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Ear to the Ground

Controversial 2013 NDAA Now Law, Biden’s Awkward Swearing-In Jokes, and More

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Posted on Jan 3, 2013

It’s Official: President Obama has signed the 2013 version of the National Defense Authorization Act—and with it, the provision that would allow the U.S. military to indefinitely detain any U.S. citizen—into law. This year’s version included another controversial amendment that will make it virtually impossible that Guantanamo Bay will be closed while President Obama is in the White House. Obama had expressed serious reservations about the defense bill, even threatening to veto it because of the Guantanamo provision. He didn’t, however, because “the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great.” (Read more)

Diversity Rules: The 112th Congress—aka the Do-Nothing Congress—is no more. Thursday ushered in the start of the 113th Congress, and with it, a number of records and firsts. In addition to a record number of women (101—20 in the Senate and 81 in the House), the new Congress also features a number of “firsts,” including the first openly gay senator (Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin), the first openly bisexual member (Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema), the first Hindu representative (Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii) and the first Buddhist senator (Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono). (Read more)

Game of Gavels: Despite persistent rumors of a GOP revolt, John Boehner was re-elected House speaker at the start of the 113th Congress. Characteristically, Boehner shed some tears when he won the bare majority of votes. Still, there was some discord in the party, as nine Republicans voted for others in the GOP and some members voted “present” or abstained. Among those garnering votes for the position—outgoing Rep. Allen West. Comparatively, Boehner doesn’t seem like such a bad choice. (Read more)

Failure to Act: Since its passage nearly two decades ago, the Violence Against Women Act had been routinely reauthorized each year by Congress. Except in 2012, because the Do-Nothing House of Representatives—led by the efforts of Republicans—did nothing on it, stalling the bill into oblivion Wednesday. One would think legislation designed to combat domestic violence would be relatively controversy free, but because of the partisan rancor in the 112th Congress, nothing—not even an aid bill to help victims of Hurricane Sandy—seems to pass through unscathed. The act is expected to be reintroduced during the 113th Congress. (Read more)

Marriage License: Despite having the support of the state’s Republican Party chairman, the Illinois Senate adjourned Thursday without voting on legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The Senate vote could take place Tuesday, the same day a gay marriage bill will be introduced in Rhode Island’s General Assembly. Better act fast, Illinois or Rhode Island could beat you to becoming the 10th state to allow gay couples to wed. (Read more)

Video of the Day: Crazy Uncle Joe is back! Gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden sure knows how to tell some pretty awesomely awkward jokes, as was evident during a mock swearing-in of new senators. Among his more eyebrow raising ones: telling Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to “spread your legs, you’re gonna be frisked.”

 

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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