Review Category : Poltics

Boehner’s ‘New American Congress’ Deals with Old Controversy

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Republican majority on Wednesday introduced what it is calling the New American Congress. But on the second day of the legislative, session leaders were already doing damage control as House Speaker John Boehner defended Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Scalise, the third-highest ranked Republican in the House, is under fire for attending an event organized by alleged white supremacists in 2002. He renewed his denial on Wednesday that he was racist, hoping to end to more than a week of questioning about the episode six years before he came to Congress.

“I reject bigotry of all forms,” Scalise, R-La., told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol when asked if he shared the views of the group’s leader, former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard turned-former Louisiana state representative David Duke. “I think when you see the people that know me best, both here and especially back home, people I’ve served with, including people that I’ve been on opposite ends politically with who know the truth and know what’s in my heart, they’re the ones who can speak the best.”

House Speaker John Boehner defended Scalise, who rose through the ranks after former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor resigned last year.

“Listen, I, like Mr. Scalise, served in the state legislature. I remember my freshman term in the state legislature when I had a half of a staffer,” Boehner said. “You get asked to speak to a lot of groups and I think Mr. Scalise made it clear that he made an error in judgment, spoke to a group not clear who they actually were.”

“Now, I know this man,” Boehner added. “I work with him. I know what’s in his heart. He’s a decent, honest person who made a mistake. We’ve all made mistakes.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Republican support for the embattled Republican “says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.” Earnest would not say whether the president believes it’s appropriate for Republican leaders to stand by Scalise.

“He believes it’s ultimately their decision to make,” Earnest said. “But there is no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are.”

Scalise has stated that he did not realize who the group was when he accepted an invitation to speak at the event.

“One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn,” Scalise said in a written statement on Dec. 30. “It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold.”

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Sony Hacking: After Seeing “The Interview,” US Intel Chief Says North Koreans ‘Don’t Have a Sense of Humor’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper revealed in a speech at Fordham Law School in New York Wednesday that he saw The Interview over the weekend, admitting that “it’s obvious to me the North Koreans don’t have a sense of humor.”

Clapper then turned serious and urged American retaliation for the attack against Sony related to the film and blamed on North Korea.

“We have to push back,” Clapper said. “If they get global recognition with no consequence they’ll do it again and again.”

Clapper also spoke of his recent trip to North Korea to free two American hostages. He said he was berated about South Korean and U.S. aggression by the same general who he said would have authorized the attack against Sony. Clapper said the North Korean government believes it is “under siege from all directions” and uses the “cheap propaganda” tool of playing itself the constant victim of an imminent U.S. attack.

“Cyber is a powerful new realm for them,” Clapper said. “They can get recognition for their cyber capabilities” at low cost.

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Boehner’s Revenge: GOP Defectors Ejected from House Committees

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — After the vote for House Speaker Tuesday, ABC’s John Parkinson asked John Boehner about the 25 defectors that attempted to oust him from the post.

Boehner smiled and replied, “Stop that.” But perhaps Boehner was already plotting his revenge when he ducked into his office suite in the Capitol.

In addition to removing Republican Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent from their seats on the House Rules Committee, another Republican rebel, Rep. Randy Weber, told Bloomberg News that Boehner won’t let him sponsor legislation related to the regulation of clean nuclear energy.

Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, suggests the consequences are often known before these votes.

“Sometimes there are casualties and changes, and people make decisions,” Sessions said, according to Bloomberg News. “They make decisions to do things knowing sometimes there can be consequences.”

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Obama Condemns ‘Cowardly,’ ‘Evil’ Paris Attacks

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama swiftly condemned Wednesday’s attack on the headquarters of a French satirical newspaper as a violent act against not just individuals, but the idea of freedom of speech in the civilized world.

Obama, who called the killings “cowardly” and “evil,” vowed that his administration would help France “hunt down” the perpetrators of the attack that killed at least 12 people and bring them to justice.

“For us to see the kind of cowardly, evil attacks that took place today, I think reinforces once again why it’s so important for us to stand in solidarity with them just as they stand in solidarity with us,” he said.

Obama added that he had reached out to French President Francois Hollande and hoped to speak with him later Wednesday, calling France one of America’s “oldest” and “strongest” allies.

Speaking during an Oval Office meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama added, “The fact that this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press, also underscores that these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

Earlier on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. would be working with its French counterparts to determine exactly who was behind the shooting and what the motivation was.

Earnest would not use the word “terrorism” to describe the attack, but when asked by CNN about Hollande’s use of that term, Earnest replied, “Based on what we know right now it does seem like that’s what we’re confronting here.”

Meanwhile, Kerry condemned the “murderous” attack on Charlie Hebdo, which had most recently received notoriety for publishing characters of the prophet Mohammed.

“The murderers dared proclaim, ‘Charlie Hebdo is dead.’ But, make no mistake. They are wrong… no matter what your feelings were about it, the freedom of expression that it represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror,” Kerry said.

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White House Promises to Veto Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

The White House(WASHINGTON) — The White House issued a warning to the new Republican Congress Tuesday that if it decides to pass legislation approving the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, President Obama will quickly veto the bill.

Sponsors of the measure contend that there are currently enough Democrats in support of the measure in the Senate to overcome a filibuster but would likely fail to override a presidential veto.

The pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, has been a bone of contention between the administration and GOP lawmakers for the past six years.

Republicans maintain that its construction will create tens of thousands of jobs while the White House has raised doubts about how environmentally safe the pipeline would be.

Obama has also suggested that it won’t improve oil supplies in the U.S. since Canada would export most of the crude elsewhere.

The State Department, which has authority over the matter because it extends into Canada, has been conducting a painstaking review of the project. The White House says until the study is completed, the president can’t go along with the pipeline.

Nebraska has also filed a lawsuit over the route of the pipeline, which is still pending.

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Former VA Governor McDonnell Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Alex Wong/Getty Images(RICHMOND, Va.) — Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison Tuesday after being found guilty last September of multiple corruption charges that included conspiracy, bribery and extortion.

Prosecutors had sought a ten-year prison sentence while McDonnell’s attorneys asked the court for three years of community service.

Before his sentencing, McDonnell told the judge, “I stand before you as a heartbroken and humbled man.” McDonnell said he held himself accountable for “all the words, all the actions I took as governor of Virginia.”

McDonnell, 60, then told the judge that “whatever mercy you might have, you grant it first to my wife Maureen.”

Maureen McDonnell, who will be sentenced next month, was found guilty of eight of 13 counts while the former governor was convicted on 11 charges.

Prosecutors said that McDonnell, while governor, traded favors in exchange for $177,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy friend was trying to promote his dietary supplement business.

The trial turned sordid because McDonnell essentially admitted on the stand that what appeared to be a happy marriage in public was nothing more than a sham.

Defense attorneys used this admission to maintain that a criminal conspiracy was unlikely since the McDonnell marriage was so strained.

However, the jury decided that the gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. amounted to bribery and extortion, not loans as the defense argued.

Maureen McDonnell was also found guilty of obstructing a probe of $20,000 worth of dresses and shoes she received from Williams.

At one time, McDonnell was considered a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible running mate for 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

McDonnell must report to prison on Feb. 9. He says he will appeal his conviction in hopes of delaying his jail term.

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Funeral Service Held for Former NY Governor Mario Cuomo

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Mario Cuomo, the son of Italian immigrants who became a major political force in the Democratic Party as governor of New York, was eulogized Tuesday by his son as someone who “was at peace with who he was and how he saw the world.”

Cuomo, 82, died on New Year’s Day after a long illness. Among those attending the funeral service St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan were former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who delivered a 40-minute eulogy to his father.

In a speaking style reminiscent of his father’s love of words, the governor said, “Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels. He was there to make the case, to argue, to convince, and in that pursuit he could be a ferocious opponent or a powerful ally. And he was beautiful.”

It was during the 1984 Democratic National Convention as keynote speaker that Mario Cuomo soared to national prominence, describing the nation as one made up of a mosaic of immigrants as he also attacked what were perceived as the exclusionary policies of then-Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Cuomo was governor of New York from 1984 to 1995 and was often touted as a possible candidate for president but he never ran for national office.

Known as a liberal but preferring to be called a progressive, Cuomo opposed the death penalty and while as a staunch Roman Catholic he personally did not support abortion, he believed it was not up to the state to change laws allowing the procedure.

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Fellow Senator Welcomes Joni Ernst to Congress With Castration-Themed Gift

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Nothing says congratulations like the gift of castration, right?

Wrong. Unless you’re newly-minted Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who rose to political stardom thanks, in no small part, to her famous castration-themed television ad.

Fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reminded her of her roots with a gift on her first official day as a senator. Appropriately, it was a castration device mounted on a wooden frame. Engraved on the plaque accompanying the device was Ernst’s campaign pledge: “Make ‘em squeal.”

In lieu of flowers, @GrahamBlog gives @joniernst a Welcome to the Senate gift: A castration kit. pic.twitter.com/A1fu3jB71k

— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) January 6, 2015

“That commercial was probably the most effective commercial in the last 20 years and this phrase I think is what that election is all about,” Graham told ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny. Asked to describe the device, Graham said, “This is what makes you squeal if you’re a pig.”

“Apparently in the old days this is how you did castration of farm animals, and I can’t even talk about this without getting nervous,” Graham added. “All I can say is that when I saw that commercial, it stuck with me.”

In addition to the gift, Ernst was also on the receiving end of a gaffe, courtesy of Vice President Joe Biden. Just before he performed Ernst’s mock-swearing in, Biden mistakenly referred the Iowa Republican by her husband’s name, Gail.

“Mr. Vice President, Joni,” Ernst corrected him politely. “My husband’s Gail.”

“It’s getting late, man,” the VP apologized.

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Why This Was the Best Day Ever to Watch Biden Being Biden

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden spent nearly two hours schmoozing — and smooching — with newly sworn-in senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon, producing some classic Biden moments and some trademark “Bidenisms.”

Here’s a look at the best of Biden:

Number of Times Biden Flubbed a Senator’s Name: 1

Joni Ernst made her imprint on the political world with her now infamous “Squeal” ad, but apparently, that wasn’t enough to make the VP remember her name. When the Iowa Republican senator approached the vice president for her swearing-in reenactment, Biden turned around and loudly said, “Gail!” Ernst politely corrected him, saying, “Joni. My husband is Gail.”

Number of Biden Selfies: 3

There were dozens of photographers in the Old Senate chamber to snap images of the swearing-in reenactments, but some of Biden’s favorite moments came when kids asked him to pose for selfies. “I heard that you liked selfies,” one of Sen. Steve Daines’ family members said to the VP. “Well…yeah,” Biden replied.

Number of Times Biden Called the Swearings-In “Boring”: Too many to count.

The vice president commiserated with many of the kids tagging along for the photo-op with their parents, telling child after child, “Oh man this is BORING, BORING, BORING!”

Finally, some more vintage Bidenisms:

• “A son’s a son till he gets a wife. A daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.”

• “Mother of 10? No purgatory for you, straight to heaven.”

• “We have something in common –- we have sisters brighter and better looking than us.”

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Boehner Narrowly Reelected House Speaker

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, narrowly survived a tense vote on Tuesday to win a third term as House speaker, winning the support of 216 of his colleagues.

Twenty-four Republicans voted for someone else while one voted present.

Rep. Daniel Webster won the most Republican votes aside from Boehner, pulling in 12 votes in his long shot bid for speaker.

Sens. Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul each received one vote.

The House speaker does not need to be a member of Congress, but it always has been a member of the House.

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