TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

In the News

  • Congress OKs budget bill, sends to Obama
  • GOP rivals to huddle: Debate changes
  • Bush/Rubio rivalry intensifies
  • Democratic debate: Softballs?
  • Key Syria talks today include Iran, Russia
  • Paul Ryan becomes 54th House speaker
  • Boehner bids farewell
  • US jets intercept Russian planes
Congress OKs Budget/Debt Deal: to Obama (AP, Hill, me)
• Congress early today sent President Obama an ambitious budget and debt measure that averts a catastrophic national default and sets spending priorities for the next two years. The Senate voted 64-35 to approve the bill just after 3 am EDT, with Democrats and GOP defense hawks uniting to defeat GOP presidential candidates
• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed the deal and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) for more than an hour on Thursday night, calling him the “most effective Democratic leader we’ve seen in modern times.” Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky) added early this morning that the deal “represents the worst of Washington culture.” – (2016ers – gotta love ’em – or maybe not)
• The bill is aimed at averting a catastrophic default, avoiding a partial govt shutdown and setting govt spending priorities for two years. President Obama negotiated the accord with Republican and Democratic leaders who were intent on steering Congress away from the shutdown threats that have haunted lawmakers for years
• The deal raises the govt debt ceiling until March 2017, removing the threat of an unprecedented national default just days from now. At the same time, it sets the budget of the govt through the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and eases punishing spending caps by providing $80 billion more for military and domestic programs

• These are paid for with a hodgepodge of spending cuts and revenue increases touching areas from tax compliance to spectrum auctions. The deal also averts a looming shortfall in the Social Security disability trust fund that threatened to slash benefits (vote loser) and head off an unprecedented increase in Medicare premiums for outpatient care (major vote loser)


GOP Rivals Huddle: Debate Changes (Politico, me)
• Republican presidential campaigns are planning to gather in DC on Sunday evening to plot how to alter their party’s messy debate process – and how to remove power from the hands of the Republican National Committee – not invited to the meetings: anyone from the RNC (candidates want debates that let them shine – and don’t challenge them)
• The gathering is being organized by the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham, according to multiple sources. Others expected to attend are reps for Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum. Planners are reaching out to other candidates
• Each campaign has a number of different gripes about the process. Some – such as Bush and Paul – have complained about unequal speaking time. Others have complained bitterly about how polling is used to determine who qualifies for which debate. Also opening and closing statements (mostly they don’t like the questions – they just want to spout)

• Carson said Thursday, “There’s not enough time to talk about your plans, there’s no presentation. It’s just a slugfest. All we do is change moderators.” (he talked about his tax plan – then was challenged on the math and he didn’t like it. but moderator was right. it didn’t add up) Rubio said the questions from CNBC’s moderators “became irritating” as the night wore on

• Sources at Fox Business Network, hosts of the next GOP debate on 10 Nov, said that as of Thursday afternoon, they hadn’t heard from any campaign or the RNC about their debate format, but that they weren’t concerned. They pointed to positive reviews of the first GOP debate, hosted by Fox News (err except for Megyn Kelly)


• The Commission on Presidential Debates has announced that candidates must be eligible for the presidency and “must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College.” Also 15% support nationally as “determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations” (Politico)
Bush/Rubio Rivalry Intensifies (Politico, Politico, Politico, Hill, Hill, TRNS, me)
• Just one day after a lackluster showing at Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo, Jeb Bush acknowledged to donors Thursday afternoon, “I realize I need to get better,” according to one person present on the conference call (not sure he has the personality for this)
• Bush went after Sen Marco Rubio during the debate for missing Senate votes during his campaign. Fox News’ Jenna Lee on Thursday said to Jeb Bush that “some people” are saying the exchange is “terminal” for Bush’s campaign. Bush chuckled. “Look, we’re still in October. … I knew this was going to be a long journey, but to suggest the campaign is terminal? That’s pretty funny.”
• Bush’s campaign has high hopes for their candidate in early states, according to a 112-page presentation doc obtained by U.S. News. In one slide for donors titled “Marco is a Risky Bet,” bullet points include: “Misuse of state credit cards, taxpayer funds and and ties to scandal-tarred former congressman Ravid Rivera takes away line of attack on Hillary Clinton”
• As far as Bush’s campaign media plan, the campaign has reserved $10.8 million in advertising beginning 5 Jan, with $5.6 million going to New Hampshire. Other slides indicate that Bush is pushing for 18% in the Iowa caucus, which is higher than he’s currently polling in recent surveys (big of magical thinking – and 5 Jan may be too late to turn it around)
• Rubio said Thursday on CNN, “As far as votes, I don’t like missing votes – I hate it. Here’s what I hate more – that is to wake up on the first Wednesday of November in 2016 to the news that Hillary Clinton has been elected president of the United States.” As of 3 pm Thursday, Rubio had raised $750,000 in online contributions from more than 14,000 unique donations
Democratic Debate – Softballs? (WaPo, me)
• “Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency … Will you say anything to get elected?” Followup: “Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?” – this was the first question to Hillary Clinton at the first Democratic debate – these were all their first questions
• Bernie Sanders: “You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?”
• Martin O’Malley: “Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what’s going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years?”
• Jim Webb: “In 2006, you called affirmative action ‘state-sponsored racism.’ In 2010, you wrote an op-ed saying it discriminates against whites. Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren’t you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?”


• Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam and for cyber crime, was awarded the EU’s prize for human rights and freedom of thought on Thursday. Reporters Without Borders repeated its appeal to Saudi King Salman to pardon Badawi, the father of three children (Reuters)
Key Syria Talks Today Include Iran, Russia (Reuters, Reuters, WSJ, me)
• SecState John Kerry is in Vienna today with Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for key talks aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Kerry met Iranian FM Javad Zarif Thursday to discuss the implementation of the nuclear deal and “raised the cases of our detained and missing U.S. citizens.” – Iran has arrested another Iranian-American businessman
Today’s meeting brings together more than a dozen European and Middle Eastern foreign ministers, but this is the first time that Iran has been included. A State Dept spox said Kerry will use the talks to see whether Iran and Russia are willing to accept a change of leadership in Syria
• Iranian Deputy FM Amir Abdollahian, a member of the Iranian delegation attending the talks, was quoted by Iranian media as saying, “Iran does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever.” “Talks are all about compromises and Iran is ready to make a compromise by accepting
[President] Assad remaining for six months.” (conditions?)
• Iranian and Russian officials have repeatedly said the priority for Syria should be the defeat of ISIS militants, who have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq (maybe bomb them?). The divide between Assad’s allies Russia and Iran and Western and Arab nations has deepened since Moscow began air strikes against opposition forces in Syria a month ago
• Russia says it’s bombing ISIS, but most of its air strikes have hit other groups opposed to Assad, including many that are supported by Washington’s allies. Russia has called for elections in Syria. A quarter of a million people have been killed, four million are refugees and 11 million people are displaced – the stakes are high today


• China has decided to end its decades-long one-child policy. Couples will now be allowed to have two children, the Communist Party said. Concerns at China’s aging population led to pressure for change (BBC)

Paul Ryan Becomes 54th Speaker (WaPo, Reuters, Politico, Hill, TRNS, me)

• Rep Paul Davis Ryan (R-Wis), 45, on Thursday became the youngest speaker of the House since 1869. He received the support of all but nine of his colleagues in an election to replace John Boehner (R-Ohio), ending a tumultuous month-long period for the Republican Party, and the House of Representatives (ending it for now, anyway…)

• “Let’s be frank. The House is broken. We’re not solving problems, we’re adding to them,” Ryan said after the election, speaking from the speaker’s podium. “And I’m not interested in laying blame. We’re not settling scores, we’re wiping the slate clean.”

• Ryan won 236 of 245 GOP votes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) received 184 votes and nine Republicans voted for Rep Daniel Webster (R-Fla). Most Freedom Caucus members, including chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), voted for Ryan. President Obama reached out to Ryan on Wednesday and wished him well

• Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney got the first selfie with new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) – that’s Ryan’s wife, Janna, cut off at the right 🙁


• Ryan said he would return control over drafting legislation to committees and rank-and-file members. A constant source of friction among conservatives had been Boehner’s practice of drafting major legislation in secret, often in negotiations with Democrats as fiscal deadlines loomed

• Ryan, a former VP candidate and chair of the Ways and Means committee, has served in Congress since 1999. He’s the architect of conservative budget plans that sought to slash social safety net programs, including effectively privatizing Medicare health benefits, while cutting tax rates for the wealthy and boosting military spending

• Looking on as Ryan spoke were his family, including his wife, Janna, and three children. Also seated in the speaker box were former Gov Mitt Romney (R-Mass), who tapped Ryan as his running mate for his ill-fated 2012 presidential run


Boehner Bids Farewell (Hill, Politico, TRNS, me)

• Outgoing speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), well-known for his public crying, drew laughter even before beginning his farewell address to Congress by holding up a box of tissues as he walked to the podium before giving the final speech in a 24-year career in the House

• “I leave with no regrets or burdens. If anything, I leave as I started – just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job,” Boehner said. “I’m still just me. The same guy who came here 25 years ago.” Boehner frequently dabbed his eyes – when he wasn’t crying openly

• Boehner expressed pride for banning earmarks during his tenure as speaker, true to form after his involvement in the “Gang of Seven” of House freshmen in the 1990s who highlighted congressional corruption scandals. “We banned earmarks altogether. Sorry,” Boehner said

• His speech, and tributes from Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), earned Boehner close to a dozen standing ovations. Pelosi – who has worked closely with Boehner as both foe and occasional ally for nearly a decade – called Boehner “the personification of the American dream.”

• As colleagues jumped to their feet to give him a final standing ovation, Boehner walked along the side of the aisle to shake hands with fellow lawmakers, a crumpled tissue still in hand. He then saluted fellow lawmakers as he looked around the House chamber for what may be the final time


• Surveillance footage of the Texas biker gang shootout at a Waco restaurant earlier this year was released Thursday – but by whom? The city’s cops said they didn’t do it. Nobody else is owning up to it, either (sooo worth a look)

US Jets Intercept Russian Planes (AFP, Hill, TRNS, me)

• Fighter jets from the U.S. and South Korea intercepted two Russian warplanes after they flew near a U.S. aircraft carrier operating off the Korean peninsula, officials said Thursday. The Russian TU-142 “Bear” bombers descended to an altitude of 500 feet, while the USS Ronald Reagan was conducting joint exercises with the South Korean Navy

• WH spox Josh Earnest sought to downplay the incident in the Sea of Japan, calling it “not a particularly threatening encounter” and noted that the USS Ronald Reagan was operating in international waters at the time. “This is a particular situation that did not result in a significant confrontation,” he said

• The Navy said a ship in the Reagan’s strike group tried to contact the Russian bombers by radio, but there was no response. The Navy, though, called the Russian flyby “routine,” “not unprecedented,” and said scrambling four Navy jets was a “standard” response. A Navy spox said a protest has been lodged with Moscow (fly on wall for real response)

• The incident comes after Russia and the U.S. on 10 Oct signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes protocols for pilots flying over Syria. Both Russia and a U.S.-led coalition are conducting separate bombing campaigns in the war-torn country

• Happy 40th Birthday tomorrow! Rocking into the weekend with the best single ever: “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen. Guitarist Brian May says, “There was no demo. It was all in Freddie’s head and on little pieces of paper. … I do think Freddie enjoyed the fact that there were so many interpretations of the lyrics. It’s an outlandish song. I think it’s beyond analysis.” (BBC)

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Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Justin Duckham, Nicholas Salazar and Loree Lewis contributed to this report


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