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The Age of the Promiscuous Filibuster
Chuck Hagel’s path to the Pentagon seemed more uncertain Thursday than it has at any time since the president named the former Republican senator to be his Defense secretary.
For a while it looked like Hagel was on a shaky but likely path of confirmation by his former Senate colleagues. Yes, he’d been slammed for everything from his comments about the “Jewish lobby” and his refusal, while in the Senate, to get behind a statement supporting tough sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program.
But after confirmation hearings in which he seemed diffident—if not listless—he appeared likely to get through with the sheer muscle of Democratic votes and endorsements by the foreign policy establishment. The committee reported him out on a party-line vote.
But Republicans are still threatening a filibuster, and Harry Reid says he doesn’t have the votes to overcome this once rare and now all too common parliamentary tactic. Hagel may still squeak by, and if it was an up-or-down vote he would likely be in. But it’s the age of the promiscuous filibuster—and anything can happen.
REID: GOP BLOCK ON HAGEL ‘TRAGIC.’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that Republicans have told him they intend to block Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s confirmation vote, calling the action “tragic” and “unfortunate,” Politico reports. Aides say that Democrats do not have the 60 votes to break the filibuster. A cloture vote -- which was expected to fail -- was scheduled for 4:15 Thursday. Read more
- Outgoing Defense secretary Leon Panetta has now said he will stay on until a new secretary is confirmed, CNN reports that both Democrats and Republicans are now considering taking up the confirmation vote after next week’s recess, when Hagel’s chances are likely to improve. Read more
LAUTENBERG TO RETIRE AT END OF HIS TERM. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection next year, making Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker the early favorite to replace him. “I am not announcing the end of anything. I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” the 89-year-old senator told The Newark Star-Ledger. Lautenberg had been trailing Booker in recent polls. Read more
OBAMA TOUTS EXPANDED PRE-K IN ATLANTA. President Obama was in Atlanta on Thursday touting his plan to broaden access to pre-K education as part of his post-State of the Union barnstorming tour. The White House started leaking details on Thursday morning on Obama’s plan to “make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.” Basically, the federal government would subsidize the cost of preschool in exchange for the states meeting certain quality standards.
- To some, it’s a huge government spend—by some estimates $8 billion. To others, it’s a great investment. Studies show that kids who attend preschool do better in school, get better jobs, make more money, pay more taxes, and have a better chance of avoiding jail and welfare. Read more
BOEHNER TO SENATE: YOU GO FIRST ON OBAMA AGENDA. House Speaker John Boehner challenged the Senate to go first when it comes to tackling the president’s agenda, saying the House will instead focus on jobs and spending, The Hill reported. “If the president wants to impose a national cap-and-trade energy tax, I would hope that Senate Democrats take it up,” Boehner said. “If the president wants more stimulus spending that we know doesn’t create jobs, I would expect the United States Senate to go ahead and take it up.” Read more
ALLEN NOT LIKELY TO ACCEPT TOP NATO JOB. Gen. John Allen will likely withdraw from consideration for Supreme Allied Commander of NATO to spare his family more scrutiny over the e-mails he exchanged with a Florida socialite, which were at the center of the scandal that caused CIA Director David Petraeus to resign, NBC News reported. Allen has been cleared of any wrongdoing in his correspondence with the socialite, Jill Kelly. “After 19 months in command in Afghanistan, and many before that spent away from home, General Allen has been offered time to rest and reunite with his family before he turns his attention to his next assignment,” an official on Allen’s staff told NBC. Read more
SANDERS AND BOXER ANNOUNCE CARBON-TAX BILL. Just two days after President Obama called on Congress to act on climate change — and vowed to use executive action if it didn’t —Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced new legislation that would price carbon pollution. The approach has the backing of several leading conservative economists, but Republicans in Congress are virtually certain to block the bill, paving the way for the president’s promised action.
HOUSE TAKES UP FEDERAL PAY-FREEZE EXTENSION. The House is expected to take up a bill to extend a pay freeze for federal workers, who are currently set to receive a 0.5-percent raise in April. The White House has voiced its opposition to the measure but stopped short of a veto threat. A vote on the bill, which is expected to pass the House, is scheduled for Friday. Read more
LOVE NOT BLIND WHEN IT COMES TO POLITICS. A new poll out from Fox News finds that people are deeming it more important that a partner shares their political ideology. Some 55 percent of respondents believe it is “somewhat important” that a special someone share their views, up from 51 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, 28 percent think it is “very” important, up from 21 percent just a year ago. Republicans also prioritize politics slightly higher than Democrats: roughly 62 percent of Republicans find ideology “important” compared to 58 percent of Democrats. Read more
OBAMA IN CHICAGO TO TALK GUN VIOLENCE. Obama will be in his hometown Friday, where he will be visiting a high school on the city’s South Side to talk about gun violence and the economy, the Associated Press reports. The visit comes after Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address a 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed in Chicago, just a week after performing at the president’s inauguration in Washington. Read more
STATES MUST DECIDE ON HEALTH EXCHANGES. Friday is a big deadline for states: their last chance to tell the Health and Human Services Department whether they want to have any role in planning the health insurance marketplaces that are set to open for enrollment in October. So far, the government has conditionally approved 20 states and the District of Columbia to set up their own exchange or partner with the government. More states may apply, but it could take a few days before HHS reviews their applications, so don't expect a final list before Monday. And then? The real work of building the exchanges begins.
THE LOVE LETTERS OF LBJ. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library has released letters written between the 37th president and Lady Bird Johnson. The correspondence covers the years between 1934 and 1968. When they first met, on Sept. 5, 1934, to when they married on Nov. 17, 1934, the two exchanged nearly 90 letters. The National Review has some highlights, including one in which LBJ fears a lack of correspondence from Lady Bird may be a sign she wasn’t interested. “I’m sure that there is nothing that could be more distracting, disturbing and estranging to me than a continued evidence of indifference upon your part,” he writes. Read more
“We will not surrender. We will not appease. We will buy more guns than ever. We will use them for sport and lawful self-defense more than ever. We will grow the NRA more than ever.” – NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in an editorial (Daily Caller)
TODAY'S KEY INDICATOR
WHIP COUNT ON HAGEL. It’s 57 or 58, depending on how you count. So far, all 55 senators who caucus with Democrats are expected to support Hagel, The Hill reports. Sen. Susan Collins. R-Maine, has said she will not support a filibuster. Two other Republicans, Sens. Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, support Hagel's nomination. But only Johanns has signaled so far he will vote for cloture–Cochran has not indicated what he will do. Read more
PROFILE AT A GLANCE
- Why she's in the news: President Obama renominated Tavenner to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week. She's been running the agency as acting director for over a year, but the Senate Finance Committee failed to even bring her nomination up for discussion for more than a year during the last Congress. This time around, however, Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has promised to give her a vote.
- Born: May 31, 1951
- College: B.S. in nursing; M.H.A., from Virginia Commonwealth University.
- Married to Robert Tavenner, a Virginia State Police captain. They have 3 children.
- Before joining CMS, Tavenner served for four years as Virginia's secretary of Health and Human Resources under former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.
- She has the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. The two have known each other since the 1990s, when Cantor represented an area near the hospital where Tavenner worked. He told The Washington Post last year he could "absolutely work with" her as Medicare administrator.
- She once brought a patient back from the dead, according to The Post.