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First thread and embedded video here.

12:14 PM PT: Next question half-begs Obama to use the word "shellacking" again, and then turns to immigration executive order. Obama says "there's no doubt Republicans had a good night," making reporters who wanted a "shellacking" soundbite very, very sad.

12:17 PM PT: "In terms of immigration, I have consistently said that it is my profound interest and preference to have Congress act on a comprehensive immigration bill." Talks about Senate bill as being a good bill to demonstrate what he'd like to see Congress do. However, he says, Boehner told him he couldn't get it through the House—even though Boehner, Obama says, wanted to pass it. As a result, Obama says he told Boehner that in the absence of Congressional action, he would take executive action to do as much as he can to deal with the immigration problem. "That's a commitment I made to John Boehner, that I would act in the absence of action, so before the end of the year I will take whatever lawful actions" are possible.

12:18 PM PT: The president says he still hopes Congress will get a bill done, one that would supplant his executive actions. "But what I'm not going to do is just wait," he says. "I think it's fair to say I've shown a lot of patience."

12:18 PM PT: Obama says he won't offer details about the actions that he will take until he unveils them.

12:21 PM PT: Asked about why Republicans had a good night, Obama wisely passes on the opportunity to become a political pundit and says it's the job of the pundit corps to do that sort of analysis. It's his job to be a good president, he says, and he reminds people that the country is better off today than it was when he took office. Good stuff here.

12:23 PM PT: On the question of whether taking executive action will make it harder for Congress to pass immigration reform, Obama says simply and correctly: If people in Congress are worried about passing a bill, the best way to get a bill done is to go ahead and "pass a bill." And that bill they pass can supplant any executive actions he takes, rendering them moot. He says he's been plenty patient, and the argument that he could poison the well rings hollow. In short: If Congress wants to take action, it should take action.

12:25 PM PT: I suspect some GOP heads will assplodin' in the wake of this press conference, not because Obama has been churlish or rude, but simply because he had the audacity to stride up to the podium without first offering his resignation.

12:29 PM PT: A question about the prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran, whether Congress would need to approve such a deal, and his approach to the AUMF against ISIL. On the AUMF he says he's having the CENTCOM Commander make a presentation to congressional leaders on what he needs. He says  the goal is to update existing AUMFs to be focused on the current situation rather than staying focused on Iraq/Afghanistan and being stuck in 2001.

12:33 PM PT: On Iran: "They've come to the table and they've negotiated seriously" as a result of "crippling sanctions." Obama says there has been progress, and whether a final deal can be accomplished will become clear in the next few weeks. It's "an open question" he says. The reporter follows up on whether or not Obama needs congressional approval to implement any deal. His answer: "I don't want to put the cart before the horse." He says if he gets a deal that will avoid a nuclear Iran, then that will be the time to go to Congress. He also says: "I'd rather have no deal than a bad deal."

12:36 PM PT: Ed Henry of Fox asks Obama why he won't "admit you need to take a dramatic change of course" in the last two years of his presidency, and then asks why aren't we beating ISIL yet. Somehow, Obama avoids laughing in Henry's face, though I do think I detected a slight chuckle before proceeding to address it with a lengthy discussion of the nature of groups in Syria. I suspect he's trying to make Henry regret having asked the question.

12:38 PM PT (Barbara Morrill): New thread here.

President Obama is scheduled to give a post-midterm press conference today at 2:50 PM ET from the White House. The big question: Will he give the GOP what it wants—the image of a chastened president with his tail between his legs, begging for cooperation—or will he do what he was reelected to do, which is to be willing to move forward when common ground exists, but also to say no when when Republicans try to push too far? The answer is coming soon during the president's news conference, and we'll provide live updates throughout. Follow along on the front page, join the discussion in the comments, and watch the live stream at the top of this post.

11:57 AM PT (Barbara Morrill): President Obama should appear shortly—a short time ago, we were given the two-minute warning for the start of the press conference.

11:58 AM PT (Barbara Morrill): In pre-press conference chatter, CNN's Jim Acosta said he was curious to see the president's physical reaction to the midterm there's that.

11:58 AM PT (Barbara Morrill): Here comes the president. Good news for Acosta: He appears physically well.

12:00 PM PT (Barbara Morrill): The president begins by saying he's spoken with both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell, and says everyone has said they plan to work together. He says the message from the election is that voters want everyone in DC "to get the job done."

12:03 PM PT: President Obama says on major indicators, the United States is doing better today than it was in January, 2009 when he took office. But the job isn't done: "We just have to keep at it," he says. "I am committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they come from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people." But Obama also says that he is sure Congress will pass bill he "cannot sign" and that he will take "actions" that Congress "will not like." Nonetheless, he says he wants to find common ground when possible. Two examples: Tax reform to increase investment in our infrastructure and exports.

12:05 PM PT: Obama says he is requesting this Congress to provide funds to fight Ebola, an AUMF to fight ISIL, and a spending bill to fund government through the end of the fiscal year, which ends in September 2015. By this Congress, he means the current one, before Republicans take over two months from now.

12:06 PM PT: President Obama isn't necessarily sounding combative here, but he isn't adopting the "I took a shellacking" pose that he did in 2010, at least not in his prepared remarks. Now we're on to questions.

12:08 PM PT: The first question is about the "devastating" election results from last night. The president reminds the questioner that he was elected too—and that he was elected by the whole country. "The key is to find areas where the agenda that I put forward [...] the key is to make sure that the ideas that I have overlap somewhere with ideas that Republicans have. There's not going to be perfect overlap." When there's a disagreement, "I'm going to keep on arguing" for my view, says Obama. Nice.

12:10 PM PT: Says Republicans should "put forward a very specific agenda" and then move forward with him on areas where "we agree." This is definitely not a tail-between-my-legs posture. It's saying that if Republicans will work with me, I'll work with them. But if they won't, I can't.

12:12 PM PT: Again: "The American people are better off than before I was president." 100% correct, and bound to piss off the GOP. And definitely not tail-between-my-legs posture.

12:14 PM PT (Barbara Morrill): New thread here.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell turns to Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX after speaking to reporters after the Republican party policy luncheon in the Capitol in Washington September 16, 2014.  At left is Sen. John Barasso, R-WY. The U.S. House of Represe
Bloomberg's Richard Rubin and Kathleen Hunter outline the top policy priorities of Senate Republicans:
Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate will try to force a politically weakened President Barack Obama to accept changes to his health-care law, back off on tough environmental rules and nominate judges they endorse.
But while that may be their agenda, that doesn't mean they can achieve it, because:
Control of Congress doesn’t grant absolute power and in many cases, it will shift the divide, not eliminate it. The Senate’s procedural rules that require 60 votes for most legislation, as well as the presence of Obama in the White House, will limit what Republicans can do.

Obama can veto any bill, and it would take two-thirds of the members in both chambers to override him. If the president maintains support among congressional Democrats, Republicans will have to negotiate with him rather than stampede over him.

The veto is the key: Senate Republican leadership will undoubtedly face pressure from Ted Cruz and his minions to pursue reconciliation and perhaps even eliminate the filibuster, steps that would allow Senate Republicans to easily pass legislation with a simple majority. But even if they get their way, they can't change the fact that President Obama wields the veto pen and without assembling a two-thirds majority in both chambers, they won't be able to override his vetoes.

Unless Republicans magically decide they want to move forward with issues like comprehensive immigration reform or real tax reform (as opposed to tax cuts for the wealthy disguised as reform), this is obviously a recipe for gridlock, but if the choice is between repealing Obamacare and accepting gridlock, the choice is clear. Republicans will no doubt whine about it, and they'll complain about President Obama ignoring their "mandate" from voters, but let's not forget: Every time President Obama has been on the ballot nationally, he's won. And far more Americans voted in 2008 and 2012 than 2010 and 2014.

Heading into 2016, the right move for Republicans would be to do things like working with President Obama to make Obamacare even better, moving forward with comprehensive immigration reform, and funding the government without shutdown brinksmanship and drama. But we all know that probably isn't going to happen, and if President Obama and congressional Democrats are smart, they won't offer the GOP a helping hand unless it does.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (L) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speak at a news conference about the U.S. debt ceiling crisis at the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 30, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  
An open letter to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and their crew, from yours truly:
Dear Republicans:

Congratulations. You just took control of Congress for the next two years. It must feel great. You should celebrate now, because pretty soon you're going to realize it's going to be an agonizingly long two years—as long as Democrats follow these three simple pieces of advice:

  1. Now that Republicans control the Senate and the House, they need to supply the votes for everything—no more bailouts from the Democratic caucus, bailouts that made sense when Democrats controlled one of the chambers.
  2. The president should wield the veto liberally, vetoing every measure to come from Congress that would undermine things like Obamacare or damage the government's ability to deliver the services the country expects from it—and congressional Democrats should support his vetoes.
  3. The president should take executive action wherever he can, within the constraints of the law, to accomplish goals like creating a humane immigration policy and dealing with climate change. If the Republicans don't like it, they can impeach him.

Again, congratulations guys. You've achieved the goal that Mitch McConnell set out for you, and you did it by systematically trying to prevent Democrats from implementing progressive policies. Just keep in mind that turnabout is fair play, and if Democrats are smart, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Best regards,

I'm not trying to sugarcoat the GOP's win. It does suck, especially for nominations. And it sucks that we're not going to get any new progressive laws passed, though it's not like we would have gotten any with a Republican House. But—at the risk of repeating myself—the president is still the president is still the president is still the president. Obamacare isn't going anywhere. He can still take executive action to get a limited amount of things done. And just about the only two things Republicans can do without the president's signature is shutting down the government and impeaching him. And unless the GOP magically reinvents itself into a rational governing party, that's exactly what Democrats should let them do. 2016 will be here soon enough.
In half of Arkansas, selling this is currently illegal
It's Election Day, and for most Republicans the only question that matters is whether they manage to obtain a slim Senate majority for the next two years, after which even they acknowledge they will get blown out because 2016 will not be kind to the GOP, but control of the Senate isn't the only big question facing voters. Take Arkansas, for example, whereafter nearly 80 years, prohibition repeal may finally arrive:
Voters will be deciding on several big issues Tuesday including the initiative for statewide liquor. If passed, it would mean all counties in Arkansas will be allowed to sell alcohol.
Currently, alcohol sales are banned in 37 of the state's 75 counties. The ballot measure would do away with those bans and allow alcohol to be sold in every county. Although it might at first seem counterintuitive, alcohol resellers are among the initiatives major opponents, some of whom fear that allowing alcohol sales throughout the state will reduce business in their shops.

But while Arkansas may be finally catching up to 1933 when it comes to prohibition, a proposed state constitutional amendment in Alabama would position the state as the most proudly intolerant in the entire nation.

Alabama already has the nation's longest state constitution, but wingnuts there are proposing a 957-word ballot measure to make it even longer—and ban the application of foreign law in the process. Why ban foreign law? Well, the wingnuts figure if they ban foreign law, they'll also be banning Sharia Law, and banning Sharia Law will save Alabama from becoming a caliphate.

The thing is, the ballot measure is utterly pointless and redundant; nowhere in Alabama has "Sharia Law" been imposed, and the only time Alabama courts have to deal with foreign law is when it comes to enforcing a contract that both parties have agreed will be governed by a foreign law.

The only reason to pass it is to give Alabama bragging rates to being the most intolerant state in the country, which is exactly why the pessimist in me says that of course people there will vote for it. But the interesting thing—the ray of sunshine—is that there is a broad coalition of opposition to it, including both Muslims and evangelical Christians. The evangelical opposition is notable: The head of the Alabama Christian Coalition has spoken out against it publicly, saying that it's not only pointless, but would be a "stigma" for Alabama in the nation and the world.

On the flip side, if Alabama does reject the measure, it would be a small sign of hope in what will likely be an otherwise dreary election day in the state.

Eastern Kentucky news coverage of the McConnell mailer
If you haven't already seen it, late last week the Kentucky GOP sent a mailer on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's behalf warning voters that they could be involved with election fraud allegedly perpetrated by McConnell's Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The fine print revealed the mail piece to be little more than an attack mailer, but the envelope was designed to look like official government correspondence with "ELECTION VIOLATION NOTICE" in large type and a stern instruction that the contents of the mailer were to "BE READ SOLELY BY THE CITIZEN NAMED BELOW." (Their caps.)

Whether the mailer was trying to accuse Grimes alone or both Grimes and her supporters of election fraud, the best thing you could possibly say about it is that it was a deeply dishonest scare tactic intended to discourage voters from voting for Grimes by making them believe that doing so would be involving themselves in an illegal election scheme.

The mailer was so far over the line that even conservatives recoiled, including a tea party leader in the state who communicated his displeasure to Louisville public radio political reporter Phillip Bailey:

United Ky. Tea Party spox tells me @KYGOP mailer could “upset conservatives” by reminding them of @Team_Mitch tactics v. @MattBevin. #KYSen
Despite the criticism, McConnell not only denied that the letter was intended to intimidate, he stood by the letter:
McConnell says in Mt Sterling his  controversial mail piece is not intimidating but 'entirely factually accurate" #kysen
Actually, the only thing that's "entirely factually accurate" is that the letter was designed to mislead and intimidate voters. The only question now is whether people who realize what the mailer was really about—people like the tea party spokesman who said it reminded him of McConnell's campaign against Matt Bevin—decide to vote against McConnell in response.
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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) debates Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R) during the U.S. vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky October 11, 2012.          REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Biden needs to start channeling his spirit of 2012
Vice President Joe Biden's gaffe of the day:
“[G]oing into 2016, the Republicans have to make a decision whether they’re in control or not in control,” the vice president told Gloria Borger. “Are they going to begin to allow things to happen? Or are they going to continue to be obstructionists? And I think they’re going to choose to get things done.”
Congressional Republicans will "choose to get things done"? Please, pass me a hit of whatever is in that pipe, Mr. Vice President. And lest there be any doubt that he's dreaming, listen to Ted Cruz outline his agenda:
Piggybacking on what House leaders have done, Cruz said the first order of business should be a series of hearings on President Obama, “looking at the abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded this administration.”

Cruz also would like the Senate to be as aggressive in trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act as the House, which has voted more than 50 times to get rid of the law.

Republicans should “pursue every means possible to repeal Obamacare,” Cruz said, including forcing a vote through parliamentary procedures that would get around a possible filibuster by Democrats. If that leads to a veto by Obama, Cruz said, Republicans should then vote on provisions of the health law “one at a time.”

Now, I suppose Biden could be right if the GOP undergoes a complete transformation and treats Cruz like an outcast instead of like a spiritual leader, but that's not a bet I'm willing to take—and neither should he.
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U.S. Republican Senators John McCain (L) and Lindsey Graham talk during the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House in Washington February 23, 2009.       REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque   (UNITED STATES)
President Obama can't completely fix our immigration system on his own, but he can ease the nightmare of deportations until Congress gets its act together and he's promised to take executive action to do just that by year's end. But now a group of Republican senators led by John McCain are warning the president against any such initiative, saying:
Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio warned Obama that sweeping unilateral action would be “detrimental” to a more permanent fix to the immigration system. [...]

“In this regard, acting by executive order on an issue of this magnitude would be the most divisive action you could take — completely undermining any good-faith effort to meaningfully address this important issue, which would be a disservice to the needs of the American people,” the three senators wrote.

So, according to McCain's new gang, if President Obama takes executive action to reduce deportations, Congress will be less likely to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Here's the problem: They've said the exact same thing before, but when President Obama agreed to give Congress a chance, Congress did nothing—and that was before Eric Cantor lost his primary.

If the next Congress is even more Republican, there's an even smaller chance Congress will take action. Well, technically, I guess it's not possible to have a chance smaller than zero, but you get the point—when these guys say they will get immigration reform done if only President Obama steps aside, they're making a promise they've already made—and already broken.

There's no reason to believe them this time. Republicans in Congress have left President Obama with one option and one option alone: Taking executive action to the maximum extent of the law. They might not like that, but if they want to see immigration reform, then it's up to them to make it happen. And with congressional Republicans more afraid of becoming the next Eric Cantor than dragging their party's brand through the mud for generations to come, the chances of that happening are nil.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Mitch McConnell, showing the number of positions he's willing to take on any given issue
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell alarmed his conservative allies on Tuesday when he declared "no one thinks" a Republican Senate will vote to repeal Obamacare because even if Republicans retake control of the Senate, they won't have the 60 votes they need to thwart a Democratic filibuster.

Flash-forward 48 hours, however, and now McConnell is singing a different song:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he would be willing to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority if he takes over as majority leader in January, his spokesman told the Washington Examiner on Thursday.
This would require McConnell to use the budget reconciliation process, a set of rules designed to allow budgetary measures to move through the Senate with a simple majority, avoiding the threat of a filibuster. Of course, even if the GOP takes that route, President Obama will still veto any Obamacare repeal legislation and Republicans don't have the votes to override a veto.

The weird thing about this shift is that it's not a new position for McConnell—he has planned to use reconciliation to try to undo Obamacare for years now. But when he said that Obamacare couldn't be repealed without 60 votes, he was walking away from reconciliation, perhaps because he doesn't want people in Kentucky to think he will be able to repeal Obamacare and along with it Kynect, which provides insurance to roughly 1 in 10 Kentuckians.

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But even though his Tuesday comments were an attempt to straddle the line between opposing and accepting Obamacare, his quick return to reconciliation makes it clear that McConnell knows he's ultimately beholden to the right. He might talk from both sides of his mouth during the campaign, but there's no question which side will be doing the talking after the election: The right side.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) makes remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, March 6, 2014. Thousands of conservative activists, Republicans and Tea Party Patriots gather to hear politicians, presidential hopefuls
This isn't what Ted talks were supposed to be
Goal Thermometer

In an appearance Thursday morning on CNBC, noted 2016 clown car aspirant, recently former Canadian citizen, and current U.S. Sen. Ted "Calgary" Cruz of Texas took a question about whether he believes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is too liberal to run for the GOP nomination:

You know, Jeb has not declared his candidacy. I like Jeb. I'm a fan of Jeb Bush's. I'm going to let him decide if he's running first.
So, good news for Jeb: Ted Cruz likes you. That said, if you felt like there was a "but" coming from Cruz, you won't be disappointed:
But I will say this. We need to learn from history. We need to look to history to find out what works and what doesn't, and the one thing that is clear is that if Republicans run another candidate in the mold of a Bob Dole, or a John McCain, or a Mitt Romney [...] we will end up with the same result, which is that millions of people will stay home on election day which is what happened for all three of them. And if we run another candidate like that Hillary Clinton will be the next president.
I will say this: Ted Cruz is right—if Republicans nominate Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton will be the next president. But if he thinks that nominating someone like, say, Ted Cruz will change that, then he's even nuttier than he pretends, because while Hillary Clinton could easily beat Jeb Bush, she could absolutely destroy Ted Cruz.
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In fact, if the GOP nominates a nut job like Cruz, then millions of people staying home will be the best-case scenario for them, because with a guy like Cruz at the top of the Republican ticket, the more people vote, the worse things will be for the GOP.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a news conference in Trenton, New Jersey March 28, 2014. On Thursday a law firm hired by Christie, a potential Republican 2016 contender for the White House, released a report clearing him of wrongdoing in
Goal Thermometer

This public records request from American Bridge PAC to the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in response to his "sit down and shut up" bluster during an event in New Jersey on Wednesday is pretty funny:

To Whom It May Concern,

The following request is being made in accordance with the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq.) and all other New Jersey open record laws.

At an event commemorating the two year anniversary of super-storm Sandy on October 29, 2014, Governor Christie claimed “I've been here when the cameras weren’t here and did the work [on Sandy recovery]”

We respectfully request a list of all trips to which Christie was referring - specifically trips to the Jersey Shore to work on Sandy recovery, where no “cameras” – from the media or the Governor’s office – were in attendance to record the event. [...]

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

The context: A New Jersey resident confronted Christie at a public event and accused Christie of being more interested in grandstanding than finishing recovery efforts, at which point Christie told him to "sit down and shut up," saying:
I'll be more than happy to have a debate with you anytime you like, guy, because somebody like you doesn’t know a damn thing about what you're talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here. I've been here when the cameras aren't here, buddy, and done the work.
Not a bad line, though it is ironic that it was delivered for the cameras. And now, with this public records request, we'll find out if it wasn't just another bout of hot air from Christie.
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Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. John Boehner announce something or other.
Republican solutions: Sue Obama, for something, maybe
Goal Thermometer

From the moment that House Speaker John Boehner announced his lawsuit against President Obama, it was obvious that it was a principled stand against an imperial presidency on verge of becoming a dictatorship pathetic attempt to mollify loopy teapartiers who believe Republican congressional leaders are sellouts.

The fact that the lawsuit still hasn't been filed more four months after announcing it only confirms its pathetic nature, and now we're learning that it's even more pathetic yet, because Boehner can't seem to find a law firm willing to handle it, a fact that his office blames on Democrats:

“The litigation remains on track, but we are examining the possibility of forgoing outside counsel and handling the litigation directly through the House, rather than through law firms that are susceptible to political pressure from wealthy, Democratic-leaning clients,” [Boehner spokesman Kevin] Smith said.
That's pure baloney. The litigation never was on track, isn't on track, and Democrats aren't the reason they can't find a law firm to handle it. There are plenty of firms that don't lean Democratic and there are even firms that are Republican, but none of them are interested in handling the case because it's an obvious loser motivated by political considerations inside the House Republican Conference instead of sound legal theory.

But even if it were true that Democrats were blocking outside firms from taking the case, nothing stopped Boehner's office from handling it internally. The only reason they've taken this long is because even Boehner-land knows their case is a stinker.

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So now that it's been revealed that the emperor has no clothes, what is Boehner's next move? Turn it into an exercise in xenophobia:
Boehner’s office also suggested the suit, which planned to challenge Obama’s failure to implement aspects of his health care reform law, could be broadened if Obama goes forward, as promised, with plans for executive action on immigration.

“We are also closely following what the administration does on executive amnesty, and the possible impact that could have on the litigation strategy,” Smith said.

The original lawsuit was supposed to be about Obamacare. Now they're talking about using it to force the Obama administration to accelerate deportations. To say these guys are chickens running around with their heads cut off would be polite.
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