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

  • Upbeat Obama wants a drink
  • Obama’s not “mopey”
  • McConnell: “No govt shutdowns”
  • McConnell targets Obamacare
  • Empowered GOP: Out of the gate
  • Five Republican priorities
  • Americans disapprove of – plenty
  • Election essentials

  • Army says word “Negro” OK to use
  • SCOTUS hears fishy case
  • SCOTUS: Is a fish a document?
  • Ebola: WH asks Congress for $6.18 billion
  • Missouri strikes same-sex marriage ban
  • Fresh Jerusalem car attack


Upbeat Obama Wants a Drink
• An upbeat and defiant President Obama bounded into the East Room of the WH Wednesday afternoon for a post-midterm presser. “Obviously, Republicans had a good night, and they deserve credit for running good campaigns,” said the president, who pledged to work with Republicans over the next two years (Politico, CNN, NYT, Hill, TRNS, Fox, WaPo, CBS, ABC, me)

• “What stands out to me though is the American people sent a message. One that they’ve sent for several elections now. They expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do. They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours. They want us to get the job done.” (errr not sure that was quite the message)

• “Still, as president I have a unique responsibility to make this town work. So, to all of those that voted, I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters that chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.” (bam – to Republicans: you don’t have a mandate from the majority of Americans)

• “If you’re asking about personnel or if you’re asking about a position on issues or what have you, then it’s probably premature because I want to hear what … I’d like to do is hear from the Republicans to find out what it is that they would like to see happen.” (No Wednesday Night Massacre in the West Wing)

• Obama’s hopeful that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will cooperate because “it means that negotiations end up perhaps being a little more real because, you know, they have larger majorities, for example, in the House, and they may be able to get some things through their caucuses that they couldn’t before.” (not things Obama will like much)

• “You know, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell,” Obama said. A change from last year’s WH Correspondent’s Dinner: “‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell they ask?'” Obama said then. “Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”
Obama’s “Energized,” Not “Mopey”
• Obama’s goals for the lame duck session are to approve more than $6 billion in new funding for the domestic and international Ebola response, a new authorization for the use of military force against ISIS and to pass a budget

• Obama said he plans to follow through on his promise to take executive action on immigration reform before the end of the year. “What I’m not gonna do is wait,” he said

• “The American people overwhelmingly believe that this town doesn’t work well, and that it is not attentive to their needs. And as president, they rightly hold me accountable to do more to make it work properly. They want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock and get stuff done.”

• Obama didn’t want to talk about the parts of the results that he didn’t like. He wouldn’t even say the words “lame duck,” calling it “the label that you guys apply.” Pressed repeatedly on what he’s going to do differently, he said he already wakes up every morning thinking about what he can do differently

• Basically, he was above it all. “Our democracy is messy and we’re diverse and we’re big, and there are times when you’re a politician and you’re disappointed with election results. But maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t know. It doesn’t make me mopey. It energizes me because it means that this democracy is working.”


• President Obama will meet with congressional leaders on Friday at the WH


McConnell: No Govt Shutdowns
• Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the soon-to-be majority leader of the Senate, promised both combat and cooperation with President Obama in a presser Wednesday, pledging to take some of the GOP’s most destructive tactics off the table. “Let me make it clear: there will be no govt shutdowns, and no default on the national debt,” McConnell said

• In both those cases, McConnell tried and failed to broker deals to avoid the worst. During the showdown over the debt limit in 2011, he was thwarted by tea party members in the House, while in the lead-up to the govt shutdown a year ago, it was Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) who stood in the way (HuffPo, NYT, Politico, TRNS, Hill, CNN, Fox, me)

• McConnell pledged to try to work with Obama on a number of key issues, including trade deals, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and tax reform. McConnell predicted Democrats would roll over for whatever deals he crafts with Obama. “Look, there’s only one Democrat who counts – the president,” McConnell said

McConnell Targets Obamacare
• But he also pledged to push ahead with priorities like chipping away at Obamacare. “If I had the ability, I’d get rid of it.” McConnell cited three pieces of the law: the medical device tax, the individual mandate and defining the work week under the health law as 30 hours. In his presser, Obama said, “Repeal of the law, I won’t sign.”

• McConnell acknowledged there would be fights. “The veto pen is a pretty big thing,” he said. He pledged to target various executive agencies. “I think it’s reasonable to assume that we will use the power of the purse to try to push back against this overactive bureaucracy,” singling out environmental regulations as an example

• “The relationship I’ve had with the president has always been cordial,” McConnell said, suggesting that govt could function once again, in the same way it did when Bill Clinton presided over a Republican Congress in the 1990s

• During his own presser, Obama said of McConnell, “He has always been straightforward with me. To his credit, he has never made a promise he couldn’t deliver.”

• Graphic: How big were Tuesday’s Republican swings? (NYT)

Empowered GOP: Out of the Gate
• Newly empowered congressional Republicans plan on moving quickly to demonstrate that they can effectively legislate. They say they will focus on balancing the budget, restoring an orderly process for spending bills, revising if not repealing the health care law and enacting a major overhaul of the tax code – ambitious goals (NYT, me)

• Before taking up the issue of immigration, Republicans are likely to see what unilateral action President Obama undertakes and how the country reacts to it. Senate Republicans also intend to use their control of committees to bring new scrutiny to the WH, federal agencies and Obama’s expanding use of executive authority (fun times)

• Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY), likely new Majority Leader, has also promised wholesale changes in the way the Senate operates, including a five-day workweek, more floor debate and empowered committee chairmen. He’s been vague on whether he’ll keep the nuclear option on filibusters (conservatives are pushing him to keep it)

• Republicans say they intend to force Obama to make choices on bills that Senate Democrats have been able to keep from his desk, potentially touching off the president’s first extensive use of the veto after six years in office

• Tensions may complicate leaders’ efforts. Top Republicans worry that the rank and file’s pent-up demand to directly confront Obama will be hard to manage. McConnell will have to balance the views of a handful of more moderate Republicans with those of unyielding conservatives such as Sen Ted Cruz (TX)

Five Republican Priorities
• Energy: Republicans plan to move quickly on a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. That could be fertile ground for agreement with Democrats who don’t agree with the WH on the issue. The GOP also wants to move on new energy exports, expanded exploration and added efficiency. Look for strong opposition from environmental groups

Budget and spending: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said late Tuesday the first item on the agenda next year is to produce a budget. There’s a divide in the party over cuts. Some want to reverse a series of Pentagon spending constraints, but others say doing so would make balancing the budget in 10 years harder

Taxes: A sweeping overhaul of the entire tax code is another top priority for the new majority – in theory with some Democratic support. President Obama mentioned it in his presser Tuesday. The key will be the ability to make a deal with the Obama admin

Health care: Top Republicans know they can’t repeal the law with Obama in office, but they’ll take some votes – and likely soon. Obama made it clear in his presser that some things are off the table. Others, like the medical device tax, may be up for discussion. Returning the law’s definition of full-time work to 40 hours from 30 hours has bipartisan support

Trade: The Obama admin and Republicans should be able to find common ground here. Republicans want increased trade and Obama wants added authority to negotiate new trade deals and win approval of a trade agreement with nations on the Pacific Rim. The main obstacle would be Democrats, wary of losing American jobs. A deal may be possible



Americans Disapprove of – Plenty in Politics
• Voters surveyed after casting their ballots signaled deep dismay with both parties and were at least as negative about Republican congressional leaders as about President Obama. A majority of voters said they disapproved of how the president was doing his job, and about eight in 10 of those who disapproved supported Republicans (NYT, me)

• Single women supported Democrats over Republicans by more than 20 points. Yet political independents once again supported Republicans, though by a smaller margin than in 2010. Democrats lost badly among middle-aged voters, suburbanites and Catholics, though not as badly as in 2010

• The economy was the top issue on most voters’ minds. Nearly half selected this issue as their top concern – nearly double the number that picked health care, the next most pressing issue. Fewer than one in five voters named foreign policy or immigration as their primary concern

• But perhaps the most telling sign of Americans’ downbeat state of mind was their lack of confidence in the American dream: About half the voters said they expect that the next generation will not enjoy a better life than Americans today. That was a significant increase from 2010. The pessimistic voters backed Republicans two to one – opposite of Democrats

• Over all, more than half of voters expressed negative feelings toward both the Democratic and Republican parties. In a cautionary note for Republicans about reading too much into their victories, one-quarter of the voters who supported the party’s candidates did so despite harboring bad feelings about the party

Election Essentials
• Independent Sen Angus King (ME) announced Wednesday that he’ll continue to caucus with Senate Democrats despite flirting in recent months with a switch to the GOP conference. He emphasized that “my independence has always been respected” in the Democratic caucus (Hill, Roll Call, Politico, CNN, Fox, ABC, me)

• Sen Mark Begich (D-AK) trails his Republican rival, Dan Sullivan, by at least 9,000 votes with 97% of precincts reporting. Virginia Sen Mark Warner’s lawyer, Marc Elias said Wednesday that he is “100%” confident that the Democrat has won reelection despite the closeness of the count in his race against Republican Ed Gillespie

• Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel (D-NY) said Wednesday there are at least three issues on which the two parties can find common ground: college debt, immigration reform and reforming the tax code

• Rep Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) will not challenge John Boehner (R-OH) for speaker of the House, his spox said Wednesday. Boehner has already started whipping support for his candidacy for speaker. The intra-party election will be next week, and the full House will vote for speaker of the House in January

• Sarah Palin took to Facebook Wednesday to caution Republicans. “Please realize that Americans were not necessarily voting FOR any party; they were voting AGAINST the continued dysfunction and corruption in DC. We the People were saying ‘enough is enough’ to the scandals, crony capitalism, and utter lack of leadership in Washington.”
Army Says Word “Negro” OK to Use
• A newly published U.S. Army regulation says a service member can be referred to as a “Negro” when describing “black or “African American” personnel. The Army confirmed the language is contained in the 22 October “Army Command Policy,” known as regulation AR 600-20. The Army couldn’t say when the word was added to the doc (CNN, me)

• In a lengthy section of the doc describing “race and ethnic code definitions,” the regulation states under the category “Black or African American” that would include, “A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.” Terms such as “Haitian” or “Negro” can be used in addition to “Black” or “African American.”

• The Army, along with the rest of the military, collects extensive demographic data on the makeup of the military force for issues such as equal opportunity and ensuring discrimination doesn’t take place

• A military officer specializing in personnel issues for the DoD called the idea put forward by an Army official familiar with the doc that someone would choose to “self report” and identify themselves as a Negro, “the dumbest thing I have ever heard,” noting the Pentagon doesn’t use the word in any of its extensive collection of demographic data

• Lt Col Justin Platt, an Army spox, said the word comes from an outdated section that will be updated shortly. (I’ll bet). “The Army takes pride in sustaining a culture where all personnel are treated with dignity and respect and not discriminated against based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin.”

• Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is demanding answers from the Pentagon. He claims a payment was made to an Afghan intermediary early this year to help secure the release of Sgt Bowe Bergdahl from the Haqqani Network. The intermediary apparently took the money and ran. The Pentagon denies it (WSJ, me)
SCOTUS Hears Fishy Case
• U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed a desire on Wednesday to reel in the federal govt for prosecuting Florida fisherman John Yates under a white-collar crime law for disposing of undersized red grouper fish while he was under investigation (Reuters, NYT, USA Today, TRNS, AP, me)

• Yates could have faced a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted under a records-keeping provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed by Congress to guard against corporate fraud of the sort committed by companies like Enron and WorldCom. Yates was ultimately sentenced to 30 days in prison

• Several justices appeared concerned that the Justice Dept interpreted the law too broadly. It penalizes the destruction, concealment of covering up of “any record, document or tangible object.” Justice Anthony Kennedy joked that if Congress had wanted to, it could have been called the “Sarbanes-Oxley-Grouper Act.”

• The case began in August 2007 when a fish and wildlife official measured red grouper on Yates’s boat and found that 72 were less than 20 inches long, violating federal fishing regulations

SCOTUS: Is a Fish a Document?
• A crew member testified at trial that Yates had ordered him to throw the undersized fish overboard and replace them with larger fish. Yates later told officials they were the same ones that had been inspected earlier

• “What kind of a mad prosecutor would try to send this guy up for 20 years or risk sending him up for 20 years?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked. Justice Samuel Alito also took the bait, saying the law gives the govt license to prosecute over seemingly “trivial matters.”

• When a govt lawyer said that Yates had been involved in a “convoluted coverup scheme,” Chief Justice John Roberts had heard enough. “You make him sound like a Mob boss or something,” Roberts said. The court erupted in laughter

• Roberts asked what people would say “if you stopped them in the street and said, ‘Is a fish a record, document or tangible object?'” Justice Antonin Scalia said, “I don’t think you’d get a polite answer.” A decision is due by the end of June

Ebola: WH Asks Congress for $6.18 Billion

• The WH asked Congress for $6.18 billion in additional funding to fight Ebola on Wednesday, dwarfing previous requests. It calls for more than $4.5 billion for the immediate response to the disease and $1.5 billion for a contingency fund to make resources available if necessary (Hill, CNN, NBC, me)

• In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), President Obama said the funds were needed for a comprehensive plan to target Ebola in West Africa, improve preparedness domestically and accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments

• The new money for the immediate response would be divided between public health agencies including the CDC, the NIH, the FDA and for humanitarian needs overseas. Funds for the contingency funds would be distributed between the Dept of Health and Human Services, State Dept and international aid organizations

• The resources would be used for training healthcare workers, acquiring protective equipment, managing Ebola treatment units, tracking the disease, education and outreach, for burial teams and to address food insecurity, Obama said in the request

• Obama and other officials have emphasized that it’s important for the U.S. to eradicate the disease at its source in West Africa. The U.S. has already deployed more than 2,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa where the disease has killed nearly 5,000 people

Missouri Strikes Same-Sex Marriage Ban

• Missouri’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a St Louis circuit judge ruled Wednesday, adding momentum to efforts in states across the country to legalize gay nuptials. The decision comes a day after a federal judge ruled that neighboring Kansas also was violating the Constitution by refusing to allow same-sex marriages (Reuters, me)

• In his ruling, St Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said that “the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and liberty deeply rooted in the history of the United States.” He found that the state ban on same-sex marriage wasn’t tied to a “legitimate govt interest.”

• Missouri AG Chris Koster said the state was appealing the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court. But, Koster said, he wasn’t seeking a stay of Burlison’s ruling. Officials were attempting to uphold the state ban after St Louis issued marriage licenses in June to four same-sex couples

• Marc Solomon, national campaign director for the Freedom to Marry advocacy group, applauded the ruling. “As Missourians get to know married same-sex couples and their families, they will see clearly that their marriages are based on love, commitment and an interest in caring for their families,” he said

• “Marriage equality is now the law of the land in the state of Missouri,” said Winston Calvert, the city attorney for St Louis, who argued against the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “This decision finally enforces that constitutional guarantee of equality for gay and lesbian couples.”

Fresh Jerusalem Car Attack

• A Palestinian driver rammed his car into several pedestrians in Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing a policeman, hours after clashes at the city’s holiest site. Officials say 13 people were injured. The driver was shot dead by police (BBC, NYT, JPost, Haaretz, me)

• Hamas militants said they carried out the attack. Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a result of “incitement” by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. A similar car attack by a Palestinian took place in the same area two weeks ago which left a woman and a baby dead

• In a separate development later on Wednesday, a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the southern West Bank, injuring three of them. The incident happened near a Palestinian refugee camp, Israeli police said

• Meanwhile Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel over what it called the “unprecedented and escalated Israeli aggressions” at the Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary. Jordan’s FM, Nasser Judeh, met in Paris Wednesday with SecState John Kerry to discuss the crisis over the site, the holiest in Judaism

• Access has recently been restricted to the religious compound, where the al-Aqsa mosque is located – the third holiest site in Islam. Netanhayu said Wednesday, “We are in a prolonged battle in Jerusalem. I have no doubt we will win.”

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Victoria Jones

TRNS’ WIlliam McDonald, Shane Farnan and Leah Schwarting contributed to this report


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