Republicans clear first hurdle in stopping President Obama's executive move on immigration

Republicans cleared the first and easiest hurdle in stopping President Obama's executive move on immigration.
Lawmakers are heavily divided on whether or not President Obama should veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but everyone seems to think their opponent's position would jeopardize American safety.
This as brand new Fox polls show how voters see it all playing out.
Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel with the story from Capitol Hill.

Secretary Hagel: It's time for a "fresh" leader

By Justin Fishel, Fox News Channel

In what was likely his last appearance at the Pentagon podium, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did his best to explain why he’s leaving the job, yet may have left more question unanswered than answered.

After delivering prepared remarks about the DoD’s response to sexual assaults, Hagel was asked why he resigned - and if he was in fact fired – as has been widely reported.

Hagel told reporters that it was a mutual decision that came about after a series of private meetings with the President.  “When I say private, no one else has been in the room,” Hagel said. 

“So with all the speculation and all the smart people figuring out what was said and what wasn't said, only two people know what was said.  That's the president and me.”

Hagel also called President Obama a “friend" and said he couldn’t point to one major issue or point of contention that led to his resignation, but wasn’t clear on the more subtle reasons. 

“This was a mutual decision based on the discussions that we had.  I don't think there's ever one overriding or defining decision in situations like this, unless there's some obvious issue -- and there wasn't, between either one of us.”

Hagel said repeatedly he felt it was time for a “fresh” leader and “you have to know when to leave.”

He suggested the next two years present a whole new set of challenges.  But, when asked if he meant he wasn’t up to those challenges, he scoffed.  “Whether I thought I could do the job was not the issue.”

“No one ever knows about a job, especially a big job, until you get in – until you’re the actual practitioner of the job.  Now – you can read about it, your predecessors can tell you about it, you can think you know about it, and you can write about it and broadcast about it, but nobody knows about these jobs.”

He also suggested it would be good to have new civilian leadership in the department as many of the Joint Chiefs, including the Chairman, are expected to rotate out early next year.

Finally, Hagel got emotional.

“46 years ago today I arrived at Oakland, California on a transit back from Vietnam after I’d spent one year in Vietnam.  46 years ago today.  If anybody would have told Sergeant Hagel walking off that plane with my duffel bag where I’d be 46 years down the road that would have been pretty hard for me to believe.”

House R’s three-part plan to block Obama on executive orders and keep government open facing opposition

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

The House Republican leadership is running into resistance from conservatives to its three-part plan to fund the government but also blast the Obama Administration for the immigration executive orders. Conservatives don’t like the new path, saying it doesn’t do enough to rebuke the president. It’s not known yet if the problems are deep enough to blow up the entire strategy. But here’s how it works:

Congress must approve a new spending bill by the end of the day on December 11th or the entire government shutters. Again. Many conservatives are hounding Republican leaders to use the spending package to harness money the Department of Homeland Security would use to carry out President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Such a maneuver by the Republican-controlled House would die in the Democratic Senate. It would also face a likely veto threat by the president. So the GOP leadership is offering a bill written by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) which would hamper the president from unilaterally exempting many illegal immigrants from deportation. Some may view that legislation as a fig leaf since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already said he had no intention to consider the measure if it got through the House. But the Republican braintrust believes the bill would placate conservatives by allowing them to vent their grievances over immigration on a piece of legislation other than the spending bill. The Yoho bill goes before the House Rules Committee at 3 pm et today and would prospectively be on the floor tomorrow.

Come next week, the House would tentatively vote on a measure to fund nearly the entire government through next fall, but only pay for the Department of Homeland Security through late winter. That would allow the new Republican majorities in both bodies of Congress to tackle immigration head-on next year. Plus, it avoids an immediate government shutdown fight before Republicans can even start next year with a clean slate.

Most Democrats abhorred the idea. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned Republicans of deviating from a comprehensive spending bill which appropriators have toiled on for months.

“It is dangerous and irresponsible to engage in stunts and gimmicks affecting funding for the agencies under the Department of Homeland Security,” said Lowey. “This is no way to run a government. We should proceed with negotiations and develop a full omnibus.”

As much as Democrats don’t like the plan, it’s certainly not perfect for Republicans. Boehner conceded as much when asked about GOP efforts to counter the president yesterday.

Regardless, resistance is simmering in the Republican ranks. Since seizing the House majority in 2011, GOP leaders have had little margin for error when it comes to passing major pieces of legislation. They’ve had to turn to Democrats to lug significant pieces of legislation to passage. The most-notable case came this past February. The Republican leadership put a bill on the floor to suspend the debt ceiling. The measure passed, but with a scant 27 yeas from Republicans. 199 Democrats hauled the rest of the freight to passage, averting yet another debt limit crisis.

As it stands now, Republicans can only lose 18 of their own before having to turn to Democrats to keep the government open. Reid called the Republican effort to only fund DHS through March “a shame.” But the Nevada Democrat didn’t completely torch the House Republican maneuver. He hinted he might accept something less than a so-called “omnibus” bill which would fund all quarters of government through September 30, 2015.

“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all of the appropriations subcommittees except one,” said Reid.

But it could be a different tale for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi has long-backed the “year-long” omnibus plan. And last week, perhaps anticipating the fix in which House GOPers might find themselves, Pelosi tipped her hand.

“We will not be enablers to a Republican shutdown, partial or otherwise,” said Pelosi, well-aware of previous scenarios where the GOP implored Democrats for assistance on the floor.

Republican sources indicated there may be some “softness” in GOP ranks for the trifecta plan. But GOP aides noted that over the past four years, the Republican Conference has traditionally lost 30-50 members on its side when it comes to voting on big legislative initiatives.

“This is just what we always go through,” lamented one senior aide familiar with previous vote-counting efforts.

The main goal for House Republicans is to extinguish all fires for this Congress and live to fight again – and actually do so with authority – next year. But Republicans may have to just fund all of government for a few weeks and again dive into another spending scuffle early next year.

This is a BIG test of the new GOP leadership team..and particularly the whipping skills of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The stakes are also high for Boehner. He could face an uprising from conservative members during the vote for Speaker next year if they don’t feel he has fought hard enough to counter the president. This is why the right-wing of the party is insisting on a limited funding plan for DHS for the time being.

It will be interesting if Boehner has to just cut his losses and pass a bill to keep the government open next week..with LOTS of help from Democrats. And that will ignite an internal firestorm in GOP ranks. 

Lawmakers push for package to renew tax breaks just through the end of the year

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

Fox News is told a coaliation of lawmakers is trying to convince House leaders to vote later this week on a plan to re-up a number of tax breaks which lapsed and extend them. Remarkably, the renewal of the breaks would only run through the end of this year.

Republicans were floored last week when President Obama issued a veto threat on a $400 billion potential package which had been worked out between Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the Capitol.

We are being told by two sources that it's not a done deal that the House would move the plan, but supporters are trying to gin up interest in an effort to force a vote later this week and that the Rules Committee could meet to prep the plan for floor action as early as Tuesday

The original tax plan idea would have included breaks for major businesses, research and development and write-offs for capital, but the new idea to create a patch which would run only through the end of the year would be an effort to blunt disruption for the new tax season, simultaneously giving people the chance to make the claim for those breaks over the next few weeks.

Most major breaks expired at the end of last year and haven't been renewed.

President Obama threatened a veto last wek because he viewed the plan as favoring corporations. The president wanted extensions of the child tax creidt and earned-income tax credit (EITC) beyond the end of 2017.

Ebola has reached the United States—now what?

By: Katy Ricalde

Exactly one month ago today President Obama took to the podium at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to assure the American people that U.S. would be prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak in the “unlikely” event that someone with Ebola made it into the country.

There have now been three diagnosed cases of the Ebola virus in the United States. The first patient, Thomas Duncan, died and two nurses who cared for Duncan have tested positive for Ebola. Dozens of other healthcare workers in Dallas are being monitored for the virus.

Duncan was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian, but they did not quarantine him right away. The hospital has come under fire in the past and even lost federal funds because of its high discharge rates of patients who later had to return for treatment. They were also penalized in Dallas under a three-year program designed to reduce the number of patients readmitted for care.

Nurses at the same hospital have come forward stating protocol was not followed while caring for the patient. They claim their protective gear left their necks exposed, medical waste was allowed to pile up, they did not have access to proper supplies, and that they did not receive proper hands-on training.

The head of the CDC is assuring Congress Ebola is not a significant threat to the U.S., but lawmakers are accusing hospitals of being unprepared, health care workers not properly trained, and bureaucrats guilty of making false assumptions.

Hospital officials in Dallas are admitting they made serious mistakes in dealing with the first Ebola patients to be diagnosed in the U.S.  

The first nurse to test positive, Nina Pham, is being taken to NIH outside of Washington, D.C., where she will be transferred to a biohazard infectious disease isolation area. She received a potentially life-saving blood transfusion from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly.

The second nurse, Amber Vinson, has already been moved to isolation at Emory University Hospital. Vinson flew commercially the day before testing positive for Ebola. The CDC said that Vinson called the agency before flying to alert them she had a fever of 99.5 degrees, but because it was below the 100.4 degree mark she did not fall into a “high risk” group and was allowed to fly.

Officials are now trying to ease fears as they alert the passengers who were on board that flight and as concerns over air travel increase.

Fever screenings at major international airports began for anyone coming from West Africa and some lawmakers are questioning whether a travel ban should go into effect.  

A CDC official tells Fox News that in order for a travel ban to be effective, it would have to be universally adopted by all nations where travelers from West Africa come through. If the U.S. adopted a travel ban it would still be possible for a person infected with Ebola to enter the country if the traveler came in contact with a person with Ebola somewhere outside of West Africa.

Another concern is the rate at which the virus spreads. The reproduction number, or “R nought,” is a mathematical term that tells you how contagious an infectious disease is—aka the number of people who, on average, catch the disease from one sick person. The rate for Ebola is around 1.5-2.0—relatively low, however it has proven to be true with Duncan infecting two others.

Political arguments over Ebola have already begun and it has become yet another issue that will be a fixture ahead of the midterm elections. A new Fox News poll shows that nearly half of Americans believe the government is hiding information on Ebola.

What are your thoughts? How do you think this will play out in the midterm elections?


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Sexual Assault—Can surveys solve the campus issue?

By: Bridget Creel—Special Report Summer Associate

Despite the fact that school does not start until next month, college campus issues, specifically concerned with sexual assault, have generated a response from members of the Senate.

This morning, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would require all colleges to conduct anonymous sexual assault surveys. If the colleges failed to administer the surveys, the Department of Education would impose financial consequences.

The outcome of the surveys would then be to publish the experiences of sexually assaulted students online.

According to the Associated Press, “This bill would require campuses to designate advocates who would confidentially discuss available options with victims and to develop an agreement with local law enforcement over how such cases are handled. It would also increase penalties for universities that did not comply.”

An interesting section of the bill states that victims who come forward to discuss their experience with sexual assault will automatically be pardoned from violations such as underage drinking. A unique—yet effective way to get victims to come forward, but it could pose other complications.

Back in January, President Obama created a task force to administer efforts to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. It addressed certain schools who did not deal rightfully with sexual abuse cases.

The current bill faces several speed bumps before it can be passed and there is no guarantee, with limited work days left for Congress. There is strong support by several senators for the bill, which has strong intentions, however the outcome is unpredictable. 

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