WASHINGTON— Carol E. Lee and Felicia Schwartz report: The White House plans to announce that President Barack Obama is undoing a longstanding policy that allows Cuban émigrés who reach U.S. soil without visas to stay in the country and apply for a green card after one year, administration officials said.
The special exception for Cuban immigrants — known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy — has been in place since the 1990s. It allows Cubans who make it to U.S. soil to stay, while those caught in transit are sent back.
Those who are permitted to remain also may be eligible to receive benefits the U.S. grants to refugees fleeing persecution, including cash assistance and health care coverage.
The policy, essentially encouraging Cubans to flee their country, has long been part of the economic, immigration, and foreign policy tool kit used by Washington, and has been opposed by Havana, which considers it a drain on its resources. No other immigrants are provided similar allowances.
Mr. Obama’s decision to reverse the policy one week before he leaves office marks one of his final moves to solidify his effort begun in 2014 to restore U.S. relations with Cuba. Putting Cubans on equal footing with immigrants from other countries would be a sign of more normalized relations. But it is also a step the Cuban government has wanted the White House to take.
The wet-foot, dry-foot policy grew out of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which gives the U.S. Attorney General discretion to treat Cuban immigrants differently than those from other countries. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the number of Cubans trying to leave the country skyrocketed, resulting in often dangerous flotilla escapes. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton spearheaded a policy change that provided that anyone caught at sea would be sent back to Cuba. Read the rest of this entry »
That fact has begun to grate at Democrats, who have complained bitterly at Republicans’ stands against Obama’s nominees.
Manu Raju and Ted Barrett report: Senate Democrats are eager to make Donald Trump pay a political price for nominating staunch conservatives to fill out his Cabinet, hoping to exact revenge for the GOP’s stubborn opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominees.
But there is little they can do about it — and some top Democrats are now coming to regret it
“Yes, we changed the rules. We had to change rules because we now have a DC Circuit that functions, we’ve got 98 judges, and we have a functioning National Labor Relations Board …. And remember, with now 48 senators, we only need to pick up a few Republicans of goodwill to stop some of these nominations.”
— Harry Reid
That’s because Senate Democrats muscled through an unprecedented rules change in 2013 to weaken the power of the minority party to filibuster Cabinet-level appointees and most judicial nominees, now setting the threshold at 51 votes — rather than 60 — to overcome tactics aimed at derailing nominations.
“I do regret that. I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency break, to have in our system to slow down nominees.”
— Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat who voted for the rules change three years ago.
With the Senate GOP poised to hold 52 seats next Congress, some Democrats now say they should have thought twice before making the rules change — known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option.”
“I do regret that,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat who voted for the rules change three years ago. “I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency break, to have in our system to slow down nominees.”
With their power weakened, Democrats are weighing how to make life difficult for the Senate GOP.
They are planning on making the fight over Rep. Tom Price’s nomination to lead the Health and Human Services Department a proxy war over the GOP’s plans to to dramatically overhaul Medicare. They want to turn Steven Mnuchin’s nomination to lead the Treasury into a battle over regulating Wall Street. And they want to make Sen. Jeff Sessions answer for his hard-line stands on civil rights issues and against comprehensive immigration reform.
Senate Democrats plan to make speeches and mount objections to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to quickly schedule votes to confirm much of Trump’s Cabinet by the time he is inaugurated in January. Under the rules, they could delay votes from taking place for a few days at a time, temporarily slowing down the Trump agenda.
But they ultimately won’t be able to stop those nominees — unless Republicans defect and join the Democratic opposition. And that fact has begun to grate at Democrats, who have complained bitterly at Republicans’ stands against Obama’s nominees — most notably their unprecedented refusal to even give the President’s Supreme Court choice, Merrick Garland, a hearing.
Some Democrats realize they’ve made life harder for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Krauthammer discusses Donald Trump’s call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, and how the Clinton campaign’s response belies a total contradiction.
Ryan Lizza writes: This week marks an important anniversary in the political lives of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton was dominating the young upstart from Illinois in the Democratic primaries. After a burst of excitement when Obama announced his candidacy, in February, 2007, his campaign flagged over the summer. He was down in the polls, his donors were complaining, and, hard as it is to believe now, he was even losing to Clinton among African-Americans.
“We were trailing in national polls by a wide margin, the pundits were pouncing, and donors were panicking.”
— David Axelrod
“A lot of our supporters nationally were very concerned that we weren’t moving in the national polls,” Larry Grisolano, one of Obama’s top campaign strategists, told me.
Dan Pfeiffer, then the campaign’s deputy communications director, told me, “It’s crazy to think now, but the big narrative was whether Obama was tough enough to take on Clinton and whether he was black enough to win the African-American vote. That’s an actual debate we had in America. You could see the political world placing its bets on Hillary.”
“We were trailing in national polls by a wide margin, the pundits were pouncing, and donors were panicking,” David Axelrod, who was Obama’s top strategist and later became a senior White House adviser, told me.
How did the Obama team turn it around? The conventional wisdom is that he inspired voters with an uplifting message and out-organized Clinton in Iowa and elsewhere. And while it’s true that Obama had a superior organization and an optimistic message, the real beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton was when Obama attacked her greatest vulnerability: her character.
The kill-Hillary strategy began with an October memo that was written by several top Obama officials, including Axelrod, Grisolano, Pfeiffer, the campaign manager David Plouffe, and Joel Benenson, Obama’s pollster. “Joel Benenson was a key contributor to how we stack up against her message-wise,” Grisolano said.
I’ve previously reported on aspects of the memo, but the entire document is being published here for the first time. It offers a fascinating glimpse into campaign strategy, and specifically into the strategy used to defeat Hillary Clinton, who was then, as now, the Democratic frontrunner.
The memo was used to set up a crucial meeting to plot Obama’s fall strategy, which included a debate in Philadelphia and the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, traditionally one of the most important events in the run-up to the caucuses. Obama and his aides met in a Chicago office building on October 11, 2007. “The memo was written for a big Come-to-Jesus meeting, at which Obama wanted us to review the strategy and lay out our plans,” Axelrod said, adding that Obama “wanted to talk brass tacks about where we were going” and “we had a rigorous discussion around the points in the memo.”
Obama’s strategists argued that the “key premise” of the campaign was that 2008 would be a change election, and that while Hillary was trying to “define this as change from George Bush,” Obama had a broader definition, one that emphasized her weaknesses:
Our construct is much broader and tracks with Americans’ deep discontent with Washington, specifically:
• Its political gamesmanship, where politicians score points by saying what others want to hear, rather than what they need to hear;
• Its divisiveness, which pits Americans against each other and blocks the consensus we need to get things done;
• Its submission to powerful interests that shut out the voices of average Americans.
The only way for Obama to win this argument about change was for him to raise the character issue, which he had tiptoed around until that point in the campaign. Benenson’s polling showed that voters wanted a President “who can unite the country and restore our sense of common purpose,” “stand up to lobbyists,” and “who doesn’t just tell people what they want to hear.” The strategists, addressing Obama, wrote that these qualities “are the ones on which YOU scores high and Hillary, low.” They concluded, “Barack Obama is change. She is not.” Read the rest of this entry »