Capitol Hill Buzz: McConnell dishes on Obama, conservatives


By Alan Fram - Associated Press



WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is condescending. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid veers from friendly in private to nasty before TV cameras. And one of Washington’s leading conservatives backstabs fellow Republicans.

Those portrayals come from a new book by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s unsurprising he’d characterize them that way, but doing so in public is unusual for the famously circumspect six-term Kentucky Republican.

Notably absent from the index and a discussion of the infamous 2013 partial government shutdown: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who once said McConnell had lied and has had a chilly relationship with him.

Obama “talks down to people, whether in a meeting among colleagues in the White House or addressing the nation,” McConnell writes in “The Long Game,” a memoir being published this week. He says Obama is like the student “who exerts a hell of a lot of effort making sure everyone thinks he’s the smartest one in the room.”

Reid, with whom McConnell has had numerous epic clashes, is “thoughtful, friendly and funny” in person but in public is “bombastic and unreasonable, spouting things that are both nasty and often untrue.” McConnell writes that Reid’s remark during a 2007 Iraq debate that the war was lost topped the list of “all the insensitive and regrettable” Reid comments.

Some of McConnell’s sharpest descriptions are of some conservatives, notably former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who now heads the conservative Heritage Foundation.

As senator, DeMint was “almost submissive” at meetings and never confronted colleagues, but “wouldn’t blink at the opportunity to bad-mouth them” to reporters, McConnell writes.

McConnell says it was “utterly irresponsible for anyone to call themselves a true conservative” and have thought the GOP could use a federal shutdown to force Obama to abandon his prized health care law in 2013. The tactic failed and while McConnell describes those responsible, he names no one — including Cruz, the recently unsuccessful GOP presidential hopeful and a major tactician of that shutdown effort.

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman declined to comment, but forwarded an article from Politico in which Reid called McConnell’s descriptions “fairly classless.”

The White House and Heritage Foundation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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A federal lawsuit that House Republicans filed against a portion of President Barack Obama’s health care law is reverberating anew back where it started.

House Republicans said Tuesday that a deposition a former IRS official gave in May to investigators from the House Ways and Means Committee show the administration knew it was sidestepping the Constitution in financing part of the health law.

Democrats say the deposition, released last week, shows that administration officials differed over the proper way to pay for the program. They say the committee’s investigation is simply the latest GOP effort to undercut a law they’ve long despised.

In May, a federal judge ruled the administration is unconstitutionally financing a $175 billion, 10-year part of the law. In it, the government subsidizes lower deductibles and co-payments for millions of lower-earning people under the health care law.

Republicans claimed Congress had not approved money specifically for that program. The administration argues the law provides the funds automatically, and is expected to appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer.

House Republicans say that since 2015, they’ve been investigating how the administration decided it didn’t need annual approval of the money from Congress.

As part of that, committee investigators subpoenaed testimony from David Fisher, former senior adviser to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Democrats, citing worries that Republicans would release only segments of Fisher’s testimony, released the entire 73-page transcript last week.

The transcript shows that Fisher described a 2014 meeting at which administration officials discussed how the program would be paid for. His testimony provides ammunition for both sides.

Fisher testified he believed there was “no linkage” between the subsidies and the government’s authority to automatically finance some programs without annual congressional approval. But he said the “strong majority” of other advisers at the meeting disagreed with him.

“They circumvented the law,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday in an interview on WTAQ radio in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, said the investigation’s purpose is “political and nothing else but to try to undermine” Obama’s health law.

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

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