Morning Briefing: February 15, 2012

Congressional negotiators reached a deal to extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits yesterday. The plan, hammered out by a bipartisan House-Senate committee, came after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made a major concession in okaying the extension of the tax holiday without spending cuts. Tea Party Republicans may still derail the deal, which is expected for a vote Friday.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is staying at arm’s length from Boehner, refusing to endorse the deal to extend the tax holiday.

“President Obama’s political standing is rising along with voters’ optimism that the economy,” according to a new New York Times/CBS poll which shows the president’s approval rating at 50 percent — compared to Congress’ 10 percent. For the first time in some time, more Americans have a positive outlook on the economy than a negative one.

The same poll shows that a whopping 65 percent of voters say they support the Obama administration’s new contraception rule. Meanwhile, 44 percent of Catholics said they favored marriage equality, while 25 percent preferred civil unions — just 24 percent favored no legal recognition at all.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will allow a vote on a Republican Senate bill today to repeal President Obama’s new birth control policy. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is “unlikely to pass the Senate,” but Reid is allowing the vote so pro-life Democrats can reaffirm their position.

Newt Gingrich slammed Rick Santorum’s stance against allowing women to serve in combat in the military, saying the position shows Santorum completely misunderstands modern warfare.”Nearly half of Michigan voters are less likely to vote for Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) after his Senate campaign ran its racially-charged ad during the Super Bowl, according to a new poll. Of 54 percent who have seen the ad, 45 percent say they’re less likely to vote for Hoekstra. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) now has a 14-point lead in the race, double her lead before the ad ran.

The White House threatened to veto House Republicans’ transportation package if it passes, because of its inclusion of the Keystone XL pipeline and the inadequacy of its funding for roads and bridges. The Senate is also debating a transportation bill that has President Obama’s support.

Famed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is asking Mitt Romney — perhaps the most visible Mormon in the country — to denounce the Mormon Church’s practice of posthumously baptizing Jews killed during the Holocaust.

A day after the White House welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, whom President Obama spoke with for 85 minutes, Obama will today call on businesses to “insource” jobs that have been shipped overseas back to the United States, echoing a key passage of his State of the Union address last month.


And finally: The New York State Senate won’t always love Whitney Houston — in fact, Republicans there are blocking a motion to honor the late singer because she may have died of a drug overdose. “I was outraged,” said sponsor, Sen. Eric Adams (D). “For us to focus on how she died rather than how she lived is an insult.”

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