I’m Sara Sciammacco of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...
The week began with all eyes on the White House. Everyone was watching to see how President Obama would respond to a failed Christmas Day terrorist attack. To no one’s surprise, the Republicans criticized the administration’s national security policies. Republican Whip Eric Cantor says talk has been weak also.
CANTOR1: "You know we’ve seen over the last 10 or 11 months an unwillingness on the part of the President or the administration to call a terrorist a terrorist."
Top House Democrats returned from holiday break to find reporters following their every move. Frank Pallone is a congressman from New Jersey.
PALLONE1: "What is the latest? I don’t really have anything to tell you we are obviously just continuing with the negotiations and obviously we like the House version and we’d like to implement it soon."
Negotiations went on all week in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. There were complaints from the media and Republicans because cameras weren’t allowed in. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut didn’t see the need.
DELAURO: "What we are essentially doing so that you understand this is to collect again all the concerns the questions etc. that caucus members have."
House caucus members are trying to reconcile their version with the Senate. They say they don’t want to get stuck, but several issues remain. One is whether Congress should create a national exchange. Democrat John Larson thinks so.
LARSON: "We think it makes sense and based on the number of the comments from members from specific states like Texas and others who feel that would leave an awful lot of people out without a national exchange."
Lawmakers also disagree on whether Congress should tax Cadillac plans. The Senate bill does. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would rather tax the wealthy instead.
PELOSI: "I always say when it comes to tax policy around here it is like a mirror, mirror on the mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all. The Senate thinks theirs is we think ours is. We’ll see which mirror cracks."
On the other side of the Capitol it was quiet. The Senate is out of session until January 19th. Still Senators stole some of the spotlight. On Wednesday both Democrats Bryon Dorgan of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut both announced they’d be calling it quits.
DODD: "There are moments for each elected public official to step aside and let someone else step up. This is my moment to step aside."
Many took the surprise announcements as a sign the Democratic Party is in trouble – at last check more Republicans are set to leave Washington this year.
Speaking of Republicans...the national party chair Michael Steele appeared on many televisions shows this week. He is promoting a new book. It was what he said on FOX News that stirred anger.
FOX STEELE BITE: "Our platform is one of the best political documents that has been written in the past 25 years, honest injun on that."
The head of the Native American Caucus called it racist and demanded an apology. Steele hasn’t responded yet.
On Thursday, the EPA set stricter health standards for smog. Environmentalists hailed the decision because the new limits will force states to crack down on pollution. And finally the week culminated with President Obama taking full responsibility for failing to stop the attempted terrorist attack. He vowed to prevent one from happening again.
OBAMA1: "I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer for ultimately the buck stops with me."
Friday wasn’t any better for the administration. New numbers showed employers cut 85 thousand jobs in December.
Next week health care talks will continue. The House wants to get differences resolved in the coming weeks. President Obama will meet with Democratic caucus members in another push to get everyone on board.
That was This Week in Congress. I’m Sara Sciammacco, Capitol News Connection.