Chaos Or Compromise On Capitol Hill?

Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • NO DEAL: A deeply divided Senate failed to reach agreement Monday night after more than three hours of discussion behind closed doors, raising the prospect that Democratic leaders were heading toward invoking the so-called "nuclear option" to confirm several of President Obama's top nominees whose confirmations have stalled, ABC's JEFF ZELENY and ARLETTE SAENZ report. As they left the Capitol after a rare bipartisan session, several senators told ABC News they were hopeful a resolution could be reached to the filibuster fight. The path remained highly uncertain, but advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continued their discussions into the night. Reid stepped before the cameras briefly, saying: "We've had a very good conversation. The conversation is going to continue," McConnell did not speak publicly after the meeting.
  • QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "If we don't solve this problem, we'll be the Hatfields and the McCoys on steroids before this is over," said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. "I don't want that to happen."
  • HAPPENING TODAY: The Senate is still scheduled to begin a series of votes at later this morning at 11 a.m. on seven appointees whose nominations have been blocked by Republicans, setting the course for Democrats to change the rules in an extraordinary move that would end filibusters of executive branch nominees.
  • BACKSTORY, courtesy of ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been threatening to invoke a plan known as the "nuclear option," which would change Senate rules to allow an executive branch nominee to be confirmed by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes normally required by the Senate. It would break filibusters for those nominated to serve in the Cabinet or the federal government, but would not include judges or legislation. The stalemate has festered in the Senate, particularly over nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, the Export-Import Bank and the Environmental Protection Agency. Republicans have strongly objected to the confirmations, arguing that the labor board wields too much power and the nominations were improper because they were made while the Senate was not in session.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: With the Senate on the verge of detonation, the biggest threat is to the Senate as we know it. But - really? How long has it been since the Senate was really as we imagine it to be - a place of "cooling saucers" and collegiality and clubs? The nuclear option would continue the Senate's path to House-dom (or worse), but it wouldn't start it. There might be something refreshing about the Senate's rules catching up to its realities - and exploding the myths that senators like to perpetuate about their jobs.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The outcome of the filibuster fight boils down to this: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will only allow votes on President Obama's nominees if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees not to change the rules during the rest of this Congressional session. But Reid will only agree if McConnell pledges not to block any more executive branch nominations. McConnell has shown no signs of agreeing, so Reid is going around him. So will the coalition of Republicans, with Sen. John McCain at the helm, work around their leader and head off a nuclear showdown? This morning, more signs are pointing to yes, but the next hours are key.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Michele Bachmann may be retiring, but that hasn't stopped her from grabbing headlines. Monday, the conservative website, World Net Daily, posted an interview with Bachmann in which she suggests, among other things, that Congress needs to give President Obama "a spanking." Yep, you read that right - and that's not all. World Net Daily asked Bachmann if she is concerned President Obama will do what he wants on immigration, despite what Congress says. "Well, of course he's going to, unless we pinch his ears back," she said. "He has a perpetual magic wand and nobody's given him a spanking yet and taken it out of his hand." She added that Congress has the power to discipline the president: "And the way we spank the president is we do it through the checkbook." Also yesterday, it was revealed that one of Bachmann's senior aides, Javier Manuel Sanchez, was arrested on July 11. He has been charged in connection to a rash of burglaries in a congressional office building on Capitol Hill, according to the U.S. Capitol police. Bachmann's office quickly noted Sanchez was no longer employed. So, will Bachmann be able to command the headlines when she's gone from the halls of Capitol Hill? We will have to wait and see, but it seems difficult to sustain it.


FROM A HUT IN AFRICA TO THE WHITE HOUSE: TWO PRESIDENTS HONOR A COUPLE'S WORK TO FIGHT HUNGER. Around the time Kathy Hamilton and Floyd Hammer were planning their retirement, they took an eye-opening trip to Tanzania, and the couple decided they still had work to do. "When you stand in a hut in Africa, and you witness a young man die … there's no way to explain to you what the feeling is," Hammer told ABC's JONATHAN KARL, host of Politics Confidential, standing outside the White House. "If we had had a meal with us, we might have saved that life." After that trip 10 years ago, Hamilton and Hammer set out to combat hunger, starting a non-profit organization, Outreach, which now operates in more than 15 countries and has delivered more than 233 million free meals to children suffering from hunger. And, in a rare White House event Monday, Hamilton and Hammer were recognized for their contributions to combating hunger by not just one, but two U.S. presidents. President Obama and President George H.W. Bush shared the stage in presenting the 5000th Point of Light Award to the couple.


IMMIGRATION LIFTS RUBIO FUNDRAISING. It turns out the immigration debate may have been good for Sen. Marco Rubio's bottom line, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. He raised $3 million from April to June, according to a report to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, as the immigration debate was underway in the Senate. It was an increase of more than 30 percent from his fundraising in the first three months of the year. For his leading role in the immigration debate, Rubio won praise and drew critics from Republicans. But his latest financial report, reviewed by ABC News, shows that his base of supporters grew as his profile rose during the heated immigration debate. His finance report shows that he has nearly $3 million cash-on-hand in his various political committees, including $980,000 in the Reclaim America PAC and $1.97 million in his Senate re-election committee. The short-term politics of immigration remain an open question, particularly as the bill draws more criticism by conservatives in the House, but Rubio's role as a top proponent of the bill seems to have helped his ability to raise money.

FORMER BACHMANN AIDE ARRESTED, CHARGED WITH THEFT. A former legislative aide to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was arrested July 11 and has been charged in connection to a rash of burglaries in a congressional office building on Capitol Hill, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON writes. Javier Manuel Sanchez, who was the congresswoman's senior legislative assistant at the time of the alleged burglaries, has been charged with second degree theft, according to the U.S. Capitol police. "Earlier this year the United States Capitol Police (USCP) was apprised of thefts that occurred in the Rayburn House Office Building. The USCP conducted an investigation and were able to identify a subject. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 37 year old Javier Sanchez of Virginia," Shennell Antrobus, USPC public information officer, wrote in a statement Monday night. Antrobus declined to specify what Sanchez allegedly stole, but burglaries in congressional offices are not uncommon. Sanchez was arraigned July 12 and pleaded not guilty. He also asserted his right to a trial, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court. Bachmann spokesman Dan Kotman said Sanchez "is no longer with the office."

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN ACQUITTAL RIPPLES THROUGH NAACP CONVENTION. Gathering in Florida just 30 miles from where a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty Saturday of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, speakers at the NAACP's national convention turned the event into a rallying cry for action and justice in Martin's name, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney, this morning called for the federal government to take up the cause and for the U.S. Department of Justice to file charges. Crump thanked NAACP president Benjamin Jealous for calling for the DOJ "to renew their investigation into the tragic death of Trayvon Benjamin Martin." "It seems like we are still fighting the fight that they fought so many years ago that we thought we won, but yet again here we are again crying out for legal justice," Crump said at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. "It is going to be very important that we remain vocal and vigilant as we ask the federal government to get involved in this investigation because if we are not vocal and vigilant, I can tell you Trayvon's death will be swept under the rug." The Justice Department released a statement after the verdict saying its investigation is ongoing. The agency has been conducting its own investigation into whether the shooting was motivated by racial pretense, which means Zimmerman could be charged with a federal hate crime even though he was acquitted this weekend in state court in Sanford, Fla.

TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama continues his push for immigration reform in a series of interviews with Spanish language stations at the White House today, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. Anchors from Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles and New York are being given behind-the-scenes access to the White House and the president's top advisers for the latest installment of "Live from the White House."


-"VIRGINIA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL FACES SCRUTINY FOR TIES TO EXECUTIVE," by The New York Times' Trip Gabriel. "He first bought the tiny company's stock after bunking down in its chief executive's six-bedroom home. … Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Virginia's attorney general, said that the timing of his ownership of Star Scientific shares reflected nothing more than his own investment analysis. Star Scientific and its chief executive have been at the center of an exploding political drama in Virginia as state and federal investigators look into lavish gifts that the executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., gave Gov. Bob McDonnell. And now, despite his efforts to distance himself, scrutiny is growing of Mr. Cuccinelli's ties to the executive. … Last week Mr. Cuccinelli indirectly condemned Mr. McDonnell, a fellow Republican, for the first time, lamenting, 'What we've all been seeing is very painful for Virginia.' The statement followed a report that Mr. Williams's gifts to the governor and his family totaled $145,000, and included a Rolex watch, designer clothing and a $50,000 check to Mr. McDonnell's wife. The gifts were first revealed in The Washington Post. Mr. Williams, 57, also gave the attorney general $18,000 worth of gifts, including frequent stays at Mr. Williams's homes outside Richmond and in the Blue Ridge Mountains, according to Mr. Cuccinelli's financial disclosure statements. Mr. Cuccinelli at first failed to report some gifts, as well as his Star Scientific stock, as required by law, which he has said was an oversight."

- "REPUBLICANS, DON'T CEDE MILLENNIALS TO DEMOCRATS JUST YET," an Op-Ed by GOP strategist Joe Brettell. "Young voters will soon begin to understand that their support of the president and his party, rather than improving their lives, has actually impeded their progress. As this economic picture comes into view - fewer jobs for younger voters, crushing student loan debt exacerbated by ham-handed political gestures and greater costs for an unworkable health care system - the GOP still has an opportunity to overcome its inherent challenges and make decisive gains among these voters. However, it will require a top-down commitment to another idea that seems to have been forgotten lately - rediscovering itself as the party of ideas and innovation. In the same manner that groups like The Heritage Foundation provided the intellectual and policy basis for an incoming generation of Reagan conservatives, the GOP must begin directing some of its energies away from just winning the political and messaging battle and toward finding solutions to health care, generational debt, entitlement programs and other issues that will not just resurrect that time-tested warhorses of policy battles long past, but earnestly seek to develop answers for this generation."


LONG-TIME DEMOCRATIC OPERATIVE JENNIFER CRIDER MOVES ON. Jennifer Crider, former Deputy Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Political Director to Nancy Pelosi, e-mails The Note: "I'm leaving DC at the end of the month and moving to Seattle! I'm excited to be joining Microsoft's worldwide public affairs team as a Director of PR where I'll be focusing on innovation and intellectual property issues as well as managing communications around all litigation issues. It's been an honor to spend the past decade working for Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most brilliant political and policy minds in DC. Every day was a master class. My time with her and her team changed my life professionally and personally. I've also had the privilege to work for and learn from many wonderful public servants: late-Congressman Bob Matsui (CA), Congressman Jim McDermott (WA), Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Congressman Chris Van Hollen (MD), and Congressman Steve Israel (NY). Who would have thought that my plan to be in DC for one year would lead to this amazing adventure?"


@IsaacDovere: Huma Abedin bundled $149k for Weiner so far, including $3k from @NoLabelsOrg founder (who gave as Nancy Jacobsen & Nancy Penn)

@politicoroger: Zimmerman trial was all about race. Which is the agony we wish to avoid. My column:

@matthewjdowd: Is it just me or has the media reporting on where snowden may seek or get asylum grown incredibly tiresome??? Let's focus on NSA actions.

@BenLaBolt: All this extreme anti-choice activity opposite of what RNC autopsy suggested party needed to do. Consequences visible in states.

@polguru: it would be most convenient for Red Sox Nation if Kate had this baby during the AS break-once NYY series begins, hard to split attention