The Note: Obama, GOP Struggle To Break On Through

Feb 3, 2011 9:05am


What happens when the Washington agenda is no longer leading the news?

Senate Republicans succeeded yesterday in getting a vote on health care repeal, but it barely made a ripple on a day when violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and a blizzard in Chicago dominated the headlines.

In a 51 to 47 strict party-line vote, the repeal effort failed. (The repeal needed 60 votes to advance past a budget point of order in the Senate). It’s unlikely the outcome would have been much different had the spotlight been on Capitol Hill, but getting the vote, itself, was something of a victory for the GOP.

Who was the real audience for it? It wasn't the passive news watcher, but rather a GOP base anxious to see more aggressive action from newly emboldened Republicans in Congress.

And the fight over the health care law isn’t over. “We think this is just the beginning,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said yesterday. There are lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law in states across the country as well as a bill introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Barrasso, R-Wy., which would allow states to opt out of the law’s major provisions. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, President Obama leaves Washington today to talk jobs in Pennsylvania, but the press is more eager to hear about his administration’s plans to contain the situation in Egypt and potentially beyond.

Obama heads to State College, Pa. to announce what the White House is calling the “Better Building Initiative,” which would help make American businesses more energy-efficient in order to create jobs. There he will pledge to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 and reduce energy bills for companies by $40 billion a year.

“This is going to be a high impact proposal,” a senior administration official told ABC News “we believe this initiative has the potential to really unlock a large amount of investment, some of which is sitting on the sidelines right now.”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH. All eyes continue to be on the crisis in Egypt. Last night, the White House sent signals that President Obama is “very concerned” that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is taking too much time to begin the transfer of power to a new government, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports: One official described the administration’s public stance on the issue as having had to change “every twelve hours” as events in Cairo has developed so rapidly. “First it was ‘negotiate with the opposition,’ then events overtook that, the it was ‘orderly transition,’ and events overtook that, then it was ‘You and your son can’t run,’ and events overtook that, and now it’s ‘the process has to begin now,’” the official said. “It’s been crawl-walk-run – we had to increase the pace as events required.”

ON THE GROUND. ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour reports from Cairo: “Rocks and Molotov cocktails continued to fly between the protesters and pro- Hosni Mubarak forces in overnight clashes that left at least five dead and almost 1,000 wounded in Cairo's Tahrir Square today. The Associated Press reported that soldiers were taking up positions between the two sides and had cleared a bridge of pro-Mubarak forces. … Thousands of protesters who have spent night after night in the square were eagerly awaiting supplies and reinforcements, begging for help on Twitter. … The early morning developments follow Wednesday's pitched battle that started around 2:30 in the afternoon when pro-Mubarak forces entered Tahrir Square, the first time significant counter protesters have appeared on the streets.” Full coverage of Christiane’s dispatches from the region:

ON THE HILL. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a two-day hearing on the crisis in Egypt next week as well as the less-publicized trouble in Lebanon. James B. Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State; Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Defense; Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute, have all been invited to testify. “Continuing with the existing timeline for elections is not going to help stabilize the situation in Egypt,” Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said in a statement yesterday. “It will only embolden the extremist elements and frustrate the Egyptian people, who seek peaceful, legitimate, democratic change.”  


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein welcome Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Yesterday Nelson introduced a resolution asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule quickly on the constitutionality of the new health care law, hoping, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “to stave off what could be a tough repeal vote for the moderate Democrat who is up for re-election in 2012.” Also on the program, former Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson III. He will discuss his new book: “The Black Book: American Politics As Experienced By Five Generations Of An American Family.” Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. 



MC CAIN VS. RUMMY. “Thank God he was relieved of his duties,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. McCain was responding to an assertion in former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s new book that McCain had a “hair-trigger temper” and “a propensity to shift his positions to appeal to the media.” McCain said: “I respect Secretary Rumsfeld. He and I had a very, very strong difference of opinion about the strategy that he was employing in Iraq which I predicted was doomed to failure.” Meanwhile, Rumsfeld said in the memoir that he has no regrets on Iraq. More leaked revelations from the former defense secretary’s book:

GOP 2012ers ON EGYPT. “Several top likely contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination have emerged as leading critics of President Obama's handling of the Egyptian crisis, breaking with party leaders who have largely been supportive of the administration's approach,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “But their critiques are far from uniform, reflecting both the political and diplomatic complexity of the situation and each hopefuls' attempt to stake out ground on a foreign policy debate that could get some play in the 2012 campaign. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the front-runner among likely candidates in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, was the latest to weigh in, criticizing Obama for not more publicly supporting Mubarak, who has been a longtime U.S. ally. … Some of Huckabee's potential rivals have made clear they disagree, themselves casting Mubarak aside and suggesting the Obama administration do the same.”

REAGAN REDUX. “Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 this Sunday, and nearly seven years after his death, one might think he were still alive and leading the Republican Party,” The New York Times’ Jennifer Medina reports from Simi Valley, Calif. “Along with the requisite speeches and academic panels, the festivities include: a Rose Parade float, a six-foot-high cake, commemorative stamps and jelly beans, a Beach Boys concert, a tribute from the Jonas Brothers and a video homage at the Super Bowl, which is also on Sunday. The memorials, including a 21-gun salute and a graveside wreath-laying by Nancy Reagan, are expected to draw hundreds of former aides and supporters. Reagan is not the first former president to enjoy the honor of a centennial celebration, but it is hard to remember any that were quite so lavish, speaking to his enduring role in American politics. (This weekend’s festivities at the Reagan Library here, the highlight of a year’s worth of events around the country, will cost roughly $5 million; by contrast, the cost of Lyndon Johnson’s centennial in 2008 was a mere $500,000.)”

THE SANTORUM FACTOR. “In 1994, when Rick Santorum was a second-term Pennsylvania congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat, a columnist asked him how he was going to win. 'Guns,' he replied serenely. Pennsylvania's legions of deer hunters do not use assault weapons, which President Bill Clinton was trying to ban, but the hunters suspected that this, like Clinton's wife's health-care plan, reflected a pattern of assaults on liberty,” George Will writes in the Washington Post today. “How can he, having lost his last election, run for president? Isn't he a spent political force? Well, was Richard Nixon defunct after losing the California gubernatorial race in 1962? … If unemployment is still above 9 percent in 2012, almost any Republican can win, and if there is a convincing recovery the party had better nominate someone who can energize its base. That is only a theory, but this is a fact: Social conservatives are much of that base, are feeling neglected and are looking for someone like Santorum.”


NOTABLE: MEDIA MATTERS PREZ LAUNCHES NEW FIRM. Media Matters for America president Eric Burns is leaving the organization to launch a new strategic communications firm — Bullfight Strategies. Media Matters contributor Karl Frisch will partner with Burns as well as Clay Johnson, a co-founder of Blue State Digital, which provided online tools and technology that helped President Obama win White House in 2008. According to a release announcing the new political consulting and communications shop, Frisch and Burns “first joined forces working on the House Rules Committee for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) where they spearheaded efforts to address Republican corruption and Congressional ethics.” “The disastrous fall elections showed that progressives desperately need a different communications and media strategy utilizing new tools and new tactics to be competitive,” Burns said in a statement. “That’s why I left Media Matters — to build a firm that will empower clients to win in the media arena.” In addition to providing progressive leaders, organizations and media with tools and consulting services, Bullfight Strategies will also provide traditional media relations assistance. The firm’s new site:



@rickklein: with the "Joe & O" tour brought to you by @NRSC, 2012 congressional races have begun

@EricFehrn: Romney PAC donates $130k to House and Senate Republicans.

@jmartpolitico: With @mollyesque, what huntsman means for romney – and what both mean for UT and the Mormon Church

@ChuckGrassley: NatlPrayer Bast just heardJoseEnriquez freed Chile miner. He spoke abt their prayin God miracl and their faith

@GovChristie: Holding a discussion w/ more than 20 CEOs and biz leaders today in Newark. Panel will be moderated by @YWCavuto


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