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Two months after their decisive midterm victory and complete congressional takeover, a handful of Republicans on the first day of the 114th Congress are on the march against … House Speaker John Boehner. As NBC’s Alex Moe and one of us report, Boehner is slated for re-election as speaker, but a bloc of conservatives who view him as too moderate and too conciliatory toward President Obama are planning to vote against him. Two diehard conservatives, Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), have announced their running for Boehner’s job. Just like two years ago, Boehner SHOULD have more than enough votes to win re-election. But the number to watch is 29 -- that’s the number of Republicans who have to oppose Boehner to force a second ballot. “Because the speaker must be elected by a majority of ALL votes cast for candidates, 29 Republicans would have to oppose him to force a second ballot -- assuming that all 434 voting members of the chamber vote… The last time a second ballot was forced was 1923.” Our take: Once again, this band of conservative/Tea Party brothers is proving to be a thorn in Boehner’s side, even though today should be a triumphant day for the Republican Party. And you want to know why legislating has become so hard? This is one of the reasons: Boehner and GOP leaders usually have 15-25 fellow Republicans opposing them.
Remembering last Congress’ vote for Speaker
Per NBC’s Moe, nine Republicans voted against Boehner in 2013 to begin the 113th Congress, while four others voted either present or didn’t vote at all (including Boehner himself).
Today’s tick-tock in the House for the beginning of the 114th Congress
Around noon ET, the clerk calls the House to order, which is followed by an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. At 12:40 pm, the clerk receives nominations for House speaker – Republican will put forward John Boehner, Democrats will put forward Nancy Pelosi, and other nominations are made. Next, at 12:45 pm, the roll is called with voice votes. The results are announced about an hour later. And around 2:00 pm ET, Pelosi introduces the elected speaker, presumably Boehner. Of course, that’s all assuming there is no drama.
The new GOP majority plays small ball with Keystone
Beyond today’s drama in the House, it’s also the start of the new GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. But here’s something to chew on: Republicans now have complete control of Congress, and the first thing they want to get done is … the Keystone XL pipeline? That’s the statement they want to make after their midterm victories? “The president's going to see the Keystone XL Pipeline on his desk, and it is going to be a bellwether decision by the president,” Sen. John Barrasso said on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday. We get the politics of Keystone; we’ve been covering the issue for years now. But it’s such small ball -- and it’s even smaller now in the midst of the lowest gas prices in years and 200,000-plus jobs being created each month. We’ve got to ask: All that money spent on the midterms, all that jockeying for control of the Senate, and first real statement from the new GOP majority is Keystone? It’s small-ball politics, whether you’re on the right, left or in the middle. It’s certainly no Contract with America.
Your new Congress is 80% white, 80% male, and 92% Christian
Here are some stunning numbers from the Washington Post: The demographic makeup of the 114th Congress (both House and Senate) is 80% white, 80% male, and 92% Christian. On the one hand, that’s more diversity than Congress has ever seen. On the other hand, it has a LONG way to go to reflect the country at large (63% non-Hispanic white, 51% female, and 73% Christian).
Jeb Bush tries to thread the needle -- in tone -- on gay marriage
With same-sex marriage now legal in Florida, Jeb Bush found himself trying to threat the needle (in tone) on the issue. On Sunday, Bush – who personally opposes gay marriage – gave this response to the Miami Herald: “It ought be a local decision. I mean, a state decision,” he said. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.” Then Buzzfeed unearthed a 1994 op-ed from Bush, in which he wrote that gays and lesbians shouldn’t have special legal protection. “[Should] sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion? My answer is No.” But later, Bush released a statement saying that all people, including gays, should be respected on this issue, per MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. "We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law. I hope that we can also show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue - including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty."
GOP congressman to retire, triggering another special election
There will be a SECOND special election in New York. Roll Call: “Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., will announce his retirement Tuesday, according to two GOP sources. The Republican, who was re-elected to a third term in November, will open a competitive seat in 2016 with his departure following this Congress. President Barack Obama carried the district with 52 percent, making it a must-win for House Democrats if they want to put a dent in the GOP’s historic majority this cycle. Last year, Gibson annihilated venture capitalist Sean Eldridge, the Democratic nominee with deep pockets, by nearly 30 points.” With this seat and the one vacated by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), Democrats have a good shot at winning one or two seats in special elections this year.
McDonnell to be sentenced
Lastly, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will be sentenced today. “Prosecutors have recommended a prison term of at least 10 years for McDonnell, who was convicted of 11 public corruption counts,” the AP writes. “Defense attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge James Spencer to order three years of community service, arguing the federal investigation that destroyed his career and exposed details of his rocky marriage and shaky finances was punishment enough.” In addition: “More than 400 people have written letters asking the judge to spare McDonnell from prison - with former Democratic Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, co-workers, relatives and neighbors among them. Several, including two of the McDonnells' daughters, placed much of the blame with Bob McDonnell's wife.”
CORRECTION: The AP article we cited above incorrectly noted that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked for the judge to spare McDonnell from prison. In fact, Kaine wrote a letter to the judge praising McDonnell for restoring voting rights to disenfranchised felons – but made no recommendation for McDonnell’s sentencing.”
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