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Day of the Drone
Making what’s covert overt: That was the theme Thursday as President Obama’s CIA nominee, John Brennan, came under scrutiny at his confirmation hearing, especially over the ethics of covert “targeted killing” with drones.
Now, even the administration admits that America’ s new way of war can no longer be hidden from sight. “That rationale is long gone,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in her opening statement.
And sure enough, Feinstein had to eject several protesters, ultimately halting the hearing to clear the room of members of Code Pink, a female-dominated peace group.
But even more intense than the ethics fight over drones, perhaps, will be the bureaucratic one.
Brennan wants to shift the program to the Pentagon. Under his watch as White House counterterrorism coordinator, the CIA has become much more of a “paramilitary” organization, and he wants to return the agency to its roots. But the nominee to head the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, is probably not happy either: He’s concerned about the backlash from “collateral damage” when innocents are killed.
Get ready for a fight.
BRENNAN GRILLED ON DRONES. Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, faced scrutiny on the administration’s program using drones for targeted killing—he is the chief architect—at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Just this morning, the administration released to the committee a secret memo outlining its legal justification for the targeted killing of American citizens. NBC News published a leaked summary of the memo on Monday. Read more
PANETTA OFFERS DEFENSE OF BENGHAZI RESPONSE. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a detailed defense of the Pentagon’s response to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, arguing there was not enough time to get American ground forces or attack aircraft to the scene. He also warned that sequestration could compromise military readiness. Read more
- "The U.S. military has neither the resources nor the responsibility to have a firehouse next to every U.S. facility in the world." – Leon Panetta
OBAMA TELLS DEMS HE WANTS ‘BIG DEAL’ ON DEFICIT. President Obama, addressing House Democrats at their retreat in Virginia today, said “I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance by crisis,” Bloomberg reported. He said that negotiations with Republicans over the sequester cuts set to hit in March should not deter from a big plan to slash government debt. Earlier in the week, Obama sought a postponement to the sequester cuts, an offer Republicans rejected. Read more
MENENDEZ INTERVENED ON BEHALF OF DONOR. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., attempted to intervene twice on behalf of a donor who overbilled the government $8.9 million for medical services, The Washington Post reports. The donor, Solomon Melgen, is under investigation by the FBI for health care fraud and has hosted Menendez in the Dominican Republican. Read more
REPORT: PLEA DEAL WOULD LAND JESSE JACKSON JR. IN JAIL. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., would serve “significant jail time” under a plea deal being offered by federal authorities in their investigation into his use of campaign funds, an unnamed source tells The Chicago Sun-Times. Jackson, who resigned from Congress, is under federal investigation for using $40,000 in campaign contributions to buy himself a Rolex. His wife, Sandi, is reportedly the subject of a separate probe. Read more
MICHELLE OBAMA TO ATTEND CHICAGO TEEN’S FUNERAL. First lady Michelle Obama on Saturday will attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen who was killed after performing at President Obama’s inauguration, The Hill reports. She will be joined by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Pendleton was shot and killed in a Chicago park near her school about a week after she performed in Washington. Read more
GOP SENATORS DELAY HAGEL’S CONFIRMATION. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee was delayed after 25 Republican senators sent Hagel a letter this week demanding more information about his paid speaking engagements and business dealings. Hagel is continuing his Capitol Hill courtesy calls this week. By the end of the week, he will have met with 72 lawmakers, and the White House has said they have the votes to secure his confirmation. Read more
- From the letter: “Your refusal to respond to this reasonable request suggests either a lack of respect for the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent or that you are for some reason unwilling to allow this financial disclosure to come to light.”
CHICAGO BUSINESSWOMAN EYED FOR COMMERCE NOD. Penny Pritzker, a businesswoman and longtime Obama fundraiser from Chicago, is likely to be nominated as the president’s next secretary of Commerce, Bloomberg reports. Pritzker would be the third high-profile female nominee in recent weeks, following Mary Jo White for the Securities and Exchange Commission and Sally Jewell for Interior. Read more
STEPHEN COLBERT ENDORSES SISTER’S OPPONENTS IN S.C. HOUSE RACE. Because she’s a Democrat, Stephen Colbert declined last night to endorse his sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch, or “Lulu,” in the special South Carolina House race to fill the seat vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott. Instead, he chose to tout some of the 16 Republicans in the field, such as “Larry ‘Boom Boom’ Grooms, Elizabeth ‘Killing Them Softly’ Moffly, and Chip ‘This Is My Actual Name’ Limehouse.” Watch the video here
DO ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS LOOK ALIKE? It’s simply a fact: Some members of Congress look similar. Journalists and even the lawmakers themselves often can’t keep them straight, writes Margin Cogan in The New Republic. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was chased for days by reporters looking for information about the love child of former Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. And newly elected Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has come up with her own strategy. As she put it, "Some men wear the same suit every day." Read more
"I'm not dead." —former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., on whether he'll help the GOP win the upcoming special election for a Massachusetts Senate seat. (Politico)
THE ‘DOC FIX’ JUST GOT CHEAPER. Buried in the latest Congressional Budget Office numbers was some medicine for a perennial thorn in Congress' s side: the reviled Medicare payment formula called the “sustainable growth rate.” Congress goes through an annual ritual of passing the so-called “doc fix” to prevent sharp cuts in Medicare’s reimbursement to doctors. Lawmakers have long been eager for a permanent solution. So what’s the good news? The latest CBO numbers slashed the projected cost of a long-term fix by nearly half. Two proposals for changing the provision are already circulating on Capitol Hill. Read more
FIVE WAYS RUBIO IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S REPUBLICAN. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver the Republican rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union speech next week. As National Journal’s Elahe Izadi reports, the 41-year-old defies Republican stereotypes.
- He knows his hip-hop. Your average senator probably doesn’t know much about Afrika Bambataa, can't talk about the rise of Public Enemy in the 1980s, or break down the history of '90s gangsta rap. Rubio can.
- He likes the same movies as a college freshman. Wedding Crashers and Pulp Fiction are his favorite movies. Notably absent: historical dramas or anything made before the 1970s.
- He got into a vodka-shot competition. Rubio wrote in his memoir that he is a modest drinker, but he did get into a vodka-shot competition on a flight home from a 1996 Bob Dole campaign event. He ended up vomiting in front of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
- His Spotify playlist is eclectic. Rubio’s Spotify rotation includes some classics like The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” along with more contemporary songs like Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling.” There are some Christian rock songs, but no country music.
- He had a major life revelation at a South Beach foam party. In his memoir, Rubio recounts how his now-wife Jeanette told him she would break up with him if he went to a foam party. He went anyway, and Jeanette buzzed him on his beeper. “As I contemplated my predicament, I looked down at my shoes,” he wrote. “ They were perfectly white. They had been black when I arrived.... Maybe because I took it as a sign the life I was leading was phony and unsustainable or just that I had suddenly found myself wearing white shoes, a South Beach fashion faux pas, I left the club and found the nearest pay phone.”