(LIN) — In the first full week after elections, life in D.C. is slowly starting to settle back into a syncopated rhythm of controlled chaos. From President Barack Obama’s first post-election news conference to outspoken members of Congress, this week was chock full of headlines.
‘Go after me’
On Wednesday, Obama was expected to make comments about Gen. David Petraeus and the “fiscal cliff,” but the room seemed to stand still when the president lashed out against GOP senators’ criticism of U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. Earlier that day, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made statements questioning her judgment in the events that unfolded in Benghazi, Libya. McCain went as far to say he would take all necessary steps to block Rice’s nomination, should Obama appoint her as secretary of state.
Obama responded to these remarks at the news conference. “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham, and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous,” Obama said.
The GOP senators stand behind their statements.
First time for everything
Congress has a brand new look, and with it come many firsts.
- First openly gay person elected to the Senate: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
- First openly bisexual person elected to Congress: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)
- First Hindu elected to Congress – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
- First American Samoa-born elected to Congress - Gabbard
- First Asian American and Japanese-born elected to the Senate: Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
- First Buddhist elected to the Senate: Hirono
- First woman to serve after injured in combat: Rep. Tammy Duckworth (R-Ill.)
- First Thai-American woman elected to Congress: Duckworth
This is also the first time the most women have been elected to the Senate (20), contributing to the first time white men will not make up the majority of a major-party caucus.
No (official) word on cabinet
Although Obama still hasn’t given any hints on who will fill empty cabinet positions, that isn’t keeping many from speculating on the shuffle.
The positions that will open include secretaries of state, treasury and defense.
Ambassador Rice has emerged as a possibility for secretary of state, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has expressed interest in the secretary of defense position if Leon Panetta leaves.
Another recent candidate to be discussed for a cabinet position is John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser. Some speculate he would be a strong candidate for secretary of defense as well, or possibly even a replacement for Petraeus’ former role as director of the CIA.
Pelosi, part 2.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday she would serve another term as the House Democratic leader.
"We have work to do," she said. "It isn't about the gavel, although we'd like to have it."
Pelosi said during her announcement that she didn't want to lose her place at the negotiating table with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker John Boehner. She said, "the thought of four men at that table” wouldn't empower women in the workplace.
Meanwhile, House Republicans elected a woman to a top leadership post Wednesday. Boehner said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will serve as chair of the House Republican Conference, which is the fourth-ranking spot in the House Republican leadership in the Congress that opens in January.
Following his resignation last week, former CIA director David Petraeus testified before Congress Friday on the U.S. Embassy attack in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. During the closed-door meeting, Petraeus said he believed that the Libya attack was a terrorist act, and that the Obama administration decided to withhold the role of al-Qaida to not tip off the terrorist group. He also testified to the lax security at the consulate, saying that attackers literally walked in and killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The 90-minute appearance before the House and Senate intelligence committees did not focus on Petraeus’ affair that lead to his resignation except for his opening remarks, in which apologized for his actions. Petraeus said his departure was tied to the affair alone, and not to the Libya attack.
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