Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — The Senate confirmed Ash Carter as the next secretary of Defense with a vote of 93-5 on Thursday.

Carter, who was nominated to the post in December, earned bipartisan support throughout his confirmation process.

Carter, 60, is a veteran Pentagon official, recently serving as deputy secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013. But he also has a unique background as a physicist and medieval historian by training. His aides once referred to him as the “600-pound brain in the room.”

Carter will replace Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense and will be President Obama’s fourth defense secretary in six years.

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creisinger/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House welcomes the peace deal for Ukraine that was reached by the leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine in Belarus Thursday.

The deal, which came after more than 15 hours of discussion, calls for a cease-fire starting Sunday, followed by a process of constitutional reform.

“The agreement represents a potentially significant step toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty consistent with the Minsk agreements from last September,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

“This agreement must now be followed by immediate, concrete steps to fulfill the commitments by all parties. The cease-fire must be implemented and honored. Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the conflict zone, and Russia must end its support for the separatists and withdraw its soldiers and military equipment from eastern Ukraine,” Earnest added.

In a separate statement, Secretary of State John Kerry also welcomed the news, commending the efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to reach an agreement.

Mirroring Earnest’s remarks, Kerry said, “Actions will be what matter now.”

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JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic National Convention will be in Philadelphia, not Columbus, Ohio, or the most talked about possibility: New York City, specifically Brooklyn.

Philly may have been the leading favorite, but why did Brooklyn get snubbed? It turns out there are quite a few reasons.

In a conference call Thursday, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, said the decision was a “yearlong effort,” that is “primary a business decision” and the “decision was not easy,” adding “all the cities who initially bid were phenomenal American cities.”

She added that while “New York City put together a very strong bid,” Philadelphia’s bid was “unmatched” and that the committee wanted to “ensure a city could transport and house attendees seamlessly.”

In Brooklyn, delegates would have to be bussed in from hotels in New York City and in Philadelphia, Wasserman Schultz noted, there are 18,500 hotels just a “15-minute walk” from the convention site.

“Delegate experience was a very, very important thing for us,” she said.

A senior Democratic official tells ABC News Wasserman Schultz’s biggest concern was logistics, noting the security perimeter around the Barclay’s Center is in a residential area, and the hotel problem.

Of course there are other issues too, ones the DNC may not want to discuss. As for whether the police shootings and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent rift with police had anything to do with the decision, as well as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s crackdown on political corruption, including former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, she answered no.

“There were only three factors that we considered when deciding the strongest city and those were logistics, security, and resources,” she said. “Extraneous issues were not a factor whatsoever.”

A source from the mayor’s office notes the problems with the 2012 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and the DNC was “looking for [the] simplest logistics in a smaller city,” as well as the advantage Philadelphia has with being a swing state. They also note the possibility that Hillary Clinton’s likely campaign would be headquartered in Brooklyn, saying the “DNC likely wanted to spread the wealth around.”

Another official from the de Blasio administration said pitching Brooklyn was a risk and agreed it was likely logistics that did the bid in, specifically noting the large security perimeter needed to pull off a modern convention. It would require blocks fenced off with restricted access and possibly having residents displaced ahead of the convention.

In Philadelphia, the convention site is much more commercial, surrounded by parking lots and football and baseball stadiums.

“Look, our bid was creative, different, unconventional — and they wanted a simple, surer thing,” the official said.

Longtime New York City Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf says it was a culmination of reasons that turned the DNC away from the hipster mecca. Firstly, Pennsylvania is still a swing state.

“Pennsylvania is a state that could potentially vote Republican and has elected Republicans statewide in recent times. Democrats need to [be] more in tune with the heartland and Pennsylvania represents that,” Sheinkopf said.

“Being in Brooklyn and considering recent events in New York City, it would be seen as too far to the left, not far enough to the center, and it would be challenge for Democrats not to be seen that way,” Sheinkopf said.

De Blasio took a front and center role in the bid, even recruiting high profile and high dollar New York City celebrities and donors to put together what seemed like a convincing package.

Sheinkopf said it seemed like de Blasio was “acting on his own,” without much action from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo but in the end, with recent events like the police and corruption scandals, it “wouldn’t matter what the mayor or the governor would have done.”

De Blasio is close to the Clintons and a progressive champion but it still didn’t matter.

“The mayor was first and out front,” Sheinkopf said, noting it “would have been a great moment for his administration when in fact it will be seen as a non-starter.”

In a statement after the decision, de Blasio said Brooklyn “is America’s greatest urban success story, which would have made it a great backdrop to nominate the next President of the United States,” adding his thanks to the “thousands of New Yorkers who lent their time, energy and resources to support our effort.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The New Hampshire primary is the “cultural epicenter” of politics. The centennial celebration of the New Hampshire primary centered on this theme Wednesday night, as a panel gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to discuss the primary’s political and historical value.

Bloomberg Columnist Albert Hunt moderated the discussion with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., political consultant James Carville, former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath and New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid.

Members of the panel said the benefits of the open primary in New Hampshire force the candidates to interact with voters on the ground and be authentic, especially when it comes to networking with independent and influential voters. In contrast with the closed Iowa caucuses New Hampshire can feel more like an election, they said, though the momentum from success in Iowa doesn’t hurt a candidate in New Hampshire.

The panelists reminisced about the days when candidates, consultants and journalists would socialize at the Mayfair Hotel bar but said that time ended with the age of Twitter, trackers, and “gotcha politics,” making the future of the primary less clear.

Shaheen ended with the note that New Hampshire will always be important as one of the few stops on the modern campaign trail where candidates really have to engage with voters. On the potential 2016 field? Most were reluctant to comment, though Jeb Bush was one of the first names thrown out. Carville said he doubted Bush could win in Iowa and that if he didn’t win New Hampshire, there was a threat that Mitt Romney could get back in the race.

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Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The host of the 2016 Democratic National Convention has been chosen.

“I am thrilled to announce that Philadelphia will host the convention where we will nominate the 45th President of the United States,” Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced in a statement Thursday.

Philadelphia, along with Columbus, Ohio and New York, were all in contention to host the convention, which will take place the week of July 25, 2016.

The DNC made its decision after considering factors such as security, financing, transportation and hotel capacity.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the city is “excited and honored” to be chosen as the host city for the convention.

“We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC,” he said in a statement.

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Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The host of the 2016 Democratic National Convention has been chosen.

“I am thrilled to announce that Philadelphia will host the convention where we will nominate the 45th President of the United States,” Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced in a statement Thursday.

Philadelphia, along with Columbus, Ohio and New York, were all in contention to host the convention, which will take place the week of July 25, 2016.

The DNC made its decision after considering factors such as security, financing, transportation and hotel capacity.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I cannot wait to join Democrats across the country to celebrate our shared values, lay out a Democratic vision for the future, and support our nominee.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the city is “excited and honored” to be chosen as the host city for the convention.

“We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC,” he said in a statement.

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Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Saturday marks the second-to-last Valentine’s Day that the Obamas will spend as the first couple, but a review of their past celebrations show that they tend to keep the holiday low-key.

From spending time with their daughters to indulging with a foodie-friendly night out, the Obamas haven’t stuck to a particular routine.

The first couple have not officially revealed their plans this year, but the president is scheduled to be in Palm Springs, California, after attending a cyber-security summit in San Francisco on Friday. The White House has not released the first lady’s schedule yet, but if they are not together on the holiday it won’t be the first time.

Here’s a review of the Obamas’ presidential Valentine’s Days past.

2014

The Obamas were on opposite sides of the country on Valentine’s Day in 2014, with the president spending time with King Abdullah II of Jordan in California. They clearly didn’t forget the holiday though, because they tweeted love notes to one another.

Hey Barack, I’ll always be your valentine! #HappyValentinesDay -mo pic.twitter.com/lEZdizGhSj

— The First Lady (@FLOTUS) February 14, 2014

Here’s the truth: @MichelleObama is still the best Valentine. pic.twitter.com/Qx8T4Izxqs

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 14, 2014

In addition, they went on a dinner date at D.C. restaurant Oyamel the week before Valentine’s Day, according to The New York Daily News.

Years before, Michelle Obama had said that the restaurant of famed chef Jose Andres was one of her favorite restaurants in D.C. “because I love Latin food — a good menu, good margaritas.”

The timing of Valentine’s Day always poses a bit of a problem for the Obamas’ calendars because the holiday comes almost a month after Michelle Obama’s birthday, when they normally do something special. That was more true than ever in 2014 when the first lady celebrated her 50th birthday with a celebrity-filled dance party at the White House.

2013

When the Obamas find a chef that they like, they stay loyal.

That was the case in 2013, when, The Washington Post reported, the couple went to Jose Andres’ award-winning restaurant Minibar, which seats only 12 people and, at the time, cost $225 a head without wine. (The restaurant has since raised its price to $250 a head.)

President Obama was clear that he had no intentions of missing that meal as he joked about the holiday while in Georgia earlier in the day.

“I can’t imagine a more romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day than with all of you, with all the press here,” Obama said teasingly to the traveling media. “Actually, Michelle says hello. She made me promise to get back in time for our date tonight. That’s important.”

“I’ve already got a gift, got the flowers,” he said. “I was telling folks: The flowers are a little easier, though, because I got this rose garden. A lot of people, you know, keeping flowers around.”

He was sure to send out a throwback picture of the couple on Twitter.

Happy Valentine’s Day! pic.twitter.com/iC98vmOt

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 14, 2013

2012

Michelle Obama has made healthy eating with a hearty serving of vegetables among the priorities of her “Let’s Move” campaign, so it came as little surprise when the couple dined at Vermillion in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2012.

The contemporary American restaurant bases its regularly-changing menus on local and seasonal foods, and Politico reported at the time that it indulged the Obamas with venison au poivre for her and rib-eye steak for him.

2011

There was only one year during Obama’s two terms where it was unclear what the couple did to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and that was 2011.

Even though they were not forthcoming with their plans that year, Michelle Obama was happy to talk about what she wanted to receive.

“Jewelry always,” the first lady said during an interview on Live! With Regis and Kelly. “You can’t go wrong.”

“You gotta keep the romance alive, even in the White House,” she said later in the interview.

2010

The first family celebrated together at Camp David in 2010 because Valentine’s Day fell in the middle of President’s Day weekend.

Malia and Sasha Obama joined their parents on a weekend trip to the presidential retreat in Thurmont, Maryland, just 61 miles north of the hubbub of Washington, D.C.

2009

For their first Valentine’s Day after begin sworn in to office, the Obamas decided to ditch D.C. and go back to their hometown of Chicago.

The 2009 trip included a stay at their home in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and dinner at Table 52, which is owned by Oprah Winfrey’s former chef.

The menu focused on Southern cuisine, serving staples like grits with sausage and catfish jambalaya.

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Kevin Fitzsimons (WASHINGTON) — Late-night TV will miss its greatest and most trusted phony newsman.

Jon Stewart became a must-see for political interviews over his 16-year career as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Every night, he poked fun at politicians and media pundits and the latest headlines, offering his comical spin on sometimes very serious issues.

But after hosting the satirical show through three presidencies, Jon Stewart announced on Tuesday that later this year he would be stepping down from the job he called “the honor of my professional life.”

Stewart shared his take on political scandals, gaffes and biggest political moments from 1999, when he first took over as host, up until now:

BACK THEN:

1999: “Impeach Impediment ’99”

Stewart joined The Daily Show late in the impeachment process for President Bill Clinton after his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. His first coverage of the process was in January 1999 after Clinton gave the State of the Union address.

“A glimpse of what he might have accomplished, if only he had been born without testicles,” Stewart jabbed.

2000: “Indecision 2000 — The Good, The Chad and The Ugly”

In an episode the following year, Stewart took on the Florida recount in the 2000 election with a segment called “The Good, The Chad and The Ugly.”

2000: “Foley Reaction”

The scandal about former Republican Congressman Mark Foley garnered almost a whole episode in 2006. Foley resigned shortly after accusations surfaced that he sent sexually explicit messages to young men working as congressional pages.

2006: “Cheney’s Got a Gun”

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington during a quail hunt on a Texas ranch. Stewart pointed out that Whittington was the first person shot by a sitting Vice President since Alexander Hamilton.

“Hamilton, of course, was shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington was mistaken for a bird,” Stewart said. “I’m not just Jon Stewart…I’m also a concerned parent,” Stewart joked. “So moms and dads who are watching this right now…don’t let your kids go hunting with the vice president.”

2007: “Trapped in the Men’s Room”

Stewart had some fun with another congressional sex scandal the next year when former Republican Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for “lewd conduct,” reportedly soliciting sex in a men’s restroom.

NOW:

2010: “Governor Slumdog Million-Hairs”

Stewart joked about coverage of the scandal surrounding then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and accusations that he tried to sell the state senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he was elected president. He showed a montage of news anchors struggling to pronounce the governor’s name and nicknaming Blagojevich “Governor Slumdog Million-Hairs.”

2013: “Jon Stewart’s Rockin’ Shutdown Eve”

The night before the government couldn’t reach a budget deal for the new year and shut down for 16 days beginning October 1, 2013, Stewarttook aim at Republicans in Congres. As Republican lawmakers fought for defunding Obamacare, arguing it was unconstitutional, Stewart compared the situation to a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants, where the Giants lost 31-7.

“You know what the Giants didn’t say after that game? ‘If you don’t give us 25 more points by midnight on Monday, we will shut down the..NFL.’ What I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be nice if the United States Congress aspired to the maturity of the problem-solving capacity of football players?” Stewart said.

The Daily Show also produced a highlight reel in 2013 that shows some of the best moments from Stewart’s interviews with politicians such as President Barack Obama, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

2014: “Never Ending Sorry”

Chris Christie’s administration was infamously accused of purposefully closing lanes at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as an alleged payback against Fort Lee’s democratic mayor. Jon Stewart teased Christie as he “took the the stage at the New Jersey State House for a sold-out two-hour marathon show,” and Stewart proceeded to bring back some of Christie’s not-so-graceful moments.

2015: “Barack Obama vs. Jon Stewart”

Stewart makes fun of Obama’s second-to-last State of the Union Address, taking a stab at his anticlimactic proposals of tax reforms and at his naive remarks about being “one people” while being in perhaps one of the most bipartisan administrations. Stewart illustrates his point by showing the Republicans not react to what “under normal human circumstances, would be unanimous applause lines.”

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Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives voted in bipartisan fashion on Wednesday to send President Obama legislation that will likely produce his first veto of the new GOP Congress.

By a count of 270-152, lawmakers fell short of what would be required to override a presidential veto of the Keystone Pipeline bill, though 29 Democrats supported the measure.

One Republican, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, opposed the vote.

“When the American people elected Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, Leader McConnell and I promised we would honor their trust and faith by acting swiftly to advance their top priorities, including the Keystone pipeline,” House Speaker John Boehner wrote in a statement following the vote.

“For at least 42,000 Americans, according to the administration’s own estimates, this project would mean the shot at a good-paying job and the ability to provide for their families. For all of us, it would mean stronger economic growth and a more stable and affordable energy supply to help protect against huge price spikes,” Boehner said. “With hardworking, middle-class families still struggling to get by, that should give the president plenty of cause to reconsider his veto threat and sign this bill into law.”

If President Obama does veto the bill, the Senate will be first to have an opportunity to attempt a veto override.

The House cannot take an override vote unless the Senate successfully bucks the president first, since the legislative vehicle for the pipeline originated in the Senate.

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) — It might be the congressional photobomb of the year.

As Rep. Buddy Carter delivered a statement on a TSA Worker Training program late Tuesday evening, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., slid into a seat directly behind the lawmaker — only Harris’ attention wasn’t on his freshman colleague.

As soon as Harris took his position, the three-term lawmaker gazed from his smartphone to look directly into the camera. A few seconds pass before Harris suddenly winks, apparently teasing an admirer watching the congressman’s every move on C-SPAN.

Harris, a physician, cracks a wide smile before winking again, just to make sure whoever was watching didn’t miss it the first time.

At one point, the stakes appear to increase. Harris, 58, reads a message on his device before removing his eyeglasses, displaying a proud smirk on his face for his No. 1 fan, as he looked directly into the camera.

Harris’ wife of 30 years, Sylvia, died unexpectedly last year. So who was the congressman toying around with?

Shelby Hodgkins, Harris’ communications director, revealed it was another woman close to the congressman’s heart.

“His mother watches for him on C-SPAN,” Hodgkins explained, “and gets a kick out of seeing him on TV.”


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