First Thoughts: Filibuster showdown

Filibuster showdown… Wrapping up last night’s Senate marathon meeting… Welcome to the Senate, Mr. Markey (what a day to start!)… Obama -- just like Ike?... President to conduct interviews with Spanish-language TV anchors… Paul, Cruz sign on to Gillibrand’s military sexual-assault bill… Star (Scientific) Wars… Virginia Dem Party ad slams Cuccinelli on Social Security, Medicare… Madigan takes another pass in Illinois… And Lone Star Rising: watching Greg Abbott in Texas.

*** Filibuster showdown: As of publication time, Senate Democrats and Republicans find themselves set on a collision course over changing the rules that govern Senate filibusters after being unable to strike a deal last night. NBC’s Kasie Hunt notes that Senate Democrats have set the initial vote on President Obama’s first of seven executive-branch appointees -- Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- for 11:00 am ET. If Republicans filibuster Cordray (or any of the other six nominees), then Democrats will seek to end filibusters for executive-branch appointees. This change of the filibuster rules, referred to as the “nuclear option,” would require just 51 votes instead of the typical 67. Here is the order of the votes set up for today: Cordray, National Labor Relations Board members Richard Griffin, Sharon Block, and Mark Pearce; Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. So the race is on, Hunt says, to reach a deal before 11:00 am ET. The clock is ticking…

*** Wrapping up last night’s marathon meeting: NBC’s Hunt, Kelly O’Donnell, and Carrie Dann report on last night’s marathon Senate meeting. “[L]awmakers said late Monday night that they have not yet reached an agreement to avert a showdown over Senate rules governing the confirmation of executive branch nominees. ‘We've had a very good conversation, the conversation is going to continue tonight,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a brief statement after a meeting that stretched more than three hours. Reid told reporters that the series of votes on executive nominations that could precede a standoff are still scheduled for Tuesday morning. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the meeting that talks are still ongoing. ‘A clear bipartisan majority in the meeting believed the Leaders ought to find a solution,’ said spokesman Don Stewart. ‘And discussions will continue.’”

*** Welcome to the Senate, Ed Markey: Ironically, just an hour before the deadline for today’s filibuster showdown, Vice President Biden swears in newly elected Ed Markey (D-MA) on the Senate floor. What a day to start your Senate career, Mr. Markey…

*** Just like Ike? We and others have noted the relative backseat -- at least in terms of public appearances and statements -- President Obama has taken in the last few weeks on issues like immigration, Egypt, and Syria. And the New York Times’ Baker tries to explain the low profile. “In his first year, the president seemed to be everywhere, talking about everything. In his fifth year, he is choosing his opportunities — even if it appears he is not always in command of events. Some compare Mr. Obama’s approach to the ‘hidden hand’ style of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who often steered events behind the scenes without being public about his role.” Of course, there are some striking similarities between Ike’s years in office and now (turbulent world affairs, divisive domestic politics). But historians didn’t really realize Eisenhower’s “hidden hand” role until well after he left office. More from the Times: “Susan Eisenhower, a granddaughter of the late president, said it might be too soon to tell. ‘Eisenhower’s hidden-hand means of meeting his objectives was not really evident until his papers were opened, many decades after he left office,’ Ms. Eisenhower said.”

*** Obama’s Spanish-language interviews: But it also would be unfair to say Obama is always taking a backseat on these issues. Today, for example, he sits down to conduct interviews with Spanish-language TV anchors from Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and New York beginning at 11:00 am ET. And this is a place where Obama could be effective after the immigration debate has moved to the GOP-controlled House -- urging Latinos to put pressure on Congress. What’s more, the president’s round of interviews comes after prominent Spanish-language news voices have been critical of House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner on immigration. If Republicans thought they had been getting bad press from Spanish-language media, they ain’t seen nothing yet…

*** Paul, Cruz sign on to Gillibrand’s military sexual-assault bill: While Obama is playing smart politics speaking with Latino TV anchors, GOP Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are playing smart politics signing on to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D) legislation to prosecute military sexual-assault cases. Per NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, Paul will appear at a news conference with Gillibrand, but Cruz might not attend, even though he has signed on to the bill.

*** Star (Scientific) Wars: The New York Times makes it pretty clear that the Star Scientific-Jonnie Williams cloud that has been hovering over embattled Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) also appears poised to drop water on the Republican trying to replace McDonnell -- Ken Cuccinelli. “He first bought [Star Scientific’s] stock after bunking down in its chief executive’s six-bedroom home. He added to his holdings soon after the rollout of a new product that the company hinted could be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. As the stock reached a 52-week high last year, he sold part of his portfolio for a $4,000 profit. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Virginia’s attorney general, said that the timing of his ownership of Star Scientific shares reflected nothing more than his own investment analysis.” More from the Times: Star Scientific’s executive Jonnie Williams Sr. “also gave the attorney general $18,000 worth of gifts, including frequent stays at Mr. Williams’s homes outside Richmond and in the Blue Ridge Mountains, according to Mr. Cuccinelli’s financial disclosure statements. Mr. Cuccinelli at first failed to report some gifts, as well as his Star Scientific stock, as required by law, which he has said was an oversight.” So much for Cuccinelli being able to COMPLETELY extricate himself from the Star Scientific-Williams-McDonnell story, and don’t be surprised if this is a major theme at the first Cuccinelli-McAuliffe debate on Saturday.

*** Virginia Dem ad slams Cuccinelli on Social Security, Medicare: And it appears Democrats also want to make Cuccinelli’s past words about Social Security and Medicare a topic of the debate as well. The Virginia Democratic Party is up with a new TV ad featuring an elderly woman who says to the camera: “I think Ken Cuccinelli does not care about people like me. In his book, Cuccinelli questions whether Medicare and Social Security should exist and said people are dependent on government. It scares me to think of Ken Cuccinelli as governor. I think he is way out of touch with everybody.” The Virginia Democratic Party wouldn’t reveal the size or duration of this TV ad buy.

*** Madigan takes another pass in Illinois: Switching from Virginia to Illinois, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) said that she wouldn’t run for governor next year -- once again taking a pass on major statewide office. “For months … Madigan and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, brushed aside the notion that it would be a conflict of interest if she served as governor while he continued to run the General Assembly,” the Chicago Tribune says. “But on Monday, she ended the rampant political speculation by announcing she'll skip a run for governor and seek re-election, noting that her choice was largely due to the inherent conflict of concentrating too much power over state government in the hands of one family.” Madigan’s announcement is a big boost to former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, who will be the top threat to vulnerable Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in a Democratic primary. Given Madigan’s worry about a conflict of interest with her father’s work in the General Assembly, we wonder if she’s having second thoughts about refusing being appointed to Obama’s Senate seat back in 2009.

*** Lone Star Rising: Finally, we forgot to include this news yesterday, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) announced his bid on Sunday to replace retiring Gov. Rick Perry (R). The Austin American-Statesman: “‘On a steamy summer day like this, I went out for a jog and while I was jogging, a huge oak tree crashed down on my back’ and ‘fractured my vertebrae and spinal column,’ said Abbott [at his gubernatorial announcement]. ‘I would never walk again.’ Noting that doctors inserted two permanent steel rods in his back, Abbott said, ‘Some politicians talk about having a steel spine. I actually have one. I will use my steel spine to fight for Texas values every single day.’” Looking ahead to 2014, Abbott looks almost unbeatable, and he could end up being a big star in the Republican Party.

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