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Rep. Tom Cole: President Being ‘Cynical’ With Immigration Executive Action Plan

Rep. Tom Cole: President Being ‘Cynical’ With Immigration Executive Action Plan

US Congress(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, on Sunday called President Obama "political" and "cynical" and said he was trying to "pick a fight" with his plan to take executive action on immigration in the coming days."He had plenty of opportunity to do things when he had complete Democratic control ... so it's been a political weapon rather than a problem to be solved in my view from the president's standpoint," Cole said during an interview on This Week."I think he's actually trying to bait us into doing some of these extreme things," he added later in the interview.During the interview, Cole dismissed the idea of shutting down the government in response to executive action by the president on immigration."It's an inappropriate weapon, inappropriate tool," he said.The president is expected to take executive action -- which could happen as soon as Friday -- in an effort to reform the immigration system before the end of the year. For their part, the Republican leadership in Congress has warned Obama against any such action."When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself," House Speaker John Boehner said earlier this month.Appearing on This Week with Cole was Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who expressed frustration over what he argued was the GOP's refusal to compromise to reform the "broken" immigration system and told ABC's Martha Raddatz why he felt executive action was necessary."Millions of Americans families are depending on the president fixing a broken immigration system," Gutierrez said.

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TransCanada CEO: ‘High Probability’ Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Built

TransCanada CEO: ‘High Probability’ Keystone XL Pipeline Will Be Built

Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Russ Girling, head of the company proposing the Keystone XL Pipeline, expressed confidence Sunday that the project would soon be under way.“There is a very high probability this pipeline gets built,” Girling said on ABC News’ This Week. “The need for transportation continues to grow, and the place where these producers want to put those barrels is into the Gulf Coast of the U.S. So, our shippers have not wavered one bit in the past six years.”If built, the 1,700-mile pipeline would pump about 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada, and connect to an existing pipeline in Nebraska that runs to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast.Legislation authorizing Keystone has been in the works since 2008. On Friday, the House voted 252-161 in favor of building the pipeline.The legislation is now expected to come up for a vote Tuesday on the Senate floor, where it faces a much slimmer margin of approval. At last count, 59 senators were expected to vote in favor of the pipeline. That’s one senator shy of the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority to send the bill to President Obama’s desk.Even if Keystone does pass the Senate, the president does not seem eager to sign the bill. He had this to say about the proposed project this week.“Understand what this project is,” Obama said while traveling in Burma on Friday. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”Girling said the project would create a $3.5 billion increase in the U.S. GDP. A review from the State Department found the project would result in 42,000 temporary U.S. jobs during the pipeline’s two-year construction, though only 50 jobs would be permanent.

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President Obama Defends Executive Authority on Immigration

President Obama Defends Executive Authority on Immigration

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Showing no signs of backing down, President Obama on Sunday strongly pushed back against critics questioning his authority to bypass Congress and act unilaterally to reform the nation’s immigration system.“There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I'm exercising too much executive authority: pass a bill I can sign on this issue,” he said at a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia.If Congress does act, Obama said, “Metaphorically, I'll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we'll toss them in the wastebasket because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.”The president said he has received legal advice from his attorney general about the limits of his executive power to act on immigration, but would not comment further.“I will tell them when I make the announcement,” he told ABC News. “Good try, though.”Asked about the Republican threat of a government shutdown to block his executive action, the president was optimistic.“I take [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell at his word when he says that the government isn’t going to shut down," he said. "There’s no reason for it to shut down. We traveled down that path before. It was bad for the country. It was bad for every elected official in Washington, and at the end of the day, it was resolved in the same way it would have been resolved if we hadn’t shut the government down.”Is talk of a shutdown affecting the timing of his action on immigration?“No,” Obama said. “I think the main concern I have is to make sure we get it right. And that’s what we’re focused on at this point. Because any executive action I take is going to require some adjustments to how DHS – the Department of Homeland Security – operates ... I want to make sure that we’ve crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s. That’s my main focus.”

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Meet the Koala Posing with President Obama at G-20 Summit

Meet the Koala Posing with President Obama at G-20 Summit

Photo by Andrew Taylor/G20 Australia via Getty Images(BRISBANE, Australia) -- President Obama, Jimbelung. Jimbelung, President Obama.That's the name of the 2-year-old koala bear who cozied up to the president Saturday while at the G-20 summit in Australia.The wide-eyed koala munched on eucalyptus and posed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama, but grew too tired for pictures with the media, according to her handler.She made an exception when the premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, showed up with outstretched arms.Jimbelung, which means "friend" in Japanese, is scheduled to move from a wildlife park in Brisbane to Japan as a gift.

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Second Round of ACA Open Enrollment Begins Saturday

Second Round of ACA Open Enrollment Begins Saturday

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The second round of open enrollment in the federal healthcare marketplace began on Saturday.Despite numerous website issues, more than 10 million people signed up for healthcare online last year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, had projected the number of Americans signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act would reach about 13 million by the end of 2015. The Department of Health and Human Services, however, has the number in the range of nine to 9.9 million.The CEO of Healthcare.gov, Kevin Counihan, told ABC News that those Americans who are renewing their coverage will have an easy time doing so. "For people renewing coverage...90 percent of their basic enrollment information will be pre-populated," he said.In his weekly address, President Obama said that his administration had spent the last year "improving and upgrading" the website, making it "faster and easier to use."For those Americans who act by Dec. 15, new or changed coverage can begin as soon as Jan. 1.

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Why Congressman Had Grim Crucifixion Posters on House Floor

Why Congressman Had Grim Crucifixion Posters on House Floor

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- On a typical Friday afternoon in the House of Representatives, it’s not an uncommon sight to see Rep. Louie Gohmert make his way to the floor to the floor to speak out during special order speeches – an open mic opportunity of sorts for lawmakers to speak out on any issue they desire after the body concludes the day’s legislative business.When Gohmert took to the well of the chamber and a congressional aide set up some two easels on Friday featuring grim photos of people who had been crucified, the conservative firebrand from Texas quickly captured the attention of the chamber.He began his 40 minute speech by talking about how the House had just passed a vote to authorize construction on the Keystone Pipeline, but Gohmert soon revealed why he was standing in front of two large black and white photos depicting crucifixions.“To many people, dates mean things. My anniversary means a lot. I’ve never forgotten one. Our birthdays mean a lot to most Westerners,” Gohmert, R-Texas said. “Some of us try to forget them, but major dates in Caliphate history mean a great deal to radical Islamists.”Gohmert then expressed skepticism over a Muslim prayer service scheduled to be held that day for the first time at the National Cathedral in Washington. Gohmert claimed the day was the 100th anniversary of the last sitting Caliph of the Ottoman Empire’s call for jihad against non-believers, which Gohmert said was a “catalyst which led to religiously-fueled genocide against Christian Armenians and Assyrians.”

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President Obama Spotted Chewing Gum Again While Abroad

President Obama Spotted Chewing Gum Again While Abroad

Photo by Rob Griffith - Pool/Getty Images(BRISBANE, Australia) -- It seems President Obama didn’t learn his lesson after the outrage in Beijing earlier this week over his gum chewing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.As the G20 summit got underway in Brisbane on Saturday, the president was once again spotted smacking gum as he chatted with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the first plenary session.So far, the Australians don’t seem to mind nearly as much as the Chinese did.Chinese bloggers thought the president looked like "an idler" or a "rapper" when he arrived at the grand event of the APEC summit on Monday, USA Today reported.President Obama is a known user of Nicorette gum in an effort to fight off his cigarette cravings.

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Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey Makes Unannounced Trip to Iraq

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey Makes Unannounced Trip to Iraq

US JCS(BAGHDAD, Iraq) -- U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to engage Iraqi and U.S. officials on the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.The trip was unannounced, the Department of Defense said. It came just two days after Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the progress of the campaign against ISIS. During that testimony, Dempsey said that the aim of the anti-ISIS fight is "Iraq first," not "Iraq only."Dempsey also told Congress on Thursday that the U.S. could consider sending American troops to fight with Iraqi soldiers against ISIS.

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Obama Talks Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment in Weekly Address

Obama Talks Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's address, President Obama talks about the new open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act.

Obama says, "we've spent the last year improving and upgrading HealthCare.gov, to make it faster and easier to use."

Obama promises that enrollment is "easy" and "affordable."

Americans have three months, starting Saturday, to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. You can sign up online or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Read the full transcript of Obama's address:

Hi, everybody.  Over the past year, more than 10 million Americans have gained the financial security and peace of mind that comes with health insurance. 

More than seven million people enrolled in affordable coverage by visiting HealthCare.gov, or going to the marketplace in their state.  On average, they’re paying just $82 a month for coverage.  For a lot of people, that’s less than a cell phone bill or a cable bill.  Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage just because you have a preexisting condition, and they now have to cover free preventive care like checkups and mammograms. 

If you missed your chance to get covered last year, here’s the good news.  Starting November 15th, today, you can go online or call 1-800-318-2596 and get covered for 2015.  And we’ve spent the last year improving and upgrading HealthCare.gov, to make it faster and easier to use. 

If you already buy insurance through the online marketplace, now is the time to take a look at some new options for next year.  You might be able to save more money, or find a plan that fits your family’s needs even better than the one you’ve got now.  If you haven’t signed up for insurance yet, this is your chance.  Odds are, you’ll qualify for tax credits to help you afford it. 

But this window won’t stay open forever.  You only have three months to shop for plans, so it’s worth starting right away.  And it might make a big difference for your family’s bottom line.

Last year, I got an email from a woman named Amy Williams, in Augusta, Georgia.  She and her husband are self-employed in the trucking business.  For years, they paid about $1,200 a month for their health insurance.  Then they checked out HealthCare.gov.  They found a plan with coverage they liked, and it was way less expensive.  She says that they’ve saved around $13,000 on their premiums this year alone. 

Stories like Amy’s are why we fought so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act.  To help more families breathe a little easier.  In part because this law is working, health care prices have grown at their slowest rate in nearly 50 years.  And this year, insurance premiums for families who are covered through an employer grew at a rate tied for the lowest on record. 

So spread the word.  Tell your friends and family members to get covered.  Talk to folks in your church or your classroom.  Tell them to take a few minutes to check out Healthcare.gov, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or call 1-800-318-2596 – it can make a big difference in their lives.  Let them know that it’s easy, it’s affordable, and that they have just three months, starting today, November 15th, to sign up.  Together, we can make sure that even more of America gets covered in the year ahead.

Thanks, and have a great weekend. 

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GOP Address: Rep. Wenstrup On What to ‘Expect From the New Republican Majority’

GOP Address: Rep. Wenstrup On What to ‘Expect From the New Republican Majority’

wenstrup.house.gov(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's GOP address, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) outlines steps Republicans are taking in Congress.

Wenstrup looks at specific cases, including the Keystone XL pipeline, the Hire More Heroes Act, and ObamaCare.

"You deserve a government that doesn’t just 'hear you,' but actually listens to you and puts your priorities first – that focuses on securing more jobs and a better future for our children," Wenstrup says. "That’s what you can expect from the new Republican majority."

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Good morning, I’m Dr. Brad Wenstrup, and I have the honor of representing Ohio’s Second Congressional District.

In the days since the election, Republicans have begun to make good on our vow to honor your trust by focusing first on jobs and the economy.

On Friday, the House voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which will help lower energy costs and get people back to work.  We ask President Obama and Senate Democrats to finally give this project the green light that the American people have been waiting for.

We’ll also work to pass the Hire More Heroes Act, which will encourage businesses large and small to hire America’s veterans - the very Americans to which we owe our security and freedom. 

We’ll take on ObamaCare... and we’ll propose that Congress – not the bureaucrats – has the final say on all new major regulations.

This is just a start on getting some important things done in the months ahead. 

Now, after the election, the president may have said “I hear you,” but by the looks of things, it’s just the opposite.

On Monday, he proposed a new set of rules to regulate – of all things – the Internet, one of the few places innovation has thrived, even in a struggling economy.

Then he agreed with the Chinese government on rules that continue his misguided crusade against affordable, reliable energy.  In this economy, we need relief from the EPA’s grip, not more heavy-handed mandates that take away American jobs and squeeze middle-class families.

The president also continues to raise the possibility of taking unilateral action on executive amnesty.  We've warned him that such action would make it that much harder to pass immigration reform and find common ground.

Sadly, there’s even more.

We’ve now come to learn that one of ObamaCare’s architects said the law passed because Americans were “too stupid to know” what was happening.

This is the same arrogance we’ve seen time and time again from this administration and its allies. This is insulting to all of us.

They say one thing and do another.  They spend money we don’t have - with little to show for it but more debt and broken promises.  And they stay off course - even when hardworking people are stuck earning less and paying more for just about everything.  

Americans deserve far better.

You deserve a government that doesn’t just “hear you,” but actually listens to you and puts your priorities first – that focuses on securing more jobs and a better future for our children.

That’s what you can expect from the new Republican majority.

Thank you for listening, and God bless the United States of America.

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Why Obamacare ‘Architect’ Jonathan Gruber Is Under Fire

Why Obamacare ‘Architect’ Jonathan Gruber Is Under Fire

Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  MIT economist Jonathan Gruber may not have been a household name, at least before this week, despite his being described as the “architect” of Obamacare and, previously, Romneycare in Massachusetts.He sparked a furor this week after video surfaced of his talking about the “stupidity” of the American people, among other insults aimed at the voting public. Now Republicans have pounced, inventing a brand-new word: “Grubering.”Here’s what you need to know about Gruber and the controversy that’s still swirling.I've heard the name Jonathan Gruber a lot this week, but what happened and who is he?He’s an MIT economics professor famous for his critical role in advising the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He’s known as the “architect,” although Democrats involved with the law’s passage take issue with the title.Before Obamacare, he also advised the creation of a similar law in Massachusetts, sometimes called Romneycare, after Mitt Romney, who was governor of the Bay State at the time. Despite some resistance to the term “architect,” Gruber joined the president’s transition team in 2008 and no one disputes he played a key role in the law’s creation. The Washington Post reports he was also paid "almost $400,000" for the work, controversial in its own right.Gruber has made controversial comments in the past, but they don’t compare to the comments that came to light this week, six videos in total and counting – including one where he refers to the “stupidity of the American voter.” In another, when talking about Obamacare tax credits, he said, “American voters are too stupid to understand the difference.”“If you have a law that makes explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it wouldn’t have passed,” Gruber said in a video from 2013. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and, basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really critical to getting the thing to pass.”In yet another from 2012, Gruber said in a speech at the University of Rhode Island: “It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”A fifth video was revealed today where he seems to be teasing a Vermont man concerned with possible unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act. After listening to the man’s concerns, Gruber responds, “Was this written by my adolescent children by any chance?”Has he apologized?Yes, earlier this week, but before all six videos were released, Gruber appeared on MSNBC, telling Ronan Farrow his words had been an “off the cuff” mistake.“The comments in the video were made at an academic conference,” Gruber said. “I was speaking off the cuff and I basically spoke inappropriately and I regret having made those comments.” Gruber has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment, made through MIT.What are the White House and other Democrats saying?In a press briefing in Myanmar during the president’s trip, White House press secretary Josh Earnest denounced Gruber’s comments, saying, “The fact of the matter is, the process associated with the writing and passing and implementing of the Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily transparent.”He added that he “disagree[s] vigorously” with Gruber’s claim Obamacare would not have passed if voters were smarter and the administration was more transparent about the process. He also said it’s Republicans who are being “less than forthright and transparent” about how GOP-proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act would affect Americans.In a news conference earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to say Gruber had no significant role in crafting Obamacare, adding she doesn't even "know who he is."Almost immediately it was pointed out her office had cited Gruber's work in the past.And now what's #Grubering?A new word made up by Republicans in response to Gruber’s comment. In an email this week from the Republican National Committee, they describe it as “trying to fool voters into thinking you’re doing one thing while doing something completely different.”The hashtag has lit up social media with similar words popping up, including a “gruber” or a lie told to someone you think is dumb, as well as “grubering.”So, no, this controversy doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon.So, What's Next?Well, it's actually something else Gruber said, not insulting the American people, that could come back to haunt him, as well as the administration. Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to look at whether Obamacare allows tax credits for people who buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federally run exchanges.Gruber said in 2012, "I think what’s important to remember politically about this is, if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits...but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country.“I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges, and that they’ll do it."And it's these words some analysts say could help the plaintiffs challenging Obamacare bring it down. Yes, Gruber is unlikely to get a White House Christmas card this year.

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Three Congressional Races That Still Don’t Have a Winner

Three Congressional Races That Still Don’t Have a Winner

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With House freshmen reporting to Washington this week for orientation, three Congressional races from last week still remain too close to call.In Arizona, Gabby Giffords’ former seat is still up for grabs, with the re-match between endangered Democrat Rep. Ron Barber and Republican former Air Force Col. Martha McSally now moving to a recount.Two California districts that have dealt with severe droughts are still waiting for races to be called, both including fierce challenges from Republicans against incumbents.It all means the Republican wave this election may still be able to nab three more seats before the end of this week.

Here’s a look at where the races stand:Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District: Ron Barber vs. Martha McSallyAll the votes have been counted in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, but the battle is still on between Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally. It's been one of the most closely watched House races this midterm election, in no small part because of the razor-thin margin the congressman won by in his 2012 matchup with McSally. But the less-than-2,500 vote edge he had in that victory seemed stout compared to the final vote count in the rematch this year. The election results placed McSally ahead by just 161 votes. According to Arizona law, a candidate must win by a margin of .10 percent. McSally held a .08 percent edge over her opponent, setting the stage for the state's first automatic recount in a congressional election and its closest race in history. According to the Arizona secretary of state's office, the recount will not begin until at least Dec. 1.California’s 7th Congressional District: Ami Bera vs. Doug OseCalifornia’s 7th Congressional District isn’t new to nail-biters: Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat, won a tight race against Republican incumbent Dan Lungren just two years ago. Before the 2012 election, the 7th District was rearranged to fit the Sacramento suburbs more neatly into its territory, meaning Bera could take advantage of a more liberal populace. But this year, Republican challenger and former Rep. Doug Ose fought tooth and nail to retake the seat for the GOP. What could explain the dead heat? Ose’s former district now makes up 70 percent of the 7th District, meaning the gerrymandering that once helped Bera was now benefitting Ose. As of Wednesday, Bera held a 711-vote lead over Ose, leaving the race too close to call as provisional ballots were still being counted.California 16th Congressional District: Jim Costa vs. Johnny TacherraIn California’s heavily Hispanic and agriculture-driven 16th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Jim Costa holds onto just a 75-vote lead over Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra. The Fresno Bee reported that another updated vote count was expected today. Tacherra’s competitiveness in the race gave him enough confidence to fly to Washington this week to attend congressional orientation for new members despite knowing he could actually lose his race. According to the National Review, Tacherra decided to run against Costa after a tense meeting with him in his Capitol Hill office regarding droughts in their district, a contentious issue in a growing number of California elections. A third-generation dairy farmer, Tacherra ran the close campaign with just a single staffer whom he paid $500 a month.

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Seasoned Senators Dole Out Advice for Newbies on Capitol Hill

Seasoned Senators Dole Out Advice for Newbies on Capitol Hill

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Everyone’s a newbie at some point in their Senate career. After years on Capitol Hill, senators have come to learn a thing or two about surviving in the halls of Congress. As 12 senators-elect learned their way around the halls of the Senate this week during freshman orientation, several senators told ABC News some of the advice they wish they had when they started in the Senate.“Have fun, think before you speak, and speak as often as you feel in your mind and heart that you have something to say,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.“You need to hire people you trust and know that there’s a difference between campaign and governing, and you hire people with that in mind,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said.Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., gave the newbie senators a book called The American Senate, to provide the incoming senators with a history of the upper chamber, Montana’s senator-elect Steve Daines told ABC News.Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had some advice on office space to help new lawmakers avoid working in a “dungeon”-like space.“Try to be fortunate so that you don’t get in the basement of the Russell building where I had to spend the time in my first years here in the Senate,” McCain said. “It’s very nice down here, but it sometimes resembles living in a dungeon.”And Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., put his advice bluntly: “Try to avoid mistakes."

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House Passes Bill Approving Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

House Passes Bill Approving Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House passed a bill on Friday, approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.At least 31 Democrats voted for the 1,700-mile-long pipeline, which would carry Canadian oil to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Landieu-Hoeven bill, with the same language, on Tuesday evening.President Obama has signaled a veto, telling reporters in Asia that the pipeline “doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”But the oil industry has pushed back on the notion that Keystone will -- as Obama put it --“provide the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.” An official with the American Petroleum Institute tells ABC News that claim is “unfounded” -- that Canadian tar sands are treated as American oil once it hits the U.S. border, and it can’t be exported without a waiver from the government.Plus, API says the pipeline will also carry oil from Montana and North Dakota, not just Canada.

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House Democrats Deny Pregnant Proxy Vote in Leadership Elections

House Democrats Deny Pregnant Proxy Vote in Leadership Elections

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats promote absentee ballots, early voting and removing barriers and obstacles from the polls -- except in House leadership races apparently.House Democrats rejected their pregnant colleague’s plea to submit proxy votes in the House Democratic Caucus’ leadership and committee elections next week. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a disabled war veteran who is due to have her first child in December, is missing the elections in person next week because her physician advised her not to travel.While proxy voting is explicitly against caucus rules, Duckworth, who had both of her legs amputated when the helicopter she was flying was shot down in Iraq, wrote a letter from Illinois to request a waiver due to her extraordinary circumstances. Democrats are scheduled to vote on their leadership team via secret ballot next Tuesday and are also expected to decide senior committee assignments next week.The drama played out at a closed-door meeting Thursday, when Duckworth’s request was debated before the caucus.Democrats like Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the co-chair of the Democrat Steering and Policy Committee, cautioned colleagues against setting a new precedent for the secret ballot elections.But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, vice-chair of the steering and policy committee and one of Duckworth’s colleagues from Illinois, made a motion to permit a concession to Duckworth, whose letter was read to the caucus."I write to request your assistance regarding upcoming votes four our Caucus," her letter stated, according to the National Journal. "As you are aware, I am in the final weeks of my pregnancy, and have been instructed by my physician not to travel. As a result, I will not be attending the upcoming Caucus meetings in person.""I would like to request a proxy vote on the upcoming leadership and ranking member elections that will come before the Caucus in the coming weeks,” she continued.According to a Democratic aide in the room during the debate, a pivotal moment came when Rep. Gwen Moore spoke out to ask whether she could proxy vote as well because she plans to attend a funeral in Wisconsin next Tuesday.Moore’s request soured the mood of the room against Duckworth’s motion, the aide said, “with Members realizing the slippery slope argument that others had made.” Schakowsky then pulled her motion for Duckworth.A Democratic source admitted Duckworth’s situation was “a very meritorious case,” but in the end “the slippery slope argument prevailed” because “there’s no practical way to do secret balloting remotely.”Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was believed to have opposed the request, purportedly in part over a contentious race for the top Democratic position on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Pelosi has a large stake in that behind-the-scenes party battle and did not speak out in Duckworth's favor at the meeting.Pelosi has repeatedly urged her colleagues to support Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, while Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 ranked Democrat, is putting his weight behind Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Duckworth also supports Pallone, raising questions about whether Pelosi is in effect blocking a vote against her fellow Californian.Pelosi’s office refused to comment on the record. A spokesman to Pelosi emphasized that the caucus has not permitted proxy voting for as long as they have records, dating back more than four decades.In a statement provided to ABC News, Duckworth seems to have come to terms with the decision.“I submitted a request to the Caucus to allow for a proxy vote due to my pregnancy,” Duckworth wrote in the statement. “The Caucus chose not to allow me to vote via proxy. I respect the process and very much appreciated my colleagues who made sure my request was considered.”

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Battle of the Ballots Continues in Arizona House Race

Battle of the Ballots Continues in Arizona House Race

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- All the votes have been counted in Arizona's 2nd Congressional district, but the battle is still on between Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally.

It's been one of the most closely watched House races this midterm election, and in no small part due to the razor-thin margin the congressman won by in 2012. But the less than 2,500 more votes he had in that victory seems stout compared to the final vote count in their rematch this year.

The election results place McSally ahead by just 161 votes. According to Arizona law, a candidate must win by a margin of .10 percent. McSally holds a .08 percent edge over her opponent, setting the stage for automatic recount -- the state's first recount in a congressional election, and its closest race in history.

According to the Arizona secretary of state's office, the recount will not commence until at least Dec. 1. But that didn't stop McSally from declaring victory: She jetted to Washington, D.C. on Thursday and will have her first full day of House freshman orientation on Friday.

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Hagel Acknowledges Long Fight Ahead Against Islamic State

Hagel Acknowledges Long Fight Ahead Against Islamic State

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday that the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq to defeat Islamic State militants will be "a long and difficult struggle."Hagel, who refers to the Sunni extremist group as ISIL as does the rest of the Obama administration, maintained that while progress has been made since August, the campaign is only "three months into a multi-year effort."According to the defense chief, the group's advance has been stalled and at times reversed in some regions through the efforts of coalition air power along with ground troops made up of Iraqi, Kurdish and tribal forces.However, Hagel conceded that the Islamic State remains a "serious threat" to American interests.Last week, President Obama announced the deployment of an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to act in training and advisory roles. The White House is insistent that American soldiers will not lead the fight against the Islamic State.Yet, House Armed Services chair Buck McKeon suggested that this policy won't be effective in defeating the group.The California Republican asked, "How can you successfully execute the mission you’ve been given -- to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIL -- when some of your best options are taken off the table?”General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would not commit to putting American boots on the ground but did say there has been at least some consideration regarding accompanying Iraqi units in their battle against the Islamic State.The appearance by Hagel and Dempsey was also to ask Congress for $5.6 billion in extra military funding for fighting ISIS in 2015 and a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

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McConnell Elected Senate Majority Leader; Reid to Become Minority Leader

McConnell Elected Senate Majority Leader; Reid to Become Minority Leader

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell fulfilled a lifelong ambition Thursday by becoming Senate majority leader. He will officially take the post next January.Although there were some rumblings last week that McConnell might face a possible challenge from the far right wing of the party, he was elected by acclimation without need of a roll call or tally.McConnell's elevation to the top spot in the Senate occurred during the Republicans' closed-door leadership elections.Meanwhile, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was picked by Democrats to be the minority leader in the next session although not without some objections.Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement, "Common sense tells me that begins with changes in leadership." 

McCaskill, along with Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, didn't vote for Reid.

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EXCLUSIVE: Read Secret Emails of the Men Who May Run Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

EXCLUSIVE: Read Secret Emails of the Men Who May Run Hillary Clinton’s Campaign

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — For the past five years, a prominent Democratic operative who is a leading contender to manage a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign has maintained a private email listserv for friends and associates that carries a provocative name: the “Mook Mafia.”The listserv, which one member said reaches more than 150 fellow campaign veterans, has been a means for Robby Mook and a close friend Marlon Marshall to stay connected with many of the operatives who would likely populate a Democratic presidential campaign in 2016. Mook and Marshall have both been mentioned as possible Hillary Clinton campaign managers.Copies of a cache of the emails obtained by ABC News, and revealed publicly for the first time, show Mook and Marshall demonstrating an aggressive tone in rallying their friends behind political causes, in exchanges that are often self-mocking and sometimes border on being profane.They include rallying cries to, in Mook’s words, “smite Republicans mafia-style,” and, to quote Marshall, “punish those voters.” Mook sometimes calls himself “Deacon” in the emails, while Marshall, now a senior White House aide, refers to himself as “Reverend” in many of the exchanges.Their inside jokes sometimes come at the expense of fellow Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton. A November 2009 mock news release announcing the listserv in addition to a new website and an upcoming reunion for the “Mook Mafia” included a fabricated quote from the former president.“The Mafia has finally built a bridge to the 21st century,” Bill Clinton is jokingly quoted as having said in an email that appears to have been written by Marshall. “This is even more exciting than walking through the back of the Bellagio.”The private emails were provided to ABC News by a Democrat on the listserv who has worked alongside Mook and Marshall on previous campaigns. The person who provided the emails is, like the vast majority of those on the listserv, supportive of Hillary Clinton, but does not support the idea of Mook or Marshall holding leadership roles in a second presidential bid. They were provided on the condition of anonymity.That the emails are emerging publicly reflects the ferocious intra-battle to populate the top positions of an expected Clinton campaign.Neither Mook nor Marshall responded to requests for comment. ABC News first reached out to both men Thursday morning, by email and phone.On one level, the listserv is a testament to the loyalty Mook, 34, has inspired over a decade in national politics. His resume includes stints on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, running a series of state efforts for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid and managing Terry McAuliffe’s successful run for governor of Virginia last year.Marshall is also a veteran of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. He joined Obama’s field operation after the primaries, and he then served in top positions for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, often working alongside Mook along the way. He is now a special assistant to the president and serves as principal deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.The exchanges provide a window into the clubby and pugnacious motivational styles of both Mook and Marshall, two stars of their party’s universe of field organizers and operatives.The two most-recent messages to the group came just last week, on Election Day. They included a reference to a team reunion that would likely be held in New York early next year.At least some recipients saw that reference as presuming that “Mook Mafia” members would be involved in running Clinton’s likely presidential candidacy. Clinton represented New York in the Senate and is said to be considering a campaign headquarters in Westchester County.“TEAM! I was just at the DCCC last night for the GOTV [get-out-the-vote] rally, where we were in the middle of GOTV calisthenics when Nancy Pelosi walked in and said we looked like the Village People. Some things you can’t make up,” Mook wrote at 2:59 p.m. on Election Day.Mook continued: “This has been a tough cycle -- midterms always are -- but what's been so amazing to me is how from the Senate to the House to Governor's races and beyond, we've been keeping the other side on defense. So many of you have played leadershp [sic] roles building field programs, managing campaigns, or running programs from allied groups. It's been incredibly insipiring [sic] to see.”Marshall had written the group earlier that day from Florida, where he was working -- apparently in a volunteer capacity because he still works for the White House -- to elect Charlie Crist as governor.“I know many of you are out there on campaigns, crushing it mafia style,” Marshall wrote. “We unfortunately didn’t do a call this year, but Robby and I wanted to start a chain to acknowledge many in our great family who have been out there busting their tails for all that is right in the world.“We also wanted you to know that this years [sic] reunion will actually be held early next year, January or February, and likely in New York for a weekend. Apologies for the late notice and for not sending anything out on a reunion. Please believe there will be one. The planning committee has just been a tad busy!”The email was signed “MM,” with Marshall adding a hashtag: #mafia4life.The existence of a “Mook Mafia” of friends and loyalists who extend through Mook’s previous campaign work has long been known. Scattered references to the informal group have appeared in favorable Mook profiles, and a Politico story last week referenced the possible New York reunion that was mentioned on the listserv.The emails themselves, though, have not been seen publicly before. Much of the email traffic on the listserv appears to have been mundane: announcing job openings and new assignments, advertising or seeking rooms for rent in battleground states and organizing reunions in places including Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio.In the more substantive messages, though, Marshall emerges as the more aggressive of the duo. Writing in January 2010 to urge fellow “mafia” members to work hard on behalf of Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley, Marshall offered “an overall big thank you to everyone on this list who continues to fight the good fight.”“F U Republicans. Mafia till I die,” he wrote. “If you have just a few minutes, hop on that activate and punish those voters!” (“Activate” is an apparent reference to a software program allowing volunteers to contact targeted voters by phone from anywhere in the country.)The following year, in confirming news that he would be taking a new job that would include a move to Chicago, Marshall offered special thanks to Mook.“First, the mafia never separates, it just continues to grow and expand and move into other states in order to destroy Republicans,” he wrote. “A special thanks to none other than the namesake himself, Deacon Robby Mook. Without him, there would be no mafia and I for sure know I would not have learned as much as I have in this business and have this opportunity.”Mook responded by announcing “mandatory” attendance at a goodbye party for Marshall at a Capitol Hill bar.“It's true: Marlon Marshall is leaving our fold. Today is the day the grownassman [sic] grows up and leaves for America's Second City. I know this prodical [sic] son will return to the mafia manger soon enough to smite Republicans mafia-style,” Mook wrote.“If you can't be here in person, join me in spirit by sending your words of love and encouragement to the Most High Grown Ass Reverend Marlon D as he embarks on his pilgrimage. Please believe and obey the beard.”Both Mook and Marshall have been discussed as potential Clinton campaign managers, should she run for president. Another top contender, Guy Cecil, may have seen his chances damaged by last week’s Republican rout because Cecil was running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for this election cycle.

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Report: Obama’s Proposed Order on Immigration Keeps Millions in US

Report: Obama’s Proposed Order on Immigration Keeps Millions in US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The New York Times reported Thursday that President Obama is nearing a decision on an executive order that would prevent the deportation of as many as five million undocumented immigrants, quoting administration officials familiar with the plan.Such a move would likely enrage congressional Republicans. Even before the Times article came out, House Speaker John Boehner said if the president acts unilaterally to revamp the immigration system, it would "jeopardize other issues as well."Nonetheless, the president appears determined to act with immigration reform stalled for a year-and-a-half after the Senate passed a comprehensive bill in June 2013 that has languished in the GOP-controlled House.According to the Times, Obama's directive would allow many undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits, provided their children are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.Furthermore, the executive order would also refocus the activities of the government's 12,000 immigration agents, the Times reports.Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies would step up deportations of known criminals, people considered national security threats and others who try to cross over the southern border into the U.S.The president's executive order is still subject to change, sources told the Times, but Obama is determined to issue the directive before the end of 2014.Although Hispanic groups and liberal Democrats will no doubt praise the plan that will make millions unafraid of coming out in the open, Obama runs the risk of sabotaging already delicate year-end budget negotiations and perhaps even kill the nomination of Loretta E. Lynch to become the next U.S. attorney general.Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Jeff Sessions of Alabama are already in the throes of threatening to kill budget talks unless the president backs off from what they claim is "executive amnesty" for people they view as lawbreakers.Meanwhile, ABC News reports that the president will arrive at a decision on what the plan will entail next week but it remains unclear when he will sign an executive order to implement immigration reform.

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