Tales from the Trail

Pelosi confident Democrats will win back House, says Obama will “win big”

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that despite predictions by so-called experts to the contrary, she’s confident her party will win back the chamber in the Nov. 6 election.

“The momentum is with us,” Pelosi said. “Our motto is don’t agonize, organize.”

Pelosi declined to say, however, if she would remain as her party’s House leader if Republicans retain control of the chamber.

“We are not talking about what happens if we don’t win,” Pelosi told a group of reporters invited to her office.

Besides, she said, “It is really up to my caucus … and my family.”

Former Bush lawyer hired to defend gay marriage ban

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has hired Paul Clement, the former solicitor general during George W. Bush’s presidency, to pick up the ball and defend the law that defined marriage as between a man and woman.

GAYMARRIAGE-CALIFORNIA/The Obama administration decided in February to drop its defense of the 15-year-old law, which was hailed by gay rights advocates but widely panned by many senior Republicans infuriated that the Justice Department would no longer defend the law in court and called it a political move.

In one case in Boston, a federal judge struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act banning gay marriages as unconstitutional.

Boehner gets a taste of Republican budget-cutting zeal in Congress

House Speaker John Boehner got hit by the deep budget-slashing he advocates as the top Republican in Congress.

Many of Boehner’s fellow House Republicans, including a number of those backed by the anti-establishment Tea Party, voted on Wednesday to end a weapons project backed by Boehner in his home state of Ohio.
USA-SHOOTING/REACTION
Boehner, who promised to bring wide-open debate to the House when he was elected its speaker last month, tried to brush off the setback.

“I am committed to the House working it’s will, and it did yesterday,” Boehner told his weekly news conference on Thursday.

Obama’s big speech may draw bipartisan seating arrangement

A top Republican on Friday embraced a Democratic proposal to project a sense of national unity by having members of their respective parties sit together at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 25 

“I like the idea,” House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy told reporters at the second day of a three-day retreat in Baltimore by the new House Republican majority. “I think the American public would find it as a positive,” he said.OBAMA/

Democrats and Republicans traditionally sit divided by party at the annual State of the Union Address. Partisanship is on display with members of one party — and then the other — standing to clap when they like what the president says, and sitting quietly when they don’t.

Washington Extra – No Refuge

Not only does Barack Obama face a united and hostile Republican Party at home, he cannot easily take refuge in foreign policy in the second half of his term. From Afghanistan to Russia and the Middle East, from climate change to nuclear weapons, there are more problems than easy solutions out there.obama1

But if all that wasn’t bad enough, the president is facing a few problems even keeping his fellow Democrats on side. As we report today, the Dems are in disarray about what to with the expiring tax cuts, and there is a distinct feeling of post-election disappointment with the president. As one aide told Reuters, many congressional Democrats felt they got their fingers burned for backing Obama’s healthcare plan and are wary of getting hurt again.

“Our guys aren’t sure what comes next,” the aide said. “Will Obama help them in 2012, or will just be focused on getting himself re-elected?”

Republican “Young Guns” take aim at Democratic-led Washington

Republican U.S. Representatives Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy are all in their 40′s.

Yet with many of their colleagues far older — in their 60′s, 70′s and 80′s — see themselves as “Young Guns,” part of a new breed of Republicans ready to challenge their Grand Old Party and take on Democratic-led Washington.

“Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” is the title of their book.

You can take it to the bank: Unbowed Maxine says she won’t cut a deal

She broke no rules, she has no regrets, and she won’t cut a deal with the U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee. That was the message a defiant Democratic lawmaker Maxine Waters had for the media on Friday.

The 10-term California representative brought her trademark feistiness to a lengthy news conference in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol. Her chief of staff Mikael Moore (who also happens to be her grandson) went through the ethics charges against her, and her defense against them in mind-numbing detail.

BLACKS/BERNANKE“I won’t go behind closed doors. I won’t cut a deal. I will continue to talk about the fact that I have not violated anything,” Waters declared at the news conference in the Capitol Visitors’ Center, which is below ground. She flayed the ethics committee for having not yet set a hearing in her case.

CBO: Good news, bad news on Republican healthcare plan

The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ non-partisan score keeper on the cost of legislation, has some good news for Republicans and the alternative healthcare proposal they plan to offer in the House of Representatives. Their plan would save the federal budget deficit $68 billion over 10 years and on average reduce insurance premiums compared to what they would be under current law.

protests“Under Republican health care reforms, premiums will go down, making coverage more affordable for families and employers, which is the first step to reducing the number of uninsured Americans,” said Republican Representative Dave Camp.

The proposal is far more limited in scope than the sweeping healthcare overhaul written by Democrats that the House is expected to debate on Saturday. The Republican proposal would provide for the sale of insurance coverage across state lines and calls for medical malpractice lawsuit reforms.

Looks like Obama immigration reform will have to wait

MEXICO-DRUGS/For those holding out hope that healthcare reform and climate change legislation would not squeeze out efforts to overhaul the broken U.S. immigration system this year, think again.

At the “Three Amigos Summit” in Guadalajara, Mexico, President Barack Obama all but ruled out legislation passing this year, particularly since his top initiative — healthcare — has been put off until September and there still remains work to be done on climate change. And, oh yes, fixing the U.S. financial regulatory system too.

“That’s a pretty big stack of bills,” Obama told reporters alongside Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “I would anticipate that before the year is out, we will have draft (immigration) legislation, along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward.”

You never want to see sausages made – or laws

USA-STIMULUS/The war of words that broke out in the U.S.  House of Representatives late Tuesday and spilled into Wednesday over one of the government’s annual spending bills shows the widening gulf between Democrats who control the chamber and minority Republicans.

Republicans accused Democrats of trying to shut down their efforts to save money on the $64.4 billion spending bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments and science agencies. They argued that in a time of mounting deficits it was unacceptable to spend 12 percent more for these programs than last year.  Democrats accused Republican of trying to stall the bill by offering 100 or so amendments.
 
Republican Representative Mike Pence said it was “an outrageous abuse of the legislative process” for Democrats to cut off debate after 30 minutes during the first amendment. He insisted that it was not about the process but about “runaway federal spending.”
 
Democrats shot back that Republicans were making it harder to finish the annual spending bills and also complete healthcare and climate change legislation quickly. Republican demands for a recorded vote on even amendments they supported — taking additional time — also angered Democrats.
 
“We have to pass 12 major appropriations bills in six weeks and still leave enough time on the calendar to deal with healthcare, to deal with climate change, to deal with the military authorization bill and several other crucial issues,” said Democratic Representative David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
 
He said Republicans rebuffed Democratic attempts to reach a deal on handling amendments quickly. “We have tried every way we can to involve the minority,” he said. “We recognize a filibuster by amendment when we see it.”
 
When Pence was asked why seeking a recorded vote on an amendment that both sides supported wasn’t a stall tactic, he grinned and walked away from reporters.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

- Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Obey at a meeting earlier this year)