Congress Comes Back

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • CLIMATE PROGRESS: President Obama and President Xi Jinping announced new targets on climate change last night, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. The U.S. announced a new target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China announced its targets to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 with the intention of reaching the peak early. China will also expand the non-fossil fuel share of energy to 20 percent. Senior administration officials called the announcement a "major step forward" for international climate negotiations.
  • BACKSTORY: The idea to pursue these targets was first concocted in February when Secretary John Kerry held a bilateral meeting with Chinese officials. President Obama then wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping last spring to propose establishing new targets together. Senior administration officials were in China within the last two weeks holding intensive discussions about the targets and finalized the proposals yesterday.
  • WHAT'S NEXT? President Obama is en route from Beijing on his way to Myanmar, the second stop on his whirlwind weeklong Asia tour. During two days in Myanmar, the president will attend yet another international summit in the newly created capitol of Naypyidaw and meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. But, as ABC's MARY BRUCE notes, the timing of the visit is tricky - the fledgling democracy is sliding backwards and reforms are languishing. Obama, who considers the opening of Myanmar to be one of his major diplomatic achievements, will have to walk a fine line.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's a strange set of circumstances that could spur Democrats to try to salvage what's left of their Senate minority by doing something fairly novel these days: holding a vote. Bloomberg reports that Senate leaders are considering allowing a Keystone pipeline vote in the coming weeks, in an apparent attempt to let Sen. Mary Landrieu demonstrate her independence in advance of her runoff. It highlights a notable consequence of the GOP takeover: The Senate is likely to vote substantially more in the new year. Democratic leaders spent much of the past two years keeping endangered members from taking tough votes - paradoxically, strengthening their opponents' talking points about how often they voted with President Obama. That tactic has drawn post-election criticism from Democrats - and promises from GOP leaders about a new era of roll calls in the upper chamber. Republicans have their own interests in mind, of course. But the concept of holding votes is a hard one to disagree with. It could be Democrats - acting in their same self-interest, naturally - leading the way before the end of the year.

ABC's JEFF ZELENY: With the Alaska race called overnight for Dan Sullivan, Republicans now have a majority of at least 53 seats in the Senate. It's another boost of momentum for the GOP as Congress returns to Washington today and the new Capitol power structure begins to take shape. Mitch McConnell is trying to expand his Republican majority to 54 seats, weighing in on the Louisiana run-off by promising Bill Cassidy a seat on the Senate's energy committee. It's a move designed to counter Mary Landrieu's argument that the state needs her to represents its oil and gas interests. Either way, the Republican majority is more comfortable than McConnell had ever dreamed. But he's not the only one with newfound power. A half-dozen Democrats, many of whom are from red states, will suddenly be in demand to make deals and join Republicans on areas they can find agreement. The biggest power center in the Senate could be this gang of six (or seven) Democrats.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: We now have one less outstanding Senate race with the call of the Alaska race overnight, with just one more to go in Louisiana. The Associated Press called it for GOP challenger Dan Sullivan over Democratic incumbent Mark Begich. The race's outcome was prolonged as the difference between the two wasn't enough with a possible 50,000 ballots outstanding, but that all came to an end early Wednesday morning, although there are still quite a lot of votes to be counted. Currently, Sullivan has 48.58% of the vote to Begich's 45.37% and Sullivan leads Begich by 7,911 votes. Tuesday, was Alaska's Division of Elections first full day of counting after election night and they still have about 9,600 absentee ballots to count, as well as about 5,800 provisional ballots that have been deemed eligible and still need to be counted. In Alaska, voters have up to 15 days to send in absentee ballots as long as they were postmarked by November 4th. The state still has over 10,000 they are waiting to be returning. Of course, there is no way to know how many of those, if any, will be returned. Although there are still so many ballots outstanding, the AP must have determined this was just too much of a hill for Begich to climb with the numbers very much against the incumbent. Sullivan issued a statement saying he was "deeply humbled and honored to serve my fellow Alaskans" and although it was a "hard fought race. As we move forward, I want to emphasize that my door will be open to all Alaskans."



CHINESE PRESIDENT DECLINES TO DIRECTLY ANSWER TOUGH QUESTIONS: It's what you didn't hear at President Obama's joint press conference with Chinese President Xi that stands out most, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. Xi, who rarely takes questions from the press, refused to directly answer several very tough questions from the New York Times about Obama's Asia pivot and access for foreign journalists, surprising even the president, who looked at the U.S. press and just shrugged. Xi said nothing, acting as if the questions from the Times had never been raised. Instead, he went directly to a question, no doubt pre-screened, from the Chinese press. Xi did eventually briefly address foreign press access in China, pointing the finger back at the press. "China protects our citizen's freedom of expression and the normal rights and interests of media organizations in accordance with the law. On the other hand, media outlets need to obey China's laws and regulations," Xi explained at the very end of his answer to the question from the Chinese press.

FRESHMAN YEAR: It's the first day of freshmen orientation in the House and Senate today, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JOHN PARKINSON note. While most of the Senate orientation takes place behind closed doors, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will have coffee with the Republican senators-elect this morning. On the House side, new member registration begins. Over the next week, newly-elected lawmakers will receive briefings on everything from parliamentary procedure to decorum of the House.

TWO SENATORS VISIT CUBA TO MEET WITH ALAN GROSS. Two U.S. Senators traveled to Cuba yesterday to meet with jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports, in the latest effort to try and win his release from prison. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, met with Gross in Havana on Tuesday, officials told ABC News. Gross has been held in prison for nearly four years, as part of a 15-year sentence for allegedly bringing communications equipment into Cuba while he worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Several American lawmakers have visited Cuba in recent years in hopes of trying to win Gross' release. But the visit from Flake and Udall is the first since at least July. It comes on the heels of the fifth-anniversary of his captivity.

TOMAS YOUNG, IRAQ WAR VETERAN AND ANTIWAR ACTIVIST, DEAD AT 34. Tomas Young, an Iraq War Army veteran who was paralyzed by a sniper's bullet and became one of the first veterans to oppose the war, has died at age 34, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. He passed away in his sleep early Monday morning at his home in Seattle, just one day before Veterans Day, his wife Claudia Cuellar Young told ABC News. Young was paralyzed in April, 2004 at the age of 24 in a battle in Sadr City, Iraq, after being in the country for just five days. He was riding in an unarmored, open air Humvee when he was shot by a sniper's bullet and instantly paralyzed from the chest down, confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He had joined the Army two days after September 11, 2001 and became one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war, recorded famously in the 2007 documentary about his life "Body of War" co-produced by Phil Donohue. Cuellar Young said they had only moved to Seattle a month ago after her husband's pain medications were tapered down by the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Cuellar Young said her husband just never woke up Monday morning. "People say, 'He died peacefully.' I'm not sure how peaceful he was. He just left, he never came back. I don't think it was peaceful," she said. "All we wanted was to be home and pain-free."

BUSH 43 PROMOTES NEW BOOK - AND BUSH 45? Former President George W. Bush was talking about his new biography of his father at Texas A&M University on Tuesday - but that wasn't all he was promoting: "He ought to run for president and would be a great president should he win," Bush said of his younger brother and former Florida governor Jeb, adding that he has as much insight into the job as his potential opponent. "On the other hand, like Secretary of State Clinton, he's got as good an insight into what it's like to be president. I mean these are two of the most qualified people in being able to tell you what it's like to be president." But apparently Jeb isn't a big fan of political dynasties. "I heard him say he doesn't like the idea of a political class," Bush said. "The idea of, Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Bush troubles him. Which speaks to his great integrity. I said, 'Well how's this sound: Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton?'"

BILL CLINTON TELLS ELLEN: HILLARY IS A DOTING, GIDDY AND A DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY GRANDMOTHER. Bill Clinton appeared on The Ellen Show yesterday and dodged a number of tricky questions about Hillary's 2016 run, according to ABC's LIZ KREUTZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI. When asked whether Hillary Clinton was more "presidential" or "grandmotherly" when interacting with Charlotte, Bill Clinton chose to describe her as "doting, giddy and a deliriously happy grandmother." Then, when asked to choose between a onesie for Charlotte that says "My Grandma's a Stay-at-Home Granny" or one that says "My Grandma's Running for President in 2016," he told her hold on to both. "If pick that one," he said pointing to the 2016 one, "It would be best for the country. However if I did that then Hillary would start taking me up to total strangers and saying have you met my first husband? It's not a decision for me to make." "But," he continued pointing at the stay-at-home grandma one, "If I pick that one, she would be happy as a clam and so would I. So keep them both and give her the right one when she decides."


SOULLESS IN THE CITY? AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVING WASHINGTON. Is it possible to succeed in Washington, D.C. and keep your soul at the same time? One longtime Beltway insider has written a book aimed at helping those who want to try. Communications consultant Torie Clarke, perhaps best known for her role batting back reporters' questions as the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs to Donald Rumsfeld, has published "A Survivor's Guide to Washington: How to Succeed Without Losing Your Soul." At the top of Clarke's rules of the road: "Suck it up or pack it up." Clarke once packed it up herself, when she resigned from her post at the Pentagon in 2003. But she maintains that her time working for the Defense Department was the highlight of her career, citing her role in a program to embed journalists with troops during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more of the interview with Clarke, including her advice on how and when to appear on late night television comedy shows, watch this episode of "Top Line."


" GOP PROMISES CASSIDY A COMMITTEE SEAT," by Melinda DeSlatte of the Associated Press. "Republican Senate candidate Bill Cassidy has been promised a seat on the Senate's energy committee if he defeats Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu. The maneuver by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell undercuts one of Landrieu's chief campaign arguments - that voters need to re-elect her to keep her seniority on the committee that oversees the nation's oil and gas industry. While she will no longer serve as the committee's chair in the GOP-led Senate in the next Congress, Landrieu has campaigned hard on her place as the committee's senior Democrat - and Cassidy's inability to get a seat on the panel as a freshman senator. But McConnell tells The Associated Press that he'll appoint Cassidy to the committee if he wins the Dec. 6 runoff."


@hillhulse: It cost $60,000 to go on this presidential trip, but @MarkLandler got his money's worth. …

?@jonallendc: Pelosi: 'I don't think it was a failure of his message; it was the extent of his success.'

@ZekeJMiller: Kasich looks to his next campaign …

@WSJPolitics: The list of young leaders of the Democratic party lining up behind Hillary Clinton isn't a long or obvious one.

@JDSalant: For many U.S. lawmakers, the long goodbye. But some likely will stay in Washington as lobbyists.