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Democrats Face Spending Bill Dilemma as Clock Ticks

Image: Nancy Pelosi

AP

Congressional Democrats face quite the dilemma on the spending bill that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on around 2:00 pm ET. Do they stand up against it (due to its riders that roll back the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance and the Dodd-Frank banking reforms), which would jeopardize the bill’s chances of passage? (Remember, congressional Republicans are going to need Democrats’ help to get to 218 votes.) Or do they eventually relent, realizing that having this same debate early next year -- when Republicans will control BOTH the House and Senate -- could end up being much worse for them? Here’s the thing: Neither side is going to let the government shut down. But if the $1 trillion spending bill doesn’t pass, House Republicans will put forward temporary continuing resolutions, or CRs, that will keep the government open for a few more months. NBC's Luke Russert puts it well: "Do Democrats want to take the best win they can get now and swallow a few things they hate? Or do they want to push this fight into next year when Republicans have more power?" As one congressional Democrat told Russert, “If my colleagues don’t like this deal, they’re really going to hate the next two years.” To take your medicine now, or to take it later -- that is the question.

Warren leads the charge against the spending bill

Elizabeth Warren is clearly opting for the latter approach. Here’s the Washington Post on her role leading the charge against the spending bill -- and especially against its rider rolling back part of Dodd-Frank. “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a popular figure on the left, led the insurrection with a speech on the Senate floor, calling the $1.01 trillion spending bill ‘the worst of government for the rich and powerful.’” More: “Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul, banks are prohibited from using taxpayer-insured depositor funds for particularly risky derivative transactions... The new language would bow to this demand by effectively repealing portions of the ‘push-out’ provision of Dodd-Frank, which requires banks to push some derivatives trading into separate units that do not have access to deposit insurance.”

Where the 2016ers stand (or don’t stand) on the Torture report

The New York Times has a good rundown on the reactions by the potential 2016 presidential candidates to the Senate Intelligence report on torture practices committed during the Bush years. The short answer: Many of them aren’t talking. The one exception is Marco Rubio, who criticized the release of the report but who also said he didn’t support the past torture practices. “And I’m not advocating that we continue those practices.” Many of the others are mum, however:

  • Chris Christie said it would not be “responsible to comment,” even though he denounced torture in a 2002 speech;
  • Hillary Clinton hasn’t commented either, though she did support the report coming to light in a speech last summer;
  • Rand Paul has been surprisingly quiet. “Approached outside his office on Wednesday, he would not answer questions… Speaking to Politico, he said, ‘I think we should not have torture,’ and he generally praised government transparency, but questioned whether releasing gruesome details would be ‘beneficial or inflammatory.’” Huh?
  • Jeb Bush hasn’t commented on the topic;
  • Mike Huckabee called the report a partisan attack that puts Americans at risk;
  • And Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “If anyone is lying to elected officials, they should be fired immediately.”

Cheney to appear on “Meet” this Sunday

Speaking of this debate, guess who we can announce is appearing on “Meet the Press” this Sunday: former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Jeb’s Mitt Romney problem?

Bloomberg’s Josh Green reports that Jeb Bush’s “recent business ventures reveal that he shares a number of liabilities with the last nominee, Mitt Romney, whose career in private equity proved so politically damaging that it sunk his candidacy.” More: “Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 27 list Bush as chairman and manager of a new offshore private equity fund, BH Global Aviation, which raised $61 million in September, largely from foreign ­investors. In November the fund ­incorporated in the United Kingdom and Wales­—a ­structure, several independent finance lawyers say, that operates like a tax haven by allowing overseas investors to avoid U.S. taxes and regulations. BH Global Aviation is one of at least three such funds Bush has launched in less than two years through his Coral Gables, Fla., company, Britton Hill Holdings.” And here’s Green’s conclusion: “[Bush’s] flurry of ventures doesn’t suggest someone preparing to run for president, according to a dozen fund managers, lawyers, and ­private-placement agents who were ­apprised of his recent activities.” Now it’s important to note that this private-equity hasn’t been Jeb’s whole career, like it was for Romney. Then again, these appear to be the actions of someone who’s more interested in making money than running for president.

Rick Perry stoking the 2016 flames

MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt spoke to Texas Gov. Rick Perry – as he’s leaving office and contemplating a 2016 presidential run:

PERRY: I think over the course of the last two years people have-- you know, they-- they realize that what they saw in 2011-- is certainly not the person they're looking at at 2013, 2014, 2015.

HUNT: And are you smart enough to be president of the United States?

PERRY: I think the standpoint of-- life's experiences-- running for the presidency's not an I.Q. test. It is a test of an individual's resolve. It's a test of an individual's philosophy. It's a test of an individual's-- life's experiences. And I think Americans are really ready for a leader that will give them a great hope about the future.

More:

HUNT: And if you do run in 2016, do you think you would have any margin for error?

PERRY: Oh, I think everybody has some margin for error. I probably got less than-- than-- than other folks, but that's okay

Bottom line from us: Perry is smartly trying to speak to reporters and stoke the 2016 flames while he’s still in office and has the trappings of power. The question: The minute he leaves office, will the support -- in Texas and elsewhere -- still be there? Does he become a one-man caravan?

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