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The Washington Report – April 11, 2014

11 Apr 2014

The Washington Report – April 11, 2014

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

 

Congress Debates the Big Mac. Really. … Sebelius …  It Must Be Something In The Water … McCutcheon. Meh … Where’s Ukraine? … Marriage Gap in 2014 … The Third Rail: Dry Cleaning Price Inequity …  and other news of the week.

The House and Senate are on Spring Break and will be back on April 28th. The Washington Report return on May 2nd.

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein and the CNP Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kate Venne)

If you want to connect with us, find us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.
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b22ac5fa35fc532be2b50ac2_280x186LEAST PRODUCTIVE CONGRESS The Fix writes, “In terms of actual laws or bills passed, the 113th Congress is headed toward historic levels of unproductivity. At the moment, according to the Federal Register, there have only been 23 public laws enacted in the second session of the 113th Congress — a number that virtually ensures that this Congress will pass the fewest number of laws of any in history. (It’s hard to imagine that, in an election year, Congress is going to go on a law-passing spree.)

PRODUCTIVE” IS A RELATIVE TERM Whether a divided Congress should be productive — as defined by passing bills or making laws — is a whole different (and much more contentious) debate.  Whether you think Congress’ main job should be passing bills/laws or not is, like most things in our world these days, largely dependent on which party you identify with. Democrats see Republicans’ focus on things like repealing/changing Obamacare and Benghazi as cul-de-sac issues aimed at appealing to their base.  Republicans view the idea of passing proposals championed by a Democratic president and a Democratic-controlled Senate solely to be considered “productive” ludicrous. No matter which way you see it, it’s clear that the 113th Congress will be the least productive in history.”

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CIVIL RIGHTS SUMMIT This week, political leaders and civil rights icons confabbed at the LBJ Presidential Library, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with four of the five living U.S. presidents attending. President Obama delivered the keynote, lauding President Lyndon Johnson’s ability to grasp like few others the power of government to bring about real change.

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EQUAL PAY “As expected, a bill intended to close the gender pay gap fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance through Congress” on Wednesday, “with a vote of 53-44.” The measure “failed to garner any Republican support.” (National Journal) Had it passed, the bill would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker who inquires about or discloses her or his wages or the wages of another employee in a complaint or investigation. It also would make employers liable to civil actions.”

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TED CRUZ PLAYED BY THE RULES…AND WON The House unanimously approved a bill (already passed by the Senate) sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – not known for having an interest in going along to get along on Capitol Hill — that would “effectively ban Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations from the United States by barring known terrorists from entering the country,” reports Politico. “It now heads to the White House to await action by President Barack Obama.”

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BUDGET SQUEAKER “The House approved a fiscal 2015 budget on Thursday that would cut federal spending by $5 trillion and significantly revamp social welfare programs. The measure, which cleared the House 219-205, is essentially a political document that has no chance of being passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.”(Politico)

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4402deadd83c82d7874265a3_280x147CONGRESS DEBATED THE BIG MAC. WITH CHARTS. SERIOUSLY. The Fix writes, “…on Tuesday afternoon, while debating a bill that would require the CBO to stop assuming annual increases in discretionary spending due to inflation, two members of the House budget committee fell deep down a chart-created rabbit hole … and used hamburger charts, no less [to prove the point] that without inflation, the CBO budget would, over time, become more and more detached from reality.”

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Eleven “Senate Democrats, including five up for re-election this year, are pressing … Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and they say they want a decision by the end of next month.” (Wall Street Journal) “Republican billionaires Paul Singer and Seth Klarman are supporting gay rights activists in a $2.2 million campaign to get the … House to extend workplace protections to the LGBT community. An umbrella group called Americans for Workplace Opportunity wants a vote on a bill passed by the Senate before the end of the year.” (Politico)

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SEBELIUS STEPS DOWN WaPo writes, “HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has resigned, ending a tumultuous tenure as the public face of the Affordable Care Act. Obama nominated OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to take Sebelius’s place.

TAINTED LEGACY Politico writes, “Kathleen Sebelius waited as long as she could … until the Obamacare enrollment season was over, and the once-broken website was so firmly back on track it held up under the last-minute surge. She even waited for one last high point: her announcement at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday that sign-ups had risen to 7.5 million, thanks to the extra time the Obama administration had granted to people who said they couldn’t finish their enrollments on time. And then, just like that, she was gone. … ‘There’s always going to be an asterisk by her name,’ said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Democrats have been privately furious at her ever since the sputtering launch.

ADMIT IT…Before Sebelius, did you ever know the name of any HHS Secretary? You should.  HHS has 77,000 full-time employees and oversees Medicare and Medicaid as well as the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many smaller agencies. For that reason, the department’s work touches the lives of more Americans than most other parts of the government.

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EMPLOYER-BASED INSURANCE DID WHAT? NJ writes, “The RAND Corporation threw everyone for a loop with its latest report on health insurance. RAND said that 9.3 million uninsured people have gotten coverage in the last year — which seems like a sign that Obamacare is working. But it also said that the vast majority of those people have gotten covered through employer-based insurance — not Medicaid or private individual plans, which are the two ways Obamacare directly expands coverage options. The report doesn’t cover the entire open enrollment period, so its data aren’t complete, but it somehow managed to undercut one of the biggest criticisms of Obamacare (it’ll erode employer-based health care) as well as one of its biggest selling points (the exchanges will produce a huge coverage expansion).”

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HOW IS HAL ROGERS LIKE GEORGE PATTON? Politico writes, “The House Appropriations Committee gave quick approval Wednesday to the first two of its 12 annual spending bills, including new funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the daily operations of the Capitol itself. Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) wants to move quickly, aiming to “mark up all dozen bills by the end of June and have them across the House floor before the August recess. He chose the easiest bills Wednesday, but in his haste, admitted he’s become a little like Gen. George Patton’s tanks – outrunning their supply lines in the race across Europe.”

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POWWOW ON SEQUESTRATION  “Those wishing for sequestration to go the way of the Dodo should not get too excited just yet…but a handful of senators have gotten together to talk about ways to resolve sequestration,” reports Politico. The group of senators – all on the Armed Services Committee – included “Angus King, the Maine independent who last week had pitched the idea for the sequester session, plus Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republicans Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama,”

VERY HUSH-HUSH For the most part, senators said the meeting was encouraging but wouldn’t provide details, noting that even committee aides weren’t allowed to attend.”

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SCREENING FOR SOLDIERS A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill calling for mental-health screening for recruits before they can join the military. (The Hill)

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HEY ARMY… FACE REALITY! Defense News writes, “Given the pull of other national priorities, the Army’s request for three to four years’ worth of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding after the US pulls out of Afghanistan is in peril, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MISS) said during the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing this week, bluntly warning the generals that ‘the Army must face the reality that this may not be achievable.’ While the supplemental budget has decreased markedly over the past several years, the 2015 request remains in limbo, with US forces still unsure what mission — if any — will remain in 2015 and beyond. The White House has put a $79 billion “placeholder” line in the budget for 2015, less than 2014’s $85 billion request.

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‘KISSING CONGRESSMAN’ The Ouachita Citizen writes, “Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA), “who campaigned for office last fall as a devout Christian and devoted husband and father, was caught in video surveillance two days before Christmas passionately embracing and kissing one of his congressional aides.” In a statement issued Monday, McAllister said: “There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness.

IT MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER The Fix writes, “This week, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) joined the most welcoming society in Louisiana politics. After getting caught kissing a staffer, — the video has gone viral — he is now one of many politicians in the state to have a scandal appended to his Wikipedia page, another data point in the argument that there must be something in the water there that makes politicians a magnet for bad behavior. (Check out the long list)

THE HOUSE IS NOT A FRAT HOUSE Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) took to the floor and proposed legislation that would require all members of the House and their aides to undergo annual sexual harassment training.”

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McCUTCHEON. MEH. The Fix writes, “It’s been a big month for the intersection of money and politics. Eight days ago, the Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on contributions to candidates and political committees. …Regardless of party, a lot more money will be flowing. So, people must be very interested in this, right? Wrong. In fact, the American public barely took notice. A new Pew Research Center poll is the latest indicator of how little attention people pay to campaign finance matters. It also underscores the challenge Democrats face this year as they seek to make the billionaire Koch brothers into an electoral issue. About half the public (49%) said they didn’t follow last week’s Supreme Court decision closely at all. Just 13% said they followed the ruling “very closely,” meaning it was greatly overshadowed by a handful of other events, such as the Fort Hood shooting, the missing Malaysia Airlines flight and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine situation.

HERE’S WHY:  NO ONE CARES ABOUT PROCESS Campaign finance is an arcane issue. It’s complicated stuff, even for those who cover it. So it’s no surprise that most of the public isn’t captivated. It’s also all about the process of politics. And unless it involves scandal, voters are rarely moved by such process stories.”

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THE SUPREMES PASS ON NSA REVIEW “President Obama and Congress have vowed to reform the agency’s bulk collection of phone metadata, but the high court declined to take on the case following a lower court’s ruling that the program was “almost Orwellian” and likely violates the Fourth Amendment.” (NJ)

ALSO WON’T TAKE UP FREE-SPEECH CASE “A New Mexico photography company refused to photograph a same-sex wedding because of its owners’ religious beliefs and argued its right to free speech defended it against claims that it broke a state antidiscrimination law. The case received national attention when Arizona’s Legislature passed a bill, which was ultimately vetoed, that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs. A New Mexico Supreme Court ruling against the company will stand. (Reuters)

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NO ONE KNOWS WHERE UKRAINE IS AND IF THEY DO… From the Monkey Cage, “On March 28-31, 2014, a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), were asked what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: [we] asked respondents to locate Ukraine on a map to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that the worse they are at locating it, the more they favor American military intervention.

“This is America!  And we don’t need to know where a country is to send troops there.”

-Stephen Colbert

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HOUSE OVERSIGHT “The committee voted 21-12 to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt for insisting on her right to remain silent, despite giving up that right—according to committee Chairman Darrell Issa—when she professed her innocence in a previous hearing. Democrats including Reps. Elijah Cummings and Tammy Duckworth compared the contempt vote to McCarthyism. (NJ)

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HOW ONE RACE COULD DETERMINE WHO CONTROLS THE SENATE The Fix writes, “… in what is shaping up to be an intriguing battle for the Senate, some folks are missing a tantalizing subplot. And that is this: There’s a significant chance that control of the upper chamber will be decided not on Election Day, but in December or even January, with all eyes on (and money flowing to) a two-candidate runoff in one state. Two states holding top Senate races this year hold runoffs if neither candidate attains 50% of the vote on Nov. 4 and it’s looking much more likely that there will be a runoff than in Louisiana. This is because Louisiana’s November election is a nonpartisan race where there will be multiple Republicans splitting the vote. In her three Senate races, Landrieu has faced a runoff twice (and took just 52% the other time).”

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MARRIAGE GAP IN 2014 NJ writes, “The last handful of elections have been defined in part by the big splits between important voting blocs — men and women, minorities and whites, white-collar and blue-collar. In 2014, a less scrutinized divide is ready to take the spotlight: single and married women. …The reasons for the split are straightforward: Married women, with the help of their spouse, are more affluent and are more likely to look warily at what government can take away from them. Single women, especially those with children, more readily accept government assistance. When the 2014 returns come rolling in, be sure to look at how each party performed with single and married women. It might just tell the story of the election.”

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THE THIRD RAIL: DRY CLEANING PRICE INEQUITY The Fix writes, “Speaking at the White House’s East Room during a pay equity event on Tuesday, President Obama unwittingly touched on the third rail of household errands in America when he talked about, wait for it, dry cleaning. There’s a surprising amount of data about the dry cleaning disparity. A few key facts: 1. Women routinely pay more than men to get their clothes cleaned professionally. 2. There is no overarching federal law that prohibits charging men and women differently for similar services. 3. The fight against gender-based dry cleaning pricing is not new.  In 1989, a group at GW Law School formed the “Coalition Against Discriminatory Dry Cleaning” and filed complaints with the D.C. Office of Human Rights about unequal pricing at dozens of District dry cleaners. The city soon initiated a formal investigation of all dry cleaners. Two dry cleaning associations and the city brokered a settlement that called for equal prices.”

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USERS CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT ‘HEARTBLEED’ BUG Security experts say it’s up to the administrators of websites that use the affected encryption technology to fix their software. How severe is the bug? Cryptologist Bruce Schneider says, “On a scale of 1 to 11, it’s about an 11.” (Reuters)

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AND FINALLY… COLBERT According to news reports, Colbert will succeed David Letterman as the next host of “Late Night” on CBS. The character “Stephen Colbert” will be no more. “In the new role, Colbert, 49, will retire the faux conservative character he portrays on his cable show,” reports Bloomberg. And, he told Foxnews.com in the fall of 2013: “I’m not trying to make a point; I’m trying to make a joke. Sometimes my personal views are what I am saying, but it is important to me that you never know when that is.”

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Capstone Public Affairs is a full-service public affairs firm with offices in Washington, D.C and Milwaukee, WI, with more than 20 years of experience developing effective ways to tell their clients stories. Specialties include social media, crisis communication, advocacy campaigns and government relations.

[whohit] Washington Report – April 11 [/whohit]

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