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After a hastily called meeting at the White House this morning, President Obama and congressional leaders departed after just an hour with no deal to avoid the automatic spending cuts scheduled to hit later today.

While most of the discussion has been on how the spending cuts will hurt Americans, a larger consideration is what Americans will lose with no compromise between the two parties.

By refusing to consider more revenues by closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans, Republicans have lost out on a chance to control entitlement spending. Had the GOP pushed a plan to dramatically cut entitlement spending in combination with new revenues, it would have been very hard for President Obama to refuse.

As Ron Brownstein correctly points out, Republicans "are underestimating the value of a Democratic president willing to provide a heat shield for ...  More»

 

Members of Congress snuck out of Washington just as automatic across-the-board spending cuts took effect, and no one is quite sure what happens next. But when lawmakers return they'll find at least five pressing matters that require their immediate attention.

1. Gun control: The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to take up several proposals pushed by President Obama including enhanced background checks, an assault weapons ban, and a gun trafficking measure. There appears to be some agreement on background checks, but Democrats are less optimistic on the other measures....  More»

 

When President Obama announced he would not force a government shutdown over the automatic spending cuts that took place on Friday, he lost significant leverage in his dealings with Congressional Republicans. The sequester will now almost certainly remain in place for months, if not even longer.

White House officials had predicted for months that Republicans would cave by agreeing to new revenue from closing tax loopholes. But they never did.

The president's strategy is now down to this: He'll crisscross the country highlighting how Americans are hurt by the spending cuts forced by the sequester and hope resulting pressure will force Republicans back to the negotiating table.

But as John Avlon notes, it's a dangerous game....  More»

 

Conventional wisdom suggests that Republicans would hold five additional U.S. Senate seats if their candidates hadn't said really dumb things during the last two election cycles. 

So last month, I decided to keep track of the most controversial comments — some inflammatory, some just plain crazy — made by Republican politicians.

Here's the round-up for February:

1. "When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body. That's a big thing. That's a big surgery. You don't have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that....  More»

 
March 4, 2013, at 2:20 PM

When Chris Wallace asked Mitt Romney on Fox News Sunday why he lost the presidential race, one of the reasons Romney highlighted was, "ObamaCare was very attractive, particularly for those without health insurance, and they came out in large numbers to vote, so that was part of a successful campaign."

He added: "Well, I think the ObamaCare attractiveness and feature was something we underestimated in a — particularly among lower incomes. And we just didn't do as — as good a job at connecting with that audience as we should have."

It's an extraordinary admission because Republicans spent years trying to scare voters into believing that the law would wreck the country. It was portrayed as a step towards socialism, or worse, as its "death panel" provisions would soon condemn your grandparents....  More»

 
March 6, 2013, at 12:05 PM

Vanity Fair runs a fascinating excerpt of Zev Chafets' biography of Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, featuring amazingly frank comments from the Fox News chief on key political players and how God will judge him and his career.

On President Obama: "Obama's the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn't public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He's lazy, but the media won't report that... I didn't come up with that. Obama said that, to Barbara Walters."

On Joe Biden: "I have a soft spot for Joe Biden... I like him. But he's dumb as an ashtray."

On Newt Gingrich: "Newt's a prick... He's a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner....  More»

 

Sen. Rob Portman's (R-Ohio) announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage since learning that his own son is gay is certainly newsworthy.

Portman is the first Republican senator to back gay marriage, he was on Mitt Romney's short list of potential running mates, and is considered a possible Republican presidential candidate himself in 2016. The change of heart could even tip the balance in the gay marriage debate.

But what makes the news most interesting is that Portman's policy reversal came not from debates in the Senate but from a personal connection to the issue....  More»

 

The give and tug of politics is often messy and ugly to watch. But political theory tells us that politicians working in their own self interest usually produce an optimal policy outcome for the country.

But what if politicians don't act rationally?

After two election cycles in which Republicans lost at least five Senate seats most thought they should have won, it would be natural to assume the party would make adjustments. And after Mitt Romney lost a presidential election in a race dominated by a terrible economy, most would think the GOP would modify its positions to attract more voters.

But leading Republicans are instead taking the opposite approach.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said this week, "So just because the election didn't go our way, that means we're supposed to change our principles?...  More»

 

The Republican National Committee will release a massive, unprecedented “autopsy” of what when wrong for the GOP during the 2012 elections.

The report isn’t out until Monday, but RNC Chairman Reince Priebus hinted at some of the findings and recommendations on CBS’ Face the Nation:

1. Move up the Republican National Convention

Priebus: "I'm calling for a convention in June or July. We're going to set up a commission that's going to make that decision. I'm going to be a part of that. I'm going to chair that commission, but no more August conventions."

2. Dramatically limit the number of Republican primary debates

Priebus: "I would do one a month, this is me talking now. I would do one a month. I would have more say over the moderators, more say over the debate partners....  More»

 

The GOP's resistance to comprehensive immigration reform — including a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million people now in the country illegally — may be weakening.

There have been three significant developments in the last day:

1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) backs a path to citizenship.

In a major speech this morning, the Kentucky senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate declared, "If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you." While Paul is not necessarily a leader of Senate Republicans, his position may give cover to other Republicans who are currently on the fence about the issue.

2. The RNC urged the party to embrace immigration reform.

While the GOP's extensive autopsy of what went wrong during the 2012 elections focused almost entirely on strategy and tactics, the 100-page document also...  More»

 

After losing a Senate race in Missouri that most analysts think they should have won last year, Republicans are trying everything to avoid a repeat in 2014. They're even attempting to get involved early in the primary process to make sure that ultra-conservative candidates like former Rep. Todd Akin (R) don't emerge as nominees.

But candidates in Georgia aren't making it easy.

Roll Call reports that two likely U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia — Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) — were among just 10 Republicans to vote against the House budget today.

Broun told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the proposal was "insufficiently conservative" — even though he voted for a similar budget proposal two years ago.

The real impact of these votes were for Broun and Gingrey to position themselves to the right of their ...  More»

 
March 25, 2013, at 1:45 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases this week related to gay marriage. And while most legal observers think it's unlikely that the court will make a broad constitutional ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, even a narrow ruling could give the movement toward marriage equality a new boost.

In fact, the march toward legalizing same sex marriage in the United States sometimes seems unstoppable.

A new Washington Post poll shows that 58 percent of Americans now support gay marriage. Among those 18 to 29 years old, the number is a whopping 81 percent....  More»

 

The U.S. Senate held a vote-a-rama last weekend. The word describes how lawmakers dispatched with 101 amendments over 13 hours of consideration of the federal budget. But we haven't heard it very often because this is the first budget the Senate has passed in four years.

It's a great word unique to politics, and there are dozens more that should be used more often.

Here are 10 examples from my political dictionary:

snollygoster — A politician who will go to any lengths to win public office, regardless of party affiliation or platform.

dummymander — A gerrymandered district drawn by one party that over time looks like it was actually designed by the other party.

Election Administrator’s Prayer — “Please, please, please let the winners win big,” or “Lord, let this election not be close....  More»

 

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»

 
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