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February 26th, 2009
01:08 PM ET

Earmarks a necessary evil?

Earmarks a necessary evil?

The $410 billion spending bill is filled with pork, including $1.8 million to research "swine odor and manure management." (PHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The House of Representatives has passed a $410 billion spending bill - and it's been stuffed with pork by both parties.

The New York Times reports one watchdog group says the bill includes almost $8 billion for more than 85,000 pet projects. Among them:

– $1.7 million for a honey bee laboratory in Texas

– $1.5 million for work on grapes and grape products - including wine

– $1.8 million to research "swine odor and manure management" in Iowa...they could do the same research in Washington D.C.

-smaller ticket items include asparagus research in Washington State, wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming, rodent control in Hawaii... and on and on.

Democrats also earmarked about $40 million for the presidential libraries of Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The bill even includes earmarks requested by some lawmakers who are no longer in Congress.

Republicans pounced on the bill as wasteful, pointing out it comes just after the White House held that summit on fiscal responsibility. But Democrats say that 40% of the earmark spending went to projects requested by Republicans.

Democratic Congressman David Obey of Wisconsin defended earmarks, saying they were fully disclosed and a small part of the bill. He added that without them, "the White House and its anonymous bureaucrats" would control all spending.

House and Senate Democrats have already agreed on the bill - although Republican Senators could try to cut out some of the pork.

As for the White House, one official says "it's a big document. we are still reviewing it."

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Congress
February 24th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Capitol Hill more trusted than Wall Street?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Here's a sign of just how bad things are: when it comes to the economy, more Americans trust our politicians than our business leaders.

Capitol Hill more trusted than Wall Street?

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. More Americans trust politicians than business leaders on economic matters.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll asks people how confident they are that the following institutions will make the right economic decisions.

30% say they're confident in Wall Street, 28% feel that way about bankers and financial executives, and 26% are confident in the auto executives.

Compare that to a whopping 75% who express confidence in President Obama on economic issues, 66% who back Democrats in Congress to make the right calls, and 53% who feel the same about Congressional Republicans.

In light of that, it's no surprise that most people surveyed are opposed to government bailouts for banks and auto companies, while more actually favor government assistance to homeowners who can't pay their mortgages and government influence to lower health care costs.

This is probably uncharted territory for many of those in Washington. The fact that more Americans have confidence in government to get us out of our collective financial nightmare frightens me.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when politicians are more trusted than business leaders on economic matters?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Congress • US Economy
February 19th, 2009
05:59 PM ET

Why has Congress’ approval rating improved?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress' approval rating is higher than it's been in almost 2 years. It's not like they are suddenly loved, but they have managed to crawl out of the gutter, barely.

Why has Congress’ approval rating improved?

31% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

The latest Gallup poll also shows Congress' rating jumping up 12 points from last month. 31% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing now, compared to 19% who felt that way in January.

31% is a long way from stellar but Congress' approval ratings have pretty much hovered below 30% since late 2005. And recently, the ratings have been even more dismal - at around 20% and they hit an all-time low of 14% last summer under the astute leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Gallup suggests the increase this month is due to Democrats looking more favorably upon Congress since the inauguration of President Obama. Democrats' approval of Congress went from 18% in January to 43% this month. On the other hand, Republicans are now less likely to approve of Congress than last month.

It's possible that more Americans are giving a thumbs-up to Congress because they approve of the work their representatives are doing - namely passing that massive economic stimulus bill rather quickly through both houses.

Here’s my question to you: Why has Congress' approval rating suddenly improved?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Congress
February 17th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Should Senator Burris resign?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There's a growing chorus of voices who want to take a closer look at how Roland Burris was appointed to the U.S. Senate by now-ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Should Senator Burris resign?

Many officials in Illinois want to take a closer look at how Burris was appointed to the Senate.

An affidavit recently filed by Burris shows he had more extensive contact with the former governor's people than he previously acknowledged. The affidavit shows Burris spoke on several occasions with Blagojevich's brother, who hit him up for $10,000 in campaign money. Burris says he didn't raise or donate any money after June and insists there's nothing inconsistent in what he said during Blagojevich's impeachment trial and the affidavit. The Illinois senator says he has "absolutely nothing to hide" and that he'll testify in front of anyone to prove it.

But that might not cut it. Illinois Republicans started calling for a perjury investigation by a county prosecutor. And now Democrats are getting in on the action too. The Democratic Attorney General is calling the affidavit a "particularly frustrating revelation" and wants a deeper investigation into his actions.

Meanwhile, the Democrats on Capitol Hill have probably had their fill of this sideshow in Illinois. Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently knows about the affidavit and is looking into it. Reid's office says "clearly it would have been better" if Burris had provided this information when he first testified. No kidding.

Burris was appointed by Blagojevich 3 weeks after the governor was arrested on corruption charges, including an attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat.

Here’s my question to you: Should Roland Burris resign from the U.S. Senate?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Roland Burris • US Congress
February 9th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Important to move quickly on stimulus?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The stimulus debate rages on, even though the Senate is expected to pass its $827 billion version tomorrow.

The president urged Congress to support the stimulus at a town hall meeting today.

President Obama hit the road today with town hall-style meetings to sell it. He will address the nation in a primetime press conference tonight. The President insists the stimulus package will help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.

But most Republicans continue to slam the plan for what they believe is excessive spending that won't fix our economic problems. Senator Richard Shelby of Albama says the package will put the U-S on "a road to financial disaster". The head of President Obama's National Economic Council - Lawrence Summers – says the Republicans have no credibility on this issue after the previous administration racked up trillions of dollars of debt over the past 8 years.

Bottom line is there's a real sense of urgency that this thing pass. The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow, but even now Congressional aides are at work reconciling the Senate version with the House's.

Meanwhile- the Republicans might want to tone down their whining. A new Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans– 58% - disapprove of the way the Republicans have handled themselves during the stimulus debate. That's compared to 42% who disapprove of Congressional Democrats and 25% who disapprove of President Obama.

Here’s my question to you: How important is it that Congress move quickly on the stimulus plan?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Stimulus Plan • US Congress
February 4th, 2009
05:09 PM ET

How to end bitter divide in Washington?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Despite all the lofty talk during the election about change, hope and ushering in a new era in Washington... most people don't think it's happened.

A new Gallup poll shows only 21% of Americans think the tone between Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital has gotten better.

A new Gallup poll shows only 21% of Americans think the tone and "level of civility" between Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital has gotten better since President Obama came into office last month. 23% think things have gotten worse. More than half – 51%– say it's stayed the same.

The poll also found that Democrats are more likely to say the tone has improved, not surprising since they have one of their own in the White House, while Republicans are more likely to say it's gotten worse. Independents are about evenly split.

Last week's party-line vote in the House of Representatives on the economic stimulus package was the nation's first look at how Washington might operate during the Obama administration... and the partisanship looked a lot like what we saw under President Bush. This vote came despite the president's efforts at bipartisanship – a including a stop on Capitol Hill to meet with Republican leaders and hosting a bipartisan Super Bowl party at the White House. The New York Times reports that Republicans have been scoring invitations to the White House nearly as often as Democrats have. One Republican Congressman who attended the Super Bowl Party says such a meeting "humanizes and personalizes" your opponent and that it helps people put politics aside.

Here’s my question to you: What is your prescription for ending the bitter partisanship in Washington?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

January 28th, 2009
05:50 PM ET

Is Pres. Obama exaggerating the crisis to force Congress to act?

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President Barack Obama arrives on Capitol Hill to meet with House Republican Conference on the economic stimulas package on January 27, 2009. He is followed by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. (PHOTO CREDIT: JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

South Carolina Senator, Jim DeMint, said in a speech this week that the Obama administration is creating crisis and widespread panic to push the economic stimulus package. He likens the air of urgency to previous tactics used by the Bush administration to get the people and Congress to go along with whatever they wanted.

Senator James Inhofe, from Oklahoma, said this was the same tactic used by the Bush administration to get the $700-billion TARP bill passed in October, which has left some Republican lawmakers with buyers remorse. The Senators admit that it's hard to know how things would have played out if the bill had not passed, but that's not the point. DeMint is pointing his finger, not at his colleagues on the Hill, but at Bush and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for saying the world economy will collapse if you don't do this.

Sounding somewhat parental, DeMint said, "I've been around long enough to know whenever someone tells me I have to make a decision right now, my response is no."

But DeMint's real point in all this was to say the stimulus plan that's on the table won't stimulate the economy at all, rather, it's filled with big-government wasteful spending projects. Only time will tell if that's the case.

Here’s my question to you: Is President Obama exaggerating the crisis in order to get Congress to act?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama • US Congress
January 28th, 2009
01:36 PM ET

Would Pres. Obama’s life be easier without Pelosi as House Speaker?

ALT TEXT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been the subject of criticism from Republicans and some Democrats. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Politico calls it the love affair that wasn't meant to be. They are talking about President Obama and Congressional Republicans.

Republicans are still whining about being shut out of the crafting of the stimulus bill. Just like they shut the Democrats out when they controlled Congress.

The President has been trying to smooth things over behind closed doors and even said late yesterday that he'd be willing to make changes in order to address some Republican concerns. For one thing he told Democrats to remove the money for contraception that was part of the package, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended just the day before.

The GOP has been careful not to criticize the new President who everybody is in love with at the moment. Perhaps they know where to draw the line. But that doesn't mean they can't complain about Pelosi, and they are. This is not first time Madame Speaker has been the subject of criticism, and not just from Republicans. Some in her own party are less than thrilled with her. There is a quality about Nancy Pelosi that, for want of a better word, is just plain annoying.

Here’s my question to you: Would President Obama's life be easier without Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

January 26th, 2009
05:55 PM ET

Bipartisanship: Is it already dead?

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama had hoped the political capital he won on the campaign trail would pay off in Washington and allow him to push through his emergency stimulus bill without too much hassle. But after less than a week in office he has run headlong into the partisan battles he promised to eliminate in the Nation's Capital.

Eric Holder is sworn in during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on January 15, 2009. Holder's nomination to be the next Attorney General has been a source of contention between the President and many Republicans.

The new President is facing sharp resistance to his $825-billion stimulus package that the House is expected to consider on Wednesday. Questions about how the money will be spent stand in the way. Not that surprising when you consider the mystery of the $750-billion Wall Street bailout President Bush signed off on last year. We still don't know where a lot of that money went.

President Obama is pulling out all the stops to get everyone on the same page. He's meeting with his economic advisers, talking with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and continues to tell the American people how bad things are and warn them to brace for things to get worse.

And it's not just the stimulus package the President is having problems with. Republicans are holding up the confirmation of his Attorney General, Eric Holder.

And they can't be thrilled that the new President is signing one executive order after another to undo the policies of his Republican predecessor.

These are all indications that this isn't going to be the smooth sailing President Obama had in mind.

Here’s my question to you: Is the spirit of bipartisanship already dead in Washington?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

December 2nd, 2008
03:43 PM ET

Importance of 60-seat Senate majority for Democrats?

ALT TEXT
(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

A run-off is underway today in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Poll watchers say the race will come down to voter turnout which is probably why Alaska governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin flew down to campaign for Chambliss yesterday. That and to get her picture taken some more. She apparently hasn't lost her touch. She drew huge crowds.

The Georgia race is one of two unresolved Senate races. Democrats need to win both to get a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority. The other undecided race is in Minnesota where a recount is underway between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. Don't hold your breath for that one. The recount is expected to take weeks.

If the Democrats manage to win both races, they will have the trifecta: A filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a commanding majority in the House, and of course, the White House.

Here’s my question to you: How important is a 60-seat Senate majority for the Democrats?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: US Congress
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