Washington (CNN) - He was talking about health care, but President Obama could have just as easily been summing up his entire first year when he made some blunt comments in a closed-door meeting with House Democrats last week.
Democratic sources who were in the room say Obama, pressed by liberals angry about the reform package getting watered down, decided to quote Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who said recently: "What we're building here is not a mansion, it's a starter home. It's a starter home, but it's got a great foundation for expanding health care coverage to 31 million Americans."
Obama's point was that he believes the health bill - if it can pass (and that's in real doubt now) - would be a dramatic step forward but is just the first draft. He hopes to come back later in his presidency to pass a second reform package that finishes the job.
The same goes for other big Obama promises like energy reform to deal with climate change and financial regulatory reform to clean up Wall Street - "mansions" that have not been built yet, even though a strong "foundation" has been put down to meet these promises in the future.
But Republican Scott Brown's stunning victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday suggests Obama may not even get the first draft of health care reform through Congress, because of a huge split in his own party: Angry liberals in the House are signaling they will not rush through what they consider to be the Senate's weak version of reform before Brown gets seated in the Senate, while skittish conservative Democrats in the Senate, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, may no longer be on board with any kind of reform, out of a fear of becoming the next Martha Coakley.
Washington (CNN) - In what one member of Congress called "a charade," a couple that showed up at President Obama's first state dinner - uninvited, the White House claims - declined to answer questions surrounding the event before a House committee Wednesday.
Under questioning from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, and others, Tareq Salahi repeated over and over again, "On the advice of counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent and decline to answer your question."
The Salahis' attorney notified the committee in December that because of a pending investigation by federal prosecutors, they would not answer questions about how they gained entry to the White House on November 24, despite not being on the guest list to attend that night's state dinner for the prime minister of India.
In a brief statement that opened the often-contentious hearing, Salahi chastised the committee for requiring the couple to appear despite having been told the two would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if subpoenaed. That, he alleged, is against the ethical rules of the Washington bar.
He incensed some committee members by reiterating the couple's respect for U.S. troops, the Secret Service and the president.
A top pollster for Martha Coakley says what happened in Massachussetts could happen to Democrats across the country next fall. (Getty Images)
Boston (CNN) - Martha Coakley's top pollster Celinda Lake has a warning for Democrats, insisting that tonight's loss is part of an anti-incumbent fever that threatens to take down Democrats across the nation.
"There's a wave here. The first shore was New Jersey and Virginia," Lake told CNN Tuesday, referring to Democratic losses in the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia. "The second was Massachusetts, and it's coming to the island now, so we'd better do something about it."
She added: "We need to understand that angry voters are the ones turning out to vote. Our base complacent. We need to respond to that.
Lake, formerly a pollster for Joe Biden's presidential and vice presidential campaigns, was responding to a barrage of criticism lobbed by national Democrats at the Coakley campaign and Lake personally. In various news reports Tuesday, they anonymously accused Coakley of waging a weak and misguided campaign and failing to recognize the surge by her Republican opponent until it was too late.
White House aides have aggressively refuted suggestions that a Coakely loss is a repudiation of the President or his policies - insisting that the President's polling numbers are strong in Massachusetts. (While his personal approval is high, some polls show his job approval below 50 percent, and lower among independents.)
(CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, among those opposed to former TSA nominee Erroll Southers, issued the following statement on Southers' withdrawal:
"Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics. The White House never responded to requests for more information relating to Mr. Southers false testimony to Congress and his censure by the FBI for improperly accessing files. And Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports. TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes. The Senate could have had an open and transparent debate this week to approve Mr. Southers, but apparently, answering simple, direct questions about security and integrity were too much for this nominee. I hope the President will quickly put forward a new nominee that is fully vetted and that will put the safety of the American people first."
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, according to the White House.
Erroll Southers, assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence at Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama in early September.
He came under fire from the GOP for testimony before Congress in which Senate Republicans claim he gave incomplete information about accessing a federal database for personal reasons. The move led to a censure from the FBI.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, also spearheaded GOP objections to Southers based on concerns over the TSA becoming unionized.
(CNN) - President Obama was inaugurated one year ago today. Here's a recap on his first year, by the numbers:
124 bills signed into law
39 executive orders issued
3 nationally televised prime-time presidential addresses
4 prime-time press conferences
5 press conferences from the White House
20 countries visited
(Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Trinidad, Turkey, United Kingdom)
28 states visited
(Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
Washington (CNN) - Look no further than the two warning flares shot up from Virginia and New Hampshire Tuesday evening to understand how concerned Democrats are about the political consequences of losing the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat to Republican Scott Brown.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, called on his Democratic colleagues to suspend votes on their controversial health care legislation, warning it would be wrong to try to muscle a bill through Congress before Brown was sworn into office.
"In many ways, the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process," Webb said in a statement.
Some 500 miles to the north, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley sent out an urgent plea for donations to help fund a special election next month for a state senate seat he fears losing.
Washington (CNN) – As Barack Obama marks one year in the White House, an average of the most recent national surveys indicates that just over half of the public approves of how president is handling his job.
According to a new CNN Poll of Polls, 51 percent of Americans give Obama a thumbs up when it comes to his performance as president, with 42 percent saying they disapprove of the job he's doing. The survey's Wednesday morning release comes on the one year anniversary of Obama's inauguration as President of the United States.
"Obama's average approval rating stayed above 60 percent until mid-June, and was at 55 percent as late as October," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But since November, his weekly approval rating, on average, has hovered around the 50 percent mark."
This most recent CNN Poll of Polls is an average of four national surveys conducted in the past week: Fox News (January 12-13), ABC/Washington Post (January 12-15), CBS (January 14-15) and the Gallup Tracking poll (January 15-17). The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.