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Wednesday, February 25, 2015
622 Days Until Election Day 2016It's Wednesday, February 25, 2015, I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
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White House Watch
- Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill President Barack Obama vetoed a bill to approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which had been passed by both houses of the new Republican Congress.
- Just hours after the bill was sent to his desk Tuesday, Obama had rejected it with his veto stamp, and delivered a message to Congress explaining his decision.
- “Through this bill,” the President wrote. “The United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”
- “The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously,” he continued. “But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people. And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest -- including our security, safety, and environment -- it has earned my veto.”
- With that, the bill returns to Congress, where Obama’s veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both houses. The bill didn’t pass the House or the Senate with two-thirds, meaning supporters of the measure will have to convince a number of lawmakers to switch their votes and rendering an override unlikely. Congressional Republicans will try, however, and a Senate override vote will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
- While the veto may be the end of Congress’ chances of green-lighting the Keystone XL pipeline, it is not the end of the pipeline’s chances of being constructed. The State Department continues to conduct its analysis of the pipeline; after six years of work, the review is now in its final stages. President Obama’s veto is no guarantee that his administration will block the pipeline: the State Department could still green-light it, allowing construction to go forward.
- For President Obama, vetoing the Keystone XL bill represents more than rejection of this one issue: it is also the beginning of a new stage in his presidency. Republicans will control both houses of Congress during the final two years of his stay in the White House, meaning passage of legislation opposed by the President will become more common, and so will the President’s use of his veto stamp. In the past six years of Obama’s presidency, he has vetoed exactly two bills (the Keystone XL bill is his third veto).
- While this number is a lost less than the amount of vetoes most presidents log, the final quarter of his presidency will include a lot more chances for Obama to veto: with high-profile showdowns on a range of bills and issues expected.
- Keystone XL is a proposed 1,179-mile pipeline that would cross from Canada to Nebraska, costing $8 billion in construction and carry as many as 830,000 barrels of oil per day. Supporters of the proposed pipeline argue that it would improve the economy and boost job creation, while those opposed cite the effect on the environment. Although there are some holdouts, most Democrats oppose the pipeline; and most Republicans support it – as do a majority of Americans. Whether or not the pipeline should be constructed has become a rallying cry for both environmentalists on the left and conservatives on the right, and the debate has reached Congress, the courts, the White House, and State Department.
- The President’s Schedule At 10:15 AM, President Obaam will meet with immigration activists.
- At 12:05 PM, he will leave the White House for Miami, Florida, arriving at 2:45 PM.
- At 3:45 PM, the President will participate in an immigration town hall hosted by Telemundo at Florida International University in Miami. Obama’s focus on immigration today comes as Congress ties his executive order delaying deportation for millions of illegal immigrations to funding for the Department of Homeland Security (see below).
- At 5:50 PM, Obama will leave Miami, and arrive back at the White House at 7:35 PM.
Capitol Hill News
- Senate Inches Closer to Deal on DHS Funding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has offered a plan that could solve the congressional impasse over funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
- McConnell is proposing a vote on a measure that would fund the DHS through the fiscal year – and nothing else. Then, to please conservatives, the Senate will vote on a bill blocking Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The two bills will be separate, allowing for a DHS funding bill everyone can agree to (as opposed to the one that Senate Democrats have filibustered that both funds the DHS and undoes the executive order) and a vote on the executive order that conservatives will like.
- “I don’t know what’s not to like about this,” McConnell said of his solution. “This is an approach that respects both points of view.”
- However, Senate Democrats and House Republicans are each waiting for the other to come out in support of it. In every caucus, there are members willing to buck the position of their leader – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who has already announced support of the McConnell solution, even though Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid hasn’t; and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who released a statement saying, “Leadership's current plan -- to pass clean DHS funding and separate legislation barring executive amnesty -- is a mistake.”
- It is unclear when (or if) other lawmakers will fall in line with McConnell’s approach, but if they don’t, another solution must surface quickly. Funding for the department, which controls border security, customs, TSA, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, and other agencies, runs out at midnight on Friday.
- If no solution is passed by then, the Homeland Security Department will shut down, and many employees will be furloughed. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 53% of Americans say they would blame congressional Republicans for a DHS shutdown, while 30% would blame President Obama, and 15% would blame both.
- House: Status Update The House will consider an education package today that would replace the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Student Success Act gives states and localities more control over education than the federal government, and would “prohibit the Department of Education from forcing states and school districts to adopt Common Core standards, which establishes English and math knowledge standards for all grade levels,” according to The Hill.
- Potential Presidential Candidates Head to CPAC Today is the first day of the four-day Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, an annual gathering of conservatives that serves as a chance for thousands of GOP activists to size up their presidential candidates.
- Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – potential presidential candidates all, will address CPAC in the next four days. They join numerous other conservative radio hosts, activists, and officeholders, from Sarah Palin and Donald Trump to Sean Hannity and “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson.
- This year, the American Conservative Union (which hosts CPAC) is changing the rules for likely presidential candidates. Instead of delivering a campaign-style stump speech, their addresses to CPAC will have to be about policy, and for the first time, the prospective candidates will be subject to questions from the audience.
- Another big part of CPAC is the presidential straw poll, in which all attendees vote for their favored GOP presidential candidate. Rand Paul has won the straw poll the last two years (2014 and 2013), following in the footsteps of his father, former Texas congressman Ron Paul, who won in 2010 and 2011. Mitt Romney was the winner in 2012.
- Biden Visits Another Early Primary State: New Hampshire On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden visits Concord, New Hampshire today.
- While the visit is part of an official White House trip (he will speak and participate in a roundtable about the economy), it raises eyebrows because of New Hampshire’s position as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
- In addition, Biden’s New Hampshire visit comes after a visit to South Carolina last week, and to Iowa the week before, making this his third visit to an early presidential primary state in three weeks. These three states are key to presidential contenders, and Biden’s visiting them opens up a lot of chatter as to his consideration of a 2016 bid.
- Supreme Court to Hear Religious Discrimination Case The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.
- In this case, the EEOC part of the title stands for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a federal agency), which took up the case of Samantha Elauf, who is charging the popular clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch with denying her employment due to the head scarf she wears. Of the two courts that have heard the case, one ruled for Elauf and the other for the clothing brand, saying Elauf could have asked for religious accommodation and didn’t.
- Elauf is suing Abercrombie & Fitch over the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on religion.
Question of the Day
- Today’s Questions Today, President Obama speaks at Florida International University. Which potential 2016 presidential contender teaches there?
- Another Obama trivia question: What are the other two bills (besides Keystone) President Obama has vetoed in his presidency?
- Answer one or both of these questions by emailing me to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting me (@WakeUp2Politics) to get your name in tomorrow’s Wake Up.
- A lot of people ask me, so – Remember: you can look it up, find it in a book, ask a friend, family member, or co-worker, or scream it from the rooftops in an attempt to answer.