WASHINGTON (AP)- Just yesterday, it seems, Republicans were all crowing about their landslide victory during last November's midterm elections and President Obama and the Democrats were reeling in defeat.
How things have changed.
In just a few short months, House and Senate Democrats have gone from being a beaten-down new minority party to an effective blocking force on Capital Hill. They've provided strong backup to a president who clearly is not going to go quietly in his last two years of office.
President Obama has wielded the threat of his veto power to protect his immigration executive orders from Republican attacks and demonstrated that he-- and not the GOP-- will set the timetable for approving or rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.
The bottom line is the world is a much more complicated than people thought it would be when the Republicans took control of both houses. You still have a Democrat President, you still have a strategically organized Democratic party in both the House and Senate, and you still have turmoil within the Republican party in both House and Senate and the Speaker of the House that can't unite his own House.
"Clearly being in the drivers seat with unruly children in the back seat fighting as Americans watch isn't what it's all cracked up to be," said Ron Bonjean, a Washington political strategist and former GOP congressional communications official.
Bonjean added, "People believe the Republicans 'control' Congress. But control is only nominal," he said. The Republican House is split four ways; traditional mainstream conservatives, very conservative, Tea Party Republicans, and Democrats. Three of the factions must join forces to some degree to get 218 votes. In the Senate, Republicans have 54 votes but need 60 if all GOP sneators vote together. Without six or more Democrats, McConnell can do absolutely nothing. And Republicans are helpless in both houses to overcome any presidential veto."
The backlash over the letter that 47 GOP senators sent to Iran's leaders warning any nuclear deal wouldn't be valid without their congressional approval has now given rise to a White House petition demanding that those 47 senators be charged with treason.
The petition urges federal prosecutors be filed "against the 47 in violation of The Logan Act in attempting to undermine a nuclear agreement."
The Logan Act, which was enacted in 1799, states "any citizen the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with the intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."
The authors of the petition make their case by saying "at a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by the President of the United States of America would not be upheld once the president leaves office.
"This is a clear violation of the Logan Act and federal law. In attempting to undermine our own United states, these 47 senators have indeed committed treason against the people of the United States of America." the petition states.
With time running out, congressional Republicans continue to squabble among themselves over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the sprawling, multi-mission agency runs out of funds to continue.
The Republican leadership- still feeling burned from their 2013 shutdown of the entire federal government- appears to be spinning their wheels once again trying to come up with a solution that satisfies tea party members seeking to halt President Obama's executive orders on immigration. The GOP leadership is caught between their traditional "strong on national security" reputation and the tea party's desire to block the president on immigration reform at any costs to America.
AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP)
The first nationwide oil refinery strike in over 30 years expanded this weekend to other U.S oil refineries in Texas.
The United Steelworkers Union (USW) said Saturday that workers at the largest refinery in the U.S., the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, started their strike at midnight Friday. Employees at two other refineries and a Petro-Chemical plant in Louisiana started their strike at the end of their shift on Saturday.
The USW represents workers at 65 U.S refineries that produce about two-thirds of all oil in the United States.
The Port Arthur refinery is a joint venture between Shell and Saudi Refining Inc. It produces more than 600,000 barrels per day.
ATLANTA- Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly's old war stories are coming under question, just as NBC News anchor Brian Williams story about being aboard a helicopter that sustained enemy fire in Iraq had earlier this month.
O'Reilly's claim was that he, "was in a situation one time in a war in Argentina in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete, and the enemy was chasing us with their machine guns," O'Reilly said on the air April 17, 2013.
During that broadcast, O'Reilly recounted how he saved his colleague's life by carrying him to safety, while dutifully reporting to CBS News.
But now O'Reilly's former colleagues at CBS News apparently told the UPI that no American correspondents reached the war zone.
In fact, they say, it can be documented that O'Reilly and the rest of the U.S. Press Corp were 1,200 miles away in Buenos Aires.
O'Reilly has invoked his time spent in a war zone over the years to show that he understands "life and death decisions" and is "not easily shocked after what he has witnessed as a war correspondent in the Falklands"
The big problem for O'Reilly is he never was ever in the Falklands during the war.
Brian Williams is stepping away from NBC Nightly News for several days.
The anchor sent a note to the show's staff, announcing that Lester Holt is replacing him this week.
William's message read: "In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.
"As managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place trust in us."
It appears that former Florida governor, and 2016 favorite of the GOP's establishment and Wall Street class, is struggling in a new poll, and is not the Republican favorite in the state of Iowa according to the latest poll figures. The surprising front-runner on the move appears to be Gov. Scott Walker, riding the wave of energy off a well-received speech last weekend at a "Freedom" conference sponsored by Rep. Steve King.
The other bad news is for New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie, who has the highest negatives of any Republican in the poll.
Scott Walker: 15%
Rand Paul: 14%
Mitt Romney 13%
Mike Huckabee 10%
Ben Carson 9%
Jeb Bush 8%
Ted Cruz 5%
Rick Santorum 4%
Chris Christie 4%
Marco Rubio 3%
Rick Perry 3%
Bobby Jindal 2%
Carly Fiorina 1%
John Kasich 1%
Donald Trump 1%
Sarah Palin -1%
Jesse Ventura himself a Navy SEAL, won $1.8 million in a defamation lawsuit last year against the estate of the late Chris Kyle, the SEAL protagonist of the book, American Snipe and the movie of the same name, which has sparked national debate over whether should really be considered heroes. Ventura said on Wednesday that he would not be watching Eastwood's movie because Kyle is no hero.
"A real hero must be honorable, and must have real honor. And you can't have honor if you're a big liar. There is no honor in lying," Ventura told the Associated Press from his winter home in Baja California, Mexico.
Ventura joined other Americans dismissing the movie as just plain propaganda because it conveys the false idea that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. "It's about as authentic as Eastwood's Dirty Harry," said Ventura.
A Texas judge on Tuesday refused to throw out a felony abuse-of-power case against former Governor Rick Perry on constitutional grounds, ruling that criminal charges against the possible presidential candidate will stand against him.
District judge Bert Richardson, who like Perry is a Republican, rejected calls from Perry's defense team to dismiss the case because their client was acting within his rights as chief executive of America's second-most populous state when he publicly threatened, then carried out, a 2013 veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors.
So far to date, Perry has spent more than $1.1 million of his campaign funds on his defense.. and with Richardson's ruling means it will likely continue for several more months at least.
Top national Republicans initially praised Perry and decried the criminal charges against him, but are now remaining quiet since the ruling.
The special prosecutor assigned to the case, San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum, also a Republican, has said from the start that the case is stronger that it may outwardly appear and it should be heard by an impartial jury.
If convicted, Perry could face a 20-year imprisonment and be barred from politics for life.
Just three weeks into Mitch McConnell's reign as the Senate Majority Leader, he's already confronting the challenges of running a caucus filled with Blue-State Republicans who face reelection in 2016. Many have begun distancing themselves from the GOP's stance on issues like energy and climate change-- a move that lets them espouse independence back home, but also deeply divides Republicans on issues that are bound to intensify with voters as the 2016 elections draw nearer.
As it stands McConnell's senate has a total of 54 votes if he can keep his caucus united, six shy of breaking a Democratic filibuster and 13 short of overriding a presidential veto.
During the November election the number of voters going to the polls were the lowest numbers since the 1930's, but the presidential race will draw large numbers of Democrats to the polls and that worries many Republican strategists especially if Hillary Clinton runs and draws the women's vote.
The GOP has 24 Senate seats in contention, compared to the Democrats with just 10. Republicans could find a daunting path to holding the majority.
"What we saw this week was something that the Republican Party truly underestimated, and that's just how small their majority actually is," said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution fellow in governance studies and the managing editor of Brookings 'FixGov blog. "By historical standards, particularly Republican historical standards, it is large. But in terms of governing, running an institution, passing legislation, it's not. It doesn't take to many defections to kill a bill, particularly with a united Democratic party."
ATLANTA- After declaring that she's (seriously interesting) in running in 2016 for president, Sarah Palin delivered a confusing and sometimes incoherent speech that even made many on the right cringe, and shke their heads in disbelief.
Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Saturday, the former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential candidate delivered a speech that John Fund of the National Review described as "meandering and often bizarre, and some even wondered if she had been drinking before the speech.
In response to Palin's speech, Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee issued a two word statement to the media: `THANK YOU!`
HOUSTON- Oil has declined to the lowest levels in almost six years as data showed U.S. crude inventories in December surged to the highest levels for month since the year 1930, adding signs a global supply glut will worsen.
Oil Futures slid in London 1.9 percent and 2.7 percent in New York as crude stockpiles in the U.S., the worlds biggest oil consumer rose 7.4 percent from last year to end December at 385.5 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute said in its monthly report.
Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who took over after the death of King Abdulla, said he will not be cutting production in a speech on Saudi national television.
PHONENIX- It appears that the Republicans in Arizona are tiring of Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) constant drumbeat for war after getting booed multiple times during his speech at the Arizona Republican Party state meeting.
The Senator was delivering a speech on foreign policy when he had to stop speaking as numerous member's boos and at one point more than one member shouted "you're a war mongrel" which appeared to really infuriated the senator.
After the meeting Senator McCain left the meeting without any comment.
The Congressional GOP's unhealthy obsession with President Obama's use of his presidential powers has driven them into a strategic black hole, with very high, long term costs for the party and future candidates especially with the coming presidential elections in 2016. Speaker John Boehner's House of Representatives has voted to overturn all of Obama's executive actions on immigration-- putting millions of children, women and men at risk for deportation.
The party of "family values" expressed its will in the House that immigrant families be separated, homes broken up and communities devastated. The fact that some 70 percent of those affected are Latinos gives this action the added onus of targeting the fastest growing population in America today.
As Senator Jon McCain of Arizona and former Governor clearly demonstrated, Republicans cannot win national elections without reaching out to those they want to deport. Neither McCain nor Romney were able to pull it off-- and Obama, who won 71 percent of the Latino vote is the first president since Dwight D, Eisenhower to win back to back elections with more than 51 percent of the total vote.
Speaker Boehner's attempt to disguise the mass deportation as some sort of strike against Obama's supposedly unlawful use of executive powers will not work according to Jay Swanton, a political strategist. "What the Republicans are doing is playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the cylinder with the next election and maybe even the life of their entire political party."
WASHINGTON- President Barack is turning to his biggest audience of the year to pitch tax increases on the nation's wealthiest Americans and put the new Republican Congress in the position of defending the top income earners over the middle-class.
President Obama on Tuesday in his State of the Union address will propose raising the capital gains rate on the top income earners and eliminate a tax break on inheritances. The revenue generated by those changes would fund new tax credits and other cost-saving measures for middle-class taxpayers, officials said.
The centerpiece of the president's tax proposal is an increase in the capital gaines rate on couples making more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent, the exact same level as under President Ronald Reagan.
The president also wants to close the "Trust Fund Loophole," a change that would require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they are inherited. According to tax experts the tax would overwhelming impact of the change would be on the top 1 percent of income earners.
WASHINGTON- Propelled by its majority, the Republican House moved quickly to ease Wall Street regulations put in place six years ago to prevent another financial meltdown which occurred in the fall of 2008 bringing the United States to the Great Recession.
The vote which was 271 - 154 on legislation that advanced a key priority of the Republican Party.
The bill alters sections of the 2010 Dodd - Frank financial overhaul. That law had tightened government oversight of banks and financial institutes with an eye to preventing another crisis in late 2008, when the U.S. government stepped in to rescue crippled banks-- including the largest Wall Street institutions -- with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money.
SAUDI ARABIA- Today Saudi prince Alwaleed says that is extremely unlikely that the price of a barrel of crude oil will ever see the $100 benchmark ever again. With new technology like solar and wind power the world is becoming less and less reliant on crude oil. Today the price of oil plunged below $46 a barrel for the first time since March of 2009.
Louisiana- 868,192 recipients...18 percent of the states population are on food stamps.
Tennessee- 1.28 million recipients... 19.58 percent of the states population.
Oregon- 791,222 recipients....19.93 percent of the states population.
West Virginia- 369,249 recipients... 19.96 percent of the states population
New Mexico- 448,328 recipients.. 21.5 percent of the states population.
Mississippi- 650,911 recipients.. 21.74 percent of the states population
District of Columbia- 144,768 recipients.. 21.97 percent of the states population.
Other honorable mentions: Texas- 14.12 percent, Missouri- 13.73 percent, Arizona-15.45 percent, Alaska- 11.45 percent, Idaho- 12.36 percent, Montana- 11.98 percent, Oklahoma- 15.47 percent, Missouri,- 13.70 percent
WASHINGTON (AP)- The first order of business for the Republican House of Representatives was to vote Tuesday to extend another special committee to investigate the deadly 2012 attacks on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a United States ambassador.
And earlier House Intelligence Committee set up by Republicans costing the American taxpayers over $1,000,000 dollars found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack. Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the panel determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue and no evidence whatsoever the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria as some Republicans had rumored.