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Tuesday
Nov162010

Senate Republicans Ban Earmarks; Will Democrats Follow?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republicans Tuesday took their war against government spending to a new level, voting behind closed doors to approve a moratorium on all congressional earmarks for two years.

The resolution, which is non-binding, is identical to the one approved by House Republicans in the current Congress and forbids Republicans from engaging in the practice of funneling federal tax dollars to pet projects in their home states.

House Democrats have restricted earmarks for private contractors but not outlawed them entirely.

Only Senate Democrats have yet to decide on whether they will impose any limits on earmarks, although at least two members -- Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall -- have said they want their caucus to follow suit.

A moratorium on earmarks throughout Congress would be a significant development and departure from what has become a common, if controversial, practice in recent years.

Congress approved 9,499 earmarked projects in fiscal year 2010 that totaled $15.9 billion, according to the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Earmarks account for less than one percent of overall federal spending.

The move by Republicans will also likely add pressure on President Obama, who has said he supports "cracking down on wasteful earmark spending, which we can't afford during these tough economic times."

But he has not called for eliminating the practice outright or threatened to veto bills that include earmarks.

President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued a report last week detailing ways to reduce the national debt by $4 trillion in the next 10 years, including an outright ban on all earmarks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Rep.-Elect Allen West: ‘You Have to’ Cut Defense; New Strategy Needed for Afghanistan

Photo Couresty - AllenWestforCongress dot com(WASHINGTON) -- The new class of GOP House freshmen is coming to Washington vowing to rethink government spending even in areas that Republicans have long held sacred -- and with an eye toward big changes on the national security front.

On Tuesday, Rep.-elect Allen West, R-Fla., a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told ABC News that “you have to” subject Pentagon spending to cuts if the nation plans to seriously grapple with the budget deficit.

He also called for a new strategy in Afghanistan that focuses less on “nation-building” and more on confronting new threats.

On Afghanistan, West said, “We have to look at how we can be successful on the ground and these combat theaters of operation. The 21st-century battlefield is a totally different battlefield. We have to get away from occupation, nation-building style warfare. I think that our national security strategy should focus on denying the enemy sanctuary. Cyber warfare is going to become a huge part of this, the information operations aspect of it. And those are the type of things we have to look at.”

Based on his time as a military adviser in Afghanistan, West said, “I think we've lost focus on the enemy, and we've gotten too far focused on nation-building. And that is one of the critical things I want to look at.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Nov162010

NY & NJ Lawmakers Call on Senate to Pass 9/11 Health Bill

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Flanked by first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey called on the U.S. Senate to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

“This should not be a partisan fight,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said.  “We have an undeniable, moral obligation to provide these 9/11 heroes with all of the care that they need. It’s time to keep our promise to them and pass this bill in the U.S. Senate.”

The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed the House of Representatives in September largely along party lines, but with the support of 17 Republican representatives.  Gillibrand remarked that she expects all Democratic senators will vote for the bill and that she hopes it will pass before the end of the year.  President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law should it pass the U.S. Senate.

The 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would provide $7.4 billion dollars in aid to first responders and survivors of the World Trade Center attacks.  More than 30,000 responders and survivors have received medical care due to the exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.  These victims hail from all 50 states and 428 of the 435 congressional districts. 

The proposed legislation was named for James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department officer who was a first responder on September 11, 2001.  Zadroga died in 2006 from the respiratory disease he contracted while working at Ground Zero in the wake of the attacks.

Bloomberg and Gillibrand were joined by Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Peter King, Michael McMahon and Anthony Weiner and various labor union leaders.  Bloomberg, 9/11 survivors, first responders, and labor leaders spent the day lobbying key Republican senators to pass the bill.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Out with a Bang: RNC Political Director Steps Down

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican National Committee Political Director Gentry Collins has submitted his resignation to chairman Michael Steele with a stinging letter blasting Steele’s fundraising and leadership.

Steele is presumed to be seeking another term as RNC chairman next month.

“In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins writes in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”

He makes clear that Steele was at fault for the party’s fundraising woes and writes that funding problems may have cost Republicans a chance to take the Senate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Michelle Obama's Second Chief of Staff Resigns

Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Michelle Obama's chief of staff is stepping down.

The first lady's office says Susan Sher will return to Chicago after the first of next year. A replacement has not yet been determined. 

This marks the second chief of staff Mrs. Obama has gone through in only two years. Her first chief of staff, Jackie Norris, departed in June of 2009.

“Susan has been both a colleague and a dear friend for decades, and I have been grateful every day for her leadership and wise counsel in Washington,” said first lady Michelle Obama in a paper statement.  “I also very much appreciate her generosity in staying longer than she initially planned –- spending so many months away from her family in Chicago -– to help me build my office in the East Wing.  I wish her all the best.”

The White House has also put out a paper statement from the president.

“Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the first lady’s office, as well as my administration’s outreach to the Jewish community and our efforts to pass health care reform, and I thank her for her service,” President Obama said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Gov. Bobby Jindal: 'I'm Not Running' for President in 2012

Photo Courtesy - Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal(NEW YORK) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tells ABC News he has no plans to run for president in 2012.

Asked by ABC News Radio San Francisco affiliate KGO-AM whether he would consider a run at the White House, Jindal said, “I’m not running, I’ve got a great job as governor of Louisiana.”

“I’ll leave that to others,” Jindal told ABC's Chicago affiliate, WLS-AM.

Jindal is traveling the country promoting his new book Leadership and Crisis, in which he criticizes President Barack Obama's response to the Gulf oil disaster.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Rep. Charles Rangel Found Guilty of Violating House Ethics Rules

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the House ethics committee ruled Tuesday that New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel had violated house rules for improperly fundraising for a community center in his name, failing to disclose more than a half million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms, and failing to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.

Rangel was found guilty on 11 of 13 counts against him.

The ethics committee is expected to meet Thursday afternoon for the sanctions hearing.

Possible sanctions range from expulsion -- considered highly unlikely -- to reprimand, censure or a monetary fine. According to House ethics rules, a reprimand is reserved for a "serious violation;" censure is for "more serious violations."

Legal experts believe that the committee will suggest either a censure or reprimand. Once the committee agrees on the sanction, it will vote to recommend the sanction to the full House for a vote.

If the House votes to censure Rangel, he will have to stand at the "well" of the House chamber to receive a verbal rebuke and reading of the censure resolution by the Speaker of the House.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Democrats, GOP Vote on New Senate Leadership Teams

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- On Tuesday, the Senate focused on the next Congress, not the current one, with both parties electing their leadership teams, while Republicans are also voting on an earmark moratorium. The moratorium is expected to cruise to passage when GOP senators meet later Tuesday, but the earlier session was all about leadership – and there were no surprises in store for the 112th Congress.

That means Republicans will still have Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell at the helm, with Arizona’s Jon Kyl at number two, and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander in the number three slot. South Dakota’s John Thune and Wyoming’s John Barrasso will continue to round out the GOP team.

Across the aisle the Democrats, who have retained the majority in the Senate, albeit one reduced by six seats, will also retain their leadership team. As expected, Nevada’s Harry Reid will stay on majority leader, Illinois’ Dick Durbin as number-two, New York’s Chuck Schumer as number-three, and Washington’s Patty Murray at number-four. Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and newly-promoted Mark Begich of Alaska will fill the remaining slots.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Alaska Senator Says Palin Lacks 'Leadership Qualities' to Be President

Photo Courtesy - Murkowski [dot] Senate [dot] Gov(NEW YORK) -- On the heels of Sarah Palin’s attempt to oust her from the Senate, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski had some harsh words for her former governor Monday night.

In an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Murkowski, who is on the verge of a historic upset in the Alaska Senate race, said Palin lacked the “intellectual curiosity” necessary to govern.

“I just do not think that she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies,” Murkowski said in the CBS interview.  “You know, she was my governor for two years, for just about two years there, and I don’t think that she enjoyed governing.  I don’t think she liked to get down into the policy.”

Murkowski reiterated that she would not support Palin if she decided to run for president in 2012.  “She has an ability to connect with people that is really quite remarkable, but she would not be my choice for president,” she told Couric.

“I want somebody that goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning thinking about how we are going to deal with our national security issues, how we’re going to deal with our economy, how we’re going to deal with providing better education or peace in the Middle East and that’s what I’m looking for,” Murkowski added.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov162010

Bachmann Supports Tax Deal, But Not if Tied to Unemployment Benefits

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The leader of the House Tea Party Caucus said she would support a compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts -- but not if they are tied to an extension of the unemployment benefits.

“I would like to get the current tax policy extended as far into the future as we possibly can. If we can only get it extended for two years I think that is great but I don’t think that the American people should have to pay for that by having to have some new massive spending tied to it,” Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota told ABC News. “If that’s the case, I don’t think you are going to see the Republicans go along with it.”

The unemployment benefits will start expiring at the end of the month and Democrats have floated the idea of attaching an extension of the benefits to the tax cuts.

Asked why she would support a tax cut for the wealthiest, but not throw her support behind unemployment benefits, Bachmann said that Americans have misconstrued who those “wealthiest” really are.

“These are people who are carpet layers who maybe employee two or three other guys. Or a plumber maybe himself and his brother and it’s $250,000 in gross sales for the business. They’re the ones that are looking at massive tax increases,” she said.

“This is a job killer if we raise taxes on the job creators,” Bachmann added.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio