By Tracey Webb [twitter-follow screen_name='WebbWriterguru']
Get your daily scoop of what State of the Union is watching today, October 31, 2013.
1. Frightening numbers for Obama. This Halloween is neither trick nor treat for the President, whose public opinion numbers have plunged. According to a Gallup's daily tracking poll released Thursday, only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing, with 51% giving him a thumbs down. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows the President with only a 42 percent job approval rating - an all-time low for Obama in that poll - and a 51 percent disapproval rating. All recent polling suggests the overall reason the President's numbers have taken a dive is because of a series of controversies that have stymied his administration and Americans are frustrated and angry about the direction of the country.
2. NSA on defense... again. The National Security Agency is denying allegations that it broke into the overseas servers of Google and Yahoo. The Washington Post reports that the NSA tapped into main links that connect both internet companies' data centers around the world, giving the agency access to millions of user accounts, including many that belong to Americans. The NSA insists it is not focused the accounts of American users. But that explanation doesn't satisfy Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who wants more reforms and greater oversight of the NSA's surveillance program. "Today there's a global communications infrastructure, so there's a greater risk of collecting on Americans when the NSA collects overseas," Wyden told the Washington Post.
3. Booker's big day. Former Newark mayor Cory Booker is officially the Senate's newest member. He was sworn in Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden. Booker, who won a special election last week to succeed New Jersey's late Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, joins South Carolina Republican Tim Scott as one of two African-Americans in the Senate.
4. Things looking up for ENDA. The Senate appears close to having enough votes to pass landmark legislation banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid has said he plans to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA, up for a vote next week. The entire 55-member Senate Democratic Caucus and four Republicans - Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, now support ENDA, leaving the measure one vote shy of avoiding a filibuster. Four other Republican senators - Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Oho and Dean Heller of Nevada are undecided. It’s unclear about ENDA’s chances for passage in the House.
5. Senate Dems vent at White House. Top Obama administration officials got an earful from Senate Democrats over the troubled rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. The lawmakers met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and former acting White House budget director Jeff Zients, who is spearheading the administration's response to the website problems. "I don’t think there is confidence by anyone in the room," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. "This is more of a show-me moment. We were all confident the system would be up and operating October 1 and now we’re not confident until it’s real,” But Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, seemed sympathetic to the administration's effort to fix the problems. "They’re working hard. They recognize the problems. They’re putting a lot of resources into it,” Sanders said.