White House

Upcoming Congressional Speech Backfires on Boehner, Netanhayu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah Photo: AFP/GETTY – 1/25/15

Here’s interesting news from NBC including the blow-back both Boehner and Netanhayu are receiving from politicos and news organizations and in Netahayu’s case, from his own citizens back in Isreal.

NBC News First Read

BY CHUCK TODD, MARK MURRAY AND CARRIE DANN

If the goal of House Speaker John Boehner asking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress in early March was to undermine the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, well, that backfired — at least in the short term. On Tuesday, a key group of Senate Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez “told the White House they will hold their fire on Iran sanctions until March 24, taking pressure off the Obama administration as it seeks to complete negotiations about the country’s nuclear program,” NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. The reason why it backfired: By scheduling the speech without the White House’s blessing — plus two weeks before Israel’s own elections — it came across as entirely political. And it ultimately turned into Democratic-vs.-Republican fight. “Israel has been, for several decades, a bipartisan cause in Washington,” the Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg writes. But he adds that Netanyahu’s poor relationship with Obama — including this most recent end-run around the White House — alienates Democratic lawmakers (“One Jewish member of Congress told me that he felt humiliated and angered by Netanyahu’s ploy to address Congress ‘behind the president’s back'”) and American Jews (who overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012).

Bibi is now getting blowback at home

And the New York Times writes that Netanyahu is now getting some serious blowback at home with the elections coming up. “Yehuda Ben Meir, an expert on public opinion at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said surveys had consistently shown that Israelis see a decrease in American support and a nuclear-armed Iran ‘as the two most serious threats, almost equal in severity.’ Israelis are highly critical of Mr. Obama, and may appreciate Mr. Netanyahu’s standing up to him, but losing congressional Democrats, Mr. Ben Meir said, would play differently. ‘Most people in Israel feel or think or believe that mainly this was done for internal political reasons,’ Mr. Ben Meir said. ‘His base may say he went because of the Iranian issue, but those swing voters – and what’s important is always the swing vote – it could among certain parts of the electorate harm him. It might be that he didn’t properly estimate the fallout.'”

White House yanks plan to roll back 529 accounts

Backfiring and blowback also applied to President Obama’s proposed elimination of 529 college-saving plans. Indeed, the White House quickly reversed course on Tuesday and dropped the proposal. “We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class,” an administration official told NBC News. “Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision.” There are two big lessons here: One, it shows why tax reform is SO HARD; you touch one popular tax break (even if it makes ton of economic/efficiency sense), and folks will scream bloody murder. Two, it’s a story about the political/journalist class. Raise your hand if you have one of these 529 accounts for your children or grandchildren. As one observer tweeted, “You can see the major class bias of many journalists when they act as though *everyone* benefited from the 529 program.” In fact, the benefits under the program are disproportionately skewed to Americans earning six figures or above — who represent just a sliver of the population. Still, we’re surprised the White House didn’t see this blowback coming when it first proposed the plan.

And that yanking came very quickly

Yet there’s another story here, too: That the White House yanked it SO QUICKLY — especially while the president was overseas — suggests it’s still holding out hope to strike some sort of tax deal with congressional Republicans. If you want to see tax reform happen in the 114th Congress, the speed of the Obama White House’s retraction might give you hope.

The Democrats’ danger of focusing so much on the middle class

A final related point to this 529 story: We get why the White House centered President Obama’s State of the Union speech on “middle class economics” — especially considering that the economic recovery hasn’t trickled down to the middle and lower classes. But there is a danger here for Obama’s team and the Democratic Party. You don’t want to be seen as the folks who are trying to keep Americans IN the middle class. Yes, many Americans are either in the middle class or think they’re in the middle class. But not everyone WANTS to be in the middle class forever; they might have their sights higher.

Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Loretta Lynch

Finally, Obama’s nominee to be his next U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, today has her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. TheNew York Times sets the stage. “If she is confirmed, Ms. Lynch would be the nation’s first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. Her allies have sought to differentiate her from Mr. Holder, an outspoken liberal voice in the administration who clashed frequently with Republicans who accused him of politicizing the office. In particular, Ms. Lynch is expected to face tough questioning about her opinion of the president’s decision to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation for millions of unauthorized immigrants. Mr. Holder approved the legal justification for that action, enraging some Republicans. Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, will say that while she had no role in compiling the justification for the president’s action, the legal underpinning was reasonable, according to officials involved in her preparation.” The hearing begins at 10:00 am ET.

10 things you need to know today 1-27-2015

The Week

1. Blizzard slams into the Northeast

A massive winter storm hit the Northeast on Monday, shutting down roads and transportation systems in New York City and Boston, and dumping more than a foot of snow on parts of New England. The National Weather Service had warned as much as 30 inches of snow in New York, but the city appeared to have been spared the worst, with eight inches falling overnight at LaGuardia Airport. The National Weather Service said hours more of heavy snow were coming Tuesday, repeating the warning that, “This is a serious life-threatening storm!” [The Boston Globe, NY1]
2. Kurds regain control of Kobani

Kurdish fighters claimed on Monday that they had driven Islamic State militants out of the contested Syrian border town of Kobani. The Kurds, aided by U.S. airstrikes, fought ISIS in the streets for months to regain full control of the town. On the Turkish side of the border, thousands of Kurdish refugees who fled fearing an ISIS takeover celebrated the news. Kobani is in ruins, but the defeat marked a major setback for ISIS, which seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria last year. [Bloomberg]
3. Ex-CIA officer convicted of disclosing secret information

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was convicted Monday on charges that he leaked details of a covert operation to New York Times reporter James Risen. The case became the focus of intense debate about the Obama administration’s prosecution of alleged leakers after federal prosecutors subpoenaed Risen in an attempt to force him to say who told him about the top secret operation to disrupt Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which he described in a book. Risen refused to disclose his source. [CNN]
4. Obama visits Saudi Arabia after king’s death

President Obama headed to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to lead a U.S. delegation offering condolences to the oil-rich country’s royal family following the death of 90-year-old King Abdullah. Obama, who just finished a three-day visit to India, will meet with Abdullah’s successor, King Salman. The high-powered delegation will include high-ranking Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), as well as other high-ranking Obama administration officials — an indication of the importance Washington places on Saudi Arabia, a key oil supplier and counterterrorism ally. [The New York Times]
5. At least 10 killed when jet crashes during NATO training in Spain

A Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed during NATO training at a base in southeastern Spain on Monday, killing at least 10 people. The jet lost power during take-off and hit other aircraft that were parked on the ground, sending flames and smoke into the air. Eight of the people killed were French military personnel. Two were Greek. At least 21 other service members, including 11 Italians and 10 French, were injured. [The Associated Press]
6. Federal worker says he was controlling drone that crashed near White House

A federal employee came forward Monday and said he was responsible for the two-foot wide quadcopter drone that crashed on White House grounds hours earlier. The man, who does not work at the White House, said he was flying the remote-controlled quadcopter for fun around 3 a.m. when he lost control of it, not meaning for it to go near the White House. The Secret Service briefly locked down the White House when the drone was discovered. The Secret Service said the man appeared to be telling the truth. [The New York Times]
7. Koch brothers reportedly plan to spend $889 million on 2016 election

A conservative advocacy network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers intends to spend $889 million on the 2016 election. The plan was announced at an annual meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, a tax-exempt business lobby at the heart of Charles and David Koch’s political operations, according to a person who attended. The money would go toward field operations, technology, and other resources. Together, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are expected to spend about $1 billion. [The Washington Post]
8. CBO says deficit falling to lowest of Obama’s presidency

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the budget deficit should shrink this year to its lowest level as a percentage of the economy since 2007. The nonpartisan agency said the deficit for the fiscal year, which ends in September, will be $468 billion, down a tick from last year’s $483 billion mark. In addition, the CBO said there were 19 million fewer uninsured Americans this year compared to the year before thanks to changes implemented under ObamaCare. [The Associated Press]
9. Survivors mark 70th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

About 300 Auschwitz survivors gathered Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation the former Nazi concentration camp by Russian troops. The presidents of Poland, Germany, France, and Ukraine will be among the dignitaries who will be present for the commemoration at the site of the camp, in southern Poland, where 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, were killed during World War II. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the anniversary should serve as a reminder of the world’s responsibility to continue to “expose those who promote prejudices.” [Reuters]
10. Kobe Bryant to have season-ending shoulder surgery

Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant has decided to follow his doctor’s advice and have shoulder surgery that is expected to end his season, according to a statement released by the basketball team on Monday. Bryant tore his right rotator cuff last week. He has been having one of the worst seasons of his career, and with the Lakers at the bottom of the standings had little reason to hurry back and risk further injury. [USA Today]

10 things you need to know today – 1/26/2015

AP WHITE HOUSE LOCKDOWN A USA DC

Secret Service Officers search south grounds of the White House on January 26, 2015 | (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

 The Week

(Via my email.  There is no longer access to the online version without a subscription.)

1. Radical Greek anti-austerity party wins parliamentary election

Greece’s radical left Syriza party, which is vowing to end the country’s tough austerity program, moved quickly to form a government Monday, a day after winning a decisive victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, at age 40 Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, said the vote gave the party a clear mandate to end “five years of humiliation and pain,” signaling a showdown with lenders over the terms of Greece’s $270 billion international bailout. Greek stocks fell by five percent early Monday. [The Washington Post]

2. New York and the rest of the Northeast brace for historic storm

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Monday ahead of a potentially historic winter storm headed into the Northeast. New Yorkers were expecting as much as 30 inches of snow to begin falling in early afternoon. New York City has only experienced two blizzards packing 26 inches of snow, one in 1947 and one in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.” [ABC News, PBS Newshour]

3. Sixteen die in protests marking anniversary of Egypt’s uprising

At least 16 people were killed in Egypt over the weekend in clashes between police and protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the country’s revolution. At least 15 people, including three police cadets, were killed on Sunday. One woman, Shaimaa El-Sabbagh of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was killed — shot by police, colleagues said — as she marched with a group heading to Tahrir Square. Police deny firing the shots, saying they only used tear gas. [CNN, BBC News]

4. New York Assembly Speaker Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

Longtime New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed Sunday to step aside temporarily as he fights federal corruption charges. Silver was under increasing pressure from Democrats to give up his duties. One person familiar with the deal said Silver, who was arrested on Thursday, would “not specifically step down, but step back.” Democrats will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon to consider the plan. [The New York Times]

5. Small aerial drone found on White House grounds

A device believed to be a small aerial drone, was found on the grounds of the White House on Sunday. Obama administration officials said Monday that the device posed no threat. The discovery came as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India, although their daughters, Sasha and Malia, did not travel with them. The news came as the Secret Service has been trying to regroup after several security breaches, including one in September when a man with a knife scaled a fence and ran into the White House. [The Miami Herald]

6. Christie forms PAC ahead of possible presidential bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee in what has been interpreted as an early step toward launching a bid for the presidency in 2016. The move made Christie the third high-profile Republican to consider launching a campaign, behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Launching the PAC, Leadership Matters for America, will let Christie recruit the staff and fundraisers he would need to start a campaign. [The Wall Street Journal]

7. Obama moves to expand protections in Alaska wilderness

The White House announced on Sunday that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness. The designation would make it illegal to drill for oil and gas, or build roads on the land. The news was met with excitement from environmental groups and anger by Republican opponents, including Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who called the proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.” [The New York Times]

8. Church of England consecrates its first female bishop

The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop on Monday. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, said her ordination as Bishop of Stockport is a “profound and remarkable moment,” as it ends an uninterrupted tradition of male-only leadership for the 500-year-old institution. The church announced Lane’s consecration last month after a divisive debate over whether to allow women to become bishops. Critics said Lane’s appointment was merely symbolic, but she said she may be “the first, but I won’t be the only.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

9. Birdman takes top prize at SAG Awards

Birdman took the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, winning for outstanding ensemble in a motion picture. The prize boosted the film’s Oscar hopes, although its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne, who took the best-actor award for his work in The Theory of Everything. Uzo Aduba took the prize for outstanding female actor for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Orange is the New Black. The series also won for best cast in a comedy. [CBS News, USA Today]

10. Duke’s Coach K gets his 1,000th win

The Duke men’s basketball team made a late-game comeback to beat St. Johns 77-68 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, giving the Blue Devils’ legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, the 1,000th win of his 40-year coaching career. Duke trailed by 10 with just over eight minutes remaining, then went on a 28-9 tear. Krzyzewski was already the winningest coach in Division I college men’s basketball. He won that distinction three seasons ago in the same arena with his 903rd win, surpassing his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. [Raleigh News & Observer, Sports Illustrated]

10 things you need to know today: January 7, 2015

An injured person is evacuated in Paris.

An injured person is evacuated in Paris |(AP Images/Thibault Camus)

The Week

Gunmen kill 12 at French satirical magazine, Boehner keeps his job as House speaker, and more

1. Gunmen kill 12 at French satirical magazine
Twelve people were killed and 10 wounded by two gunmen who entered the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, police said Wednesday. The attackers reportedly escaped in two vehicles after the shooting. Charlie Hebdo‘s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad on its cover. [Time, Reuters]

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2. Boehner keeps his job as House speaker
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) fought off challenges from two hardline conservatives on Tuesday tohold onto his job as speaker of the House for a third term. Two dozen Republicans voted against Boehner, a rare upwelling of dissent compared to other such votes in recent years. The tweak came on the day Republicans assumed control of both houses of Congress for the first time in eight years after taking back the Senate in last year’s midterms. [The New York Times]

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3. Former Virginia governor McDonnell sentenced to two years in prison
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) to two years in prison for using his office to help a dietary-supplement tycoon in exchange for $177,000 in loans and gifts. Prosecutors initially pushed for McDonnell to serve more than a decade, but defense lawyers wanted him sentenced to community service rather than prison. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also convicted, but she has yet to be sentenced. The judge ordered McDonnell to report to prison on Feb. 9. [The Washington Post]

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4. White House threatens Keystone XL oil pipeline veto
The White House said Tuesday that President Obama would veto a bill introduced by Republicans in the Senate that would approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. The proposal is the first piece of legislation introduced after Republicans officially took control of the Senate as the new Congress convened on Tuesday. All 54 GOP senators and six Democrats back the bill. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “premature to evaluate the project before something as basic as the route of the pipeline has been determined.” [The Associated Press]

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5. Divers confirm location of AirAsia jet’s tail
Indonesian authorities confirmed Wednesday that they had found part of the tail of AirAsia Flight 8501 at the bottom of the Java Sea. The country’s search-and-rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said divers had managed to take pictures of the wreckage and would investigate further. The find could lead to the recovery of the plane’s flight data recorders, or black boxes, which are located in the tails of jetliners. So far, the bodies of 40 of the 162 people who were on the plane have been recovered. [The Wall Street Journal]

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6. Car bombing kills 31 outside Yemeni police school
A car bomb blast killed 31 people and wounded 64 more outside a police college in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Wednesday. “The situation is catastrophic,” a paramedic said. “We arrived to find bodies piled on top of each other.” The attack came less than a week after a suicide bombing south of the city. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has stepped up its bombings and shootings since Shiite Muslim Houthi militia seized the capital in September. [Reuters]

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7. 220-year-old Boston time capsule opened
Boston Museum of Fine Arts conservators on Tuesday night opened a time capsule placed under the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795 by then-governor John Adams, and Paul Revere. The contents of the box were no secret, as they had been cleaned and carefully cataloged by workers who made emergency repairs to the building’s foundation in 1855. The box contained five newspapers, 23 coins dating as far back as 1652, and other artifacts. [The Boston Globe]

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8. U.N. accepts Palestinians’ request to join the International Criminal Court
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Tuesday that he had accepted the documents Palestinian officials submitted ratifying the International Criminal Court, clearing the way for the Palestinians to join the war-crimes tribunal in April. That, in theory, would give Palestinian leaders the ability to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel, although Palestinians could be accused, too. The U.S. opposed the move, saying it would be hurt the chance of peace. [The Associated Press]

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9. Kepler spots its 1,000th Earth-like planet
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has detected its 1,000th potentially life-sustaining planet, and the latest finds include what appear to be the most Earth-like planets yet. Those worlds are called Kepler 438 b and Kepler 442 b. They are both orbiting within the habitable zones surrounding their stars, where the temperature would be just right for liquid water, and life. These finds, along with the detection of six other small exoplanets, were announced Tuesday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. [Scientific American]

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10. Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, and Biggio elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame
Former ace pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, along with star hitter Craig Biggio. The three pitchers earned nine coveted Cy Young Awards among them, with Johnson leading the pack with five. Biggio had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons with the Houston Astros. Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz all ended their careers in 2009, winning entry in their first year of eligibility. It was the first time in 60 years that four players were chosen in the same year. [The New York Times]

White House: GOP Keeping Scalise ‘Says A Lot About Who They Are’

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I wholeheartedly agree…

TPM LiveWire

The White House said on Monday that it’s up to Republicans to decide whether to keep House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the leadership team, but argued that their decision “says a lot about who they are.”

“There’s no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Earnest declined to call on House Republicans to remove Scalise from his position as the No. 3 leader in the conference, after the congressman admitted last week that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Other House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are standing by Scalise, while acknowledging that he made a mistake.

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

H/t: DB

New Year, New Congress

U.S. House of Representatives – Stock Photo

ABC News – The Note

NOTABLES

  • FIVE THINGS THE GOP CONGRESS EXPECTED TO TACKLE: New Republican majorities poised to take control of Capitol Hill this week have a to-do list that will challenge the White House during President Obama’s final two years in office. Here’s a look at five items the GOP Congress is expected to tackle in the coming months, many of which are expected to face intense opposition from the White House, courtesy of ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON: http://abcn.ws/1IfwNnZ
  • COWBOY CHRISTIE: Chris Christie is staying true to his childhood sports allegiances. The New Jersey governor doesn’t root for either of his state’s two NFL teams, the Jets and Giants in East Rutherford. He doesn’t root for the Philadelphia Eagles, either, a popular team in southern New Jersey. He cheers for the Dallas Cowboys, a divisional rival of the Giants and Eagles. Last night marked Christie’s most visible appearance yet: the Cowboys’ first playoff game in five seasons, according toABC’s DAN GOOD. Dallas scored a late touchdown to take a 24-20 lead against the Detroit Lions. And there was Christie, in a burnt orange sweater, trying to get a high five, and settling for a group hug with Jones and his son Stephen. http://abcn.ws/1vQAOIS
  • WHAT WE’RE WATCHING: Four more House Republicans have decided not to support John Boehner’s reelection bid for House Speaker, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON reports. Reps. Steve King, Marlin Stutzman and Paul Gosar – who all voted for Boehner in 2013 – have decided they can’t support Boehner again in tomorrow’s vote. Rep. Dave Brat, who knocked off former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary last year, has also decided to vote for someone else. That makes nine members who have announced their opposition so far, meaning 20 more will have to step forward to throw the vote to a second ballot.

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: This was supposed to be the week that was about results, not process. But a rough holiday break removed that possibility from what was supposed to be a triumphal week for House Speaker John Boehner. Before he gets settled into a third term as speaker, he has one Republican member resigning after a felony conviction, and a top member of his leadership team under intense scrutiny for a not-really-that-long-ago speech in front of a white supremacist group. Then there’s the leadership challenge – a personal affront to Boehner, since the real time to run for House speaker would have been in GOP leadership elections shortly after Republicans expanded their majority to its new historic level. Ted Yoho/Louie Gohmert/Steve King won’t stop Boehner from continuing to serve as House speaker. But Boehner will once again have to tame the impulses of his own fractious conference, before his expanded House majority even votes on a bill. What’s that say about the year ahead?

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: Republicans are one day away from assuming their new majority in the Senate and their expanded grip on the House. A new era of divided government is dawning in Washington, which will shape the final two years of President Obama’s time in office. The burden of governing, not simply saying no to the president’s agenda, now rests with Republicans. Yet before they get started, John Boehner is trying to extinguish questions about whether he will be crowned as speaker of the House. Pockets of opposition are percolating, with at least nine GOP members saying they won’t back him, but it will take 28 votes against him to send it to a second ballot. Don’t expect a conservative coup. Until a center of gravity emerges from the Tea Party wing, Boehner appears safe. And he, along with Mitch McConnell, will drive the new Republican majority.

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It’s 2015. Where are we on 2016? Let’s re-cap. Jeb Bush is “exploring the possibility,” releasing his e mails, and raising money in Greenwich this week. Mike Huckabee left his Fox show because he can’t “rule out another presidential run.” Bobby Jindal will be in Iowa tomorrow for two closed door meetings with politically connected pastors. George Pataki will be in New Hampshire next week for what is described as a “multi-day trip” to the first primary state. And at the end of the month will be the first “cattle call” of the season with a large group of potential 2016ers heading to Des Moines for the Rep. Steve King and Citizens United sponsored Iowa Freedom Summit. Chris Christie will be in attendance, although he has been spending quite a few evenings in Dallas, cheering on his Cowboys, even if it does surprise his New Jersey constituents. On the Democratic side, the only person making any official moves is Jim Webb who has launched an exploratory committee, but thar’s it. As for others, including Hillary Clinton, and possibly a slew of other GOPers, we’re in the waiting before the waiting period.

‘THIS WEEK’ REWIND

REP-ELECT MIA LOVE: STEVE SCALISE SHOULD STAY HOUSE WHIP DESPITE KLAN CONTROVERSY. Representative-elect Mia Love, R-Utah, the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican and one of the GOP’s 74 fresh faces scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow, says that despite the controversy surrounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Lousiana, she thinks he should remain a leader to the newly reinvigorated party, ABC’s ALI DUKAKIS notes. The third-highest ranked Republican in the House of Representatives, Scalise came under fire last week after he reportedly attended a civil rights workshop organized by a group of alleged white supremacists in 2002. Of note among the organizers was David Duke, the then-president of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) and former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. When asked by ABC’s MARTHA RADDATZ on “This Week” what her initial reaction to the news was, Love said, “My first thoughts [were] this was 12 years ago. It’s interesting that it’s coming up now??? I found that really interesting.”

FAUCI: 2015 WILL BE ‘BAD YEAR’ FOR THE FLU. Flu season has hit the U.S. particularly hard this year and the widespread outbreak has officially been declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High flu activity is reported in 22 states, with increased hospitalizations across the country, according to ABC’s KARI REA. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said yesterday that Americans are in for a rough flu season. “If you look at the trajectory, it’s not going to be a good year. It’s going to be a bad year,” Fauci told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.” “How bad it’s going to be will depend on how it actually evolves.”

U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: WAR WELL WORTH FIGHTING. Raddatz spoke with Army General John Campbell about the new US and NATO mission in Afghanistan. WATCH:http://abcn.ws/1xHTa2E

IS MIKE HUCKABEE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT? The ‘This Week’ powerhouse roundtable weighed in the former Arkansas governor’s big announcement on Fox News and potential White House run. WATCH:http://abcn.ws/14mVd2r

WHO’S TWEETING?

@PhilipRucker: As Huckabee eyes WH run in 2016, he faces financial & organizational hurdles.@costareports & @danbalz explore: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/huckabees-challenge-in-2016-growing-a-national-campaign-from-the-grass-roots/2015/01/04/173e1b08-9453-11e4-aabd-d0b93ff613d5_story.html?hpid=z5 ???

?@JenniferJJacobs: Bobby Jindal to meet tomorrow with Iowa pastors in Cedar Rapids (again) & DM.http://dmreg.co/1BmVGxM

@wpjenna: Tomorrow will end four months of enforced limbo for former VA Gov. Bob McDonnell:http://wapo.st/1Bq4lQ9

@TheFix: The political reporters you need to follow in the early caucus and primary states. Good stuff here.http://ow.ly/GNTMO

@tackettdc: The long shadow of Mario Cuomo’s 1977 defeat http://nyti.ms/1ypUqKI

10 things you need to know today: January 4, 2015

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee | Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The Week

Mike Huckabee prepares for a 2016 run, the first popularly elected black senator dies, and more.
1. Mike Huckabee leaves Fox News to consider 2016 bid

Fox News host Mike Huckabee announced Saturday he would leave his TV show while weighing whether to mount another White House bid. The former Arkansas governor, who fell short to eventual nominee John McCain in 2008, said the speculation surrounding his intentions was not fair to Fox and that the “honorable thing to do at this point” was leave the network. Huckabee said he would make a final decision on a 2016 bid by late spring. [Politico]

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2. Edward Brooke, first elected black senator, dies

Edward W. Brooke, the first African-American ever elected by popular vote to serve in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday at the age of 95. A Republican, Brooke won his first Senate election in Massachusetts in 1966, and later became the first Republican senator to call for President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The only two black senators to precede Brooke, Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram R. Revels, were both elected by Mississippi’s legislature — not the people — in the 1870s. [The Boston Globe]

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3. Israel withholds Palestinian tax payment

Israel on Saturday froze about $127 million in tax payments in retaliation for Palestine applying to join the International Criminal Court. Palestine moved on Friday to join the ICC in hopes of addressing alleged Israeli war crimes. Collected by Israel on behalf of Palestine, the tax revenue makes up more than half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]

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4. North Korea blasts U.S. over Sony hack sanctions

North Korea on Sunday struck back at the U.S. over new sanctions aimed at punishing the Hermit Kingdom for its alleged role in the massive Sony cyberattack. Imposed Friday, the sanctions target three companies and 10 government officials the U.S. claims had a hand in the hack. In response, North Korea continued to deny any involvement in the breach, instead accusing Washington of “groundlessly stirring up bad blood” and maintaining an “inveterate repugnancy and hostility” toward the Pyongyang. [BBC]

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5. Funeral to be held Sunday for slain NYPD officer

The funeral of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed in the line of duty last month, will be held Sunday in Brooklyn. Thousands of police officers and politicians from around the country are expected to attend the memorial service. At a funeral last weekend for Rafael Ramos, the other officer killed in the December ambush, some members of the city’s police force turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, highlighting lingering tension between City Hall and the NYPD. [CBS]

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6. U.N. report: 12,300 civilian deaths in Iraq last year

An estimated 12,282 civilians died last year in violence across Iraq, making it the deadliest year there since 2007, according to the United Nations. The bulk of the deaths came later in the year as ISIS gained ground in the country. “This is a very sad state of affairs,” Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. representative for Iraq, said. [The Los Angeles Times]

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7. Boko Haram abducts dozens in Nigeria

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram last week abducted about 40 men and boys from a village in northern Nigeria. The group seized its captives on Dec. 31, but news of the abduction didn’t trickle out for a few days due to faulty communications infrastructure destroyed in previous Boko Haram attacks. [CNN]

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8. Pope Francis names 15 new cardinals

Pope Francis on Sunday named 15 new cardinals from disparate places around the globe, saying the selections were intended to “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.” Francis tabbed cardinals from Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Tonga, among others. [The Associated Press]

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9. Oregon, Ohio, to change name for college football championship

The town of Oregon, Ohio, says it will temporarily change its name ahead of next week’s college football title game. The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship pits the Oregon Ducks against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which prompted two Oregon — the suburb, not the state — natives to petition the city council for a name change. Oregon City Administrator Michael Beazley told the Toledo Free Press the town had not settled on a new name yet, but that they were “going to do something” in the next few days. [Toledo Free Press, ESPN]

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10. Opry star Jimmy Dickens dead at 94

Jimmy Dickens, a Country Music Hall of Fame member known best for his decades-long presence at the Grand Ole Opry, died Friday at a hospital in Nashville after suffering a stroke. He was 94 years old. Standing at just 4-foot-11, the country music star earned the nicknames “Little Jimmy Dickens,” and, as he called himself, “Mighty Mouse in Pajamas.” [The New York Times]

West Wing Week: 12/26/14 or, “The Jazzy, Snazzy Holiday Special”

The White House

Welcome to this special holiday edition of West Wing Week. While we certainly hope you all are taking some time off to reflect on the meaning of the holidays and spend time with your loved ones, we also want to offer up some of our favorite White House holiday moments from this festive time of year.

White House ‘Applauds’ Sony For Surprise Release Of ‘The Interview’

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Actor Seth Rogen, right, and actor James Franco attend the premiere of the feature film “The Interview” in Los Angeles on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP Images)

TPM LiveWire

CNN reported that a White House spokesman said “the president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film.”

“As the president made clear, we’re a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression,” the spokesman told the network.

Sony’s move was a reversal from Wendesday, when it canceled the film’s Christmas Day release after major theater chains dropped out due of threats of a 9/11-style attack from an anonymous group of hackers.

President Obama called the initial decision “a mistake” in a press conference on Friday.

“I’m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” he said. “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

CNN also reported that the FBI is working with Sony to release the film due to persistent security concerns surrounding the threats from hackers.

Obama Only Takes Female Reporters’ Questions In Last Press Conference Of The Year

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama | Credit: AP

Think Progress

In his annual end-of the-year press conference on Friday, Obama took questions from eight women and no men— a move that did not go unnoticed by journalists and others listening to his remarks.

The president started the conference by joking that White House Press Secretary “Josh [Earnest] gave me the list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” and then proceeded to call on eight women from various news organizations. CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter that TV reporters were advised in advance that Earnest wanted “other reporters not regularly called on to get to question the [president].” The strategy resulted in the likely unprecedented female question sweep in addition to leaving out the major news networks.

On Fox News, White House correspondent Ed Henry joked that he was “outraged for men everywhere” but then admitted seriously that he was not pleased with the questions the women asked.

“Frankly some of the questions just didn’t press him,” he said. “There’s so much going on right now and the questions were trailing off. The president was almost like, let me remember what you asked because it was so unmemorable.”

Watch it:

The eight female journalists asked Obama about Sony’s decision to pull The Interviewfollowing threats by North Korea, the deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the state of race relations in the country and the Keystone XL pipeline, which incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell said will be the first matter up for a vote when the new Congress returns from the recess. Notably missing were any questions about the CIA torture report released last week.

While Obama only formally called on women, two men were able to yell out their own questions during the conference. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” one asked, while a reporter called after Obama as he left the room. “Will you smoke a cigar Mr. President?”