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Saturday
Jan012011

New Look Congress: What Does the GOP Have in Store?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The New Year brings with it a new Congress, and with Republicans now in charge of the House and more powerful in the Senate, what does it all mean for President Obama?

“I think in a word it will be an assertive Congress," said Pat Toomey, the new Senator from Pennsylvania. One hundred Republicans join Congress this week, many of them – including Toomey – aligned with the Tea Party.

Already, with the shellacking of the midterms, there’s been a mood shift. A move to ban earmarks. Some compromise. Bipartisanship on tax cuts. But Hill veterans are warning newcomers to temper their expectations.

“That fire, that anger, that vehicle for ‘I'm going to do things differently,’” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., “They may find that they have to work together…they may have to come together and compromise.”

So what’s on the docket for the next Congress? Many in the GOP have their sights set on repealing health care.

"If Republicans decide they're going to spend the first six months of the year going over and debating the individual mandate, or Obamacare,” said ABC News political director Amy Walter, “I think that is not going to go very well with the electorate."

Republicans have also said they want to cut spending, but they have not been clear on what they will cut. Cutting taxes remains a priority, and the White House says it is open to that idea if those cuts create jobs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan012011

Alaska Senate Race Finally Over; Miller Concedes to Murkowski

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JUNEAU, Alaska) -- Tea Party favorite Joe Miller on Friday conceded defeat to Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's senate race, bowing out one day after the state certified Murkowski's win.

Miller, who had been endorsed by former Governor Sarah Palin, defeated the incumbent Murkowski in a Republican primary and was seen as the likely winner.  Murkowski launched a strong write-in campaign that overwhelmed Miller on election day.

Miller could have appealed the latest of three court rulings against him or fought to overturn the state certification.  He chose not to, indicating he felt he was still correct but that the courts would not see it that way.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan012011

What Is President Obama's New Year's Resolution?

Photo Courtesy - The White House | Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama’s New Year’s resolution is to grow the economy and create jobs, he declares in his weekly address, his first address of the new year.
 
“Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going.  As president, that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class.  That’s my resolution for the coming year.”
 
As the president winds down his vacation ahead of his return to Washington, D.C., next week, he previews the year that lies ahead, facing a different political reality than when he rang in the new year last year.
 
“In a few days, a new Congress will form, with one house controlled by Democrats, and one house controlled by Republicans -- who now have a shared responsibility to move this country forward.  And here’s what I want you to know: I’m willing to work with anyone of either party who’s got a good idea and the commitment to see it through.”
 
The president says he expects Americans to hold both parties accountable for “our progress or our failure” to deliver on those commitments.
 
Noting that this New Year closes a “difficult decade,” the president calls for a period of progress with the new decade that lays before the nation.
 
“We have come through a difficult decade; one of new threats and new trials we didn’t expect when it began.  But a new year and a new decade stretch out before us.  And if we just remember what America is capable of, and live up to that legacy, then I’m confident that we are poised for a period of progress.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

Chief Justice John Roberts Issues Yearly Report on the State of the Judiciary

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his yearly report on the state of the Judiciary released at 6 p.m. on New Years Eve, Chief Justice John Roberts expresses concern that budgetary constraints due to the economic down turn and the "persistent problem" of judicial vacancies are hampering the work of the Judicial Conference to plan for the future.

The Conference -- the federal judiciary's policy-making body -- is made up of all the chief  judges of the federal court of appeals as well as district court judges from each regional circuit. Roberts serves as the presiding officer of the Conference and issues a report annually on Dec. 31.

In the report, the Chief Justice points out that the Conference approved a strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary last September that identifies long term issues "critical to the future operation of the federal courts" but says that there are "obstacles" obstructing its success.

"There are, however, some immediate obstacles to achieving our goals." Roberts writes, "Two stand out at the beginning of this new year: an economic downturn that has imposed budgetary constraints throughout the government, and the persistent problem of judicial vacancies in critically overworked districts."

Roberts says that "the judiciary’s central objective is, of course, to do justice according to law in every case."  But accomplishing such and objective requires focus on issues such as a court's public resources, its workforce of judges and staff and the rules that provide litigants with reasonable and economical access to the judicial process.

He recognizes the economic down turn and describes  the work that all levels of the Judiciary have done to reduce costs. But he says, "The judiciary’s needs are strikingly modest compared to the government as a whole -- less than two-tenths of one percent of the federal budget for one of the three constitutional branches of government."

"We will strive to reduce costs where possible," Roberts writes, "but we ask in return that our coordinate branches of government continue to provide the financial resources that the courts must have to carry out their vital mission."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

Gov. Rendell Defends Bloomberg, Talks Life Post-Governorship

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has been a vocal critic of the NFL’s decision to postpone last weekend’s Philadelphia Eagles-Minnesota Viking game due to inclement weather, lamenting that “we’re becoming a nation of wussies.”  But Rendell on Friday came to the defense of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s under fire for what many see as the city’s poor response to the snowstorm.

“It was difficult to predict, it came very quickly and swiftly,” Rendell told ABC News. “New York’s had a very good track record of snow removal and…you can’t hit a home run every time at bat and even the best players in sports have bad days. I don’t know what happened in New York. I know some areas were clean better than others, but by and large, the Bloomberg administration does a very good job on things like this.”

As for his future post-governorship, Rendell played down chatter that he had been picked as the new White House chief of staff.

“ I don’t have the stature that Colin Powell has,” said Rendell, who sees the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the ideal candidate for the job. “I don’t think hardly anybody in America has that stature of non-partisanship, acting in the good of the country. I think that’s what we need.”

“If they are going to replace [acting Chief of Staff] Peter Rouse or keep Peter as a deputy, I’d love to see [ex U.S. Senator] Tom Daschle. I think he’s another person who could bring this together very effectively."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

Health Care Faces Rocky Road in New Congress

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- New provisions under the health care law will roll out starting Jan. 1, but the the debate over health care reform is far from over as lawmakers in both chambers craft ways to tweak the controversial legislation.

In the Senate, an unusual alliance has formed between Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who voted for the health care legislation, and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, whose election to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat nearly derailed the law.

The two senators are crafting a plan that would allow states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act if their programs meet the standards of the federal health care law and do not add to the deficit.

It's designed to throw a bone to conservatives who want to repeal the law.  But rather than give states all the power to make their decisions, states would still have to meet guidelines set by the federal government, even if they don't want to carry out the new law.

Wyden and Brown have hailed their work as a sign of bipartisanship.  There's little so far to indicate whether others are on board, but the two senators' effort has kicked off a debate that has simmered underneath the surface in the Senate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec312010

Senate Majority Rules? Senator Wants Showdown on Filibuster Reform

Photo Courtesy - Tom Udall [dot] Senate [dot] gov(NEW YORK) -- Their majority dwindling, some Senate Democrats are planning a showdown on the first day of the new Congress over limiting Republicans' ability to hold up legislation through filibusters.

"We don't want to give the minority the ability to block the majority from governing," Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a leading proponent of filibuster reform, told ABC News.

According to Udall, momentum is building behind his effort to amend Senate Rule XXII, which allows 3/5ths of the Senate -- or 60 members -- to invoke "cloture" and end debate.  Failure to clear that 60-vote hurdle leaves a bill on the table, effectively killing it, and is commonly referred to as a modern "filibuster."

Udall proposes that senators who wish to hold up a piece of legislation be required to engage in a "talking filibuster," in which they would continuously speak on the floor, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"-style, rather than simply using a failed cloture vote to kill a bill.

Udall also wants to eliminate so-called "anonymous holds" that allow any senator to issue a silent objection, freezing a bill or nomination.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec302010

Center for American Progress' Neera Tanden On Obama: 'Washington Will Not Determine His Success' In 2011

Photo Courtesy - Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When President Obama returns from vacation next week, he’ll get his first taste of life with a bigger and more emboldened Republican Congress eager to repeal much of the legislation passed over the last two years.

On Thursday ABC News spoke with Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden, who argued that the President shouldn’t get too caught up in what is happening on the Hill, but should instead “get out of Washington, because Washington will not determine his success.”

The Chief Operating Officer of the liberal think tank and former director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden campaign, Tanden told ABC News that given the current make-up of Congress, Obama “can’t measure success by Congress alone.  I think you’ll see in the State of the Union the beginning elements of his re-election campaign, communicating why he’s the best person to be president right now and how the things he’s done really help benefit the American people. I think that will be what he does for two years. He’s got to get out of Washington because Washington will not determine his success.”

Tanden also weighed in on the fate of the health care law, something she knows a lot about given her role as a former senior advisor for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services. While acknowledging that the Administration has a “big communications challenge” in connecting Americans with the specific benefits of the law that may benefit them, she also warns that “at the end of the day, the Republicans want to repeal all of these particular benefits and you have to tell people that’s what they’re doing.”

Furthermore, notes Tanden, Republican efforts to dismantle the law could backfire. “I think one of the lessons we learned from this last election,” said Tanden, “is that people want to focus on the economy and if they focus everyday on healthcare instead of economic issues, I think that will be a detriment to them as well.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec302010

At Last: Alaska Certifies Senate Election Results

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- After a nearly two-month struggle that saw former candidate Joe Miller challenge the validity of midterm election results naming Republican Lisa Murkowski Alaska senator, Governor Sean Parnell and Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell signed paperwork Thursday certifying Murkowski as the winner. The final vote count left Murkowski with 101,091 votes and Miller with 90,839 votes.

"The courts have now allowed us to carry out the will of the people," Lt. Governor Treadwell said.  "We congratulate Senator Murkowski on her historic victory, and all candidates for their earnest efforts."

The documents certifying Senator Murkowski's victory will be filed before the Jan. 3 deadline in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec302010

'King of the Birthers' Launches Bid for Presidency

Photo Courtesy - andyforussenator[dot]com(CHICAGO) -- Andy Martin has worn a lot of hats in his life: lawyer, talk-radio host and professor. But now the self-crowned "king of the birthers" says he wants to be president of the United States.

The political agitator, 65, who believes President Obama is not a natural-born citizen because his father was Kenyan, announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination from New Hampshire Wednesday.

"All these lawsuits that have been filed over Obama's birth certificate are garbage because none of the courts are going to challenge the chief executive," he said in an interview. "So, we're just going to have to beat him in an election."

Martin, who failed in a bid earlier this year for Obama's old Illinois U.S. Senate seat, acknowledged the chance to go head-to-head with Obama is a longshot. But he's convinced his message has a loyal following and will influence conversations within the Republican Party.

"My message will drive other candidates," he said. "We're going to go back and vet Obama for the first time and this is going to be very corrosive. Many people are frustrated by the fact that the institutions we have aren't capable of dealing with questions that they feel are very serious."

Martin and fellow birthers in what he describes as a "very unruly kingdom" have raised questions about what they see as a lack of transparency by Obama and the administration surrounding the facts of his birth and upbringing.

Many of the movement's claims are unsubstantiated conspiracy theories with the underlying political objective of undermining Obama.

"You couldn't sell this script in Hollywood," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in response to a question about the birthers in August 2009.

But despite overwhelming evidence that seems to debunk many of the claims, the questions have festered.

Fourteen percent of Americans say, without prompting, that they think Obama was born in another country, according to the most recent ABC News-Washington Post poll. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio