TIME

Dem Frenemies: Pelosi, Hoyer Again on Opposite Sides of a Leadership Debate

Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer
Susan Walsh—AP House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., followed by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Md., arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, to introduce the Democratic leadership team for the 114th Congress. )

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are backing rival candidates to be top Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce committee

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives re-elected Nancy Pelosi of California as Minority Leader and Steny Hoyer of Maryland as Minority Whip on Tuesday with little drama, according to House members who took part in the vote. But the apparent comity hides the re-emergence of a long-simmering competition between the top two Democrats over lower level spots in their Congressional roster.

With leadership votes expected for key committees as soon as Wednesday, the race to replace retiring powerhouse Rep. Henry Waxman as top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee has turned into a test of influence between Pelosi and Hoyer.

For months, California Rep. Anna Eshoo and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone have been competing for votes to serve as the next ranking member of the powerful committee, which has authority over a large part of the U.S. economy and traditionally plays an outsized role in investigations and oversight.

Pelosi backs her longtime friend and ally, Eshoo, sending letters to colleagues urging them to support her fellow Californian since shortly after Eshoo’s announcement. Eshoo’s priorities, Pelosi says, align with the “future of America’s vibrant and competitive environment.”

Hoyer has been stumping for Pallone, though not nearly as openly as Pelosi. Aside from touting Pallone’s work on the committee, Hoyer embraces the system of seniority that traditionally, but not inevitably, gives preference to longer-serving members of Congress. Pallone is currently the number three Democrat on Energy and Commerce, while Eshoo is the fifth-most senior member on the panel.

“A major component [of the Eshoo-Pallone fight] is the proxy war between Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer,” says a House Democratic aide.

Pelosi and Hoyer have a long-running rivalry. Both interned for Sen. Daniel Brewster in the 1960s, and later joined each other in the House or Representatives. In 2001, they duked it out for a seat in the Democratic leadership and though both insisted they had they votes to become the Minority Whip, Pelosi won the job. In 2002, she became the Democratic leader and the first woman to serve as a party leader in Congress. In 2006, after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and Pelosi was boosted to Speaker of the House, she backed Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the number two spot, despite Hoyer’s candidacy for the job. Hoyer beat Murtha 149 to 86.

Many thought Hoyer would take on Pelosi when Democrats faced their brutal loss in 2010, but he told Politico that year he never considered challenging her for the seat: “Obviously, [Pelosi] had to make a decision on whether she could be an effective leader. I think she can.”

Hoyer, a centrist, has found common cause with some liberals in the Eshoo-Pallone fight. Members of Congressional Black and Congressional Hispanic Caucuses support the elevation of Pallone because they think seniority should decide who takes on leadership roles in committee. “Those who through years of service have gained significant expertise and knowledge should be given priority to lead our committees and sub-committees,” wrote Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio in a recent letter to colleagues.

Some House Democratic aides, however, insist it isn’t a proxy fight; Hoyer supports Pallone because he respects the work he’s done. “This race ultimately comes down to personal relationships,” one senior aide says.

House Democrats are scheduled to vote on the committee position early Wednesday.

-With reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME Congress

Nancy Pelosi Backs New Mexico Rep. For DCCC Chairman Role

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, 42, would be first Latino to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Nancy Pelosi said Monday she wants Rep. Ben Ray Luján to be the next chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The House Minority Leader called the New Mexico Democrat a “dynamic and forward-thinking leader” who would be ideal for the role of recruiting and supporting candidates going into the 2016 election.

If voted in on Tuesday, Luján will be the first Latino to serve as the head of the DCCC. He currently serves as the first vice-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Appointing a Latino leader to the prominent role could be seen as a boon for Democrats hoping to attract more Hispanic voters to head to the polls in two years. Luján said Monday that Americans can set their expectations high going into the next election cycle.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more Democrats elected in 2016,” he said.

The news of Pelosi’s support for Lujan ahead of Tuesday’s vote the position comes in the wake of mounting pressure from progressives to reject Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, who was also in the running for the top spot at the DCCC. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee blasted Himes as a “Wall Street Democrat” who would “hurt Democratic chances in 2016.”

Pelosi also threw her support Monday behind DCCC chairman Rep. Steve Israel, who has been eyed to head up policy and communications, and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), both tapped to co-chair the steering and policy committee.

Pelosi is expected to easily assume her role as House Minority Leader following tomorrow’s morning vote.

TIME Health Care

Obamacare Support Drops to 37%, Survey Says

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question at a news conference at the end of the G20 summit in Brisbane
Jason Reed—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question at a news conference at the end of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia on Nov. 16, 2014.

Even as 100,000 people spent the weekend signing up for insurance

Americans’ approval of the Affordable Care Act has fallen to a new low, according to a new poll, even as 100,000 people spent the weekend signing up for health insurance under the program.

A Gallup survey conducted Nov. 6-9, in the days after Republicans won control of Congress in the midterm elections, finds only 37% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, for which the second open-enrollment period began on Nov. 15. Lower approval was noted among independents and non-whites, at 33% and 56%, respectively.

Support for the law has been consistently low since November 2013, around the time the first open-enrollment period began. In January, support reached its previous low of 38%. Gallup notes that “approval of the law has remained low throughout the year even as it has had obvious success in reducing the uninsured rate.”

Many Republicans have called for an all-out repeal of the law, which is unlikely, though Obama could still agree to modify parts of it.

TIME Music

Here’s the New Band Aid Version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

One Direction, Bono, and Sam Smith are among the stars on the 30th anniversary version of the charity single, recorded to help fight Ebola

Over a dozen of the biggest voices in music gathered over the weekend to cover the 1984 Band Aid song “Do they Know it’s Christmas?” to raise funds to fight Ebola.

One Direction, Sam Smith, Rita Ora, and original Band Aid crooner Bono are among those hoping to “heal the world” through the power of music. Funds from sale of the song, available on iTunes, will go toward the effort to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa, where the bulk of the 5,000 people who have died from the disease during the current outbreak have lived.

The first Band Aid charity supergroup of musicians originally recorded the song in 1984 to fight famine in Ethiopia, raising over 8 million pounds, BBC reports. The challenge in 2014 is to get people to purchase the song, and not share or stream it. To encourage purchase, the song will not be available on Spotify until January, according to BBC News.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Confirms U.S. Visit in 2015

The pope will attend the triennial World Meeting of Families

Pope Francis has confirmed he will travel to the U.S. next year to attend a gathering in the city of Brotherly Love, marking his first visit to the U.S. as pontiff.

“I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families,” Pope Francis said Monday, according to Vatican Radio. “Thank you for your prayers with which you accompany my service to the Church. Bless you from my heart.”

The World Meeting of Families is a triennial gathering and claims to be the world’s largest meeting of Catholic families. It will be held Sept. 22-27, with the Pope set to attend the final weekend events. During his visit, the pope will host a mass at the close of the event in Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Details of his visit, however, have not been finalized.

“A hallmark of his papacy has been a keen focus on the many challenges that families face today globally,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. “I believe that the presence of the Holy Father will bring all of us –Catholic and non-Catholic alike – together in tremendously powerful, unifying and healing ways.”

Pope Francis hinted he’d be traveling to the U.S. in 2015 in August, but it had yet to be confirmed.

TIME Immigration

What Republicans Could Do if the President Acts on Immigration

John Boehner Obama Immigration
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference with the newly-elected members of the House GOP leadership at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 13, 2014.

Will Republicans opt to shut down the government if the President asserts his executive authority on immigration? They could, but no plans have been set yet

President Obama is poised to take unilateral executive action on immigration despite warnings from Republican leaders in Congress. The President’s plan, which would block deportation for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, could come as soon as next week, the New York Times reports, and Washington and much of the country are bracing for the fallout.

But what exactly can the GOP do if the President acts?

Congressional leaders have said any action the president takes on his own will prompt a swift reaction. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who will serve as the Majority Leader in upcoming session, has likened it to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Republicans will “fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down that path.”

Practically, the GOP’s options are limited. As TIME’s Alex Rogers reported in October, a lawsuit is a costly route with a low-likelihood of success. Many Republicans nonetheless have come out in support of pursuing a legal battle. A suit authorized by House Republicans over the summer claims the President has overstepped the bounds of executive authority, and could be expanded to include his immigration moves if the president acts unilaterally. A decision on whether to include immigration in the suit will only be made “if and when” the President acts, according to a Congressional aide.

Another possibility: the GOP could force another government shutdown if Obama acts before Congress passes a federal spending bill. The deadline for Congress to fund government programs is Dec. 11, and while Sen. Mitch McConnell has flat out said there will be “no government shutdown,” he’s not the only one with a say in the matter. Conservative Republicans are increasingly calling for leveraging a spending bill as a threat against Obama’s immigration plans. Boehner on Thursday indicated though the goal isn’t to shut down the government, Congress intends to “stop the president from violating his oath of office and violating the Constitution.”

Even some Democrats have signaled they’d rather the President wait until the government is funded before acting on immigration. “I’d like to get the finances of this country out of the way before he does it. But it’s up to him,” current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told CNN.

The president appears increasingly inclined to act, perhaps in part because the GOP’s options for blocking him are costly an unappealing. At a press conference in Myanmar early Friday he said an executive order on immigration is “going to happen. And that’s going to happen before the end of the year.”

But Obama is not in a particularly strong political position either. Cornell Law Professor Stephen W. Yale-Loehr has said, “the president has boxed himself into a corner.” Says Yale-Loehr: “Republicans will argue that even the smallest executive immigration actions subvert Congress’ power.”

The real casualty in the maneuvering, says Noah Pickus, an immigration expert and associate research professor at Duke University, will be any chance for long-term immigration reform, which both parties say is necessary.

“The tough nut is to actually create a package in which both sides feel some real pain — and neither the President nor the Republicans have been willing to do that,” Pickus says. “The Republicans’ response to the President’s acting on his own will take us back through another endless Kabuki theater of policy-making rather than moving us into a new venue to see a new kind of play.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers

TIME Senate

Elizabeth Warren Joins Senate Democratic Leadership

Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren
Susan Walsh—AP Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. listens as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, after Senate Democrats voted on leadership positions for the 114th Congress.

The progressive leader joins the Democratic leadership in a newly created role

The Senate Democrats voted in new leadership on Thursday, including progressive standard-bearer Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who will take on a newly created role.

Following an hours-long leadership vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he expects “Elizabeth Warren to be Elizabeth Warren” in her new role as the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee’s strategic policy adviser. The role, several outlets are reporting, was created specifically for Warren.

The addition of Warren brings some star power to the Democrat’s senior ranks, though it’s not clear how much clout will come with the new position.

Reid was chosen to continue leading Democrats in the Senate, though at least two of his peers, Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin, told reporters they did not cast votes for anyone, according to the Washington Post.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Jon Tester of Montana will also take on leadership roles for the Democrats. Klobuchar will chair the Senate Democratic Steering Committee, and Tester will now chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Reid praised Tester’s victories in two tough elections in announcing the Montanan’s selection to lead the DSCC ahead of the 2016 election. In a statement released by the DSCC Thursday, Tester said he’s accepting the position to “recruit and support candidates who understand the issues facing regular, working Americans.”

The new Democratic leadership team includes four women and three men. When asked about the number of women who now serve beside him in the leadership, Reid said Thursday, “I have seen this institution change for a lot of reasons, but one reason it has changed for the good is because of women.”

TIME Military

Military Recruitment Rules Conflict With Sikh American’s Faith

The ACLU and United Sikhs are suing the U.S. Army for not allowing a 19-year-old college student to join because his devout faith requires that he wear a turban and grow a beard

Ninteen-year-old Hofstra sophomore Iknoor Singh has always wanted to join the military. “During my senior year in high school, when I was looking at colleges, Hofstra appealed to me the most because it had an ROTC program on campus,” he told TIME.

So far, the Queens, New York native has been unable to realize his career dreams, thanks to strict military grooming and dress codes that conflict with his devout Sikh faith, which requires that he continue to grow his beard and wear a turban. But he’s not going to go down without a fight. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and United Sikhs sued the U.S. Army for not allowing Singh to join.

Singh actively sought out the on-campus recruiter to let him know that he wanted to serve his nation as a member of the armed services, but recruiters told him he likely wouldn’t be able to enlist because of his appearance. Though the Department of Defense grants religious exemptions on an individual basis, under military rules recruits are required to wear conservative hairstyles and keep facial hair groomed in an effort to promote cohesion within the ranks–a direct contradiction to the Sikh faith.

Many Sikh Americans have protested the military’s guidelines on grooming. In March, 105 members of Congress sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging an expansion of opportunities for Sikhs to enlist. Only three Sikhs since 1981 have been permitted to enlist and keep their articles of faith, including Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi who told the Los Angeles Times in April, “I would gladly sacrifice my life for the mission. But I could not cut my hair and remove my turban. They’re not mine to give. They belong to my God.”

Singh applied for a religious exemption as well, but his request was denied because he wasn’t yet enlisted. But of course, in a Catch-22, if he were to enlist, Singh would still have been required to adhere to grooming standards until his exemption was either accepted or denied. In either scenario, he would have to make the choice of his religion over his job or job over his religion.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the failure to make an exception in Singh’s case is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “Our military should strive to welcome and accommodate recruits of all faiths,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Program on the Freedom of Religion and Belief in a statement. “Religious diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”

A change in DOD guidelines allows for religious accommodations, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.” If a religious item, for example, interferes with a mask or poses a safety or health hazard, the request can be denied.

Singh hopes to become a military intelligence officer, and hopes that the lawsuit—aside from resulting in him getting to do what he wants to do—helps open doors for more Sikh Americans.

“This country was founded was founded on religious freedom,” Singh says. “I don’t think that’s being portrayed properly over here.”

TIME

There’s Going to Be a Duck Dynasty Musical

Duck Commander 500
Jonathan Ferrey—Getty Images Willie, Phil and Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Break a beard, everyone

The Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame will soon add a new accolade to their litany of show business accomplishments: stars of a Broadway-style musical.

The reality stars have commissioned a team of Broadway producers to adapt their tale for the stage, although the theatrical rendition of the Robertsons’ life will not actually appear on the Great White Way. Instead, the production of Duck Commander will debut in Sin City, at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas this February, the New York Times reports.

Actors will be cast to play the Robertson family, which skyrocketed to fame thanks to some quirky personalities and inflammatory comments. Last year, family patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended by the Duck Dynasty network A&E after comparing gay relationships to bestiality.

The family reportedly has final say over the script and production, which will be based off the 2012 book The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson. So far they’ve “enjoyed the process.”

[NYT]

TIME ebola

Veterinarians Group Issues New Guidelines for Pets and Ebola

Beagle on Hind Legs with Paws on Kennel Bars
Cavan Images/Getty Images

Though the spread of the deadly virus hasn't been linked to animals

The American Veterinary Medical Association is urging pet owners to take an abundance of caution when dealing with Ebola, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying that animals have not contributed to the outbreak of the virus in West Africa.

Pets should be quarantined, according to vet group’s new guidelines issued this week, if they have been in close contact with someone infected with Ebola. If the pets test positive for the lethal virus, they should be put down.

While quarantined, the pets should be confined to a crate or kennel inside a secure facility and stripped of all clothing and collars that could have possibly been contaminated.

The recommendations reiterate that there have been no reports of dogs or cats stricken with the virus, not even in parts of Africa where the disease is rampant. In the U.S., the likelihood of pets getting the disease is very low, and the last known person in the U.S. to have been diagnosed with the virus was released from the hospital with an all clear on Tuesday.

The CDC and leading veterinarians began researching how to approach pets of people infected with Ebola after the dog of a nurse in Spain was put down when its owner contracted the virus.

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