Under the Dome

Morning Memo: GOP rivals use budget agreement to hit Hagan

The budget agreement in Washington provides the latest contrast between Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and her five Republican challengers.

Hagan announced her support for the spending parameters, insulating her stance by citing a letter from a military commander requesting her vote.

The latest from Washington: The budget deal the Senate is likely to approve Wednesday will mean an easing of the automatic spending cuts, or sequester, but it’s also exposing a deep political rift among Republicans.

The deal passed a crucial test Tuesday, when the Senate agreed 67-33 to limit debate. Twelve Republicans – a surprisingly big number – joined 53 Democrats and two independents to back the cutoff. Fifty-one votes will be needed for final passage. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina opposes the agreement.

The deal will increase discretionary spending, or items Congress and the White House can largely control, above the sequester amount by about $63 billion over the next two fiscal years. It also raises $85 billion in new revenue, largely through increases in fees, federal employees’ retirement contributions and other strategies, over 10 years. ( Read more here.)

House Speaker Thom Tillis remains unconvinced by the deal. Via Twitter -- “@thomtillis: Sen. Hagan's vote adds a trillion in spending and debt. This is a bad deal for NC and a bad deal for America.” Other GOPers had previously announced their opposition, and Rev. Mark Harris added his voice in a statement Wednesday.

“This proposal undoes modest spending reforms and now takes us two steps back, by digging us deeper into debt. While some supporters of this plan are celebrating more spending now in exchange for minor changes that may possibly reduce spending later, it appears this budget deal is merely kicking the can down the road, and we've seen first hand what that approach brings North Carolinians through years of Democrat control,” Harris said in a statement.

*** Get more N.C. political intelligence and a news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: A special House committee on education innovation meets at 1 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. The Joint Legislative Evaluation Oversight Committee, meets at the same time in room 544.

McCRORY’S OFFICE TIGHT LIPPED ABOUT HIS VACATION: Gov. Pat McCrory is on vacation this week but his office won't say where, nor how long he will be gone. The governor's office issued a statement Monday saying he was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife. Spokeswoman Kim Genardo refused to provide details about the trip in questions Monday and Tuesday, calling it a personal trip. But she acknowledged he is working some.

The only detail known: McCrory left the state. The governor's office sent notice that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is in charge during McCrory's absence, under Article III, Section 3, Subsection 2 of the N.C. Constitution. Forest won't know when his brief tenure ends until the governor's office sends a formal notification by email.

Kami Mueller, a Forest spokesman, said nothing is really different about his schedule this week. And the lieutenant governor has held the helm about a half dozen times already this year. "Whenever the governor goes over the state lines, the lt. governor becomes the acting governor," she explains.

While he's gone ... the Salisbury Post published an op-ed in which the governor touts the state's military presence. Read it here.

ORRIN HATCH TO TOUT THOM TILLIS -- NRSC IS MAKING N.C. ONE OF TOP THREE RACES: Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch will join Thom Tillis on a conference call Wednesday to discuss his U.S. Senate campaign and raise money, according to an email sent by Tillis consultants’ at Highwood Capitol in Washington.

The email inviting supporters to the calls says the North Carolina Senate race “will be one of the top three races in the country as identified by the NRSC. It will be one of the best chances of picking up a seat on our way to taking back control of the U.S. Senate.”

It’s worth noting that unlike Tillis, Hatch is supporting the budget deal, saying "sometimes the answer has to be yes,” according to Huffington Post.

KAY HAGAN CAN EXPECT TO SEE THIS AD: The Washington Post highlights a new political TV ad in the New Hampshire that focuses on the PolitiFact “Lie of the Year” -- the “if you like it you can keep it” remark that Democrat Kay Hagan made numerous times here. Expect an outside group to use it in North Carolina, too. Read more here.

AND HERE COMES MORE CRITICISM: The Republican National Committee issued a memo Wednesday morning proving the point: "This lie undermines the credibility of each of these candidates. It’s already taken a toll on President Obama’s," RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski wrote. "A recent Quinnipiac poll found a majority of Americans, 52 percent, now say he is “not honest and trustworthy.”

"The trend cuts across demographics. Among Hispanics, disapproval of ObamaCare has increased by 11 points in the last three months according to Pew. The president’s approval rating among Hispanics has dropped 23 points—the biggest dive in major subgroups, according to Gallup." Read the full memo here.

N.C. GOP SAYS MORE OF THE SAME: The N.C. Republican Party issued it’s own memo Tuesday arguing that Hagan “could be the most vulnerable senator running for re-election.” Other prognosticators disagree at this point, still ranking the seat “leans Democrat.”

BUT WILL NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING WORK THIS CYCLE? Political analyst John Davis writes in his latest political report -- “We are a negative-weary electorate. We yearn for economic recovery, full employment, affordable healthcare and a correction of unsustainable government programs that undermine our financial integrity. Yet we know that our hopes for solutions to national and state governmental problems are dashed by uncompromising and strident Republicans and Democrats.

“That’s why I am persuaded that the candidates in 2014 who focus on optimism and offer constructive plans to solve national and state problems will have an advantage over those who rely on negative attacks aimed at destroying the plans of their opponents.” Read more here.

ART POPE IS NO GRINCH: As Art Pope endures pickets at his Variety Wholesalers stores, his private foundation in his family's name is making more than $1 million in charitable contributions in 2013. The Pope Foundation sent out a press release to that effect recently. "We’re honored to continue supporting these valuable community nonprofits that help the most vulnerable among us and that enrich our lives through education and the creative arts,” said Art Pope, president and chairman of the John William Pope Foundation, in a statement.

See a full list of charities here. But the bigger question in the political arena is how much Pope – Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director and major conservative financier – will give to candidates and committees in 2014 to keep the Republican lock on state government and win a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina.

BLOOMBERG WRITER SAYS LOOK AT NORTH CAROLINA BUT BEWARE: "The U.S. is about to cut the maximum duration of public support for the unemployed. The federal extension of unemployment insurance expires on Jan. 1. To see the consequences, look at North Carolina.

"... Across the country, the unemployed will lose from 14 to 47 weeks of insurance when the extension ends. Five other states will join North Carolina in providing fewer than 26 weeks of payments -- the standard in the U.S until this year. What’s happened in North Carolina since July is an indication of what will happen nationwide. The picture is troubling." Read it here.

MUST SEE CARTOON: Kevin Siers’ take on Sen. Bob Rucho. See it here.

CAMEO: Gov. Pat McCrory makes a brief cameo in a now-viral video from former WNCN anchor Penn Holderness, who is leaving his job to make videos for companies and politicians. WUNC has the story here.

N.C. AND HEALTH CARE: The New England Journal of Medicine features a dispatch from North Carolina about of the health care debate in the state. Read it here.

N.C. LEADS NATION IN NATIONALLY CERTIFIED TEACHERS: North Carolina’s public school classrooms continue to lead the nation with the most teachers certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, according to results released Tuesday.

The state now has 20,122 National Board-certified teachers, accounting for almost 19 percent of the country’s total. Statewide, 21 percent of public-school teachers have this certification, which is considered the highest credential in the teaching profession.

The new figures came out the same day that the N.C. Association of Educators filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court against the General Assembly’s decision this year to phase out tenure for teachers. In addition to eliminating tenure, state legislators also voted to to begin eliminating extra pay for new teachers who receive advanced degrees. Read more here.

EXPERTS TELL LAWMAKERS Common Core standards better than state's current system -- Lawmakers not happy: "‘Common Core’ in my neck of the woods is poison language,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican and retired school administrator.

The standards, which were adopted in North Carolina in 2010, are supposed to set a clear, consistent blueprint for what students should learn from kindergarten through high school. The idea is to better prepare them for college and careers.

All but five states have adopted Common Core, but it has increasingly come under attack, particularly from conservatives, and some states are now considering dropping the standards.

BUT REPUBLICAN BILL COBEY SUPPORTS: Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education, told the committee that he was aware of the opposition to the standards, and of problems with implementation, particularly with testing.

He also had received complaints that Common Core ceded control of the state’s schools to the federal government. If he thought that were true, though, Cobey said, he would oppose it himself. Read more here.

CHRISTENSEN: While most families are preparing for the holidays, the crew of the USS North Carolina is scheduled to deploy this week from its home port at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Read more here.

DOT STUDY OF OUTER LOOPS ROUTES CONTINUES: The state Department of Transportation will spend the next two years studying 17 possible routes for completing the 540 Outer Loop across southern and eastern Wake County – and it will be a long two years for people in Garner and Holly Springs.

Terry Gibson, DOT’s chief engineer, said it’s too early to rule out any of the multicolor possibilities on the project route map. Now that these alternatives have been reviewed in planners’ offices, DOT is ready to send workers out into the field to count streams and species – along with homes and businesses – that would be affected by a six-lane toll road. Read more here.