Nancy Pelosi has exhibited remarkable staying power — and not just by remaining in office after losing the speakership. More than three years after giving up the gavel, the liberal San Francisco Democrat remains a favorite foil in Republicans’ campaign commercials. Just this week she made cameos in two GOP ads, and it’s still only January. In a heated special election in Florida, the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing an ad that features a photo of Democratic nominee Alex Sink sandwiched between pictures of President Obama and Pelosi. “Another tax and spender,” reads the text on the screen.
In this case, the minority leader’s presence makes some sense. Sink, after all, is running for the House and, if she wins, she would join Pelosi’s Democratic Caucus. But there was Pelosi again in an ad for Ben Sasse, a tea-party Republican Senate candidate in Nebraska. His ad opens with a grainy, black-and-white video of her speaking about Obamacare. GOP operatives say the health care law will be the omnipresent focus in the GOP’s 2014 campaign ads. Still, images of Pelosi (and Obama) will appear early and often to make the political-messaging medicine go down easier. Says the NRCC’s Andrea Bozek, “Nancy Pelosi’s picture is worth a thousand words.”
You Are Cordially Invited
Both Democrats and Republicans are using this year’s State of the Union guest list to invite trouble. Lawmakers are each allowed a +1, and they’re using those seats to highlight some of the nation’s woes — and, of course, to make things uncomfortable for their foes.
Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Alan Lowenthal of California are asking colleagues to invite the long-term jobless, to put Congress on the spot for failing to retroactively extend long-term unemployment insurance this month.
Republicans are expected to bring along guests to highlight problems with Obamacare. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, for example, plans to bring a woman with lupus whose insurance was canceled. The parade of problems will vie with the president for camera time, allowing lawmakers to send their own messages about the state of the union.
Drilling Down Rep. Mike Simpson isn’t the first House veteran to face a tea-party challenger, but he has an unusual army of allies: his fellow dentists. Their influential lobby is expected to go all out this year to protect the Idaho Republican, one of only two dentists on Capitol Hill. The lobby has already dropped $22,000 in mailers and $20,000 on calls to Idaho voters to gauge the race. On the other side is the well-heeled Club for Growth, which named Simpson its first target for defeat in 2014; its candidate has already raised more than $525,000, including some of his own money. “We’ll try to raise as much as we can” for Simpson, says Mike Graham, an executive at the American Dental Association. And the group’s track record is strong. When the other lone dentist in Congress, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., won his seat in 2010, nearly 600 dentists contributed $265,000 to his campaign — accounting for more than half his donors and over 40 percent of his haul. When Gosar faced a Club-backed tea-party challenge in 2012, the dental lobby packed $150,000 into his race. Dentists nationwide injected another $210,000. Simpson, 63, is an especially valued ally for the dental association (whose political action committee has spent an average of $2.5 million in each of the past three cycles). He’s a member of the speaker’s inner circle and the chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee. “It makes a difference, sure, to have an appropriator who is a dentist,” Graham says.
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In a statement Friday, Sen. John McCain wrote, "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won't be available by the end of the month, we won't have reliable answers to any of those questions." His "no" vote makes it much less likely Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare by Sept. 30.
As anticipated, the Department of Education today withdrew the controversial Obama-era "Dear Colleague" letter on campus sexual assault, replacing it with new interim guidance. Most notably, the new guidance permits colleges to use a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence standard that the 2011 letter seemed to mandate. "The new guidance also states that colleges may facilitate informal resolutions, including mediation, if all parties agree to participate in that process."
"The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration official. The new restrictions will vary by country. They could include a ban on travel to the United States, or new restrictions on obtaining a visa for citizens of particular countries." They are expected to be unveiled by Sunday.
In a live-streamed address from Silicon Valley, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a nine-point plan that the tech giant is rolling out over coming months to respond to "efforts by nation-states and private actors to use the social media platform to influence U.S. elections." Most importantly, the company will force all advertisers to disclose what ads they're running to all audiences. “When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they’re required by law to disclose who paid for them,” Zuckerberg said. “But you still don’t know if you’re seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads they’re currently running to any audience on Facebook.”
As "part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies," Environmental Protection Agency employees "are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information ... Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep 'Controlled Unclassified Information' from unauthorized disclosure."