By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Though events around the world and here at home (see, for example, Libya, rising gas prices and the threat of a government shutdown) loomed large over Washington all week, the last few days have also become a seminal moment for the nation’s governors.
The epicenter of unrest has clearly been Wisconsin where the state Assembly passed a bill early this morning that would strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights — a plan favored by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and vehemently opposed by Democrats and organized labor. There’s no telling whether Democratic state senators will return from their hideout in Illinois to vote on the measure or if they’ll continue to block its consideration. http://abcn.ws/hQwDGW
Gov. Walker is unlikely to be among the group of governors who are descending on Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, but many of his Republican and Democratic counterparts will be there, including the majority of the 29 newly-elected governors from around the country.
As USA Today’s Gregory Korte notes, “Part commiserating, part lobbying and part strategizing, the gathering this weekend is an opportunity for governors of both parties to present a united front to the president and Congress. Officially, job creation and staying competitive in a global economy top the agenda.”
The jobs agenda will be a major part of the discussion today at the White House between Democratic governors and President Obama. Among those slated to attend, according to ABC’s Sunlen Miller, are: Gov. Steve Beshear (KY), Gov. Mark Dayton (MN) ,Gov. Chris Gregoire (WA), Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO), Gov. Dan Malloy (CT), Gov. Jack Markell (DE), Gov. Jay Nixon (MO), Gov. Martin O’Malley (MD), Gov. Deval Patrick (MA), Gov. Bev Perdue (NC), Gov. Pat Quinn (IL), Gov. Brian Schweitzer (MT), Gov. Peter Shumlin (VT) and Gov. Togiola Tulafono (American Samoa).
Sunday is the annual Governors Dinner at the White House and on Monday the president and vice president will meet with a bipartisan group of governors.
The standoff in Wisconsin and the ripple effect it has created in other states is going to be the elephant in the room at this weekend's meetings — the battle lines have been drawn by Democratic and GOP governors all week.
“I’m disappointed that, in fact, that some governors are choosing to use this crisis to sharpen their ideological axe and go after collective bargaining rights,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said in an interview this week. “We’re having to ask our unions to do more on pensions, we’re having to sacrifice, but we’re not doing it by vilifying public employees.”
And, while Gov. Walker said late Thursday that he would “do almost anything to avoid laying people off,” he reiterated that it would be impossible to do so without limiting collective bargaining. He also called on Democrats on the lam in Illinois to come back to the state.
“I'll always be willing to cooperate and communicate with the Democrats, but that has to happen at the state Capitol in Madison,” Walker said.
LIBYA UPDATE. “We actually think we'll be able to ride out the Libya situation and it will stabilize,” President Obama said yesterday, just as the price of oil rose to $100 a barrel for a few seconds in New York trading. (The last time prices were at the $100 level was Sept. 30, 2008.) ABC’s Jake Taper and Sunlen Miller note that President Obama spoke with French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday afternoon, and was scheduled to talk to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to discuss options regarding Libya.
Here’s a partial list of things the White House is contemplating and moving on: A stronger UN Security Council product than the weak “press notes” from earlier this week — possibilities include a resolution, sanctions, enforcement mechanisms, and accountability measures;Supporting the Mexican initiative to suspend Libya from the UN Human Rights Council (Secretary of State Clinton’s trip to Geneva); Executive Order with sanctions, which could include visa and travel restrictions, asset freezes and/or seizures, civil aviation restrictions — all coordinated with allies; Suspension of export licenses; No-fly zone, among other things. http://abcn.ws/gabUgJ
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Karen Travers and Jonathan Karl talk to ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton who will take a look back at the 1995 government shutdown and also discuss the meetings between Obama and the governors today. Also on the program, Richard Whitmire author of “The Bee Eater,” a book about former Washington, DC public schools chief Michelle Rhee. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
CONGRESS: MORE POLARIZED THAN EVER. “In the long march toward a more parliamentary and partisan Washington, National Journal’s 2010 congressional vote ratings mark a new peak of polarization,” National Journal’s Ron Brownstein writes. “For only the second time since 1982, when NJ began calculating the ratings in their current form, every Senate Democrat compiled a voting record more liberal than every Senate Republican — and every Senate Republican compiled a voting record more conservative than every Senate Democrat. Even Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the rankings, produced an overall voting record slightly to the left of the most moderate Republicans last year: Ohio’s George Voinovich and Maine’s Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. The Senate had been that divided only once before, in 1999. But the overall level of congressional polarization last year was the highest the index has recorded, because the House was much more divided in 2010 than it was in 1999. Back then, more than half of the chamber’s members compiled voting records between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democrat. In 2010, however, the overlap between the parties in the House was less than in any previous index.” http://bit.ly/hkAlVY Read National Journal’s full 2010 Congressional vote rankings: http://bit.ly/e8DtZK
GOOLSBEE DOES THE DAILY SHOW. “The economists, if you go back and look at the research they have documented what leads to growth. If you ask what are the components of growth, it’s human capital, physical capital, and innovation, productivity,” Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council Of Economic Advisers said during an appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart last night. “We’re going to win it; we are going to keep it. It’s going to be good for us. We started the right way, 2010 it’s got to be faster, but we’ve added more than a million jobs in the private sector. … We’ve got to live within our means. The President’s budget does that. It cuts the deficit more than any President has ever cut it before.” (h/t ABC's Kristina Bergess) http://bit.ly/dJWP8T
TOUGH CROWD: CANTOR GOES TO HARVARD. “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) faced off with fervent opponents of the proposed Republican budget cuts Thursday, telling an audience at Harvard that slashing funding for popular programs was a necessary ‘tradeoff’ in tight fiscal times,” The Hill’s Russell Berman writes. “Students pushed Cantor to restore cuts to federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and AmeriCorps programs like Teach for America, which were included in the austere spending bill the House Republican majority approved last week. The legislation has yet to be enacted. Cantor wouldn’t budge. … Cantor, the House’s second-ranking Republican, kept his cool throughout the event, telling the students he appreciated the exchange of ideas. One student began his question by accusing Cantor of having ‘a radical, free-market fundamentalist ideology’ and suggested the GOP budget cuts were aimed at slowing down the economic recovery. The majority leader smiled and replied: ‘I want to congratulate you on a very creative design for a question.’” http://bit.ly/eGMAry
NEW YORK 26 BATTLE HEATS UP. “Once again, the tea party movement is poised to play a critical role in deciding a New York special election,” Roll Call’s Steve Peoples reports. “But major questions remain in New York’s 26th district over whether grass-roots conservatives will support the establishment favorite, state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R), or the tea party’s sentimental favorite, Iraq War veteran David Bellavia (R). Their decision could help deliver the traditionally Republican seat to Democrats, although Bellavia appears to be running as a third-party candidate regardless. Just two days after the seven local GOP county chairmen unanimously selected Corwin as the Republican nominee, Bellavia formed a Congressional exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. … Roll Call has learned that Bellavia will secure a national fundraiser in the coming days and plans to add a national consultant in the next week. Regardless of whether local tea party groups openly support his candidacy, Bellavia could tap into the national conservative grass-roots movement to fund a formidable campaign.” http://bit.ly/gEVhws
VIDEO OF THE DAY: MADE IN AMERICA? NOT SO MUCH. ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Matthew Jaffe go shopping and discover the one thing you'll have a hard time finding is something American in the gift shops around Washington, DC. http://abcn.ws/ghV5x3
@jaketapper: The ferry w /more than 300 — more than half Americans — fleeing Libya departed Tripoli at 6:37 a.m. EST, en route to Malta.
@mikememoli: Gov. O'Malley gives quick ‘no’ when asked if he'll run for president in 2016
@HotlineJess: The most conservative Democrat in '10 was Gene Taylor (D-MS), who lost even though he admitted in the final days he voted for McCain in '08
@TonyFratto: The huge .5% downward revision of a Q that ended 2 MONTHS AGO should inject some humility to those making FORWARD LOOKING estimates.
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