The GOP Family Feud Festers

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • WAR OF WORDS: The feud between two potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders is escalating this week with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attacking each other on an almost-daily basis. Yesterday they traded barbs about "pork" and "bacon", ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. In an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer, Paul nicknamed Christie the "King of Bacon" after the New Jersey governor accused him of engaging in "pork barrel spending." "This is the king of bacon talking about bacon," Paul said. "It's not helping the party for him to pick a war with me. It's a big mistake. It's not very smart. And it's not a good way to grow the party," Paul said."Why would he want to pick a fight with the one guy who has a chance to grow the party by appealing to the youth and appealing to people who would like to see a more moderate and less aggressive foreign policy?"
  • IN CHRISTIE'S CORNER: At a news conference earlier Tuesday, Gov. Christie said Kentucky takes more federal funding than New Jersey and argued that Paul should examine his pursuit of "pork barrel spending" when finding ways to cut spending. "If Senator Paul wants to start looking at where he's going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking, cutting the pork barrel spending that he brings home to Kentucky," Christie said. "Maybe Senator Paul could, you know, deal with that when he's trying to deal with the reduction of spending on the federal side, but I doubt he would, because most Washington politicians only care about bringing home the bacon so they can get re-elected.
  • HOW IT ALL STARTED: The spat between the two GOP lawmakers started last week when Christie warned of the potential dangers of the "libertarianism" espoused by Paul, an outspoken critic of the National Security Agency, and some of his Republican colleagues regarding matters of national security. "I just want us to be really cautious because this strain of libertarianism going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought," Christie said Thursday night at an Aspen Institute panel of Republican governors in Colorado. Paul, 50, extended the tiff last weekend by bashing Christie for his call for federal funding after Hurricane Sandy last year. "They're precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their 'Gimme, gimme, gimme, give me all my Sandy money now,'" Paul told reporters Sunday in Kentucky. On Monday, Paul ripped into Christie for using "the cloak of 9/11 victims" to criticize the Kentucky senator's views on national security.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: In this corner, meet the King of Bacon, with his Snookie suntan and wrapped in the flag of 9/11 victims … facing off against - gasp! - the Washington politician, doused in tea and brandishing his well-worn copy of the Bill of Rights. The villainous name-calling is great fun, but the Chris Christie-Rand Paul brawl of 2013 has layers beyond it that suggest this is a fight that will extend through the 2016 primary season, and perhaps beyond. This is the type of fissure that's natural for a party that will be losing its common enemy (the term-limited president) in time for the next election. And this is the particular split that should have been imagined back in 2010, when the tea party wave that swept Paul to office in Tennessee actually had about no connection to Christie's election as a tough-talking New Jerseyan a year earlier. In the meantime, it's a showcase for two of the largest personalities in the Republican Party today, a pair of all-out street fighters who have, shall we say, strong opinions on the topics of the day.

ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: For Republicans, the family feud is officially on as two potential presidential contenders have been more than happy to keep their war of words going. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's string of libertarianism dangerous. Paul accuses Christie of using the "cloak of 9/11? victims to attack him. Christie changes directions and says Paul loves "pork barrel spending." And Paul wraps it all up by turning the pork tables on Christie, calling him the "king of bacon." Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary Hillary Clinton shared breakfast Tuesday, but we only know scrambled eggs and turkey bacon was on the agenda. No word if there was a side of 2016 talk. Unlike Paul and Christie's public war, these two Democrats are keeping their thoughts about each other quiet.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: President Obama's visit to Capitol Hill today is a summer preview to the blockbuster fall feature in Washington: An epic budget showdown. By now, the movie is a familiar one. But the outcome is an uncertain one. For months, the White House has tried to improve relations with Congress over dinners, Oval Office visits and private meetings across Capitol Hill with top emissary Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. But all of those ice-breakers seem to have left things just as frozen as they were during the last fiscal fight. The president is just meeting with Democrats today on both sides of the Capitol. Will there be one with Republicans - and could that even be productive? Stay tuned for the fall.

ABC's DEVIN DWYER: President Obama's so-called "new grand bargain" for Republicans - an offer to couple corporate tax reform with new spending on jobs programs - has won a blistering rebuke from the same nonpartisan tax analysts that Obama regularly cited in attacks on Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign. The Tax Policy Center concluded Obama's proposal, unveiled yesterday with much fanfare, is neither grand nor a bargain. Instead, the Center's Howard Gleckman pans it as "another step down another blind alley." "By explicitly tying reform to a new demand-that the money it raises must be used to pay for new jobs programs-he made a deal less likely, not more," Gleckman writes. He said the plan would also "further complicate business taxation" rather than simplify it.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Age will definitely be a factor in some of the 2014 races and it is already popping up in some of the early ones being watched. From Mike Enzi and Liz Cheney in Wyoming to Alison Lundergan Grimes and Mitch McConnell in Kentucky there is no mistaking the large age differences between the candidates. Tuesday, Alison Lundergan Grimes officially got into the race against the Senate Minority Leader and the 34-year-old secretary of state's grandma Elisie is already playing a large role in the campaign. She is starring in Grimes' first video, a reprisal from an ad she ran in her race for secretary of state that starred both of her grandmothers. Grandma Elsie helped introduce her granddaughter yesterday and Grimes' sister called Elsie "the person McConnell should fear the most." Her grandma's presence and Grimes' consistent reminder that the 71-year-old McConnell has been in office for 30 years is a clear contrast to the young Democrat. Expect to continue to see this theme and message from Grimes while McConnell stresses his record and experience, as well as trying to align her with President Obama.


PATRICK KENNEDY: MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BATTLE MENTAL ILLNESS IN THEIR FAMILIES BUT VOTE AGAINST HELP. When Patrick Kennedy returned to Congress following a DWI for driving drunk in 2006, he made a point of going to thank fellow members of Congress who had sent him "get well" cards in rehab. The former Rhode Island congressman tells "Top Line's" RICK KLEIN and OLIVIER KNOX that he came across story after story from members of Congress who were also personally affected by mental illness or addiction. "All of them told me about how a parent committed suicide, or their spouse tried to commit suicide, or a daughter had an eating disorder, or a son a substance abuse disorder," Kennedy recalls. But many of those same members, Kennedy says, were unwilling to vote for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that Kennedy sponsored in the House of Representatives in 2008 in an effort to improve insurance coverage guidelines for mental illness. "I went up to them and said, 'Hey, how was it that you couldn't vote for this and they said … It's personal, and I can't afford to have any of you folks from the media ask me why did I vote for something called mental health and addiction?'"


OBAMA HEADS TO THE HILL: President Obama heads to the Hill today to pow-wow with Democrats ahead of the August recess. This morning, he sits down with the House Democratic Caucus, followed by a meeting with the Senate Democratic Caucus, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes.

SENATORS GRAHAM, MCCAIN PLAN TRIP TO EGYPT. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are planning to travel to Egypt as soon as next week, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Graham told reporters that President Obama asked the two senators to travel to the region to assess the situation and to urge the Egyptian military to proceed with new elections. "The president asked Sen. McCain and myself to go to Egypt next week, so we're trying to find a way to get there," Graham said, according to The Associated Press. "So we can go over and reinforce in a bipartisan fashion the message that we have to move to civilian control, that the military is going to have to, you know, allow the country to have new elections and move toward an inclusive, democratic approach." The White House declined to comment on the potential trip. Graham and McCain's trip comes as the country is enduring violent protests after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was removed by the military at the start of the month. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has proposed an appropriations bill amendment that would end $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt. A vote on the amendment is scheduled for Wednesday.

HOUSE GOP RECESS PLAYBOOK URGES OUTREACH TO WOMEN, MILLENNIALS, MINORITIES. After finishing work Friday, members of Congress will begin their month-long summer recess, but House Republicans want to make sure their lawmakers make the most of their time off - by spending it with constituents, ABC's JOAN E. GREVE notes. But according to the House Republican Conference's 31-page August recess kit titled, "Fighting Washington for all Americans," the constituents they should be paying particular attention to are "women, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and millennials," and to ensure that the representatives speak with "all Americans," the packet advises "meetups." "A Meetup is a forum to ensure that the Member is engaging with all demographics in his/her district to discuss important issues facing America," says the memo, which was preceded by a note from Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. Younger voters are also a key demographic in the GOP's recess plans. The memo suggests holding a "Millennial Health Care Forum" to help "young Americans brace for the implementation of ObamaCare and the 'rate shock' that will accompany it." To access millennials, the representatives might also consider a "Higher Education Tour," where the House GOP Conference advises taking a "photo outside of the stadium, arena, or famous spot on campus wearing the school's colors or team gear to promote on social media." Congress will reconvene Sept. 9, giving lawmakers 37 days to mingle with constituents.

-FASHION FORWARD: The House GOP also advised its members to pay close attention to pocketbook issues, suggesting a "Gas & Groceries Tour." "Tour gas stations and grocery stores to discuss the rising cost of gas and groceries," the memo advises. "While touring, help constituents pump gas and bag their groceries if possible." But the memo reminds its members to watch what they wear for this outing: "Wear clothes in which you feel comfortable doing 'hands-on' work."

MITCH MCCONNELL'S DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES SENATE BID - AGAIN. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes officially launched her Senate campaign yesterday against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., playing off his campaign's nickname of Team Mitch and urging the crowd to join "Team Switch," ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. "There is a disease of dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and after nearly 30 years Mitch McConnell is at the center of it," Grimes said at her campaign kickoff in Lexington. "Where once congressmen and senators would actually come together to find a common ground, to work for the better good, we now have Sen. McConnell the proud guardian of gridlock grinding our government to a halt." Dressed in a red suit and jacket, the 34-year-old Democrat gave a nod to how bruising the race will be, saying McConnell, 71, has "used public service as a carnival game of whac-a-mole." "If someone dares to pick their head up and disagree with them, he wants to bang it down," Grimes told the large crowd. "I have a message for you, Sen. McConnell, that you have probably already seen: I don't scare easy and neither does the rest of Kentucky." Before Grimes announced at the outdoor rally, she was preceded via video by former President Bill Clinton, a family friend of the Lundergans, who said he's known Grimes "a long time" and the race will "be long, it will be hard, but you can win, you can win."

PENTAGON OFFICIAL: AFGHAN TROOPS WILL NEED SUPPORT BEYOND 2014. The "zero option" in Afghanistan - a complete pullout of U.S. troops - is unrealistic and there will need to be some level of U.S. involvement in the country even after the 2014 withdrawal, a Pentagon official said yesterday, ABC's DANA HUGHES and LUIS MARTINEZ reports. Peter Lavoy, the Pentagon's top policy official on Afghanistan, said the agency has developed a number of plans for U.S. involvement after the 2014 withdrawal based on the current situation on the ground, which was highlighted in a new six-month review of the security situation in Afghanistan. The report addresses the effect US and NATO troops pulling back from patrolling and giving most of that responsibility to Afghan forces has had. Lavoy said that though the transition remains on track, some troops and funding will need to remain in order to support Afghan security forces training, advising and for counterterrorism efforts. He did not give a recommendation for a specific number troops or funding amount that will be needed, but did call the "zero option," where the United States would pull out completely, unrealistic. "In none of these cases have we developed an option that is zero," Lavoy said.

MCCAIN SAYS GOP 'CANNOT WIN' WITHOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM. Despite the Republican strategy of passing piecemeal immigration reform, Sen. John McCain predicted that comprehensive legislation can pass the GOP-controlled House, ABC's JIM AVILA writes. "I think this fall is very important," McCain said at a forum hosted by AFL-CIO and the Economic Policy Institute. "It's very important because we get into 2014 - the next election cycle. I think the issue really has ripened to the point that enough Americans are aware of it, we are either going to act or not act." On PBS Monday, McCain said that if immigration reform is not passed, the Republican Party will never again win a national election. "Let's say we enact it, comprehensive immigration reform - I don't think it gains a single Hispanic voter, but what it does, it puts us on a playing field where we can compete for the Hispanic voter," McCain told PBS' Gwen Ifill. "If we don't do that, frankly, I don't see - I see further polarization of the Hispanic voter and the demographics are clear that the Republican Party cannot win a national election. That's just a fact."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: READY FOR HILLARY PAC REPORTS SEVEN-FIGURE CASH HAUL. Lacking only an actual candidate, the super PAC formed to encourage and support a potential Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy is set to announce that it raised more than $1.25 million in its first full quarter of active solicitations, with more than 9,300 donors chipping in to the effort and more than $1 million raised just last month, according to an internal memo circulated by the Ready for Hillary PAC. The memo, ABC's RICK KLEIN reports, boasts that contributions came in from every state and several U.S. territories, and that three-fourths of the contributions have been for less than $25. The group says it has more than 600,000 supporters identified, though the vast majority of them have not yet given money to the effort. While there are no legal limits on the amount of contributions the PAC can receive, the group chose to cap donations at $25,000, both to send a message that names are more important than dollars at this stage, and to avoid making big donors feel tapped out this far in advance of a campaign that might never occur. Ready for Hillary was launched by a handful of former campaign volunteers and low-level former Clinton staff members. But it has since been adopted by those close to Clinton herself as a useful vehicle to build a campaign-in-waiting; boldfaced Democratic names now involved include former Clinton White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, Democratic Party operative James Carville, Sen. Claire McCaskill D-Mo., and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.


"PROGRESSIVES PLAN TO TURN UP THE HEAT ON GOP LAWMAKERS DURING AUGUST RECESS," by The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel. "GOP lawmakers may be feeling more heat this summer at their town halls, speeches and fundraisers as progressive activists begin an aggressive effort to confront Republicans wherever they go. 'This is a new approach. The theory in the past has been to be stealth about the effort to confront members at town halls - but sometimes it's been too stealth, and we haven't generated enough activity,' said Brad Woodhouse, president of the progressive group Americans United for Change. 'Since everyone knows that both sides are doing this, we're going to be public-facing about it.' On Wednesday, the group is launching Accountable Congress, a new website meant to be a summer toolkit for the progressive community, providing information about where Republican members of Congress and senators will be speaking during the August recess away from Capitol Hill. It includes progressive talking points on issues of the day, including immigration, climate change and gun violence, in addition to suggested questions to ask Republican lawmakers. Woodhouse said he wants supporters to confront the elected officials, ask them tough questions and record the exchanges. The group plans to share noteworthy responses, and to collect and share information about what Republicans are doing and saying. Americans United has presented its plan to various progressive organizations already and will be holding daily calls with activists to coordinate the strategy."


@fshakir: Last night, Hannity said he will try to set up a debate between @SenTedCruz and @KarlRove over govt shutdown. Get the popcorn!

@bterris: He Beat Allen West and All He Got Was the Most Boring Job In Congress -

@HotlineReid: Asked DE Gov. Jack Markell whether he'll travel to IA and NH. His answer, with a smile: "I'll be there campaigning for Biden."

@tobyharnden: SC GOP fundraising email calls IRS "Obama's Gestapo" …

@mollyesque: Time for the Clintons to pull the trigger on the nuclear option. Chelsea for Mayor.