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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Nevada Public Radio yesterday that unless judicial nominations start moving through the U.S. Senate he’ll consider dramatic rule changes.

Said Reid: "All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary."

This is a change of heart from Reid, who just last year suggested that rules could be changed with a simple majority — but only on the first day of the legislative session.

As Roll Call notes, Reid’s comments are similar to those of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn....  More»

 

While a wide majority of Americans look at Congress with disdain, sometimes it’s important to look at the context. Our lawmakers were elected by voters after all, who according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released this week, don’t always see the world very clearly.

A sampling of the more alarming results:

• 6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive.

• 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and the federal government covered it up.

• 28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order.

• 28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks....  More»

 
April 6, 2013, at 6:27 PM

Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert, who died earlier this week, loved politics as much as the movies and regularly offered up his opinions through Twitter or his blog. Politico highlights some examples of his take on the nation's politics.

As a tribute, The Fix republished a reader-generated list of the best political movies ever. It's a good list, but I think it can be narrowed down to ten.

Here are my 10 favorite political movies:

1. All the King's Men - The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power through populist appeal.

2. The Candidate - A Senate candidate with no hope of winning actually wins.

3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - A newcomer to the U.S. Senate gets a tough lesson in political corruption, but doesn't back down....  More»

 

President Obama's months-delayed budget was finally released today, and it's being sharply criticized from both sides.

Liberals suggest the president is a "sellout" for proposing cuts to Social Security and other entitlements by using a "Chained CPI" calculation, while Republicans are falling back on their familiar "tax-and-spend liberal" attacks.
 
John Avlon sees this political posturing as a good sign, noting that the budget "is not a positional bargaining document, designed simply to rally the base at the outset of negotiations."

While it's possible the White House is trying to triangulate its way to a "grand bargain" on the budget, what's striking ...  More»

 

Ever since the Watergate scandal broke in the 1970s, political reporters have taken the adage "follow the money" quite seriously. It's even more important since NPR reported that current campaign finance laws are not being enforced in an age of record political spending.

Now the guys behind Political Moneyline — a must-read new blog — are helping out by digging through campaign finance reports and coming up with dozens of interesting items.

There's nothing scandalous, but here are five nuggets that caught my attention:

1. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) reported his campaign fund earned $75,637 from investments during the first quarter ...  More»

 

When President Obama introduced his long-awaited budget last week, most of the focus was on his proposal to reduce payments for future Social Security beneficiaries by using a "chained CPI" calculation. The adoption of the calculation would slow the rate of inflation over time and reduce cost-of-living increases for future beneficiaries.

Now the politics are starting to sink in, and it's scaring Democrats.

The Hill points out that a "growing number" of House Democrats are concerned that the president's proposal "will haunt the party at the polls in 2014."

The New York Times says "opponents on his party's left will make that an issue for Democrats in the midterm elections next year — and perhaps in the 2016 presidential contest."

Responding to the outcry, Democratic strategist Robert Shrum says, "You would think President Obama was proposing to repeal ...  More»

 
April 14, 2013, at 10:05 PM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) launched a campaign on Sunday to win over support for an immigration reform bill by appearing on a record-setting seven network news programs. But he may have also launched his campaign for president.

Although Rubio foolishly denied he's even thinking about how the proposal might impact his chances of running for president in 2016, it's becoming increasingly clear that's exactly what he's planning.

Rubio knows that Democrats hold a near-electoral lock on the White House. He knows that Republicans can't win the presidency without reversing their slide among Latino voters....  More»

 

This week's vote on the Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks — expected either Tuesday or Wednesday — will determine if substantive gun control legislation has a chance of becoming law.

Although the bill was mocked by Saturday Night Live over the weekend, it's still the last best hope gun control advocates have to pass new gun restrictions.

But the hurdles are enormous.

The Manchin-Toomey amendment will need at least 60 votes to pass, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to fight off numerous "poison pill" amendments since he promised an open process for modifying the bill.

But even if the Manchin-Toomey proposal clears the 60-vote hurdle and the amendments process, the legislation faces an even bigger obstacle down the road: the Republican-controlled House of Representatives....  More»

 
April 15, 2013, at 2:20 PM

Republicans have been working to convert the once-neutral "entitlement" label into a negative to make it easier for Congress to cut social programs.

While an entitlement used to be a positive — indicating a citizen's right to the benefits of a program they paid into — the term is now used to portray social spending that's out of control.

The shift was underscored during last year's presidential election, when Mitt Romney castigated the 47 percent of Americans who "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Now Republicans in Congress are working overtime to attach a similar negative feeling to Social Security and Medicare.

As Bloomberg notes, Americans were once conditioned to regard both programs as special....  More»

 

In case you were wondering how long it would take before a member of Congress used the Boston bombings to make a political point, the answer is less than 24 hours.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a prominent House conservative and longtime opponent of immigration reform, told the National Review that the bombing in Boston should make lawmakers cautious about rushing an immigration bill.

Said King: "Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa. If that's the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture."

He added: "We need to be ever vigilant. We need to go far deeper into our border crossings... We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we're doing....  More»

 

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the two sponsors of the bipartisan gun background check legislation coming to a vote this afternoon, admit they don't have the votes for passage.

But why would a proposal with near 90 percent support of the American public fail?

Here are five reasons:

1. Senators knew the bill would likely be killed in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. Most senators are averse to making risky votes but no one will stick their neck out when they know the bill isn't going anywhere.

2. The proposal needed more than a majority to pass in the Senate....  More»

 

There are still many unanswered questions in the wake of the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, with his now-dead older brother Tamerlan, allegedly carried out the Boston Marathon bombings last week.

But none are so baffling in retrospect as how little the two brothers did to avoid being caught — from staying in Boston after the attacks to confessing to the hostage they took after a carjacking that they were responsible.

In fact, when the hostage escaped and left his phone behind, police were able to track the Tsarnaev's location via GPS....  More»

 

The dedication of the George W. Bush library gives loyalists of the former president a chance to highlight what they see as the positive legacy of his eight years in office.

But even among supporters there is a sense he'll never be given historical vindication.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleisher told NBC News: "I'm increasingly doubtful, just because I think the lens of history is not changing. A lot of us used to say President Bush will look good and he'll be vindicated in the public eye. But realistically speaking, I don't see a lot of the people who write history all of a sudden changing their mind about George W....  More»

 

Republicans need to win just six seats to gain control of the U.S. Senate in next year's election, but the AP reports that the GOP is struggling mightily to recruit candidates.

The 2014 elections represent a big chance for Republicans as Democrats will be defending 21 seats to Republicans' 14. In addition, retirement announcements by several senior Democrats — in Iowa, Michigan, and Montana — have given the GOP a chance to not face an incumbent.

But so far there's been a combination of lack of interest from prospective Republican candidates and a lack of consensus in the party on who might be the best candidate.

The GOP is desperately trying to avoid the embarrassing defeats they suffered last year in Indiana and Missouri by nominating bad Senate candidates....  More»

 

After gun-control legislation was defeated last month, Senate Democrats now believe that they may have several new votes in favor of a bill that would expand background checks for gun buyers.

The Huffington Post notes "the bullish talk from Democrats — from leadership on down — is yet another indication that the party feels good about the fallout from the failed gun vote and is increasingly eager to try again."

One of these votes currently in play may be Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who sponsored a background check bill on the state level in Georgia, according to Greg Sargent.

Another may be Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who has faced a wave of intense criticism — and falling polling numbers — after she voted against the measure last month....  More»

 

While there is still no evidence connecting the IRS's targeting of conservative groups directly to President Obama, senior White House officials, or to his re-election campaign, NBC's First Read smartly points out that this doesn't mean the White House doesn't have a serious public relations problem on its hands.

And this public relations problem is almost entirely self-inflicted.

In interviews and press briefings, the White House's explanation for when it learned about the problems at the IRS keeps changing.

As Politico reports, "Just a day after telling reporters that chief of staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House staff learned of the situation nearly a month ago, press secretary Jay Carney revealed Tuesday that White House officials had consulted with the Treasury Department on how to make the findings public....  More»

 

Politicians, scientists, and journalists repeatedly warned that the United States would be plagued by a generation of "crack babies" putting a massive drain on the social service infrastructures of our inner cities.

Retro Report — an independent news organization of which I'm the publisher — went back and looked at the story decades later and traced the concern to a single 1985 study which concluded that pregnant mothers who smoked crack cocaine were seriously harming their unborn children. The explosive findings were kept alive through a steady drumbeat of media coverage. Laws were passed and addicted mothers were even incarcerated.

But the study was flawed, the media coverage was overhyped, and the forecasts never came true. In fact, scientific research now concludes that alcohol is a much bigger problem for unborn babies than crack...  More»

 
July 2, 2013, at 7:00 PM

In 1971, Greg Gude’s outrage over wild horses being hunted down, slaughtered, butchered, and sold as pet food led to his lobbying of a key lawmaker to get a federal law passed to protect them.

Gude was just 11 years old at the time. But his father, Gilbert Gude, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland.

Said Gude: "I lived with my Congressman. I could lobby at the dinner table."

The young boy even made the evening news with Walter Cronkite telling viewers how an 11-year-old had persuaded his father "to introduce a bill to protect wild horses and burros on the western plains."

Gude even testified at House hearings on the legislation. Some months later, President Nixon signed a bill into law to protect the wild horses and halt the commercial capture and slaughter of wild horses roaming federal lands....  More»

 
July 2, 2013, at 7:50 PM

Reports of my early retirement are premature. I made the editorial decision that blogging at The Week about the political affairs of Morocco on vacation might not meet readers' expectations. But perhaps I should have at least sent a postcard!

Nonetheless, it's good to be missed. Here’s a quick report of what I learned on my summer vacation.

Several years ago, friends canceled their Moroccan trip due to the Arab Spring uprisings sweeping across much of North Africa. Massive protests had forced rulers from power in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. And it looked like they might do the same in Morocco, with angry crowds growing in Casablanca and the capital city of Rabat.

But the protests failed to gain steam and King Mohammed VI remained safely in power and in possession of his 52 palaces....  More»

 
July 3, 2013, at 8:38 AM

If you're still looking for a good book to read on the beach this summer, you can stop looking.

Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America by Dan Balz is an incredibly interesting and fun look back at last year's presidential campaign.

The book doesn't go on sale until next month, but many news outlets got early copies and are already leaking some of the better stories.

The Huffington Post and USA Today describe a story from Christmas 2010 when Mitt Romney's family overwhelmingly voted against the idea of a presidential campaign by a landslide margin, 10 to 2....  More»

 
July 3, 2013, at 11:30 AM

Implementing President Obama's health-care reform law was never going to be an easy. Its complexity makes it one of the biggest domestic policy challenges ever undertaken by the federal government.

And Republican opposition to the law at every turn has only made implementation harder. The GOP will stop at nothing in its attempts to derail the law.

But yesterday's surprise announcement delaying the large employer mandate until after the 2014 midterm elections was a political earthquake inside the Beltway.

Said Speaker John Boehner in a statement: "This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."

Making matters worse, the Treasury Department made the statement while President Obama was on Air Force One returning from Africa....  More»

 

As the United States celebrates Independence Day, a new Gallup poll finds that 57 percent of Americans are "extremely proud" to be a citizen while 28 percent are "very proud.” That's a total of 85 percent of adults who say they are proud to be an American on the nation's birthday.

Interestingly, Gallup notes this high level of pride in being an American "has varied only moderately over the past 12 years since the question was first asked."

However, Americans are much less sure that the signers of the Declaration of Independence would actually be pleased by the way the United States has grown as a nation over the last 237 years. A whopping 71 percent of Americans say the signers would be disappointed, while 27 percent say they would be pleased.

This is almost certainly a reflection of the extreme negativity Americans feel toward their government ...  More»

 

A new Pew Research survey finds that when asked for one-word descriptions of President Obama and former President George W. Bush, the word incompetent seems to resonate loudly with many Americans. Near equal numbers chose the word as the best description of the two men.

Lloyd Green suggests it's not a coincidence because the signature policies of both — bringing democracy to the Middle East for Bush and universal health care for Obama — have run aground.

Writes Green: "Bush's incompetence was born of excess idealism. Rather than seeing a region mired in muck, he envisioned a world created anew and ignored the question of what happens the day after? As for Obama, he has treated legislative victory as an end in itself, while ignoring the reality of actual implementation....  More»

 

Even though the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report after the 2012 presidential election urged the party to repair its relationship with Hispanic voters, few in the rank-and-file are paying attention.

In fact, it seems they’re on their way to making the problems for their party worse.

Top Republicans on Capitol Hill tell Politico that the comprehensive immigration reform bill — which overwhelmingly passed the Senate last month — “will die a slow, months-long death in the House."

Rick Klein sees the same dynamic forming: "As unfathomable as it seems that a bill supported by two-thirds of senators never comes up for a vote in the House, that's now clearly the path we're on."

The conventional wisdom suggested Republicans would pass immigration reform to improve their political position with Hispanics....  More»

 
July 10, 2013, at 10:30 AM

The frustration Americans feel towards their government and their elected officials is well-documented. But an interesting new Gallup survey shows large majorities backing three political reforms they think could turn things around:

1. 68 percent of voters support a national referendum on key issues as long as enough voters sign a petition requesting a popular vote.
2. 61 percent want to shorten the presidential campaign to just five weeks — stretching from late September to the November election.
3. 58 percent support a national primary day to choose the presidential candidates.

Gallup notes that at various times this year, it has retested public support for the three reforms using slightly different question-wording and format, and each time found that half or more of Americans still favor each of them....  More»

 

It wasn't pretty but progress was made in Washington this week.

Senate Democrats and Republicans engaged in some brinksmanship over the filibuster, but after looking over the edge, both parties decided it wasn't worth the threat of the "nuclear option" to continue to block President Obama's nominees.

This led to the relatively quick confirmation of the president's picks to head the Labor Department and the Environment Protection Agency. It also led to confirmation of his choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a key agency created to fix weaknesses in the country's financial regulatory system that many believe led to the economic crisis five years ago.

In addition, Senate Democrats and Republicans also reached a deal to reduce interest rates on student loans, with a vote promised early next week....  More»

 
July 24, 2013, at 11:14 AM

We’ve known for years that most Americans have grown tired of their representatives in Washington, D.C., but a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows their disaffection hitting new highs.

A stunning 83 percent now disapprove of the job Congress is doing, which is an all-time high in the survey. In addition, 57 percent would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if given the option.

President Obama doesn’t escape the disdain of Americans either. His approval rate is now just 45 percent, it’s lowest level since the August 2011 debt-ceiling fight, which wounded nearly every politician.

When asked to explain why they don’t like what’s going on in the nation’s capital, survey respondents cite the following:

1....  More»

 
July 24, 2013, at 4:38 PM

When the House Republican leadership found out that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) claimed that for every undocumented high school valedictorian there were another 100 "hauling…marijuana across the desert," they correctly reacted in horror.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the comments "hateful," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said they were "inexcusable."

But King refuses to back down. In fact, he thinks he’s winning the debate.

King gave this explanation to Breitbart News: "You know when people attack you — in this business, when you're in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, they're diverting from the topic matter. You know they've lost the debate when they do that. We've talked about it for years....  More»

 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said in an interview on WTOP that he is working with his lawyers to arrange the return of many gifts he accepted from a political donor, Jonnie Williams Jr., including a $6,500 Rolex watch.

This follows his announcement last week that he would repay approximately $120,000 in loans to Williams.

Said McDonnell: "My intent is everything I have received from this particular donor... that those gifts that I have in my possession, I am working with my counsel to be able to return."

But as TPM reports, McDonnell also threw his wife under the scandal bus claiming that it was her office that organized a 2011 event for Williams and his company at the governor's mansion. He claims to have known nothing about it.

McDonnell could have learned a few things from another politician with presidential aspirations who faced a similar...  More»

 

When Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) announced his intention to not run for Congress next year — he's taking a post in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration — he stressed that it was the "brutal party politics in Washington and fundraising" that contributed to his decision.

In just about six months since they were sworn in, we’ve already seen three retirements and two resignations from the House of Representatives. In the Senate, there have been seven retirements.

You can hardly blame them. Congress has never been more unpopular. Approval ratings for Congress are regularly in the single digits.

And they don’t get much done either. With just 22 pieces of legislation passed so far this year, lawmakers are easily on track to set new lows in productivity....  More»

 
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