Entries in Mitch McConnell (80)


Nuclear Flashback: When Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell Sang Different Tunes

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly a decade ago, the nuclear tables were turned in the Senate when the two leaders at the center of this month’s squabble over the so-called “nuclear option” sang entirely different tunes on the filibuster.

In 2005, then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., threatened to invoke the “nuclear option” against Democrats filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, who was then a part of the majority leadership, was one of the Republicans hoping to stop the minority’s use of the filibuster over judicial nominees. Then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, defended his party’s tactics and fought to prevent Republicans from changing the rules.

Democrats and Republicans eventually worked out a deal, saving the Senate from complete nuclear meltdown for the time being, but eight years later, the two leaders have reversed their positions on the nuclear option.

So this time around, as Reid readies the nukes in the Senate and McConnell is arming his own troops for retaliation, here is a comparison of each leader’s statements on the nuclear option between the fight in 2005 and now. Times may change, but in Washington, it seems that hypocrisy is forever.

Harry Reid Then
“If there were ever an example of an abuse of power, this is it… The filibuster is the last check we have against the abuse of power in Washington.” – Harry Reid 2005

“Republicans are in power today, Democrats tomorrow. A simple majority can change anything. Mr. President, this is the way it should be. You should not be able to come in here and change willy-nilly a rule of the Senate.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“I just couldn’t believe that Bill Frist was going to do this. The storm had been gathering all year, and word from conservative columnists and in conservative circles was that Senator Frist of Tennessee, who was the Majority Leader, had decided to pursue a rules change that would kill the filibuster for judicial nominations. And once you opened that Pandora’s box, it was just a matter of time before a Senate leader who couldn’t get his way on something moved to eliminate the filibuster for regular business as well. And that, simply put, would be the end of the United States Senate.” – Harry Reid in his 2008 book The Good Fight

“As long as I am the leader, the answer’s no. I think we should just forget that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never ever get to that again because I really do believe it will ruin our country.” – Harry Reid on nuclear option, C-SPAN interview, Sept. 12, 2008

Harry Reid Now
“I’m going to go to the floor on Tuesday and do what I need to do so this doesn’t happen anymore.” – Harry Reid in news conference on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013

“A consistent and unprecedented obstruction by this Republican Congress has turned advise and consent into deny and obstruct. Republicanism obstruction is to deny President Obama the ability to choose a team. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent, we should all be able to agree that presidents deserve the team members they want, and their nomination be subject to simple up-or-down votes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“The American people know this dysfunction we have here. And all we’re asking is, let the president have his team. We’re not talking about changing the filibuster rules that relates to nominations or judges. We’re saying we shouldn’t be held up — we have 15 nominees who have been held up for an average of nine months. Does the place need to be changed? Yes.” – Harry Reid on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Mitch McConnell Then
“The majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedence to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It’s time to move away from … advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 19, 2005

“This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice, and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done–use its constitutional authority under article I, section 5, to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote. Despite the incredulous protestations of our Democratic colleagues, the Senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

“The time has come to change the rules. I want to change them in an orderly fashion. I want a time agreement. But, barring that, if I have to be forced into a corner to try for majority vote I will do it because I am going to do my duty as I see my duty, whether I win or lose…. If we can only change an abominable rule by majority vote, that is in the interests of the Senate and in the interests of the nation that the majority must work its will. And it will work its will.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, May 23, 2005

Mitch McConnell Now
“It would be naive to assume that you could break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules for the Senate only for nominations, that there would be a widespread clamor across our conference, were we to be in the majority, to take that precedent and apply it to everything else…. As Harry Reid, as Lamar pointed out in his book in 2007, using the nuclear option is the end of the Senate — I repeat, the end of the Senate. It turns the Senate into the House.” – Mitch McConnell in news conference on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2013

“This is about trying to come up with excuses to break our commitments. What this is about is manufacturing a pretext for a power grab.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“They’re willing to irreparably damage the Senate to ensure that they get their way.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

“That would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the United States Senate for as long as anyone can remember. Let me assure you, this Pandora’s box, once opened, will be utilized again and again by future majorities. And it will make the meaningful consensus-building that has served our nation so well a relic — a relic of the past.” – Mitch McConnell on Senate floor, July 11, 2013

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McConnell Campaign Ad Uses IRS Scandal Against Obama

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is jumping on the scandal at the Internal Revenue Service in a new campaign advertisement, using vintage video footage of Richard Nixon to amplify his criticism of President Obama and his administration.

No opponent has yet emerged to challenge McConnell in Kentucky, so he is biding his time by sharply condemning the Obama administration in the wake of the IRS acknowledging that conservative groups had been unfairly targeted.

It is the clearest sign yet the IRS controversy is likely to play a central role in the midterm elections next year.

The new online ad for McConnell, obtained by ABC News, seeks to draw comparisons between Nixon and Obama. It shows a famous clip from an interview with David Frost, where Nixon declares: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

It is the first political ad of the year to show IRS officials on the hot seat at recent Congressional hearings. One employee is shown taking the Fifth Amendment and declining to testify, while two others repeatedly say they were unaware of the targeting underway by the IRS.

The web video also stitches together speeches that McConnell has been delivering for more than a year. It raises questions about government intimidation and the IRS treatment of Tea Party groups and others applying for tax-exempt status.

“I think that the leader of the free world and his advisers have better things to do than to dig through other people’s tax returns,” McConnell says.

While McConnell is one of the top targets of the 2014 election cycle, Democrats have struggled to field a challenger, and talk of a Republican primary race has not materialized, in part because McConnell is building a presidential-size campaign in hopes of being re-elected to a sixth term in the Senate.

The president moved quickly to respond to the IRS scandal after it became public, but the White House has struggled to explain a consistent sequence of events about which administration officials were aware of the investigation inside the IRS.

Jesse Benton, the campaign manager for McConnell, said the IRS controversy speaks to anxieties and concerns voters have about the government.

“He’s going to keep pushing on it,” Benton said in an interview. “There are a great majority of Americans that would agree, regardless of political party, that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Americans of good conscience across the ideological spectrum are going to band together and say this is enough.”

The online ad called “Demand Answers” was produced by Lucas Baiano, a videographer who is known for making iconic video images for Republican candidates. It is the third ad he has made for McConnell.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FBI Visits McConnell Headquarters in Ashley Judd Tape Investigation

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Federal investigators visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s campaign headquarters in Louisville on Wednesday, and campaign staffers handed over information pertinent to the investigation of a leaked tape that revealed the campaign’s strategy against potential challenger Ashley Judd, a source connected to the McConnell campaign tells ABC News.

The visit is a sign that the leak is being considered seriously by the FBI, which was alerted to the incident Tuesday. McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that liberal forces in Kentucky bugged his campaign headquarters and leaked a tape of a strategy session to Mother Jones magazine.

In a radio interview, campaign manager Jesse Benton told Mike Huckabee that FBI agents were at headquarters for about an hour.

“They tell us that they’re running down some leads,” Benton said. “For various reasons they need to be very cautious about what they share with me and then what I’m allowed to share on the public side. I can’t comment any further, but this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign is committed to making sure “this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” according to Benton, who was among the aides in the room for the session that was captured on tape.

The tape revealed the McConnell campaign’s plan to attack Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” and to focus on her religious beliefs. Judd last month announced that she would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination, after several months of publicly flirting with a run.

In the aftermath of the tape’s release, McConnell has attacked the political left for what he called “Nixonian tactics” of bugging his campaign headquarters, though it’s still not clear who made the tape and who distributed it. The campaign is already fundraising off of the controversy.

Also on Wednesday, Benton claimed Mother Jones mistakenly transcribed the speaker at the beginning of the presentation. He said the line, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through” should instead read, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, in their free time, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through.”

“Jesse” may refer to Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, but the word “LA” probably refers to legislative aides or legislative assistants, people who work in McConnell’s senate office.

The distinction is important, because the line Mother Jones reported raised the question of whether McConnell’s aides violated campaign law.

ABC News reporters listened to the recording several times but could not make a definitive judgment on what was said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ashley Judd ‘Seriously Considering’ Senate Bid

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actress Ashley Judd is “seriously considering” running for Senate, according to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

Beshear, a Democrat, spoke with Judd on the phone last week about her potential Senate bid which would pit her against Republican rival and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I talked to her again the other day, she called me and we had a good conversation,” Beshear said at a press conference with local reporters on Tuesday.

Though the governor did not go into specifics about their chat, he did say that Judd is “seriously considering a race for the United States Senate and the Democratic primary.”  Beshear told local reporters that the actress would be an “effective and formidable opponent” against McConnell in a general election.

Beshear is not the only Kentuckian convinced that Judd might take a stab at politics.  Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, a big supporter of Judd, told ABC News, “I would be surprised if she doesn’t run at this point.”

“My impression is this is something she wants to do, and she is now taking the time to make the contacts she needs to make throughout the state to try and generate commitments of support and in some cases fundraising,” Yarmuth said.  “She is certainly acting like a candidate, a potential candidate."

Though Judd has neither confirmed nor denied a run in the 2014 Senate cycle, the actress has already received criticism from Republican opponents.  Just last month, she was the subject of an attack video posted online by a conservative super PAC, American Crossroads, who called her an “Obama-following, radical Hollywood liberal.”

The Hollywood starlet has captured the attention of young Kentuckians but it seems as if now McConnell is trying to do the same. On Wednesday, his campaign team released a “Harlem Shake” video on YouTube. Though McConnell does not appear in the video himself, a giant McConnell head is dancing aside a slew of patriotically dressed Harlem Shakers at Churchill Downs, the thoroughbred racetrack known as the Home of the Kentucky Derby.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Politicians Prepare for Long Haul After Automatic Spending Cuts

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and congressional leaders are giving no indication that the $85 billion in mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts known as the sequester will be lifted any time soon.

Two days have passed since President Obama signed the order to reduce the budget of most government programs by between 5 percent and 7 percent, but with weeks remaining for sequestration’s stronger effects to gradually fester, politicians confirmed today that the near future will amount to yet another game of chicken in the nation’s capitol, maybe indefinitely.

On ABC’s This Week, White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said he expected Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to eventually succumb to constituent pressure.

“My belief is that as this pain starts to gradually spread to communities affected by military spending, to children who need mental health services, to people who care about our border security, I believe that more Republican colleagues who are concerned about this harm to their constituents will choose bipartisan compromise on revenue raising tax reform with serious entitlement reform,” he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

The White House says Obama spent Saturday on the phone with senators from both parties searching for a compromise.

But in an interview aired on NBC this morning, House Speaker John Boehner admitted that while he wasn’t sure how the government’s ongoing fiscal woes could be resolved, after months of dire warnings from both sides it was unclear whether sequestration would even have a negative consequence.

“I don’t know whether it’s going to hurt the economy or not,” he said. “I don’t think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work.”

As the Friday deadline passed, both parties remained at an impasse over the central question that has plagued this debate for over a year: Whether to include new tax revenue in a broader deficit reduction deal.

The White House has insisted on more revenue through the closing of tax loopholes that benefit top income brackets. Meanwhile, Republicans have largely balked at the idea, although their leadership has indicated they could agree to new revenue under the condition it was used solely on the deficit — not to finance new government spending.

Today Boehner stuck to his party’s stance that they had already yielded revenue to the president during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, which saw income taxes increase on household income over $450,000.

“The president got $650 billion of higher taxes on the American people on January the first,” he said. “How much more does he want?”

On CNN the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, was asked if he could assure the sequester wasn’t here to stay.

“I’m absolutely confident we’re going to reduce spending the amount of money that we promised the American people we would in the law the president signed a year-and-a-half ago,” he responded.

Some Capitol Hill watchers suggest the cuts may remain in place until at least the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Meanwhile, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 750,000 jobs could be lost if the sequester is allowed to be fully implemented and the country’s GDP would shrink by up to half of a percent.

While the parties continue to duke it out over these budget cuts, at least one crisis appears to have been averted: On Friday, Democrats and Republicans appear to have agreed to not allow the sequester to get in the way of negotiations to continue full funding for the federal government. The funds are slated to run out on March 27.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama’s "Jedi Mind Meld" a Sci Fi Faux Pas

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- It had no real bearing on his press conference about the very serious matter of the U.S. deficit and the upcoming sequester, but the President showed himself to be neither committed Trekkie nor Star Wars fanboy at a White House press conference Friday.

After an hour-long meeting between Democrats and Republicans ended without any resolution to the dreaded sequester that is set to kick in Friday, a reporter asked the president why he didn’t lock congressional leaders in a room and make them work until there was a deal.

Here’s how he responded:

I am not a dictator, I’m the president.

So ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say “we need to go to catch a plane,” I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?

(Cross talk.)

No, no, I understand. And — and I — and I — I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right.

Well, you know, they’re elected. We have a — a constitutional system of government. The speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate and all those folks have responsibilities.

What I can do is I can make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing. I can speak to the American people about the consequences of the decisions this Congress is making or the lack of decision-making by Congress.

Wait. Jedi mind meld? There are Jedi mind tricks, of course, from Star Wars. And there is Vulcan Mind Meld, from Star Trek. But in equating the two, the president erred. He mixed Star Wars and Star Trek.

The people who spend a lot of time on Twitter in the middle of the day, naturally got immediately diverted from sequestration and decided instead to poke fun at the Sci-Fi/Fantasy conflagration by the commander-in-chief.

Of course, there is an argument that he could be forgiven for the mix-up. The two franchises will now sort of be linked since Star Trek reboot director J.J. Abrams is signed on to direct a Star Wars reboot.

If America can bring Star Wars and Star Trek together like that, why can’t she fix the deficit?

Obama complained that Republicans won’t negotiate with him. House Speaker John Boehner, appearing at his own press conference up on Capitol Hill, said Republicans wouldn’t accept any more addition revenue -- taxes -- as part of any deficit reduction plan. They accepted some earlier this year as part of a deal to extend Bush era tax cuts for most Americans.

Obama rattled off the things he would accept as long as Republicans would accept more revenue.

“Give me an example of what I’m supposed to do,” he said to a reporter, suggesting the White House and Republicans just can’t find an earthly way to agree.

Maybe Obama could use a bit of the Force to achieve a bit of mind meld.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama, Republican Leaders to Meet as Sequester Cuts Look Likely

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The budget ax is about to fall, and there's little lawmakers in Washington are doing to stop it.

Despite a parade of dire warnings from the White House, an $85 billion package of deep automatic spending cuts appears poised to take effect on Friday.

The cuts -- known in Washington as the sequester -- will hit every federal budget, from defense to education, and even the president's own staff.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats and Republicans each staged votes on Thursday aimed at substituting the indiscriminate across-the-board cuts with more sensible ones.  Democrats also called for including new tax revenue in the mix.  Both measures failed.

Leaders on both sides publicly conceded that the effort was largely for show, with little chance the opposing chamber would embrace the other's plan.  They will discuss their differences with President Obama at the White House on Friday.

"It isn't a plan at all, it's a gimmick," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday of the Democrats' legislation.

"Republicans call the plan flexibility" in how the cuts are made, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  "Let's call it what it is.  It is a punt."

The budget crisis is the product of a longstanding failure of Congress and the White House to compromise on plans for deficit reduction.  The sequester itself, enacted in late 2011, was intended to be so unpalatable as to help force a deal.

Republicans and Democrats, however, remain gridlocked over the issue of taxes.

Obama has mandated that any steps to offset the automatic cuts must include new tax revenue through the elimination of loopholes and deductions.  House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP insist the approach should be spending cuts-only, modifying the package to make it more reasonable.

"Do we want to close loopholes?  We sure do.  But if we are going to do tax reform, it should focus on creating jobs, not funding more government," Boehner said, explaining his opposition to Obama's plan.

Boehner, McConnell, Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will huddle with Obama at the White House on Friday for the first face-to-face meeting of the group this year.

"There are no preconditions to a meeting like this," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday.  "The immediate purpose of the meeting is to discuss the imminent sequester deadline and to avert it."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama to Meet with Congressional Leaders After Sequester

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- They are finally going to have a meeting.

A congressional source with direct knowledge of the plans tells ABC News' Jonathan Karl that the top four congressional leaders -- Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- will meet with President Obama at the White House on Friday to attempt to negotiate a way to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts that both sides have said should be avoided.

This meeting -- the very first one the president has had with Republican leaders to talk about the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester -- will come after the cuts actually go into effect, which is midnight Thursday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney would not confirm the meeting, but the source tells ABC News that the White House reached out to the Congressional leadership on Tuesday afternoon to request the meeting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McConnell: President Is Offering 'Armageddon or Tax Hikes' to Avert Sequester

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Obama is offering only two options to avert the looming sequestration cuts -- “Armageddon or tax hikes.”

“Instead of engaging with us, the president just set up more roadblocks,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “For more than a year he resisted and dismissed every Republican attempt at a compromise. He refused to offer any kind of reasonable alternatives and he even threatened to veto any other proposals aimed at averting the sequester. And now, here we are and with the president presenting the country with two options. Armageddon or a tax hike.”

“Well it’s a false choice and he knows it.  But then the president is master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government action. Do nothing, fan the flames of catastrophe and then claim the only way out is more government in the form of higher taxes,” he continued.

McConnell criticized Obama for traveling to Newport News, Va. on Tuesday, as the president highlights how the budget cuts would affect the military and defense contractors, rather than collaborating with Congress on a way to prevent the cuts from taking place.

“Today, he’s off campaigning again in Virginia instead of working with us to resolve the issue,” McConnell said. “The president’s been running around acting as the world’s going to end because congress might actually follow through on the idea he proposed, he proposed and signed into law, all the while pretending he’s somehow powerless to stop it."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid meanwhile accused Republicans in Congress of being “part of the problem” in finding a solution to the upcoming cuts.

“We want to work with Republicans to come to a balanced, responsible way to reduce this sequester, the impact of it.  My Republican colleagues are standing in the way,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “They only want cuts and more cuts.”

“The only Republicans in America that don’t support this balanced approach are the Republicans that serve here in Congress, in the Senate and the House,” Reid added. “With only three days left to protect American families, our economic recovery from this latest crisis, it’s time for Republicans to work towards a solution instead of being a part of the problem.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Will Ashley Judd Challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate?

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Actress Ashley Judd is making moves to take on GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

She hasn't announced it yet, but her biggest supporter in Kentucky, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, tells ABC News, "I would be surprised if she doesn't run at this point."

"My impression is this is something she wants to do, and she is now taking the time to make the contacts she needs to make throughout the state to try and generate commitments of support and in some cases fundraising," Yarmuth says.  "She is certainly acting like a candidate, a potential candidate."

"I think in her own mind ... she has made a decision to run and she's doing the right thing and not ruffling any feathers along the way," he adds.

Yarmuth, the only Kentucky Democrat in Congress, says he expects the decision to come soon.

The race will be one of the most watched in the country, with outside money pouring into the state.

Yarmuth notes, "It would be a great economic stimulus.  It would be Christmas for six months or more," especially for local television stations that would run political commercials.

"I think the contrast would be so marked and I think it will be someone with a vision for the future and someone so stuck in a rut in the past that he no longer represents the future of the commonwealth," he says.

One thing that's guaranteed is it will be a brutal race -- a 30-year veteran of Washington against a Hollywood star active in liberal Democratic politics from a legendary family.  Judd's mother is the country singer Naomi Judd and her half-sister is the singer Wynonna Judd.

Yarmuth says Ashley Judd is ready and has even done opposition research on herself to see areas McConnell will try to "exploit."

"I think she has no illusions about what Mitch McConnell will do and the fact that his entire career he has demonized opponents and never talks about himself," Yarmuth says.  "In her world she is used to dealing with a lot of nonsense so I think she will deal with it very well."

And it's already started.  McConnell released a Web video called "Obama's Kentucky Candidate," which shows the president trying to find a candidate to take on McConnell.  It goes after Judd and other Kentucky Democrats who may get into the race.  

The video focuses on an issue that is clear to become one in the race: that Judd lives in Tennessee and not in Kentucky.  In it, Judd calls both Tennessee and San Francisco "home."

Judd's family does go back eight generations in the state, though, and she is from Ashland in eastern Kentucky.

Yarmuth says the residency issue would not be a "particularly effective" one because "her roots are so firmly established growing up here."

"Everyone knows that Kentucky is her first love," he says.  

Yarmuth calls the carpetbagger attacks a "waste of time" and hopes McConnell "keeps making them."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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