Politics Now
Political, campaign and national news
113th Congress just barely avoids being the least productive in history

The 113th Congress will just have to settle for being bad instead of the worst – at least as far as productivity is concerned.

President Obama signed a whopping 51 bills Thursday, the White House announced, bringing the most recent tally of laws enacted in the past Congress to 286, according to a Los Angeles Times review.

That would be just three more than the 283 public laws enacted in the previous Congress that served from 2011-12, which was the lowest tally since formal record-keeping began in 1947.

The previous low before that was 333 public laws in the 104th Congress that came to power in the Newt Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

As usual, the so-called lame duck period of Congress that followed the elections proved anything but. Of the 286 laws passed since this Congress convened in January 2013, more than a third were passed and signed just since Nov. 1.

But for every major piece of legislation like the $1.1-trillion funding bill (or “Cromnibus”) and a new defense authorization bill...

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McCain and Flake echo Goldwater and Arizona's independent tradition

Arizona sometimes seems like the Rodney Dangerfield of states, politically speaking, squished between the blue behemoth of California and the red swagger of Texas, a state seeking respect  whose votes have rarely, if ever, made the difference in a national race.

Surely one day it will be competitive, so Democrats keep hoping, but that day has not come. In the meantime some of the Republicans who run Arizona have caused it to be seen as a haven of immigrant-bashing politicians who battle gay rights and civil rights measures on the side.

But there once was a very different profile of the Arizona politician, and its likeness has come into very sharp relief in recent days with two high-wire acts by the state’s Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

In very different venues, both men have maneuvered to stick a finger in the eye of their party’s orthodoxy. If there is a classic Arizona political demeanor, that is exactly it, provided the finger-poking was accompanied with wicked...

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Obama's Cuba decision follows change in attitudes in Florida

For decades, the U.S. embargo on Cuba has been as much about domestic as foreign policy. In the end, a generational shift in the politics of one key state opened the way for the Obama administration to change half a century of efforts to isolate the island.

Several past administrations debated changes in U.S. Cuba policy, but each time, the fear of angering powerful anti-Castro immigrants and losing a presidential election in Florida blocked the idea. The Clinton administration’s outreach toward Cuba has been blamed by some Democrats for costing Al Gore the votes he needed to win Florida, and the presidency, in the agonizingly close 2000 election.

But the political landscape has shifted.

Florida’s Cuban community has changed dramatically, with younger Cuban Americans open to changes in U.S. policy. And Cubans are now only one element among Florida’s increasingly diverse Latinos, many of whom care little about Cuban politics. Many political analysts are convinced that President Obama’s...

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Martha McSally wins Arizona recount, ending lengthy 2014 campaign

The long 2014 political campaign whimpered to an end Wednesday as Republican Martha McSally claimed the last official victory in an Arizona congressional contest whose results were delayed six weeks by a required recount.

McSally entered the recount earlier this month with a 161-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Ron Barber, and had been expected to hold on to it.  In the end, she emerged with a 167-vote margin of victory in results released by the Maricopa County Superior Court.

The 2nd Congressional District recount was ordered because fewer than 200 votes separated the two candidates out of more than 220,000 cast.

“We’re grateful to everyone who devoted their time and resources, especially during the extended vote and recount processes, to get us over the finish line,” McSally said in a statement posted on her campaign website that thanked Barber for his service. “With the results of the recount now official, we can move forward as one community to bring Southern Arizonans the...

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How politicians are reacting to renewed Cuba-U.S. relations
Senate ends chaotic session with a late flurry of votes

A turbulent lame-duck session of Congress came to a sudden end Tuesday as the Senate rushed to clear a lingering tax bill and some key presidential nominations in a late-night flurry of final votes.

Lawmakers signed off on a deal to extend $45 billion worth of tax breaks through this calendar year, ensuring that businesses and individuals can claim the deductions in their next IRS filings. The 76-16 vote also approved what had been a separate bill to create new tax-free accounts that can be used for the care of disabled family members.

The agreement sent lawmakers home earlier than many had expected just a few days ago, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) forced members into a marathon weekend session as he made a final, unsuccessful effort to derail President Obama's new immigration policy during consideration of the $1.1-trillion spending deal.

Congress passed the bill Saturday and Obama signed the package into law without ceremony Tuesday night, the White House announced.

Democrats...

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