Retiring Congressman Loses Cool on House Floor

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Steve Buyer, a retiring nine-term lawmaker Republican from Indiana, became a little heated on the House floor Monday as the chamber prepared to consider a bill out of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

As the House moved through a group of bills under the rules of suspensions, Buyer attempted to seek unanimous consent to address the House for five minutes but was overruled by the Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif. Buyer then tried to gain consent to address the House for one minute, but was again overruled by Richardson.

“A sitting member of the House, the Speaker, chooses not to recognize another sitting member, is that correct?” Buyer asked. Richardson then told Buyer that “recognition is within the discretion of the Speaker.”

Buyer was attempting to voice his objects over a bill from the Veterans’ Affairs committee coming to the House floor under the rules of suspension. Just as the House was poised to move onto the bill, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., was absent from the floor and debate could not proceed.

“If the chairman is not here to present the bill, shouldn’t we go to the next bill and would therefore withdraw this bill?” Buyer asked. “I asked to be recognized. I ask unanimous consent to address the House for one minute.”

“I don’t even see anyone here on the floor to object, Madam Speaker. It’s within your discretion,” Buyer continued. “There is no one here to object. This is why the American people have thrown you out of power.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Proposes Pay Freeze for Federal Workers

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama announced Monday plans for a two-year freeze in civilian federal worker pay for calendar year 2011-2012.

The freeze is expected to save $2 billion for the fiscal year 2011, $5 billion over the next two years, and $60 billion in total over the next 10 years.

The announcement only affects civilians; it does not affect military personnel. It also does not affect members of Congress, who sets pay for its staff.

Administration officials painted this move as essential to help put the nation back on sound fiscal footing, and the first of “many actions,” that they will take to tackle the deficit.

The president’s proposal will require congressional approval.

Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama froze the salaries of senior White House officials and this year he proposed freezing salaries of all political appointees across the government.
Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Reminds McCain of Ronald Reagan

Photo Courtesy - ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain compared Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan on Sunday and said he was “proud” of his 2008 running mate.

“I think she's doing a great job.  I think she has motivated our base.  I think she had a positive impact on the last election, and I'm proud of her,” McCain told CNN.

Asked if he thought Palin was a “divisive force” the senator laughed and said, “I think that anybody who has the visibility that Sarah has is obviously going to have some divisiveness.  I remember that a guy named Ronald Reagan used to be viewed by some as divisive.”

Rumors that Palin may run for president in 2012 have intensified in recent weeks.  The former Alaska governor is currently starring in her own reality show and is on a nine-state tour to promote her new book.

McCain recommended that Palin keep her options open when it comes to a possible run for the White House. “I think she's keeping her options open, and I think she should.  I think she is an incredible force in the American political arena,” he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Former Ambassador Launches Bid For RNC Chair

Photo Courtesy - Ann Wagner for RNC/YouTube(WASHINGTON) -- A former ambassador with deep roots in Republican politics announced her bid for Republican National Committee chair on Monday, becoming the second official candidate for the job.

Ann Wagner’s resume is long on experience in top jobs in both national and state politics in Missouri where she lives. She previously served as co-chairman of the RNC, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party and chairman of Republican Roy Blunt's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. Wagner also served as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg during the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2009.

Wagner joins former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, who was the first official candidate for the job currently held by Michael Steele, who has not said whether he will seek another term.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Obama Risks Democratic Revolt in Lame-Duck Session

Photo Courtesy - Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a lame-duck session that will be anything but lame, the ties that bind the Democratic Party will be tested anew.

The week's big focus will be on the bipartisan summit to be held Tuesday at the White House -- a key indicator of how the president plans to govern under the new reality imposed by voters in the midterm elections.

But it's President Obama's relationship with his own party in its waning weeks of total control of Washington that still will determine a range of policy outcomes.  Moves to the right in the coming weeks will be viewed with skepticism on the left, as Democrats still must guard against a revolt inside their ranks in their final weeks in control of the House.

Before a new House majority takes power, Congress convenes for a final burst of legislating with a crowded agenda that includes expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits, a push to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and attempted ratification of a key nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.

In the middle lands the report of the president's deficit commission, the recommendations of which appear likely to provide a stark choice for a president who's seeking new footing.

The co-chairmen's initial recommendations were denounced by those on both sides of the aisle.  Particular vitriol emanated by leading Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pronouncing the draft proposal "simply unacceptable."

The president has stayed mostly mum so far on the commission report.  While he'll come under pressure to embrace its broad principles, Democrats will balk if he's seen as backing cuts to favored programs such as Social Security.

"Simply unacceptable" is also an apt summation of many leading Democrats' stance toward the likeliest emerging compromises on the expiring Bush tax cuts.

Top House Democrats continue to insist that the tax cuts for upper-income earners be allowed to expire.  Republicans and some moderate Democrats want all the tax cuts extended.  Obama has vowed repeatedly to allow them to lapse for couples making more than $250,000 a year.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Government Reacts to Latest WikiLeaks Document Dump

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House calls the latest release of documents by the website Wikileaks, "reckless and dangerous." Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday, "Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but the lives and work of these individuals."  There is concern some people who work secretly with the U.S. overseas will be the victims of retaliation once WikiLeaks identifies them.

Several news agencies received advance material from WikiLeaks prior to the massive document dump, largely of secret cables from U.S. diplomats and other federal employees working overseas to their superiors in Washington.

Among the information revealed is word the U.S. has been engaged since 2007 in trying to remove from Pakistan highly enriched uranium that U.S. officials fear could be used as a nuclear bomb.  Many Pakistanis fear the U.S. is in Pakistan to take away their nuclear capabilities and this revelation could weaken the U.S. effort to rout out terrorists there.

Other government agencies are just as upset as the White House.  The State Department issued no statement but in talking points, condemned the release and pointed out that such cables are often incomplete and are in no way a statement of government policy.  They are used to communicate information and developments as federal officials decide how to act on any given issue.

The Pentagon did issue a statement, which said since 9/11, there is much more communication between federal agencies and employees.  That increased traffic becomes more vulnerable through sheer volume and frequency. 

From Capitol Hill comes reaction from both sides of the aisle.  Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, condemned the release as "a reckless action which jeopardizes lives."  Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called the release an "embarrassment" for the Obama Administration.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Congress Back in Session Monday Ahead of White House Summit

Photo Courtesy - SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The lame duck Congress returns from Thanksgiving break Monday, but the big event this week will be at the White House, where the postponed post-election session between the president and reinvigorated Republicans will finally take place.

Tuesday’s White House summit has all the makings of a post-shellacking showdown. In one corner, in home turf, will be President Obama. In the other corner: Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, the next speaker of the House.

“So much of this is going to be for all these folks around the table to take a measure of one another,” said ABC News political director Amy Walter.

President Obama, now weakened, has called for cooperation from both sides.

“I hope that we can do it together,” President Obama said in his weekly address. “Democrats and Republicans and independents alike.”

But will Republicans – now sharing control – also opt to go from confrontation to cooperation?

“It's a bit easier to run as a party of ‘no’ than when you do control one of the branches,” Walter said.

Among the top priorities will be government funding and passing routine – but often contentious – spending bills. The two sides will also discuss extending the Bush tax cuts.

If things go well, there could be talk of renewing the START arms control treaty with Russia and overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Pentagon’s ban on gays serving openly in the military.

“We hope the president will work with us on all of these priorities,” Boehner said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Warren Buffett: Bush-Era Tax Cuts Should Expire, Economy on Rise

Photo Courtesy - Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Inc.(WASHINGTON) -- As the debate over the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts heats up in Washington, one of the world's richest men has weighed in on the debate over taxes.

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said that the rich should be paying more taxes and that the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy should be left to expire at the end of December.

"If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further," Buffett said in an exclusive interview with ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour. “But I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

Buffett said the U.S. government took the correct actions in September 2008 to avoid a cataclysmic financial collapse.

"I'm in 70 some businesses at Berkshire so I get figures every day on what's going on. And, week by week, things are getting a little better," he said. "If you look at the year 2010 right straight through, our businesses have generally been on a mildly upward trajectory. Not the ones connected with homebuilding. But, if you take the other 70, they have gotten better."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Legal Challenge Questions Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Residency

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel has put out many fires in Washington, but now he faces one in his own backyard that could present the biggest obstacle in his candidacy so far. A Chicago attorney has filed a legal challenge questioning Emanuel's residency. Per Chicago law, a candidate has to be a resident of the city for at least a year before running for office.

The challenge was filed Friday on behalf of another lawyer, Walter P. Maksym Jr., and Thomas L. McMahon, a retired Chicago police officer. Neither are vying for the mayor's seat. On Wednesday, five other Chicago residents with ties to a contender also filed a challenge.

Emanuel left Chicago in late 2008 when he resigned as a member of Congress to move to Washington to work as White House chief of staff. He returned to the Windy City this fall to start his mayoral run.

The former congressman's campaign argues that his intent was always to return to Chicago. But election attorney Burt Odelson, who is filing the objection against Emanuel with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, says the fact that Emanuel has a home in the city and voted there isn't evidence enough that he's a legal resident.

Early polls show a strong lead for Emanuel, especially since Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart -- who was expected to be one of his biggest competitors -- decided not to drop his name into the hat.

The election will be held Feb. 22, 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


ABC News Exclusive: President and First Lady Reflect on Tenure

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After two tough years in office, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sat down with ABC’s Barbara Walters for an exclusive interview and reflected on their tenures, and the many challenges they've faced.

With Thanksgiving travelers up in arms over the Transportation Security Administration's controversial new pat-down procedures, President Barack Obama said the security screenings are justified to keep the nation safe.

"This is gonna be something that evolves. We are gonna have to work on it," Obama told Walters, indicating the need for new technologies.

Coming off the "shellacking" the Democrats took in the 2010 midterm elections, Michelle Obama told Walters she encouraged the president to roll up his sleeves and "get to work."

"I said, 'Let's, let's get to work. There is a lot to do.' ... I think for, for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead," she said.

Despite Democratic losses, which many considered a referendum on the president, Michelle said she considers her husband's policies a success.

To those who say that the president squandered his political capital by pushing for health care when he should have focused on the economy, Obama defended his record.

"This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. The fact is, is that we stabilized the financial system...we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy," Obama told Walters. "I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented health care, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don't have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that's gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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