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Monday
Jun032013

David Plouffe: Hillary Clinton Is Democratic Frontrunner If She Runs in 2016

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Bloomberg TV contributor David Plouffe, who ran President Obama’s 2008 campaign for president, said during an exclusive to web interview with This Week, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic frontrunner if she chooses to run for the White House in 2016, but added that others, including Vice President Joe Biden will look at potentially running for the presidency.

“If she runs in the primary, she’s the frontrunner. Obviously the vice president is someone who will take a look at this. We have other governors and senators who will take a look at it. But I think, you know if she were to run, she would be an enormously strong candidate in the primary,” Plouffe said.

When asked if he’d manage a potential Clinton 2016 campaign for president, Plouffe said “those days are over.”

“I am done running presidential campaigns,” Plouffe said. “So — But I’ll give her whatever advice she would seek.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar152013

Obama to Start Fundraising for Dems Looking to Win House Seats

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama assured Republicans this week that he’s not running a perpetual campaign, that “I actually just want to govern, at least for a couple years.”  But now, it appears that the president’s self-described hiatus from the campaign trail will only last another three weeks.

ABC News has learned that Obama will hit the road on April 3 to help raise money for Democrats gunning to win House seats from Republicans in 2014.

Democratic sources say Obama will head to San Francisco next month to headline two fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).   House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will also attend, the sources said.

As ABC News reported last month, Obama has committed to hosting at least 14 fundraisers this year for House and Senate Democratic candidates -- a significant step up from the fundraising efforts of previous second-term presidents.

Ten of the events will reportedly be held outside of Washington, D.C., with five benefitting the DCCC and five the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar142013

First Budget Plan from Democrats in Four Years

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Calling it "a balanced and fair approach" to solving the nation's red ink, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray on Wednesday officially unveiled the Democrats' budget proposal that focuses on both spending cuts and boosting tax revenue.

Murray said the plan would stand in marked contrast to what Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan proposed the day before, adding, "The American people...are going to be able to decide which approach is best for our economy, best for jobs and best for the middle class."

Essentially, the blueprint is what President Obama envisioned although it's highly unlikely any Republican will jump on board.

Among other things, the Ryan plan calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act, eventually switching over Medicare to a voucher system and establishing two tax brackets at 10 percent and 25 percent.

Murray, a Washington Democrat, and her colleagues don't propose any of that.  The first budget offered since 2009 calls for eliminating tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy and corporations and spending more on roads and schools to boost jobs and protect the middle-class.

The Democrats' goal is to protect the Holy Trinity of entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with some modest reforms to make them viable for future generations.

Essentially, $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years would be matched by the same amount in new revenue.  In addition to slicing $275 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, $240 billion would be cut from the Pentagon budget through 2013.

Murray told reporters, "That is a responsible approach.  It's a balanced and fair approach.  It's the one endorsed by bipartisan groups and experts, and it's the one supported by the vast majority of the American people."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb262013

House Dems Rip GOP Redo of Violence Against Women Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats say they are not satisfied with the Republican-crafted version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, pledging to oppose it if it comes up for a vote later this week in the House.

Speaking at the Capitol Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican measure a step down from the Senate bill that passed with bipartisan support earlier this month, saying that “this bill is weaker than the Senate bill, weaker than the current law.”

House Democrats said that the Republican-proposed version up for consideration this week does not provide adequate protection for the sexual crime victims associated with human trafficking or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Native American communities.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who has previously detailed her experience as a sexual assault victim on the House floor, asked her GOP colleagues Tuesday afternoon to “stand up for what is right and righteous, and reconsider this ill-conceived legislation, and work together with us to pass the bipartisan Senate bill.”

A House GOP leadership aide defended the latest Republican proposal, contending that House Democrats are using the politically contentious issue as a way to divide the Republican Party. Some members of the Republican conference have pressured leadership to allow a vote on the Senate bill rather than delay passage with another political fight.

The House GOP aide said the Republican leadership believes its bill makes significant improvements to the Senate bill, claiming that every woman is protected from discrimination.

The House could vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act as soon as Thursday. However, considering the divisions in the lower chamber, it is unclear which version – the Senate bill or House bill – would come up for consideration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb252013

Boehner Not Blinking in Budget Deadlock

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With sequestration set to strike on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner returned to the Capitol after a nine-day recess with no apparent change in his political posture: If the $85 billion cuts are going to be averted, Boehner insists, it’s up to the Senate to act.

Some lawmakers had returned to Washington Monday hoping for a “Hail Mary” attempt to avert the looming sequestration cuts.

“Time is running out,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said on the House floor shortly after legislative business resumed. “The president should be working with House Republicans by engaging in the legislative process.”

“We only have four days left to go and our country’s overall well-being depends on it,” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., warned.

But considering Boehner’s firm resistance to a Democratic proposal to offset half of the cuts with new taxes, the sequester seems certain to take effect untouched.

“The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester,” Boehner R-Ohio, told reporters outside his office suite Monday. “Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.”

Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, called on both parties “to work together” to find a balanced solution. But he, like most Democrats, remains adamant that a deal must include new taxes in addition to targeted savings.

“Budget discipline is absolutely necessary, but damaging job growth and our economy to do so is self-defeating,” Hoyer said on the House floor Monday. “While many Republicans have been praising the sequester as a viable path forward, Democrats recognize this mindless policy for the danger it is.”

Boehner expressed hope that an eleventh-hour deal to offset the $85 billion across-the-board cuts could still be reached, but he continued to pressure Senate Democrats to vote on their proposal before any other options are considered in the House.

“Hope springs eternal,” Boehner said. “It’s time for [Senate Democrats] to act. I’ve made this clear for months now and yet we’ve seen nothing.”

When asked about the prospect for a solution last Friday, President Obama responded identically that “hope springs eternal.”

House Republicans voted twice during the 112th Congress to narrowly pass legislation to offset the sequester with alternative savings, but those measures languished in the Senate and expired with the end of the session. After House Republicans lost eight seats in the last election, a senior Democratic leadership aide doubted that Republicans have enough support within their conference to repeat the feat for a third time. A senior GOP leadership aide, however, said Boehner has the Republican votes to pass the replacement again.

“The House has acted twice,” Boehner said. “We shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.”

Boehner also criticized President Obama for planning a trip to Newport News, Va., Tuesday where the president hopes to draw attention to some of the potential impacts of the arbitrary cuts.

“The president proposed the sequester yet he’s far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging his Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan,” he said. “Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious, he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems.”

The speaker said he did not know how many jobs would be lost if the cuts take hold on Friday, but he warned that by continuing to ignore the country’s ballooning debt, potential job creation is threatened.

“If we don’t solve the spending problem here in Washington, there will be tens of millions of jobs in the future that won’t happen because of the debt load that’s being laid on the backs of our kids and our grandkids,” he said. “I came here to save the American dream for my kids and yours. This debt problem and the president’s addiction to spending is threatening their future.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb212013

Senate Democrats Protect Corporate Jet Loophole

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

By Jonathan Karl

(WASHINGTON) -- Listening to the White House, you’d think the key to averting the across-the-board spending cuts (the dreaded “sequester”) set to take place on March 1 is closing the tax break for owners of private jets.

Here was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week: “How do you explain to a senior that we’re doing this, asking you to sacrifice, but we’re not saying that corporate jet owners should lose their special tax incentive?”

On Wednesday, Carney summed up the Republican position this way: “We’d rather see our national security undermined than corporate jet owners, God forbid, give up their tax break.”

And President Obama in an interview Wednesday with KAKE-TV in Wichita: “What we don’t want to do is give somebody who’s buying a corporate jet an extra tax break.”

Carney has brought up the corporate jet tax break at every single briefing this week.

Listening to these White House statements, one might think that the Democratic plan to avert the spending cuts would close that loophole for private jets.

But the Senate Democratic plan – which has been endorsed by the White House and is, in fact, the only Democratic plan actively under consideration currently – doesn’t touch corporate jets.

ABC News asked Carney if the White House is upset that the Senate Democrats’ plan protects corporate jets.  His answer:

“Our position – in the president’s plan that has been available for ages but Republicans and some reporters pretend doesn’t exist – is that the corporate jet loophole should be eliminated. We’d be fine if it were eliminated as part of the revenue component of a sequester buy-down or as part of broader tax reform in a bigger balanced deficit reduction deal -- either way.  And either way, Republicans oppose it, and would rather see sequester hit than ask corporate jet owners to give up their special tax break. How is that not true?”

Even if the Senate plan did end the tax break for private jets, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The tax break – which allows the owners of private jets to depreciate their airplanes over five years instead of the standard seven years for commercial airplanes – would raise less than $300 million a year. That’s a tiny fraction of the $85 billion in across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect this year.

But – even so – the Senate Democratic plan allows that tax break to continue – unchanged.

The White House also frequently mentions tax breaks for oil and gas companies. The Democratic plan does eliminate some of those, but even that doesn’t add up to much: Just $2 billion in the Senate Democratic plan.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb192013

Republicans Don’t Budge After Obama Shames Congress on TV

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The so-called sequester seems more unavoidable than ever as lawmakers enjoying a nine-day recess in the comfort of their districts watched President Obama shame them publicly on television, part of the president’s effort to pressure Congress to strike a deal to delay the first wave of arbitrary spending cuts scheduled to hit at month’s end.

The president Tuesday called on Congress to close tax loopholes to raise half the amount in a package of alternative savings to offset the sequester. But in a statement after the president’s address, House Speaker John Boehner rejected his proposal and reiterated that any revenue achieved by closing loopholes should be utilized to lower individual rates via comprehensive tax overhaul, not to pay for more spending.

“Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus.”

With about $2.7 trillion in revenue in 2013 and about $3.8 trillion in spending, the $85 billion sequester cut this year represents a 2.2-percent reduction in spending in FY2013, or less than one-half of one percent of the growing $16.5 trillion federal debt.

Boehner also pointed out that the House passed legislation twice in the previous Congress that demonstrated how his party would replace across-the-board cuts. He has maintained that Senate Democrats should vote to pass their own plan before the House acts again.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized the GOP’s strategy, saying that “America cannot afford more Republican obstruction and delay.” She called on Republicans to come together with Democrats to “strengthen the middle class, create jobs, expand our economy and responsibly bring down the deficit.”

“Republican inaction will simply leave the indiscriminate, across-the-board spending cuts in place, threatening jobs, undermining public safety and first responders, injecting uncertainty into our markets, and harming our economy,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. “The last thing we should do is nothing.  The clock is ticking and the deadline is fast approaching."

Both chambers of Congress are out of session, and a solution before March 1 would require something that has become characteristic of Congress in the past three years of divided government: another last-minute agreement.

In August 2011, while the country’s ability to honor its debt obligations hung in question, lawmakers came together to pass the Budget Control Act, which not only raised the debt ceiling and cut more than $1 trillion in the next decade, it also created the doomed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the Supercommittee, which ended its negotiations in a stalemate in November 2011.

Still, the sequester wasn’t scheduled to take effect for 12 more months, leaving lawmakers plenty of leeway to find alternative savings. But because a two-month delay was the best on which Congress could agree as part of the fiscal cliff agreement, time is once again running short.

Even though Congress is in recess, lawmakers continue to mull the impact the cuts will have in their districts.

The House of Representatives meets next for legislative business Feb. 25, beginning a four-day workweek that ends when sequestration takes hold March 1.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Dec292012

As Fiscal Cliff Nears, All Eyes Turn to the Senate

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- A fiscal-cliff fix went nowhere in the House. Now, the Senate will take its turn.

With just three days before their end-of-the-year deadline, Congress and the White House are hurtling toward the so-called "fiscal cliff." If no deal is struck by Monday night, taxes will automatically go up on both high earners and the middle class, and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect.

Both sides still say there's no concrete plan on the table.

Congressional leaders of both parties met at the White House on Friday, a move that raised hopes for a fiscal cliff deal to beat the deadline. Participants described that meeting as productive, even if it didn't produce anything that looks like a deal.

"It was constructive," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the meeting with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"I would say the president led in that direction of saying, 'the speaker says we need to hear from the Senate, so let's have the Senate put something together, and see where that takes us,'" Pelosi said.

Taking the president's direction, the Senate will now attempt to act on the fiscal cliff, in the hopes of passing a deal that can also pass the House by Monday night. Reid, D-Nev., and his GOP counterpart McConnell of Kentucky, are working with their staffs to finalize a deal over the weekend.

Congress will return to session Sunday, and the Senate leaders may present a deal to their caucuses -- but nothing concrete exists, as of yet.

Last week, fiscal-cliff progress stalled in the House as Boehner pulled his "Plan B" proposal, which would have cut spending and raised taxes on incomes over $1 million. Boehner failed to garner enough support for his plan and never put it to a vote on the House floor.

Now, it appears that if the fiscal cliff is to be averted, a fix will originate in the Senate, where lawmakers are traditionally more open to compromise than in the House -- but where legislation can take days to move forward if only one member objects.

Prospects for a deal could be better in the upper chamber, as Senate Republicans are seen as less conservative than their House counterparts, and where even progressive Democrats like Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have signaled willingness to give on their fiscal-cliff demands.

Even so, the Senate has been the epicenter of partisan gridlock for much of Obama's first White House term, as Republicans have used procedural rules to require 60 votes for major bills to move to the president's desk.

"We are engaged in discussions, the majority leader, myself and the White House, in the hopes that we can come forward as early as Sunday and have a recommendation that I can make to my conference and the majority leader can make to his conference," McConnell said of Friday's White House meeting.

McConnell said that he is "hopeful and optimistic" and they'll be "working hard" over the next 24 hours "to see if we can get there."

"The Republican leader and I and our staffs are working to see what we can come up with. We shouldn't take a long time to do that," Reid said on Friday.

"We are out of time. We've got to do it now. That's why I said the next 24 hours will be very important," the majority leader told reporters.

Talks are ongoing, a senior GOP aide told ABC News, while cautioning that it is unlikely that details of a deal will emerge before McConnell and Reid brief their caucuses Sunday afternoon.

If the Senate talks fail, Obama has instructed Reid to bring the Democratic proposal to the floor as a backup. That plan would raise taxes on couples making more than $250,000.

In his weekly address, Obama again pressed for swift action and expressed cautious optimism.

"Sens. Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate and over to the House in a timely fashion so that we meet the Dec. 31 deadline," Obama said. "But given how things have been working in this town we always have to wait and see to see whether it actually happens."

In the weekly GOP response, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the cliff could be avoided while calling for the Senate to pass a House-approved bill that would prevent any taxes from going up--a plan rejected by Democrats and campaigned against by Obama during the presidential race.

"Fortunately, going over the fiscal cliff is avoidable. There's not much time, but there is still time to act," Blunt said. "Instead of working across the aisle and considering the House-passed plan to protect taxpayers, Senate Democrats have spent months drawing partisan lines in the sand."

With those lines firmly drawn, Congress appears closer than ever to going over the cliff.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec192012

House Democrats Urge Congress To Toughen Gun Laws

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As the country mourns victims of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the debate over gun control takes on new urgency in Washington, House Democrats Wednesday called on Congress immediately to enact tougher gun legislation, particularly a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“No words are adequate to console the families of these children and others who were taken from us in an act of senseless, unspeakable violence,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Here in Congress, what we need now are not more words. What we need is action.”

Pelosi called on Congress to restore an expired ban on assault weapons, outlaw high-capacity magazines, strengthen the federal background check system and address the issue of mental health in order “to keep weapons out of the hands of those in greatest danger of doing harm to themselves and to others.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, arguably the Democrats’ fiercest advocate for tougher gun laws, called on Republicans, “to join us in supporting our efforts to reduce gun violence in America.”

“All too often, we see these mass killings and we mourn for those that have died in the past. And yet, all our lives go on. But this time, it is different, and we all know it,” said McCarthy, whose husband was murdered and son wounded in a 1993 shooting aboard a commuter train in Long Island.

“It shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican issue,” she said. “It’s all of us as Americans who are mourning the death in Newtown, and we don’t want to see any more of these shootings again.”

No Republican lawmakers attended the news conference.

Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who was wounded in a Tucson, Ariz., shooting as a staffer working alongside former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords two years ago, noted a perceived lack of willpower among congressional Republicans for tougher legislation.

“I’m a newcomer. I’ve only been here about five months,” Barber said. “I know what’s going on in terms of the political gamesmanship, but this is an issue on which political games have to stop. We should have members of the Republican caucus standing with us today and I hope, in time, we will. This has to be a bipartisan issue in the end.”

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., blasted Texas Gov. Rick Perry for suggesting that teachers should have “access to weapons in their school.”

“The notion that more Americans, quote/unquote, in the words of Gov. Perry, ‘packing heat will make us safer’ is not founded in reality, in facts or in history,” Himes said. “It is founded in the fantasy of testosterone-laden individuals who have blood on their hands for articulating that idea.”

Pelosi announced that Rep. Mike Thompson, a seven-term Democrat from California, will head a newly created task force focused on reducing and preventing gun violence.

Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, said it’s time for Congress to enact a, “comprehensive package that addresses the gun violence [and] puts in place appropriate restrictions on inappropriate types of firearms and accessories.”

One bill Democrats hope to pass would limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, prohibiting high-capacity magazines like the ones used in mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown.

“It’s time. We need to do everything we possibly can to minimize gun violence,” Thompson said. “I’ve been a hunter all my life and there’s no reason to have a magazine that holds 30 shells.”

McCarthy admitted that strengthening the country’s gun laws is “like a puzzle,” and, “no single piece of legislation is going to solve everything.”

“You’ve got to put everything together to have it work,” she said. “There are some who say that any gun restriction is an imposition on their liberty, but they must understand that the level of gun violence in America today is an imposition on the liberty of all Americans.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec172012

Senate Democrats Plead for Gun Control Debate in Wake of Newtown Shootings

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate floor Monday was filled with Democrats calling for a renewed debate on gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
 
Sen. Menendez, D-N.J., called for Newtown to be the “turning point” to change laws and that there should be “no more excuses” or delay.
 
“Let us finally pass commonsense gun laws,” Menendez said, “We need a national debate about the role of firearms in our society and we need to address mental health issues and we need to act immediately. … These high-capacity clips must be outlawed. I don't believe that there's any reason why a law-abiding citizen would need the capability to shoot multiple rounds like a street sweeper.”
 
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., announced plans to reintroduce his high-capacity magazine ban legislation in January, which prohibits the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that have a capacity of, or could be readily converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
 
“In light of yet another horrific shooting tragedy, it is clearer than ever that there is no place in our communities for deadly high-capacity gun magazines and I will keep working to pass my bill to reinstate the ban on them,” Lautenberg said in a paper statement, “We must take immediate action to ban high-capacity gun magazines and assault weapons so that we can prevent the next massacre.”
 
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that too many in the Senate feel duty-bound by the NRA’s scorecard on this issue and he said he is “encouraged” by some of his colleagues -- like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. -- who have spoken out Monday in support of limiting firearms in some capacity.
 
“What holds us back are political organizations that are well funded, organized and determined to resist even the most reasonable limitations. There is a close political parallel between the gridlock in Washington on dealing with our economy and national debt and the eerie silence in Congress as the list of horrific gun crimes grows by the day.”
 
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., added that there can be a way to move forward in the middle and called for the conversation to start now and without delay.
 
“I believe that you can be both pro-gun and pro-gun safety, just like you can be in favor of free speech but also against child pornography,” Schumer said.
 
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday that, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he will be holding a hearing very early in the next congressional session in the coming weeks to help in the search for understanding and answers.
 
“It’s not a matter just of guns, which is a significant part, of course. It’s a matter of mental illness. It’s a matter of how we run our educational facilities, all these things should be talked about. If there are practical, sensible and workable answers to prevent such unspeakable tragedies, we should make the effort to find them.”
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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