U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., tours Riverscape Marina in Cos Cob with Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei (R) and Selectman Drew Marzullo (D) on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. The town is seeking federal funding for a pair of overdue dredging projects, including one at the mouth of the Mianus River.
There’s never a Staples when you want one.
It seems U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is approaching two months into his first term in the upper chamber, is getting the freshman treatment from the congressional printing office.
“Do you have a card?” Murphy was asked this morning by Greenwich Harbor MasterIan MacMillan on a tour of the waterfront in Cos Cob.
The town is lobbying Murphy for federal money for dredging of the Mianus River and Greenwich Harbor.
“I don’t have a card yet, actually,” Murphy chuckled in reply to his hosts.
Nevermind that Murphy was elected all the way back in November to the Senate after serving three terms in the U.S. House.
Murphy is still sporting his 5th congressional district license plate on his Chevy Malibu.
The freshman senator did not pull a Ron Burgundy, however.
There’s a fierce competition for dance floor supremacy among deficit hawks.
Enter David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general, who 18 months ago was weighing a bid for U.S. Senate in his home state of Connecticut.
A former Republican who turned independent 14 years ago, Walker shimmies to the beat of the “Harlem Shake” in a powdered wig in a newly-released YouTube video by the debt reduction campaign, The Can Kicks Back.
“What’s going on in Washington is truly outrageous. It’s time to shake things up,” Walker says of the $16 trillion deficit.
Walker, 61, who led the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent investigative arm of Congress, during his decade-long tenure as comptroller general, appears with Brookings Institution senior fellow and noted economist Alice Rivlin in the video.
Rivlin, 81, a former Cabinet member who served as director of the White House Office of Management, opens the video by citing a Congressional Budget Office report that says the national debt will hit 77 percent of the gross domestic product by 2023.
The Can Kicks Back is the same outfit behind a viral video starring Alan Simpson, co-chairman of President Obama’s debt commission grooving to “Gangnam Style,” the song by the South Korean hip hop artist PSY that inspired a dance craze.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty kicks off her Valentine's Day campaign to lobby Congress to adopt gun-control laws (Charles J. Lewis/Hearst Newspapers)
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Cheshire, whose congressional district includes Newtown, kicked off a Valentine’s Day lobbying campaign to press her House and Senate colleagues to adopt gun-control legislation.
The Valentine’s Day theme was symbolized by home-made cards and teddy bears that volunteers delivered to all 435 House members and 100 senators. The T-shirts on the stuffed bears carried the message: “Protect children, not guns.’’
Esty was joined by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created after the Dec. 14 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 20 children and six school staffers dead.
The lobbying effort on the two-month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy brought 30 volunteers from the Children’s Defense Fund and the One Million Moms for Gun Control to go door-to-door in the halls of Congress.
In remarks as the campaign got under way, Esty challenged opponents of tighter gun laws who claim “the Connecticut effect’’ is a passing phenomenon that explains the surge in public opinion in favor of new laws.
The Newtown shootings were “a call to action for this country,’’ Esty said. The murder of the 20 children will be remembered at “every graduation, every birthday, every December 14th, every Christmas,’’ she said, repeating a refrain that President Obama sounded at his State of the Union speech Tuesday night: The families of the shooting victims deserve a vote in Congress on pending legislation that would ban military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, and require universal background checks on all gun purchasers.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has won a seate on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The posting, to be announced later today by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, is something Himes has expressed great interest in, and he’s psyched to get it.
“I am excited and proud to have been appointed to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at a time when asymmetric and unconventional threats to our nation will be increasingly identified and countered by our intelligence community,” Himes said.
Himes will retain his position on the House Committee on Financial Services.
“As the recent discussion of the American use of drone technology has illustrated, it is more important than ever that we carefully balance our nation’s security needs with fundamental civil liberties and core national values. I am eager to help craft and oversee our nation’s effort to respond to emerging security threats and look forward to working in a bipartisan way to build a safer and more secure America,” he added.
The committee has oversight of the ONI (Offfice of the Director of National Intelligence), the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and aspects of the departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and various military intelligence operations.
The “permanent” nature of the committee means it exists beyond the adjournment of each two-year meeting of Congress.
An emboldened, second-term President Obama on Tuesday made clear that if lawmakers don’t tackle climate change, he will do an end run around Congress and use his executive powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.
The commitment — delivered during Obama’s fourth State of the Union address — shed more light on how the president plans to make good on his inaugural vow to combat climate change as and showed he is willing to flex his muscle on the issue.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama pledged. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take — now and in the future — to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Although Obama didn’t spell out details, the president could immediately direct his Environmental Protection Agency to impose new greenhouse gas emission standards on existing power plants, going beyond proposed mandates that apply only to new facilities.
Obama also pitched a “drilling for clean energy” plan, where revenue from oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters would be steered toward research into alternatives for fueling the nation’s cars and trucks. The “Energy Security Trust” Obama proposed would be used to support development of advanced electric vehicles, biofuels, natural gas-powered cars and other alternatives to petroleum fuels and the classic combustion engine.
As part of the deal, Obama said his administration “will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”
Similar ideas have surfaced on Capitol Hill before. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, included a plan for using drilling revenue to fund clean energy research in unveiling her “20/20″ vision for U.S. energy policy last week, though her. And two years ago, as a handful of senators tried to fashion a compromise on climate change legislation, one possible deal hinged on expanding offshore drilling in exchange for new limits on carbon emissions.
“The president was clear about the magnitude of the challenge and resolute in his determination to use his executive authority to take action, especially if Congress won’t,” said former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.
But some oil and gas industry leaders were skeptical.
“We will have to take a closer look at the president’s proposals related to taxes and use of revenue from natural gas production to ensure that they don’t have a negative impact on our ability to provide affordable energy and create jobs,” said Regina Hopper, president of America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute, said that if Obama wants to make good on his commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy, he “must follow through by implementing a national energy policy, lifting existing restrictions in support of responsible development of our vast energy resources, approving the Keystone XL pipeline and standing up against unnecessary and burdensome regulations that chill economic growth.”
Obama used his nationally televised address to reiterate his call for America to take the lead in a global clean energy race, leverage the strides the U.S. already has made to expand wind power and drive down the costs of solar power. “As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we,” Obama said.
He also advanced a plan modeled after the “Race to the Top” education program for states that would reward those that make big advances in energy efficiency. Details on the program were scarce Tuesday night but the administration signaled it would be used to support state governments that implement policies to boost efficiency and slash waste.
Echoing previous State of the Union addresses, Obama once again invoked the promise of natural gas, which produces fewer carbon emissions than coal when burned for power. Energy companies are using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract natural gas and oil from dense rock formations nationwide, unlocking previously inaccessible supplies. That natural gas boom “has led to cleaner power and greater independence,” Obama said.
Although the president stopped short of specifically pledging that the EPA would impose new greenhouse gas emission limits, Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, said this is one area where Obama clearly could act administratively, even if Congress doesn’t move first.
“The administration can make significant progress in reducing emissions . . . by enacting standards for existing power plants, which represent the largest portion of U.S. emissions,” Steer said.
Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, praised Obama for backing up his “bold words on addressing global warming from his inaugural address by outlining clean energy solutions.” But, he said Americans are “counting on the president to clean up carbon pollution from power plants, which will help the United States fulfill its obligation to future generations.”
Without congressional action, the EPA also could pursue greenhouse gas regulations aimed at airplanes, the fastest-growing transportation source of those emissions.
Lawmakers and energy analysts don’t expect Congress to pass a comprehensive climate change plan, like previous, failed efforts to impose a cap-and-trade plan or tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
Eileen Claussen, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said it would be best if lawmakers developed a “market-based approach that put a price on carbon” as a way to slash emissions. But if Congress doesn’t act, “many companies are prepared to work with EPA to craft sensible policies meeting both our climate and energy needs,” Claussen said.
Environmentalists widely cheered Obama’s tough climate change talk but insisted a major test of the president’s commitment is coming soon, when the State Department decides whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. That $7 billion project would ferry bitumen to refineries along the Gulf Coast, potentially expanding the market for oil sands crude harvested in Canada using more energy-intensive techniques than conventional supplies.
Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, which is organizing a major Keystone XL rally in Washington, D.C. next weekend, said that he was glad to see the president “ratcheting up the rhetoric about climate change.”
But, he added, “the test of that rhetoric will be what he does about . . . the Keystone XL pipeline, with its freight of nearly a million barrels a day of the dirtiest oil on earth.”
Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said it was “important that the president acknowledged the urgency of the climate crisis,” but “climate change won’t be solved on rhetoric alone.”
“We look forward to seeing the Obama administration’s plan to cut greenhouse pollution without waiting for Congress but we do know this: It must include use of existing laws like the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution, a significant shift toward sustainable energy and rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic.”
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Greenwich, gave President Obama high marks Tuesday for the president emphasis on jobs, infrastructure and education in his State of the Union speech.
Himes, who made the evening a bipartisan “date night,” sat next to a Republican House member, Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., whom he said he has gotten to know.
Seating in the House is helter-skelter, with no assigned seats to members, unlike the Senate, where each of the 100 lawmakers has a separate desk.
“People are always talking about job creation, but the president’s remarks dealt with government actions that could actually improve the job picture,’’ Himes said.
Obama’s comments about jobs and infrastructure rebuilding brought bipartisan applause, Himes said. “Education, less so,’’ because of traditional Republican caution about the government’s role in education.
WASHINGTON _ Painful memories of the Newtown, Conn., massacre loomed over President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. A Newtown audience of honored guests sat high in the gallery, looking down on Congress as Obama urged the lawmakers to enact new laws on firearms.
Obama cited the shootings that killed 20 students and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School and pleaded with Congress to bring different pieces of gun legislation to a vote.
“It has been two months since Newtown,’’ Obama said toward the end of his hour-long address. “I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans _ Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment _ have come together around common-sense reform like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.”
Police chiefs are asking for new laws to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, “because they are tired of being outgunned,’’ he said.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress, Obama continued. “If you want to vote ‘no,’ that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,’’ he said, referring to gun violence around the country.
He cited the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who had marched in the Jan. 21 inauguration parade in Washington. “And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house,’’ Obama said.
Her parents, Nate and Cleo, sat in the gallery as guests of Michelle Obama.
“They deserve a vote,’’ he said. “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence _ they deserve a simple vote.’’
His “deserve a vote’’ chant brought a standing ovation from the audience, as Giffords, a former House member from Arizona who was seriously wounded by a gunman in 2011, looked on from the gallery.
No laws will “prevent every senseless act of violence in this country,’’ the president said. “But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.’’
The Newtown backdrop was carefully assembled by supporters of new gun laws, who also invited other guests linked to gun violence around the nation.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who hosted Patricia Llodra _ the first selectman of Newtown _ said that when Obama looks up at the gallery, “He will see Pat Llodra and the families of gun victims and first responders who have been such an inspiration to the nation. It will send a message more powerful than any words spoken by the president. ‘The picture will be worth more than a thousand words,”’ he said.
Other gallery guests were:
_ Kaitlin Roig, 29, a Sandy Hook teacher credited with helping save 15 of her first-grade students by hiding them in a bathroom during the Dec. 14 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
_Natalie Hammond, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was wounded in the Dec. 14 massacre that claimed the lives of 20 children and six staff members, the guest of Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Cheshire.
_Carlos Soto, the 15-year-old brother of Vicki Soto, a teacher murdered at Sandy Hook, the guest of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven.
_ Newtown police detectives Jason Frank and Dan MacAnaspie, guests of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
_Lynn McDonnell and Christopher McDonnell, parents of shooting victim Grace McDonnell, a 7-year-old killed at Sandy Hook, guests of Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla.
Each of the 100 senators and 435 House members can invite a guest to sit in the gallery above the floor of the House chamber for the 9 p.m. ET address. No weapons are allowed in the Capitol building.
A recent Gallup poll showed majority approval for new gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, steps recommended by the Obama administration and now part of pending legislation. The poll managers said more people supported those steps when they were not identified as Obama administration proposals.
Even as Obama repeated his support of new gun laws, a fresh controversy erupted over the role of the National Rifle Association, the leading political and legislative opponent of gun laws.
A lobbyist for the Wisconsin chapter of the NRA was quoted over the weekend as dismissing the surge of public support for gun legislation as “the Connecticut effect,” suggesting that it was a temporary phenomenon arising from the Dec. 14 Newtown shootings.
Blumenthal took issue with any contention that public sentiment “will somehow subside or dissipate.” “It won’t happen,” he told reporters.
Llodra agreed, commenting that “we can’t let this moment go away.” The Newtown tragedy “has galvanized us to action.”
Earlier, Ms. McDonnell told a gun-control rally in the U.S. Capitol that she had promised her murdered daughter that she would be her voice. “I want Grace to be celebrated, to be heard, and to be remembered, remembered as a beautiful artistic soul, who wanted to live on the beach and be a painter,’’ she said, with her husband Christopher at her side. “I would ask our representatives to look into their hearts and choose action over inaction. We owe that to our children. And we owe it to our daughter Grace.’’
Blumenthal, Murphy, Esty and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, grimly listened as Ms. McDonnell, carefully read her remarks.
DeLauro told the rally about how her guest, Carlos Soto, had asked her after the tragedy: “’What are you going to do?’ That is the question that the American people want answered, “DeLauro said. “We owe it to the Soto family and countless others to prevent guns from falling into the hands of violent criminals.’’
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Greenwich, said invited as his guest Curtrina Murphy of Bridgeport, Conn., mother of a 3-year-old girl who was hit in the crossfire of a gunfight in Bridgeport as they walked down the street in the middle of the afternoon. Himes said the youngster has recovered from her gunshot wounds.
Blumenthal said Llodra has inspired the nation by her courage and hands-on leadership. She has “seen grief and tragedy that very few public officials see during their time in office,” he said, adding that he has invited Llodra and other Newtown residents to testify later this year before Congress.
Watching the State Of The Union tonight? If you’ll be checking social media, you’ll like this roundup. It will show you updates from the best political writers, humorists and the top posts with the #SOTU hashtag.