FROM Charles Babington
The Grand Old Party Takes Charge on Capitol Hill Republicans now control both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006 — with their biggest Congressional majority since the end of World War II. They might try for some compromises with the Obama White House — to prove they really can govern, or they might choose continued gridlock — assuming that voters will blame the President when things inevitably go wrong. Guaranteed points of contention are the Keystone XL Pipeline, Obamacare and executive actions on immigration and climate change. Many new members have their own agendas, and today we begin to learn what they’ll demand of their more experienced leaders.
The Republicans Are Ready to Win… Are They Ready to Govern? The Republican Party is even less popular with American voters than President Obama, but the GOP is poised to win back control of the Senate in next month’s elections. Of course, nothing is certain in politics, as the cliché goes, until the votes are in.
Scandal Time in Washington Steven Miller has been fired as Acting Director of the Internal Revenue Service, but he was back on Capitol Hill today, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee , in one of three unrelated "scandals" that could threaten Barack Obama's second-term agenda. In addition to the IRS, there's the Tea Party, the Justice Department and reporters' phone records, and talking points about the killing of diplomats in Benghazi. With the President's approval ratings over 50 percent and holding, many questions remain to be answered. Does the public care? Is there evidence of wrong-doing? Will Republicans overplay their hand? What's the role of the news media? Will there be an impact on action on Obamacare, the minimum wage, sequester or immigration reform?
The President, Republicans and the Debt Ceiling To explain the debt ceiling dispute, the President today used a homely metaphor: eating out at a restaurant and not paying the bill… He accused Republicans of “playing chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States” and threatening to shut down the government. We explain the “debt ceiling” debate and its economic and political impacts.
Can Republicans Keep Their Party Together? House Speaker John Boehner has said that taking control of Congress was "the first big adult moment" in years for the Republican Party. Now the very same Tea Partiers and other movement conservatives that helped Republicans win control of the Congress are challenging the GOP establishment, starting with Michele Bachmann . Is the Party divided between pragmatists who want to work within the system and ideologues who want to blow it up?
Can Republicans Keep Their Party Together? House Speaker John Boehner has said that taking control of Congress was "the first big adult moment" in years for the Republican Party. Now the very same Tea Partiers and other movement conservatives that helped Republicans win control of the Congress are challenging the GOP establishment, starting with Michele Bachmann. The controversial Minnesota Congresswoman says she's not Boehner's rival, but she got national attention with a televised response to the State of the Union speech even though Wisconsin's Paul Ryan had just provided the official rebuttal . Veteran Senators Hatch, Lugar and Snowe face challenges in next year's GOP primaries, and Presidential hopefuls may face a right-wing litmus test in New Hampshire. Is the Party divided between pragmatists who want to work within the system and ideologues who want to blow it up? Michele Bachmann responds to State of the Union
Obama 'All Fired Up' Again, but Is It Too Little, Too Late? President Obama is barnstorming for healthcare reform to be passed by Democrats only. But members of his own party still need convincing. Public opinion polls are not encouraging, and Republicans say, come November, any bill Democrats vote for "will be the issue in every race in America." After yesterday' s rally for healthcare reform in Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Arlen Specter said, "That' s the most fiery I' ve seen him since the early campaign…"
Obama 'All Fired Up' Again, but Is It Too Little, Too Late? President Obama is barnstorming for healthcare reform to be passed by Democrats only. But members of his own party still need convincing. Public opinion polls are not encouraging, and Republicans say, come November, any bill Democrats vote for "will be the issue in every race in America." We look at the "fixes" House Democrats are demanding in the bill passed by the Senate. Has the President waited too long to assume a dominant role? Will compromise be a historic achievement or a political trap for his party?
Healthcare Reform: Is the President Doing It Right…or Not? Since President Harry Truman introduced the idea 60 years ago, the American Medical Association has opposed every effort at a government overhaul of the healthcare system. This year, the AMA is helping to run TV ads favoring healthcare reform, along with Big Pharma , Families USA and the Service Employees International Union.
Healthcare Reform: Is the President Doing It Right…or Not? Conventional wisdom has it that healthcare reform is in big trouble, especially with conservative, "Blue Dog" Democrats worried about next year's elections. But big Pharma 's on board and the American Medical Association , after 60 years of denouncing government plans as "socialized medicine." Are White House tactics paying off after all? What did those special interests get for their support? What did they give up? Will it all add up to cost control? We talk to the doctors and others.
Free Trade and the Presidential Campaign Barack Obama says Pennsylvania's rural voters are "bitter" over lost jobs. Hillary Clinton bellies up for a beer with a whiskey chaser in a working-class Indiana bar. So go the latest primaries, with voting scheduled for next week and another televised debate tomorrow. One real issue that might come up is the free-trade deal, like the deal with Colombia, which Democrats have scuttled, at least for the moment. Both Obama and Clinton have publicly promised to renegotiate NAFTA , while surrogates were reassuring Canada they supported free trade. They're both opposed to President Bush's trade pact with Colombia , too. But Bill Clinton's a big supporter. What are the pros and cons? Why do Bill and Hillary Clinton disagree? Is free trade America's only choice in the global economy?
President Bush Renews Focus in the War on Terror President Bush today repeated his challenge to Congress to give him the tools he says he needs to try notorious suspects in the war on terror. In his fourth speech of a series leading up to September 11, he referred again to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks on New York and Washington five years ago. The President may be trying to divert attention from the war in Iraq, but he was full-throated today about the need to "stay the course." Just nine weeks before the November elections, Democrats and Republicans now have to talk about something other than the war in Iraq. Will the latest White House version of military tribunals guarantee fair trials? What's the difference between what the President calls an "alternative set of interrogation procedures" and torture? Will the CIA be held to the same standards as military personnel?
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?
Is the threat from Russia missing from the Russia meddling probe? There's much being made about the Trump administration's possible ties with Russia. But the bottom line is Russia's effort to influence American democracy. Do the President and his aides care enough to take action before voters go back to the polls?
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.
Will the Senate write a healthcare bill in secret? While Democrats and Republicans argue White House relations with Russia, another question is being decided behind closed doors: who gets help buying health insurance and who doesn't? We hear how the pros and cons are being shrouded in secrecy.