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Political Scene

- - Thursday, January 20, 2011

HOUSE

Democrat stands by Nazi remarks

A Tennessee Democrat is defending his comparison of Republican health care arguments to Nazi propaganda.

Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis made the remarks earlier this week as House lawmakers debated repealing the new health care law. Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish, said Republicans are repeating lies and spreading false information, much like Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did about Jews before the Holocaust.

He specifically criticized the GOP talking point that the health care bill is a government takeover, which he noted has been widely debunked.

"Just like Goebbels, you say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it," Mr. Cohen said on the House floor. "The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust."

In a statement released Thursday, Mr. Cohen said he never called Republicans Nazis and insisted he was referencing only their messaging tactics. He said critics and the media are taking his comments out of context.

"I regret that anyone in the Jewish community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments," he said. "My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which it has been delivered."

Mr. Cohen's comments come as leaders of both parties have called on politicians to temper their rhetoric in the wake of the recent shooting in Arizona, which left six dead and critically wounded Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

VERMONT

Sanders to publish filibuster book

MONTPELIER | Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is publishing a book of a Senate filibuster he gave opposing the tax-cut deal made by the White House and Congress.

On Dec. 10, Mr. Sanders, an independent, took the floor of the Senate and didn't relinquish it for 8 1/2 hours.

His words are being assembled into a book titled "The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class." The book's publisher, Nation Books, says millions followed the speech online, crashing the Senate server.

A print book is scheduled for publication next month. An electronic book will be ready Jan. 28.

ILLINOIS

Emanuel unfazed by challenges

CHICAGO | Rahm Emanuel appears unfazed by continuing court challenges to his right to run for Chicago mayor.

The Illinois Appellate Court is pondering the issue after hearing arguments Wednesday about whether Mr. Emanuel meets the residency requirements.

At a press conference, a relaxed-looking Mr. Emanuel wouldn't say whether he thought he would prevail. He would only say he is leaving any worrying about the ruling to others.

Two voters contend that Mr. Emanuel shouldn't be allowed on the Feb. 22 ballot because he hasn't lived in Chicago for the past year. Until October, Mr. Emanuel lived in Washington as the White House chief of staff.

The voters' lawyer has promised to take the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, if necessary.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama makes light of '12 run

President Obama is making light of speculation that his ambassador to China could run against him as a Republican in the 2012 presidential election.

Mr. Obama joked Wednesday that the fact that Ambassador Jon Huntsman has worked so well with him would be a great asset in any GOP primary.

Mr. Huntsman is a moderate Republican who had been considered a possible presidential contender in 2012 before Mr. Obama selected him as ambassador. Mr. Huntsman fueled presidential speculation recently by declining comment when asked whether he would run in 2012.

VIRGINIA

House panel eyes abortion

RICHMOND | A House of Delegates committee on Thursday endorsed legislation to toughen state regulation of abortion clinics.

The Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee voted 15-6 for the bill, which would require clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. The clinics now are regulated the same as doctors' offices.

A vote on the House floor is likely next week. The legislation faces long odds in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has rejected similar measures passed by the Republican-majority House several times in recent years.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in an advisory opinion last year that the governor has authority to impose the tougher standards. But Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who supports the tougher regulations, said the matter should be decided by the legislature.

TRANSPORTATION

Driver distraction still a target

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he will keep distracted driving at the top of his agenda despite critics who say the department should focus on other safety issues.

Mr. LaHood said Thursday the department would not be deterred by "false choices" between fighting distracted driving and addressing other safety issues.

Groups such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have questioned whether texting bans and restrictions on using handheld cell phones reduce crashes.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from texting behind the wheel. Eight states have passed laws barring drivers from using handheld cell phones.

The government estimates that 5,500 people were killed in 2009 in distracted-driving crashes.

Mr. LaHood said he will discuss distracted driving with Ford and Chrysler executives in Detroit next week.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama predicts win for Bears

President Obama is predicting that his hometown Chicago Bears will defeat their rivals, the Green Bay Packers, 20-17 in Sunday's NFC Championship game.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama won't hold a grudge against the state of Wisconsin should the Packers win. Mr. Gibbs said Mr. Obama will travel to Manitowoc, Wis., on Wednesday, regardless of the outcome.

Mr. Obama set off speculation this week that he would attend the Super Bowl if the Bears make it. After being asked about his plans for the big game, Mr. Obama said with a laugh: "Oh, if the Bears are in the Super Bowl, we're going."

Mr. Gibbs tried to back away from that, saying that as a superstitious fan, it was too soon to be making Super Bowl plans.