This story was originally published on Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:16 PM EST
This story was originally published on Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:16 PM EST
Breaking down yesterday’s Valentine’s Day filibuster against Chuck Hagel… The many sides of John McCain… McCain’s straight talk: The opposition to Hagel is rooted, in part, in his criticism of George W. Bush… Senate Dems offer their proposal to replace the sequester… Obama heads to Chicago… And on Lautenberg and Booker.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Senate Armed Services Committee members, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. confer on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, at the start of the committee's hearing on the appointments of military leaders.
*** The Valentine’s Day filibuster: Safe to say, there was little love in the U.S. Senate yesterday on Valentine’s Day. Senate Republicans used a filibuster to temporarily block Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon -- the first time a filibuster had ever been used against a defense secretary nominee and just the third time ever against a cabinet secretary pick. A combination of reasons contributed to 41 Republicans denying Hagel the 60 votes he needed to clear the procedural hurdle: Some were always opposed to Hagel; others were mad at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not respecting a GOP “hold” and scheduling the vote; some were mad at the White House over Benghazi; and one GOP senator (Orrin Hatch) voted “present” because of the precedent that a no vote would send. Here’s the bottom line on where Hagel’s nomination stands: A delay is never a good thing, because it gives his opponents additional time to try to torpedo his nomination. That said, the fact that Hagel essentially got 59 votes (including four from Republicans) suggests he’s likely to be confirmed when this vote comes up again in late February. But we’re going to have to wait another two weeks until the Senate returns from its recess. Yet more than anything else, yesterday highlighted a growing problem for the GOP in the Age of Obama: It’s clear what they are against, but what are they for?
*** The many sides of John McCain: This week seemed to bring out both the maverick and anti-Obama partisan in Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On Tuesday, he rebuked fellow GOP Sen. Ted Crux (R-TX) for crossing a line during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s consideration of Hagel’s nomination. “No one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity," McCain said of Cruz’s suggestion that Hagel might have taken money from countries like North Korea. But then two days later, McCain joined most of his Republican colleagues in blocking Hagel’s nomination, at least temporarily. At first, McCain said that while he opposed Hagel, he wouldn’t join a GOP filibuster against him. Then he threatened a filibuster if the Obama White House didn’t answer particular questions about last year’s Benghazi attack. Yet after the White House replied to his questions, McCain said that the GOP demands by Sen. Cruz and others for more information about Hagel speeches amounted to “reasonable requests,” as the Washington Post notes. Talk about whiplash.
*** McCain’s straight talk: So what’s the real story? Well, McCain himself shared it late Thursday afternoon during a FOX interview, in which he suggested his opposition to Hagel was rooted in the former senator’s criticism of George W. Bush. It was a little straight talk, if you will. “There's a lot of ill will towards Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly,” McCain said. “At one point, he said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense. He was very ‘anti ’his own party, and people don't forget that.” Let’s be clear: The only reason why Hagel was blocked yesterday was because McCain changed his mind. Just one more senator needed to vote for cloture to clear yesterday’s procedural hurdle. And looking ahead, McCain remains an enigma. He is a key player in the bipartisan push for immigration reform, which the Obama White House views as its top legislative priority this year -- after resolving the budget stalemates. But McCain also has opposed almost all the key legislative matters over the past four years, even those he’s supported in the past. Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees. The DREAM Act. The New START treaty. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. One thing to remember about McCain: He was a sharp thorn in Bush’s side in 43’s first term, but he became more helpful in the second term. Could we see a similar pattern with Obama?
*** Senate Dems offer their proposal to replace the sequester: Also on Capitol Hill yesterday, Senate Democrats unveiled their proposal to ward off the so-called sequester. The New York Times: “Senate Democratic leaders reached agreement Thursday on a $110 billion mix of tax increases and spending cuts to head off automatic spending cuts through the end of the year. But with even some Democrats tepid on the proposal, the chances of a deal before the March 1 deadline have receded. The Democratic proposal would establish a 30-percent minimum tax rate on incomes over $1 million to raise about $54 billion over 10 years” -- the Buffett Rule. “It would raise $1 billion more by subjecting tar sands oil to a tax to pay for oil-spill cleanups and by ending a business tax deduction for the cost of moving equipment overseas.” Folks, there’s little chance of the Buffett Rule surviving; it’s always the first thing in beginning talks and first thing out. That said, this is how you do negotiations. The real key in this Dem offer is the cuts they DID agree to and the oil and gas tax loopholes they offered up. We’re about 60% of the way there, perhaps.
*** Obama heads to Chicago: Today, Obama heads to his hometown of Chicago, where he gives remarks at 3:45 pm ET. Per the White House, the president will discuss some of the economic proposals from his State of the Union address. But make no mistake, this visit will also be about the gun violence in Chicago. By the way, how can you tell Obama no longer has to worry about being re-elected? He’s heading to Florida for a vacation, where he’ll be getting golf lessons from former Tiger Woods golf coach Butch Harmon, according to Golf Digest.
*** On Lautenberg and Booker: Lastly, we learned yesterday that 89-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) won’t seek re-election in 2014. As our colleague Steve Kornacki asked yesterday, why didn’t Newark Cory Booker wait for this inevitable announcement before saying he’d run for the seat, a move that only alienated Lautenberg and his allies? Booker has shown that he’s very good at the P.R. side of being a politician. But he’s made two big errors in the past year: 1) contradicting Team Obama on its criticism of Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital and 2) not waiting to run for the Senate until incumbent Lautenberg made up his mind. By the way, one other overlooked aspect of Lautenberg’s retirement -- he’s the last remaining WWII veteran in the Senate.
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*** Friday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Freshman Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) stops by for our ongoing series of segments to meet the new Congress… NBC’s David Gregory with a “Meet the Press” preview… A Deep Dive with NBC’s Ali Arouzi on Iran’s upcoming election and what it means for the U.S…. Plus NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, former RNC Chair Michael Steele ,and the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus join the Gaggle.
*** Friday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) , Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ)), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) Mississippi, and the Power Panel includes Jackie Kucinich, Chris Kofinis and Robert Traynham
*** Friday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith, Bloomberg’s Josh Green, Politico’s Glenn Thrush, and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, National Network to End Domestic Violence President Kim Gandy, NBC’s Mary Carillo, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and NBC News Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss
*** Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Chicago Sun Time’s Lynn Sweet, Dem strat Chris Kofinis, and NBC Track and Field analyst Ato Boldon.
*** Saturday’s and Sunday’s “Weekends with Alex Witt” line-up: As part of her weekly “Office Politics” segment, MSNBC’s Alex Witt interviews Jonathan Alter.
*** Saturday’s and Sunday’s “Melissa Harris Perry” line-up: The show celebrates its one-year anniversary. And it’s guests include, among others, an interview with Valerie Jarrett on Saturday.
*** Saturday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up, starting at 2:00 pm ET: Craig Melvin’s guests include actress Sonja Sohn of “The Wire” to talk guns and youth empowerment; Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO Commander; Jared Bernstein, former Economic Policy Adviser to VP Biden; Michael Tomasky of Newsweek and The Daily Beast; Amy Holmes, former Speechwriter for Majority Leader Bill Frist; McKay Coppins, Buzzfeed Political Editor; Joe Watkins, former GHW Bush Aide; and Chris Kofinis, former Chief of Staff for Sen. Joe Manchin.
*** Sunday’s “MSNBC Live Weekends” line-up, starting 3:00 pm ET: Craig Melvin’s guests include Fmr. Sen. Bob Kerrey; Fmr. DNC Comm. Director Karen Finney; Dennis Ross, former Mideast envoy; Jeffrey Frank, author of “Ike and Dick”; Robert Costa of the National Review; Chris Smith of New York Magazine; and Benjamin Klein, director of the new Broadway play “The Ann Richards Play”.
The AP: “By delaying a confirmation vote on Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, Senate Republicans have forced Leon Panetta to remain on the job he is eager to give up. But they've also given the White House an opportunity to cast the GOP as obstructing President Barack Obama’s assembly of a second-term national security team.”
USA Today: "Senate blocks Hagel nomination - for now."
Josh Gerstein: “The whole episode seems unnecessary, raising the question of why Hagel was selected in the first place instead of well-respected Defense Department veterans Michele Flournoy or Ashton Carter. Many Democrats would have gladly backed those choices and scratched their heads at the Hagel pick, particularly given the controversy it was certain to stir up. But Hagel has fans in the highest places, starting in the Oval Office. The president feels personally invested in the nomination of Hagel. The Nebraska Republican is one of the few politicians he’s truly friendly with, and Obama plans to see the fight through, barring some major unforeseen development. Democrats close to the White House say the typically cool-headed Obama has expressed flashes of real anger at what he sees as a politically motivated GOP fishing expedition that already netted his first choice for secretary of state — U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.
“Obama — ticked off by Rice’s treatment and still emboldened by his convincing victory over Mitt Romney — courted confrontation when he tapped Hagel. But he underestimated the level of vitriol generated by the appointment of the crusty Hagel — and White House aides were genuinely stunned by the nominee’s dazed and meandering confirmation hearing — which they chalked up to his long sabbatical from public life and overpreparation for the session.”
“President Barack Obama was wrapping up his post-State of the Union tour by talking about how government can build ‘ladders of opportunity’ into the middle class,” AP writes. “During remarks Friday at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, his hometown, Obama was to discuss proposals to raise the federal minimum wage and pair businesses with recession-battered communities to help them rebuild and provide job training. He also was to talk about creating jobs for young people from poor families, and encouraging fatherhood and low-income couples to marry. It remained to be seen whether the proposals have enough support to get through Congress.”
Obama met James Carter at his Georgia event yesterday. The grandson of former President Jimmy Carter is responsible for the “47 percent” video. “Upon being introduced and told of James Carter's role in the 47 percent video, Obama jumped forward to embrace him. ‘Thank you, thank you so much,’ Obama told James Carter, his cousin said,” Politico writes.
“President Barack Obama is trying to change the face of a federal judiciary that has a long tradition of white men passing judgment on parties from all walks of life — if he can get his nominees past the Senate,” AP writes. “Republicans have used the powers accorded the Senate minority party to slow Obama’s influence on the federal bench. But recent changes to Senate rules suggest the process may begin to move faster, at least at the lower, U.S. District Court level.”
National Journal’s Ron Brownstein argues that Obama’s State of the Union was targeted at the millennial generation. “Obama addressed them repeatedly: by insisting that entitlement spending on the old must face some limits to prevent it from crowding out investment in the young; by framing climate change as a generational challenge; by pledging to provide young people with more training and to confront rising college costs; and by closing with a paean to citizenship that reflected their civic impulses.”
This story was originally published on Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:11 AM EST
“John Boehner is pulling back,” AP writes. “After two stressful years as Washington’s most powerful Republican and a pair of failed, high-profile rounds of budget talks with President Barack Obama — and disappointment over Obama’s re-election — the battle-scarred House speaker has adopted a you-first approach to the Democrat in the White House, his allies who control the Senate and anyone else who wants to work with them. Upcoming across-the-board spending cuts set to slam the economy in two weeks? Boehner says a solution is up to Obama and Senate Democrats. New ideas to prevent gun violence? Let’s see what the Senate can pass, Boehner says, then we'll take a look. Immigration reform? Boehner says it’s best left to bipartisan working groups in both the House and Senate. And the litany of new initiatives unveiled by Obama in Tuesday’s State of the Union address?
“ ‘If he’s got such good ideas, his party in the Senate could pass it,’ Boehner told The Associated Press in an interview in his Capitol office. ‘Then we'd be happy to take a look at it.’”
Quote of the day: “Frankly, every time I've gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, you know, it’s my rear end that got burnt,” Boehner says.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is pro-hemp production? NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports, McConnell said, “I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide. During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky’s economy and to our farmers and their families." More: “The debate over legalization of hemp is contentious in Kentucky. The Chamber of Commerce supports legalization, but some law enforcement groups say it is a step that could lead to the legalization of marijuana.”
“After campaigning last year as an outspoken consumer advocate and Wall Street critic, Senator Elizabeth Warren was surprisingly quiet during her first month on Capitol Hill. But that changed on Thursday at the Massachusetts senior senator’s first hearing, when she rebuked federal regulators for settling civil cases with big banks instead of taking them to trial,” The Boston Globe notes, adding, “ ‘The question I really want to ask is about how tough you are — about how much leverage you really have,’ Warren said. ‘Tell me a little bit about the last few times you’ve taken the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street all the way to trial.’ A handful of supporters in the packed hearing room applauded. But none of the witnesses — representing the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and others — offered a response. ‘Anybody?’ Warren asked, pursing her lips and raising her eyebrows above her glasses.”
Ouch. Politico’s Manu Raju: “Sen. Ted Cruz lost his voice a couple days ago. Some senators probably wish it wouldn’t come back — at least for a little while.” More: “Just this week, Cruz was rebuked by senior senators like Republican John McCain and Democrat Bill Nelson for what they considered an unfair line of questioning allegedly impugning Hagel’s patriotism. He previously ignored requests from Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to refrain from using video clips to question Hagel during his confirmation proceedings. Many were stunned when Cruz was one of just three senators to vote against John Kerry’s nomination as secretary of state.”
Writing for NBCLatino, the Rothenberg Political Report's Nathan Gonazles points out that "Hispanic candidates are significantly underperforming in heavily Hispanic districts, particularly compared to other minority groups." He adds, "Nationwide, just 41 percent of congressional districts (24 of 58) with a Hispanic voting age population (VAP) of at least 30 percent are represented by a Hispanic member of Congress. In comparison, 72 percent of districts (32 of 44) with a black VAP of at least 30 percent are represented by a black member."
Beth Reinhard looks at Marco Rubio, the hype, his role in immigration reform, and his presidential chances: “No matter that he’s only punched up the old script, swung back and forth on immigration policy, and never shepherded major legislation through Congress. What Rubio brings is the star power, adoring fan base, and command of the national media unmatched these days by anyone in Washington outside of the Oval Office. It’s the same aggressive product placement that has made the 41-year-old a top-tier presidential contender just two years after his swearing-in. Rubio is the GOP’s Barack Obama, minus the intellectual heft intimated by two Ivy League degrees and a law-school faculty post. A Generation X-er with a name that sounds like change. The author of an American Dream-laced memoir that, audiences are frequently reminded, helped pay off his student loans. A former state lawmaker and a Senate short-timer with a thin binder of achievements but perhaps blessed with the greatest rhetorical gifts in politics today.”
USA Today looks at the backlash from conservative groups that Crossroads and Karl Rove have faced since the launch of a group to defeat fringe conservative candidates.
MASSACHUSETTS: Republicans might get another candidate in the Senate race: “Former US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announced today that he is ‘giving serious consideration’ to running for US Senate, reaching out to activists and operatives and collecting signatures required to qualify for the April 30 Republican primary ballot,” the Boston Globe notes.
A WBUR poll has Ed Markey beating Stephen Lynch 38%-31%.
NEW JERSEY: “Don't get too excited about that Senate seat, Geraldo Rivera: A new poll says only a quarter of voters would consider backing you,” the New York Daily News writes. “The survey by Monmouth University found that only 26 percent of New Jersey voters are likely or somewhat likely to vote for the Fox News host. More troublesome, a majority of voters- 51 percent - wouldn't even consider voting for Rivera.
“It’s man vs. the machine: Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. are on track to have a New Jersey-style knockout primary for the Democratic Senate nod in 2014,” Roll Call’s Livingston writes, adding, “This brewing political battle would match an outsider with an army of Twitter followers, wealthy celebrity connections and television news fame against a congressman who has spent years currying favor with the state establishment to run for this very seat. Immediately, national Democrats predicted Booker would have an easy walk to the nomination. But some Garden State operatives are dubious. Booker upset party elders when he announced his exploratory committee in mid-December. Many Lautenberg loyalists are furious with him for not being patient and allowing Lautenberg a graceful exit. In the end, Booker only needed to wait two months to make his move. Meanwhile, Pallone bent over backward to take the opposite approach as he quietly prepared for a run.”
NEW YORK: “Swaggering through his final State of the City address on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg defended his 11 years of accomplishments - and openly worried about what will happen when he's gone,” the New York Daily News writes. “In a boisterous event that featured dancing children, peppy cheerleaders and championship-style banners touting lower crime stats and higher test scores, Bloomberg used the speech to suggest that no one can do the job like him.”
A new Marist poll shows New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leading the Democratic field in New York’s mayoral race with 37% among registered Democratic voters. She’s followed by former City Comptroller Bill Thompson at 13% and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio at 12%. The poll also shows that former MTA Chair Joe Lhota leads the GOP field.
Toby Jorrin / AFP - Getty Images, file
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), speaks at the White House after meeting with US President Barack Obama on November 16, 2012 in Washington,DC.
The federal government currently puts hemp in the same category of illegal drug as heroin, LSD and ecstasy -- but the Senate's top Republican wants to change that.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R - Ky., joined forces Thursday with a pair of West Coast Democrats -- Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley -- to cosponsor a bill that would allow American farmers to grow hemp without fear of punishment. Also on board is libertarian Rand Paul, McConnell's fellow Republican Bluegrass State senator.
“I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky’s economy and to our farmers and their families."
The debate over legalization of hemp is contentious in Kentucky. The Chamber of Commerce supports legalization, but some law enforcement groups say it is a step that could lead to the legalization of marijuana.
McConnell's move follows action in the Kentucky state Senate, which voted Thursday to legalize hemp production there -- if the federal government also decrees that it's legal. Oregon has approved hemp production, but farmers can still be prosecuted under federal law.
Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa, the plant species that also produces marijuana. McConnell wants to legalize so-called industrial hemp, which contains a much smaller amount of THC, the chemical that produces marijuana's high.
Proponents of industrial hemp tout its many legal uses, such as in soap, cosmetics, and rope for sailboats and other watercraft. Farmers say hemp twine is much stronger than other rope used to bind bales of hay. Toyota -- which builds Camrys in Kentucky -- has spoken in favor of hemp legalization, saying they want to use the fibers in car panels and insulation.
Typically, the plants that make great industrial hemp make less potent marijuana. Plants that make great pot don't usually produce the strongest industrial fibers.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., tells NBC News that the 24-year-old woman he tweeted at during the State of the Union address was not a romantic interest, but in fact his daughter.
After “The Hill” reported that Cohen -- who is not married -- deleted tweets saying “ilu,” short for “I love you,” to Victoria Brink, Cohen claimed that nothing was inappropriate and that the woman was a daughter of an old family friend. That old family friend turned out to be an old girlfriend of Cohen’s and Victoria Brink's mother.
Cohen claimed the reason for tweeting Brink, who had not admitted publicly to Cohen being her dad, was genuine excitement.
“When she let me know she was watching the State of the Union address I was thrilled that she wanted Steve Cohen to be part of her. I had such joy, that I couldn’t hold back from tweeting her,” said Cohen.
The congressman would not elaborate on how he only found out three years ago that he had a daughter. He said circumstances led him to search on Google for the mother of his child.
“I googled her mother, found out she had a child and the math looked pretty accurate,” he said. “The mom told me we had a lot of catching up to do.”
Brink's mother then told Cohen, “'Yes every time I look at her I see the German Jew in her face,' I’m Lithuanian close enough.”
Cohen was emphatic that he was “proud to be her dad” and that he “loved her.” Cohen has gotten to know her well and even took her to the White House Christmas party and told NBC News that he’s proud she’s taken an interest in government and was watching the State of the Union.
“I’ve been able to take her on a tour of the Capitol and the White House, I want her to see my world and be a part of it,” he said.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee to be defense secretary, on Capitol Hill, Jan. 31, 2013.
Senate Republicans on Thursday stalled further work on confirming former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as the next secretary of defense, likely prolonging the fight over the Pentagon nominee for at least another week and a half.
The Senate voted 58 to 40 to end debate on Hagel's nomination, falling short of the 60-vote threshold they needed to move toward a final confirmation vote, and subjecting the former Republican senator to an unprecedented, de-facto filibuster. Four Republicans supported Hagel and one GOP senator voted present, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote to "no" in a procedural move to be able to bring up Hagel's nomination at a later date.
The vote is only a temporary setback for the White House, which still views Hagel’s eventual confirmation as a likely proposition. President Barack Obama said in a Google+ hangout shortly after the vote that his "expectation and hope" is that Hagel would eventually be confirmed.
“Senator Hagel is going to be confirmed, if not tomorrow then when the Senate returns from recess,” a White House official said Thursday. (The Senate is away from Washington next week and is scheduled to return for work as soon as Feb. 25.)
The Obama administration’s confidence is rooted in statements Thursday by a number of Republicans who have said they intend to switch their vote after the recess and support moving toward a final vote for Hagel.
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell shares the latest news about Chuck Hagel's confirmation vote.
The delay still incensed Democrats, though, who argued that the delay was without precedent and risked leaving the military essentially leaderless during a time of war and as major cuts to the defense budget loom. (Outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta continues to serve in his role until Hagel is confirmed, though he had intended to finish his service this week.)
"I'm going to go call Chuck Hagel when I finish here and say, 'I'm sorry,'" Reid said after the cloture vote. He set another cloture vote for Tuesday Feb. 26.
Indeed, the White House scrambled for much of the afternoon to find the handful of Republican votes that would have allowed for Hagel’s confirmation this week. They released a letter in response to GOP senators’ questions about the administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on a diplomatic posting in Benghazi, Libya, and Vice President Joe Biden worked the phones in hopes of finding the necessary votes to overcome the de-facto filibuster.
Recommended: Obama hits Georgia to sell new childhood initiatives
The 60-vote threshold means that Hagel’s nomination is, in effect, being subjected to a filibuster. Because Republicans are objecting to ending debate – often a formality in the Senate, where lawmakers give their “unanimous consent” to moving forward with a vote – Democrats must deliver the same 60 votes that they would need under the circumstances of a filibuster to end debate on the Hagel nomination.
Republicans argued that they were not orchestrating a formal filibuster against Hagel – a maneuver which would be unprecedented in the instance of a nominee for the secretary of defense position.
Some GOP senators – led by Sens. John McCain, Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, S.C. – said that they just needed a little more time to thoroughly vet Hagel’s background, despite having served with the former Nebraska senator during the bulk of his two terms in the Senate. Graham and McCain argued that they needed more time than the two days that have elapsed since the armed services panel approved Hagel’s nomination for consideration by the whole Senate.
This story was originally published on Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:56 PM EST
DECATUR, Ga. -- Continuing his post-State of the Union tour, President Barack Obama today made an economic case for the early childhood initiatives he unveiled in his primetime speech, telling a crowd in this Atlanta suburb that investments in such programs are “a good bang for your educational buck.”
The president’s education proposals include national universal pre-school enrollment and a new collaboration between the federal Early Head Start program, which is focused on the development of very young low-income children, and childcare facilities.
And in his speech at a recreation center here, Obama singled out the nearby College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, which he visited during his stop to the state, as an example of the types of state-federal partnerships that can boost the quality of life for low-income children well after preschool.
“The kids we saw today, that I had a chance to spend time with -- they're some of the lucky ones, because fewer than three in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.”
Evan Vucci / AP
President Barack Obama runs up the stairs as he arrives for a speech on education, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, at the Decatur Community Recreation Center in Decatur, Ga.
The president said that such early investment in the future of children -- of all economic levels -- leads to a more vibrant economy overall. “That's not just going to make sure that they do well. That will strengthen our economy and our country for all of us,” he said.
He praised Georgia, one of only five states to have an official goal of full preschool enrollment, in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, saying the state “make[s] it a priority to educate our youngest children.”
But Georgia, which made a commitment to universal pre-K in 1995, still only has about 60 percent enrollment, and has had to cut back funding and school days because of budget shortfalls -- the program is funded by lottery revenues which have slowed recently.
Twenty days of the pre-kindergarten year were removed this year due to budget cuts, which resulted in an exodus of qualified teachers. Now, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is proposing adding back 10 of those days according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Obama gave a nod to the state’s difficulty in funding the program, saying that “even in times of tight budgets,” Georgia and states like it have “worked to make a preschool slot available for nearly every parent who's looking for one for their child.”
In terms of how the federal program would be funded, the Obama administration has not yet given specifics of how much its proposals would cost. The New Republic magazine speculated that the program might resemble one proposed by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, whose preschool program costs $10 billion per year and Early Head Start-child care initiative would cost $10.5 billion per year.
But the program will be revenue-neutral, deputy National Economic Council director Jason Furman maintained yesterday, because it will not cost as much as the administration’s spending cuts implemented last year.
In addition to laying out his vision for America’s education future, President Obama also had a few words of advice for the parents of young children -- raising a few eyebrows as he seemed to suggest one of his daughters might have begun going on dates.
“I do have to warn the parents who are here who still have young kids, they grow up to be, like, 5 [feet] 10 [inches]. And even if they're still nice to you, they -- they basically don't have a lot of time for you during the weekends. They have sleepovers and dates. So all that early investment just leaves them to go away,” he joked as the crowd laughed.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, an 89-year-old Democrat from New Jersey, has announced his will retire instead of seeking a sixth term. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
Updated 3:40 p.m. ET: New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D, won't seek re-election next November, a Democratic source confirmed to NBC News.
Lautenberg, the 89-year-old senator who served for almost two decades in the Senate from 1982 through 2001 before returning for a second term in the upper chamber in 2003, will not seek another six-year term.
"I will be traveling to my hometown of Paterson tomorrow to announce that I will not seek re-election in 2014. This is not the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals, and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey," Lautenberg said in a statement. "While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I'm going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate."
The decision clears the path for Newark Mayor Cory Booker to pursue the Democratic nomination for Senate. Booker, who's built a high national profile with his work as mayor, had provoked some public sniping from Lautenberg for seeming too quick to assume that the longtime senator would necessarily retire when his term is up in 2015.
Another Democrat thought to be eyeing the seat, Rep. Frank Pallone, effusively praised Lauternberg in a statement.
"I have peen proud to serve with Senator Lautenberg and even prouder to call him a friend," he said. "I look forward to continuing to work together in the coming months to continue to address the issues that are important to him and New Jersey. Like all New Jerseyans, I am grateful for his service to our state and our nation."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voices his dismay on the House floor Thursday over the filibuster of Chuck Hagel's nomination as U.S. secretary of defense.
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid set a cloture vote for Thursday afternoon at 4:15 pm ET, the White House is trying to answer Republican concerns and Vice President Biden is making calls to ex-GOP Senate colleagues in an effort to save Chuck Hagel's nomination for defense secretary.
Republicans are threatening to filibuster Hagel's nomination and require 60 votes to overcome cloture, if they do not receive more information on Hagel's speeches and finances. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) sent a Feb. 12 letter to the White House requesting more information on the attacks in Benghazi and are tying Hagel's nomination to it.
Hagel has 57 votes -- 55 Democrats and two Republicans -- but would need three Republicans to vote for cloture, to end debate on his nomination, in order for it to proceed to a final up-or-down confirmation vote. The White House believes with Susan Collins (R-ME), Hagel has 58 votes for cloture.
"The Administration has repeatedly made clear its commitment to understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding the September 11-12, 2012 attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi...," White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler wrote in response to McCain, Graham, and Hagel.
Ruemmler also writes that the administration has begun to implement "each and every one" of the Accountability Review Board recommendations.
"This intensive response, which was directed by the President, included 13 meetings of interagency Principals and Deputies within a week of the attack and included continuous outreach by senior administration officials to the Government of Libya, including by the President and members of his Cabinet," Ruemmler wrote.
Republicans have questioned the level of involvement of President Obama in the handling of the aftermath of Benghazi. In response to a specific question from McCain, Graham, and Ayotte, Reummler writes, "Secretary Clinton called Libyan President Magariaf on behalf of the President on the evening of September 11, 2012 to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya...The President spoke to President Magariaf on the evening of September 12."
She ends the letter with: "We continue to urge the full Senate to act swiftly and confirm former Senator Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense."
In the Senate, McCain said Thursday there is an effort underway to negotiate a way to get more information and get Hagel a clean up-or-down vote.
"We are working on and having negotiations now trying to smooth this thing out and get it done," McCain said. "We're working on trying to get a path forward to having the questions answered and the vote and Hagel getting his vote."
NATO defense ministers are meeting next week in Brussels, and the administration would like to have Hagel in place to attend. Reid had said earlier Thursday he would set the cloture vote on Hagel's nomination for Friday morning and an up-or-down vote Saturday before moving it up to Thursday afternoon.
"It's critical that we get our new national security team confirmed as soon as possible," said a White House official, per Kristen Welker. "When we have 66,000 American troops serving in Afghanistan, face the looming threat of sequestration, and are dealing with continued North Korean intransigence, it's irresponsible not to move forward to confirm Chuck Hagel. There are real consequences to this kind of unprecedented political posturing against a Defense Secretary nominee - consequences that are dangerous to our national security.
But Republicans want a further delay until after the Senate's break next week.
No Defense Secretary has ever been filibustered and just two cabinet secretary nominees, aside from Hagel, have been. But McCain harkened back to the failed nomination of John Tower in 1989.
"I have said all along that we had to have the concerns of Senators addressed," McCain said, "and I'm hopeful we can get those concerns addressed and still move forward with a 51-vote vote, because we have never required 60 votes of a Defense Secretary. But I would remind you that in the case of John Tower -- and I was here when you were teenagers -- John Tower, nominated on Dec. 16, 1988. [On] March 10, 1989, the Senate rejected his nomination. I was here, while the Democrats stalled his nomination for three months. So please, don't give me that argument about how we're holding things up."
Tower was rejected 53-47. It was not by a filibuster, but Democrats controlled the chamber. Three Democrats voted for Tower; one Republican voted against.
Graham said he would support cloture after the recess "unless there's some bombshell."
NBC's Kristen Welker, Mike Viqueira, and Bob Constantini contributed to this report.
This story was originally published on Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:17 PM EST
Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to move forward with former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense. Hagel is still expected to be confirmed, however, during another vote. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
Chuck Hagel’s nomination just hit a major obstacle.
Hagel will not have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster at tomorrow’s scheduled cloture vote, Republican leadership told Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
"My Republican colleagues had led us to believe they would not filibuster Senator Chuck Hagel's confirmation as Secretary of Defense,” Reid (D-NV) said in a statement released by his office. “But that has changed. Now, Senate Republicans have made it clear they intend to mount a full-scale filibuster, and block the Senate from holding a final passage vote on Senator Hagel's nomination. Make no mistake: Republicans are trying to defeat Senator Hagel's nomination by filibustering while submitting extraneous requests that will never be satisfied."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voices his dismay on the House floor Thursday over the filibuster of Chuck Hagel's nomination as U.S. secretary of defense.
All 55 Democrats are supporting Hagel. But just two Republicans have said they would vote for their former colleague, a Republican from Nebraska – Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE). Hagel would need three more for his nomination to be able to proceed to an up-or-down vote, which Reid said would happen Saturday.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Susan Collins (R-ME) previously said they would not support a filibuster of Hagel, which would have given Hagel enough votes.
“I just do not believe a filibuster is appropriate, and I would oppose such a move," McCain said, adding, "I will try to make that argument to my colleagues.”
But McCain and Blunt have changed their tunes.
Republicans, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member on the Armed Services Committee that considered Hagel’s nomination, are arguing that what they are doing is not a “filibuster.” They just want more information, they say, on his finances and speeches -- despite the answers Hagel submitted to the standard Senate questionnaire, as well as his contentious hearing.
That's something that caused Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to accuse Republicans of an "unprecedented" double standard.
McCain, for one, wants more information from the White House on the attacks in Benghazi.
On MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown last week, Blunt was asked if he would support a filibuster of Hagel’s nomination.
“I doubt it; I doubt it,” he said. “I think for somebody who’s going to be there the length of time the president serves, as opposed to a Supreme Court judge, that a majority in the Senate should be able to confirm. I wouldn’t intend to be a part of that majority, but certainly my strong inclination would be that this is a vote that should be done by a majority, rather than a 60-vote standard. And this person is going to leave the day the president leaves. That makes a difference.”
Yet, Blunt’s office contends Blunt’s current position is not a switch.
“He hasn’t changed his original position at all,” said Amber Marchand, Blunt’s spokeswoman. “He’s just pointing out that Senator Hagel and the Obama Admin have not produced all of the information that’s been requested, and there has not been time for a full debate in the Senate, therefore the Senate should not move forward on a vote this week.”
Reid argued Thursday morning on the Senate floor that Republicans were playing politics with national security.
“For the sake of our national security, it’s time to put aside this political theater,” Reid said, accusing them of being more concerned about primaries and the Tea Party.
He said opponents were seeking delay after delay, saying there's been "one stall after another."
Hagel would be just the third cabinet secretary to require the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. The other two were Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush’s nominee for Interior Secretary in 2006, and C. Williams Verity, Ronald Reagan’s pick to be Commerce Secretary in 1987, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Both, however, were easily confirmed and cleared the cloture hurdle, 85-8.
There has never been a cabinet secretary nominee who was successfully filibustered.
There have, however, been other high-level, non-judicial nominees, who have also required 60 votes.
2010- Ben Bernanke (Fed Chair, cloture invoked, passed 77-23)
2009- Hilda Solis (Labor, cloture invoked, but withdrawn)
2006- Dirk Kempthorne (Interior, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)
2005- Rob Portman (USTR, cloture invoked, but vitiated)
2005- John Bolton (US Amb to UN, cloture invoked, nomination rejected 54-38)
2005- Steven L. Johnson (EPA administrator, cloture invoked, passed 61-37)
2003- Michael Leavitt (EPA admin, cloture invoked but withdrawn)
1987- C. Willliam Verity (Commerce, cloture invoked, passed 85-8)
The five lessons we’ve learned from the Hagel fight… 1) Political betrayal is a worse sin than being a member of the opposing party… 2) Getting 60 votes remains the standard in the Senate… 3) Confirmation hearings DO matter… 4) For Republicans, when in doubt just say “Benghazi”… 5) Hagel has been wounded… Obama travels to GA to press for universal pre-K… The two splits inside the GOP… Building a better “likely voter model”… And don’t count on the “six-year itch.”
*** Five lessons we’ve learned from the Hagel fight: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday filed a cloture motion -- requiring 60 votes -- on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary that appears set for Friday. And it’s worth noting that the entire debate over Hagel is upside down: It’s Senate Republicans who are opposing a former GOP senator; it’s Senate Democrats who are uniformly supporting him; and the former Vietnam War hero has been accused by his detractors of being “cozy” with Iran. The White House remains confident he’ll get 60 votes and beat the GOP filibuster -- the first time it’s ever been used against a defense secretary nominee and only third time it’s been used against a cabinet nominee. But the vote is going to be close, and Senate Democrats are bracing themselves for Republicans denying them 60 votes. Right now, whether Hagel gets 60 depends on Hagel opponents like John McCain and Roy Blunt, who both earlier signaled they would NOT participate in a filibuster. Key Republican opponents of Hagel are hoping that the longer they delay the process, there’s the chance another shoe might drop. McCain and Blunt are said to be at least listening to folks trying to persuade them for more time and to join the filibuster. So how did we get here? What have we learned from this Hagel fight? We point to five lessons.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be Defense Secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this January 31, 2013, file photo.
*** Political betrayal, getting 60 votes, confirmation hearings matter, yelling “Benghazi,” and Hagel has been wounded: One, political betrayal is a worse sin than being a member of the opposing party. (The chief example here is John McCain’s tough questions to Hagel on the Iraq surge, which John Kerry -- who received so much praise from McCain -- also opposed.) Two, getting 60 votes remains the standard in the Senate. (This is a reminder for all the future legislative fights and nomination battles we’ll see over the next four years; let’s stop pretending this will change anytime soon.) Three, confirmation hearings, while maybe not decisive, do matter. (Just ask yourself why John Brennan and Jack Lew are having an easier confirmation process. Answer: They aced their confirmation hearings. Hagel, on the other hand, was a borderline disaster on style and he struggled on substance.) Four, Benghazi has become a catch-all Republican fallback, with McCain and Lindsey Graham wanting more answers on the subject before they support moving Hagel’s nomination along. (When in doubt, just yell “Benghazi.” But what’s left to debate? The issue has been litigated at two presidential debates, Hillary Clinton’s two congressional hearings, and Leon Panetta’s one.) And five, Hagel has been wounded by the entire process. (Yes, if confirmed, he has the ability -- just like Tim Geithner did -- to rehabilitate his image, but there are serious questions about his effectiveness, especially in dealing with Congress. Jack Reed, it’s the president on Line 1.)
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee engage in a sharp discussion regarding Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary and his disclosure of personal income.
*** Obama to press for universal pre-K. How will GOPers react? Taking his second trip outside of Washington after his State of the Union address, President Obama today travels to Decatur, GA, where he will tout his universal pre-K initiative in a speech he’ll deliver at 1:20 pm ET. As we wrote yesterday, many of these kinds of initiatives are potential a trap for Republicans -- they’ll oppose them on ideological grounds or as small bore, but they poll VERY well. And they immediately fell into that trap on Obama’s idea to raise the federal minimum wage. What will the GOP reaction be to this pre-K initiative? And this begs another question: What are Republicans proposing right now to help Americans at the kitchen table? We saw House Majority Eric Cantor try to present such an alternative last week. But the main GOP voices have been fixed on the deficit/debt and Hagel. Of course, the president has set his own trap of sorts with many of these ideas: The White House doesn’t seem to have a legislative strategy to get some of these proposals passed in Congress. Yes, they have a POLITICAL strategy, and for now it appears they hope somehow national popularity for an idea will translate into congressional action. Sounds like the plot to the movie “Dave” not the reality we live in here in Washington.
*** The two splits inside the GOP: Speaking of the Republican Party, we are currently seeing two different splits. The first is the establishment vs. the Tea Party. The examples here are Karl Rove vs. conservative groups, as well as Haley Barbour vs. the Club for Growth. But the second split is Washington vs. non-Washington Republicans. And the best way to illustrate this split is between Marco Rubio (Washington) and Bobby Jindal (non-Washington). As we wrote yesterday, Rubio’s State of the Union response was similar to any speech you’d hear from Mitt Romney in 2012, with the exception of Rubio’s different background and his personal story. On the other hand, Jindal has argued that his party should stop focusing so much on Washington budget battles and should instead focus on what’s taking place in the states. We single out these two Republicans because of the obvious 2016 ramifications. Both are conservatives; both appear to be what the party needs as far as looks are concerned (the party is tired of being defined as the party of white men); but both do represent two different schools of thinking of how to rebrand the party.
*** Building a better likely voter model: As our friend Elizabeth Wilner notes in the Cook Political Report, “likely voter models” for national polls didn’t have a good 2012 election cycle. In particular, they seemed to miss some Democratic-leaning Latino and 18-29 voters. So heading into future contests, how do pollsters fix things? NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R) recently proposed some ideas. One, ensure that polls are surveying enough cell phone-only respondents (who made up 33% of all voters, per the 2012 exit polls). Two, make sure that self-described interest isn’t the only factor to in determining who is a likely voter; other factors need to be taken into consideration. Three, try to find ways to enable Latinos and 18-29s to qualify as likely voters. And four, in presidential years, likely voter models should shoot to have a gender breakdown of 53% female, 47% male, which it has been (more or less) in the presidential elections going back to 1992. Folks, take time and read the McInturff manifesto.
*** Don’t count on the “six-year itch”: Meanwhile, McInturff’s partner Neil Newhouse -- who served as Mitt Romney’s pollster in 2012 -- had some advice for House Republicans: Don’t count on the “six-year itch” to benefit Republicans in 2014. Roll Call: “At their first political conference meeting of the 113th Congress, held at Republican National Committee headquarters a stone’s throw from the Capitol, National Republican Congressional Committee Vice Chairman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia and top GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told members to be on guard for Obama’s campaign machine... 'I kind of emphasized to the members that second midterm elections have never been friendly to the president,' Newhouse said in an interview. 'You can’t count on that. That’s not going to happen. We’ve got to realize that the House Republicans are going to be Obama’s top target.'"
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*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) with a Deep Dive into what the president can do with our without the help of Congress… Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Republican messaging and combatting messengers… Plus Politico’s Jonathan Martin, the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page and former Bush White House Political Director Sara Taylor Fagen in the Gaggle.
*** Thursday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts discusses Hagel hold-ups with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)… Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joins to talk about the sequester showdown on Capitol Hill… MSNBC Contributor Goldie Taylor sounds off on the politics of poverty… And Today’s Power Panel includes: TheGrio.Com’s Perry Bacon, Democratic strategist Keith Boykin and Republican strategist Susan Del Percio.
*** Thursday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Kurt Andersen, Politico’s Maggie Haberman, theGrio’s Joy Reid, and MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki.
*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews former astronaut and Gabby Giffords husband Capt. Mark Kelly, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Kristen Welker and Politico’s Jim VandeHei.
*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Politico’s Rachel Smolkin, Dem strategist David Goodfriend, Michael Smerconish, and Daily Beast/Newsweek National political correspondent Dan Klaidman.
“President Barack Obama’s ambitious plan to expand preschool programs comes as one out of every 13 students already in Head Start classrooms is at risk of being kicked out if lawmakers don’t sidestep a budget meltdown,” the AP writes. “Obama was set to talk about enlarging early childhood education programs such as Head Start during a stop Thursday in Georgia.”
The Washington Post: “President Obama will visit a Head Start program near Atlanta Thursday to formally unveil his proposal for expanding early childhood education, which includes home-visiting programs that offer parenting skills and support to new mothers and fathers, more quality child care for infants and toddlers, and a push to offer pre-school to all four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families.”
“President Obama traveled to North Carolina on Wednesday to kick off a three-day, post-State of the Union push for his plan to revitalize the U.S. economy,” USA Today writes. “Obama chose a Canadian auto-parts manufacturer, The Linamar Corp., in Asheville, N.C., as a backdrop to reinforce his call for Congress to pour money into bolstering America's manufacturing and high-tech sectors.”
“President Barack Obama has again nominated two members of the National Labor Relations Board whose appointments last year were disputed by a federal appeals court,” the AP says. “On Wednesday, Obama sent to the Senate the nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, both of whom he placed on the labor board by bypassing the Senate last year. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last month Obama violated the Constitution by using a so-called ‘recess appointment’ to place them on the board.”
Obama’s doing a Google+ hangout Thursday at 4:50 pm ET.
“As part of his effort to acquaint himself with his new surroundings -- and build some good will -- Secretary of State John Kerry dropped by the press room at the Department of State on Wednesday bearing gifts: Red Sox caps,” the Boston Globe reports. “The former Massachusetts senator, who assumed the post of top diplomat on Feb. 1, spent some time chatting with television and print reporters and producers who will be covering and traveling with him in the coming months.”
Two Yankees fans reporters made a fuss about getting the hats, one even declined it.
“Accusing Republicans of a new level of obstruction, Senate Democrats moved on Wednesday to force a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense,” the New York Times says. “Only twice since 1917, when the Senate’s modern filibuster rules were created, has a cabinet-level nominee been subject to a supermajority vote of 60, as Republicans are forcing with Mr. Hagel.”
“Chuck Hagel will not get the support of a prominent Republican moderate as the Senate gets ready to consider his nomination as secretary of Defense,” USA Today writes. Susan Collins said yesterday she’ll oppose Hagel. More: “Only two Republicans — Mississippi's Thad Cochran and Nebraska's Mike Johanns — have said they will vote to confirm Hagel. Democrats have a 55-45 voting edge in the Senate.”
Norm Ornstein: “This has not been a good month for the fabric of governance. First we have the ridiculous demands from a majority of Senate Republicans for information about finances of private groups that former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel has been affiliated with, including transcripts or notes from all speeches he has given since he left the Senate, even when off-the-record and even when he had no prepared speech. The request for finances, namely about foreign money given to corporations or nonprofits such as the Atlantic Council, is a simple smear, innuendo that Hagel may be wrongly connected to foreign interests or governments.”
“Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told USA Today Wednesday that he is prepared to put a ‘hold’ on John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA, and to filibuster it if necessary, until the administration answers his questions about the use of drones in the United States.”
But, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports that Majority Leader Harry Reid will not honor the hold.
“Jacob J. Lew emerged relatively unscathed from his nomination hearing to serve as Treasury secretary, putting the administration’s choice to replace Timothy F. Geithner on a likely easy path to confirmation,” Roll Call writes.
Roll Call notes that Republicans’ opposition to the minimum wage increase sought by the president could make them look bad.
OK, mark March 27th now on your calendars… Roll Call: “Even as they blame one another for automatic spending cuts set to take effect March 1, key lawmakers on both sides believe the best chance for a bipartisan deal to restructure the sequester will come by the end of March. ‘The best time to redesign the automatic spending cuts will come with the [expiration of the] continuing resolution on March 27,’ said Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. ‘The cuts will occur on March 1. Then there will be a fight in the CR over the design.’”
Scott Brown debuted as a FOX contributor last night.
KENTUCKY: “Actress Ashley Judd’s movement toward a Senate run against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell makes Democrats in Washington, D.C., happy,” Roll Call writes. “But back in Kentucky, for many Bluegrass State Democrats, a potential Judd run brings a different feeling: heartburn.”
NEW JERSEY: Rep. Rob Andrews, who once himself tried to challenge Frank Lautenberg (and lost) defended Cory Booker: “I think he’s tried to be respectful of the senator’s choice, but made it clear he’d like to serve in the Senate and I think that’s very legitimate.”
Amid a growing sense that the drastic and automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” are likely to take effect at the beginning of March, House Republicans have spent the last few weeks pinning the blame squarely on President Barack Obama if these cuts take place.
“We’re weeks away from the president’s sequester,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill. “And the president laid out no plan to eliminate the sequester and the harmful cuts that will come of it.”
Yet it’s not as though Obama has embraced the cuts, which economists warn could not only cost thousands of American jobs, but also threaten to weaken the national defense because a large portion of them fall disproportionately upon the Pentagon’s budget. Rather, he mimicked Republicans, and pointed fingers.
“In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year,” the president said in his State of the Union address.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by the fellow House GOP leadership, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Feb. 5, 2013, to urge President Barack Obama to offer ideas to replace the looming, automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.
The blame game reflects the unpopularity of those cuts; a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month found that 43 percent of Americans oppose letting the sequester take effect, versus 22 percent who favor the automatic cuts. Almost a third of Americans expressed no opinion, though that number would almost certainly drop if the cuts are swiftly implemented.
But the mere fact that sequestration continues to hover over Washington’s budget battles is a direct result of the dysfunction that has come to characterize negotiations between Obama and congressional Republicans over the past two years. Despite both sides’ work to absolve themselves of responsibility for these cuts, there is more than enough blame to spread around.
The sequester was the byproduct of the last-minute deal forged in August of 2011 to raise the nation’s debt limit. As the deadline for default neared, Obama and Boehner struggled to reach an agreement that would give House Republicans the spending cuts they wanted, and allow Obama to prevent a default on the national debt.
That fight itself was somewhat unusual. Republicans, in their zest to extract spending cuts from the president, took the unusual step of demanding cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, a congressional prerogative that had been largely routine in modern history.
According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s book “The Price of Politics,” it was the White House that first suggested some kind of triggered spending cuts as part of a compromise to extract more borrowing authority. This is the primary evidence by which Republicans make their charge.
But GOP leaders also no longer acknowledge their own role in pushing the measure through Congress. Boehner told CBS News at the time of the deal that he was happy with the agreement, and “got 98 percent of what I wanted.”
“No one said it's his responsibility alone. We've just pointed out accurately that the only reason it exists is his insistence on it,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Wednesday. “Given that fact, he, more than anyone, has responsibility to do something about it. And they've done nothing.”
The whole point of the sequester, though, was its design – fashioned to be so reckless and deep in its cuts that it would be politically distasteful to lawmakers in both parties, forcing the administration and congressional Republicans to reach an agreement.
In fact, the 2011 agreement also created the so-called “super committee,” the bipartisan, bicameral panel that was intended to generate a comprehensive proposal to replace the sequester with a series of spending cuts, new tax revenue and entitlement reforms.
Their work failed because Republicans and Democrats couldn’t reach an agreement – a prime example of the strident divisions that characterized the last Congress.
President Barack Obama explains his view on what a sequester would do to the U.S. economy while delivering the State of the Union on Tuesday.
Sequestration, of course, was the other prong of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the economically catastrophic combination of those spending cuts and the automatic spending hikes that were set to take place at the beginning of this year. Lawmakers addressed part of the tax component when they passed legislation allowing taxes to rise on household income over $450,000.
But they punted on the sequester for another two months, setting up the end-of-February deadline before these spending cuts take place. And as the onset of the sequester seems more and more like a fait accompli, Republicans and Democrats are now scrambling to assign blame.
GOP lawmakers’ central argument now is that they have passed an alternative to the sequester, though it leans solely on spending cuts and was regarded as dead in the Democratic-controlled Senate before the House even passed the proposal.
That’s at least better, Republicans argue, than the administration. The president has not formally debuted a detailed legislative alternative to the sequester, relying instead on outlining broad parameters and leaving the work to lawmakers.
“If Congress can’t act immediately on a bigger package … then I believe that they should at least pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would delay the economically damaging effects of the sequester for a few more months until Congress finds a way to replace these cuts with a smarter solution,” Obama said on Feb. 5.
He outlined more specific parameters – tax reform, entitlement savings and spending cuts – in Wednesday’s State of the Union that, Obama argued, would make up a more “balanced” replacement for the sequester.
That wasn’t enough for Boehner.
“Republicans have twice passed bills to replace the sequester,” the top Republican said on Wednesday. “It’s incumbent upon the president and Senate Democrats to show us their plan to stop the sequester from going into effect.”
Until then, more buck-passing.
After Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today announced he is prepared to hold John Brennan's nomination to be CIA director, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wouldn't honor the hold.
Paul said he's willing to hold Brennan's nomination until he receives sufficient answers to two letters of inquiry he sent to Brennan regarding the use of drones.
"I have asked Mr. Brennan if he believed that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and my question remains unanswered," Paul said. "I will not allow a vote on this nomination until Mr. Brennan openly responds to the questions and concerns my colleagues and I share."
But Reid's office will not honor the hold. Reid also refused to honor holds on Chuck Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary.
What is a hold?
A hold is a move any individual senator can make to delay a bill/nomination from coming to the floor. It could be used to get more time to review a bill or nomination but in the current climate is an attempt to gain leverage over some issue or request.
From the Senate's official glossary:
"An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator's wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure."
The Senate will hold a test vote on Friday to move toward final confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that he planned to hold a procedural vote on Friday at a to-be-determined time on Hagel's nomination. The vote isn't final confirmation on the nomination, but it could presage the former senator's chances at winning approval from his former colleagues.
Democrats will need 60 votes to move forward with the nomination, requiring the support of at least a few Republicans. Some conservatives have sought to block the Hagel nomination outright, though other Republicans have said they wouldn't block the nomination from moving forward, even though they intended to vote against Hagel's final confirmation.
Still, Democrats lamented that this instance was the first time in which Republicans had essentially filibustered a defense secretary nominee, because Republicans are demanding that Reid meet the threshold of support needed to end a filibuster.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and NBC's Chuck Todd talk about the key proposals from Tuesday's speech and the president's trip to North Carolina on Wednesday.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Road-testing his State of the Union message for the first time since his speech last night, President Obama visited a factory here in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains that he said exemplified his second-term vision for manufacturing growth.
Obama emphasized his plans for increased collaboration between federal, state, and local governments to create good conditions for manufacturing, citing Canadian-owned Linamar’s arrival in the Asheville area in 2011 as an example.
“There's a good story to tell here,” Obama said, speaking to a factory floor full of plant workers after touring the auto-parts facility.
State and local officials offered Linamar about $18 million in incentives to move to the plant to Asheville in 2011, after it was vacated by the automaker Volvo, which caused 228 workers to lose their jobs.
The county had purchased the plant for $7 million, according to local reports at the time, which also noted that Linamar had pledged 363 jobs. So far, it has hired 160 workers and, as the president noted, plans to add another 40 by the end of the year.
Chuck Burton / AP
President Barack Obama speaks to workers and guests at the Linamar Corporation plant in Arden, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013.
Obama said the success of Linamar can be mirrored around the country if the plans he laid out in his State of the Union are implemented -- including funding for “innovation centers” around the country and comprehensive corporate tax reform, which includes disincentives for outsourcing and the elimination of some corporate loopholes.
And as the president said in his speech last night, he wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 per hour by 2015.
(That's lower than the $9.50 he called for on the campaign trail in 2008, but his advisers say it's still a sizeable boost, given the new tax credits low-income families have available to them like the child tax credit, as well as the implementation of the president’s health care plan.)
“It’s time for an increase in the minimum wage because if you work full-time, you shouldn’t be in poverty,” Obama said during his speech today.
The president also urged Congress to vote on his initiatives that need its approval -- including the 15 innovation centers he wants –- but he was less aggressive than he was in the House chamber Tuesday night, saying only, “I need Congress to do their part.”
Obama will continue his traditional post-State of the Union roadshow to Decatur, Ga., on Thursday and then Chicago on Friday.
Thierry Charlier / AFP - Getty Images file
US General John Allen looks on following a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels in this Oct. 10, 2012, file photo.
Gen. John Allen, caught up and later cleared in a scandal over emails with a Florida socialite, is likely to withdraw from consideration for the job of top NATO commander, three U.S. military officials have told NBC News.
A Pentagon investigation last month cleared Allen of wrongdoing, but U.S. military officials said that Allen does not want to drag his family through a nomination process in which the emails would almost certainly come up.
Allen has spoken with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta but he has not had the chance to meet with President Barack Obama to voice his concerns. A U.S. official said that Obama was aware of Allen’s feelings, and they would meet to discuss the nomination in the coming days.
“After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, Gen. Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment,” an official on Allen’s staff told NBC News.
Allen’s emails with the socialite, Jill Kelley, came to light during the investigation that ultimately brought down CIA director David Petraeus, who confessed to an extramarital affair with a separate woman.
Allen was previously the top American commander in Afghanistan. The White House had said after the Pentagon cleared him of wrongdoing that it would proceed with its nomination of Allen for supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe.
Kelley, who acted as a volunteer “social liaison” with military officials at MacDill Air Force Base, inadvertently triggered the investigation that led to Petraeus’ resignation by complaining to the FBI about anonymous emails she received.
FBI agents traced the allegedly threatening emails to Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer.
Just last weekend, Allen took part in a handover ceremony and passed command of the Afghan mission to Gen. Joseph Dunford. Allen delivered an emotional speech aimed mostly at the Afghan people and stressed their role in taking over security by mid-year. He said that Afghan forces were defending their own people and allowing the government to serve its citizens.
“This is victory,” Allen said, according to Reuters. “This is what winning looks like.”
Last fall, defense officials told NBC News that while there was no evidence Allen and Kelley had had an affair, there was enough “inappropriate language” in them that they warranted an investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Obama nominated Allen last October for the NATO post but put a hold on the nomination while the Pentagon conducted its investigation.
In announcing the nomination, the president praised Allen’s stewardship of the Afghan mission and said that under his command “we have made important progress towards our core goal of defeating al-Qaida and ensuring they can never return to a sovereign Afghanistan.”
It remained possible that the president could ask Allen to reconsider and go ahead with the nomination, but a U.S. defense official does not think that will happen.
This story was originally published on Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:28 PM EST
That went nowhere fast.
President Obama laid out nearly two dozen proposals, promises, and calls for Congress to act Tuesday night in his fourth State of the Union address. But his speech was met by a brick wall of Republican opposition.
"An opportunity to bring the country together instead became another retread of lip service and liberalism,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. “For a Democratic president entering his second term, it was simply unequal to the moment.”
Despite President Obama’s subtle reference to wanting to reform Medicare during the State of the Union address, McConnell accused Obama of catering to his base, and dismissed the speech as “pedestrian” and “liberal boilerplate.”
“Following four years of this president's unwillingness to challenge liberal dogma, we got more of the same,” McConnell said.
That echoed House Speaker John Boehner’s charge yesterday that the president didn’t have “the guts” to challenge his base and make spending cuts to fix the budget.
The president's speech started out focusing on the looming economic crisis, then proceeded to lay out a laundry list of domestic proposal and ended with a passionate plea to change the country's gun control laws. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd recaps the address.
Asked if Democrats on the Hill would be willing to entertain cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said on MSNBC Wednesday, “Absolutely not.”
McConnell rejected Obama’s call for increased infrastructure spending and his push on climate change, instead noting that Obama didn’t mention the Keystone Pipeline or coal, which he called “proven and reliable.”
"The president spoke about energy infrastructure but didn't mention the Keystone pipeline,” McConnell said. “He chose the nation's biggest stage to promote something that's inefficient and costly, like solar panels, instead of something that's proven and reliable - and domestically produced - like coal.”
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
John Boehner answers questions at the Republican Party Headquarters on Capitol Hill February 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.
McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also dismissed Obama’s call to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour. It’s something Obama said was necessary given that someone working full time at $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage, would only make $14,500 a year. The minimum wage has been flat since 2009.
"He spoke of workers' minimum wages, instead of their maximum potential,” McConnell said.
“When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday. “At a time when American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ why would we want to make it harder for small employers to hire people.”
He added, “Our goal is to get people on that ladder and help them climb that ladder so they can live the American dream. And a lot of people who are being paid the minimum wage, are being paid that because they come to the workforce with no skills, and this makes it harder for them to acquire the skills they need in order to climb that ladder successfully.”
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and Frank Thorp contributed to this report.
PUBLISHED, 11:25 AM ET - Former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana had tough words for his party, his primary opponent who defeated him last cycle but went on to lose in the fall to a Democrat, and opponents of ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for defense secretary.
Lugar, who had been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and served with Hagel on the committee, said the former Nebraska senator’s positions were “legitimately held” and are now being “selectively pulled out of context,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown. That’s something Lugar called “unfortunate and unfair.”
The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd takes a "deep dive" look into former Sen. Dick Lugar's recent parting comments on partisanship and Republicans in Congress. Lugar joins The Daily Rundown to discuss.
More broadly, Lugar was critical of the Tea Party without naming it. Asked if it has been detrimental to the GOP, Lugar said, “I believe that this is generally the consensus.”
He added, “Republicans, who really want to see a majority in the Senate, there really have to be able candidates that appeal not just to core Republicans, but to independents, and even some Democratic crossovers.”
Lugar declined to criticize Richard Mourdock, his primary opponent, by name or say if the right person won in the Indiana Senate race. Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly had been in what appeared to be a 50-50 race until Mourdock said that if a woman was raped it was “something that God intended to happen.”
But, Lugar did say, “My opponent made some very egregious errors,” emphasizing that Mourdock’s performance was a drag on Republicans up and down the ballot, including on newly elected Republican Gov. Mike Pence, whom Lugar said would have likely won by more.
“There were consequences to the Senate situation,” Lugar said.
As for his own campaign, Lugar said, “I have no regrets.” But he added that low turnout in the primary is what doomed him. “That was my problem,” he said. “We needed to get our votes out.”
Lugar praised President Obama, calling his State of the Union address “comprehensive” and describing the president as someone “who really does have a unifying spirit.”
But he knocked down speculation that he had wanted to serve in the Obama administration and said the president needed reach out more to members of Congress on important issues, like the budget.
“The fact is,” Lugar said, “I did not want to serve in the Obama administration. I did not want to be an appointed official.”
And: “I did receive a few invitations [to the White House] and appreciated those opportunities. Nevertheless, there was very little of it.”