One week after Tucson, House Republicans resume their repeal effort… Obama approval ticks up in new WashPo/ABC poll… Giffords’ congressional seat ISN’T in jeopardy… In WSJ op-ed, Obama announces move to the center on regulations… Look Hu’s coming to dinner… The Dick Cheney interview… T-Paw to appear on “Daily Rundown”… Bill Clinton stumps for Rahm… And LePage and Bentley -- as expected -- raise eyebrows.
*** One week later: The questions that arose after the tragedy in Tucson -- can American politics be more civil, can the political volume be turned down a notch or two? -- will be put to the test this week as House Republicans resume their effort to repeal President Obama’s signature health-care law. Per NBC’s Luke Russert, the House is slated today to begin debate on the repeal legislation for seven hours, with the final vote scheduled for tomorrow. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor holds a pen-and-pad briefing at 2:00 pm ET, while Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joe Crowley hold a conference call at 12:30 pm ET to argue against repeal. In addition, the liberal-leaning group Americans United for Change has announced it’s airing a TV ad (a five-figure buy running on cable) criticizing the repeal effort. “The Affordable Care Act gave your family the same health protections that members of Congress get,” the ad goes. “But Republicans want to take that protection away from your family.”
*** Obama’s approval ticks up: A week after the Tucson shootings, a new Washington Post/ABC poll finds that President Obama’s approval rating has spiked up to 54% (the poll was conducted after the president’s speech). More: "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." And: Americans overwhelmingly describe the tone of political discourse in the country as negative, verging on angry ... but more than half say the culture did not contribute to the shootings in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 13."
*** Giffords’ congressional seat ISN’T in jeopardy: The Washington Post notes that a little-known provision in Arizona law says that if a public officeholder ceases to “discharge the duties of office for the period of three consecutive months,” then that office would become vacant -- thus jeopardizing the Democrats’ hold of Gabrielle Giffords’ House seat. But this ISN’T going to happen because federal law trumps state law regarding members of Congress. “The U.S. Constitution provides the qualifications for service in Congress and makes the House the sole judge of those qualifications,” the Post adds. “Courts have consistently held that states cannot add qualifications to those in the Constitution and have rejected efforts to remove members of Congress, even through term limits and recalls.” Bottom line: Nothing to see here.
*** Moving to the middle on regulations: In yet another sign that Obama is tacking toward the middle as 2012 comes into focus -- as well as trying to seek some sort of détente with the business community -- the president pens a Wall Street Journal op-ed saying that he will sign an executive order to ensure that federal regulations strike the right balance. “This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth,” Obama says. “And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive.” More: “For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.” Per a senior administration official, OMB Director Jack Lew is overseeing this effort, and it will be run out of Cass Sunstein’s office at OMB.
*** Look Hu’s coming to dinner: Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the big event this week is President Hu’s state visit on Wednesday. This afternoon, Vice President Biden leads the U.S. delegation to greet Hu at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:00 pm ET. Later in the evening, at 6:30 pm, President Obama hosts a private dinner for the Chinese leader. The formal state dinner takes place tomorrow.
Dick Cheney on Today
*** The Dick Cheney interview: In his interview on “TODAY” with NBC’s Jamie Gangel, former Vice President Cheney talked about the heart pump that saved his life. “I'd reached the point after 30 years and five heart attacks where I really needed to do something… And it's a wondrous device. It's really a miracle of modern technology. And now I'm here today because we have that kind of technology.” Will he get a heart transplant? “I haven't made a decision yet.” Why does he believe Obama will be a one-term president? “Well, because I think he embarked upon a course of action when he became president that did not have as much support as he thought it did… I think his overall approach to expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, those are all weaknesses.” But Cheney also softened his critique of Obama’s on national security. I think he's been through the fires of becoming president and having to make decisions and live with the consequences… I think he's learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate.”
*** T-Paw opposes raising the debt ceiling: Speaking of interviews, former Minnesota Gov. (and potential presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty (R) will appear on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” to discuss his opposition to increasing the debt ceiling. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pawlenty “challenged even leaders in his own party, who have said Congress must increase the federal debt ceiling rather than risk a default that could send interest rates skyrocketing and the economy back into recession.” More: “Mr. Pawlenty said Congress should pass legislation that would put interest and debt payments ahead of other federal spending and allow the federal government to pay its creditors as tax revenue flows in. With the surge of tax payments that come in between April and June, that would at least buy time to try to cut spending dramatically, he said.”
*** Bill Clinton stumps for Emanuel: A month before Chicago’s mayoral election, former President Bill Clinton stumps today at noon ET for front-runner Rahm Emanuel: Per NBC Chicago, “Former President Bill Clinton, whom Emanuel once served as senior adviser, is due in Chicago today… But Clinton isn't the only big name in Emanuel's corner. Emanuel announced Tuesday that he's inviting Saturday Night Live's Andy Samburg (who plays Rahm on TV) to campaign for him. Samberg will headline a $50 a ticket fund-raiser this Friday.”
*** LePage, Bentley raising eyebrows: From their campaigns, you just knew some of the more controversial gubernatorial candidates would raise eyebrows if they became governor. And, voila. Here’s Paul LePage (R) of Maine: “LePage changed his Monday schedule to attend a Martin Luther King’s Birthday breakfast in Waterville, days after he directed a graphic insult at N.A.A.C.P. leaders who questioned why he had declined invitations to other such events... On Friday, Mr. LePage said N.A.A.C.P. leaders could 'kiss my butt' after they expressed concern that he had turned down several invitations from them." And here's Robert Bentley (R) of Alabama: "Gov.-elect Robert Bentley in a speech at a Baptist church this afternoon said he plans to be the governor of all Alabamians and be color-blind, but he also said people who aren't 'saved' Christians aren't his brothers and sisters.”
Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 35 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 294 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 384 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up