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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Friday
Jul252014

White House Doesn't Discount Possibility of Impeachment

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Don't dismiss the possibility of the House of Representatives bringing articles of impeachment against President Obama, senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Friday.

"I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off," Pfeiffer said at a breakfast with reporters in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "I would not discount that possibility. I think that [House] Speaker [John] Boehner, by going down this path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some point in the future."

He went on to say that the executive actions being considered by the White House on immigration would probably “up the likelihood” of impeachment, making the point that lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have already said that the president is violating the law with his unilateral moves on immigration.

Pfeiffer noted that the House is set to file a formal lawsuit next week against the president over his executive actions. While the idea of impeachment is only being discussed by the likes of Sarah Palin -- and very few elected lawmakers -- that could change.

He went on to say that the White House views the lawsuit as “validation” of its “year of action” strategy, saying of executive actions: “If they were small-ball, the Republicans would not be suing over them.”

Asked whether impeachment would be good for the president, Pfeiffer said: “No, I don’t think so.”

Boehner, who has publicly ruled out impeachment, responded in a statement through his spokesman.

"We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul252014

Rand Paul Takes on Cocaine Sentencing Laws

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- Sen. Rand Paul wants to level the playing field when it comes to criminal sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses. 

In a speech to the Urban League in Cincinnati Friday, Paul announced new legislation that would eliminate the disparity in sentencing for offenses involving crack and powder cocaine.

Current law carries much harsher penalties for the possession of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, first time offenders possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine would receive a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.  People with powder cocaine, on the other hand, would have to possess 500 grams to receive that same sentence.

Paul officially introduced the legislation, titled the RESET Act (short for “Reclassification to Ensure Smarter and Equal Treatment Act”), on Thursday afternoon.  

In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which narrowed the sentencing disparity for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses from 100:1 to 18:1. Paul’s bill would go much further, completely eliminating the disparity between the two.

The Kentucky Republican, who is not shy about interest in a 2016 presidential run, has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his recent legislative pushes.

Earlier this month, Paul teamed up with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to unveil bipartisan legislation to reform the criminal justice system -- from offering adults ways to seal their non-violent criminal records to permitting the sealing and expungement of juvenile records for kids who commit non-violent crimes.

In recent months, Paul has argued for broadening the Republican Party and has made a concerted effort to reach out to urban communities and young people.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul252014

Josh Earnest’s Guide to Softening 'Hard-Bitten' Reporters

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Josh Earnest stepped up to the podium as the new White House press secretary just weeks ago, but already he’s figured out a few ways to butter up “hard-bitten” White House reporters.

Principle among his methods, the father-to-be revealed to ABC News, is to discuss parenthood.

“It’s something that so many people can relate to and hearing the experience of even some hard-bitten White House reporters…talking to them about the birth of their first child, they routinely describe it as the greatest day of their life,” said Earnest, whose wife is due later this summer.

“I think, like all parents who are about to have their first child, we are feeling a lot of trepidation about this experience that we're preparing for, but also incredibly excited,” he said.

The trepidation of first-time parenthood aside, Earnest admits he’s still getting settled into his new job as press secretary -- a role he assumed following Jay Carney’s departure last month.

But playing the role of mediator between the White House and the press corps is nothing new to Earnest. He has worked for President Obama since the Iowa caucus in 2007 and went on to assume a principal role in the White House press office following the president’s election in 2008.

“Having [had] that office right through that door,” Earnest said while gesturing toward his old office that sits directly behind the White House press briefing room. “I often described myself as the option of first resort for a lot of reporters.”

Over his six and a half years working in the White House, the Missouri native has developed a reputation among the press corps as the “Midwestern nice guy.” And now that he’s fielding reporters’ tough questions in the daily press briefings -- exchanges which can sometimes be combative -- Earnest said he hopes he’ll continue to be thought of as the nice guy.

“I would like it to be,” Earnest said. “I like reporters. Reporters that are working here at the White House have really difficult jobs…One of the things that's old-fashioned about working at the White House is that even in the age of email and Twitter and even telephones, a lot of the interactions that I have with reporters on a daily basis are in person, are face-to-face.”

Though he now has the challenging task of going head-to-head with reporters on a daily basis, there are some definite perks to the new job. For one, Earnest has an unusual level of access to Obama.

In addition to having a seat at the table for the president’s meetings with senior advisers, Obama has given Earnest rights to come by the Oval Office whenever he needs to -- no appointment necessary.

“The president mentioned to me when he offered me this job…that if I was ever in a circumstance where I needed to speak with him about something, either in advance of a briefing or related to something else that we were handling, that I should come stand outside the Oval Office, and I could walk in and talk to him as necessary,” he said.

It’s a perk that Earnest said he’s only taken advantage of once so far, following some comments the president made alluding to additional financial market regulations.

“Knowing of the market sensitivity of that answer, and knowing that it was only the president himself who knew exactly what he was alluding to, I wanted to make sure that he was comfortable with the answer to that I was prepared to give,” Earnest said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul252014

GOP, Dems Butt Heads over Bill to Help Vets

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Once more gridlock in Washington may waylay an important bill, this time to aid veterans.

Republicans and Democrats have been working on a measure that would provide funds for doctors and facilities to care for vets, many of whom have waited endlessly for treatment at Veterans Affairs facilities.

Although they agree on the urgency to treat veterans, House Republicans and Senate lawmakers disagree on just how much money is needed and how to offset costs.

House Speaker John Boehner complained Thursday, "The White House rolls in with a request for 13.6 billion dollars of new money, not very clearly outlined. No hearings, no nothing and expect us to just add it to this conference report. We're not going to do that."

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, alleged that this was another example of Republican stonewalling in an election year.

After six weeks of negotiations, Sanders lamented, "I am sad to say that at this point I can only conclude with great reluctance that the good faith we have shown is simply not being reciprocated by the other side."

With lawmakers heading out for a long summer recess after next week, Sanders said he was pessimistic that any deal can be worked out by the end of July.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul252014

Obamacare “Creepy Care-nival" Opens on the National Mall

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some people have a fear of clowns, particularly creepy ones. Polls show millions of people still feel the same way about Obamacare. A cheeky “Creepy Care-nival” held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this week was intended to combine the two to show some of the aspects of the health care law that its critics find frightening.

The Creepy Care-nival featured knife-throwing jugglers, a house call from Dr. Grim Reaper, and a virtual death panel.

The ghoulish displays were created by Generation Opportunity, the Koch brothers-affiliated group that also produced the controversial “Creepy Uncle Sam” ads.

Tightrope walkers, acrobats, and clowns mingled with elected officials like Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

Activities and refreshments had an Obamacare spin, and were “rigged against young people,” said Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg. The youngish crowd of tourists, Washington types, and curious joggers enjoyed ominous palm readings, an impossible coin toss, and basketball with a ball too big for the hoop. There were even Obamacare palm readings.

The event’s main attraction, a “creepy hospital,” took participants through a hospital run by “Dr. Grim Reaper.”

The tour ended in a room filled with signs listing infamous episodes in American public health history, including the forced lobotomization of World War II veterans recently detailed in the Wall Street Journal, and a mass sterilization program whose victims were awarded compensation in 2012.

Generation Opportunity spokesperson Corie Whalen Stephens denied that the exhibit implied a connection between Obamacare and the episodes.

Like Generation Opportunity’s campus tailgate tour last fall, the carnival will head across the country. It’s expected to stop in states like Colorado and Louisiana, where Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare are up for re-election.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul252014

Christie, Haley Challenge White House Handling of Illegal Migrant Children 

Chris Keane/Getty Images(ASPEN, Colo.) -- Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Chris Christie of New Jersey had harsh words for the White House’s handling of the border crisis during a Republican governors’ panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Thursday night.

Haley worried about the potential costs of temporarily sheltering migrant children in states across the country, despite assurances that the federal government would foot the bill.

“We do care about these children…but we also have our own children to take care of,” Haley said.

Christie questioned the system in place that allows children to be released into the custody of  “possibly illegal” relatives ahead of their court dates. “It’s completely illogical and it’s why folks get so frustrated with the government,” he said.

Of the panel’s participants, Haley, Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Rick Scott of Florida all face re-election in November.

Yet the evening’s two only electoral comments came from Christie. The first, regarding social welfare and the economy, bashed Mitt Romney’s infamous 47-percent comment.

“One of the biggest mistakes of the 47-percent comment was…the vast majority of people don’t want to be on public assistance,” Christie said. “That wasn’t the American dream, at least when I grew up.”

Christie later refuted an audience member’s assertion that the GOP needs to reevaluate its social platform to attract female and minority voters in the future.

“We’re getting pounded because of the way we present ourselves,” said Christie, who pointed to his success in New Jersey despite being pro-life. “People want folks who are authentic…but are also tolerant and willing to listen.”

Democratic governors will take part in their own Aspen Institute panel on Aug. 2.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul242014

Obama Blasts Some US Companies as 'Corporate Deserters' 

White House(LOS ANGELES) -- At a campaign-style event in Los Angeles, President Obama delivered an unusually blistering indictment Thursday of American businesses that have reincorporated overseas to avoid some U.S. taxes -- calling them “corporate deserters” who are “cherry picking the rules.”

While not singling out any by name, Obama said they had tapped into the, “holy grail of tax avoidance schemes” by exploiting a legal “loophole” in the tax code.

“My attitude is, I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s wrong,” he said.

The president said it's a “small but growing group” of companies taking advantage of the provision – keeping a headquarters and most operations here in the U.S. but establishing corporate citizenship elsewhere.

“Technically they’re renouncing their U.S. citizenship,” he claimed.

Obama explained that the issue is easily fixable through corporate tax reform. He called on Congress to close the loophole, part of a new line of populist messaging that comes as the president returns to active campaign mode ahead of the November elections.

Republicans have expressed some openness to addressing the so-called “inversion” issue Obama raised Thursday, but only as part of broader corporate tax reform.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said: “until the White House endorses our tax reform plan or convinces Senate Democrats to act, every pink slip from companies moving overseas may as well be signed, ‘President Barack H. Obama.’”

“I’m not interested in punishing these companies, but I am interested in economic patriotism,” Obama said, invoking a line that has become something of a slogan for the Democrats’ 2014 campaign.

“We rise and fall together as one nation and one people,” he said.

The president’s appearance was interrupted however, by a man screaming about “God almighty, Jesus Christ” and how Obama “will be destroyed.”

“You will be destroyed. You will be destroyed. You will be destroyed,” the man kept yelling. He was eventually drowned out by the crowd.

“I actually met that guy before. He used the same line,” Obama quipped. “He needs to update his material.”


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul242014

Lawsuit Against Obama One Step Closer to Courthouse Door

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday to set up a showdown between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama next week.

The House Rules Committee voted 7-4 to approve a markup of H. Res. 676, which provides authority to initiate litigation for actions by the president or other executive branch officials inconsistent with their duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Next week, the measure will require a rule before floor consideration by the full House. A vote on the bill is likely to be among the final acts the House takes before lawmakers enjoy a five-week break for the August recess.

Even after the House approves the resolution, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as BLAG, would have to meet to vote on the matter. Republicans enjoy a three to two edge on the panel.

BLAG is comprised of the speaker, minority and majority leader, and minority and majority whip. If it happens after July 31, Majority Leader Eric Cantor will not be among the Republicans voting. Instead, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., would slide into the mix after Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ascends to majority leader.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul242014

Former Olympic Skater Michelle Kwan Stars in Political Ad for Hubby

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan is pirouetting into the Rhode Island gubernatorial race. Kwan is featured in a new ad supporting her husband, Clay Pell, in the state’s Democratic primary.

The 30-second ad titled “Equality” is Kwan’s attempt to appeal to the state’s female voters.

“One of the reasons I’m so excited about my husband, Clay Pell’s candidacy is because Clay is committed to a women’s-equality agenda that strengthens protection for women in areas like pay equity, sexual harassment and domestic violence,” Kwan says in the ad. “Clay knows Rhode Island can be ready for tomorrow by making it one of the best places for women to live and work. Clay believes what I believe: We need equality for all women.”

In a May WPRI 12/Providence Journal poll, Pell placed third among the four Democrats vying for the nomination. Pell trailed behind Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimond with only 12 percent of respondents supporting his candidacy -- though 22 percent had yet to make up their minds.

“Throughout her career as an Olympic figure skater, and her time as a public policy envoy with the U.S. Department of State (where she’s served since 2006), Michelle has been a strong advocate for the empowerment of girls through sports, and for women’s rights,” the Pell campaign wrote in a press release Thursday.

The primary election will be held on Sept. 9.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul242014

Obama Talks Basketball During Surprise Lunch Stop in LA

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama's basketball game isn't what it used to be, he revealed during a surprise stop for lunch at Canter's Deli in Los Angeles Thursday.

After shaking hands with the people behind the counter at this family-owned landmark, the president talked a little basketball with two older gentleman sitting in a booth.

Asked about his game, Obama told them, "My shot's broken... My elbow keeps going out."

Rubbing his shoulder, he told them he probably makes about 80 percent of his shots (free throws, not in a game).

"I get that chicken wing," Obama said, motioning with his elbow. "I'm just getting old."

The president then made his way to a booth in the back where he sat with four Americans who wrote him letters, part of his ongoing effort to "meet with folks from across the country to listen to their stories, struggles, and successes, as well as the issues in their lives that matter most," according to the White House.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio