Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Careening Toward The Cliff

Tis the season for miracles, and it may take one at this stage to prevent the country from going over the fiscal cliff. Last night, Speaker John Boehner was forced to pull his “Plan B” off the House floor after a revolt by conservative members of his caucus. All day long the GOP leadership team had expressed confidence. But on the eve of the vote it was obvious they would come up short.

Politico reports that Speaker Boehner convened a meeting of the GOP caucus last night and quoted the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Unable to change the minds of House conservatives and sell a plan that was already dead on arrival in the Senate, Boehner issued the following statement:

“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”

With that news, the House adjourned for the Christmas holiday. The Senate is not scheduled to come back until Thursday, December 27th.

Haggling Over Hagel

In recent days, conservative and pro-Israel groups have jumped into action on the growing rumors that President Obama plans to nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. Jewish leaders spoke up right away due to Hagel’s anti-Israel record and comments that border on anti-Semitism.

Christians United for Israel, under the leadership of Pastor John Hagee, let its views be known to key members of the Senate. The Emergency Committee for Israel, founded by Bill Kristol, launched a TV ad campaign in the Washington, D.C., media market.

Kristol’s magazine, The Weekly Standard has been exposing Hagel’s weakness on Iran and other defense issues. Republican opposition is now building all over Capitol Hill and rumors suggest that pro-Israel Democrat senators don’t want to have to vote for him either.

Senator Dan Coats of Indiana said, “There are grave concerns about this possible nomination among Republicans and among people who know and have served with Chuck Hagel. We watched Chuck take positions that are, frankly, … to the left of Barack Obama.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second highest ranking member of Republican leadership, declared his opposition today. And the Washington Post reports that Florida Senator Marco Rubio is threatening to block Hagel’s nomination due to his support for lifting the embargo on communist Cuba, among other issues.

Today President Obama officially nominated John Kerry to be Secretary of State. The White House is defending Hagel, but its support seems weak at best. If the president sticks with Hagel, it is clear he will have a fight on his hands.