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The Washington Report – April 10, 2015
14 Apr 2015

The Washington Report – April 10, 2015

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This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.



On a personal note, a dear friend of John and Diane’s and the entire Capstone family unexpectedly passed away this week. There is much too say about Marc Marotta — he touched so many and accomplished so much — but most important, he was a great dad and a great guy. As Gandhi said, “There are no goodbyes for us.” RIP.


Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, and Ross Willkom)


back to schoolBACK TO SCHOOL Politico: “Spring break is over, and lawmakers will have a full plate when they return from the two-week Easter-Passover recess Monday. A top priority when they return: the budget talks.. Both chambers approved their respective budgets before skipping town, but now they must conference them.”

IN THE HOUSE The Hill: “Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) outlined a busy April schedule in a memo circulated to House Republicans Thursday. First up when they return: tax and IRS bills, with votes hitting the floor just around April 15, Tax Day. They’ll also turn to appropriations – at least, the easy ones, including funding Military Construction and Veterans Affair and the Department of Energy. In the coming weeks the House will also reauthorize the Patriot Act, a touchy issue for libertarian-types.” ACROSS THE ROTUNDA The Senate, meanwhile, has some unfinished business with an anti-human-trafficking bill, held up by the Democrats because of an abortion provision tucked into the legislation. There’s also the Loretta Lynch nomination for Attorney General. But, more immediately, the Senate must decide what to do with Boehner-Pelosi Medicare reform deal to end the “doc fix.”


FIRST 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK Politico: “As Rand Paul announced his presidential campaign Tuesday, he called for a national defense ‘robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests.’ He also called for a ‘foreign policy that protects American interests and encourages stability – not chaos. … He is also planning to issue a series of position papers on America’s role in the world. It’s all part of a campaign strategy to eliminate the widespread suspicion that Paul is an isolationist echo of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the libertarian icon who frequently inveighed against U.S. intervention overseas.”

AT THE EVENT Playbook: “Paul deliberately cultivated a more mainstream image than the more fringe vibe that drew rabid but motley crowds to his father, then-Rep. Ron Paul, during his runs for president in 2008 and 2012. There were no “Audit the Fed!” posters: No supporters were allowed to bring in their own signs. So TV cameras picked up only messages that stuck to approved slogans like the longtime “Stand With Rand,” and the brand new “Defeat the Washington Machine.” ONE WORD MISSING … noticed that the senator didn’t use the word “libertarian” in his announcement. Paul … calls himself “constitutional conservative” or “libertarian-ish.”

BEST LATE NIGHT “Rand Paul Launches his campaign for 2016. Hey, he’s an eye doctor.  Shouldn’t he have waited till 2020?”

-Larry Wilmore, The Nightly Show

NPR: “It’s day three of Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, and he’s been showing a short temper with some select targets. … While these incidents might not do much for his likability in the long run, the testiness may not be all bad for his primary campaign. But even he told CNN Wednesday he thinks he should “have more patience” and “get better at holding my tongue and holding my temper.”

YOU MIGHT WONDER ABOUT RAND AND TV WOMEN Gail Collins “Stop the presses! — Rand Paul is also evolving. … Once Paul began sniffing the presidential air, position changes started coming rapid-fire, and he’s gotten quite touchy when people point that out. “No, no, no, nonononono,” he said, accusing NBC’s Savannah Guthrie of “editorializing” when she listed several of his recent shifts. It was reminiscent of an encounter he had a while back with Kelly Evans of CNBC. (“Shhh. Calm down a bit here, Kelly.”) The encounter with Evans came after Paul was trying to walk back one of his more interesting policy statements: opposition to mandatory vaccinations. … Paul has swung to the left on some issues, like immigration. He acknowledges that there’s global warming, which he believes should be combated in ways that do not inconvenience the coal industry. He has stuck to his guns on opposing government surveillance of American citizens, and you can buy a “Don’t Drone Me, Bro!” shirt on his website. (Also at the website: $20 Rand Paul Flip-Flops (although someone on the team apparently noted the irony and changed their name to Rand Paul Sandals.) And, of course, Paul is still a libertarian. Because he most definitely believes government should get off your backs and stop messing with your lives. Unless you happen to have an unwanted pregnancy.” MEAGAN KELLY Fox News “I as a female reporter say … “You [Paul] are entitled to push back on the interviewer just as much as you would if it were a man.”

“I’m testy with both male and female reporters.”

– Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), in his defense, “


THE OTHER 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT Politico: SASC Chairman John McCain made it official … he’s running for a sixth term.


44237a1871df8a639cbc016b_280x186HILLARY’S SUNDAY SCENARIO from Playbook (combining what reporters have heard all week): “Clinton is planning … to declare … on Twitter at noon … on Sunday … followed by a video and email announcement, then a series of conference calls mapping out a blitzkrieg tour beginning in Iowa and looking ahead to more early primary states. Clinton’s Sunday schedule is booked beginning with takeoff from New York to Iowa.”

OLDER, WHITE AND A WOMAN Hillary’s Path to Victory? Politico: “Clinton’s fighting-for-you brand-based more on guts and tenacity than any shared economic or cultural identity-could be crucial in states that are close but winnable. … Obama lost seniors … in both … presidential races, while Clinton did well with them in the 2008 primaries and her 2006 Senate campaign … The impact would be felt most in Florida and Iowa.”


AND THEN MARCO RUBIO CBS Miami/Yahoo: “Political pundits will be going into overdrive this weekend. … Marco Rubio is set to announce his 2016 campaign plans on Monday at Miami’s Freedom Tower. Speculation has run the gamut as to what he’ll do. A first-term senator representing Florida, the Cuban-American Rubio is expected to bypass a second term in favor of pursuing the presidency and becoming the first Hispanic president. Others say he’ll decide to seek a second term in the Senate and possibly throw his support to fellow Republican Jeb Bush, his mentor, if he decides to run for the Oval Office.”


SENATE DEFICIT HAWKS PLOT FIGHT OVER MEDICARE REFORM DEAL National Journal: “The Senate’s biggest fiscal hawks – think Sen. Jeff Sessions & Co. – are plotting over the break for ways to stop the House-passed bipartisan Medicare reform bill to end the ‘doc fix,’ according to a report by National Journal’s Dylan Scott. Their beef? The multi-billion-dollar cost that is not totally offset. ALTERNATIVES “Several options are said to be on the table to force changes to the doc-fix bill, according to sources on and off the Hill who are looking at the possibilities. Among them are: an amendment that would simply require the full cost of a permanent doc-fix be paid for; an amendment with specific proposals to make up the costs, drawing from a 2011 bill from then-Sens. Tom Coburn and Joe Lieberman; and a motion to strike a provision in the House bill that exempts it from a congressional requirement not to increase the deficit. The latter, forwarded in a two-sheet brief being circulated on the Hill, would then institute mandatory spending cuts to Medicare at the end of the year unless Congress came up with an alternative plan to cover the costs.”


DID THE COURT DOOM GOP’S IMMIGRATION SUIT? TPM: “A ruling this week by a federal appeals court signals bad news for Republican-led lawsuits seeking to stop President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, immigration law experts say. … A three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously dismissed a lawsuit by Mississippi against Obama’s 2012 program to protect young people brought to the U.S. illegally from the threat of deportation. Two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee said the state lacks ‘standing’ to sue because it did not prove it was injured by the program. Three immigration law experts say the ruling sets a precedent that could undermine the separate legal challenges to Obama’s more recent and more controversial program to help up to 5 million more undocumented immigrants, most of them parents of American citizens.”


BUCKLE UP Politico: Starting things off will be the Senate’s Iran bill, which Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is planning to mark up in committee. The White House has launched a major push to stop – or at least water down – Corker’s bill, which would give Congress a vote before sanctions on Iran are removed.

“With Congress poised to take up a bipartisan bill the White House fears could scuttle its delicate nuclear framework with Iran, Senate Democrats on Wednesday sought to modify the legislation to assuage President Barack Obama’s concerns. One proposed alteration would remove a requirement that the Obama administration certify that Iran isn’t directly involved in sponsoring terrorism attacks against the United States. Another would shorten – or potentially eliminate – a provision in the bill that would bar the president from lifting legislative sanctions while Congress reviews the bill for 60 days, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. “The proposed modifications stemmed from administration officials who have been contacting senators in both parties to explain their opposition to the legislation. … Publicly, the White House is standing by its veto threat, but with support for the measure nearing a veto-proof majority in the Senate, administration officials are also hoping to alter the bill in a way they can live with.”

KHAMENEI WEIGHS IN Politico: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei challenged on Thursday two of the United States’ bedrock principles in the nuclear negotiations, declaring that all economic sanctions would have to be lifted on the day any agreement is signed and that military sites would be strictly off limits to foreign inspectors. The assertions … could be tactical, intended to give both the negotiators and himself some political space to get hard-liners and others slowly accustomed to the framework of a deal with the United States and other world powers – reached just a week ago – that would guarantee that Iran will not make nuclear weapons. But they also illustrated the difficult hurdles that lie ahead.” REPUBLICANS REACT “Opponents of [the] nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers are finding new grist in statements from Iranian leaders that cast doubt on the agreement’s parameters.”

Washington hairTHE MOST WASHINGTON-LIKE HAIR Politico: “Last week’s nuclear agreement with Iran closes what some experts had called a potentially major loophole that could make it easy for Iran to reconstitute its program, according to unpublished details of the deal described by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz, who is taking the lead in explaining the deal for the Obama administration, told Politico in an interview that Iran won’t be allowed to reduce its 11-ton stockpile of partially enriched uranium by converting it to an oxide form, a process that is easily reversed.  That process would be akin to turning water into ice cubes, which can be melted at any time, experts say. A story suggested that Moniz had a ‘very un-Washington coiffure,” but as Christine Pelosi, pointed on on Twitter, Moniz actually has THE most Washington hair in Washington. (The Fix)


HASC begins working through its annual defense authorization bill, the meat and potatoes of the congressional defense calendar. The House appropriations process gets underway later this month.


CALLS TRACKED BEFORE 9/11 USA Today: ” “For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking … Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels’ distribution networks … The now-discontinued operation, … was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk … The DEA program did not intercept the content of … calls, but the records – which numbers were dialed and when – allowed agents to map suspects’ communications and link them to … other police and intelligence data. At first, the drug agency did so with help from military computers and intelligence analysts. … The data collection began in 1992 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.”


LOOKING FOR NEW FRIENDS Foreign Policy: “Months ago, small working groups known as “tiger teams” spread out from the Pentagon into the far reaches of Silicon Valley and beyond to begin working with commercial firms to explore the art of the possible. Alarmed by the rapid tech advances being made by Chinese and Russian forces — and the drones, precision rockets, and cyber attacks increasingly being used by terrorist groups — the military’s leadership saw a need to up its game in laying out a plan for the future. The groups will wrap up that work on April 13, Foreign Policy has learned, and will start writing a classified report for Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to digest some time over the summer.”


DOUBLE STANDARD OF MAKING THE POOR PROVE THEY ARE WORTHY … DEEP DIVE WashPost “Poverty looks pretty great if you’re not living in it. The government gives you free money to spend on steak and lobster … cruise vacations and psychic visits. Enough serious-minded people seem to think this is what the poor actually buy with their meager aid that we’ve now seen a raft of bills and proposed state laws to nudge them away from so much excess. MISSOURI wants to curtail what the poor eat with their food stamps (banning food stamp recipients from buying steak and seafood). Then there are the states that want to drug-test welfare recipients — the implication being that we worry the poor will convert their benefits directly into drugs. THIS LOGIC IS PROBLEMATIC 1. ECONOMIC … There’s virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way. 2. MORALITY … We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don’t drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don’t require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they’re pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don’t require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don’t use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor. 3. POLITICS … Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don’t recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That’s because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all. STAY WITH ME HERE, REALLY INTERESTING Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the “SUBMERGED STATE.” Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they’re submerged. They come to us in round-about ways, through smaller tax bills (or larger refunds), through payments we don’t have to make to doctors (thanks to Medicare), or in tuition we don’t have to pay to universities (because the G.I. Bill does that for us). Mettler’s research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don’t think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to “keep your government hands off my Medicare!” This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don’t realize they rely on government themselves. WHAT THE ‘SUBMERGED STATE’ MEANS FOR HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT It means that we have even less tolerance for programs that help the poor: We begrudge them their housing vouchers, for instance, even though government spends about four times as much subsidizing housing for upper-income homeowners. YES These proposed laws — which insist that government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy, that they spend government money how the government wants them to, that they waive their privacy and personal freedom to get it — are also simply a reflection of a basic double-standard.”


HE WAS UNARMED.  HE WAS SHOT IN THE BACK.  HE WAS A PERSON. Salon: “On Saturday morning, Michael Thomas Slager, a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, shot and killed Walter Scott, after pulling Scott over for a broken tail light. Slager initially claimed that he used his taser on Scott after Scott ran during the traffic stop.  He then claimed that Scott tried to take his taser. Therefore, Slager was forced to use his gun. But video shot by an anonymous bystander shows a very different, chilling version of events … [and] on Tuesday, Slager was charged with first-degree murder. … Walter’s Scott’s life and the unjust taking of that life by Michael Slager are the only facts that matter.”


“GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS” [in Boston Marathon bombing]: Boston Globe, “Jurors convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, [the Cambridge high school graduate who fashioned himself into an Islamic warrior against America] after 11 hours: Death penalty phase may start Monday.”


MOOD MUSIC WSJ “Rising Optimism Fuels Deal Rebound, “Numerous industries are contributing to the surge in deal-making that has propelled world-wide merger-and-acquisition volume past $1 trillion so far in 2015. … At the current pace, mergers-and-acquisitions volume for the full year would exceed $3.7 trillion, making it the second-biggest year in history after 2007.”


A LEGEND TO RETIRE Bob Schieffer, host of ‘Face the Nation,’ will retire this summer.  Schieffer, who is 78, has been with CBS News for 46 years. 2015 marked his 24th year anchoring ‘Face the Nation,’ which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year.’ No successor has been announced.

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