CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 26, 2013 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
CABINET TAKING SHAPE…
HAGEL CONFIRMED: The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Chuck Hagel as defense secretary after a bruising political fight. The final 58-41 vote fell nearly down party lines, with only four Republicans voting yes – Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama. Hagel, a former Nebraska senator and a Republican, will succeed Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.
LEW ON THE VERGE: The Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to be treasury secretary. The full Senate could vote on his nomination as early as tomorrow.
DIPLOMACY, HILL STYLE: BOEHNER SAYS SENATE SHOULD GET OFF ITS ‘ASS’... “We have moved a bill in the House twice. We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
PELOSI FIRES BACK, SAYS GOP HAS ‘TURNED US INTO A DRIVE-BY CONGRESS’… “It’s the end of February and House Republicans have called the House into legislative session for exactly 21 days ... and that includes six days where the House was in session for a total of 22 minutes,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says in an e-mail titled, “It’s GOP House that Needs to ‘Get Off Their A**.” “Republicans have turned us into a drive-by Congress – barely working and doing nothing to get our job done.”
CHRISTIE MAKES IT EIGHT: CHRISTIE ACCEPTS OBAMA'S MEDICAID EXPANSION… Gov. Chris Christie endorsed using President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare law to expand Medicaid in the Garden State, making him the eighth GOP governor to do so. “It’s simple. We are putting people first,” Christie said in a speech to the New Jersey state legislature. While Christie said he is not a fan of Obama’s healthcare plan, he promised to “make all my judgments as governor based on what is best for New Jersey.” Full Transcript
Who was the first African American to become a member of Congress?
With Chuck Hagel now confirmed as secretary of defense and John Kerry on day two of his first overseas trip as America’s top diplomat, President Barack Obama’s top two foreign policy officials are in place to carry out his priorities.
At the core: an emphasis on drawing down American troops in Afghanistan, the continued use of drones to police Afghanistan and Pakistan and using diplomatic solutions to solve conflicts in Syria, Iran and North Korea.
All of these priorities are remarkably similar to a past president that our colleague Dan Merica writes about in this new CNN.com story where he compares Obama to Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Obama would like to keep the United States out of war, “pursue peace through strength and cut defense spending,” said Will Hitchcock, author of the forthcoming book ‘The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s.’ “Those are all things that Eisenhower would have approved.”
The most noticeable similarity between the two men is their desire to avoid small, slippery slope wars that had the chance to propel the United States into a more involved conflict. Eisenhower knew going into his presidency the devastating effects of war, and Obama has turned to people with similar experiences.
Eisenhower “believed, with good reason, that once the violence begins, everything changes and you can throw your plans in the trash,” said Dave Nichols, author of “Eisenhower 1956.” “Small wars can take you down the slippery slope to a big war.”
Even though he was a war hero after World War II, Eisenhower said, "I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
Hagel and Kerry, who both served in Vietnam and earned five Purple Hearts between them, share that sentiment with Eisenhower.
Another similarity: their emphasis on covert power.
For Obama, this means targeted drone strikes and special operations missions instead of more conventional war tactics. For Eisenhower, this meant using the CIA to topple governments in Iran and Guatemala. For both Obama and Eisenhower, the use of covert operations satisfied two issues of importance to them: effectiveness and avoidance of large-scale war, Nichols said.
“It is a way of trying to get things done without striking the cues to a bigger conflict,” Nichols said. “I think Obama has an appreciation, like Ike did, of the limits of American military reach.”
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Top Republicans sign brief supporting same-sex marriage
As the Supreme Court gets ready to hear cases on same-sex marriage next month, dozens of high-profile Republicans have signed onto a brief in a show of support for gay couples to legally wed. The amicus or “friend of the court” legal brief, first reported by the New York Times, includes signatures by close advisers to former President George W. Bush as well as former governors and two members of Congress. Next month, the Supreme Court will hear two separate oral arguments on challenges to Proposition 8, the voter-approved same-sex marriage ban in California, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 congressional law that says for federal purposes, marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman.
Leading Drudge: All Tax, No Cut: Will He Cave Again?
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) tells FOX News if House Speaker John Boehner "caves" and agrees to tax revenues to avoid the sequester, he will lose his speakership. “I don't quite honestly believe that Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that happens. I think he would lose his speakership,” Johnson said in a report that aired on Monday's broadcast of FOX News' “Special Report.” – Talking Points Memo
Leading HuffPo: GOP Rep Asks Whether Gun Violence Victims Are 'Useful Idiots'
Freshman Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) published an interview with his pal Ted Nugent on his YouTube account this week, in which the congressman asked the controversial pro-gun rocker if he believed the victims of gun violence invited by President Barack Obama to the State of the Union were “useful idiots.” “Do you feel that the people that Obama has brought forward to hear his speech, do you feel like they're useful idiots or props?” Stockman said in the interview, which appears to have been recorded before Obama's State of the Union earlier this month, and has since been made private on the congressman's YouTube page. – Nick Wing
Leading Politico: President Obama’s sequester strategy: Divide and conquer
President Barack Obama broke Republicans once on taxes — and his risky strategy for winning the sequester fight assumes he’ll do it again. He will divide, isolate and defeat Republicans using all the powers of his office and all his skills as a political campaigner. As Americans grow frustrated with the cuts, Republicans will reject their party’s no-tax mantra and demand that Congress end the standoff, even if it means raising some new revenue – just the way Obama is demanding. – Carrie Budoff Brown
Leading The New York Times: Wave of Immigrants Released Ahead of Automatic Budget Cuts
The government has not dropped the deportation cases, but the detainees have been freed on supervised release while their cases continue in court, officials said. – Kirk Semple
The political bites of the day
– Obama says he is done with elections; just wants to solve problems –
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT A CAMPAIGN-STYLE EVENT AT A SHIPYARD IN NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA: “If the Republicans in Congress don't like every detail of my proposal, which I don't expect them to, I've told them my door is open. I am more than willing to negotiate. I want to compromise. There's no reason why we can't come together and find a sensible way to reduce the deficit over the long-term without effecting vital services, without hurting families, without impacting outstanding facilities like this one and our national defense. … I've run my last election. Michelle's very happy about that. I'm not interested in spin. I'm not interested in playing a blame game. At this point, all I'm interested in is just solving problems.”
– Republicans charge the president is ‘crying wolf’ –
REPUBLICAN SEN. JOHN BARRASSO OF WYOMING AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “It seems to me the president is running around the country, you know, crying wolf, saying that the sky is falling, all in an effort to scare Congress and to scare the American people into doing what he wants, which is raising taxes.”
– Immigration officers release ‘detained aliens’ due to forced spending cuts –
GILLIAN CHRISTENSEN, SPOKESPERSON FOR IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, IN A PRESS RELEASE: “In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding. As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release. ICE is continuing to prosecute their cases in immigration court, and when ordered, will seek their removal from the country.”
Gut Check Full Service... Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a written press release: “It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration. By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives. It also undermines our efforts to come together with the administration and reform our nation’s immigration laws. Unfortunately, this administration has a poor record of enforcing our immigration laws and has routinely sought to undermine them.”
– Forced spending cuts are a ‘booby-trapped’ time bomb? –
REP. XAVIER BECERRA OF CALIFORNIA AT A PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “When this sequester bill was passed into law it was a time bomb that was booby-trapped intentionally so that it would never go into effect because its consequences to the daily lives of people would be devastating. It would be harmful. And so, passing it, tossing it to somebody else to try to dismantle this booby-trapped bomb, time bomb, doesn't solve the problems when it comes to keeping people working.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Voters go to the polls in Chicago, where a special election is being influenced by New York City's mayor: bit.ly/13lm1fN—
Paul Steinhauser (@psteinhauserCNN) February 26, 2013
A very solid radar out of Chicago radar.weather.gov/radar.php?rid=… where temperatures have dropped to & holding steady at 32... Snow is falling.—
Harry Enten (@ForecasterEnten) February 26, 2013
Who votes in an off-year, early-calendar special election primary in a snowstorm? dailykos.com/story/2013/02/…. I don't have the answer—
Markos Moulitsas (@markos) February 26, 2013
Congressional Republicans discussing giving President "flexibility" on forced spending cuts, but Dems pan idea -- politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/26/con…—
Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) February 26, 2013
The Census bureau is dropping the term "Negro" from its surveys. Census says people prefer black & African American abcn.ws/ZGdPpu—
Rachel Swarns (@rachelswarns) February 26, 2013
Feds shut down Fung Wah bus service between Boston, New York after investigation by WBZ-TV - cbsloc.al/YAfVEW—
Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys) February 26, 2013
FungWah bus asked to cease service? Shocking. Theyve been running Flinstone style for years #footpower and were just NOW shutting them down?—
Ian Tasso (@Tasso_SPORTS) February 26, 2013
New anti-Sanford television ad in S.C. gets smarmy, sarcastic on.cnn.com/ZGcuiG—
Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) February 26, 2013
Pope to live in former Vatican gardener's house in retirement. No word on a Vatican shuffleboard court..yet. on.cnn.com/YyeSkK—
Eric Marrapodi (@EricCNNBelief) February 26, 2013
TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN
When Hiram Rhoades Revels was sworn into the Senate on this week in 1870, the Republican from Mississippi became the first nation’s first African American congressman.
Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels was a man of faith and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the Civil War broke out, Revels became the chaplain of a Negro regiment in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After the war, he settled in Natchez, Mississippi, a small town on the Mississippi River.
It was from Natchez that Revels’ political career began. He was elected alderman of the town in 1868 and became a state senator in 1969. Upon entering the state senate, Revels was selected to deliver the opening prayer. Congressman John R. Lynch, a man who was in the audience at the time, described it as a coming out moment for the black preacher.
“That prayer,—one of the most impressive and eloquent prayers that had ever been delivered in the Senate Chamber,—made Revels a United States Senator,” Lynch wrote in his book about Reconstruction. “He made a profound impression upon all who heard him. It impressed those who heard it that Revels was not only a man of great natural ability but that he was also a man of superior attainments.”
Just months after the prayer, Revels was selected by his colleagues in the state legislature to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. Though southern Democrats in Washington argued that he did not meet the citizenship requirements to serve in the Senate, Revels was seated on February 25, 1870.
His stay was short – only about one year – but his impact was profound. He preached moderation: he was both a fierce advocate for civil rights and a believer that ex-Confederates deserved amnesty for their war crimes.
After the senate, he returned to Mississippi, became a college president and died on January 16, 1901.
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