LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON
By Manu Raju and Jake Sherman
House GOP leaders have been eager to lock down support from their party to back the bipartisan budget deal and avoid yet another round of fiscal crises.
That message appears to have gotten lost in the Capitol Rotunda.
In the Senate, Republican leaders and senior GOP senators are balking at the budget deal, arguing that it hikes spending too high without demanding more immediate cuts in return. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is widely expected to oppose the proposal, and his top GOP leadership lieutenants also raised deep concerns Wednesday, highlighting the party’s continued divide over fiscal strategy, which has only intensified since the October government shutdown.
BEIRUT The Syrian opposition said Wednesday that state security forces had launched intense artillery and rocket barrages on the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, claiming that hundreds of people died in what was being called a “poisonous gas” attack.
The attack coincided with the visit by a 20-member U.N. chemical weapons team to Syria to investigate three sites where chemical weapons attacks allegedly occurred during the past year. Their presence raises questions about why the regime – which called the claims of the attack Wednesday “absolutely baseless” – would use chemical agents at this time.
In a statement, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the U.S. is deeply concerned by reports chemical weapons use in Syria, and that the Obama administration is “working urgently to gather additional information.
“If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the U.N. team’s immediate and unfettered access to this site,” Earnest said.
By Suzy Khimm
Kicking off a series of speeches on the economy, President Obama laid out a number of reforms–from raising the minimum wage to universal pre-school–that would require major legislation that no one expects to pass any time soon. But that was precisely the point: Obama strived to come across as a leader with a long-term vision for the future, criticizing Republicans for being short-sighted and petty by comparison.
Obama attempted throughout his speech to take the long view on America’s economic problems. Yes, the financial crisis was awful, but it was essentially just a setback that exacerbated the fundamental problems we’ve been facing for decades: A hollowed out middle class, growing inequality, and the loss of economic security–”a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement,” Obama said.
Fixing such structural problems will have historic impact, going well beyond the current recovery, the president continued in an address that stretched just over an hour Wednesday. “The choices that we, the people, make now will determine whether or not every American will have a fighting chance in the 21st century,” he said. “To reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades–that has to be our project.”
Obama ran through a litany of possibilities to fix the pillars of middle-class America, through more affordable education, higher wages, and more jobs. By the end, it felt more of a laundry list of ideas (universal broadband! mortgage refinancing! worker retraining!) than a legislative agenda. But the driving purpose of the speech was to contrast this vision for economic change with Republican preoccupations–spending cuts, political scandals, and the debt ceiling–and challenge them to describe their own long-term agenda.
I just finished reading the draft of a speech the President plans to deliver on Wednesday, and I want to explain why it’s one worth checking out.
Eight years ago, not long after he was elected to the United States Senate, President Obama went to Knox College in his home state of Illinois where he laid out his economic vision for the country. It’s a vision that says America is strongest when everybody’s got a shot at opportunity – not when our economy is winner-take-all, but when we’re all in this together.
Revisiting that speech, it’s clear that it sowed the seeds of a consistent vision for the middle class he’s followed ever since. It’s a vision he carried through his first campaign in 2008, it’s a vision he carried through speeches like the one he gave at Georgetown University shortly after taking office that imagined a new foundation for our economy and one in Osawatomie, Kansas on economic inequality in 2011 — and it’s a vision he carried through his last campaign in 2012.
By Andrew Rafferty, Staff Writer
The expansive government surveillance programs made public last week have helped prevent “dozens” of terrorist attacks, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a Senate committee Wednesday.
It is unclear, however, what specific surveillance practices helped thwart the alleged plots.
And Alexander, an Army general, was quick to clarify that in most cases multiple programs have successfully been used together to stop attacks both in the United States and abroad.
“When I say ‘dozens,’ what I’m talking about here is that these authorities complement each other in helping us identify different terrorist actions and help disrupt them,” Alexander said. “They complement each other.”
Alexander’s comments came during a previously scheduled cybersecurity hearing, but marked his first appearance before lawmakers since media reports that unveiled sweeping NSA surveillance of electronic communications that has sparked a debate over the balance between personal liberties and national security.
Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET
This story contains a video some viewers might find graphic.
LONDON – Two men with butcher knives hacked another to death Wednesday near a London military barracks and one then went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver. Soon after, arriving police shot and wounded the unidentified assailants and took them into custody.
The brutal daylight attack galvanized this city and raised fears that terrorism had returned to London.
Authorities did not identify the victim by name, but French President Francois Hollande referred to him as a “soldier” at a news conference in Paris with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron would not confirm that, but British media reported that the victim was wearing a shirt in support of troops and Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it was investigating whether a U.K. soldier was involved.
Calling it “an appalling murder,” Cameron said there were “strong indications” it was an act of terrorism, and two other officials said there were signs the attack was motivated by radical Islam.
The Cabinet’s emergency committee was immediately convened and security was stepped up at army barracks across London. Cameron cut short his Paris trip to return to London and his office said he would chair another session Thursday.
THE DAILY CALLER
WASHINGTON – Two “whistle-blowers” — who have never before spoken publicly about what really happened when the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012 – are expected to testify before a House committee in a much-anticipated appearance Wednesday.
Four Americans died in the Benghazi attacks, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is calling its hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage.” It’s set to take place Wednesday morning at the Rayburn House Office Building.