Another somber Friday morning. A Bastille Day fireworks celebration was shattered by death and mayhem last night. As French Prime Minister Holland said, “France is tearful. It is saddened.” So are we. Our thoughts and prayers once again turn toward France. And other news of the week.
JET FUMES … CONGRESS ON 7 WEEK VACA WashPost “It isn’t unusual for Congress to leave town for its annual August recess with some business left unfinished, but its schedule has been cut short this year by the election, providing less time to complete work on key issues when lawmakers return in September. While Republican leaders earlier this year highlighted their desire to run a smooth budget process to avoid the year-end drama of year’s past, work on spending bills has stalled in recent weeks. Congress must now pass a stop-gap spending bill before Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Congress started the month with a long to-do list, but it left town Thursday … with most of it unfinished. The House and Senate on Thursday wrapped up business for the summer without finalizing legislation to combat the Zika virus, addressing the recent string of gun violence or making significant progress toward completing this year’s budget work. FAMILIAR RITUAL Democrats and Republicans pointed the finger at each other over who is to blame. It’s a gamble by leaders in both parties that voters will hold the other side accountable for gridlock come November.
The issue drawing the most attention is the failure to provide funding for efforts to combat the Zika virus, which causes birth defects and has spread through South America and the Caribbean.The House and Senate both passed bills to provide the funding, but a bipartisan deal on a final package could not be struck. YOU WANT ZIKA FUNDING? Democrats for the second time blocked a $1.1 billion funding package arguing it contains “poison pill” measures, such as restrictions on Planned Parenthood, and is paid for by ill advised cuts to other federal health programs.“We passed a perfectly responsible piece of legislation,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday. Congressional Democrats and the White House scoffed at this assessment charging Republicans could drop their controversial policy riders if they really wanted to enact the spending. Health officials have warned that the $589 million the Obama administration redirected from fighting Ebola to combating Zika earlier this year is insufficient and that the failure to approve new funding is holding up work on creating a vaccine as well as other needed steps.”
CONGRESS PASSED A GMO LABELING BILL. NOBODY’S SUPER HAPPY ABOUT IT NPR “After years of bitter debate and legislative stalemate over the labeling of genetically modified ingredients, a compromise proposal sailed through Congress in breathtaking speed over the past three weeks. The House of Representative passed the measure on Thursday with solid support from both Democrats and Republicans. It now goes to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it. Within a few years, consumers will be able to find out whether any food in the supermarket contains GMO ingredients. But they won’t necessarily see that information on the package. Instead, consumers may have to scan a “QR code” — those little square codes that you see on airline boarding passes — to get that information. Neither side in the labeling battle sounded completely satisfied. “I don’t think that it’s the best bill that we could have, but it’s the best bill we could pass,” says Richard Wilkins, a Delaware farmer who is president of the American Soybean Association, which opposes mandatory GMO labels. “We’re not supporting the final bill, because it does allow companies to use the option of a QR code,” but, “It’s not an insignificant achievement that a Republican Congress has decided to mandate a national GMO disclosure on every food package that contains genetically engineered ingredients,” says Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group. The labeling battle isn’t over, it now shifts to USDA to work out the details of the new labeling scheme.”
SENATE APPROVES BILL TO COMBAT OPIOID ADDICTION NYTs “The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, sending to the president’s desk the most sweeping drug legislation in years in a rare instance of consensus in Congress.The measure, which passed, 92 to 2, would strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, largely by empowering medical professionals and law enforcement officials with more tools to help drug addicts. It would also expand access to a drug that emergency medical workers could use to help reverse overdoses and improve treatment for the incarcerated. President Obama is expected to sign the bill. SHOWING YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WHILE NOT ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING Tensions over spending threatened to derail the measure as Democrats insisted the Senate also vote on immediate funding to pay for the programs the bill authorizes. Republicans said funding would be addressed in the appropriations process later this year. A REMINDER Congress has yet to send a spending bill to President Obama for his signature this year. With the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Congress will have just a few weeks to do so when it returns from its recess.”
DEAR CONGRESS … IT’S FESTIVUS FOR THE NDAA … LOVE SEC DEF MorningD “Defense Secretary Ash Carter has sent the House and Senate Armed Services Committees a lengthy list of objections– airing his grievances — to their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, urging lawmakers to address the Pentagon’s concerns during conference committee negotiations. The 23-page letter sent to the Republican and Democratic committee leaders expressed opposition to everything from shifting $18 billion in war funds to boost the base budget to rejecting a new round of base closures and reductions to the Littoral Combat Ship program.” McCAIN TO CARTER … GET SOME TUMS “If Secretary Carter has heartburn over the NDAA, I suggest he take a couple of TUMS, read the bill a little more closely, and rather than issue a long list of complaints, come up with some better ideas about how to address the endemic problems afflicting the Department of Defense.” So there.
GROUNDHOG DAY FOR DEFENSE SPENDING For the second time this month, Senate Democrats blocked the defense appropriations bill on the floor. Senate Republicans forced a procedural vote on the bill Thursday for the second time in as many weeks as the Senate prepared to leave town. The vote on the defense bill failed, 55-42, five short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.”
THANKS EVAN BAYH The Fix “A popular Indiana Democrat with $10 million in his war chest is running for an open Senate seat. In our list of top 10 most competitive Senate races in 2016, Republican-held Indiana was not on it. Indiana Democrats’ surprise game of musical chairs is big news for not only the open Indiana Senate race (GOP Sen. Dan Coats is retiring), but for Democrats’ chances to take back control of the entire Senate. In a map full of opportunities for Democrats, they just got another one. Bayh is 1. well known in the state: Bayh was Indiana’s governor for almost a decade and then a popular U.S. senator for more than a decade. (His father was a U.S. senator, too. 2. He’s suffered no major controversies: Bayh won his two Senate elections with more than 60% of the vote. His 1998 election with 64 percent of the vote was the largest percentage of the vote ever recorded for a Democrat in a Senate race in Indiana, and 3. He has lots of cash.
Now, two nonpartisan political analysts just moved the Indiana Senate race from favoring Republicans to a tossup or even favoring Democrats. And that means Republicans will have one more seat to worry about in their already stretched-thin efforts to hold on to their majority this fall.”
CAN THE GOP SENATE MAJORITY SURVIVE DONALD TRUMP? NYTimes Magazine “The party’s most vulnerable down-ticket candidates try to escape the shadow of a presidential campaign that is imperiling their prospects in November. Click here for insightful, telling read.
The party currently holds a 54-46 majority. Of the 34 seats up for re-election this year, 24 are occupied by Republicans. Six of those are in states to which the Republicans managed to lay claim in the Tea Party tsunami of 2010, but that President Obama won two years later. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, the Democrats need to retake only four of those six to control the Senate (because the vice president gets a Senate vote in the event of a tie).
REPUBLICAN CONVENTION OPENS IN 3 DAYS.
YOU CAN’T CARRY A TENNIS BALL NEAR THE GOP CONVENTION. BUT YOU CAN BRING A GUN. WashPost “Planning to visit the 1.7-square-mile area in downtown Cleveland where many of the events and protests connected to the Republican National Convention will be held next week? Be sure not to take tennis balls, metal-tipped umbrellas or canned goods, which will be banned — but no need to leave behind your AR-15 or other guns. Those will be allowed under Ohio’s open-carry laws. That a can of tuna fish is deemed more dangerous than military-style weaponry is indicative of the irrationality of U.S. gun policy. Don’t expect a fix anytime soon. Cleveland officials are preparing for large numbers of protesters (who have said they plan to carry weapons). No guns will be allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena or within the perimeter controlled by the Secret Service, but Ohio’s open-carry laws will allow those who legally own guns to take them into the event zone. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CAN’T TELL THE GOOD GUY WITH A GUN FROM THE BAD GUY WITH A GUN? “The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back,” Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. Last week in Dallas (where five police officers were shot to death and seven others wounded), police were hampered by confusion over which people with guns were suspects to be apprehended and which were protesters who had brought their guns because Texas law allowed them. “There’s been the presumption,” said Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown, “that a good guy with a gun is the best way to resolve some of these things. Well, we don’t know who the good guy is versus who the bad guy is if everybody starts shooting.”
BERNIE ENDORSES HILL I’m FOR HER BECAUSE SHE’S ME “Sanders … made clear in his speech that while he was saying the word “endorsing,” he was doing so, in large part, because he was convinced that Clinton had come to agree with him on most if not all of the major planks of his campaign platform. Sanders seems to be saying I’m for her because she’s me, Sanders seemed to be saying.”
HILL BUZZ Politico “Virginia Democrats say that Sen. Tim Kaine’s wife is a leading candidate for a Senate appointment if he becomes vice president. Ann Holton is the secretary of education in Virginia. Her father, Linwood Holton, was the Republican governor of Virginia in the 1970s. Holton went to Princeton and Harvard Law, where she met Kaine. Others say Gov. Terry McAuliffe will appoint himself.”
LOOKING RESOLUTE AND STEADY … OR NOT In a stunning move late Thursday, Trump said he was scrapping his plans to announce a running mate because of the terrorist attack in southern France.”
–@adamnagourney: “Is there a risk that Trump postponement of VP press conference cause of France signals to terrorists that they can dictate events in the US?”
SUS-PENCE OVER … TRUMP TWEETS IT’S OFFICIAL – Pence to be his running mate.
PENCE PICK UNDERMINES KEY TRUMP WAR ARGUMENT MorningD “Indiana Gov. Mike Pence … now emerging as Donald Trump’s likely VP pick … could end up undermining one of Trump’s key foreign policy arguments against rival Hillary Clinton – her vote as a senator in 2002 for the Iraq War. Just like Clinton, Pence … voted for the 2002 resolution to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, now widely considered a major blunder that destabilized the region and required a huge commitment of U.S. blood and treasure. As a congressman, Pence was a leading supporter of the war, continuing to staunchly defend it even after things went south. And some of his past statements on Iraq amount to pretty much the opposite of the views Trump is now pushing.”
WATER UNDER THE POLITICAL BRIDGE Last year, Pence called Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from immigrating into the country “offensive and unconstitutional.”
NEED TO KNOW According to historian Michael Beschloss, more vice-presidents of the U.S. have come from Indiana than any other state except New York.
DEPT. OF ‘YA CAN’T MAKE IT UP!’ Playbook “Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci is hosting a high-dollar fundraiser next week at a men’s-only country club. The event – $3,000 for PACs and $1,500 for individuals – will be held at the prestigious “male-only” Sharon Country Club. Renacci’s chief of staff … emailed donors highlighting the course’s single-sex status with links to a historical document detailing how “Sharon’s founders spared no expense in producing this fine, new course and a clubhouse that has strictly male appeal.” He also linked to a 2012 story where Renacci’s Democratic opponent attacked him for his membership at the club. Renacci’s team isn’t backing away from the affiliation — they’re embracing it.”
The State Department plans to let you renew your passport online starting in 2017. To protect passports from fraud and tampering, it will also implement a redesign with a polycarbonate data page, laser engravings, micro-text and special inks.