Post Politics Hour

Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 8, 2009; 11:00 AM

Federal Eye blogger Ed O'Keefe took your questions about who is up and who is down in the world of politics and the latest news out of Washington.


Manassas, Va..: How did Webb and Warner vote on the Gregg amendment last night?

Ed O'Keefe: According to The Post's Congressional Votes Database, Webb voted yes while Warner voted no.


Arlington, Va.: What's your understanding about the new EPA regulations? Is this just a way of forcing Congress to pass cap-and-trade?

Ed O'Keefe: I'll defer to my environmental reporting colleagues on this one. Steven Mufson and David A. Fahrenthold report that:

"The EPA's "endangerment finding" -- a key bureaucratic step in the regulatory process -- was seen as a message to Congress and Copenhagen, but it was also a belated response to an order from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in April 2007 that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act."

More: "It remains unclear whether the EPA's regulatory cudgel will spur Congress to take faster action on the climate legislation that is now mired in the Senate or whether it will provoke a backlash."


Ed O'Keefe: Welcome folks to the Tuesday edition of The Post Politics Hour, I'm your host, Ed O'Keefe, writer of The Federal Eye blog, which covers goings-on across the government. But I'll of course also entertain your political queries. Let's get started!


Washington, DC: Ed - What's the status of the the recipient reporting issue and the Recovery Board? Ive seen that Chairman Devaney wants some statutory penalties, but how does Orszag's recent edict change the game?

Ed O'Keefe: It seems they're getting closer to enacting actual penalties, and Orszag's edict basically says that agencies can withhold funding if recipients don't report every quarter.

We'll have to see what happens when the second round of quarterly reports come due next month.


Washington, D.C.: Even after reading Achenbach's story this morning, I have to wonder how well the deficit really resonates with voters. How do you see it playing as an issue in 2010 or 2012? In debate over nation's growing debt, a surplus of worry

Ed O'Keefe: I tend to believe folks are less concerned with the deficit right now, when their neighbors and family members don't have jobs and have their own debts to worry about.

I could be wrong, but I don't see Republicans scoring many points by worrying about the deficit -- at least beyond folks concerned with government debt.


Middle Class here: Have you seen my lobbyist (Middle Class Association of America or MCAA for short) up on the Hill behind closed doors putting in subtle clauses into the bill that will benefit us for a change instead of insurance, medical device, biotech and hospitals as we head closer to an actual law?

Ed O'Keefe: Oh yeah, saw him up there yesterday for lunch. He's a great guy!

(HA! No.)


Dunn Loring, VA: Who's your bet for the next administration offical to be shown the door: Keith Jennings, Desiree Rogers or Robert Gibbs?

Ed O'Keefe: The Jennings controversy seems to have passed, Gibbs is doing OK, and many agree Rogers got an unprecedented amount of support from the Obamas following Crashergate, so it's unclear.

Remember: The Justice Department's #2 departed unexpectedly last week, so there could be some other mid-level or senior government official readying for their departure. Stay tuned!


Vancouver BC: Hello,

I'm on holiday in Vancouver BC and caught Nightline on TV last night in the hotel room. The two stories I saw were a sensational take on the Perugia Italy murder trail and, wait for it, a story about sharks (Just How Deadly Are They?)! Afghanistan, Copenhagen, health care, and Nightline is talking about sharks? Talk about your Sep 10 mindset...

I know this is more up Howard Kurtz's alley but I'm wondering if you could give your quick take on media coverage today. There is definitely good reporting happening now, but also, as the example I gave shows, some major players behaving badly. Your take?

Ed O'Keefe: Well you obviously missed the start of the show, so there's no way of knowing if they did indeed talk about Afghanistan or Copenhagen.

'Nightline' is on a bit of a hot streak: It beat the 'Late Show' and 'Tonight Show' during the November sweeps month, through a mix of hard news reports, interviews and other features including, yes, stories about shark attacks and such.

If you don't like what you saw, stick to those "good reporting" sources you mentioned and avoid the others. I for one sampled the relaunched "PBS NewsHour" last night and really liked what I saw. No stories about shark attacks there.


Something I still don't get: Ed, the entire key to passing a health care bill is for the Senate to come up with something that will gather 60 votes. I know this is to block the threat of filibuster but why has this become the barrier that legislation must clear to pass?

It's got no relation to the majority rule concept of democratic government, it doesn't have the historical precedent of the rule requiring a two-thirds vote to overturn a veto. To me, it's just a parliamentary trick that's grown in significance because neither side wants to force the other to actually filibuster

I don't care who started it, this is bad for government and the country. I think the Democrats should start a new trend, man up and pass the bill through reconciliation with a simple majority. It's the right way to govern.

Your thoughts?

Ed O'Keefe: It is, as you said, a parliamentary trick. Unlikely they'll ever use reconciliation, sorry.


Danville: Ed, thanks for the chats.

Politico had a story yesterday that a federally funded agency, NPR, was putting pressure on one of its employees Mara Liassson to terminate her contract with Fox News. This seems to be a bad PR move by NPR not to mention an intrusion into Ms. Liassson ability to earn a living. Why don't they give a raise? It could count as a job saved.

Ed O'Keefe: NPR isn't a federally funded agency, but instead receives some federal funding -- and most of its money from private donors.


Washington, D.C.: Is it just me, or is Arkansas a bit overrepresented in the "Gang of 10"?

Ed O'Keefe: It's a moderate state with moderate lawmakers, so it makes sense to me!


Charlottesville, Va.: @Dunn Loring, Va.

Desiree Rogers, Robert Gibbs and Keith Jennings are safe in their current jobs.

The only way somebody loses their job in the incumbent White House if his or her name appears on Glenn Beck's chalkboard.

Ed O'Keefe: Well, that certainly wouldn't help their case, no.


Mr. Obama goes to Washington: I know it's not your beat, but...

I'm curious about Obama's Afghanistan speech. What's your take on the exit deadline? Poor communication or outright attempt to play his lefty base?

Ed O'Keefe: It plays to the base, and probably kept the phones from lighting up at the White House as much last week. But notice that every statement since from Cabinet and military folks is that it's an "offramp" "start date" "not certain," etc.


New Haven, Conn.: Why does Joe Lieberman always try to get on Barack Obama's bad side?

In 2012, tentatively both their names will be on the ballot for Connecticut voters.

Just curious, do you expect Pres. Obama to come to Connecticut and campaign for Sen. Lieberman the same way Sen. Obama did in 2006?

Ed O'Keefe: At this point, probably not. Endorsing McCain instead of Obama in 2008 probably didn't help his case.


Cache Valley, Utah: Mornin' DC - It's snowing here in northern Utah and my snow blower won't any tips to get it running?

Ed O'Keefe: Yeah, get a shovel instead. I'm from Upstate New York and we move snow the old-fashioned way up there.

Otherwise, make sure the blower has enough gas in the tank.


RE Joe Lieberman: Think Joe Lieberman will be chairman of the Homeland Security committee after 2010 elections?

Ed O'Keefe: Now THAT is a good question -- it's a relatively non-partisan committee with a very good working environment (I know, because I follow it closely). Still, it's a prominent, plum assignment and taking his chairmanship could be a way of punishing Lieberman.

But if Democrats do that, they'd likely lose his vote on just about everything. Is that worth the risk?


Wokingham UK: Following the Obama speech, is the cost of foreign wars likely to be more prominent in political debate for the next year or two?

Ed O'Keefe: I think it will be, yes. And is that such a bad thing?


Washington, D.C.: "Ed O'Keefe: NPR isn't a federally funded agency, but instead receives some federal funding -- and most of its money from private donors."

That's some real inside-the-Beltway double-talk evasion there, Ed. Shame on you. So, what NPR did was okay because it only receives partial funding from my tax dollars? It's okay only to partially pressure Mara Liasson?

I don't understand why both you and Howard Kurtz are evading this issue.

Ed O'Keefe: No, sorry, didn't mean to imply that what NPR did was a bad thing, or a good thing. I think what NPR needs to do is issue some new internal guidelines on when and where its full-time reporters can contribute to other outlets. Most broadcast/cable outlets prohibit their reporters from appearing on other channels, with few exceptions. (Bill O'Reilly often shows up on "Good Morning America" for example.)

Mara Liasson is a full-timer, while Juan Williams is not. Seems like NPR needs to clarify it for them and for everyone else.


Fayetteville, N.C.: looks like we have a 'macho-off' going from snowy locations. In the south we just close everything and stay home til the 1/2 inch melts...

Ed, any idea when the GS pay tables will be completed and released?

Ed O'Keefe: No idea, but it should be soon.

And if you're in the D.C. area and want to know when the federal government plans to shut down or close early,

E-mail me

and i'll add you to my mailing list.


Ed O'Keefe: That's it for today, thanks as always for your questions, and check out my blog, The Federal Eye for the latest government news. Until next time!


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