Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Too Late To Avoid The Fiscal Cliff?

President Obama cut short his Hawaiian Christmas vacation and returned to Washington, D.C., this afternoon in order to jumpstart negotiations aimed at avoiding massive across-the-board tax increases on January 1st. While so much of the focus has been on Speaker John Boehner, Barack Obama is president and his party controls the Senate.

Yesterday the GOP House leadership issued a joint statement noting that the House of Representatives has already passed legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff, and is now waiting for the Senate to act on that legislation.

At this late stage, timing alone could prevent a deal from coming together before December 31st. Nevertheless, news broke this afternoon that Speaker Boehner has reportedly called for the House to reconvene Sunday evening.

In addition to haggling over tax rates, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner threw a monkey wrench into the works yesterday. He sent a letter to Congress warning that the government would hit the debt limit on Monday — not February or March as was previously reported.

President Obama has repeatedly demanded that increasing the debt limit be part of any fiscal cliff deal, even going so far as to suggest that Congress completely surrender its authority over the debt ceiling. That has been a non-starter for congressional conservatives, who have insisted on addressing the debt ceiling separately.

Geithner’s letter is an obvious attempt by the administration to ratchet up the pressure. The Wall Street Journal reported that “Treasury has known for months that the debt ceiling could be reached in December.”

Hagel Nomination In Jeopardy

There is growing speculation that former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense may never happen. Lost in the headlines over the Christmas holiday was a report from National Journal that the White House is “considering other candidates” for the key cabinet post.

When Hagel emerged as a serious contender, conservative organizations and pro-Israel groups wasted no time in speaking out. Christians United for Israel, under the leadership of Pastor John Hagee, began organizing online opposition to Hagel’s nomination. Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel launched a TV ad campaign in Washington, D.C.

Many Washington observers have been surprised by the White House’s lack of defense for Hagel, who was widely reported to be Obama’s top choice for the job. But at least with Susan Rice’s failed bid for Secretary of State, President Obama displayed a “show of insulted loyalty,” as one Huffington Post blogger put it. There has been none of that for Hagel, lending credibility to the report that others are being considered.

State Still Misleading On Benghazi

After a scathing report on the September 11th terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, we were told that four top State Department officials resigned. Then a clarification was issued — one official had resigned and three were disciplined.

But according to the New York Post, even that story — just like the administration’s original claims about the attack itself — is not accurate.

The three “disciplined” officials were placed on administrative leave. In other words, they got a vacation and they are expected to return to their jobs soon.

The one official who reportedly resigned still remains on the State Department payroll. Evidently he only “resigned” a presidential appointment, and will continue to serve in another position. As the Post put it, he is essentially “switching desks.” The statement that he resigned was technically accurate, but grossly misleading.

Of course none of this is news to the left-wing “mainstream media,” but some members of Congress are furious. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the continuing efforts to mislead the American people. Here is an excerpt of her comments:

“If these reports are correct, they’re pathetic examples of yet another ruse about the tragedy of Benghazi. State Department officials proclaimed to the world that heads would roll after the deception related to the deceitful video excuse and the non-existent spontaneous protest outside the consulate. Now we see that the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs.”

Meanwhile, it’s been nearly two weeks since anyone has seen Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We were told she could not testify about Benghazi because of a concussion. She has missed several high profile events, including a press conference announcing John Kerry, her former Senate colleague, to be her successor as Secretary of State. Yet as The Weekly Standard notes, statements have gone out in her name recently, so just how serious is her condition?

Senate conservatives are keeping up the pressure on Clinton. Several senators have said they would block a vote on Kerry’s nomination until Clinton testifies about the Benghazi attack. Stay tuned.