This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
What a week … the Budget, QDR, a major confrontation with Russia and other highlights.
The Capstone National Partners Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne and Joyce Rubenstein)
UKRAINE CRISIS POLITICS
Obama is a “weak and indecisive president that invited aggression” from Russia against Ukraine
-Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
“I think the rhetoric among some GOPers over the weekend … about Putin’s actions being driven by perceptions of the president’s weakness is as disingenuous as it is irresponsible. Republicans know that, like in Georgia under President Bush in 2008, Putin acts in his sphere when he feels the need to act, regardless of who’s in the White House, as he knows how limited the West’s options are near him generally. No matter who’s president, the only options in rolling this back are allowing emotions to cool, avoiding military escalation and confrontation by Ukrainians and rapidly using the limited but scalable economic and diplomatic levers that exist in Europe and the U.S.”
– John Ullyot, a Republican strategist and former Senate Armed Services Committee spokesman
THE PRESIDENT’S BUDGET To summarize, “President Obama sent Congress a $3.9 trillion budget blueprint Tuesday that seeks fresh spending to boost economic growth but also aims to tame the national debt by raising taxes on the wealthy, squeezing payments to health-care providers and overhauling immigration laws. Congressional Republicans immediately rejected the request for fiscal 2015, saying that the proposal would bust limits on agency spending that the White House endorsed in December. But the blueprint, the fifth of Obama’s presidency, was not designed primarily to influence the latest round of Capitol Hill budget talks. Instead, it charts a course for Obama’s final years in office, laying out a familiar wish list of significant domestic initiatives.” (Washington Post)
BUDGET POLITICS KABUKI THEATER Politico writes, “This year will be no different. After all, the critical spending caps that will help keep the government open are already in place and both sides have reasons to avoid tough votes on appropriations bills before November. Yet as tradition dictates, Washington is sure to proceed with a mad dash to analyze – and pick apart – most of the goodies stuffed into the latest White House budget.”
SOME DEFENSE BUDGET NUMBERS TO KEEP IN MIND Budget season is awash in numbers, and it can be difficult to keep them all straight. So, here are just a few to keep in mind as numbers are tossed around willy-nilly over the next few weeks (from Politico, Defense News, The Hill, DoD):
$496 billion is the Pentagon’s base budget request for fiscal 2015.
$115 billion… Since the budget is this amount above sequestration caps over a five year period through 2019, if lawmakers do not overturn sequestration, defense officials say more cuts will be necessary.
$79 billion is the placeholder number included in the budget for Overseas Contingency Operations (These days that mostly means Afghanistan). 8,000 to 12,000 are the numbers of NATO troops – the bulk of them likely Americans – the Pentagon supports keeping in Afghanistan after this year… if the bilateral security agreement is signed. If not, all U.S. troops could still be withdrawn.
$58.7 billion … Black Budget estimate (on classified programs) – 1.5% increase from last year.
The FY 2015 FYDP only funds Army active end strength at 420,000, Marine Corps active end strength at 175,000.
WHAT DOES “FY 2015 FYDP” STAND FOR? Future Year Defense Program which spans FY2015-19.
$6 billion is how much another round of BRAC would cost, according to the Pentagon’s CFO, Hale. After that upfront cost, a new round of base closures would save DoD roughly $2 billion a year “in perpetuity,” he told the SASC.
$5.1 billion proposed for cybersecurity, some of which will go toward the continued development of 133 special cyber mission teams which will have various functions, from assisting with battlefield attacks to protecting DOD websites from incursions and be the nation’s frontline defense against internet-based attacks on infrastructure. The Pentagon expects to have 6,000 cyber mission team staffers in place by 2016, including 13 national mission teams with eight national support teams.
$2.1 billion to continue developing the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and buy three of the vessels in fiscal 2015, one fewer than previously planned. No decision has been made on which of the two companies building different versions – Lockheed Martin Corp. and Austal Ltd. – will see one of its ships delayed by a year.
$26 billion is the Pentagon’s portion of the administration’s proposed $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” Next week the DoD will submit “line item” details to Congress. We do know that about 40% of the defense portion would be spent on readiness, 40% on modernization and 10% on military construction.
Check out Steve Moffit’s Blog post on the President’s FY 2015 Budget.
THE HANGOVER SETS IN Politico writes, The Day After Budget Day, “The long slog of budget hearings began on Capitol Hill, with Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale testifying before the SASC.
THE QDR Jacksonville Daily News writes, “This DoD budget request supports the strategy in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which was released in conjunction with the budget request. The 2014 QDR builds upon and updates the strategy submitted in January 2012, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” preparing for the future by rebalancing defense efforts in a period of fiscal challenges. For his part, HASC Chair, Buck McKeon (R-CA), made good on this threat to “reject” this year’s QDR. The California Republican vowed …to put forward legislation requiring the Pentagon to rewrite and resubmit the document, which lays out the military’s long-term strategy and anticipated threats. Required every four years by Congress, the QDR is intended in part to detail an “optimal” force structure for carrying out the nation’s military strategy, independent of budget constraints. But McKeon said this year’s review does the opposite.
“In defiance of the law, this QDR provides no insight into what a moderate-to-low risk strategy would be, is clearly budget driven, and is shortsighted,” McKeon said.
THE PAROCHIAL PARADE The WSJ writes, “…we got a little taste of how lawmakers will push back against some of DoD’s proposed budget cuts. No surprise: local interests rule the day.”
“I was more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress. Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous or wasteful, was sacrosanct.”
– Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (no truer words!) in his memoir
THROW THE BUMS OUT. EVEN MINE! In a nutshell, that’s how the country feels about members of Congress, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Fewer than one in four (22%) say they are inclined to reelect their representative in Congress, as support for incumbents has waned to its lowest point since the late 1980s. It’s the latest sign that Americans not only hold Congress as a whole in low regard, they are frowning upon their own member, too. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they are inclined to look around for somebody else in the November midterm election. That includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.”
CONSERVATIVE SUPERBOWL Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is up and running. The annual gathering of conservatives is always interesting, bringing out the most conservative elements inside (and outside) the Republican Party.
SCOTT FREE Hotline writes, “The list of featured CPAC speakers is a who’s-who of prospective 2016 contenders, including Paul Ryan, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others. One notable no-show? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the few to also face a competitive 2014 reelection campaign.”
AND McCONNELL BRINGS A GUN The Senate minority leader received his biggest round of applause at CPAC when he entered the stage holding a rifle over his head, then handed it to Sen. Tom Coburn and thanked him for his time in the Senate. (NJ)
ISSA’S MEA CULPA Politico reports, “Controversial Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has apologized to the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee following an ugly incident during a Wednesday hearing on alleged IRS abuses. Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had the microphone for Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings cut off during the middle of a statement by the Maryland lawmaker. The move infuriated Cummings and other Democrats, who went to the House floor on Thursday with a motion condemning Issa’s actions. For his part, Issa admitted that he should have been ‘more sensitive’ to Cummings’s request to offer a statement during an appearance by Lois Lerner, an IRS official at the center of the scandal. … But Issa and Cummings are likely to return to their partisan battling next week, when Issa is expected to move forward with a contempt resolution against Lois Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of the controversy.”
NEVER QUIT The Fix reports, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) year-long fight to dramatically overhaul how the Pentagon handles cases of sexual assault and rape fell short Thursday afternoon when she failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance her proposal to a final vote. Even though she lost, Gillibrand is a big winner. Here’s why: 1. She bolsters her liberal credentials. 2. She’s boosted her standing in the Senate: Most impressively, she stitched together a coalition unlike most ever assembled in the modern Senate. Gillibrand found 54 colleagues of both parties who agreed with her. In a chamber seriously lacking in bipartisanship, that’s a notable accomplishment. 3. She bolsters her standing with women and the gay community. Just a few hours after the vote, Gillibrand sent her campaign donors a message, entitled, “Never quit.” 4. She can say “I told you so” if the Pentagon doesn’t fix the problem: Gillibrand chairs a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, giving her direct oversight of how the Pentagon is handling cases of assault and rape.”
“IF YOU LIKE YOUR PLAN YOU CAN KEEP IT” FIX EXTENDED The Obama administration announced new ACA rules, including a delay allowing insurers to continue offering non-compliant plans until 2016. (National Journal)
SENATE REJECTS OBAMA NOMINEE FOR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT The Hill writes, “Seven Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting Debo Adegbile’s nomination to be chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile was involved in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in the killing of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.”
27 DAYS AND COUNTING Congress has until March 31 to pass a permanent fix to the broken SGR formula that pays Medicare physicians, or else big cuts will hit providers.
DOC FIX National Journal writes, “House Republicans are planning to bring up a permanent “doc fix” bill next week — paid for by repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare. …The search for a permanent fix has been a remarkably bipartisan process so far, and lawmakers saved the offset for last to try to keep it that way, but this is clearly a non-starter for the administration.
BACKGROUNDER Key Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate committees that control Medicare have finally agreed on a policy that would transition to a new payment system based more on quality, they hadn’t found a way to cover the $138 billion, 11-year cost.”
FLOOD INSURANCE NPR writes, “The House overwhelmingly passed legislation to undo flood insurance reform that Congress passed less than two years ago. In 2012, Maxine Waters (D-CA) put her name on a bill [Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act] that was meant to help the National Flood Insurance Program dig itself out of huge debt. Last night, she said she made a big mistake.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES The Act mandated higher flood insurance premiums, some skyrocketed 500%- 600%. The Senate, which already passed its own bill, is expected to quickly take up the House version.”
HOUSE FIRES SHOT AT CLIMATE RULES National Journal writes, “Ten Democrats joined 219 Republicans to help the House pass legislation Thursday that would limit President Obama’s efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. The measure has little chance of getting through the Democratic-controlled Senate, and even if it did the White House issued a veto threat against the bill earlier this week.”
IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS…THE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF 1 WORLD TRADE CENTER. From Time (page down). Awesome
THREAT TO GUACAMOLE NJ writes, “Guacamole may be no more if climate change has its way,” Chipotle, the Mexican food chain said in an investor report obtained by Think Progress. “Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on tone price or availability of some of our ingredients.”