As the country’s focus has pivoted from Ebola to the midterm election, immigration and Iran, the elusive Ebola czar surfaced to say we haven’t seen the last case of the dreaded virus in the U.S.
Last month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration hadn’t ruled out letting Ron Klain show his face to the media.
Earnest stressed that being the response coordinator was a behind-the-scenes job, “and that the need for him to play that coordinating role would limit his ability to make a large number of public appearances.”
Today, Klain appeared on MSNBC to stress “we’re gonna see occasional additional cases of Ebola in our country.”
“But today’s release of Dr. Spencer is a milestone,” the Ebola czar said of the New York doctor who went bowling the night before being admitted to the hospital. “It’s a milestone, obviously, in his treatment. It’s a milestone in showing that our strategy of identifying, isolating, and treating Ebola patients can be successful. It’s a milestone because it’s the first time a hospital other than one of our three nationally specialized centers has successfully treated an Ebola patient. And so, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dr. Spencer, who’s a hero, and to the team at Bellevue, the leadership in New York City for delivering this success today.”
Klain said “we’ve seen an improvement in all aspects of our response” since the death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas.
“We’ve increased our ability to identify risky cases, identify potential cases of Ebola to isolate them. And then we’ve improved our readiness in the health care system to treat those patients and to get them the recovery,” he said.
The czar said the states have the power to follow or reject federal quarantine guidelines, but made clear he disagreed with the quarantine of nurse Kaci Hickox.
“We are concerned that where you have quarantines that aren’t based on medical science, it does tend to discourage health care workers from going and fighting this disease in West Africa. That is how ultimately the American people are going to be protected, by heroes like Craig Spencer getting on planes, going over to West Africa, fighting the disease,” Klain said.
“We need to welcome them back as heroes. We need to have appropriate safeguards like the CDC guidelines to make sure they don’t infect other people. That’s what worked in Dr. Spencer’s case, and that’s really what we’d like to see across the country.”
In the case of the Pentagon quarantining soldiers returning from the hot zone, Klain called it “just differences between military and civilian life.”
“What the commanders have decided is an operational basis, is when they come home, they’ll be kept together instead of scattering them off to their units and having to go take their temperature and monitor them there, they’re going to be kept on base. That’s the most effective way operationally to monitor them, to apply the same protocols we’re applying to civilians,” he said.
Klain said the lame-duck Senate is “promptly getting to work” on a $6 billion Ebola funding request from the administration.
The Senate Appropriates Committee holds a hearing on that request tomorrow.
“We expect there to be rigorous questioning about it,” Klain said.
“I’m here to fight this fight and do this crisis,” the czar added. “Once I’m finished, I’m going back to private life. This is — this is more than enough for me.”
Every member of the U.S. Senate in the 113th Congress contributed to a Veterans Day auction to benefit the Independence Fund.
Bids can be placed for the dark custom series, chrome-trim Harley Davidson motorcycle when making a contribution to the veterans service organization.
Adorning the one-of-a-kind Harley? The signatures of 100 senators.
The current bid is more than $125,000. Bidding is open until Dec. 11 so you can put all 100 senators below the Christmas tree.
“We’re going to auction it off, and you got a chance to get a — you’ll be the only one in the nation with a bike signed by all senators,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox this morning.
“You can beat it up, you can blow it up, you can ride it, you can let people throw eggs at it, but the money will go to the Independence Fund, which is all run by veterans, 100 percent volunteers,” Graham added.
Onetime Vietnam War POW Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said President Obama’s “gradual escalation” of the war in Iraq reminds him of Vietnam.
“We need to have a strategy. There is not a strategy,” McCain told Fox this morning. “And frankly, this graduation escalation that we’re going through — remember, the president, for years, has said ‘tell everybody what we’re not going to do rather than what we’re going to do.’”
“And as this gradual escalation reminds me of the Vietnam conflict, we have to have a strategy. The Congress and American people need to know that,” he continued. “But it puts us in a difficult situation. Are we going to abandon this effort to defeat ISIS?”
McCain is poised to take the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee in January as the new GOP majority moves in.
“We’re going to have hearings, and we’re going to have the secretary of Defense up and chairman of the Joint Chiefs and others explain to us what — how we’re going to achieve the president’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately defeating ISIS. Right now, they are not doing that,” he said.
The senator said Obama is leaning on “sort of incremental victories along the way.”
“We’re still fighting over Kobani, using the full weight of American air power,” he said. “Fact is we’re not using the full weight of American air power.”
“You can’t just defeat an enemy just by bombing them from the air. You have to have a ground component, but you also have to have forward air controllers who are identifying these targets, particularly when the combatants are in such close proximity to each other.”
McCain said he’d also add to the strategy weapons to the Kurds, a no-fly zone in Syria, and no separation of Syria and Iraq in planning. “They’re all ISIS,” he noted.
“Look, the reason why we’re separating Syria and Iraq is because of this incredibly misguided idea that if we get a nuclear agreement with Iran, which will be totally flawed, then therefore, the Iranians will cooperate with us,” he said. “So what’s happening is we’re bombing ISIS. Meanwhile, Bashar Assad is barrel-bombing the Free Syrian Army. That’s immoral.”
“We’ve got 3.5 million refugees and 200,000 dead, 150,000 in Bashar Assad’s prisons. I mean, this idea that somehow, the — having some kind of working relationship with Iran, who fund Hamas, who have brought Hezbollah into the fight, who have orchestrated terrorist attacks all over, including the latest destabilization of Yemen, is so delusional that it’s hard to imagine.”
On Feb. 21, New York will host the first film festival featuring only movies that have been shot by drones.
The New York City Drone Film Festival will showcase the “most famous viral drone videos alongside original content, offering the only opportunity to see the ‘best of the best’ in drone and unmanned aerial vehicle cinema on the big screen,” according to organizers, including “sensations” that have racked up some 28 million views on YouTube.
Festival prizes will be awarded for Most Beautiful Shot, Most Technically Difficult Shot, Most Epic Dronie and more.
“I’m tired of drones being synonymous with questionable legality and FAA regulation,” festival founder Randy Scott Slavin, a director and photographer, said in a statement. “The goal of the festival is to celebrate the art of aerial cinematography.”
Drone-rights attorney Paul Fraidenburgh will deliver a keynote address to the festival.
Entries must be submitted to the festival by Nov. 30.
Over the summer, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International lobbied the Department of Transportation to accelerate the use of drones in the film and television industry. The Federal Aviation Administration announced in May that certain “low-risk” commercial endeavors utilizing drones could be fast-tracked to approval.
“The seven production companies seeking exemptions have outlined at least an equivalent level of safety over the use of a manned aircraft and have adequately addressed the safety requirements in a number of federal aviation regulations,” AUVSI argued in its statement to the government. “In fact, the use of small UAS will likely lead to increased safety over manned aircraft and allow production companies to get new shots that have never before been possible.”
At the end of September, the FAA granted the request.
“The FAA’s announcement represents another important milestone in unlocking the commercial potential of UAS technology. The film and television industry has safely used UAS technology abroad for years in the productions of movies such as ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Hunger Games.’ With this decision, Hollywood will now be able to capture the unique perspectives of UAS closer to home,” Michael Toscano, president and CEO of AUVSI, said at the time.
“Still, the FAA can and must do more. Several other companies and industries have requested exemptions to fly for various low-risk, commercial purposes such as precision agriculture and mining surveys. The FAA should grant these exemptions to not only help businesses harness the tremendous potential of UAS, but also help unlock the economic impact and job creation potential of the technology.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to make the Jewish state’s voice heard as reports circulate that the P5+1 is close to a nuclear deal with Iran.
The deal would come as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted steps on “how can Israel be eliminated.”
“I’ve instructed my office to send a letter to the foreign ministers of the P5+1 countries,” Netanyhau said in a Monday night statement. “In that letter I bring, verbatim, the words of Iran’s ruler Ayatollah Khamenei. The leader of this country that is depicted by some as moderate, the Islamic State of Iran, has said in the last 48 hours: one, that he calls for the annihilation of Israel – his words, not mine; two, he gives nine ways and reasons of how and why Israel should be annihilated – his words, not mine.”
“He’s publically calling for the annihilation of Israel as he is negotiating a nuclear deal with the P5+1 countries,” the prime minister continued. “There is no moderation in Iran. It is unrepentant, unreformed, it calls for Israel’s eradication, it promotes international terrorism, and as the IAEA report just said, it continues to deceive the international community about its nuclear weapons program.”
“This terrorist regime in Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear threshold power. And I call on the P5+1 countries – don’t rush into a deal that would let Iran rush to the bomb.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN last night “there’s no question that those tweets link to an account associated with the supreme leader are reprehensible, they’re disgusting, and certainly we condemn that.”
“But let’s remember what’s at stake here. And that’s preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That’s in Israel’s interest. I believe the prime minister referenced that. That’s in the United States’ interests, that’s in the global community’s interests,” Psaki said.
“What’s the alternative? If we are not going to continue to pursue a diplomatic path and try to achieve a comprehensive deal in the next 13 days?”
The State Department called upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to “de-escalate tensions” after two Israelis were killed in separate stabbings by terrorists Monday.
Almog Shiloni, 20, served in the Israel Air Force and was attacked in the afternoon near the Haganah train station in south Tel Aviv. He died of his wounds at the hospital.
Nur a-Din Hashiya, from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, was apprehended in the attack, Haaretz reported, adding he had entered the country illegally.
“It just can’t be like this,” the victim’s twin brother told media. “There are soldiers and people getting hurt, being stabbed in the streets. You can’t go out in this country alone, you can’t go out into this country quietly. This is our state, we fought for it, and my twin brother fought for his life.”
Hours after Shiloni was attacked, another knife-wielding terrorist struck again at a bus stop in the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut.
Dalia Lemkus, 26, was stabbed in the neck and killed. Two men, including one driving by who stopped to fight the terrorist, were injured. A security guard shot the attacker, Maher Hamdi al-Hashalmoun from Hebron, who survived. The Times of Israel reported that al-Hashalmoun, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, spent time in Israeli prison.
Lemkus had survived a stabbing eight years ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his security council after the attacks.
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki called the brutal stabbings “unfortunately a couple of events.”
“So let me just speak to all of them. We strongly condemn the stabbings – the stabbing today in the West Bank and we deeply regret the loss of life. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family. It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions,” Psaki said.
“We are also seeking additional information surrounding the incident of the Israeli Arab who was shot with – who was shot as well with a live bullet. We’re looking for information surrounding this incident. We’re in touch – close touch with the Ministry of Justice. And of course, we urge all parties to exercise restraint. Obviously, these events happened over the course of the last 12 to 24 hours, so I don’t have more details than what’s been out there at this point.”
The shooting early Saturday came as Khayr al-Din al-Hamdan reportedly approached police wielding a knife. Netanyahu has stood by the officers even as some are disputing the officers’ account of firing a warning shot first.
Psaki said when she talks about “restraint,” she’s “talking about the Israelis, the Palestinians – any who are involved in these tension-raising, rhetoric-raising incidents.”
“If you’re standing at a bus stop or something and someone runs a car into you or comes up and stabs you, I don’t know how – I mean, those people aren’t – don’t need to exercise restraint, do they?” a reporter asked.
“I think I’m referring to the fact that we know that there have been – there’s been rising tensions in the region that has led to some of these incidents. I think we all are aware of that,” Psaki replied.
“…Obviously, there have been a range of issues and events that have led to the rising tensions in the region that both sides need to do more to fix.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki today still raised the prospect of ceasefire talks with Boko Haram even as the terrorist group sent a suicide bomber into a school in Yobe state, Nigeria.
The attacker, dressed as a student, detonated his explosives as students gathered for the morning assembly at the Government Senior Science Secondary School, a boys’ boarding school in Potiskum, a city of more than 200,000.
Forty-seven people were killed and 79 injured, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times.
It came a day after the release of a new Boko Haram video showing the terrorists in an unidentified town under their control, doing donuts in a tank down a main street. Leader Abubakar Shekau preaches to the locals and notably lends his support to the Islamic State; Boko Haram declared the caliphate at the end of August in the ever-expanding territory it controls.
Shekau also, again, scoffed at Nigeria’s insistence over the past few weeks that it had either forged a truce with the terror group or was negotiating.
“There is no truce between me and Nigerian tyrants,” said Shekau, vowing to kill anyone posing as a Boko Haram negotiator.
Some reports have accused the president of Chad of leading Nigeria astray by claiming there was a ceasefire deal.
At today’s State Department briefing, Psaki was asked if there was any administration response on the Nigeria attack.
“You’re referring of course to the one on the students, I assume?” Psaki replied. “We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific attack on Nigerian students by a suicide bomber, which has reportedly killed dozens of students and wounded countless others at a school assembly in the Northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, as well as other attacks on defenseless civilians this past week in Nigeria. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the victims and their families of these latest egregious assault on innocent civilians by those bent on fomenting violent extremism and insecurity in Northeastern Nigeria and the region.”
“We urge the government of Nigeria to investigate these and other attacks to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she added.
When pressed about the phantom ceasefire that never was, Psaki insisted “there have been a range of reports over the course of time and certainly some ups and downs in these discussions.”
“As far as I heard earlier today, I think it’s fairly obvious where things stand at this point in time. It doesn’t mean that those negotiations and discussions won’t continue,” she added.
Pskai said she would check to see “if there’s more of an assessment about where things stand on that front.”
Boko Haram reportedly took another city today, Maiha in Adamawa State near the Cameroon border.
“A report from a Maiha resident alleged that militants attacked the area at 5:30pm local time, when security agents left for Belel district, about 48km away. The source also says that many soldiers and two civilians have died. Many are also reported to be badly wounded,” said Sahara Reporters. “Reports also suggest that many persons fleeing Maiha and nearby Belel are crossing the border to Cameroon.”
Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Ade Adefuye went off on Washington today, slamming the administration for letting the terror group grow.
“I am sad to inform you that the Nigerian leadership — military and political, and even the general populace — are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists,” Adefuye told the Council on Foreign Relations.
“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.”
Adefuye said that the administration “has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.”
The Obama administration has long criticized the Nigerian government forces in the same breath as the al-Qaeda-allied terrorists, including Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield telling a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee a year ago that the U.S. government is “concerned by reports that some Nigerian security forces have committed gross human rights violations in response to Boko Haram.” At the same hearing, Nigerian activists testified that Boko Haram is beheading Christians with chainsaws.
The ambassador said the reports of government abuses have been exaggerated, offering as example one claim that said the government destroyed 1,600 homes in a town with 600 houses.
“Nigeria has had reasons to complain about the style, nature and manner with which some United States’ policies are implemented with particular reference to terrorism in Nigeria,” Adefuye said.
Vanguard News in Nigeria reports that Boko Haram has already begun renaming cities in its part of the caliphate: Gwoza is now Darul Hikma, or House of Wisdom, and Mubi is now Madinatul Islam, or City of Islam.
President Obama dismissed criticism of his impending executive action on immigration reform, telling CBS in an interview aired Sunday that if GOPs want to avert it they can pass a bill to his liking.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who switches to the majority leader in the 114th Congress, said Obama’s executive order planned before the end of the year will be “like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”
“I presided over a process in which the Senate produced a bipartisan bill. I then said to John Boehner, John, let’s get this passed through the House,” Obama said. “For a year, I stood back and let him work on this. He decided not to call the Senate bill, and he couldn’t produce his own bill. And I told him at the time, John, if you don’t do it, I have got legal authority to make improvements on the system. I would prefer — and still prefer — to see it done through Congress.”
“But every day that I wait, we’re misallocating resources, we’re deporting people that shouldn’t be deported, we’re not deporting folks that are dangerous and need to be deported. So, John, I’m going to give you some time, but if you can’t get it done before the end of the year, I’m going to have to take the steps that I can to improve the system.”
Obama said his executive action is “not going to be everything that needs to get done,” so there’s still room for Congress.
“And it will take time to put that in place. And in the interim, the minute they pass a bill that addresses the problems with immigration reform, I will sign it, and it supersedes whatever actions I take,” the president said, adding that “if in fact a bill gets passed, nobody is going to be happier than me to sign it, because that means it will be permanent, rather than temporary.”
“So, they have the ability, the authority, the control to supersede anything I do through my executive authority by simply carrying out their functions over there,” he said. “And if in fact it’s true that they want to pass a bill, they have got good ideas, nobody is stopping them, and the minute they do it and the minute I sign that bill, then what I have done goes away.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told MSNBC this morning that the House “probably” will have its own immigration bill.
“A lot of it depends on whether or not the Democrats want a solution or they want to use it as a weapon in the next election,” Cole said. “Look, they had complete control of Congress for four years, two different presidents that would have signed any bill that they brought up. And they didn’t bring up a bill.”
“And with all due respect to the president who talks about this, he promised in ’08 he would have a bill on the floor in a hundred days. He never did.”
Former President George W. Bush told CBS in an interview Sunday that the chances of his brother Jeb entering the 2016 presidential race are currently “50-50.”
“He and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision. He knows exactly, you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He’s seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency,” Bush said.
“I would give it a — I’d give it a tossup. I know this about Jeb, he’s not afraid to succeed. In other words, I think he knows he could do the job. And nor is he afraid to fail.”
The former president said the former Florida governor believes it’s worth putting his family through.
“One of the lessons you learn from George H.W. Bush is that you can go into politics and still be a good father. In other words, the priorities of your life don’t have to be compromised,” George W. said. “I know Jeb’s priority is his family. A priority is his family. I also know it’s his country and his deep faith. And he has seen that you don’t have to sell those out in order to be a — a politician.”
Bush said the hardest part was seeing his dad lose re-election.
“The ’92 defeat was really hard. And ironically, enough, it did make it easier for me, because when people criticized my dad, somebody who I admire greatly, I didn’t react well, at times. And it really, really affected me,” he said. “When they criticized me, the sting wasn’t nearly as difficult. It actually — being his son during his presidency created kind of a layer of asbestos. The only thing I was concerned about was that how would my girls react when they were put in the same position I had been in.”
He believes Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton if Ross Perot hadn’t jumped into the race.
“I think he’d have won and I just can’t prove it. I mean it’s just all conjecture, of course,” Bush said. “But I think he would have won because I think ultimately, there would have been a, you know, a clear choice between, you know, a guy who had a very good first term and an untested governor.”
“It went from 89 to 39 in the poll that really mattered,” he added of H.W.’s sky-high approval rating after the Gulf War to re-election defeat.
“I was somewhat dismayed about the inability for the White House to connect, you know, the message to connect with the American people, that domestic politics really mattered for George Bush as much as international politics,” Bush continued. “In other words, he had a lot of capital to spend and I didn’t — in retrospect, it — it wasn’t spent wisely.”
The president opined that the era of social media has turned the campaign landscape into a nastier place.
In the past, he said, “people were held to account for what they said.”
“In other words, there was a sense — there was a pushback,” Bush said. “Now there’s just so much stuff out there — flotsam out there that people say what they feel like saying without any consequence.”
If Jeb Bush runs? “I’ll do whatever he wants. I will be one of his strongest backers. If he wants me out there publicly, I’ll be out there publicly. If he wants me behind the scenes, I’ll be behind the scenes. You know, I’ll — I’m all in for him. He would be a great president. And I think the country could use an optimistic view like this.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has some advice for the new majority in the upper chamber.
“If I was a political consultant for Republicans, I would advise them to compromise with Democrats and move some pieces of legislation through the process,” said Murphy, in his first Senate term. “With the exception of 2012, every political election that I have been a part of has been a change election because people are just sick and tired of nothing getting done.”
“If nothing gets done over the next two years, well, then Democrats are going to be swept back into power in 2016. So, I think it’s in the interest of Republicans to sit down at the table and get some things done. That will actually help them.”
Murphy appeared on CNN Sunday along with Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who argued that the upper chamber needs to get to work on moving nearly 400 House bills “that have been collecting dust on Senator Reid’s desk.”
“And 40 of those deal with jobs and the economy, which is where we think the focus ought to be. And so I guess what I would argue is that we can do big things in a time of divided government,” Thune said.
Murphy, though, said “it’s really a question of whether John Boehner is going to be able to convince the Tea Party crowd in the House of Representatives to go along with some of the compromises that we may be able to forge in the Senate.”
The Democrat also thinks the Senate should quickly plow through nominees, including Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.
“I think it’s important that we have an attorney general. And so I would like to see us move forward,” Murphy said. “I have not spoken to Senator Reid about his intentions. But I would like to see us move forward. I think this is an important post. And I think we should have somebody on the ground there sooner, rather than later.”
Eric Holder is still in his post and said he won’t resign until his replacement is confirmed.
“Loretta Lynch will get fair consideration, but there’s going to be — there’s a process. There’s hearings and everything that goes with that. We have got to move a funding bill. We have got to — we have got to prevent some tax increases, a number of things that have to be done before the end of the year,” Thune said.
“And Eric Holder has said he’s not going anywhere soon. So, it’s not like the position isn’t going to be filled. It’s an important position. It’s one that needs to be filled. And we will give the president’s nominee every consideration,” he added. “But we would like to do that, consider that next year, when the new Congress is seated.”
Obama Coy on Khamenei Letter; Ayatollah Tweets About Eliminating Israel and ‘Evil of the Great Satan’
President Obama wouldn’t comment on whether he’s received a reply to the letter he wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei last month.
“I tend not to comment on any communications that I have with various leaders,” he told CBS in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I have got whole bunch of channels where we’re communicating to various leaders around the world.”
Khamenei republished on his website a op-ed on the letter published in Kayhan newspaper, an outlet close to the regime. “Iran does not trust America. Underneath their velvet gloves, they have hidden iron hands,” the op-ed quoted the ayatollah previously saying.
Obama acknowledged to CBS that on the nuclear talks “there’s still a big gap. We may not be able to get there.”
“We have now had significant negotiations. They have abided by freezing their program and, in fact, reducing their stockpile of nuclear-grade material — or weapons-grade nuclear material,” the president said.
“And the question now is, are we going to be able to close this final gap, so that they can reenter the international community, sanctions can be slowly reduced, and we have verifiable, lock-tight assurances that they can’t develop a nuclear weapon?”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the letter “tells you how delusional the president is about the world he’s supposed to be managing here.”
“To suggest a military alliance between us and Iran is insane. ISIL will take this as the greatest recruiting opportunity in the history of the organization,” Graham told Fox. “You’re talking about radical Sunnis who now cannot only fight the Great Satan, American, but the great heretic, the Iranian Shias. It is dumb at every level. Sunni Arabs would rebel with this alliance. Israel would not accept this. The people in Syria would see us joining with Iran, the group that’s helping Assad stay in power to kill them. It’s dumb at every level.”
“But the biggest mistake is yet to come and that is a bad deal with the Iranian government over their nuclear program. To suggest that the nuclear program should be part of another alliance is ridiculous. I fear more than anything else that President Obama is going to do a deal with Iran. He wants a deal way too badly over their nuclear program that’s going to wind up being just like North Korea. A small enrichment program monitored by the U.N. that one day leads to a weapon,” the senator continued.
“That’s why I’m going to insist to Senator McConnell and Senator Reed that any deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program come to the Senate so we can look at it and vote on it. If it’s a good deal, I vote yes. If it’s a bad deal, I will kill it. And the president doesn’t want the deal to come to the Senate. Well, we need to pass legislation making it come to the Senate.”
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) November 10, 2014
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) first read on President Obama’s reaction to the election results? “Spoiled child,” the senator told Fox on Sunday.
“He is in denial about what happened. He is arrogant about the results. You don’t have to look at the tea leaves to understand what happened. The American people put a stop sign outside the Oval Office. All he’s got to do is look at it,” Graham said.
“They didn’t embrace us as Republicans, but this ‘I’m going to do it by myself on immigration because I’m tired and impatient’ is really not worthy of the office. He should be sitting down with us on all fronts, including immigration.”
Graham, who was part of the group of eight that crafted an immigration reform compromise last year, predicted “there will be a backlash in the country” if Obama “goes it alone on immigration.”
“He’s completely tone-deaf as to the results of this election,” he added.
The senator stressed that “when it comes to his foreign policy, the biggest loser of the midterm, I think, is Iran, because with a Republican-controlled Senate, we can have votes on foreign policy matters that Harry Reid blocked.”
Reid initially vowed to bring a bill levying additional sanctions on Iran if talks fail to the floor, supported by a veto-proof Democratic majority. The Senate majority leader backed off on the White House’s insistence that it would anger Tehran and hurt talks.
“The first vote I want to take is, if there’s a deal with Iran over their nuclear program, I want to bring it to the United States Senate for an up or down vote so we can look at it,” Graham said.
But all in all, he stressed, the GOP needs to put its foot down on Obama’s “immaturity.”
“Don’t take the bait as Republicans. If he’s going to act immature on immigration, let’s don’t answer him in kind,” he said.
“There is a deal to be had on infrastructure. Our highway trust fund is woefully short of money. We drive further on a gallon of gas. We have got a shortage in the trust fund. There’s $2 trillion of American-held profits overseas by American-owned companies that won’t come back at 35 percent,” Graham continued.
“There’s a lot of bipartisan support for a 10 percent rate to bring that money back into the United States and put it in the highway trust fund so we can build our roads, bridges and ports. Do not let the president’s immature reaction on immigration stop us from working with him when we can and push him to do more, not less.”
The White House announced this evening that President Obama will formally announce on Saturday his pick to replace Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Tomorrow, the President will announce his intent to nominate U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General of the United States,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. “The President will make the announcement in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, and will be joined by Attorney General Holder and Ms. Lynch.”
“Ms. Lynch is a strong, independent prosecutor who has twice led one of the most important U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country,” Earnest continued. “She will succeed Eric Holder, whose tenure has been marked by historic gains in the areas of criminal justice reform and civil rights enforcement.”
Harvard-educated Lynch, 55, began serving as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 2010, confirmed to the post by unanimous consent in the Senate. She previously led the same office from 1999 to 2001. Her jurisdiction is Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.
Between the two periods, she was a partner in the New York office of Hogan & Hartson L.L.P., focusing on “commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense and corporate compliance issues.”
“Ms. Lynch has expanded the office’s leading national security practice into the area of cyber security, and has also made community outreach a priority,” says her Justice Department biography, adding that Holder named her chair of his advisory committee in 2013.
She also sits on the DoJ’s Diversity Council.
In February 2013, Lynch said at a symposium at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City that the controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice of the police was a policy that “can be used and it can be misused.”
“It’s a tool, just like anything else. It depends on who’s using it,” she said. “I think there’s a tendency in law enforcement that when something works, to put all the resources behind it. Sometimes there’s a lot of thought, and sometimes there’s not.”
Lynch also spoke on gun violence, noting that “here in New York the shadow trade of firearms… escalates violence to an alarming degree.”
“Arresting more people or building more jails is not the ultimate solution to crime in our society. If there’s one thing we’ve learned is that there is no one solution,” she told the symposium.
“When I review my office’s gang portfolio, which sadly is as robust as when I was a junior prosecutor, I see a double tragedy. I see these young men, who are predominantly black, I see not only the lives that they take, but the lives of these young men,” she added. “When these young men and increasingly young women are turned out, what have we put in place to support them in their lives?”
In a statement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Lynch “a trailblazer who has served the public with distinction in her current role under two presidents.”
“She has earned a well-deserved reputation as an aggressive but fair prosecutor, who has used her office to seek justice through both criminal and civil proceedings,” Cuomo said. “I am confident that U.S. Attorney Lynch will bring those same qualities to her new position as our country’s top law enforcement official.”
One of her most well-known cases was the prosecution of New York police officers for the 1997 sexual assault and torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Currently Lynch’s office is prosecuting Rep. Michel Grimm (R-N.Y.). This spring, the congressman was slapped with a 20-count indictment charging that he violated various laws while running a health-food restaurant in Manhattan prior to his political career, including hiring illegal immigrants and paying his staff in cash under the table. Grimm pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the charges, not resign his seat and run for re-election. On Tuesday, he won with 55 percent of the vote.
When the 113th Congress returns next week for its lame-duck session, a senator with a very secure seat — and presidential aspirations — will be filing a bill to make Election Day a national holiday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said a reason for the legislation, the “Democracy Day Act of 2014,” is low voter turnout on Tuesday.
Sanders said his home state, which had a gubernatorial race, only had 43.7 percent voter turnout, the lowest on record. The United States Elections Project at the University of Florida estimated nationwide turnout at 36.6 percent, the senator noted, with the biggest drop-off among minorities and young people.
Eight percent of midterm voters were Hispanic, and 18- to 29-year-olds made up just 13 percent of the electorate, he stressed.
“In America, we should be celebrating our democracy and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process,” Sanders said in a statement. “Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote. While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy.”
President Obama took a dig at the low voter turnout in his Wednesday press conference, saying he was listening to the voters and ”for the 2/3 of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you too.”
Sanders noted that midterms see lower numbers but said presidential election years that see turnout averages in the 60th percentile are “an international embarrassment” compared to other democracies.
“We should not be satisfied with a ‘democracy’ in which more than 60 percent of our people don’t vote and some 80 percent of young people and low-income Americans fail to vote,” Sanders said. “We can and must do better than that. While we must also focus on campaign finance reform and public funding of elections, establishing an Election Day holiday would be an important step forward.”
The bill would amend the U.S. Code to add after Columbus Day, “Federal Election Day: the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year.”
Sanders said giving everyone the day off work is only part of his strategy to increase voter turnout, which includes criticism of “a wave of voter-suppression laws passed in states with Republican legislatures and governors.”
The Vermont race finished with neither candidate reaching 50 percent of the vote: incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin got 46 percent and Republican Scott Milne got 45 percent. Five third-party candidates were on the ballot. Under state law, the pick of the next governor goes to the Democratic-controlled legislature when it reconvenes in January.
Dr. Ben Carson is blasting out a video this weekend as an introduction to voters, fueling speculation that he’ll be the first to announce his 2016 presidential candidacy.
The Hill reports that the 40 minute-long documentary titled “A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America,” crafted by commentator Armstrong Williams, will air in 22 states and Washington, D.C., after “well-watched” programs on Sunday including the political talk shows and football.
Carson has been paving the way for a run, including recently switching his party registration from Independent to Republican.
His political action committee, the USA First PAC, was created in time to make its mark in the midterms.
Carson notably endorsed and campaigned for Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) versus Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), instead of Tea Party candidate and Sarah Palin favorite Rob Maness. The candidacy of Maness pushed Cassidy and Landrieu to a Dec. 6 runoff.
Cassidy was one of “Ben’s Ten” endorsed by his PAC; the list also included Iowa Sen.-elect Joni Ernst.
The others were well-established picks: former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Monica Wehby in Oregon, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former Attorney General Dan Sullivan in Alaska, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis.
Scott, Cotton, Gardner, Daines and Tillis won their Senate races; Sullivan finished ahead in Alaska but Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) has not yet conceded.
Carson also published a new book last month, One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard.
The Democratic National Committee immediately jumped on the news:
Welcome to the 2016 Presidential race, Ben Carson. We’re looking forward to this. pic.twitter.com/DAFnEcA4J0
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) November 6, 2014
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is lamenting the loss of moderates in the Senate Democratic caucus, but said he’s not switching parties.
Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) were defeated Tuesday, and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is more than 8,000 votes behind with all precincts reporting but has not conceded. All were among the most moderate Dems as ranked by their votes.
“We lost the middle, and that’s the moderates. And I said, you know, you need moderates whether they be Democrats or Republicans because they’ll always try to find the solutions, and they will always move forward,” Manchin told NPR yesterday.
“When you lose the moderation, then you’ve got serious problems about getting anything solved, so that does bother me and worry me. But you know what? The people have spoken. We’ve just got to see now if we’re able to work together. And they know – I think all the Republicans know that they can sure reach out to me, and I’m right there, and I’ll be still reaching out to them, and I don’t follow the party lines.”
The senator said he’s not becoming a Republican.
“I’m a moderate Democrat. I’m a proud West Virginia Democrat, which is a moderate. I am fiscally responsibly. I am socially compassionate. And I think that’s where most of America is. I know it’s where most West Virginians are,” he said.
Voters selected Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
Manchin was asked if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should be faulted for the gridlock in the upper chamber.
“I think he’s a good person, and I think Harry was well intended. It’s like a father looking over an adolescent child. You’re afraid as they grow and develop they might get hurt or exposed to things that you think may harm them,” Manchin said. “What Harry didn’t figure out is that this is a rough-and-tumble sport. We all got here the hard way, and we’re not adolescents anymore. These are grown adults making decisions. And I thought it was wrong, and I respectfully told Harry, let us vote, Harry.”
“It’s easier for me to go back to West Virginia, tell you what I voted for or voted against, and if I made a mistake, I can say I’m sorry. I can fix that. That’s a lot easier than going home and saying why I didn’t vote at all and why we’re not doing anything.”
Manchin also said Dems need to recognize Tuesday for what it was: “a national wave.”
“I can’t camouflage it – can’t cover it up. It is what it is,” he said. “And it was a lack of leadership from the White House that people just didn’t have confidence and faith. And it just spilled over as a national wave across.”
“It would have been different if it had happened in one state and not the others …This went across the board – 50 states, almost,” he added.
The Defense Department has changed course on a policy that said a service member can be called a “Negro” when describing “black or African American” personnel.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Office of Management and Budget is looking into the use of the term in other areas of the federal government.
CNN reported yesterday that the director was contained in the Oct. 22 Army Command Policy known as regulation AR 600-20. The regulation defines black or African-American as so: ”A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Terms such as ‘Haitian’ or ‘Negro’ can be used in addition to ‘Black’ or ‘African American.’”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said yesterday he would be on the phone with the Army to find out what’s going on.
Today, the Army removed the language.
“I appreciate the U.S. Army’s quick action to revise the outdated terms previously contained in their ‘Army Command Policy,’” Scott said in a statement. “The Army’s action today brings them in line with other federal departments and agencies that have previously stopped using such outdated racial and ethnic terms for African Americans.”
“I hope the Army and other branches of our military uses this recent revelation to review other publications to ensure they are using the most appropriate language in all their official publications and manuals,” Scott added.
Earnest said at today’s briefing that “the military has updated the policy as of today, and that that language that’s in question is no longer being used.”
“We believe that’s an appropriate step. But as it relates to its application, other areas of the government, that’s something that OMB is still reviewing,” Earnest added.
Independent Maine Sen. Angus King said it would be a “big mistake” for President Obama to push immigration reform through using executive action.
But King said Obama doing so wouldn’t be enough to change his caucus allegiance to the majority GOP in the 114th Congress.
“Caucusing is who you have lunch with on Tuesdays. Caucusing isn’t joining the Republicans or joining the Democrats. You don’t sign an oath or anything else,” King told CNN. “I decided yesterday it was best for Maine for me to caucus with the Democrats. It puts — we have one senator in the Republican, one in the Democratic caucus; one in the Republican Party, one in the caucus that represents the president. I think that’s good for Maine.”
King was the 43rd most liberal senator in 2013, according to National Journal’s vote ratings.
“But I’m going to do what I’ve done all along, which is call them as I see them on an issue-by-issue basis,” King said. “But I’ve got to tell you, and I’ve communicated this to the White House last summer, and it wasn’t about the elections. It wasn’t postpone doing something until after the elections. My position is, you know, the Constitution doesn’t say if the Congress fails to act, then the president can do X, Y and Z. It just doesn’t say that.”
King said “if LBJ and Jack Kennedy had tried to do the Civil Rights Act unilaterally, I think it would have taken five or ten more years in the Congress to get it through,” so Obama acting on immigration reform “would set the cause back.”
“I think Mitch McConnell was right. It would be waving a red flag in front of a bull…. I think it would inflame the country.”
Still, King said if Congress doesn’t act, “it’s the president’s job to figure out how to move them in that direction.”
“There’s a little selective memory here, or selective choice of issues on some. Ebola is a good example where, you know, the Republicans are saying, the president shouldn’t act unilaterally on immigration, and too many executive orders. And then they’re saying, ‘But wait a minute, we want the government to come in and start locking people up and quarantining them.’ You know it’s a kind of — there’s a kind of a mixed message there,” the senator continued.
“The war is a place where Congress has a specific constitutional responsibility that we’ve been ducking, frankly, for something like 50 years, and it’s time to reassert that. I think, you know, it’s the old sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander argument.”
The White House is now latching onto the idea having a Bourbon Summit with the incoming majority leader of the Senate.
At the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama responded to criticism that he didn’t interact with Congress like Bill Clinton by quipping, “Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell!”
McConnell responded with an “empty chair” tweet — smiling and gesturing to the empty barstool next to him while enjoying a tall glass of beer.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Obama was asked if he really should. ABC’s Jon Karl noted that McConnell’s office told him that, in Obama’s six years as president with the Kentucky Republican as the Senate minority leader, they’ve only met one-on-one once or twice.
“Are you going to have that drink with Mitch McConnell now that you joked about it at the White House correspondent’s dinner?” Karl asked.
“You know, actually, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell. I don’t know what his preferred drink is, but you know, my interactions with Mitch McConnell, he — you know, he has always been very straightforward with me,” Obama replied.
“To his credit, he has never made a promise that he couldn’t deliver. And you know, he knows the legislative process well. He obviously knows his caucus well. You know, he’s always given me, I think, realistic assessments of what he can get through his caucus and what he can’t. And so, I think we can have a productive relationship.”
This morning, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he didn’t know if there will be booze at tomorrow’s lunch with Obama and McConnell.
“Will there be an opportunity for the president and the incoming majority leader to share a glass of bourbon? I think that may — that may happen,” Earnest told MSNBC. “It may not happen in front of the cameras. But if there’s an opportunity for the two men to sit down in a more private setting, I think the president will welcome that opportunity, too.”
Earnest told Fox voters “aren’t just looking for the president to sit down to have a drink with Mitch McConnell or play a round of golf with Speaker Boehner.”
“They actually want results. And if there are things that the president can do differently to make sure that we’re getting results for middle-class families, for the American people, then he’s willing to change his tactics to do exactly that,” Earnest said.
“So if that means another round of golf with Speaker Boehner — the president jokingly described it as letting Speaker Boehner, who’s an excellent golfer, by the way, win a round of golf, then he’s willing to do that. If it means sitting down at the table and enjoying some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell, if that’s gonna advance our ability to find common ground among Democrats and Republicans, the president will do that as often as — as is necessary.”
The lawmaker who has handed Obama the biggest upset on the golf course is retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who sunk a hole-in-one versus the president during a round in 2013.
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) April 29, 2013
The first African-American senator to be elected from the South since reconstruction made dual history Tuesday as Tim Scott (R-S.C.) won the seat to which he was appointed after Jim DeMint’s retirement.
Scott is also the first black senator to be elected in both the House and the Senate.
“South Carolina voters vote their values and their issues and not my complexion. This is a great sign for what’s happening throughout the south. But certainly, a fantastic sign for the evolution that has occurred in South Carolina,” Scott told MSNBC this morning.
His win versus Democrat Joyce Dickerson was overwhelming: 61 percent to 37 percent.
Scott, who has long promoted his “opportunity agenda,” said one of his focuses now will be school choice.
“I’m very interested in creating a foundation of education for those folks in the middle-income arena as well as kids living in poverty, kids like myself who perhaps live in the wrong zip code going to underperforming schools,” he said. “I’d love to give parents the tool of choice. When parents have choice in education, I think their kids have a better chance of success. Had it not been for education, I would not be sitting here today. I think of education as the gateway to the American dream. I want to open that gate wider for kids living in poverty, wider for folks in middle income American who are sandwiched. Think about it, the folks who are taking care of their parents and their kids, they need access to a better education system that sometimes they cannot afford. Why not give more parents choice?”
“That would lead to revolution,” Scott added.
The senator responded to the “F” grade that the NAACP gave him on its legislative scorecard.
“Well, let’s just ask ourselves if we look back over history when the Congress was controlled by the Democrats for 40 consecutive years. If we look at the result of that control what has happened in black America? We saw greater poverty. If we take the statistics from 1970s to the 21st century, what we see very clearly is that poverty’s gone from 11 percent to 15 percent. These are classic examples that the policies of the left have not worked,” Scott said.
“I will tell you that if I have an F on the NAACP’s scorecard, it’s because I believe that progress has to be made, and the government is not the answer for progress.”
Scott’s score from the NAACP was 11 percent for 2013, while his South Carolina colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) got 25 percent. Lawmakers were scored on whether they voted with the official NAACP position.
Fifty-nine percent or lower equals a failing grade on the “Civil Rights Report Card,” which scored votes on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Obamacare repeal, private school vouchers, union dues, greenhouse gas emissions, voter ID, subsidized phone service, the UN Arms Trade Treaty, increased gun background checks, an assault weapons ban, food stamps, student loans, immigration, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, the 2014 budget and various confirmations of Obama nominees.
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, said yesterday that Tuesday’s election “was not about who won but rather the citizens who lost the right to participate.”
“This first election post the Shelby v. Holder decision resulted in problems in every single state previously protected by the Voting Rights Act,” Brooks said. “For 49 years, these states were singled out because they had a history of discriminating against American voters. The Election Protection Hotline we manned with other concerned organizations fielded over 18,000 calls yesterday, many in those same states previously protected by the VRA.”
There was no NAACP statement on Scott’s historic victory.
A young, severely underfunded Republican put in an impressive showing versus a 12-term Democrat in what has been considered a solidly blue part of the L.A. area.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) keeps a tight grip on the 43rd District, which includes Inglewood, Westmont, Westchester, LAX, and follows the Harbor Freeway south to encompass Hawthorne, Gardena, West Carson, part of Torrance and Lomita.
In 2008, one of the most well-known black Republican activists in L.A., activist for the homeless Ted Hayes, ran against Waters, getting 13 percent of the vote.
Former LAPD officer and anti-gang activist Carl McGill ran against Waters as a Republican in 2000, yet cleared just over 10 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, John Wood Jr. got 29.6 percent of the vote against Waters.
Waters’ vote total was 53,433 compared to the more than 98,000 votes she got in 2010.
National Review Online noted that the 27-year-old “digital-marketing sales rep, jazz trumpeter, and occasional rapper is facing a 111-to-1 spending disadvantage” and a “4-to-1 disadvantage in party registration.”
Wood knows the district and its challenges. He was born in Inglewood (like me); his wife was born in Watts. NRO noted that he’s “media-untrained” yet through the campaign has become “notably more polished…aggressively hitting churches and community groups around the district.”
Wood is the grandson of late Dot Records founder Randy Wood and the son of jazz pianist John Wood, Sr., and R&B vocalist Deonda Theus.
His economic plan called for tax reform, welfare reform, entitlement reform and immigration reform. “With the national unemployment rate standing at 7.7% (that’s 12 million Americans unemployed), 9.5 % in California and 10.6% in Los Angeles with even greater joblessness in the Latino and particularly the African-American community (almost 20% last year in Los Angeles) we are seeing the great lakes of economic opportunity in this country drying up before our eyes. With a national debt climbing beyond 16.8 trillion dollars, a national deficit of over 1 trillion dollars, and GDP growth last year a modest 2.2%, we are ensuring that these waters will never again be filled.”
Perhaps in two years he’ll have a bigger war chest of donations and party funding to take on Waters.
Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged the upper chamber has to deal with some “big egos” — which may include senators eyeing the White House.
But the senator who just won his sixth term, appearing completely at-ease, upbeat and confident, told reporters in Louisville today that “the first thing I need to do is to get the Senate back to normal.”
“That means working more. I don’t think we’ve had any votes on Friday in anybody’s memory. It means opening the Senate up so that amendments are permitted on both sides. And it means occasionally burning the midnight oil in order to reach a conclusion,” McConnell said.
“I can remember the way we used to get bills finished was for the majority leader to announce on Monday we were taking up a particular bill and we were going to finish it. Finish it Thursday night, Friday morning or Saturday, but you have to mean it. And it’s amazing what happened around midnight on Thursday. People who were very aggressive on Tuesday morning were awfully anxious to leave Friday morning and amendments would go away and bills would pass.”
McConnell added “the committees need to be relevant again,” with bills passed at that level with bipartisan support seeing the light of day on the Senate floor.
“We will certainly be voting on things as well that we think the administration is not fond of,” he said, citing energy bills and Keystone XL.
He acknowledged that President Obama will be whipping out the veto pen. “I think he’s vetoed two little bills in six years. The first two years he loved everything he got and the last four years the current majority made sure he never got anything he didn’t like.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has vowed to send Obamacare repeal after Obamacare repeal to Obama’s desk until he ”wearies of it.” Obama told reporters today that he will not approve any bill scrapping the individual mandate.
“It’s no secret that every one of my members thinks that Obamacare was a huge legislative mistake. It’s fouled up the health insurance market,” McConnell said, adding the GOP will “be addressing that issue in a variety of different ways.”
He said Obama taking unilateral action on immigration reform would be “like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say, if you guys don’t do what I want, I’m going to do it on my own.”
“I hope he won’t do that because I do think it poisons the well for the opportunity to address a very important domestic issue,” he said.
McConnell will be sitting down with Obama for lunch on Friday. Obama remarked today that he’d have a glass of bourbon with the Kentuckian if he likes it (he does).
The Senate GOP leader was asked about members of the conference who “might want to run for president” and therefore are looking to make grandstanding moves against leadership.
Senators known to be interested in a shot at the Oval Office include Paul, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Look, I know a lot of people who want to run for president. What I tell them all is, the best day you’ll have will be the day before you announce. It is short of being in combat and being shot at with real bullets. There isn’t anything harder than running for president. Unless it’s running for re-election if you’re a leader of one of the parties in the Senate,” McConnell quipped.
“Look, I have no problem with people’s ambitions. I serve in a body with a bunch of class presidents. They’re all ambitious or they wouldn’t be where they are. A lot of folks with sharp elbows and big egos and, look, I’m – am not troubled by ambition and I think we can accommodate that and still make progress for the country.”
Cruz, who has not pledged his support for McConnell as majority leader, called the Kentucky senator. “He just called to congratulate me on my election and was impressed with the margin. And I was pretty happy about it myself,” McConnell said. “We had a good, friendly conversation.”
When pressed on whether Cruz is expected to be one of the presidential hopefuls who could “make it more difficult” for the caucus and leadership, McConnell responded, “We’ve got all kinds of people in a — I hope — 54-member Senate. We’ll see where we are at the end of the voting.”
Cruz told CNN on Tuesday evening that McConnell’s leadership role “will be a decision for the conference to make next week.”
“Let me make a prediction for you,” McConnell said today. “A week from tomorrow, I’ll be elected majority leader of the Senate.”
President Obama kept his Wednesday free, with just the daily briefing on his schedule.
This morning, the White House said he’ll hold a press conference at 2:50 p.m. EST in the East Room.
The White House had no comment last night at the GOP took the Senate and made gains in the House.
Obama was on the phone, though, with “dozens of House, Senate, Gubernatorial candidates of both parties, and members the House and Senate leadership” throughout the evening, according to the White House.
The calls are continuing today, the White House official said.
Those he’s called so far:
Senator Harry Reid (D)
Senator Dick Durbin (D)
Senator Michael Bennet (DSCC chairman)
AR Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson (R)
SD Senator-elect Mike Rounds (R)
WV Senator-elect Shelly Moore Capito (R)
MI Senator-elect Gary Peters (D)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R)
Senator Jim Inhofe (R)
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (DNC chairwoman)
Leader Nancy Pelosi (D)
Governor-elect Tom Wolf, PA (D)
Senator-elect James Lankford, OK (R)
Senator-elect Tom Cotton, AR (R)
OH Governor John Kasich (R)
Senator Susan Collins (R)
Senator Ed Markey (D)
Senator Jeff Sessions (R)
Senator Cory Booker (D)
Senator Tim Scott (R)
Senator Al Franken (D)
Senator Mark Pryor (D)
Congressman-elect Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
AL Governor Robert Bentley (R)
TN Governor Bill Haslam (R)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said last night’s results prove “the American people have put their trust in the Republican Party.”
The GOP picked up at least seven seats in the Senate, with Louisiana going to a runoff.
“Our party’s principles and message resonated with voters across the country. This was a rejection of President Obama’s failed polices and Harry Reid’s dysfunctional Senate,” Priebus said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a brief statement after the sweep.
“I’d like to congratulate Senator McConnell, who will be the new Senate Majority Leader. The message from voters is clear: they want us to work together,” Reid said. “I look forward to working with Senator McConnell to get things done for the middle class.”
Priebus said that by “investing early across this country, the RNC was able to provide critical support to our candidates and campaigns.”
“The RNC has been involved in communities across this country, building relationships and listening to voters. We built an unprecedented data and digital operation, allowing us to reach voters and equip a winning ground game,” the chairman said.
“Republicans have been given the opportunity to lead the country in a better direction, and the Republican House and Senate are ready to listen to the American people. We hope President Obama will too. It’s time to get to work on creating jobs, expanding American energy development, pursuing real healthcare reform, reducing spending, reining in the federal government, and keeping America safe.”
Republican gained House seats, from 234 in the 113th Congress to 242 in the next — their largest House number since the 1946 election.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) preferred to focus on the positives for her party, issuing congratulating statements to Gov.-elect Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
“As the only woman to serve as both Governor and United States Senator, Senator Shaheen has a strong record fighting for New Hampshire’s families and small businesses and working to expand opportunities for all Americans,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“I’m proud New Hampshire voters affirmed they want leaders who will put commonsense solutions ahead of special interests and that New Hampshire is never a consolation prize for a political opportunist,” she added in a dig at former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
Wasserman Schultz also lauded her own re-election.
“I am truly grateful for the support that I received today and I am honored to continue to represent my constituents in the 23rd Congressional District,” she said. “I am looking forward to continuing to represent our community in our nation’s capital and will work everyday to stand up for the families of South Florida. There is much left to accomplish, and I look forward to working with both sides of the aisle to focus on our top priorities – creating jobs, improving our economy and helping more people succeed.”
Last night, Republicans took control of the Senate in the 114th Congress. This morning, the Obama administration announced the population of Guantanamo Bay would drop by one.
The Defense Department said Fouzi Khalid Abdullah Al Awda had been cleared for transfer to Kuwait.
Al Awda, 37, is an experienced terrorist recruiter with London ties, returning to his home country as intelligence agencies have been on the alert for Western jihadist recruitment.
“Detainee is assessed to be a member of al-Qaida,” reads the 2008 DoD assessment. “Detainee’s name is included on al-Qaida affiliated documents, and he was reported to have sworn bayat (oath of allegiance) to UBL. Detainee has been identified as an associate of UBL and his spokesman, Sulayman Abu Ghayth. Detainee is a reported member of a London-based al-Qaida cell under Abu Qatada and is assessed to be an extremist recruiter and courier. Detainee attended militant training at al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was identified as receiving suicide training.”
He then “participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces and served on an Islamic committee providing inspiration to fighters in Tora Bora.”
The assessment noted his history of “jihadist combat” and ties to “extremist affiliated” NGOs, and adds that he “has received coded communications from a Kuwaiti extremist.”
Al Awda was determined to be a high risk to the U.S., a high detention threat and of high intelligence value.
His father was a Kuwaiti pilot, and Al Awda came to the U.S. as a young child when his father was sent to train here. Al Awda graduated from the University of Kuwait in 1998 with a degree in Islamic studies and traveled to Pakistan shortly thereafter; the same year he was spending time with Abu Qatada’s group in London. He then worked for the Kuwaiti government in its Alms and Charities Agency.
“Detainee was also identified as being in Bosnia fighting alongside Arab mujahideen,” the report states.
In 1999, he was in Houston on what he said was a visit to his sick grandmother.
Al Awda was in the mountainous border region of Afghanistan near Pakistan when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks happened. He was soon captured by Pakistanis and turned over to the U.S. in January 2002.
“While in detention, detainee has made statements that illustrate hostile intentions towards the US.” The report also notes he’s in good health.
The DoD said today that a July 14 review board “determined continued law of war detention of Al Awda does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Kuwait for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Kuwait to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
There are now 148 detainees remaining at Guantanamo.
Late last month, Fox News reported that as many as 20 to 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees, some set free within the past few years, are believed to have joined terrorist groups fighting in Syria.
“Well, we know that some of the detainees that have come out of Guantanamo have gone back to the fight, to the battlefield. We’re aware of that,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters on Oct. 31. “And we think that overall the policy of getting to close Guantanamo is clearly in the interests of the United States, as the president has articulated, which when I — I was in the United States Senate, I supported it.”
“It’s an imperfect world. It’s a dangerous world,” Hagel continued. “This is why we pay so much attention to getting commitments from host countries in securing those commitments and doing everything we can within our power to assure that those commitments, not to allow those detainees to go beyond what is required in order to secure them in these different host countries that take them. But we do know that some have joined the fight.”
“Host countries” have included Sudan, where leader Omar al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The country received one detainee last December.
Asked if this recidivism bothered him, Hagel replied, “Yes, of course it does.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey added, “We believe that the recidivism is a — is a relatively small fraction of those detainees, which have been placed into conditions where their risk — where their risk of recidivism is mitigated.”
“But even one would not make someone wearing the uniform very content,” Dempsey said. “So we — I provide my advice in every case to the secretary of Defense who, as you know, is the certifying official. And the exact number is actually being assessed inside of the intelligence community, so I can’t comment on that.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the 30 percent who return to battle aren’t just going in as low-level fighters, but “they also are in positions of leadership.”
“In one case, there are many Yemenis, he wants to send them back there. So rather than to have a place it to incarcerate them where they belong, particularly there’s many who have been judged too dangerous to be released,” McCain said. “The president wants to get rid of them in order to close Guantanamo. That’s the overriding factor in his calculations and it’s disgraceful, because in the long run, it puts the lives of American men and women serving in the military in danger. It’s a fact.”
After trying to distance himself from President Obama, Sen. Mark Begich (D) found Alaska wasn’t far enough away from the White House.
With 50 percent of the vote, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan was on the road to unseating Begich, who had 44 percent of the vote with 78 percent of precincts reporting.
Begich went home and said he wouldn’t concede Tuesday night.
Sullivan emerged from a heated GOP primary to challenge Begich. The field included Joe Miller, who defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in the 2010 primary only to lose to the incumbent as she waged a write-in campaign in the general election.
Miller eventually endorsed Sullivan.
Begich angered Murkowski, though, by using her image in his campaign ads. She demanded that he remove the ads that made them look like voting buddies.
Begich said the disagreement was just about Murkowski not liking how she looked.
“She doesn’t dispute the facts that we vote 80 percent of the time on every single item,” he said. “…She shouldn’t be embarrassed about that. She didn’t like the photo.”
“This is not a situation where you want to make sure you got a pretty picture on the TV,” Murkowski shot back. “That was an offensive statement. And I don’t appreciate that.”
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie delivered a shock to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tonight in a seat that was considered reliably Democratic.
The shock? That Gillespie came so close despite a steady lead for Warner in the polls.
The race ended up so close that Warner declared victory late in the night but Gillespie had not conceded.
“We are going to be patient here and be respectful of all the voters,” Gillespie said. He didn’t say if the campaign would ask for a recount, but the margin means he’d be able to under state law.
Warner took 49 percent of the vote to 48.5 percent for Warner with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting.
That was a difference of 12,150 votes separating the two.
Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who ran for governor last year, took a notable chunk of the vote: 53,594 votes, or 2.4 percent.
Gillespie took giant swaths of rural areas in Virginia while Warner’s saving grace was suburban D.C.
Warner, who touted the endorsement of former GOP Sen. John Warner, was confident at a rally in Old Town Alexandria on Monday night.
“They want bipartisan problem-solvers and that’s what I’ve been about,” Mark Warner said. “If we don’t find that common ground, we have the stupidity of sequestration coming rushing back next year and those commitments, not just on the military side, but on our ability to invest in education and infrastructure and research, will be sadly undermined.”
Gillespie vowed Monday to a crowd in Sterling, not far from D.C., that ”we are going to surprise a lot of the experts in Washington, D.C., here in Virginia tomorrow.”
“We have been outspent, you’ve probably noticed that. But we have not been outworked — and hard work beats big money every time,” Gillespie said.
Republicans appeared to sweep the majority of toss-up gubernatorial races Tuesday night and also snatched a state Democrats were expected to win: Maryland.
In the race to succeed Dem Gov. Martin O’Malley, Republican businessman Larry Hogan upset Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
Brown was ahead by 13 points in one mid-October poll. Hogan pulled ahead by 5 points in the latest poll.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Hogan had 52 percent to Brown’s 46 percent.
In Illinois, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn fell to GOP businessman Bruce Rauner, who got more than 50 percent of the vote to Quinn’s 46 percent with most precincts reporting. Quinn slightly led in polls going into Election Day.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder held onto his seat against a challenge from former Rep. Mark Schauer (D). The tally with 81 percent of precincts reporting was 51 percent to 47 percent.
Republicans also held off challenges in states where they were expected to win narrowly, including Nikki Haley’s victory by 17 points in South Carolina and Nathan Deal’s defeat of Jimmy Carter’s grandson by 8 points in Georgia.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was considered a prime Dem target, but was leading challenger Paul Davis by two points with 86 percent of precincts reporting.
Margins were razor-thin with the GOP slightly ahead as the count continued in Connecticut, Maine and Colorado.
Massachusetts was also tight with 98 percent of precincts counted: Republican businessman Charlie Baker had 48 percent to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s 47 percent.
The Republican Governors Association, led by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), was issuing a stream of congratulatory messages throughout the evening — including on the Dem defeat in President Obama’s state.
“It’s time to bring back Illinois with Governor Bruce Rauner,” said Christie. “Rauner proved in this race that he is the antidote to Illinois’ longstanding woes; his leadership is exactly what the state needs to shake the status quo for good and become competitive again. With Bruce Rauner at the helm, brighter days are ahead for Illinois.”
The GOP did lose a key race in Pennsylvania as Gov. Tom Corbett was knocked out of office by Democratic businessman Tom Wolf. Obama campaigned for Wolf.
In a state flooded with campaign stops from 2016 hopefuls, a blue seat turned red today as voters picked a replacement for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
State Sen. Joni Ernst got 51 percent of the vote over Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-Iowa) 45 percent, with 75 percent of precincts reporting.
Ernst’s victory not only turns a seat red but also gave the Senate Conservatives Fund one of its few victories of this election cycle.
She becomes the first woman to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate.
Braley made a series of slips during the campaign, including derisively noting that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was just a farmer without a law degree who could lead the Senate Judiciary Committee in a GOP-controlled upper chamber.
Harkin added to Braley’s faux pas roster with comments made last week at the Story County Democrats’ fall barbecue and published Sunday night by BuzzFeed.
The veteran senator said Ernst shouldn’t win the race to replace him simply because she’s “really attractive and she sounds nice.”
“I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa,” Harkin said.
He tried to backtrack. ”I shouldn’t have said those things, I know that. I regret anytime someone feels offended by what I have said,” Harkin said. “But I am only human and I can make mistakes sometimes in how I say something. In fact, I have complimented her on running a very good campaign.”
Ernst, who becomes the first woman to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate, said she was offended but would ”shake it off” — like the Taylor Swift song.
With a couple of party changes under his belt, former Gov. Charlie Crist will not be moving back into the Florida governor’s office.
Democrat Crist and Republican Gov. Rick Scott were neck-in-neck heading into the vote.
Crist had 47 percent of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. Scott had 48 percent of the vote.
Libertarian Adrian Wyllie pulled nearly 4 percent of the vote.
Crist’s campaign filed an emergency motion Tuesday night to keep voting booths open two extra hours in Broward County because they said voting irregularities caused long lines.
Crist called Scott to concede around 11:30 p.m. EST.
The heated race included high-profile names stumping in the presidential swing state as well as a debate tiff over Crist’s insistence on having a portable fan propped at his feet during the face-offs.
Bill Clinton rallied for Crist on Monday night.
“We’ve got two huge problems in America — political dysfunction and educational and health care inequality,” said Clinton.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned for Scott. ”We know this is Florida. We know elections are always close. And so we don’t want to take one voter for granted,” Christie said, warning of going back to the “bad old days of the Charlie Crist governorship.”
Charlie Crist has now lost elections in three different parties.
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) November 5, 2014
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) was defeated by GOP challenger Thom Tillis tonight.
Tillis, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, had 49 percent compared to Hagan’s 47 with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
President Obama recorded a last-minute radio ad for Hagan, calling the incumbent “tireless” in “creating job opportunities here at home and supporting a higher minimum wage.”
“But Republicans have been cutting investments in education while protecting tax breaks for the wealthy, so let’s send them a message by voting for someone who shares our priorities,” the ad continued. “Voting is easy, so stand with me, President Obama, and take responsibility in moving North Carolina forward by voting for Kay Hagan on Nov. 4. A Senator you can count on.”
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) also held onto her seat after a challenge from singer Clay Aiken. Ellmers won 59-41 percent over the Democrat.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) held off an independent challenger in a closely-watched race with no Democrat.
With 75 of precincts reporting, Roberts had 52 percent compared to Greg Orman’s 44 percent.
Orman suggested he’d caucus with whichever party won the majority.
Democratic nominee Chad Taylor withdrew from the race on Sept. 3. Roberts painted Orman as a Soros-supported liberal Democrat disguised as an independent.
The 45-year-old Orman identified as a Republican before 2007, changed to the Democratic Party, then declared himself Independent in 2009.
Vice President Joe Biden, though, did a radio interview today and confidently predicted that Orman is going to “be with us” — in the Democratic caucus.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “there’s no conversations that I’m aware of along those lines” between the administration and Orman.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Orman has not indicated which party he’ll caucus with. I can’t account for any conversations the vice president may have had. But I’m certainly not aware of any special knowledge that is retained by any White House staffer I’ve spoken to about this issue,” Earnest said. “I have not spoken with the vice president about it, so I do not know who he has talked to.”
Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) hung on today — and then some — in the face of a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke.
Walker had 57 percent of the vote and Burke had 43 percent with 47 percent of precincts reporting.
The race between the two narrowed later in the summer, with the race branded a “toss-up” and polls too close to call.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, though, declared that Walker made up ground with a good week heading into Election Day.
Unions and the Democratic Party machine pulled out all the stops to defeat Walker.
President Obama campaigned for Burke a week ago, not mentioning Walker by name at a rally.
“You have a chance to choose a governor who doesn’t put political ideology first, who’s not thinking partisan first. She’s going to put you first,” Obama said.
Walker told supporters Monday that his race was the Democrats’ “Waterloo.”
“They’re afraid that tomorrow we might send a message, not only here in the Badger State, we might send a message to the country, to people at the local level, the state level, maybe even the federal level,” he said. “If you stand up and think more about that next generation than you do about the next election, the voters will stand with you.”
Scott Walker has sinisterly shown us the reality of how money pollutes politics. #wigov
— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) November 5, 2014
Everybody knows Scott Walker does not share Wisconsin’s values and cares more about his own political ambition #wigov
— Richard L. Trumka (@RichardTrumka) November 5, 2014
The Georgia Senate race won’t be headed for a runoff as the Republican surpassed the necessary 50 percent plus one vote threshold.
Democrat Michelle Nunn had just 41 percent of the vote compared to 57 percent for Republican David Perdue with 67 of precincts reporting.
Perdue replaces retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top GOP on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Georgia runoff would have taken place on Jan. 6. That’s after the 114th Congress will come into session.
Perdue maintained a slight lead in polls going into the vote.
Democrats went in the election up in arms about 40,000 “missing voters” — registrations gathered in three counties by the NAACP and the New Georgia Project. A voter registration drops out of the system after 30 days if the registrant’s identity isn’t able to be verified.
Heralded as one of the strongest GOP candidates of the 2014 campaign cycle, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) snagged Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-Colo.) seat Tuesday.
Gardner had nearly 51 percent of the vote with 59 percent of precincts reporting. Udall had 43.8 percent of the vote.
Udall, a first-term senator, was derisively dubbed “Sen. Uterus” for focusing his campaign on Gardner’s views on abortion, personhood and birth control. Gardner is anti-abortion and also supports making the birth control pill available over the counter.
The Denver Post gave one of the most notable endorsements of the campaign season in picking Gardner over Udall.
“Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives. Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision,” the paper said in its editorial. “His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”
Gardner overtook Udall in the polls over the past month and developed a steady lead.