Obama heads to CENTCOM as top military adviser won’t rule out ground troops

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Fight against Islamic State group is again in focus
  • Congress to take up Syrian rebel funding, government funding
  • Quinnipiac poll gives Ernst lead over Braley
  • The Kansas wild card could get wilder

Obama to CENTCOM: President Obama heads to U.S. Central Command, otherwise known as CENTCOM, in Tampa, Florida, Wednesday. He will be briefed by commanders at 10:05 a.m. EDT and will deliver remarks at 11:40 a.m. EDT. His trip comes a day after Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey testified on Capitol Hill that he could not rule out the need for ground troops to fight the Islamic State group in the future — if conditions change or the current policy, which he said he supports, fails. “My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward,” Dempsey said. “I believe that will prove true. But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, when asked about it at the daily press briefing, said Dempsey “was referring to a hypothetical scenario” and that it’s his “responsibility … to plan and consider all the wide range of contingencies.” As we noted Monday, though, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough himself did not explicitly rule out sending in American ground troops if warranted at some point. “We need ground troops,” McDonough said on “Meet the Press.” It’s just not clear yet where they will come from.

Congress expected to take up Syria funding: The administration believes it can get those ground troops from moderate Syrian rebels and the Iraqi military. But it wants Congress to pass funding for the effort to train and equip them as part of a continuing resolution. Debate began on the measure Tuesday, and the House is set to take that up Wednesday with votes late in the afternoon. It’s expected to pass, but it could be close. The Senate is expected to take it up Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 2:30 p.m. EDT on the strategy to fight IS. Also on in the House, at 10 am EDT, the Select Committee on Benghazi holds its first hearing; at noon EDT, there’s a hearing on the VA scandal; and at 2 p.m. EDT, there’s one on the IRS targeting scandal and lost emails. By the way, the president hosts a picnic for members of Congress on the South Lawn of the White House at 5:30 p.m. EDT.

New poll gives Ernst lead over Braley: A Quinnipiac University survey of Iowa voters gives Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst a 50 percent to 44 percent lead over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley among likely voters in the Hawkeye State’s Senate race. One potential problem for Braley in the poll: he leads among women by just six points, while Ernst has a 17-point advantage among men. (A CNN/ORC poll released last week had Braley up 16 points with women.) Braley’s prospects in November will hinge on winning women voters by at least high single digits. Democrats are hoping attacks on Ernst for her anti-abortion views and support for a so-called “personhood” amendment in the Iowa Senate will help at that. Judy Woodruff filed a report from Iowa on Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour, noting than Ernst is putting less emphasis on the conservative views she touted ahead of her June 3 primary victory. Ernst said her challenge in the campaign was to “compare and contrast” her record with Braley’s, saying the four-term congressman was part of “Washington, D.C., bureaucracy” while she represents “Iowa values.” Braley saw his task similarly, saying he needed to make sure voters “understand the clear choices” in the race, criticizing Ernst for supporting “tea party” policies and for saying she wouldn’t have supported the farm bill.

Another bad sign for Democrats: A CBS/New York Times poll finds President Obama’s approval ratings near George W. Bush’s in 2006 when Republicans then lost the House. In fact, his foreign policy handling of just 34 percent is lower than Bush’s then, and he was dealing with the fallout of an Iraqi civil war.

Kansas ballot latest: The one potential wild card for Republicans is what happens in Kansas. The state Supreme Court began hearing arguments Tuesday on whether to allow Democrat Chad Taylor to be removed from the ballot. That would give Independent Greg Orman a clear shot at longtime Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Rick Hasen, who runs the popular Election Law blog, thinks the court, which we noted yesterday has plenty of Kathleen Sebelius appointees on it, will remove Taylor from the ballot. “While it is always hazardous to predict outcomes from oral argument (because Justices sometimes ask rhetorical questions or minds change after argument),” he writes, “I think it is likely the Justices will quickly issue an order removing Taylor’s name from the ballot.”

2016 movement: There’s lots of 2016 action today. Vice President Joe Biden heads to Iowa (because it’s just nice there this time of year) … New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in New Hampshire. … Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delivers a speech on national security before conservatives in Washington, “positioning himself as the leading foreign policy hawk,” AP reports. … And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday said he’s considering bid. “It is true,” he said. “There’s no reason to be coy. I am thinking, I am praying about whether I’ll run in 2016. I said I won’t make that decision until after November.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1787, the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in Philadelphia. What section of the Constitution created the executive branch? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to CTBobL (‏@CTBobL) Tuesday’s trivia: What did the draft dodgers have to do in exchange for amnesty? The answer was: perform two years of public service.


  • There’s more bad news from the Government Accountability office regarding the health care law. According to a new GAO report, HealthCare.gov remains at risk for security and privacy protection breaches.

  • The New York Times editorial board penned an op-ed Wednesday criticizing President Obama for committing to no ground troops during his address to the nation, and just days later having Gen. Martin Dempsey testify that hypothetically he would recommend American troops aid Iraqi soldiers on the ground, if the need arose. “The Obama administration has turned on a dime in record time and opened the door to deeper, more costly American involvement even before the strategy is fully sketched out,” the editorial board wrote.

  • The Washington Post reports that in addition to providing local police forces with military grade weapons and equipments, the Department of Defense has funneled similar equipment to schools, colleges and universities across the country.

  • The Obama administration is delaying yet another controversial policy, this one relating to the EPA and its carbon emissions regulation policy. It is extending the comment deadline on it — to a month after the midterm elections. “The EPA said Tuesday it would extend a comment period by 45 days, until Dec. 1,” AP writes. “The announcement comes a week after 53 U.S. senators asked for an additional two months.”

  • Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program — which provides affordable health insurance to low income children — is expected to run out in two years. The effort to ensure it stays funded is bipartisan, but at a Senate hearing yesterday, there was disagreement about the best way to go about it.

  • Kentucky is possibly one of the greatest success states of the Affordable Care Act, but Kentuckians continue to dislike President Obama and members of his party.

  • Conservative Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have been raising concerns that Democrats will try and push through major legislation during the lame duck session, following the midterm elections. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not share their fear.

  • Some Democrats are trying to rally their base by pushing for minimum wage increases, but their efforts are being overshadowed by violence in Iraq and Syria and the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

  • Majority Whip Steve Scalise represents the fringe of the Republican Party in Congress, but he is now responsible for getting his conference to form a consensus, before they cast their votes on the floor.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign is hitting back quickly on an ad in which his opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes skeet shoots to show she’s “not Barack Obama”.

  • A Karl Rove-affiliated group put out an ad attacking Grimes for supporting “amnesty.”

  • The National Republican Congressional Committee made a $1 million ad buy to help protect Michigan incumbent Dan Benishek.

  • Charlie Cook looks at what could go wrong for Republicans this year, and how the failure of GOP donors (other than the Koch brothers) to put up the big bucks might leave the Senate in Democrats’ hands.

  • Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who is currently facing criminal charges, is ahead 44-40 in the latest Siena College poll.

  • Bill Clinton is urging Scots to vote “no” Thursday on independence.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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