.clubforgrowth.org/Projects/



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

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