Review Category : Poltics

Snafu: The White House Word of the Week

kropic/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Have you heard about the “procedural snafu” in Washington?

Because the White House press corps has — a lot.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday used the term 11 times to refer to the move by Senate Democrats to block trade promotion authority for the president. This comes after he used the phrase 10 times at Tuesday’s briefing to explain the stalled trade bill.

The overuse of “snafu” was funny at first.

“Remind me, what does snafu stand for?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl jokingly asked Earnest on Tuesday.

“This is a family program, Jon,” the normally earnest Earnest responded.

On Wednesday, the “snafu” became, well, a bit SNAFU.

“I don’t know how a snafu translates into a variety of Asian languages,” Earnest confessed, when asked if the White House had been receiving calls from other nations concerned about the trade flap.

The quip was met with groans from White House reporters, but that didn’t stop Earnest.

He went on to explain that there is still strong support for the bill, bemoaning “this is why less patient observers of the Senate are ready to pull their hair out when they observe these kinds of procedural snafus.”

The press corps is beginning to share that sentiment, when it comes to the term “snafu.”

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Jeb Bush Suggests Asking ‘Hypothetical’ Questions About Iraq ‘Does a Disservice’ to Dead American Soldiers

Charles Sykes/NBC(WASHINGTON) — At a town hall meeting in Nevada on Wednesday, likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush attempted once again to refine his answer to a question that has dogged him ever since Fox News’ Megyn Kelly asked him recently, “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion” of Iraq in 2003.

After telling Kelly in the interview, which aired on Monday, that he “would have,” and then clarifying to Sean Hannity on Tuesday that he “interpreted the question wrong” and didn’t know “what that decision would have been,” on Wednesday he unveiled a fresh explanation.

“If we’re going to get into hypotheticals I think it does a disservice for a lot of people that sacrificed a lot,” Bush said after explaining that as governor of Florida he called the family members of servicemen and women who lost their lives in the war.

He added: “Going back in time and talking about hypotheticals — what would have happened, what could have happened — I think, does a disservice for them. What we ought to be focusing on is what are the lessons learned.”

But several of his potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have been less reticent to engage in hypotheticals this week.

“Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told The Hill newspaper.

“I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no WMD that the country should have gone to war,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in an interview with CNN.

And Ohio Gov. John Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch: “If the question is, if there were not weapons of mass destruction should we have gone, the answer would’ve been no.”

As he travels the country ahead of opening a formal White House bid, Bush has been poked and prodded — by the press and voters alike — about how and to what extent his views differ from those of his brother, former President George W. Bush.

“I’m much better looking than my brother, I’m younger than him,” Bush joked in response to a reporter’s question. “If I run it’ll be 2016, not 2000. The world has changed dramatically. The context of the campaign will be different, the whole country’s different. It’s obvious that my life experience is different.”

And with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton facing growing scrutiny for taking very few questions from reporters since formally announcing her candidacy just over a month ago, Bush did not miss an opportunity to take a swipe on Wednesday.

“I think everybody else does speak to the press and have town hall meetings where it’s unscripted and, as you saw, it’s a little rambunctious,” Bush said. “That’s all part of the process. You can’t script your way to the presidency.”

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GOP Appropriators Cut $250M of Grants for Amtrak Capital Investments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of Tuesday night’s deadly Amtrak derailment, House Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment Wednesday that would have restored more than $250 million in cuts from grants for Amtrak’s capital improvements.

Democrats worked to associate Amtrak’s funding with the accident, as Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., offered an amendment to the FY2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill to fully fund the president’s budget request for Amtrak.

“It should not escape the consideration of our committee that we actually are responsible — not for the accident, but we are responsible for our country’s infrastructure as it relates to public investment,” Fattah said. “We don’t know the circumstances of this accident. We don’t know what caused it. But we do know if we don’t invest in the capital infrastructure of our country, there will be future accidents.”

Republicans stressed that investigators are still working to determine the cause of the crash, and subsequently defeated the amendment by a 21-30 vote.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers contended that the cuts are necessary to meet the budgetary limits imposed by a 2011 spending pact between President Obama and Congress.

“Any change in the caps under which we operate that would go beyond current law…would require an understanding, an agreement between the White House and the two bodies of Congress to change those parameters,” Rogers said. “I’ve noticed the speaker of the House has said he has an open mind about things, but all we hear out of the White House is consternation and attacks on the bills we’re trying to pass.”

“We have no choice but to move forward and we are, aggressively and expeditiously,” he added.

The hearing was not without drama. New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chairman, chastised Republicans for failing their constituents.

“Last night we failed them. We failed to invest in their safety, we failed to make their safety a priority,” Israel said. “We are divesting from America in this subcommittee and this committee and it doesn’t make sense and it defies the interests of the American people.”

“This is just a matter of simple priorities,” he continued. “Thoughts are wonderful, prayers are critically important, but priorities are important as well.”

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, criticized Israel for politicizing Tuesday’s crash when the New York Democrat has “no idea what caused this accident.”

“I was disappointed to hear [Israel]…suggest that because we have not funded this properly that that’s what caused the accident when you have no idea what caused this accident,” he said. “Support if it you want to, but don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you.”

Republicans admit that the bill funds the Federal Rail Administration at $1.4 billion for FY2016, about $200 million less than the $1.6 billion appropriated for FY2015. But aides say the cuts are made not to FRA operating costs or safety but rather “entirely” to Amtrak capital — such as infrastructure improvements, which GOP appropriators believe is the responsibility of Amtrak.

The bill funds FRA safety and operations at the same level as last year, $186.9 million, which was a $2.3 million increase from FY2014. The bill also funds National Transportation Safety Board at the same level as last year, $104 million — about a $1 million increase from FY2014.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., also unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to boost funding for collision-prevention technology known as Positive Train Control, or PTC, which was mandated in passenger rail safety legislation in 2008 but is behind schedule in implementation.

The committee ultimately approved the underlying $55 billion bill on a party-line vote of 30-21. The measure now heads to the floor for consideration by the full House.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown Slams Obama for Elizabeth Warren Comments

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Following the dramatic setback of President Obama’s trade deal Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the president’s comments regarding Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s, D-Mass., position on his trade deal “disrespectful.”

“I think the president was disrespectful to her, the way he did that. I think the president has made this more personal than he needed to,” Brown said. “I’m not going to get into more details. I think referring to her as her first name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps? I’ve said enough.”

“Sen. Brown believes that this debate shouldn’t be personal, but about getting the best possible deal for American workers and American manufacturers,” a spokesperson for Brown told ABC News.

In an interview earlier this week, Warren, possibly one of the most prominent critics of Obama’s trade deal, said she doesn’t know how the president has wound up so far from her on the trade issue.

“She’s absolutely wrong,” Obama said in an interview will Yahoo!’s Matt Bai, regarding her view on the trade bill.

“This is pure speculation. She and I both taught law school, and you know, one of the things you do as a law professor is you spin out hypotheticals. And this is all hypothetical, speculative,” Obama said.

“The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he added. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest doubled down on his call for Brown to apologize to Obama for accusing the president of being “disrespectful” to Warren.

“Sen. Brown is a standup guy, and given the opportunity to review the comments that seemed like they were made in some haste, that I feel confident that he’ll do the right thing and apologize,” Earnest told reporters at Wednesday’s press briefing. “I wouldn’t necessarily expect a public apology, but we’ll see how Senator Brown chooses to pursue this.”

Asked about the public tiff, Earnest sought to clarify that the president’s remarks were meant to relay that Warren is making a political argument.

“The president’s making a political argument, too,” he said. “And we can have a robust difference of opinion and a robust debate.”

Earnest also rejected the notion that the president was somehow being sexist by referring to Warren by her first name.

“There are a number of instances where the president has used the first name of the senator to reference them in public, both men and women, including multiple instances in which he’s referred to Sherrod Brown as Sherrod in public setting,” he said.

Earnest first called on Brown to apologize for his comment in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier Wednesday. But in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday afternoon, the Ohio Democrat stopped short of offering an apology.

“Yeah, I don’t want this to be personal either way,” Brown told Mitchell, while not responding directly to a question about whether he would apologize.

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Obama and Biden ‘Deeply Saddened’ by News of Amtrak Tragedy

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — As investigators work to determine the cause of the Tuesday night Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, responsible for at least six deaths, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged the tragedy as one that affects more than just the passengers.

Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, the White House confirms.

Obama said Wednesday in a statement: “Along with Americans across our country, Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the derailment aboard Amtrak Train 188. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery.”

The president noted that the Amtrak Northeast Corridor route “is a way of life for many,” and that this tragedy is one that “touches us all.”

Biden expressed Wednesday that he and his wife Jill also were “deeply saddened” by the news of the crash.

“The victims could have been any one of our parents, children, or someone from one of our communities,” the vice president said in a written statement. “Amtrak is like a second family to me, as it is for so many other passengers. For my entire career, I’ve made the trip from Wilmington to Washington and back. I’ve come to know the conductors, engineers, and other regulars — men and women riding home to kiss their kids goodnight— as we passed the flickering lights of each neighborhood along the way.”

“Our thoughts are with every person who is grieving right now from this terrible tragedy. As a nation, we pray for the victims and their families,” Biden said.

The president and vice president both thanked the many first responders and passengers who aided in rescue efforts Tuesday night.

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Rubio to Present ‘Pillars’ of His Foreign Policy in New York City

US Senate(NEW YORK) — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is set to deliver a speech on foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City Wednesday afternoon. He is expected to discuss “international security challenges facing America in the 21st century,” according to his campaign.

“What principles should govern the exercise of our power?” Rubio will say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks proved by his campaign to ABC News. “The 21st century requires a president who will answer that question with clarity and consistency — one who will set forth a doctrine for the exercise of American influence in the world — and who will adhere to that doctrine with the principled devotion that has marked the bipartisan tradition of presidential leadership from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. Today, I intend to offer such a doctrine. And in the coming years, I intend to be such a president.”

Rubio will also provide insight about the “three pillars” of his foreign policy doctrine.

“The first is American Strength,” he will say. “… To ensure our strength never falters, we must always plan ahead. It takes forethought to design and many years to build the capabilities we may need at a moment’s notice. So to restore American Strength, my first priority will be to adequately fund our military …

“The second pillar of my doctrine … is the protection of the American economy in a globalized world … As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space. This includes the economic disruption caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in chokepoints such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz …

“The third pillar of my doctrine is moral clarity regarding America’s core values. We must recognize that our nation is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims.”

After he concludes his speech, Rubio will be interviewed on stage by Charlie Rose.

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White House Weighs In on Tom Brady Suspension

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that he had not talked to President Obama about the NFL’s punishment against the New England Patriots and star quarterback Tom Brady, but said, “as a general matter,” Brady should be held to high standards of professionalism.

“I do think that people around the world, particularly children, particularly boys, do look up to Tom Brady,” Earnest told reporters in the White House briefing Tuesday. “I think that as he confronts this particular situation and he determines what the next steps will be for him, that he’ll be mindful of the way that he serves as a role model to so many.”

Earnest declined to issue any judgment about whether the NFL suspending Brady for four games, fining the team $1 million, and losing two draft picks over the alleged purposeful deflating of footballs ahead of this year’s Super Bowl was appropriate.

“I’ve got lots of thoughts, but none of them I’m willing to share here,” Earnest said.

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Congressional Conservatives Grade GOP-Controlled House: ‘C-Plus’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Republicans won big time in last November’s Midterm Elections, wrestling the Senate from Democratic control and piling up a whopping 246-seat majority in the House — the largest for the party since 1929. But 100 days after being handed the reins to Congress, two leading congressional conservatives — founding members of the House Freedom Caucus — say the GOP’s current leadership leaves something to be desired.

“It’s been average,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told Power Players. “I don’t think we’ve done a great job of following the promises that we made. I think we’ve done some good things, and we’ve done some not so great things. But what’s really lacking is a vision for the future of America.”

In the interview, fellow Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, graded the accomplishments of the GOP-controlled House so far: “C-plus.”

The House Freedom Caucus is a new group Labrador and Jordan have formed on Capitol Hill, currently populated with about 40 members.

“We’re looking for guys who want to — in an optimistic but aggressive way — fight for those things that we think so many families think aren’t getting fought for here in Washington, D.C.,” Jordan said. “We’re hopefully a little more mobile, agile, versatile group that can do what we told the voters we were going to do and fight for those issues.”

Membership in the Caucus is by invitation only and current members vote on new applicants.

“We don’t have to look at things in the same way, we just have to have a common goal of keeping the promises that we made to our constituents,” Labrador added.

And when it comes to the 2016 presidential race, the Freedom Caucus won’t be endorsing a candidate, but they like the Republican Party’s chances.

“I think it’s a good field,” Jordan said. “More are going to join. It’s going be a good race. And we’ll see who, just like any other tournament … who wins the semi-finals, and then who gets to go to the finals.”

But Labrador already has a favorite: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

“I like all the other people that are running, but to me, Rand Paul is the best, because he’s closer to my philosophy,” he said.

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Biden Speaks at Top Cops Awards Dinner

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden spoke on Tuesday night at the 22nd annual “Top Cops Awards” dinner held in Washington.

The vice president praised police officers for their hard work and dedication, speaking specifically about the high bar officers are held to. “We expect you to do everything,” he said, “we expect you to be constitutional scholars. We expect you to have instantaneous reactions to a crisis without making any mistake.”

“You do it every single day when no one hears about it, when no one knows,” Biden added.

“We know the risks you take to protect us every single day — from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to New York City,” Biden said, referencing the recent deaths of NYPD officer Brian Moore and Hattiesburg officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate.

The Top Cops Awards aims to “educate the American public about our nation’s heroes and to pay tribute to law enforcement officers in federal, state, county, tribal and local agencies from across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty.”

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NYC Mayor de Blasio Releases 13-Point Plan to Address Income Inequality

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released his progressive agenda on Tuesday, including a 13-point plan to address income inequality.

The agenda, co-signed by progressive labor leaders, activists and members of Congress, calls for an increased minimum wage, national paid sick leave and an opposition to trade deals that give power to corporations.

Other goals on the agenda include comprehensive immigration reform, allowing for refinancing of student loan debt and the close of tax loopholes that benefit millionaires, corporations and CEOs.

Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, in a message posted on the website of the agenda, praises its effort to “return us to citizenship, the happily adult responsibility of citizens to each other: how to ensure a livable wage for all of us; how to improve schools in all our neighborhoods; how to protect working class jobs and pensions from predators who rely on exploitation and selfish behavior; how to welcome the immigrant, the ‘huddled masses’ we ALL [except for Native Americans and slaves] once were.”

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