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July 31, 2013

Senate kills effort to cut off aid to Egypt

The Senate Wednesday resoundingly rejected, 86-13, an effort by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to cut off American aid, most of it military, to Egypt.

Paul's proposal would have ended the aid until Egypt holds democratic elections, and redirected the money to bridge building in the United States.

He asked colleagues if they would rather spend the money in Egypt or in this country? The answer was a resounding "Egypt."

"We tell other countries to follow the rule of law, yet our own Administration fails to do so. Sending money to Egypt under their current military coups is illegal," Paul said. "Instead of illegally sending that money overseas, we are better off spending that money at home."

Continue reading "Senate kills effort to cut off aid to Egypt" »

Liberal group takes aim at GOP during vacation

Americans United for Change, a left-leaning group, is targeting Republican lawmakers who headed on a month-long recess at the end of the week.

The campaign -- dubbed Accountable Congress -- provides a toolkit for the like-minded that includes a user-friendly Website with information on lawmakers' town halls and suggested talking points and questions, daily calls with progressive groups, even signs that organizers can use to make their point. Issues include immigration, climate change and gun violence.

The group wants supporters to ask lawmakers tough questions and record the exchanges, which it will later share.

Republicans have put together their toolkit for August. The House GOP has a 31-page document offering instructions to members for meeting with constituents.

New TV ad opposes "Obamacare' before Congress leaves for extended recess

Americans for Prosperity, a powerful group founded with support from the billionaire Koch brothers, released a new TV ad opposing the federal health care law. 

The ad, titled Doctor Questions, features a doctor questioning how "ObamaCare" will impact her patients and practice. It's part of an ongoing effort by conservative to defund or minimize the law three years after it passed.

“ObamaCare is confusing and costly for doctors and patients alike,” the group's president Tim Phillips said. “Doctors are concerned that they may not be able to provide care their patients deserve and are worried about what will happen to their practices. We feel it is time for some honesty on the true consequences of government intrusion into the private healthcare decisions of doctors and patients, and to provide a counter to the disinformation that’s out there.”

Viewers of the ad are directed to visit ObamaCareRiskFactors.com, where an online calculator will assess each individual’s risk of suffering painful effects of the new law, and enable them to share their own risk factors.


Happy Birthday, Mr. President

CakeHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was ready with birthday cake when President Barack Obama arrived on Capitol Hill a few days before his 52nd birthday.

Pelosi, D-Calif. presented Obama with a dark chocolate cake topped with the presidential seal, and frosted with the words "Happy Birthday, Mr. President."

Obama is meeting with House and Senate Democrats today behind closed doors just before Congress departs for its annual month-long vacation.

Obama’s meetings come as Congress meets for the final week – usually full of last-minute deal-making – before an extended recess. This year, however, no deals are expected.

Aides: Obama hasn't decided on a new fed chief

White House officials said Wednesday that President Obama's not yet made a decision on a replacement for Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who hasn't said he wants to be reappointed when his second term in office ends Jan. 31. 

Senior Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer said he doesn't expect an announcement on the job until the fall -- despite what he called a "lot of energy" being spent by proponents -- and detractors -- of the two leading contenders for the job: former Treasury Secretary and Obama advisor Larry Summers and Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen. A number of Senate Democrats last week sent Obama a letter, urging Yellen's nomination.

Pfeiffer said Obama will listen to outside advice, but that "he decides who he thinks the best person for a job is, who he thinks has the right skills, values for the job." And he said Obama puts "a lot more stock in private advice than public advice" when it comes to chosing appointees.

Pfeiffer spoke at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast along with National Economic Council director Gene Sperling, who, asked if he was pushing Summers to Obama, said he'd keep his conversations with the president private. He said he's worked with both and that "anything I would either say about any of those...would only be extremely positive."

He called the choice an "important decision" and said it's important that the post retain a "strong sense" of independence -- apart from the political fray.

Poll shows support for "Preschool for All"

Seven in 10 American voters support a cigarette tax to pay for helping 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families get a good early education, according to a bipartisan poll released on Wednesday.

The 800 registered voters who were polled were told details of a plan President Barack Obama suggested in this year’s State of the Union speech seven months ago (story). Since then, it’s gotten no traction in Congress.

The pollsters told respondents that the plan would provide about $10 million per year for 10 years to states for voluntary access to preschool, as well as high-quality early child care and parent education. It would be paid for by a 94 cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax.

The poll found 70 percent support it (50 percent saying “strongly support,” and 20 percent saying “somewhat support), and 29 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed it. The remaining 1 percent were unsure. The poll found 84 percent support among Democrats, 64 percent among independents and 60 percent among Republicans.

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July 30, 2013

Waking up with Joe and Hillary? Maybe so

Coming soon to morning TV, vice president Biden and Hillary Clinton? During a discussion of Biden's breakfast today with Hillary Clinton, the Today Show's Al Roker offered Biden a gig on the show -- one that Biden didn't turn down.

"To have Joe Biden doing our Today's take would be absolutely awesome," said Roker, turning to the camera to add, "Mr. Vice President, the door is always open..."

Biden replied via Twitter: Keep the door open @alroker. Who knows, maybe @HillaryClinton and I can co-host. --VP http://t.co/5ggkEJynjs

President Obama scoffs at Keystone as big job creator

With a decision due from the administration on whether to approve the Keystone pipeline, President Obama for a second time in a week dismissed Republican claims of how many jobs the project might create.

Speaking in Chattanooga, Tenn. on the economy, Obama estimated the controversial pipeline would create just 50 permanent jobs in the U.S., using the figure as he accused Republicans of lacking plans to create jobs.

"They keep on talking about this -- an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that's estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs -- that's not a jobs plan," Obama said, adding, "Wasting the country's time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare is not a jobs plan."

Obama in a New York Times interview last week said there's "no evidence" the pipeline from Canada would lead to a jobs bonanza.

"The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people," he said. 

The Washington Post fact checker awarded Obama two "Pinocchios" for the claim, saying that using the White House's "stimulus math," the figure would be as many as 7,800 construction jobs.

Obama meets with Middle East negotiators

President Obama put the weight of the White House behind efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, meeting today at the White House with negotiators who are here in Washington to renew peace talks.

Obama met with them for less than half a hour, along with vice president Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Special Envoy Martin Indyk, and National Security Council coordinator Philip Gordon.

"The president used this opportunity to convey his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table, and to directly express his personal support for final-status negotiation," Press Secretary Jay Carney said, adding that Obama "underscored that there is much to do in the days and months ahead."
Carney declined to give details of the discussions, saying that "all sides agree that it would be most conducive to this process" to not divulge details. "We're going to abide by that," he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest had said Monday that Obama had no immediate meetings with the negotiators planned, but left the door open to future talks. The White House has taken credit for the resumption of talks, pegging it to Obama's March Middle East trip, though until today Obama had kept a low profile, as Kerry made repeated trips to the region, pursuing talks.
"The president is engaged in this process," said Carney, who added that Obama had asked Kerry to oversee the negotiations.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were scheduled to meet U.S. counterparts for dinner Monday night, with talks set to begin at the State Department Tuesday morning.

Obama met with the negotiators before heading to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he'll push his economic agenda. Obama hopped aboard Marine One at the White House without responding to a shouted question about the meeting, smiling and cupping his ear if to imply he could not hear the question over the noise of the helicopter.

Biden breakfasts w Clinton, Obama hits the road

Joe Biden has breakfast at the vice president's residence with Hillary Clinton today -- the second breaking of bread for Clinton in as many days that's prompted a fresh round of 2016 presidential speculation.

Clinton, who Monday lunched with Obama, meets Biden for breakfast at the Naval Observatory. Both are considered potential candidates in 2016. 

Obama heads to Chattanooga, Tenn. to deliver his fourth speech in a week on the economy. He'll tour and give remarks at an Amazon fulfillment center in what the White House says is another in a series of policy speeches on his "better bargain for the middle class." His speech will focus on proposals to jumpstart private sector job growth and strengthen the manufacturing sector.

The White House says he'll offer a new proposal to Republicans -- cutting corporate tax rates in exchange for job investments.

Obama long has called for a cut in corporate tax rates, but said it should be coupled with an individual tax overhaul. He's dropping that demand and says instead that he's open to the corporate tax cut that that businesses crave. But he wants it to be coupled with a significant investment on some sort of job creation program, such as manufacturing, infrastructure or community colleges.


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

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