Morning Memo: GOP to blame for shutdown; Watt won’t withdraw his name

Posted by John Frank on November 1, 2013 

National Research’s latest poll for the conservative Civitas Institute didn’t break much new ground, but it confirmed many of numbers we’ve seen in North Carolina from Democratic pollsters and national surveys, even if the actual numbers were a few points different.

Add this one to the same category: who’s to fault for the government shutdown? Active registered voters in North Carolina say the GOP: 42 percent blame the Republican Congress for the federal shutdown while 31 percent blame President Barack Obama and Democrats. And another 24 percent say both are to blame. Interestingly: only 3 percent aren’t sure who deserves the blame, a reflection of a the polarizing topic. The spin: “North Carolina voters put more of the blame on the GOP,” said Civitas President Francis De Luca in a statement. “Democrats did not escape unscathed, and a quarter of voters say ‘a plague on both your houses.’ This voter discontent could be a potent force in next year’s elections.” The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

***Mel Watt’s day in Washington didn’t go as planned. Read more about it in today’s Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the MetLife groundbreaking in Cary at 10 a.m. Friday.

Top headline -- NORTH CAROLINA’S RED HAT TO HELP FIX HEALTHCARE.GOV: White House officials said Thursday they have enlisted a number of high-profile firms, including Raleigh-based Red Hat, for the “tech surge” underway to fix the government’s malfunctioning health insurance website.

Dozens of expert engineers and technology managers are working round-the-clock to fix the website originally designed for the public to verify income, confirm discounts and buy subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act. “They come from leading technology companies such as Red Hat and Oracle; and include individuals with expertise on site reliability; stability; and scalability,” according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Read more here.

NORTH CAROLINA WATCHES TEXAS ABORTION FIGHT: From the Fayetteville Observer -- As North Carolina regulators enter their second month of making new rules that could affect access to abortion, those on both sides of the abortion debate are closely watching as an abortion law in Texas make its way through the federal courts.

On Monday, a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling that warns: Don't make the rules too restrictive. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed him, allowing the new law to take effect while the lawsuit continues.

The rule-making process (in North Carolina) started Oct. 1, and a progress report is due Jan. 1. "The regulators in the Division of Health Service Regulation have begun reviewing the current regulations," spokesman Ricky Diaz said in an email. "The drafting of the revised rules has not yet begun."

MEL WATT WON’T WITHDRAW NAME FROM NOMINATION: Republicans sent the Obama administration back to the drawing board Thursday, blocking an up-or-down vote on the nomination of longtime Charlotte congressman Mel Watt to head the little-known but vital Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“Despite this setback, I remain thankful for President Obama’s nomination and humbled by his confidence in me,” Watt, a Democrat, said in a brief statement. “I do not plan to withdraw as the nominee for the position and remain hopeful that we will prevail when the motion for reconsideration is taken up in the Senate.”

The tally was 56-42, with Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and James Inhofe, R-Okla., not casting votes.

“I will exercise my right as majority leader to reconsider these nominations at some point in the very near future,” Reid said in a statement. Aides suggested that would be within weeks. “I hope my Republican colleagues will reconsider their continued run of unprecedented obstructionism. Something has to change, and I hope we can make the changes necessary through cooperation.”

The White House reacted angrily. “It is enormously disappointing that Republicans would filibuster this nomination of a highly qualified nominee,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said shortly after the vote. “And we hope that … those senators will reconsider that vote and that Mr. Watt will be confirmed in the future." Read more here.

RICHARD BURR ON ENDA: “I said when I did ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ don’t misinterpret this as a blank check on issues that relate to same-sex anything.” The quote comes from a Politico article looking at the vote in the U.S. Senate to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). “With the Senate poised to consider perhaps the most significant gay rights measure since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a handful of Republican senators will help determine its fate,” Politico reports. Read more here

TEACHERS LEAVING THE CLASSROOM: WNCN -- “The (legislative education) cuts have all but been welcomed by the state's educators, forcing some to leave the classroom all together. "We are going down a road that I thought was already scary," said former Wake County teacher Anastasia Trueman. "I'm now at the point where I'm too frightened to continue."

Trueman -- who has a master's degree in educational technology from Johns Hopkins University -- taught in the classroom for 12 years. But a few months ago, she made one of the toughest decisions of her life. "I got to the point where all I did when I was home was worry about money and where it was coming from," Trueman said of deciding to leave the classroom.” Read more here.

N.C. COMMUNITY COLLEGE PRESIDENT TESTIFIES IN WASHINGTON: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan introduced Scott Ralls, the president of the N.C. Community College System, at a Thursday hearing of the Senate Education Committee. Ralls spoke about workforce and educational programs, like those pushed Hagan and Gov. Pat McCrory. Hagan is the sponsor of the America Works Act to push for more job training programs. Hear the introduction and an excerpt of the testimony here.

REPORT PUSHES EARLY VOTING: The new study from the Brennan Center at New York University uses North Carolina as an example of what not to do. From the report announcement: “While North Carolina voters are able to vote early this year, the state’s new voting law — one of the nation’s most restrictive — takes effect in 2014. The law will cut the early voting period by seven days, prohibit same-day registration, and require photo identification to vote. The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state to challenge the new restrictions.

“Given the increasing demands on many Americans’ schedules, early in person voting adds important flexibility and convenience to modernize the voting process, while keeping elections safe and secure,” said the Brennan Center’s Diana Kasdan, author of the report. “It reduces the administrative burdens of the Election Day rush and helps bring our antiquated voting system into the 21st century.” Read the report here.

MEDICAID ADVOCATES CONTINUE TO PRESS McCRORY: Holding signs demanding “Expand Medicaid Now,” about 60 people, including state legislators, medical professionals, clergy and health advocates gathered Thursday in Charlotte to ask the state’s Republican leaders to reverse their position and accept expansion of Medicaid benefits for the poor. “Today I am making a 911 call to Gov. (Pat) McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly,” said state Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat. Read more here .

APPLIANCE HOLIDAY PREPARES TO SUNSET: North Carolina appliance retailers are hoping to cash in on the state’s last tax-exempt weekend for qualified Energy Star appliances, which they say has become one of their busiest weekends since it was introduced five years ago.

From Friday through Sunday, customers won’t have to pay sales tax when they purchase energy-efficient washers, freezers, air conditioners and other major appliances. In Wake County, that means an extra savings of 6.75 percent, while shoppers in Orange County can save 7.5 percent. Independent retailers said tax-free weekend has been an important push for store sales and traffic flow.

“It’s definitely a good boost, a shot in the arm,” said Randy Pleasant, co-owner of Garner TV & Appliances in Raleigh. “We’re already seeing people coming in to pre-shop, and they'll be ready to purchase on Friday morning.” Read more here.

FINAL ELECTORAL PUSH: North Carolina voters go to the polls in municipal elections Tuesday and one contest being watched closely by pundits is the Charlotte mayor’s race. Republican Edwin Peacock is a moderate Republican trying to carve Pat McCrory’s path to the seat and his race is being run by a few of McCrory’s key strategists. But Democrat Patrick Cannon is trying to prove Charlotte remains in his party’s camp and follow in the shoes of Anthony Foxx, now the U.S. transportation secretary. Read the latest from the race here.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY REACTION to its new candidate: Jason Thigpen switched from Republican to Democrat in the 3rd District Congressional race, excoriating his party in the procecs.

N.C. Democratic Party spokesman Micah Beasley’s reaction: “This is what happens when you cater to the political fringes. Whether it’s their looming divisive 2014 Senate primary or their own candidates running away from the General Assembly’s toxic agenda, there is deep unrest within the Republican ranks and North Carolina is getting a front row seat.”

AUDIT SAYS MORE WORK NEEDED: The state Agriculture Department is doing a better job tracking inspections of propane plants and dispensing sites, according to a state audit. But the agency needs to do more to ensure that rules for handling the highly flammable gas are enforced.

The state Auditor’s Office on Thursday released a follow up to a critical December 2011 audit that found the Agriculture Department was risking public safety by not fining violators where inspections found potential threats to public safety. The 2011 audit found that public schools lost out on $2 million because 80 percent of fines collected would have gone to local districts. Read more here.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers will attend the 10th annual Power of the Purse luncheon May 20 in Asheville, the Citizen-Times reports. The topic of discussion: compromise and consensus in action.

N.C. CONNECTION: A historic White House vigil, owned by a North Carolina woman, faces eviction. Read more here.

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