NBC NEWS – Hagel appears to have the votes for confirmation
A week has passed since a Republican filibuster stalled Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary, and yesterday we received even more evidence that Hagel will win confirmation on Tuesday. Let us count the ways: First, yet another GOP senator — Richard Shelby, who backed the filibuster — is now expected to vote for Hagel’s confirmation, becoming the third Republican “yes” vote (Thad Cochran and Mike Johanns are the others). Assuming every Senate Democrat votes for Hagel, that’s at least 58 votes for simple passage. But more importantly, the Shelby news means that there are now at least 60 votes to beat any additional filibusters, because the Obama White House was just one vote away from reaching that threshold. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to “no” in order to be able to bring up Hagel’s nomination again.) And that’s 60 votes without counting Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who both promised to bring Hagel’s nomination to the floor after an extra week of deliberation.
REUTERS – Another Republican senator backs Hagel for Pentagon chief
Chuck Hagel’s path to confirmation as President Barack Obama’s new secretary of defense became more secure on Thursday when Republican Senator Richard Shelby said he would support the nomination.
Shelby joined almost every other Republican senator a week ago in delaying a vote on confirming Hagel in order to allow colleagues more time to examine Hagel’s record, said spokesman Jonathan Graffeo.
He now will vote for a motion to stop debate, ending the delay, and in favor of the nomination, barring any surprises between now and a confirmation vote, Graffeo said.
THE WASHINGTON POST – Military service chiefs warn budget cuts will undermine readiness
After staying largely on the sidelines of the debate over deficit reduction, the U.S. military’s service leaders have begun painting a stark picture of the toll a congressionally mandated budget cut could take on the readiness of the world’s largest armed forces.
The $46 billion dent to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget, long considered by the brass as nothing more than a political pawn, has taken on an air of inevitability, forcing commanders across the military to plan for painful reductions and argue that American lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance.
NBC NEWS – Why Obama has the PR upper hand in sequestration battle
As head of the executive branch, and as the man who dominates media coverage, President Barack Obama has a strong and unique advantage over his Republican foes: he’s got the power to control both the practical details and the theatrics of the ongoing sequestration debate.
He can design the spectacle in a way that could inflict political embarrassment and damage on Republicans, with the goal being to pressure them to agree to another round of tax increases.
As part of his crusade to pressure the Republicans and to blame them for the economic damage that the spending cuts would inflict, Obama will visit a major defense contractor next Tuesday, Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
MOUNT AIRY NEWS – Cuts to unemployment benefits concern area residents
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill on Tuesday that imposes cuts to the state unemployment insurance program.
The weekly maximum jobless benefits were cut from $535 to $350 and the maximum number of weeks for and individual to collect state benefits will drop from 26 weeks to 12-20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate.
This announcement from the governor’s office arrived on the heels of unemployment data released by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce showing that in December, the most recent month for which figures are available North Carolina had the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.
According to the The N.C. Division of Employment Security, the unemployment rates in Deember for Surry County was 10.1 percent, with 47 counties in North Carolina (out of 100) having higher unemployment rates.
THE MOUNTAIN TIMES – Governor signs unemployment bill
Big changes are coming to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system following Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature on House Bill 4 on Tuesday.
The law is intended to more quickly eliminate the roughly $2.5 billion debt the state owes to the federal government. The debt began accumulating in February 2009 after the state exhausted its reserves for unemployment payouts and began borrowing federal money to assist out-of-work residents.
North Carolina Democratic Party