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Mar 272013
 

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — After attending oral arguments at the Supreme Court Wednesday to debate the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most outspoken advocates in Congress for marriage equality, said she believes that when the justices announce their ruling in a couple of months, they will strike down the controversial law commonly known as DOMA.

“On the basis of what I heard, the questions of the justices, the response of the participants, I’m very optimistic that DOMA will be struck down,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “Just being in the room … this [issue] is as big as our country, as big as our Constitution, as big as our being a beacon of equal protection to the world.”

While Pelosi and many of her Democratic colleagues have openly embraced gay marriage over the years, House Republicans have resisted the Obama administration’s unwillingness to enforce DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has persistently insisted that as long as the Obama administration refuses to enforce DOMA, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, will defend the law.

“A law’s constitutionality is determined by the courts – not by the Department of Justice,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel wrote in a statement Wednesday. “As long as the Obama administration refuses to exercise its responsibility, we will.”

On Wednesday, Pelosi said she believes Congress and the nation have evolved since DOMA was first signed into law and she predicted that opposition to gay marriage is “not a model for the future.”

“We’re at a different place, and it’s a generational change as well,” Pelosi said. “Times can blind, and whatever the public mood was on this subject at the time, it also created some ignorance on the subject. And that ignorance is fading now.”

“Make America more American by ending discrimination by overturning the ill-conceived DOMA,” she added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 212013
 

Olivier Douliery/Pool via Bloomberg(WASHINGTON) — With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments on same-sex marriage next week, two more prominent lawmakers took time to express their unwavering views on the issue.

When asked about his defense of the Defense of Marriage Act given that public opinion has shifted to support marriage equality, House Speaker John Boehner said that while his personal belief is that marriage should strictly be between a man and woman, it should be up to the justices to decide whether the act should be upheld as constitutional.

“In our system of government, the administration doesn’t get to decide what’s constitutional. The Supreme Court does,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Our financing the lawsuit was to make sure that the proper forum was used to make sure that we know what’s constitutional and what isn’t.”

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll,  indicates that the shift in public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, with 58 percent of Americans now supporting marriage equality.  Just 36 percent of those polled believe same-sex marriage should be illegal.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s Proposition 8 when it convenes next week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a Capitol news conference today that gay marriage was an issue “near and dear” to her heart and that she predicted the law would be ruled unconstitutional.

Asked about a bill that is moving through the Democratic-controlled New Jersey state legislature that aims to ban gay conversion therapy, a controversial practice in some states where homosexual minors are counseled to believe they are straight, Pelosi discounted the effectiveness of the treatment.

“I believe in science, and I believe in evidence, and I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence that says that we should have such a public policy that tries to do what you describe,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “But I do know it’s disrespectful and discriminatory, and therefore I would oppose the conversion therapy and support the bill, as we have in California.” Though a bill to ban gay conversion therapy was passed in California late last year, it has currently been placed on hold by a federal appeals court and awaits further action.

In contrast to Boehner, fellow Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, in an op-ed last week, became the second-sitting GOP senator to endorse gay marriage.

While the topic has taken on new life on Capitol Hill in the wake of Portman’s reversal, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, also came out in support of gay marriage in an ad for the Human Rights Campaign earlier this week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 012013
 

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The budget ax is about to fall, and there’s little lawmakers in Washington are doing to stop it.

Despite a parade of dire warnings from the White House, an $85 billion package of deep automatic spending cuts appears poised to take effect on Friday.

The cuts — known in Washington as the sequester — will hit every federal budget, from defense to education, and even the president’s own staff.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats and Republicans each staged votes on Thursday aimed at substituting the indiscriminate across-the-board cuts with more sensible ones.  Democrats also called for including new tax revenue in the mix.  Both measures failed.

Leaders on both sides publicly conceded that the effort was largely for show, with little chance the opposing chamber would embrace the other’s plan.  They will discuss their differences with President Obama at the White House on Friday.

“It isn’t a plan at all, it’s a gimmick,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday of the Democrats’ legislation.

“Republicans call the plan flexibility” in how the cuts are made, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  “Let’s call it what it is.  It is a punt.”

The budget crisis is the product of a longstanding failure of Congress and the White House to compromise on plans for deficit reduction.  The sequester itself, enacted in late 2011, was intended to be so unpalatable as to help force a deal.

Republicans and Democrats, however, remain gridlocked over the issue of taxes.

Obama has mandated that any steps to offset the automatic cuts must include new tax revenue through the elimination of loopholes and deductions.  House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP insist the approach should be spending cuts-only, modifying the package to make it more reasonable.

“Do we want to close loopholes?  We sure do.  But if we are going to do tax reform, it should focus on creating jobs, not funding more government,” Boehner said, explaining his opposition to Obama’s plan.

Boehner, McConnell, Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will huddle with Obama at the White House on Friday for the first face-to-face meeting of the group this year.

“There are no preconditions to a meeting like this,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday.  “The immediate purpose of the meeting is to discuss the imminent sequester deadline and to avert it.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 272013
 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — They are finally going to have a meeting.

A congressional source with direct knowledge of the plans tells ABC News’ Jonathan Karl that the top four congressional leaders — Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — will meet with President Obama at the White House on Friday to attempt to negotiate a way to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts that both sides have said should be avoided.

This meeting — the very first one the president has had with Republican leaders to talk about the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester — will come after the cuts actually go into effect, which is midnight Thursday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney would not confirm the meeting, but the source tells ABC News that the White House reached out to the Congressional leadership on Tuesday afternoon to request the meeting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 152013
 

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke out forcefully on Thursday against deep automatic spending cuts called the sequester that are due to take effect on March 1 unless there is congressional action.

The California Democrat said allowing these cuts to happen is, “frivolous, it’s irresponsible, it’s immature and it is not in the interest of growing the economy in our country.”

Virtually all analysts say the spending reductions affecting the Pentagon and a myriad of domestic programs will slow down economic growth to the point where it might lead to another recession.

Meanwhile, Pelosi also opposes a third year of freezing federal employees’ salaries to help bring down the deficit, asking her fellow lawmakers, “Why should people who work on Capitol Hill pay that price and be treated as members of Congress are?  It’s a hard question to ask me because — most of my colleagues are the breadwinners in their families; a pay cut to me doesn’t mean as much.”

Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen is on board with Pelosi, saying federal employees should not “bear the burden” of reducing the nation’s $1 trillion deficit.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio