Congressional Fight Club 2013 (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • JOBS NUMBER TICKS UP, BUT SO DOES UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: The economy added 155,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. ABC's Susanna Kim reports: The job additions matched the expectations of economists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised figures for October down to 137,000 from 138,000 and for November up to 161,000 from 146,000. Peter Hooper, chief economist with Deutsche Bank, said strength in the construction sector is offsetting weakness in the government sector. "If Washington can successfully navigate through the next potential fiscal crisis in March as the sequester and the debt ceiling come due, underlying improvements in the private economy should show through to stronger job performance," he said. "But failure on that front would spell continued sluggishness in the labor market."
  • TODAY ON THE HILL: ABC's John Parkinson has a rundown of what's happening on Capitol Hill today: On the House floor, lawmakers will consider legislation to temporarily increase the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency by $9 billion for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program, finally distributing money to victims of Hurricane Sandy more than two months after the storm. This morning, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will hold her regular weekly news conference. And at 1p.m., a joint session of Congress convenes in the House chamber to count electoral ballots for President and Vice President. Spoiler Alert: President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to win.
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': The man in the middle of this week's fiscal cliff deal, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to George Stephanopoulos, Sunday on "This Week." Plus, can fresh faces in Washington help break the gridlock? Three new members of Congress - Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Reps. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. - come to "This Week." And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with ABC News' George Will; Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren; PBS "Washington Week" moderator and managing editor Gwen Ifill; former Labor Secretary Robert Reich; and ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. Tune in Sunday: (h/t Imtiyaz Delawala)
  • CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR TO SWEAR IN OBAMA, BIDEN: News today from the Presidential Inaugural Committee: "Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr., will administer the oath of office for President Barack Obama at the Inaugural swearing-in ceremonies on Sunday, January 20 and Monday, January 21, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will administer the oath of office for Vice President Joseph Biden. … President Obama followed presidential precedent in choosing the Chief Justice to administer his oath of office. Vice President Biden personally selected Associate Justice Sotomayor, who will be the first Hispanic and fourth female judge to administer an oath of office. … This year, in accordance with the requirements of the United States Constitution, President Obama and Vice President Biden will officially be sworn in on Sunday, January 20, 2013. The following day, Monday, January 21, 2013, a ceremonial swearing-in that is open to the public will take place on the West Front of the United States Capitol."


"For the 113th Congress, it is a time to rise," House Speaker John Boehner said in his opening remarks to the members of the 113th Congress yesterday. "When the day is over, and the verdict is read, may it be said that we well and faithfully did our duty to ensure freedom will endure and prevail."

It was a day of renewal on Capitol Hill as members, including the new freshman class, took the oath of office. But there is reason to believe the brief ceasefire between Democrats and Republicans won't last long.

Major battles await the 113th Congress, and they are likely to be as contentious as ever. Just look at yesterday's vote to re-elect Boehner as speaker, which ABC's Jonathan Karl described as the most dramatic vote for Speaker I have ever witnessed."

Boehner received only 220 votes of the 233 Republicans in the House - 13 abstained or voted for somebody else. Had he lost 17, he would not have won.

And that's just one example of rancor within the GOP's own caucus. What happens when the new Congress has to tackle thorny policy issues like the debt ceiling, immigration and gun control?

As we've noted here earlier this week, the fight over whether or not to raise the nation's borrowing limit will come to a head in a couple of months. As will the decision about how to handle the automatic cuts to defense and other programs that were put off temporarily. In fact, the fight over next fiscal cliff could wind up looking a lot like the first one.

And now, in the wake of last month's school shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 children and adults, there is the renewed push to change the country's firearms laws. As USA Today's Jackie Kucinch reported today, "Congress has not passed any significant gun-related regulations since 2007."

Yesterday Reps. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., introduced new gun control legislation and several senators also plan to wade into the debate with bills of their own: "They include the Fix Gun Checks Act by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., which would close loopholes that allow gun sales at shows without background checks and strengthen those checks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she will reintroduce a ban on the ownership on assault weapons," Kucinch reported.

Immigration reform will be high on the agenda too. As the Washington Post's David Nakamura and Tara Bahrampour note today, "The Obama administration's decision this week to ease visa requirements for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants represents its latest move to reshape immigration through executive action, even as the White House gears up for an uncertain political fight over a far-more-sweeping legislative package in the months ahead."

In his remarks yesterday, Boehner told members that the oath of office they take "makes no mention of party, faction, or title" and "contains no reference to agendas or platforms - only to the Constitution." A fitting sentiment to kick of the new Congress, but will anyone remember it a few weeks or even a few days from now?


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Only a dozen Republican House members withheld their votes from House Speaker John Boehner, and his re-election as speaker was never in serious doubt. Yet taken another way, that's an astounding number that only hints at the true tumult inside the House GOP caucus; this was a challenge lacking only a challenger to be credible. More broadly, it speaks to the crisis of leadership in Washington now - nobody, not Boehner, not his top deputies, not any Senate leaders, and often not the president himself - is in charge in the sense that he or she can truly move an agenda. Boehner, at least, has company.


-PAUL RYAN TO KEYNOTE SUSAN B. ANTHONY GALA THIS SPRING. Rep. Paul Ryan will keynote the Susan B. Anthony List's annual "Campaign for Life" Gala on Thursday, April 11. "I'm honored to give the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List Gala. The SBA List and its 365,000 members across the country are leading the charge to protect life at all stages," Congressman Ryan said in a statement. "I am committed to working with the SBA List and all Americans to defend the dignity of every human life and protect the freedom of conscience and religion. Elected leaders must fight in behalf of society's most vulnerable, and I thank the SBA List for providing a voice for the voiceless." Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will receive the Distinguished Leader Award. Previous keynote speakers include Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, among others. The Susan B. Anthony list is dedicated to electing anti-abortion rights women to Congress.


OBAMA HAS A FATHER-DAUGHTER DAY IN PARADISE. ABC's Mary Bruce files this dispatch from Oahu: Over the past two weeks, President Obama has passed his days in Hawaii hitting the gym, golfing with friends and relaxing on the beach with his family. Today, he enjoyed some father-daughter time, bowling with Malia and Sasha and going out for Hawaiian shave ice, an annual tradition. After spending the afternoon at the bowling alley at the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay, Obama and his daughters stopped at Island Snow Shave Ice, a small eatery in a shopping center near their Kailua vacation house. A long line quickly formed outside as onlookers tried to get a glimpse of the president in what was his first public appearance of his annual holiday vacation in his native state. After several minutes inside, Malia and Sasha and several other children, presumably family friends, emerged with cool treats in hand. The casually dressed president soon followed, holding a large green and red shave ice in an assortment of flavors.

CHRIS CHRISTIE'S $2 MILLION HAUL. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who blasted members of his own party Wednesday for abandoning a $60 billion relief bill for superstorm Sandy victims, had a fruitful fundraising period, raising more than $2.1 million since he announced his re-election Nov. 26, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports. The campaign pulled in the cash in 36 days and without a single fundraising event. Mike Duhaime, the spokesman for the campaign, wouldn't comment on specific breakdowns of the haul, but said it was 'a lot of different people, both small donors and large all over the country,' including 'all 21 counties in New Jersey.' 'The vast, vast majority came from within New Jersey, but there were [donors] from around the country,' Duhaime said. 'We feel great about it, but it was pretty much organic. Some came from the Web, some from word of mouth.' Duhaime added that the campaign sent out a small amount of direct mail to donors who gave to Christie during his 2009 campaign. It's notable that the funds came in during the holiday season and when the state is still reeling from Sandy, which slammed into New Jersey Oct. 29."

NOTED: CAN CHRISTIE EVER BE PRESIDENT? Chris Christie loves being able to show he is not part of the Washington problem, that he will defend the people of his state against the likes of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Just as Christie did not want to tarnish himself with the Mitt Romney brand last year, he does not want to tarnish his chances with the Boehner brand this year. Indeed, the only brand the governor is concerned with is the Chris Christie brand. But is there a risk in alienating Boehner and the Republican party? And when (or if) Christie runs for president, do Americans really want a yeller-in-chief? What are his next steps? Check out this week's Top Line with ABC's Amy Walter, Rick Klein and Yahoo's Olivier Knox to find out:

CLASSIC BIDEN ON DISPLAY AT CAPITOL SWEARING IN. Vice President Joe Biden turned on the charm and amped up the wit at the Senate mock swearing-in yesterday, schmoozing with senators' moms, doling out dating advice to one senator's granddaughter and offering some workout help to one new senator's family member, reports ABC's Arlette Saenz. As senators brought their families up to take photos with the vice president, Biden would always single out the mothers, directly calling them "Mom," embracing them as he said hello and touching some of their faces. When he greeted the mother of Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., he told her, "You've got beautiful eyes, mom." "Mom, I'll see you in a little bit," Biden said to the mother of Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., as she walked away. "I hope I'll sneak over and see you." While Biden hugged the mother of Sen. John Barrasso, the Wyoming GOP senator made a joking dig at the vice president, telling him, "She liked [Dick] Cheney better, she told me." But while he seemed to flirt with the senators' mothers, he gave strict advice to the young women in the mix of family members, telling the granddaughter of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "No serious guys until you're 30." While there was a lull in the photo-ops, Biden turned to the crowd and joked, "Anybody else want to be sworn in as a senator today?"

CHELSEA CLINTON SPEAKS UP. While Hillary Clinton was in the hospital it was daughter Chelsea - not the secretary of state or the former president Bill Clinton - who spoke for the family, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. She, along with the State Department, doled out what little information the family wanted to share in a series of tweets and when her mother was released from the hospital, it was Chelsea who delivered the thanks on behalf of her parents, tweeting her gratitude to the doctors as well as those who kept her mother in their thoughts while she recovered from a blood clot. When Hillary Clinton leaves office, possibly at the end of this month, it will be the first time since 1982 that a Clinton will not be holding a public office. The watch will be on whether Hillary Clinton makes another run for the White House in 2016, but almost inevitably people will also be watching to see if Chelsea Clinton decides to run for office, too. "Americans always look for dynasties: Bush, Kennedy, Cuomo, Clinton … it's some kind of continuity. There will always be pressure on her to run for public office," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political strategist in New York.


@donnabrazile: If I were back in Washington, DC, I would urge you to get your member of Congress to support the #Sandy relief bill. Let's help rebuild!

@dansenor: Mon or Tues of next week for Hagel announcement.

@HotlineJosh: McConnell able to strike deal conservatives hate b/c he took care of primary business back home, @mikecatalini reports

@mattyglesias: Four more years of these so-so jobs reports, and Obama's going to go down as a major job-creator: …

@JesseFFerguson: From WAPO: "The 113th Congress is the most diverse in history" (by @PostRoz)