Review Category : Poltics

White House Press Secretary: Ebola Nurse’s Work in West Africa ‘Should Be Honored and Respected’

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke at Monday’s press briefing, discussing the controversial quarantine that nurse Kaci Hickox was placed in after arriving at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

Hickox was released to return home to Maine on Monday, after having been put in quarantine at a New Jersey hospital on Friday. She had arrived in the U.S. from Sierra Leone.

“She didn’t travel over there because she was getting a big paycheck,” Earnest said, “presumably she’s not going to be inducted into the Nurses Hall of Fame for it. She did it out of concern for her fellow man.” That concern is part of what will, in the long-term, help in stopping the spread of Ebola in West Africa, Earnest said. “So her service and commitment to this cause is something that should be honored and respected…and I don’t think we do that by making her live in a tent for two or three days.”

Still, Earnest pointed out, the decision to quarantine Hickox was not one to be made by the White House. “In some ways you can sort of take this up with James Madison, right? We have a federal system in this country in which states are…given significant authority for governing their constituents.”

Hickox had criticized the restrictions put in place in New York and New Jersey last week. She has also hired a lawyer and is considering a lawsuit.

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US Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria Have Cost $580 Million Since August 8

peterfz30/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. has spent more than half a billion dollars on airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in just over two months.

According to the Pentagon, the cost of the strikes, which began on Aug. 8, has totalled $580 million as of Oct. 16. That figure represents $8.3 million per day — higher than the previous cost estimate, through Oct. 1, that totalled $424 million and $7.6 million per day.

What remains unclear is the cost of operations undertaken prior to the airstrikes, including the personnel and equipment sent to Iraq to improve security between June 16 and Aug. 8.

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What’s Behind the 2014 Midterm Election Cycle’s Trendiest Attack Line

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — This midterm election cycle’s trendiest attack line has put incumbent members of Congress in a no-win situation.

The more time that these lawmakers spend away from the committee rooms of Capitol Hill, the more vulnerable they are to attacks for not meeting the most basic requirements of public office. And yet the things that often take them away from committee duties, particularly raising money, are integral to their ability to win re-election.

In the closest Senate races of 2014, incumbents have been attacked in debates and television ads for truancy, allowing outsider candidates to posture against what they see as a corrosive habit in Congress.

In Kentucky, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of skipping Senate Agriculture Committee meetings. Iowa Republican candidate for Senate Joni Ernst has gone after her Democratic opponent Rep. Bruce Braley for his attendance on two House committees. Republican challengers in Colorado and New Hampshire have attacked Senators Mark Udall and Jeanne Shaheen for ignoring national security briefings. And in North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis has pursued Sen. Kay Hagan for skipping a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing for a fundraiser — something Hagan acknowledged.

The reason these attacks have increased largely comes down to money, according to historians, strategists and members of Congress.

“It takes a lot more money to run for re-election than it did in the 1930s and ’40s….The demands on time are tremendous,” said Betty Koed, an associate historian at the Senate Historical Office. “It’s the nature of the beast of the modern Senate.”

The convoluted structure and operations of the Senate also play a role, Koed added.

“Senators have a lot of committee assignments, their schedules are booked up tight,” she said. “It’s a rare luxury for a senator to go to one hearing and sit there for three or four hours.”

Official attendance-taking in the Senate can be patchy, and senators are free to mix in fundraising with meetings. Sometimes aides fill in for their bosses, attending hearings and meetings and taking notes for later review. Often lawmakers merely drop by hearings to make a statement before taking off.

And as Politifact, the non-partisan fact-checking website, noted in its study of Sen. Hagan’s Armed Services Committee absences, it is often difficult to process congressional attendance records because of the classified nature of closed-door meetings.

Michael Steel, House Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary currently on leave while working for the North Carolina Republican Party, has helped coordinate criticism of Sen. Hagan’s record.

“I think people understand that the first job of a U.S. senator is to show up to work, and Sen. Hagan simply hasn’t done that,” he told ABC News. “There’s no question that elected officials have a lot on their plate, but it just comes down to priorities.”

For challengers, the benefits of attendance attacks are clear, according to Democratic strategist Larry Grisolano.

“If you say this candidate missed 20 votes, and here’s the days…it’s pretty cut and dry,” he said. “It’s something people can readily understand, and it’s hard to obfuscate in response.”

Grisolano helped direct messaging for President Obama’s two presidential campaigns, and is currently working for Democrat Ro Khanna, the opponent of Rep. Mike Honda in California’s 17th Congressional District. Khanna has criticized Honda, also a Democrat, for missing almost 500 votes while in Congress, even though that number only makes up around 5 percent of the congressman’s total votes.

Honda told ABC News that he’d be able to avoid some of the criticism if certain congressional formalities were adjusted.

“One aspect of my job that has been very important to me is coming home to my district every weekend, which keeps me better connected to the people I am in Washington to represent. For representatives who live further away from Washington — the West Coast, Hawaii or Alaska — this does present an added demand on time,” he said. “I think we can make better use of technology to fulfill some of our official duties from offices in our districts, which would allow us to spend more time amongst our constituents.”

Honda also noted that campaign finance reform would help. “I would love to see the need for fundraising completely eliminated or reduced greatly by passage of public financing of elections and other important campaign finance reforms,” Honda said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, an active voice for campaign finance reform and co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, agreed.

“An outrageous race to out-raise and out-spend is usurping the battleground of ideas — and we need to work together to remember what American politics is supposed to be all about,” she told ABC News. “Our opportunity throughout campaigns should be to extend our public service to the American people — not the almighty buck — and we need to get back to business.”

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, an independent campaign finance watchdog group, described members of Congress as “full-time fundraisers and part-time legislators.” She added that for many lawmakers, four hours per day of fundraising “is about the average,” something that was confirmed last year after the Huffington Post obtained a PowerPoint presentation delivered to freshmen members by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“I think that there are a lot of members of Congress who would far prefer to spend more time in committee hearings, on the floor, tending to their congressional duties than the fundraising that’s required by the system that currently exists,” Grisolano said. “This kind of perpetual fundraising that the system imposes on incumbents genuinely does make them make choices like that. That is part of our system now.”

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US Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria Have Cost $580 Million Since August 8

peterfz30/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. has spent more than half a billion dollars on airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in just over two months.

According to the Pentagon, the cost of the strikes, which began on Aug. 8, has totalled $580 million as of Oct. 16. That figure represents $8.3 million per day — higher than the previous cost estimate, through Oct. 1, that totalled $424 million and $7.6 million per day.

What remains unclear is the cost of operations undertaken prior to the airstrikes, including the personnel and equipment sent to Iraq to improve security between June 16 and Aug. 8.

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Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff to Recommend Quarantine for All Military Forces Returning from Liberia

US JCS(WASHINGTON) — Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is expected to recommend to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that all military services adopt the 21-day quarantine that the Army ordered this weekend in response to the ongoing Ebola situation in West Africa.

Army soldiers returning from deployments to Liberia were to be quarantined for 21 days for monitoring to ensure that they had not contracted Ebola. The only soldiers who have left Liberia since the order was put in place are currently under quarantine at a base in Italy, though they were not directly in contact with Ebola patients while in Liberia.

Under the current policy, returning service members will have monitored temperature checks for 21 days and will be asked about potential symptoms. Any service member exposed to the bodily fluids of an Ebola patient would be medically evacuated to the U.S. for treatment at either the National Institutes of Health facility in Bethesda, Maryland, or Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

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Kerry to Visit Ottawa Tuesday, Offer Condolences Following Shooting

State Dept(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Canada on Tuesday in order to hold bilateral meetings with Canadian leaders and offer condolences following last week’s shooting at Canada’s National War Memorial outside the Canadian Parliament.

Kerry, according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, will “express America’s solidarity with the Canadian people.”

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed the meetings on Monday, noting that the two nations have been “partners, allies and friends through good times, as well as through some of our most tragic moments in history.” He also said that Kerry and President Obama were among the first people to reach out to Canada during the shooting.

“I am grateful that Secretary Kerry will visit Ottawa and stand by Canadians as we mourn…and as we move forward in pursuit of our shared values,” Baird said.

Kerry and Baird are expected to discuss issues including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, tension in Ukraine, North American energy security and the relationship between the two nations, among other topics.

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Chris Christie Hasn’t Tweeted About Anything Besides Ebola Since Thursday

Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen(TRENTON, N.J.) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been tweeting up a storm and, since Thursday, he’s tweeted about nothing but Ebola.

He’s used his account to promote the state’s mandatory quarantines for health workers returning from West Africa — and made his case for New Jersey’s controversial quarantine of nurse Kaci Hickox after she returned from the Ebola zone in Sierra Leone.

He’s discussed New Jersey’s coordination with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in rolling out those quarantines, even in the face of criticism from the White House.

He’s reassured the public that there are no Ebola cases in New Jersey, and he’s reminded everyone that Ebola can only be spread through bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms.

When it comes to #Ebola you need to know the facts. @CDCgov pic.twitter.com/tdnvmoAQXU

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 22, 2014

Christie’s last non-Ebola tweet had to do with housing. In fact, Christie has only posted four non-Ebola-related tweets since last Monday.

Christie’s Twitter storm kept up Monday, even as New Jersey decided to release Hickox from quarantine as her lawyer threatened to sue. In fact, the furor over Hickox’s quarantine in a tent at a Newark, New Jersey, hospital fueled Christie’s Twitter output from the start.

Today, a healthcare worker arrived at Newark Airport, w/ a recent history of treating patients w/ Ebola in West Africa, but w/ no symptoms.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 24, 2014

After @CDCgov alerted @NJDeptofhealth of the traveler, @NJDeptofhealth made the determination that a legal quarantine order should be issued

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 24, 2014

This woman, while her home residence is outside of this area, her next stop was going to be here in NY.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 24, 2014

.@NYGovCuomo and I discussed it before we came out today and a quarantine order will be issued.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 24, 2014

Hickox later penned an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News chronicling her Ebola quarantine travails and suggesting mandatory quarantines will discourage volunteerism.

The White House, which opposes mandatory quarantines, spent the weekend obliquely bashing the policy. The administration raised concerns with Christie and Cuomo, a senior administration official told ABC News on Sunday, suggesting the quarantines are “not grounded in science,” a position shared by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-diseases official at the National Institutes of Health.

President Obama met with his team of Ebola advisers on Sunday, the White House announced, asking its members to develop federal policies on how to handle Ebola workers, with an eye toward not discouraging volunteerism. New guidelines are on the way, a senior administration official said.

Christie has defended the quarantines in interviews, and Sunday night he took to Twitter to clarify that workers can undergo quarantine at home if they live in the state. Hickox was sequestered in a hospital tent because she doesn’t live there.

Non-residents would be transported to their homes if feasible and, if not, quarantined in New Jersey.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

As I said on Friday, we & the @NJDeptofhealth will make those judgements were need be, what the most appropriate location for that is.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

IF the person is not a resident of our state already.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

Obviously, if they’re already a resident of NJ then they can quarantine in their own homes under a quarantine order. https://t.co/ZK3zIAAaL4

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

On Monday, he took to Twitter to address Hickox’s allegations of mistreatment:

“While in isolation, every effort was made to insure that she remained comfortable…” (cont) @NJDeptofhealth

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

“…with access to a computer, cell phone, reading material and nourishment of choice.” – @NJDeptofhealth

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

And to hit back at critics of New Jersey’s quarantine policy:

My greater responsibility is to the public. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

The fact of the matter is we’re not going to step away for a minute from protecting the people of my state. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

So the critics are the critics no matter what you do there will be critics and you don’t worry that. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

You worry about doing what’s right for the people you represent and that’s what we’ve done. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

Our preference always is to have people quarantined in their homes. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

Now in this instance it wasn’t possible because given her condition at the time. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

I know she didn’t want to be there. No one ever wants to be in the hospital, I suspect. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0 #Ebola

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

So, I understand that. But, the fact is I have a much greater, bigger responsibility to the people of the public. https://t.co/4NdrKvUAT0

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 27, 2014

The White House’s response to Ebola cases in the U.S. has become a growing political issue for Republican candidates, who have mentioned the disease alongside national security threats posed by ISIS in arguments against Obama’s leadership abilities. Christie, widely seen as a possible Republican contender for the White House in 2016, has quickly become the leading spokesman opposing the White House’s stance on the public policy debate over how to confront Ebola.

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Biden Hits the Campaign Trail for Democrats in Iowa, Illinois

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama won’t hit the campaign trail until Tuesday but in the meantime, his top surrogates continue to stump for candidates.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Iowa Monday — another state where Obama will not be seen this campaign season.

Biden is attending an event for Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley. Later in the afternoon, Biden travels to Illinois to rally support for Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Cheri Bustos.

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“Boston Globe” Backs Charlie Baker for Mass. Governor

Darren McCollester/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Newspapers across the country endorsed candidates this weekend, but perhaps no choice was more surprising than The Boston Globe backing of Republican Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley in the bright blue Bay State of Massachusetts.

Remembered for her loss to Scott Brown in 2010, it looks like this year the very same thing could happen to the gubernatorial candidate now being called Martha “Choke-ly.”

The Globe says they endorsed Baker because during this campaign he “has focused principally on making state government work better” and the “emphasis is warranted.” They also note his split from the national Republican Party on social issues.

In their editorial, The Globe describes Coakley’s “assessment of the status quo” as “fundamentally upbeat.” They also noted her “campaign up to now suggests an odd reluctance to seize the initiative” and said during her primary she was “unwilling to spell out an issue agenda” — all reasons they say they went with Baker.

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