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Right and Left Unite to Condemn Chokehold Death Decision

Image: Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, on Dec. 3. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Politically, there’s been one key difference between the reactions to the two recent decisions of grand juries not to indict white police officers for killing an unarmed black man. Unlike in Ferguson, conservatives have united with liberals to criticize the decision out of Staten Island, NY. Maybe the biggest reason for this unity: the videotape that exists of the killing. Here’s the cover of the conservative New York Post: “IT WAS NOT A CRIME,” which shows still frames of the New York cop putting Eric Garner in a chokehold. Conservative commentator Erick Erickson endorsed this statement: “[A] government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice.” Conservative writer Allahpundit also decried the outcome. There were two notable exceptions, however: Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), who represents Staten Island, called the grand jury’s decision “fair and reasoned.” And GOP Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also defended it. But that was pretty much it. And in this era of increased polarization -- especially when it comes to matters of race and law enforcement -- it’s rare to see this kind of unity.

Does this create a political consensus to reform law enforcement’s treatment of African Americans?

This unity around the Garner killing serves to underscore that African Americans aren’t being paranoid when it comes to how they’re treated by law enforcement. The story out of Ferguson wasn’t as clear cut to as many people -- there wasn’t video and it turned into a he said-he said type of situation. But the story out of Staten Island is different. And we wonder if it brings additional pressure for politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, to address how African Americans feel under the law in this country.

New York Times vs. Washington Post on whether Boehner can avoid a possible shutdown.

The New York Times believes it’s pretty much a slam dunk that House Republicans will be able to keep the government open after Dec. 11. “House Republican leaders appeared ready to buck their Tea Party flank on Wednesday as they closed in on a spending deal to avert a government shutdown and prepared to call a vote next week,” the paper writes. But the Washington Post isn’t as sure. “[A]ngry with the president and encouraged by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other popular conservative media personalities, many of the House GOP conservatives remain skeptical of the Boehner plan.” Our take: We’ve heard that Democrats are expected to help Boehner pass the deal -- as long as the broad outlines aren’t changed much. Remember, Democrats have plenty of incentive here: 1) They don’t want to see a shutdown that could hurt economic confidence (again), and 2) the deal has a significant input from the Democratic-controlled Senate, which won’t be the case come January.

How much influence does Cruz have with House Republicans anymore?

By the way, be sure to check out the photo of Cruz’s news conference, where he urged Republicans to stop Obama’s executive action on immigration. That wasn’t a huge crowd. And note this quote from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC): “Senator Cruz needs to stay in the Senate,” she said. “I think Senator Cruz wants to fan the flames here, but I think everyone here has become more savvy to his ways.”

Better late than never: Obama steps up outreach to Capitol Hill

The Post also writes how President Obama is increasing his outreach on Capitol Hill -- especially to Democrats. “Obama’s attention on congressional Democrats, allies whom he once regarded as needing little attention, marks a shift in his view on how to deal with Congress. The president now sees his path to success as running through Hill Democrats, a group that has been disenchanted by the treatment it has received from the White House over the years.” But the outreach also includes Republicans, as Obama hosted incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the White House yesterday. “It was the first time the two have met one on one for an extended period in more than four years,” the Post adds. Many might argue that this kind of concerted outreach by Obama is six years too late. Then again, better late than never, right?

Needing 50 votes instead of 60

Here’s this Politico piece on how next year’s GOP Senate is likely to keep the simple majority rule for confirmations. “As they begin to plan their opening steps in the new majority, a growing number of Republican senators are expressing deep reservations about changing Senate rules back to the old system in which 60 votes were needed to overcome filibusters on presidential nominees. Instead, a number of senior GOP senators like Orrin Hatch of Utah and even junior Republicans like Ted Cruz of Texas are signaling privately and publicly that they want to stay at the 50-vote threshold set by Reid’s Democratic Senate majority.” Folks, this is a big deal, especially for the Obama White House. Getting four Republican votes (to get to 50) is a lot easier than 14 (to get to 60).

Health spending grows at lowest rate since 1960

Finally, there’s some additional good news about the state of health care in the United States: “National health spending grew 3.6 percent in 2013, the lowest annual increase since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking the statistic in 1960, officials said Wednesday,” Kaiser Health News wrote. “Health care spending has grown at historically low rates for the past five years, which is consistent with declines generally seen during economic downturn.” But as the New York Times adds, “The data defied critics who had said such slow growth would not continue for long once the recession ended in mid-2009.”

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