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The Washington Report – February 13, 2015

17 Feb 2015

The Washington Report – February 13, 2015


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

 

WEATHER REPORT: FROZEN SENATE … FILIBUSTED … THE GRAMMY’S POLITICS AND SCHMOOZING … KILL THE PASSWORD … ASH: CONFIRMED; LORETTA: NOT CONFIRMED … WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? … and other news of the week.
Today is Friday the 13th.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Best,

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

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FIGHT FREEZES SENATE Politico: “As lawmakers skip town for a 10-day recess, some Republicans worry that the fight could drag on far past the Feb. 27 shutdown deadline – particularly if Congress ends up passing a short-term funding Band-Aid that merely sets up another cliff … High-ranking GOP senators are sending a warning flare to the House: The only thing worse than missing the first deadline of the year would be fighting this battle all over again in March or April.”
–“‘We’ve got to get off this. We’ve got to get it behind us. We have to at some point bring it to closure,’ said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican

WHATSUP NEXT? After Feb. 27, the deadlines come fast: By March 31, Medicare providers face steep cuts in their payments unless Congress passes a law to head them off. Then transportation funding runs out in May, and in June some portions of the Patriot Act expire. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans aim to pass a budget this spring and begin writing appropriations bills for each arm of government – contentious debates that will take lots of time. And raising the debt ceiling looms in the summer or fall.”

BILLIONS AT STAKE IN IMMIGRATION WAR Politico: “In Congress’ standoff over immigration policy, Republicans seem to be battling not only President Barack Obama but their own rhetoric on government spending. Immigration riders attached to the Homeland Security spending bill by the House GOP turn out to actually widen the budget deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And the CBO report never addressed an added cost implicit in the Republican position: How much would it cost for the government to deport all the undocumented workers who stand to benefit from Obama’s most recent executive order? That could be upward of $20 billion to $25 billion, according to the best estimates collected by Politico. It’s a sum hard to find these days, given the … spending caps imposed on the House and Senate appropriations committees.”

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HILL SENDS KEYSTONE TO OBAMA LATimes: “Congress gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that would expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up the first substantial veto showdown of President Obama’s administration. …The House voted 270-152 … Congress does not appear to have the votes to override a presidential veto, even though 29 Democrats in the House and nine in the Senate joined most Republicans in supporting passage.”

POLITICAL POINT: GOP TO HOLD KEYSTONE SIGNING CEREMONY … uh, usually signing ceremonies happen AFTER a president signs legislation into law. COUNTERPOINT: PRESIDENT COULD VETO [Keystone] LEGISLATION AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK The only mystery left is when and how Obama will announce the veto. It could be a tricky situation for the president, who might not want to be overly confrontational with Democrats and labor groups that back constructing the pipeline.” (The Hill)
“For the U.S. economy, at least, the pipeline is less relevant than ever. … Falling oil prices and an improving job market conspire to weaken any practical or political payoffs. … ‘This allegedly important policy issue has become almost nothing but politics, save for those who build and operate it, on both sides,’ said Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who tracks energy issues. ‘Its policy significance comes close to nil, especially in our current oil environment.'” (Bloomberg)

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FILIBUSTED Politico: “Senate Republicans have postponed a Rules Committee vote on Sens. Lamar Alexander and Mike Lee’s proposal to get rid of the 60-vote threshold on *all* nominees, including those to the Supreme Court. GOP [say] several scheduling conflicts postponed this morning’s planned vote – but Republicans are working on setting up another vote after next week’s recess.”

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wQdmoF40YcBihcj8UgZP_fvlQ7CU8fwLME_npi9yY7ktrFSSJZc8yyN88lcCuzf0FZQ9kcyKP3-FcImLNLD4vU5LSqQEcoypfo1c0bvjxh0I2X1BBd03PyzwhtSqqZWjaiE5yb2jpMDqAo-j6MkZrJRzbbg=s0-d-e1-ftTHE GRAMMYS: POLITICS AND SCHMOOZING Politico: “Politicians — and their political fundraisers — have long glommed onto major sporting and entertainment events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars. But with the music industry facing intense Washington scrutiny over issues like the future of copyright law, the Grammys provide a window into how politicians schmooze and raise money from those they regulate. “It’s part fun, and it’s part that those involved in the issues can meet a lot of people here,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, ranking member on the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, which oversees the music industry. THE INDUSTRY HAS A LOT AT STAKE as the House Judiciary Committee is in the midst of a full review of federal copyright law and is eyeing the complex music licensing system as a top candidate for potential reforms. Various factions of the music business are pleading with Washington for changes. … Among their goals: A new performance royalty right for recording artists — who don’t get paid when their tracks are played on broadcast radio in the U.S. — or more flexibility for songwriters and music publishers, who have less control over who can play their songs and for what fee. Last week, the Copyright Office released a 250-page report endorsing both of those reforms and many others. The report galvanized the industry executives and lawyers gathered in Los Angeles this weekend, who hope they can guide new rules through a divided Washington.”

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THE SUPREMES: OBAMACARE CASE UNRAVELING? The Hill: Legal experts in favor of the Affordable Care Act say new information unearthed about the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell could derail the case before the justices have a chance to rule. The standing of the four plaintiffs in the case has come under intense media scrutiny, with at least three of the challengers now facing claims they are not personally harmed by the law and therefore do not have standing to sue. THE CASE King v. Burwell, will decide the legality of ObamaCare subsidies in 34 states. Without the billions of dollars provided to help people pay for insurance, the president’s signature healthcare law would have to be fundamentally reshaped. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March, with a ruling expected sometime this summer. General counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (who is funding the lawsuit), said he is “confident of the standing of our plaintiffs.” He added that the government has twice tried to challenge their standing and lost.”

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ALABAMA’S CHIEF JUSTICE’S LAST STAND The Fix: “Same-sex couples began marrying Monday morning in some Alabama counties, despite an 11th-hour attempt by the state’s well-known chief justice to prevent the marriages from going forward. In a letter issued late Sunday night on the eve of same-sex marriage starting in the state, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told probate judges to follow state law rather than a ruling from a federal judge that legalized it. But the U.S. Supreme Court has now denied Alabama’s stay request, making Moore’s already-futile effort appear even more so. SUPREMES’ TEA LEAVES Here’s why: Although the Supreme Court has denied stays in marriage cases before, the Alabama decision is the first since it announced it would decide whether the U.S. Constitution allows same-sex couples to marry regardless of individual state laws. Many expect the court to rule in favor of nationwide gay marriage, and they see the lack of a stay in this case as confirmation of that. If the court weren’t going to legalize gay marriage, they reason, it would be more likely to put Alabama on hold in the meantime. WHICH STATE WILL BE THE LAST TO ALLOW SAME-SEX MARRIAGE There are now 13 states where same-sex couples still cannot marry, a number that will continue to drop, barring the unforeseen. The Supreme Court’s Alabama stay denial didn’t explicitly answer the question of whether states have a right to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but following its decision to finally hear appeals this year, it symbolizes an escalation that it could strike down marriage bans nationwide.”

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‘WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?‘ (H/T Jon Stewart) Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Tuesday unilaterally rescinded rules that had protected state workers from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Brownback reversed a 2007 order by his Democratic predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, that had brought state anti-discrimination policies in line with most of corporate America and 31 other states.” HE SAYS ‘GOOD ADMIN PROCEDURE’ … YOU SAY ‘PUBLIC BIGOTRY.’

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OBAMA MUGGING FOR HEALTHCARE.GOV The Fix: The #Millennial-friendly Web site BuzzFeed has taken over for Zach Galifianakis as the White House’s preferred video venue for encouraging young people to sign up for health insurance. You remember the Galifianakis video, of course; Obama’s self-deprecating appearance on the fake interview show last year was credited with a big boost in traffic (however short-lived) to HealthCare.gov. Here it is.

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CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU DOING IT’S JOB  … will write rules for payday lenders. “They are chameleons: payday lenders that alter their practices and shift their products ever so slightly to work around state laws aimed at stamping out short-term loans that can come with interest rates exceeding 300%. Such maneuvers by the roughly $46 billion payday loan industry, state regulators say, have frustrated their efforts to protect consumers. Now, for the first time, a federal regulator is entering the fray, drafting regulations that could sharply reduce the number of unaffordable loans that lenders can make.” (NYTimes)

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HOUSE TAX CUT PACKAGE AP: “House Republicans are advancing a series of tax cuts this week affecting millions of businesses and individuals, despite White House veto threats over adding more than $300 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade … One small provision would expand the same college savings plans that President Barack Obama unsuccessfully tried to scale back. Others would make a series of expired tax breaks permanent, including ones that encourage charitable giving and others that make it easier for businesses to invest in new equipment or research and development.”

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NEW CYBER AGENCY Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, announced a new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center … to combat the deepening threat from cyberattacks, and its mission will be to fuse intelligence from around the government when a crisis occurs. The agency is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks amid criticism that the government failed to share intelligence that could have unraveled the al-Qaeda plot.” (Washington Post)

KILL THE PASSWORD The Hill: “The White House is funding efforts to wipe out the password as the primary security code used to access sensitive data online. Officials and cybersecurity experts say the password is inherently weak and frequently misused, with easily hacked phrases like “password” and “123456” putting bank accounts, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information at risk. Since 2012, a White House program, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, has backed a number of pilot projects aimed at finding new ways to identify people without a password. Working with a $16.5 million budget, the program has pushed password alternatives from niche markets toward the mainstream. Estimates are that White House-backed solutions could hit the mass market sometime in 2015.”

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ASH: CONFIRMED Politico: Ash Carter, confirmed yesterday by the Senate to replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, is expected to be sworn into office on Tuesday. The Senate vote was 93-5, with five Republicans voting no: Mark Kirk of Illinois; Roy Blunt of Missouri; John Boozman of Arkansas; and Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both of Idaho. A former deputy defense secretary and chief Pentagon weapons buyer, Carter sailed through the Senate in a speedy process that saw no serious objections to his qualifications to lead the sprawling Defense Department. It was a starkly different story from that of Hagel, who faced a bitter confirmation process and was subject to a filibuster before ultimately being confirmed, 58-41.

LORETTA: NOT CONFIRMED Politico: “Democrats are … complaining that the veteran federal prosecutor’s confirmation is being slow-walked by Republicans. Their evidence: The Senate Judiciary Committee could have cleared Lynch’s nomination as early as Thursday, two weeks after her confirmation hearing ended. But that vote has been delayed until the end of this month – which means she won’t get a final floor vote until March.” STARK CONTRAST TO ASH “Ash Carter … first appeared before the SASC Feb. 4, was swiftly reported out of that panel earlier this week and confirmed on Thursday.”

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SECRETARY HAGEL’S LAST DAY Politico: “Leaving after two years in office, Hagel helmed the [Pentagon] in a time of transition, [overseeing] the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, the military’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the efforts against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and countless other issues and crisis. Wednesday, he quietly paid a visit to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath in honor of those who sacrificed for the nation under his watch.”

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WANTED: NAVY SLOGANS The Navy Times is launching a Navy slogan contest this morning, seeking catchphrases to go with “America’s Navy.” A panel of experts will select finalists, and readers will vote on a winner, which will be presented to Navy leaders. Submit your slogan here.

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AUMF TO THE HILL Morning Defense: “The president has sent to Congress his long-awaited proposal for a congressional authorization of the six-month-old military campaign against the ISIL. The measure, which lasts three years and prohibits an enduring ground war but has no geographic limits, is already drawing fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, who view it as either too restrictive or not restrictive enough. Congress could begin considering the measure following next week’s Presidents Day recess. PLAN DRAWS HILL FIRE Politico: “The onus is on Congress to show the world it’s united behind the U.S. entanglement with the ISIL – and the early returns weren’t pretty, as Obama’s proposal drew fire from both parties … The divisions formed within hours of the White House’s request landing on Capitol Hill, raising questions about whether Congress will be able to pass anything.

THE GOP’S 2016 WAR PRIMARY HEATS UP Politico: “Sen. Lindsey Graham wants Congress to give President Barack Obama unequivocal authority to fight Islamic State militants. Yet Sen. Ted Cruz says lawmakers should be wary of handing the commander in chief a ‘blanket authorization’ to wage war. Sen. Marco Rubio is open to sending ground troops into the region if that’s what it takes to win. But Sen. Rand Paul says he’s ‘not eager’ to send troops back to the Middle East, and he’s demanding that Congress set a one-year timeline for a war authorization to expire. … As Congress prepares to dive into its most politically charged debate in years over war and peace, the four Republican senators considering 2016 presidential bids are staking out diverging positions on how much power to give Obama – a fight that is bound to drive the argument on which candidate would best defend the U.S. from threats abroad.”

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SCIENCE IS COOL NYTs: “Engineers launched a robotic observatory into deep space to keep a vigil for approaching solar storms. “In about 110 days, the observatory, abbreviated as Dscovr and pronounced ‘discover,’ is to reach a point where the gravitational pull of the Earth and that of the sun cancel each other out and the spacecraft can easily hold its position, almost a million miles from the day side of Earth. From that location, Dscovr will be able to give 15 to 60 minutes’ warning if a wave of energetic solar particles known as a coronal mass ejection is about to slam into Earth.”

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BRIAN WILLIAMS Stars and Stripes: “NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, facing withering criticism for “misremembering” events in Iraq in 2003, is voluntarily taking a leave of absence while the network investigates his reporting.”

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eL6-rvDuOjCVW16KpmEo3fjDzckRTWgVyuKYIqW-7s4vpgp6iIP8JG9k1NyaD9OVWPhEJuqIhQYIAycQGtMuWgxSAdZbRBBkychIEjvboxM5kvf9V8HKtLa5QEQVwqrxFquDrnMLQpybdNWt4rk7TlXKrPM=s0-d-e1-ftFEELING RESTLESS Jon Stewart will step down as host of “The Daily Show,” he announced during Tuesday night’s taping.
Best description of him … “He walked through a degraded landscape, the tour guide who’s also a smartass.” (Timothy Egan)
“Where will I get my news every night?” asked Bill Clinton, in a tweet following Stewart’s announcement.
10:00 CST will never be the same!

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