December 26th, 2013
06:42 AM ET

Poll: This is a 'Do-Nothing' Congress

The worst Congress ever.

That's the verdict from two-thirds of Americans about the track record of the 113th Congress, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday also indicates that nearly three-quarters of the public say that this has been a "do-nothing" Congress, CNN's Dana Bash reports.

Two-thirds of those questioned said the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime, with 28% disagreeing.

"That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old – all think this year's Congress has been the worst they can remember," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Older Americans – who have lived through more congresses – hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans. Republicans, Democrats and independents also agree that this has been the worst session of Congress in their lifetimes."

According to the survey, 73% say that this Congress has so far done nothing to address the country's problems, with one in four disagreeing.

Even though it did pass a budget agreement, fewer than 60 bills have been signed into law during the first year of the two-year long 113th Congress, according to CNN analysis and by other news organizations as well. Assuming lawmakers don't pick up the pace next year, and that's a safe bet as 2014 is an election year, this will become the least productive Congress in at least the last four decades.

The poll also indicates there's little optimism for the future.

"Negative attitudes extend to both sides of the aisle: 52% believe that the policies of the Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the wrong direction; 54% say the same about the policies of congressional Republicans," Holland said.

And 54% say the same thing about President Barack Obama's policies

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on December 16-19, with 1,035 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

December 20th, 2013
12:38 PM ET

Georgia Congressman Defends School Lunch Comments

Rep. Jack Kingston defended his comments suggesting that low-income children who receive subsidized meals should clean the cafeteria in exchange for the free meals.

The Georgia Republican said he should have better clarified his comments and said they were not directed at a particular income group.

"This is not targeted to any one group. It would be very helpful for kids in any socio-economic group to do chores and learn the work ethic. Those kids aren't there because of any fault of their own and I never suggested that they were," he said Friday on CNN's "New Day."

Kingston, who is among a number of Republicans running for an open Senate seat next year, blamed the Democratic opposition, which he says followed him and recorded the video for fundraising purposes, and lamented the lack of "honest, open discussion" in American today.

In a video posted to YouTube of Kingston at a public meeting, the congressman said that kids could pay 5 or 10 cents "...to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch," and then goes on to suggest work in return for the meal.

He continued: "Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria - and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think what we would gain as a society in getting people - getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch."

"I never did say poor kids," Kingston told New Day host Chris Cuomo.

"This wasn't anything in a backroom. This wasn't a policy statement. This was a discussion, and it seems like you can't even have that in America anymore."

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December 17th, 2013
09:54 AM ET

Report: Chinese Hackers Attacked Crucial Government Election Website

Chinese hackers tapped into the Federal Election Commission's website during the federal government shutdown in October, a report released Tuesday by an investigative news organization says.

The report from the Center for Public Integrity, one of the country's oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations, indicates that hackers crashed the FEC's computer systems, which compiles federal election campaign finance information like contributions to parties and candidates, and how those billions of dollars are spent in each election by candidates, political parties, and independent groups such as political action committees.

The attack came as nearly all of the FEC's employees, except for the presidential-appointed commissioners, were furloughed due to the government shutdown, with not even one staffer being deemed "necessary to the prevention of imminent threats" to federal property. And it came a few months after an independent auditor hired by the government warned that the FEC's computer systems were at "high risk" to infiltration, a charge the commission disputed.

"Hackers from China, in Russia, Syria, you name it are constantly targeting U.S. websites. But what happened here with the Federal Election Commission, which is the independent watchdog sponsored by the government to keep elections fair and free, effectively got hit about as hard as it ever has gotten hit," David Levinthal of the Center for Public Integrity said on CNN's "New Day."

"It came as the FEC had absolutely no regular employees actually serving at the agency because of the government shutdown. It was one of the agencies that actually went completely dark during the government shutdown, only had the commissioners themselves manning the doors, manning the systems. They are not IT experts by any stretch of the imagination," Levinthal told CNN's Chris Cuomo.

The CPI says the hacking incident was confirmed by three government officials involved in an ongoing investigation that included the Department of Homeland Security.

"Here you have for days at a time, the FEC's website - which is part and parcel of the agency's mission to provide Americans with the ability to access information about their elections, access information about political campaigns and candidates - and nobody in America could do it during that time. So it was a huge black eye, not only for the agency but for the country's government in general," Levinthal added.

Following the hacking incident, the FEC in November said it had moved certain data servers off-line and replace them with less powerful backup servers, that the agency said would slow the ability for users to navigate the website.

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December 9th, 2013
10:28 AM ET

Gingrich Pushes Back Against Mandela Critics

Newt Gingrich is fighting back against conservative critics who attacked the former Speaker of the House and co-host of CNN's “Crossfire” for his praise of Nelson Mandela.

After Mandela passed away Thursday, Gingrich posted a statement, praising him as "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime."

The right-wing response was overwhelmingly reproachful.

"Such an amazing re-write of history since 1962 and 1990. Newt, I thought you of all people, a historian, would be true to who this guy really was," Mike Winkelman posted on Gingrich's Facebook page.

"This clenched-fist, murdering, gorilla warrior does not deserve respect from informed Americans," posted Trish Baehr-Schaefer.

There were several others posts, many generating dozens of "likes," and some with language unfit for publication.

But Gingrich shot back with a statement Saturday, challenging his critics to ask themselves what they would have done in Mandela's shoes.

"Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country. After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech," he wrote.

He went on to compare Mandela to the Founding Fathers and the farmers who took up arms at Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War. He praised the former South African president for his calls for reconciliation, his Christian faith and his turn from Communism to opening South Africa up to free enterprise.

"I was very surprised by it," Gingrich said Sunday CNN's "State of the Union" about the backlash.

"Callista posted my statement on her Facebook page and was amazed at some of the intensity, some of whom came back three, four and five times, repeating how angry they were."

Gingrich continued: "Ironically, most of the things that people complained about occurred during the 27 years he was in prison."

Gingrich has a long history as a Mandela supporter. During the Reagan administration, he was among the many Republicans in Congress who pressured the president to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime.

Fellow conservative Ted Cruz faced a similar backlash this week when he posted a respectful tribute to Mandela that generated angry criticisms. No comment yet from the Texas senator on the reaction of some of his supporters.

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