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Is Hagel as Good as it Gets?

IN THE NEWS: Biden warns of “moral price” on gun inaction ... Can this Congress be saved? ... Shelby comes out for Hagel ... Obama’s approval rating highest in three years ... Get to know presumptive EPA pick ... The case for philandering at CIA


Is Hagel as Good as It Gets?


Republican senators are still determined to stop Chuck Hagel.

First they delayed giving their former colleague an up or down vote for Defense secretary. On Thursday, they turned up the heat with 15 Senate Republicans, including Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, signing a letter that questions Hagel’s national security credentials and cleverly lavishes praise on his predecessor, Leon Panetta.

Odds are Hagel still gets through, with none of the 55 Democratic senators having broken ranks. But Hagel’s curious performance earlier this month didn’t inspire confidence, and some would probably not be upset if the nomination just went away.


But at this point, President Obama is high in the polls and miffed over what he sees as GOP intransigence on the sequester. Even if it makes some Democrats uncomfortable, why budge? Besides, Republican stalwart Richard Shelby of Alabama said on Thursday that he was inclined to vote for Hagel: “He’s probably as good as we’re going to get “ 

—Matthew Cooper


CAN THIS CONGRESS BE SAVED? National Journal’s annual vote ratings show a Congress as paralyzed and polarized as ever. But, as NJ’s Alex Roarty reports, better days may lie ahead. Scroll down for a full listing of the ratings and other interactive features.

GOP SENATOR NOW SUPPORTING HAGEL. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told The Decatur Daily that he will support the nomination of Chuck Hagel to Defense secretary, despite reservations about Hagel’s qualifications, reports the Associated Press. With Shelby’s swing, the Senate would now have exactly the required 60 votes needed to end debate on Hagel and move to a confirmation vote. Read more


BIDEN: ‘MORAL PRICE’ FOR INACTION ON GUNS. Vice President Joe Biden delivered a fiery appeal for new gun laws at an appearance in Connecticut today, The New York Times reports. “We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago, 12 miles from here,” Biden said. “There is a moral price to be paid for inaction.” Biden met with two families whose children were killed at Sandy Hook ahead of his speech, and he connected the massacre to the loss of his wife and one-year-old daughter in a car accident. Read more

  • The NRA took out newspaper ads in five states Thursday—Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina, and West Virginia—where Democratic incumbent senators are up for re-election in 2014. “Will Obama’s gun control proposals work? His own experts say ‘No,’ ” say the ad’s headline. Read more

WHITE HOUSE MAY URGE SUPREME COURT TO OVERTURN GAY-MARRIAGE BAN. The Obama administration may urge the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage, the Associated Press reports. Overturning the ban, known as Proposition 8, could have “a far-reaching impact on same-sex couples across the country,” the AP reports. The White House has one week left to file a friend-of-the-court brief expressing its opinion. The high court would not make its decision based on the brief, but it does hold the government’s opinion in high regard. Read more

  • Former first lady Laura Bush this week asked the Respect for Marriage Coalition to remove a clip of her speaking on CNN from a new national campaign featuring prominent people speaking out for gay rights. Read more

ATTACKS ON TED CRUZ JUST MAKING HIM MORE POPULAR. The freshman Republican senator has taken some hits from establishment Washington types over his aggressiveness on the Hill – especially in his questioning of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel -- but as CNN reports, the 42-year-old tea party favorite was greeted like a conquering hero on his return to Texas this week. Read more

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OBAMA HITS THREE-YEAR HIGH IN POLL; GOP AT THREE-YEAR LOW. A Bloomberg National poll shows Obama with his highest approval rating in three years at the same time that the Republican Party registered an historic low. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance, while only 35 percent of the country views the GOP favorably. Over the last six months, Republican’s favorability ranking has dropped six percentage points. A key factor in the difference: “Americans by 49 percent to 44 percent believe Obama’s proposals on infrastructure, education, and alternative energy are more likely to create jobs than Republican calls to cut spending and taxes.” Read more

MARKEY COMPARES CITIZENS UNITED TO DRED SCOTT DECISION. At a campaign event Tuesday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., compared the Supreme Court's Citizens United campaign finance decision to the 1858 Dred Scott decision upholding slavery, BuzzFeed reports. Markey, who is running to replace former Sen. John Kerry, said, "I want to go to the United States Senate in order to fight for a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United. The whole idea that the Koch brothers, that Karl Rove can say we're coming to Massachusetts, to any state of the union with undisclosed amounts of money is a pollution, which must be changed." Read more

BIG BIRD LANDS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. Whether or not it counts as a subtle, kid-friendly snub to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Sesame Street's Big Bird made his first appearance at the White House today. Michelle Obama is teaming up with the public television icon to celebrate the third anniversary of her campaign, Let's Move! "Gee, I bet you could get just anything you want in this kitchen!" Big Bird says in one video. In another, the first lady cheers him on as he dances. Read more


SEX AND THE CIA. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer, makes the case for allowing sex and infidelity in the CIA. Writing in in The New Republic, Gerecht argues that case officers, unsurprisingly, aren't really "models of propriety" at work. But "as morally upsetting as it may sound, we should all want the typical philanderer to serve in the Clandestine Service, free from the fear of reprisal," he writes. "There is no correlation between serially cheating in a marriage and compromising loyalty to country. Patriotism is a very different kind of love." Read more


"I teasingly say, 'When I walk down the hall, people still wave, but with fewer fingers,’ " —Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale, who is overseeing the potential furloughing of 800,000 civilian workers, quoted in The Washington Post


THE CONGRESSIONAL VOTE RATINGS ARE OUT. National Journal’s annual vote ratings are out today, showing where all 535 members of Congress stand on the ideological spectrum based on voting records. See the full package:


Gina McCarthy

  • Why she’s in the news: McCarthy has been widely acknowledged as Obama’s likely pick to replace Lisa Jackson as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Read more
  • College: B.A. in Social Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston; joint M.S. in Environmental Health Engineering and Planning and Policy from Tufts University.
  • 58 years old
  • Married with three children and resides in Canton, Mass.

Career Highlights:

  • McCarthy spent 25 years working as a health and environmental-protection official for Massachusetts, during which she worked for five governors from both parties—including Mitt Romney, who tasked her with authoring a state climate-change plan.
  • Romney promoted McCarthy to deputy secretary of operations for a superagency known as the Office for Commonwealth Development. In that role, McCarthy excelled, according to environmentalists in the state.
  • Environmentalists cheered when McCarthy was named to her current position, the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation. But she also has a surprisingly good reputation in the energy industry—even among coal-fired electric utilities and automakers, groups that traditionally love to hate EPA. She’ll still get a grilling from Republicans during her confirmation hearings.
  • Odds and ends: McCarthy is an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts with a thick South Boston accent. Some environmentalists have nicknamed her “Obama’s green quarterback.” Read more

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Don\'t Miss Today\'s

Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy , Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

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