CNN's GUT CHECK | for April 30, 2014 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
A WINDOW FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM? House Democrats and Republicans who have been pushing for action on immigration reform view the period right before the August recess as the latest possible time they could get any immigration measures to pass. A number of GOP primaries will be over by then, and despite continued conservative resistance, reform proponents believe Speaker Boehner wants to go on record before November. Publicly, of course, Boehner continues to say President Obama is the biggest obstacle to moving forward.
One senior House GOP member tells CNN recent discussions with members across the conference have made him feel more optimistic about the chances of getting something done before the election. One factor that could motivate House Republicans to act is the threat that Obama will cite congressional inaction as an excuse to use his executive powers to halt all deportations. Many Hill Republicans believe it's a question of when - not if - the President will make this move. And those involved in the immigration talks now believe both sides have an incentive to broker some form of a deal - even a more limited measure that links a form of legalization to tough, measurable enforcement mechanisms. – Deirdre Walsh
WHITE HOUSE DISMISSES NEWLY RELEASED BENGHAZI E-MAIL … Responding to newly released Benghazi documents that show a White House push to blame Internet video for the 2012 attacks in Libya, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the latest revelation was just an opportunity for “folks to make political hay out of this.“
“I would also point out that the document itself states explicitly that Ambassador Rice is not on the Sunday shows to talk politics,” Carney said at a press conference. “This was part of our effort to explain our views, both as a matter of policy and as a matter of what was happening on the ground.”
… BUT IS IT A SMOKING GUN?Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, says the new documents prove the administration manipulated evidence showing that the attack was indeed terrorism. “The document that is now released as the result of a lawsuit, and nothing else, clearly shows that Ben Rhodes was trying to be a political operative rather than a national security spokesman,” Graham said on the Hill. “The fact that they would manipulate the evidence for political purposes to shade the truth about a terrorist attack that killed four Americans should be unacceptable in a bipartisan fashion.”
FALLIN ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO BOTCHED EXECUTION:Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday she has ordered an independent review of the state's execution procedures and issued an executive order granting a two-week delay in executions in light of a botched lethal execution Tuesday. Fallin gave no deadline for when the review must be completed. If it is not done within the 14-day period, the governor said she would issue an additional stay for rapist Charles Warner.
The botched lethal injection has catapulted the issue of U.S. capital punishment back into the international spotlight, raising new questions about the drugs being used and the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Senate GOP blocks minimum wage HIKE … Senate Republicans Wednesday blocked a Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. On a procedural vote, supporters fell short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the legislation. Republicans warned the increase would force employers to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and stall the economy while Democrats argued it isn’t fair to have people work 40 hours a week but remain below the poverty line. – Ted Barrett
SEN. REID: “They are fighting for the billionaires. We're fighting for the people who are struggling to make a living.”
SEN. TOOMEY: “I do not support government policy that puts hundreds of thousands of people out of work.”
DIA CHIEF STEPPING DOWN … Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, will step down from his post later this year, a defense official told CNN. The official said Flynn's decision is purely personal. But he is departing before his three-year term is over. – Jamie Crawford
THE BUZZ: CLOONEY-SOTOMAYOR CONNECTION REVEALED…Actor George Clooney’s fiancée, Amal Alamuddin, was once a student law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Alamuddin interned for the justice when Sotomayor was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in New York. Alamuddin was a student at New York University’s law school at the time. – Bill Mears
MARKET WATCH: Dow ends at all-time closing high after Fed says economy is picking up. S&P 500 rises in April, but NASDAQ falls.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Republicans pass tax breaks, but don’t pay for them
Republicans want to cut the deficit. And Republicans want to cut taxes. Tuesday, those two sweeping goals collided as a GOP-controlled House committee voted to advance hundreds of billions in tax cuts at the cost of adding those billions to the deficit. The House Ways and Means Committee voted almost entirely along party lines to make six tax breaks permanent at a cost of $310 billion over the next 10 years. The top Democrat on the committee pounced. – Lisa Desjardins
Leading Drudge: China To Surpass America As World's Largest Economy
The US is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, sooner than widely anticipated, according to the world’s leading statistical agencies. The US has been the global leader since overtaking the UK in 1872. Most economists previously thought China would pull ahead in 2019. – Chris Giles
Leading HuffPo: Lindsey Graham Fundraiser To Feature Leading Environmental Advocate
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will attend a fundraiser co-hosted by one of the nation’s top environmental advocates on Thursday, according to an invitation of the event obtained by The Huffington Post. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, is co-hosting the fundraiser for Graham in New York at the home of Julian Robertson, a retired hedge fund manager. – Sam Stein and Kate Sheppard
Leading Politico: Rand Paul to plunge into North Carolina Senate race
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is making an 11th hour plunge into the North Carolina Senate race, aiming to boost his preferred candidate and block the GOP establishment’s favorite, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, from scoring a clean win in Tuesday’s primary. – Manu Raju
Leading New York Times: With Eye on Re-election, Brown Pushes Rainy-Day Fund
After overcoming years of fiscal dysfunction that stemmed in part from an anti-tax ballot referendum, Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to call California voters to the ballot again — this time to approve a constitutional amendment requiring that surpluses be used to pay down municipal debt and create an emergency fund. – Jennifer Medina
Leading The Hill: Senate Democrats plan vote to reverse Citizens United decision
Senate Democrats will schedule a vote this year on a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance as they face tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from conservative groups. The Senate will vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would overturn two recent court cases that have given corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals free rein to spend freely on federal races. – Alexander Bolton
The political bites of the day
– Thompson attributes anti-Obama venom to racial bigotry –
CNN’S DANA BASH: “You believe some of the opposition, maybe even much of the opposition, to the president is because of the color of his skin?”
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, D-MISSISSIPPI: "Well, I've been here a long time. I've seen a lot of issues come before Congress. I've never seen the venom put forth on another candidate or a president like I've seen with this president and that's my opinion."
BASH: “Are there specific things that people have said that are racially tinged that make you say that, or are you reading the tea leaves of what's going on?”
THOMPSON: "I've seen quite a few State of the Union messages, I've never heard a president called a liar in a State of the Union message."
– Heller: Cliven Bundy’s no patriot –
SEN. DEAN HELLER, R-NEVADA, IN A POLITICO INTERVIEW: “I am very quick in calling American citizens ‘patriots’ … (But) I want to make it very clear that I never called Bundy a patriot. And I believe Bundy should have been paying those fees.”
– Ryan meets CBC members to clear air over ‘inner city’ comments –
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WISCONSIN, TO REPORTERS: “I want to thank my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for inviting me to their weekly meeting. We had an engaging and productive discussion. There’s no question that poverty is a serious problem, one with many causes and no easy answers. But that’s why we need to confront it. And we need to extend the conversation beyond Washington — to communities all across the country.”
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MARYLAND: Ryan “says that he has done a tour of the United States and says that he has learned a lot. And I think that he still has a lot to learn.”
– Reid: It’s time for a Redskins name change –
HARRY REID ON THE SENATE FLOOR: “Since (Redskins owner Dan) Snyder fails to show any leadership, the National Football League should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack. … For far too long, the NFL has been sitting on its hands, doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated. … Follow the NBA's example and rid the league of bigotry and racism. Your fans will support it."
– Bill Clinton: “Youth matters” in immigration reform –
FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON TO GEORGETOWN STUDENTS: “Immigration reform is even more important today than it was twenty years ago when I was President. Because having lost it, I can tell you (that) youth matters,” Clinton joked. “It matters. And the fact that - just look around this room - that we have all this diversity and all this youth and all this brainpower is a massive competitive advantage.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Mark Knoller (@markknoller)
WH announces Pres Obama trip to Poland, Belgium and France in early June. Includes G7 meeting in Brussels in lieu of Russia-hosted G8.
McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins)
New WaPo poll has Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie all within 4 points of each other. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics
The Upshot (@UpshotNYT)
Remember Presidents Giuliani and Brown? Right. Early front-runners in polls mean little. http://nyti.ms/1ktvA36
Roger Yu (@RogerJYu)
NBCUniversal research chief says Twitter doesn't increase viewers for its shows. "Emperor wears no clothes," he says http://on.recode.net/1kljAR6
Ashley Codianni (@AshleyCodianni)
House Republicans upping their digital game w/ @vineapp & Jay- Z remix: https://vine.co/v/MrZnjV636dI … I still don’t know how I feel about it
The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN)
#flooding: About 18,000 homes without power in Florida, says @FLGovScott on #TheLead http://cnn.it/watch
Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols)
Headlines I couldn't have predicted for $1000. RT @BleacherReport FSU baseball suspends Jameis Winston after citation for stealing crab legs
Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel)
I will make a full statement regarding @Oprah and our potential bid for the @LAClippers on the show tonight
TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer
According to his official House bio, Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, met his wife in jail after being arrested for helping to organize civil rights demonstrations.
Clyburn “was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12 years old, helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader at South Carolina State College, and even met his wife Emily in jail during one of his incarcerations,” the congressman’s bio reads.
Clyburn has penned a new memoir about his experiences. “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black” is set to be released Thursday.
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