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Sam Levine   |   January 28, 2015    8:29 PM ET

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) confirmed on Wednesday that he's planning to sue President Barack Obama -- again.

In an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier, Boehner said he was finalizing the details of a House legal challenge to Obama's decision to bypass Congress and use executive action to provide deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

"The president's overreach when he took executive action to deal with the immigration problem in our country, frankly, is a violation of our Constitution. It's a violation of his oath of office," Boehner said. "We believe that filing of a lawsuit to try and stop the president from violating the Constitution is an important step for our institution."

Boehner's comments confirmed what he reportedly told House Republicans behind closed doors earlier this week. A source told The Huffington Post then that the plan focused on a resolution to allow the House to either file its own lawsuit, join a suit filed by 26 other states or take other legal action.

On Wednesday, Boehner also responded to criticism from the spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the lawsuit was "an embarrassing admission of failure" for Republicans.

"It's about the Constitution. It's about the rule of law. We're a coequal branch of our government, and the president doesn't have the ability to just change law all by himself," the speaker said.

In November, House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for delaying the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act, but only after two different law firms declined to represent them.

Asked about the possibility of a lawsuit on Wednesday, Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the president has the authority to take executive action on immigration.

"I would just say that House Republicans seem to be relying more and more on the courts these days to challenge the president’s authority. We believe that we acted within the full bounds of the authority ... and we’ll be defending that," Schultz said.

Even some conservative legal scholars have said that the president's executive action on immigration was within his constitutional authority.

The possibility of a challenging legal case didn't seem to deter Boehner, who didn't waver from his main argument on Wednesday.

"This isn't about immigration. This is about the president violating the Constitution, violating his oath of office and frankly not upholding the rule of law," he told Baier.

Sam Levine   |   January 27, 2015   10:27 PM ET

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) apologized to military veterans on Tuesday for his recent comments linking audiences for the film "American Sniper" to angry tea party enthusiasts.

Appearing on "Real Time With Bill Maher" last week, Dean said that there was maybe "a lot of intersection" between people seeing the movie and the tea party.

"There's a lot of anger in this country. And the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry," Dean said. "This guy basically says, 'I'm going to fight on your side.' They bite for it."

The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Chris Kyle, who may have been the deadliest military sniper in U.S. history. Kyle was killed in 2013 by another veteran. The film has been nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture.

After criticism from conservatives, including actor Gary Sinise, Dean apologized, acknowledging he hadn't seen the movie.

“I’ll apologize to the veterans. I haven’t seen the movie and I think I was wrong,” Dean said on the MSNBC show "Hardball." "I make no apologies to all of the right-wing nut-jobs that have been twittering me in nasty language, but I do apologize to the veterans.

"We owe them a lot and I think this movie was much more nuanced than I thought."

The film has been criticized for its portrayal of war, notably by filmmaker Michael Moore.

Steve Scalise To Meet With Civil Rights Leader

Amanda Terkel   |   January 27, 2015    6:43 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has agreed to meet with the head of a civil rights organization who criticized the congressman for speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002.

Scalise will sit down with Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and fellow Louisianan. Morial previously served as the Democratic mayor of New Orleans.

According to The Hill, Morial and Scalise spoke Monday night and agreed to meet in the "near future" to discuss issues that Morial and Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, outlined in a letter to Scalise on Jan. 6. Their concerns include the Voting Rights Act now weakened by a Supreme Court decision, the need for infrastructure investments and GOP efforts to overturn President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration reform.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, also told The Hill that he and Scalise spoke briefly last week on the night of the State of the Union speech and agreed to get together soon to talk more.

The story of Scalise's speaking engagement to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization was dug up in late December by Louisiana political blogger Lamar White Jr. The group, which is now largely inactive, was founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke to fight for "white civil rights." Scalise admitted to speaking to the organization but distanced himself from its views and claimed he had no idea what the group was about.

The congressman nonetheless faced fierce criticism, with calls for him to resign. Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said Scalise should apologize to his colleagues. Scalise's fellow GOP leaders, however, said they stood by him.

"We're pleased that Representative Scalise has responded positively to our request for a meeting," said Henderson in a statement Tuesday evening. "We see this as an opportunity for GOP leadership to turn the page on a troubling history of dog-whistle segregationist politics. Rep. Scalise is now a member of congressional leadership with a responsibility to govern with all Americans in mind. We look forward to a fruitful discussion of some of the most pressing civil and human rights issues of the day like the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, a strong education reauthorization, and reform of our criminal justice system."

Scalise's office did not immediately return a call for comment on the planned meetings.

Amanda Gutterman   |   January 27, 2015    4:16 PM ET

"Let me put it this way -- I hope he's their nominee," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Hill on Tuesday.

Pelosi doesn't believe that Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, would stand a chance in a 2016 contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "He might be a nice person -- no offense, no offense -- [but] let's save you time," the lawmaker said.

When he ran against President Barack Obama in the last race for the White House, Pelosi was equally dismissive about the chances of a Romney victory. "Oh, Mitt Romney's not going to be president of the United States. I think everybody knows that," Pelosi told CNN in 2012, waving away questions about how she would potentially work with a Romney White House.

Romney was the front-runner for the 2016 Republican nomination last year, until former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wrote in a note on Facebook that he was "actively exploring" a bid for the presidency. That pushed Bush ahead of Romney in December.

But Bush's lead didn't last. A Rasmussen poll of likely Republican voters released this past week showed Romney ahead among a group of potential 2016 GOP contenders with 24 percent of support. Bush came in second with 13 percent. Other noted presidential hopefuls like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lagged behind, with support in the single digits.

The two leading Republicans met privately in Utah last week.

  |   January 26, 2015    7:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday it had suspended International Relief and Development, a non-profit aid contractor which won major U.S. contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, after finding "serious misconduct" involving funding.

"The agency's review revealed serious misconduct in IRD's performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility," the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States' premier aid agency, said in a statement.

USAID contracts with IRD in Afghanistan amounted to more than $1 billion and roughly $85.57 million in Iraq between 2006 and 2014, according to statistics provided by USAID. The agency also won U.S. contracts for work in other countries.

IRD said in a statement it was cooperating fully with USAID and was working on a response to address the agency's concerns and re-establish trust.

"According to the notification, USAID is taking this action principally due to specific instances of, and failure to detect, alleged mischarging of unallowable expenses by a former IRD officer, and inadequate financial management controls," IRD said.

USAID said its decision was based on a zero-tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds. Some 230 contractors have been suspended since the inception of a special investigating unit in 2011, USAID said. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)

  |   January 26, 2015    5:39 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Conservative political advocacy groups supported by the billionaire Koch brothers plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 U.S. elections, more than double what they raised in 2012, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The newspaper said the goal was announced to donors at a weekend meeting in Rancho Mirage, California, hosted by Freedom Partners, a business lobby at the center of the Koch brothers' political operation. The Post cited a person who attended the gathering.

The money will be doled out by a network of 17 organizations funded by industrialists Charles and David Koch, who have become a major force in conservative politics in recent years, and other wealthy donors. The network raised $407 million for the 2012 campaign.

During the 2012 election cycle, the national Republican Party collectively spent about $675 million, according to election data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Post said the $889 million would be spent on field operations, technology, policy study and other expenses.

The Freedom Partners network spent almost $300 million on November's congressional elections, in which Republicans won control of the Senate and retained their majority in the House of Representatives.

The potential field for the Republican presidential nomination is fairly crowded and the Post said the Koch group was still considering whether it would support candidates in the Republican primaries, which could dramatically shape the campaign and possible lead to intraparty conflict.

Senators Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, all of whom are mentioned as possible presidential candidates, took part in the Rancho Mirage meeting, the Post said.

The newspaper said the Freedom Partners network included Americans for Prosperity and funded groups such as Concerned Veterans for America, the Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity. (Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Harry Reid Won't Rule Out Suing Exercise Equipment Maker Over His Injury

Michael McAuliff   |   January 22, 2015    2:29 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday made his first public media appearance since an exercise mishap left him with a severely injured eye and four broken ribs.

Reid had been working out with resistance bands in his new home earlier this month when one snapped, injuring his right eye and flinging him into a file cabinet, he said.

The Nevada Democrat said he expected to be back to full speed soon, and that he planned to run for re-election. But while he was certain about his electoral plans, he hedged on a question about whether he'd take the manufacturer of the exercise gear to court.

"Let's say if I were, I wouldn't be broadcasting that here," Reid said.

Asked later if he knew the maker of the product and whether he thought it was defective, Reid answered: "Well, we have it, and we'll find out."

He was adamant that the incident hadn't changed his plans for his political future. "This question was asked me before the break, and I answered it the same way I'm answering it now: I plan to run," Reid said.

Reid, who wore an eye patch during the appearance, said he has had to limit his reading and to lay off heavy lifting, but he's up to walking for about an hour at a time.

He expects to go in for surgery on Monday to repair fractures around his right eye and drain some blood from the injury, and says he's been told he should make a full recovery.

As far as pain, he confessed that his eye hurts and he takes a couple of Tylenol tablets every now and then to deal with it.

Reid, a former boxer, insisted the four cracked ribs were of little consequence. "They are so meaningless, it’s hard to believe. I broke four ribs, but that’s so minor," he said.

He did seem confused when asked whether he had suffered a concussion, something his office had mentioned in early reports.

"To my knowledge, I’m not getting any treatment for concussions, although I do have a better understanding of the football players and baseball players who have concussions," Reid said. "No one’s told me I had one, but perhaps I have."

The minority leader also weighed in on the controversy over allegations that the New England Patriots intentionally used under-inflated footballs in their playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. Red criticized the NFL for letting it happen.

"I can’t believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars they make, couldn’t at least determine how much air is in a football. I don’t see why it should be left up to the teams," said Reid, who's been at odds with the NFL lately because the league won't force the Washington, D.C., team to change its name to something that's not a racial slur.

Reid also answered his first questions about President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. He echoed other Democrats in warning that he would not be on board with a push for Obama's free-trade agenda or his request for authority to "fast-track" trade deals.

"I have always been suspect, over my entire career in Congress, of these trade agreements," Reid said. "I don’t support fast track. Why? Because I have not been shown that these trade agreements have helped the middle class."

"I’ll be happy to keep my eyes wide open," he continued, "and if something changes, I’ll change, but until it’s shown to me that trade agreements help the middle class, I’m not going to be jumping on the bandwagon."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

Rob Portman Gets A Democratic Challenger For 2016

Amanda Terkel   |   January 22, 2015   12:17 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Democrats gained their first challenger to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) Thursday, with 30-year-old P.G. Sittenfeld, a member of the Cincinnati City Council, jumping into the 2016 race and betting that Ohioans want someone new in the stodgy Senate.

"I believe that I have got the right kind of experience," Sittenfeld told The Huffington Post in an interview Thursday morning. "There is good experience, and there is bad experience -- and bad experience is being a Washington insider who, for more than a quarter of a century, stacked the deck against the middle class."

If elected, Sittenfeld would be one of the youngest members of the chamber, where the U.S. Constitution sets the minimum age for service at 30. He faces an uphill battle against Portman, 59, who already had $5.8 million in his campaign war chest as of early January.

But Sittenfeld too has been laying groundwork, traveling around the state on what National Journal recently called a "months-long networking campaign" to introduce himself to activists and voters outside of Cincinnati. He brought on board the high-profile campaign firm 270 Strategies, which boasts several veterans of President Barack Obama's two bids for the White House, to handle his announcement. And his interview Thursday was filled with carefully tailored policy specifics that largely dovetailed with what Obama put forward in his State of the Union address this week.

"I think we need to do a whole lot more to get the economy where we want it to be and make sure that growth is touching everybody's life, not just those at the very top," said Sittenfeld. "Progress has been made, but there is a whole lot more work to do to make an economy that works for everybody."

But even as Sittenfeld displayed his polish and careful grooming during Thursday's interview, it was an outspoken progressive leader whom he cited as a lawmaker he'd like to emulate. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), he said, has advocated for many of the causes that Sittenfeld himself holds dear, among them raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work and opposition to trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"That is an area of disagreement between the president and me," said Sittenfeld. "I do not support the TPP and don't think it would be good for Ohioans."

Sittenfeld said he would have supported the Affordable Care Act had he been in the Senate when it was passed, but he remains open to the possibility of reforming it. He enthusiastically offered his support for marriage equality. He also noted that he wants to focus specifically on education policy, including proposals to turn schools into "round-the-clock-hubs" and "town square schools or community learning centers."

But it's Sittenfeld's age, not his policy portfolio, that has brought his candidacy the most attention so far. Welcoming the announcement of his campaign on Thursday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee declared that "national Democrats have hit rock bottom if they are hitching their electoral hopes in Ohio to an overly ambitious 30-year-old city councilman."

Not mentioned in the statement was that the NRSC had its own young candidate in the 2012 cycle, when Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), then 34, took on Brown. In that hard-fought contest, Mandel's age ended up being a hindrance, with stories coming out that he had hired inexperienced, unqualified friends for government jobs.

Sittenfeld dismissed the idea that he too might fall into that trap, saying that there was "no comparison" between Mandel and himself.

"This isn't about me. It is not about my age," he said. "It is about the ideas I'm going to promote and the values I'm going to champion."

In order for the Mandel comparisons to be accurate, Sittenfeld must first win his party's primary. And although he's first in the ring, it's far from certain whether he'll prevail. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is reportedly considering a run for the Senate, as is former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who currently runs the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

"I have enormous admiration for Gov. Strickland and for his service," said Sittenfeld. "What I'm focused on right now is mounting a winning campaign that I think speaks to the issues that Ohioans care about. I'm not thinking about who else is going to get in or not get in. I'm thinking about how can I connect with and hear from Ohioans."

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The Power of One

Jack Nadel   |   January 21, 2015    4:05 PM ET

"The door of opportunity is always marked PUSH." -- BOB GASS

Every day the headlines are alarming. As we usher in 2015, domestic news about street demonstrations, data breaches, minimum wage protests, and corporate misdeeds dominate the media. Americans are feeling helpless. Angry voices are also heard throughout the country against the use of excessive police force in the inner cities. Then there are the repeated attacks by organized terrorists and lone wolf attackers who vent their rage by shooting up schools and public places. Marches for and against U.S. immigration policies occur almost daily. There are many arguments about how we got into these situations, but very few workable solutions that can help get us out. It seems like our collective house is on fire, while we are having a debate about how the fire got started instead of paying attention to extinguishing the blaze.

The fact is that even though the unemployment rate is down, there are still more than 40 million Americans living below the poverty line, which gives them feelings of powerlessness and desperation. Across the country anxiety about job security remains high. In my opinion, all of the problems we face have a root cause in the economy. Happy and secure people do not act out in violence, launch terrorist attacks or participate in large, frustrating demonstrations. Low wages are at the heart of the matter. Incomes are simply too low for the working poor to meet their living expenses. Only the highest income earners are adding to their net worth. The fact is that wealth in the highest brackets has grown dramatically, while it has decreased consistently for the bottom 98%. Several economists believe that this is an irreversible trend line.

The reality is that each one of us is capable of improving his or her conditions. We all have the potential for financially secure futures. While I am not an economist, I am a successful 91-year-old entrepreneur who started with nothing and has prospered throughout the trade wars and economic cycles of the past seven decades. I am a veteran of World War II who has survived and thoroughly enjoyed my career as a successful entrepreneur.

The most remarkable thing I have learned over the years is that we truly can take control of our own destinies. How we accomplish this is up to us. As Harry Truman once said, "A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."

In the old days we could depend on big companies, trade unions, and politicians to keep us prosperous with secure incomes. This is no longer the reality. While opportunity knocks every hour of the day, we must have the guts and the will to make it work for us. The capability we possess as individuals, as well as the responsibility we have for our own success, abides in "The Power of One." It really is up to each one of us.

Either we moan and groan about the challenging conditions, or we strive to achieve our ambitions by accepting risks. When our forefathers spoke about the American Dream, they were really talking about the great potential our country offers.

Budding entrepreneurs should start by recognizing the power they already have. Markets are always in flux, and success will come if you work with determination, creativity, and flexibility. "Find a need and fill it" is one of my favorite expressions and one of my published tips for entrepreneurs because it has such universal application. However, this is only half the equation. You may see the need, but your potential lies in the execution of how you fill that need in the marketplace.

When I started my career with just a high school education and no special skills, I had little money and no business training, but I could not wait to get out in the field and start my career as an entrepreneur. Over the years, I have owned and operated more than a dozen profitable companies in the United States and around the world. My great desire now is to pass on what I have learned to those who are ready and help them tap into their "Power of One" mindset. Today, more than ever, you have all the tools you need to take the first steps and identify your passions and specific skills. With my most recent book and video, I am trying to extend my mentoring skills to all those who are ready to move into the entrepreneurial world, launch their new ideas, and fill their financial gaps. I speak as one of the many who have personally started from the ground up, and there are others in our communities and nationwide who can provide this same kind of inspiration.

Just the other day I heard about the inspiring story of Zhena Muzyka, a young, single mother who had an infant son in need of life-saving surgery and only six dollars in her wallet. In 2000, her son was born with a severe birth defect. With few resources to make ends meet and no health insurance to pay for her son's rising medical expenses, she turned toward entrepreneurship to earn the income needed to ensure his survival.

Muzyka took what she knew already, her family's long and happy relationship with tea that she learned from her Gypsy grandmother, and she paired it with her knowledge of aromatherapy, creating new, custom-blended artisan teas. She converted this concept into a thriving business by starting with a cart on California street corners. Today, Muzyka is thriving as an entrepreneur who not only created a viable income for herself, but also a tremendous opportunity for others to be employed and share in the success of Zhena's Gypsy Teas. Now, her son is healthy, and her company is a multimillion-dollar brand. I do not know Muzyka personally, but to me her journey is a perfect example of "The Power of One" concept. She exemplifies so many others who have overcome financial hardship by embracing entrepreneurship.

Over the years I have mentored many people who have similar stories about turning passion into prosperity. Zhena Muzyka started with something she loved and understood, and she created a simple business plan by filling a need. This is exactly the point that I reiterate many times with aspiring entrepreneurs: the universal goal is to make more money than you spend.

Everything I write or talk about is something that I have actually done. There are very few obstacles that I have not faced. "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur," the title of my newest book, contains 50 tips pulled straight from what I believe to be the most valuable lessons of my career, which can be applied on a daily basis. My mantra is "The Power of One" because the power of opportunity really is in your hands; it's up to you to make it work. And for those who can't seem to get started, but face a financial gap to fill, consider the words of Milton Berle: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

No matter your situation in life, you can change your circumstances. You have all the capability within yourself to make good things happen. And while pursuing your goals, you can enjoy every minute of it.

Jack Nadel is a 91-year-old Hall of Fame Entrepreneur, decorated veteran of World War II, and author of the award-winning book, "The Evolution of an Entrepreneur: Featuring 50 of My Best Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Business" - winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for BEST in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment - part of the inspiring e-book and streaming video learning set for entrepreneurs, available on-demand ( He is the founder and chairman emeritus of Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Jack is also the author of other books, including, "There's No Business Like Your Bu$iness," "How to Succeed in Business Without Lying, Cheating or Stealing," "Cracking the Global Market," and "My Enemy, My Friend."

Amanda Gutterman   |   January 20, 2015   10:46 PM ET

President Barack Obama enjoyed a warm embrace with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday, as the commander in chief made his way into the House of Representatives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

ginsburg state of the union

"She is one of my favorite people," Obama told The New Yorker in 2014, after the 81-year-old associate justice was rushed to the hospital with a blocked artery. Following her hospitalization, Ginsburg brushed aside suggestions that she step down from the bench while Obama is still in office. The president told the magazine at the time: "Life tenure means she gets to decide, not anybody else, when she chooses to go."

It's clear that the warm feelings are mutual between Ginsburg and Obama, who had a special bond even before he was elected president.

“When the Court had one of its occasional dinners for members of the Senate, Ginsburg asked that Obama be seated at her table," wrote Supreme Court expert Jeffrey Toobin.

Ginsburg has served on the Supreme Court since 1993, when she was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton. She is famous for her advocacy for women's rights, perhaps most notably her blistering dissent in the Hobby Lobby case, and her strong opposition to the court's Citizens United decision, which she said she wished she could overrule.

While Obama is evidently an admirer of Ginsburg, he has serious competition from some RBG fans who have taken their love for her to the next level.

Amber Ferguson   |   January 19, 2015    9:56 AM ET

On Jan. 26, 1982, President Ronald Reagan began the tradition of honoring extraordinary Americans during the annual State of the Union address.

These presidential guests have been called “Skutniks” after Lenny Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office employee who dove into the icy Potomac River in 1982 to drag a woman to safety after a plane crash.

Reagan invited Skutnik to sit with first lady Nancy Reagan, and during his speech hailed Skutnik for exemplifying “the spirit of American heroism at its finest.”

In the following years, invited guests have included teachers, war heroes, athletes and celebrities.

The White House usually invites guests whose stories “illustrate themes in the president’s speech,” the Boston Globe notes.

During the 1990s, President Bill Clinton invited baseball player Sammy Sosa in recognition for his relief efforts in the Dominican Republic. Later, President George W. Bush invited two flight attendants who helped stop a shoe bomb from detonating. President Barack Obama has invited the parents of Christina Taylor Green and Hadiya Pendleton, two victims of gun violence.

We’ve highlighted the most memorable invited SOTU guests from the past 33 years. Watch the video above.

For a full list of past invited presidential guests, click here.

Bernie Sanders: Obama Won't Propose Chained CPI To Cut Entitlements

Michael McAuliff   |   January 16, 2015    1:23 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will not renew his pursuit of a stealthy cut to Social Security and other entitlement programs by proposing a cheaper way to measure inflation, according to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Many budget-cutters on both sides of the aisle have proposed stemming the growth of entitlement programs by changing the government's standard measure of inflation, the consumer price index, to one that grows more slowly, known as the chained consumer price index.

Obama included chained CPI in his budget two years ago as a concession to get Republicans on board, but he dropped it last year. Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said Friday he expects the proposal will not make a return.

"It is my understanding that the chained CPI will not be in the president's budget," Sanders said in a Capitol Hill press conference. Sanders called the conference to emphasize that he would aggressively oppose any Republican budget proposals that failed to acknowledge the realities of record poverty, income inequality and falling middle-class wages.

"While the economy in the last six years has made significant gains, the simple truth is that the American middle class has been declining over the last 40 years, and I think most American workers understand that," Sanders said.

Chained CPI requires the government to change which items it incorporates into inflation calculations when prices climb and consumers switch to cheaper alternatives. For instance, when beef gets too expensive and people start buying more chicken, under chained CPI the inflation index would also switch to measuring the price of the cheaper chicken.

Supporters say the method is more accurate because it measures what people are actually buying. Opponents call it the "cat food index" because it leaves people on fixed incomes with less money, forcing them to buy cheaper and cheaper alternatives for basic staples like pet food.

Depending on a person's income and age, shifting to the new inflation gauge could mean cuts of thousands of dollars from retirees' future incomes.

"At a time when the wealthy and corporations are doing phenomenally well, median family income is nearly $5,000 less than it was in 1999," Sanders continued. "When you look at a budget, it is imperative that you look at the overarching reality of American life, and today when we look at America we have to understand that we have an obscene level of income and wealth inequality, the highest of any major country on earth, and worse in America today than at any time since 1929."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

Chaffetz Boots Darrell Issa's New Portrait, Says It's Not Personal

Michael McAuliff   |   January 15, 2015    5:36 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has had the portrait of his predecessor, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), removed from his hearing room -- but Chaffetz insists it's nothing personal.

The portrait, hung last month to the left of the chairman's seat, was banished some time in the last couple of weeks to a meeting room, along with all the other pictures of past chairmen.

Chaffetz, speaking Thursday to reporters at the Republicans' issues retreat in Pennsylvania, insisted that the eviction of his predecessors was not a slight against the infamously media-hungry Issa, but an affirmation that he is doing the people's work.

"I really felt strongly that in that committee room we should be inspired by those we serve, not inspired by past committee chairmen," Chaffetz said.

He said he told the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), beforehand about his plans. He said he also warned Issa.

"He said, 'You're the new chairman, you can do it as you want.' He was actually very nice about it," Chaffetz said.

Whether or not Issa was genuine, several past staffers were more than a little miffed, though none were willing to go on the record with their sentiments.

Chaffetz said he intends to replace the pictures with others from his state and historic moments in the United States that involve areas the Oversight Committee monitors, including photos of coal miners, the meeting of railways in Utah, and the Postal Service.

And he doesn't plan to get his own portrait done after his term expires.

"No, I have no desire to do that. In fact, everybody would laugh and giggle. I can't afford it. They can have my cot when I leave, and leave it at that," Chaffetz said.

Elise Foley contributed reporting.

Sam Levine   |   January 15, 2015    5:21 PM ET

Attacks by the New York City police unions on Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) may have backfired.

New York City voters across racial lines disapprove of recent protests in which police officers turned their backs on de Blasio at the funeral of two police officers slain in the line of duty, a new Quinnipiac poll says.

Black, white and Hispanic voters disapprove of the decision by police officers to turn their backs 69 percent to 27 percent, the poll says.

New York voters of all races also disapprove of comments by police union leaders who said de Blasio had "blood on his hands" after two officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn while sitting in their patrol car in December.

Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the alleged gunman, had posted references in social media to the police killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York's Staten Island before shooting the officers. Union officials had complained the de Blasio was not supportive enough of the city's officers during protests that followed a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the Garner case.

“That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in a statement after the officers were killed. “When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

Voters said that those comments were "too extreme" by a margin of 77 percent to 17 percent. The poll found that "there is no party, gender, racial, borough or age group which finds the comments 'appropriate.'"

New York voters were more divided along racial lines when they were asked whether de Blasio had supported police. A majority of black and Hispanic voters who were surveyed said that the mayor supported police during his mayoral campaign and his first year in office, while white voters said 49 percent to 36 percent that he did not.

Lynch's December comments began a nasty public feud with de Blasio. Lynch has said that de Blasio has unfairly attacked police, who are only following the policies set by the mayor.

"If the policy is wrong then change it. We’ll follow our orders and effectively police that policy. But when he criticizes his department, he’s criticizing his own policy,” he said in an interview with NPR last week.

Lynch has demanded an apology from de Blasio, who has recently taken a somewhat harder line against those protesting for policing reforms.