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The Washington Report – August 1, 2014
01 Aug 2014

The Washington Report – August 1, 2014

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


Happy first day of August. For those counting, Election Day 2014 is 95 days away.


The Washington Report will ‘officially’ be back once Congress returns from recess.

That said, we wiill be in touch as newsworthy events occur (‘unofficially,’ of course).


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


OOPS, THEY DID IT AGAIN The Fix writes, “… A spending measure designed to address the ongoing crisis of undocumented children entering at the country’s southern border was shelved Thursday because the Republican leadership couldn’t rally the necessary votes to pass it. It amounted to yet another defeat for maligned House Speaker John Boehner and other members of the Republican leadership team who not only pushed hard for the bill’s passage but also confidently predicted victory earlier Thursday. THE ISSUES CHANGE…THE PATTERN THE SAME “The issues change — tax increases, immigration, the farm bill and so on and so forth — but the underlying reality remains the same: The party remains deeply riven between an establishment wing that believes in fighting on principle but, eventually, sitting down at the negotiating table and hammering out the best deal available, and a tea party caucus that sees any compromise as capitulation. That split played out over the past 48 hours in the Capitol as Boehner and his allies worked to convince wavering Republicans to vote for the $659 million immigration package before heading out for recess, while Cruz held court with the most conservative wing of the House GOP and urged them to stand strong on principle.” TAKEAWAY FROM THE IMMIGRATION TUSSLE? This is a party at war with itself. The inability/unwillingness of the party’s House majority to get on the same page on virtually any major legislative issue has rendered it impossible for Boehner to do his job and made the term “Republican party leader” laughably inaccurate.  Winning in 2014 won’t solve those problems. The party has to hope that the coming 2016 presidential race, which likely will feature Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as well as more establishment types like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, will be the pivotal front in the battle for control of the GOP. Maybe.”


CRUZIN IN THE HOUSE WaPo’s writes, “The beginning of the collapse of House Speaker John A. Boehner’s border bill came Wednesday evening, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gathered more than a dozen House Republicans at his office in the Dirksen building on Capitol Hill. It was there, as Boehner (R-OH) held his own meetings on the other side of Constitution Avenue, that Cruz heard that the speaker didn’t have enough votes – and realized that if his House allies held firm, he could rupture the fragile coalition supporting the measure.”


MEANWHILE, YESTERDAY IN THE SENATE NJ writes, “the Senate failed Thursday to write the White House a $3.57 billion check to address the crisis at the border.”


AS I WRITE THIS… the House is sticking around today to try to chart a path forward, pledging a border vote today. (The Hill) BORDER BILL DOA IN SENATE “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today, “If the House does pass a bill, I can’t imagine it could be cleared on either side over here.”



VA REFORM Politico writes, “The Senate on Thursday approved legislation overhauling the scandalized Department of Veterans Affairs, 91-3, sending the package to President Barack Obama. The vote comes nearly four months after revelations surfaced of mismanagement and corruption at the agency. An inspector general report found that VA facilities across the country were manipulating wait times to hide the long delays veterans faced when trying to see doctors. The legislation was approved as new Secretary Robert McDonald prepares to take control of the VA (he was easily confirmed 97-0 this week) … The House passed the reform bill on Wednesday.”

HIGHWAY TRUST FUND PATCH “Senate clears highways, transit patch, punting the issue until May, Politico writes, ” The nation’s highway and mass transit programs can breathe easy for another 10 months after Senate Democrats relented Thursday and cleared a GOP-crafted $11 billion extension they had overwhelmingly rejected two days ago. But … the bill’s passage nevertheless represents a defeat for asphalt, trucking and other business groups that have long pushed for a hike in the gas tax and a five- or six-year transportation bill. The Senate’s 81-13 vote sends the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature mere hours before the Transportation Department said it would need to begin cutting payments to states and on the brink of a five-week congressional vacation.”

— IRON DOME FUNDING Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) got unanimous consent in the Senate today  for legislation to give Israel emergency funding for its Iron Dome missile defense system. “This is a good example of us putting aside partisan considerations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after passage. Senate passage of that emergency spending measure now sends the bill to the House.


AND OF COURSE THAT VOTE TO SUE OBAMA LATimes reports, “The House vote to sue President Obama is the first such legal challenge by a chamber of Congress against a president and a historic foray in the fight over constitutional checks and balances. Wednesday’s nearly party-line vote followed a feisty floor debate and offered a fresh example of how the capital’s hyper-partisanship has led both parties into unprecedented territory, going to new and greater lengths to confront one another. … The House resolution  … authorized House Speaker John A. Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama’s failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees. That provision’s effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and now won’t fully take effect until 2016. THE WEEK THAT IRONY DIED (H/T Gail Collins) The top Dem on the rules committee said, “They (Republicans) spent $79 million holding votes to kill it (ACA) and now they are going to sue him for not implementing it fast enough.” NEW NORMAL? Traditionally, such disputes have been handled through political trade-offs or, in the most extreme cases, the impeachment process outlined in the Constitution. …Whether the lawsuit will become a new normal may depend on how it plays in November, and who gets hurt more from this. POLITICAL STUNT Democrats called the suit a political stunt and defended Obama’s use of his executive powers, blaming congressional inaction and gridlock. They warned that the House suit could be the first step toward impeachment, something that has become a staple of campaign messaging for the party. WHAT’S ALL THIS IMPEACHMENT TALK? NYT’s writes, “Democrats cannot get enough of Republicans talking about impeaching President Obama. They are using it to raise money (claiming to have collected $1 million on Monday alone), add supporters (with 74,000 new contributors) and animate their base. All of which has forced Republican leaders in Congress to talk down any notion of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” saying that Democrats were cynically using the specter of impeachment as a “scam” to generate support. INVERSION OF POLITICS The inside-out character of the debate provided yet another measure of how inverted the politics of polarized Washington has become. Speaker John A. Boehner pledged there would be no impeachment, a sentiment echoed by Senator Mitch McConnell , Republican of Kentucky, who accused the Democrats of duplicity.”



Check out our own Alan MacLeod’s blog post.


CAN ANYONE STOP OBAMA ON IMMIGRATION? Politico writes, “… Obama has signaled to immigrants’ rights advocates that he plans to take significant new executive actions next month … They could range from reordering the priority list of deportation cases to dramatically expanding the ‘deferred action’ program he initiated in 2012, which allows immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children to apply for a two-year deportation reprieve.”


CIA APOLOGIZES FOR SNOOPING ON SENATE NYT: “An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a
computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation
program. The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information, according to a summary of findings made public on Thursday.  … “The inspector general’s account … touched off angry criticism from members of the Senate and amounted to vindication for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee’s chairwoman, who excoriated the C.I.A. in March when the agency’s monitoring of committee investigators became public.”


WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA WHEN CONGRESS RETURNS FROM ITS AUGUST RECESS? Politico writes, “The NDAA, at least in theory. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid included the defense bill on a lengthy list of legislation he said he’d like to take up in September during a two-week window before the upper chamber adjourns for the midterm elections. Reid also said the Senate would consider an appropriations bill to keep the government funded into the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and a bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. As for the NDAA, Reid has pledged in past years to make the bill a priority – only to see it slip into November or December.”


A READINESS SUPPLEMENTAL? Politico writes, “Defense advocates seeking to stave off the current military spending cuts are now pushing the idea of a readiness supplemental – an emergency appropriations bill to fund troop training and equipment maintenance. The proposal is outlined in a new report by the 10-member National Defense Panel, chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Central Command boss retired Gen. John Abizaid. “The longer joint force readiness is allowed to deteriorate, the more money will be required to restore it,” the report says. BUT, BUT, BUT A readiness supplemental, which would cushion the Pentagon’s capped-by-law base budget, faces long odds. Congressional Democrats would ask why other federal agencies aren’t getting relief from the current caps on discretionary spending and tea party Republicans would ask why more spending is needed at all. But that won’t stop defense hawks from pushing. “Eroding readiness is becoming more evident to rank and file members, and there is a growing sense of urgency to address it,” says an aide to House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA).


DEFENSE PANEL ENDORSES BRAC, COMPENSATION REFORM: The National Defense Panel, mandated by Congress to review the Pentagon’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), concluded the military shouldn’t jettison its policy of preparing to fight two wars at the same time and endorsed politically toxic cost-cutting measures, such as base closures and compensation reform. (Politico)


OBAMA STEPS UP SANCTIONS President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced escalated U.S. sanctions against Russia in the energy, arms and finance sectors, turning up the heat as European countries agreed to take their strongest steps yet targeting Russia over claims it is fomenting unrest in Ukraine.


EBOLA-INFECTED AMERICANS WILL BE BROUGHT TO THE U.S CNN reports, “A plane left Thursday evening to pick up two Americans who have been infected with Ebola in the massive outbreak spreading in West Africa, and bring them back to the U.S. for treatment. At least one will be taken to an isolation unit of a hospital at Emory University, in Atlanta. EMERGENCY EFFORTS TO RESTRAIN EBOLA OUTBREAK: U.S. federal health officials on Thursday advised Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia because of the Ebola virus outbreak raging in West Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the rare “Level 3” travel warning, which indicates “high risk” for visitors to those countries. (NYT) EBOLA VACCINE FAST-TRACKED Researchers hope to begin human trials of a new vaccine in September, said a top NIH official Thursday. (WashPo)


Theodore Van Kirk, the last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, dies at age 93 in Georgia. (AP)

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