More GOP Senators question Trump’s actions

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Now there are four: Are more wavering?

Ohio’a Rob Portman Monday became the fourth Republican Senator to admit president Donald Trump’s use of his office to seek help from Ukraine and China to investigate a political appointment is “inappropriate.”

Portman joins Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine to break from the Republican ranks in the Senate and raise questions about Trump’s actions that led to a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump.

“We now have cracks in the wall,” says one GOP senior staff member in the Senate.  “Will it start crumbling?”

While Portman admits Trump’s actions are “not appropriate,” he still claims he does not see them as “impeachable offenses” and feels the House “rushed to impeachment assuming things.”

But Trump is running into increasing questions from his one-solid wall of support from the GOP Senate.  Majority leader Mitch McConnell Monday joined a rare bi-partisan group of Republican and Democratic Senator in rebuking Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troopers from Syria.

“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said in a statement. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

McConnell says it is time for Trump to “exercise American leadership” by reconsidering his plans to pull troops back from the Syrian-Turkey border.  Other Republicans in the Senate agree.

“This betrayal of the Kurds will also severely harm our credibility as an ally the world over,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said. “President Trump should rethink this decision immediately.”

Democrats have also condemned the withdrawal plans but the growing Republican opposition shows a new area of concern from Republicans.

“The Trump has made a great administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications,” said Sen. GOP Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“So sad. So dangerous” says usually staunch Trump ally Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Twitter. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam.  They are NOT tired of fighting us.”

At least one Republican says criticism of the Syria move wile standing fast with Trump on the Ukraine debacle that has resulted in formal impeachment probes is hypocritical, at best.

“The Ukraine issue is personal, it is a real threat to the president, and a lot of Republicans know they will face his wrath if they defy him,” former congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a critic of Trump who was ousted in the 2018 midterms, tells The Washington Post. “The issue of our presence in Syria is more obviously a substantive policy issue, where it’s safer to disagree with the president. If Republicans want to be consistent, they should speak out about both.”

“They can speak up, but they can’t so anything,” says former senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).

One thing it has done is bring Republicans and Democrats together in a rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump.

McConnell says 68 Senators voted to rebuke Trump in January when he threatened to withdraw troops from Syria — a majority that overrides a presidential veto.

“The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today,” he says.

A joint statement from Sen. Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) adds:

Barring a reversal of this decision, the Administration must come before Congress and explain how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests.

With four Republican Senators also now saying Trump’s actions with Ukraine and China in asking for help to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden are “inappropriate” and “out of line,” some wonder if Trump’s hold on the GOP is weakening.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

 

White House is losing hope…Hope Hicks

When Trump’s often amateurish campaign for president hired people with little or no political experience, some felt one of the most questionable one was former teen model Hope Hicks was long on looks and short on ability.

With her long hair and legs, she fit into Trump’s view of a “working woman.”  When she started a fling with married campaign manager Corey Lewandowski she seemed to fit right into the stereotype of a Trump operation.

Hicks ran pretty much of a one-woman communications shop and had Trump-preferred traits as always loyal and ready to lard on the compliments to feed his insufferable ego.

Hope Hicks: Living it up as White House Communications Director.

She followed Trump to the White House and was ready and waiting when Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci lasted only a few days and she became the interim, and later, permanent holder of the job.

She continued her fondness for married men, bedding down this time with White House staff secretary Rob Portman, who lost his when his habit of beating up his wives became news.

Hicks never said if Portman beat her — he may have reserved that for his wives, not his mistresses.   Hicks is also moving on, jumping ship, resigning from the White House one day after eight hours of grilling by the lawmakers on Capitol Hill, admitting she tells “little white lies” when Trump needs them but kept answers vague on White House matters.  Mostly, she refused to answer.

Hope Hicks in her teen modeling days. She was the “it girl.”

Did this have anything to do with her departure.  No, she says, she has been planning to leave “for weeks” and felt it was time to leave and pursue “non-governmental” activities.

Reports Maggie Haberman of The New York Times:

“She told colleagues that she had accomplished what she felt she could with a job that made her one of the most powerful people in Washington, and that there would never be a perfect moment to leave.”

Responded CNN:

Ahem. Cough. Throat clear. Nervous looking around. Collar tug. Cough.

At 29, Hicks is too old to resume her teen modeling year.  There are other married men who might like to party is a 29-year-old hot chick.

As the daughter of Paul Burton Hicks, CEO, Americas, of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide Hicks did do some public relations work, first with the Zeno Group in New York City after she graduated from Southern Methodist University with a major in English.  Then she moved on to Hiltik Strategies after meeting the firm’s founder at a Super Bowl event. That led to contacts with Ivanaka Trump and she went to work for the Trump Organization in 2014, reporting directly to the man himself.  Trump recruited her for the campaign team and she followed him to the White House.

Hope Hicks (left) at the Trump Tower in 2017.

As Communications Director, Hicks had the office closest to the Oval and was the one with Trump’s ear on most issues.  She became known as the one staff member who could stand up to his diatribes and talk him into changing his mind on issues.

“Hope has a way with Trump that no one else could match,” says one aide.  “She would smile, even flirt with him and feed his ego and then tell him what he wanted to do with full of shit.  She got away with that time and time again.”

As the White House’s other two resident “models,” Hicks achieved more success in modeling than either Melania or Ivanka Trump and some thought she might be the leading candidate for Trump wife number four after he tires of Melania.

“Won’t happen,” says another aide.  “She’s too smart for that.”

Hicks joins a long list of now former members of Trump’s campaign organization or administration appointees but she leaves without being fired or forced to quit.

That could be her singular achievement at the Trump White House.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

 

 

Chief of Staff Kelly’s credibility vanishes with Porter debacle

Another black mark on the diminishing credibility of Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, who ignored warnings about staff secretary Rob Porter’s habit of beating his wives.

Kelly called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly added.

Kelly apparently did not listen to Porter’s two ex-wives who tell harrowing stories about being victims of extreme physical and emotional abuse.

“To have a chief of staff defend the integrity of of a person who’s been credibly accused of being a wife beater is just stunning and unconscionable, Peter Wehner, a veteran of three previous GOP presidents, told The Washington Post.  “What he’s done as chief of staff doesn’t undo what he did as a heroic war figure, but it diminishes him a person and that’s regrettable.”

Even those who originally praised Trump’s selection of Kelly as chief of staff now have second thoughts.

The Porter debacle is just one of several things that have brought doubts about Kelly’s judgment and management capabilities.

He tried, and failed, to bring Trump’s incredibly improper language in calls to the families of fallen soldiers under control and try to use the loss of his son on the battlefield.  Then he falsely attacked a Democratic Congresswoman and refused to apologize.  Next came comments calling Confederate general Robert E. Lee “honorable” while claiming it was just “lack of compromise” that started the Civil War.

Less than a week ago, he called the young immigrants known as “dreamers” were just “too lazy to get off their asses.”  Many of those dreamers have degrees from prestigious American universities and building good careers.

“No credibility left for Gen. Kelly,” says one White House staff member.  “He didn’t have much left before the Porter screw up.”

Former White House chief of staff and defense secretary Leon Panetta says Kelly may be “losing his edge” because of the stress of trying to work with Trump.

Says Panetta of Kelly: “He’s more of edge these days.  That may be the result of frustration with issues and, in some ways, dealing with Trump.  When you’re a chief of staff, you spend a lot of time with this president.  It starts to wear on you.”

Even after one of Porter’s ex-wives released pictures of herself with a black eye, Kelly backed Porter.  Only after Porter resigned under fire did he issue a statement late Wednesday expressing “shock” and adding “there is no place for domestic in our society.”

The White House Thursday admitted a security clearance investigation on Portman was still underway and he was working with an interim clearance.  That investigation might have uncovered his record of spousal abuse.

Author Chris Whipple, who wrote a history of White House chiefs of staff, summed it up by saying Kelly’s handling of the Porter situation shows he is “politically inept.”

“It’s clear now that those expectations everybody had that Kelly would somehow be the grown-up in the room, a moderating force who would smooth the rough edges off of Trump, were just completely unrealistic,” Whipple told The Post.

The Post reports:

Kelly has been the target of some Trump loyalists, both inside and outside the administration, who have taken issue with his moves to control access the president. Two of these people noted privately that Kelly was far more vociferous in his defense of Porter than any White House staffer had been after the president was accused last month of having had an extramarital affair with porn star Stormy Daniels; one noted that spousal abuse is illegal but arranging “hush money” for a mistress is not.

The White House did not return phone calls seeking comment on this report.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

 

 

Make government shutdowns illegal? A tough sale

Yosemite Park Ranger Ron Morton takes payment for admittance after park reopened. (AP/Gary Kazanjian)
Yosemite Park Ranger Ron Morton takes payment for admittance after park reopened.
(AP/Gary Kazanjian)

There is a way to prevent government shutdowns. A change in U.S. law would keep federal workers on the job and ensure that treasured sites like the Statue of Liberty and Yosemite stay open during a budget fight, instead of becoming political pawns.

The idea’s been around for three decades, but even after a 16-day shutdown that cost billions of dollars and outraged voters, it’s a tough sell in Washington.

Why? Without the risk of a shutdown, there’s no telling how long politicians might put off making hard budget decisions.

The United States could end up with government by autopilot.

Even those who say an anti-shutdown law could avoid that trap find it tricky to come up with a plan that’s acceptable to the various factions locked in budget gridlock these days.

Nevertheless, a prominent fiscal conservative in the Senate is reviving the idea as lawmakers seek a budget deal to head off the risk of another shutdown in January. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, will use his spot on the House-Senate negotiating team to push his shutdown prevention measure, said his spokeswoman Caitlin Dunn.

“It’s appealing to take the risk of shutdown off the table,” said Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group seeking to curb the national debt. “But it has its risks.”

Money to fund the federal government is appropriated each fiscal year, but Congress almost never finishes its regular appropriations bills on time. The usual solution is to approve “continuing resolutions” that let agencies keep going at current spending levels. Without spending power, they must send workers home.

Shutdowns are so disruptive and unpopular that politicians have rarely resorted to them. This month’s was the first in 17 years. While many operations of government shut down, the closing of national parks is one of the disruptions most visible to the public. Parks were shut down from the museums and monuments along the National Mall to the Statue of Liberty to popular getaways like the Rocky Mountain National Park, prompting angry public reactions.

Trying to eliminate the risk of a shutdown could create persistent new troubles, however.

“If funding for the previous year never actually expires, their motivation to pass an appropriations bill would be lower,” Goldwein said. If lawmakers shirk their duty to adjust spending to reflect the nation’s changing needs, he said, “It would be bad for the country.”

Portman, a former White House budget director in the George W. Bush administration, wants to goad lawmakers to finish their overdue work by cutting spending as time goes by.

If lawmakers miss their Oct. 1 appropriations deadlines, agencies would stay at last year’s spending level for 120 days. After that, spending would drop by 1 percent for every 90 days that go by.

Senate Democrats rejected that plan by a nearly party-line vote in January, although Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., is a co-sponsor. Portman is also getting resistance from some conservatives who don’t want to lose the shutdown leverage embraced by tea partyers.

Shutdowns didn’t become a political tactic until 1980, when the Carter administration took a closer look at a decades-old budget law and realized that it requires agencies to send all but the most critical workers home if their funding lapses. The comptroller general recommended that Congress fix the problem back in 1981.

Lawmakers tried many times but only came close once, after the budget showdown in the winter of 1995-96.

The Republican-controlled Congress, branded with most of the blame for two shutdowns, attached a shutdown prevention measure to a flood relief bill. But their plan was anathema to Democrats — it would have kept agencies open but imposed a 2 percent budget cut.

Democratic President Bill Clinton vetoed the bill because it would let Republicans cut spending by failing to act.

Depending how they’re designed, automatic funding schemes can create an incentive for either budget cutters or defenders of the status quo to block spending bills because they prefer the default option. Richard Kogan of the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls that “governing by paralysis.”

“It would make government less responsive than it already is,” Kogan said. “That’s got to be a bad thing.”

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Follow Connie Cass on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Congress forces Army to accept tanks it doesn’t want

Production of an Abrams tank in Lima, Ohio. (General Dynamics Land System, File)
Production of an Abrams tank in Lima, Ohio. (General Dynamics Land System)

Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army’s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

“The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country,” said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant.

The Abrams dilemma underscores the challenge that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces as he seeks to purge programs that the military considers unnecessary or too expensive in order to ensure there’s enough money for essential operations, training and equipment.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, faces a daunting task in persuading members of Congress to eliminate or scale back projects favored by constituents.

Federal budgets are always peppered with money for pet projects. What sets the Abrams example apart is the certainty of the Army’s position.

Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress should listen when one of the military services says no to more equipment.

“When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them,” Kennedy said.

Congressional backers of the Abrams upgrades view the vast network of companies, many of them small businesses, that manufacture the tanks’ materials and parts as a critical asset that has to be preserved. The money, they say, is a modest investment that will keep important tooling and manufacturing skills from being lost if the Abrams line were to be shut down.

The Lima plant is a study in how federal dollars affect local communities, which in turn hold tight to the federal dollars. The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The plant is Lima’s fifth-largest employer with close to 700 employees, down from about 1,100 just a few years ago, according to Mayor David Berger. But the facility is still crucial to the local economy. “All of those jobs and their spending activity in the community and the company’s spending probably have about a $100 million impact annually,” Berger said.

Jordan, a House conservative leader who has pushed for deep reductions in federal spending, supported the automatic cuts known as the sequester that require $42 billion to be shaved from the Pentagon’s budget by the end of September. The military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.

Still, said Jordan, it would be a big mistake to stop producing tanks.

“Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that,” he said. “But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.”

The tanks that Congress is requiring the Army to buy aren’t brand new. Earlier models are being outfitted with a sophisticated suite of electronics that gives the vehicles better microprocessors, color flat panel displays, a more capable communications system, and other improvements. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army.

Out of a fleet of nearly 2,400 tanks, roughly two-thirds are the improved versions, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2, and service officials said they have plenty of them. “The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s,” Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army budget office, said this month.

The tank fleet, on average, is less than 3 years old. The Abrams is named after Gen. Creighton Abrams, one of the top tank commanders during World War II and a former Army chief of staff.

The Army’s plan was to stop buying tanks until 2017, when production of a newly designed Abrams would begin. Orders for Abrams tanks from U.S. allies help fill the gap created by the loss of tanks for the Army, according to service officials, but congressional proponents of the program feared there would not be enough international business to keep the Abrams line going.

This pause in tank production for the U.S. would allow the Army to spend its money on research and development work for the new and improved model, said Ashley Givens, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Ground Combat Systems office.

The first editions of the Abrams tank were fielded in the early 1980s. Over the decades, the Abrams supply chain has become embedded in communities across the country.

General Dynamics estimated in 2011 that there were more than 560 subcontractors throughout the country involved in the Abrams program and that they employed as many as 18,000 people. More than 40 of the companies are in Pennsylvania, according to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., also a staunch backer of continued tank production.

A letter signed by 173 Democratic and Republican members of the House last year and sent to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demonstrated the depth of bipartisan support for the Abrams program on Capitol Hill. They chided the Obama administration for neglecting the industrial base and proposing to terminate tank production in the United States for the first time since World War II.

Portman, who served as President George W. Bush’s budget director before being elected to the Senate, said allowing the line to wither and close would create a financial mess.

“People can’t sit around for three years on unemployment insurance and wait for the government to come back,” Portman said. “That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant.”

Pete Keating, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the money from Congress is allowing for a stable base of production for the Army, which receives about four tanks a month. With the line open, Lima also can fill international orders, bringing more work to Lima and preserving American jobs, he said.

Current foreign customers are Saudi Arabia, which is getting about five tanks a month, and Egypt, which is getting four. Each country pays all of their own costs. That’s a “success story during a period of economic pain,” Keating said.

Still, far fewer tanks are coming out of the Lima plant than in years past. The drop-off has affected companies such as Verhoff Machine and Welding in Continental, Ohio, which makes seats and other parts for the Abrams. Ed Verhoff, the company’s president, said his sales have dropped from $20 million to $7 million over the past two years. He’s also had to lay off about 25 skilled employees and he expects to be issuing more pink slips in the future.

“When we start to lose this base of people, what are we going to do? Buy our tanks from China?” Verhoff said.

Steven Grundman, a defense expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the difficulty of reviving defense industrial capabilities tends to be overstated.

“From the fairly insular world in which the defense industry operates, these capabilities seem to be unique and in many cases extraordinarily high art,” said Grundman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations during the Clinton administration. “But in the greater scope of the economy, they tend not to be.”

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Online:

Abrams tank: http://www.army.mil/factfiles/equipment/tracked/abrams.html

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Follow Richard Lardner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rplardner
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Republicans reaffirm homophobic stand on gay marriage, honor perennial loser Ron Paul

A typical Republican position on gays.
A typical Republican position on gays.

Homophobia ruled at the spring gathering of the Republican National Committee this week in Los Angeles as the group approved — with no debate — yet another resolution affirming the party’s steadfast opposition to gay marriage.

A simple resolution approved in a voice vote by the 157 members of the RNC said:

“The Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America.”

The resolution flies in the face of a trend of an increasing number of Republicans who are changing their positions on gay marriage but showcases that the party is still controled by a rabid right-wing element.

Conservatives worked up the resolution to try and quiet conservatives who say the party is becoming too mainstream and too in step with a majority of Americans.  They want the GOP to keep the party in a bygone era of intolerance that includes homophobia, racism and bigotry.

Two GOP Senators — Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois — have gone public with their support of gay marriage — a concept that virtually all Democrats in the Senate support but the RNC move shows the party of the elephants is still mired in the past.

How strong was the conservative backlash?  The RNC also approved a resolution that supports “core values” of virtually unlimited gun ownership and use, marriage only between a man and woman, draconian border security and the standard hardcore opposition to abortion.

“The more things change, the more the Republican party stays the same,” longtime GOP activist Josh Samuelson told Capitol Hill Blue.   Samuelson said he will be working for Democrats in upcoming elections.

The RNC also passed a resolution honoring former GOP Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the maverick right-winger who ran for President three times (once as a Libertarian, twice as a Republican) and lost overwhelmingly each time.  Paul retired from Congress this year after a muddled career that included publication of a strongly racist newsletter, oddball stands on financial matters and many failed attempts to eliminate the Federal Reserve.

“It’s interesting,” says Joanna Kingston, another longtime but now disaffected Republican.  “Nowadays, the only thing the Republicans can honor are failed ideas and failed elected officials.”

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Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Two more Senators switch sides and now support gay marriage

040213gaymariageThe ever-increasing circle of Senators changing their positions and supporting gay marriage widened again Tuesday as Illinois Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Tom Carper announced their support for same sex unions.

“The government has no place in the middle of the marriage question,” Kirk said on web site.  Hours earlier Carper wrote on his Facebook pagte that “all Americans ultimately should be free to marry the people they love and intend to share their lives with, regardless of their sexual orientation.

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey added his name to supporters, leaving just seven Senators from the party of the Donkey opposing gay marriage:  Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Bill Nelson of Floriday, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heide Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

On the Republican side, conversion comes more slows.  Kirk joins only Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in openly supporting gays who want to get marries.

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Sen. Jeff Flake predicts support for gay marriage in future GOP presidential candidate

The Republican shift from longtime homophobia to acceptance of equality for homosexuals continued Sunday with Sen. Jeff Flake saying it is “inevitable” that his party will see one of its own run for president while supporting gay marriage.

Flake, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” admitted the political landscape is shifting and will eventually field a GOP candidate who backs same-sex marriage and predictd that candidate would find support among Republicans.

Fellow Republican Senators Rob Portman of Ohio announced his support for gay marriage in states that choose to allow such unions and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska says her position is “evolving.” Scores of Democrats in recent weeks have announced their support for gay marriages.

Flake, however, said he will remain homophobic with a belief that marriage should be restricted to straight couples and said he doesn’t plan to change his position.

Flake spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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John Boehner: His homophobia will not change

John Boehner: Once homophobic, always homophobic (Reuters)
John Boehner: Once homophobic, always homophobic (Reuters)

Ohio Senator Rob Portman may have switched his position on gay marriage but his change of heart means nothing to lifelong homophobic John Boehner, the Speaker of the House.

Boehner, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” says he is, and always will be, opposed to gay marriage.

Said Boehner:

Bob is a great friend and a long-time ally.  I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  It’s what I grew up with. It’s what I believe.  It’s what my church teaches me.  And I can’t imagine that position would ever change.

Portman, who was opposed to gay marriage, changed his position because he son is gay.  It took him two years after his son told him to switch sides.

Gay marriage is just one of the issues causing increasing and widening splits in the Republican Party, which preaches personal liberty but also supports right-wing issues that limit that liberty.

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Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Obama still looking for ways to recapture his old magic

Obama preaches to the faithful in Ohio (AFP)

President Barack Obama sought to recapture the magic of his 2008 campaign, holding a large open-air rally in Ohio to help struggling Democratic candidates in the Midwestern state.

Amid voter anger over the sluggish economy and 9.6 percent unemployment, Obama’s Democrats are fighting to avoid steep losses in the Congress and in state governors’ races in the November 2 elections.

“Everybody said ‘No, you can’t’ and in 2008 you showed them, ‘Yes, we can,'” Obama told a cheering crowd of 35,000 people at Ohio State University in Columbus.

In a hoarse voice, he accused Republicans of siding with “special interests” like insurance companies and Wall Street banks.

But he acknowledged Democrats faced a tough fight.

“Let’s be honest: This is a difficult election,” he said.

Nationally, Democrats are at risk of losing one or both houses of the U.S. Congress, which would make it much harder for Obama to pursue priorities such as passing legislation to fight climate change and boost infrastructure spending.

In Ohio, Democratic Senate candidate Lee Fisher is trailing Republican hopeful Rob Portman by double digits. Incumbent Governor Ted Strickland is facing a difficult re-election bid against Republican John Kasich, who holds a lead of about 6 points over Strickland.

In addition to being important for Democrats in congressional races and the campaign for governor this year, Ohio will be a crucial swing state for Obama when he runs for re-election in 2012. He carried the state in 2008 against Republican John McCain.

Joining Obama on the campaign trail for the first time since his presidential race two years ago was his wife, Michelle.

Obama told the Ohio rally that voters faced a choice in the upcoming election between moving forward or returning to Republican policies that he said caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama did not mention his predecessor, President George W. Bush by name, but he reminded voters of the dire economy he inherited when he took office in January 2009.

Obama said the Republicans didn’t decide to go off “into the desert” to meditate and rethink their ideas.

Republicans, he said, would loosen regulations for “insurance companies that want to drop your coverage when you get sick, or credit card companies that want to jack up your rates or Wall Street banks that are dealing in all kinds of derivatives that end up crashing the market.”

The joint appearance by both Obamas and the large size of the crowd, which included many young people, recalled the energy of Obama’s presidential campaign.

“Can we do this?” Michelle Obama asked the crowd. “Are you fired up and ready to go?”

“Yes we can,” the crowded chanted.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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