POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/18

How Congress Created the Debt Ceiling Problem

Josh Green points out that in 1979, Dick Gephardt, “who would later become House Democratic leader and twice run for president, devised a simple fix that met the absurd requirement of a two-step process. With help from the House parliamentarian, he established the Gephardt Rule, which decreed that when Congress adopted a budget resolution (the first step) it was automatically ‘deemed to have passed’ a commensurate increase in the debt limit (the second step). Presto. Problem solved.”

“The Gephardt Rule held for a decade and a half, during which there were no fights over raising the debt ceiling. But when Republicans took control of the House in 1995, they killed it… Gingrich thought the second vote was a good pressure tactic to limit spending. Yet the threat of debt default didn’t work because nobody took it seriously. What’s different now is that many Republicans seem willing to follow through. Even Gingrich is worried.”

Majority Approve of Obama and His Agenda

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds 52% of Americans approve of President Obama’s overall job performance.

They also mostly agree with his agenda:

“Fifty-six percent believe that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, compared with a combined 42% who want them less strict or kept the same… Also, for the first time in the poll, a majority of Americans — 52% — favor allowing illegal immigrants who hold jobs to apply for legal status in this country.”

“And in the latest fiscal fight in Washington, more respondents say they would blame congressional Republicans (45%) than Obama and congressional Democrats (33%) if the nation’s debt limit isn’t raised and the country is unable to meet its obligations.”

What’s Really Wrong with Congress

Just out: Dangerous Convictions: What’s Really Wrong with the U.S. Congress by Tom Allen.

The former Democratic congressman says that Members of Congress “don’t just disagree, they think the other side makes no sense.”

GOP Mulls Short Term Extension of Debt Ceiling

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told the Wall Street Journal that Republicans “are discussing whether to support a short-term increase in the nation’s borrowing authority, possibly linking the debt ceiling to future talks aimed at reaching a major deficit deal.”

“Ryan said no decisions have been made about how to approach the debt and spending negotiations, but that leaders hope House Republicans will reach consensus on a strategy by the end of the week.”

The Hill: “With the GOP divided and coming off a losing election and a frustrating lame-duck session of Congress, party leaders have moved to scale back expectations for members on what they can achieve in the face of a popular Democratic president and larger Democratic majority in the Senate.”

Fox News Renews Contract with Karl Rove

Fox News will soon announce that Karl Rove has signed a multi-year deal to remain an on-air analyst through the 2016 election, Politico reports.

“The contract assures the ratings-leader cable news network that it will retain one of its most popular commentators, and someone whose views continually make news, especially in the heat of a campaign.”

GOP Lawmakers Told to Stop Talking About Rape

GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway told House Republicans at their retreat that they need to stop talking about rape, Politico reports.

“Conway dispensed the stern advice as part of a polling presentation she made alongside fellow GOP pollsters David Winston — an adviser to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — and Dave Sackett. The comment was described by several sources in the room.”

Obama Loves to Quote Reagan

When President Obama quoted Ronald Reagan on gun control yesterday, it wasn’t the first time. In fact, Ryan Teague Beckwith notes it’s one of his favorite rhetorical tricks. Obama has quoted Reagan on everything from the debt ceiling to infrastructure spending to the campaign trail.

Idaho Lawmaker Compares Abortion and Prostitution

Idaho Rep. Ron Mendive (R) “drew audible gasps” when he asked representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union if their pro-abortion rights stance also means that they support prostitution, the AP reports.

Mendive said that since the ACLU supports a woman’s right to choose abortion, shouldn’t the organization also support prostitution, arguing that prostitution also is “a woman’s choice.”

Sanford Got Approval from Ex-Wife

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) tells John Avlon that one of his first conversations before he decided to run for Congress “was with his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, who remains popular across the state and had been publicly mentioned as a possible Senate nominee and even a congressional candidate.”

Said Sanford: “I sat down with her on the porch and said, ‘If you have any thoughts about running for this, then I’m out, because I can’t think of anything more disastrous than for a husband and wife to run against each other.’ I also told my boys that I wouldn’t run if they didn’t want me to run.”

Lhota Enters Race for New York City Mayor

Joseph Lhota (R) filed documents to become a Republican candidate for mayor of New York City, the New York Times reports.

Lhota “is something of a throwback: an unapologetically outsize personality, known throughout his career for big emotions and an uninhibited style. His combination of experience — on Wall Street, in the Giuliani administration and, most recently, running the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — immediately changes the texture and character of a campaign dominated by Democratic elected officials.”

Cuomo Still Riding High

A new Siena poll in New York finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) continues to enjoy strong support from voters, with a 71% to 24% favorability rating and 60% to 38% job performance rating.

Obama in Strong Position at Start of Second Term

A new Pew Research survey finds President Obama’s approval rate at 52%, his highest since the early months of his presidency. “His personal favorability, currently 59%, has rebounded from a low of 50% in the fall campaign. And increasing percentages describe him as a strong leader, able to get things done and as someone who stands up for his beliefs.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s image, “which reached a recent high of 42% favorable following the GOP convention this past summer, has fallen once again to a low of just 33%. Much of this decline has come among Republicans themselves.”

Candidate’s Stepmother Declines to Endorse Him

Former New York City public advocate Betsy Gotbaum declined to endorse her stepson, Noah Gotbaum, for the same office, the New York Times reports.

Gotbaum said that her decision was not personal and that she and her stepson had “a close relationship.”

The Road for Democrats to Retake the House

Politico: “Democrats are promising an all-out blitz to win the House in 2014. There’s just one lingering question: Which Republicans can really be unseated? The problem: Republicans used the once-a-decade redistricting process to shore up many of their members, leaving Democrats with few ripe GOP targets. Only four Republican incumbents are in seats that tilt toward Democrats — a fraction of the 17 seats Democrats need to net in order to seize the majority. In fact, there’s reason to believe that the 2014 playing field favors Republicans: There are 15 Democrats representing GOP-leaning districts, so Democrats will need to invest heavily just to maintain their current membership in the House. The daunting playing field is one of many challenges facing Democrats in 2014. Midterm elections are typically losers for the party in the White House. And outside conservative groups outspent Democratic ones 2 to 1 over the past two election cycles.”

Second Term Advice for Obama

Matthew Dowd gives President Obama 5 useful tips as he prepares to start his second term next week:

1. Turnover in staff and cabinet leadership. It is very important for a president to bring in new leaders in a second term.  The folks that served in the first term are tired, exhausted, and lack much of the creativity needed to energize a second term.

2. Second term scandals. Be constantly aware and diligent in avoiding scandals and big mistakes that could doom the second term no matter the personnel or vision in place.

3. Rediscover first term vision. It is also important for President Obama to look back at the biggest things he didn’t accomplish in his first term and renew an effort to get that done.

4. Simplify second term agenda. Many Presidents have beleaguered second terms because they bit off way more than they could chew. They try to do too many things, and they end up not doing any of them well. Doing a few simple and direct things in a second term is the path to success.

5. Legacy. The final item President Obama should focus on is what is his political legacy post the second term. Who are the new brand of leaders he is bringing in and getting ready to carry on what he began?

Obama Goes Big on Guns

USA Today: “The beauty of a second term presidency, at least for the man in the Oval Office, is that political calculations become less important as he considers policies he wants to pursue. President Obama’s sweeping gun-safety agenda laid out Wednesday reflects just that reality as he called on Americans to get behind a dramatic plan that he believes can help stem gun violence.”

Politico: “For one of the few instances in his presidency, he now appears willing to burn political capital by pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for a measure that is likely to die in the House, a symbolic victory that sets the stage, he hopes, for more meaningful ones. Along with his tough stances on the debt ceiling, it’s part of a second-term strategy of calculated confrontation: Republicans won’t negotiate with him, so he plans to marshal popular opinion to force them into action.”

GOP Worries They Could Lose House

“There’s growing angst among Republicans that the party’s House majority could be at risk in 2014 if the deep GOP divisions that emerged during the recent ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations persist in looming negotiations over a slew of budgetary issues,” The Hill reports.

“Even as Republican officials maintain the GOP majority is safe, several lawmakers and longtime activists warn of far-reaching political ramifications if voters perceive Republicans as botching consequential talks on the debt ceiling, sequestration and a possible government shutdown.”

Are You Better Off?

First Read compiles some statistics from the start of President Obama’s first term.

“The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 5,550 points since then. The economy is growing (instead of contracting). Consumer confidence has nearly doubled (though it remains below where it was before the Great Recession). And a larger percentage of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction (but a majority still think it’s on the wrong track).”

“On the other hand, there’s data indicating that the nation isn’t better off than it was four years ago – and that the Great Recession continues to take a toll on families. Median household income (adjusted for inflation) is lower than it was in 2009. And more Americans live below the poverty level than they did four years ago.”

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