US & Canada

Washington's blizzard freezes the Republican agenda

Nicolas Garcia takes a photo of Brienna Harold on top of a snow pile made by snow ploughs in front of the U.S. Capitol building Image copyright EPA

The blizzard left nearly 2ft (60cm) of snow in the Washington area, making it of one of the biggest storms in the city's history.

For Republicans the weather has meant delays and bad news - at least for their campaign against Democrats.

Every month US state department officials release a batch of emails from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's private computer server. They're following an order from a federal judge who said that the emails must be shown to the public.

A batch of emails was scheduled for release on 29 January.

On Friday, though, state department lawyers asked the federal court for an extension on their deadline for releasing the emails, saying the blizzard would hamper their work.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Republicans say politics, not snow, could slow the release of Hillary Clinton's emails from a private server

They said they'd planned to spend time on the task over the weekend. But now wouldn't have time to process the emails and asked for an extra month to complete their work.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said it wasn't the snow that slowed the state department officials down - but politics.

He said they were trying to avoid "damaging developments in Hillary Clinton's email scandal" this month, shortly before voters go to Iowa caucuses and choose candidates in the New Hampshire primary. The caucuses are on Monday, and the primary is on 9 February.

Clinton and other candidates are campaigning in these states in a tough race for the presidency. Republicans believe that her emails may show signs of wrongdoing - which will embarrass or discredit her as a candidate.

And now the US House of Representatives has cancelled votes all week because of the snow.

This will delay the efforts of Republicans to override US President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would repeal parts of his Affordable Care Act.

Some Republicans want to knock down the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare, because they said it's bad for the US economy, among other things.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans didn't expect victory with the vote. They knew they didn't have enough support in Congress to override the president's veto.

Image copyright AP
Image caption House Speaker Paul Ryan was planning for a vote on the president's healthcare law - until the blizzard hit Washington

Still they believed it was important as a symbolic act. Now it will have to be postponed.

"A lot of folks are just annoyed because they're not able to do something that would give the administration heartburn," said Aaron Jones, the director of congressional relations at the Wilson Center and a former staffer for a Republican congressman, Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

Not surprisingly leading Democrats have said little about the delayed vote. This week they've been relatively sanguine about the weather and its effect on the city.

In the past Obama has complained about the way Washingtonians react to snow.

Not long after he arrived, he heard classes at his daughters' school, Sidwell Friends, were cancelled because roads were icy. He thought people should buck up.

"We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness," he said.

This time, though, he hasn't chastised people in Washington for not being flinty enough, especially as the storm has led to fatal car crashes and other deaths.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Unlike many in Washington, President Obama was back at work on Monday

His own plans the week seem unchanged, however.

He travelled around Washington on Monday and made snow jokes, pretending to hold up a shovel before he got on board a presidential helicopter. Meanwhile his dogs, Bo and Sunny, have been playing in the yard.

Others in Washington said the weather delays mean little.

After digging his car out of the snow, Jones spoke to me on a mobile phone. He said the snow might slow things down. But it wouldn't stop them from getting done.

People would still be able read the Clinton emails even if they're released late. (The court was closed on Monday, and it's not clear what the judges will say about an extension.)

Republicans will vote on Obamacare when they return to Capitol Hill.

"The theatre's going to continue," he said, "once they come back."

Follow @Tara_Mckelvey.

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