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The Washington Report – February 20, 2015

23 Feb 2015

The Washington Report – February 20, 2015


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

 

Hello Big Chill!

WHY CONGRESS DOESN’T REALLY CARE WHAT MOST AMERICAN’S THINK  … EXTREMISM SUMMIT … SUPREMES … ‘GREEN LIGHT’ TO SELL DRONES … SENATE WOMEN REALLY ARE BETTER AT WORKING TOGETHER … WHAT HAPPENED TO RUDY GIULIANI … JEB BUSH, HAVING HIS CAKE AND EATING IT TOO … OSCARS ROOTS DATE TO 534 B.C. … and other news of the week.

Best,

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

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CONGRESS IS OUT THIS WEEK for the long Presidents Day recess, putting on hold the looming showdowns over funding for the Department of Homeland Security and President Barack Obama’s proposal to authorize the war against the Islamic State. … DHS funding, will dry up at the end of the month if Congress and the White House can’t reach a deal to keep the agency open. The sticking point is an effort by Republicans to attach to the DHS spending bill provisions that would block Obama’s executive order on immigration.

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IMMIGRATION RULING Politico: “One would think that this week’s injunction against President Barack Obama’s immigration policy implementation might have changed things on Capitol Hill, where the battle over tying immigration riders to a DHS funding bill has brought everything to a halt. One would be wrong. Rather than defusing the conflict on Capitol Hill by making it moot, conservative lawmakers and senior aides said Tuesday, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen makes it even clearer that Congress cannot allow Obama’s actions to stand. ‘The president has acted unconstitutionally, and it is the president – not Congress – who must back down,’ said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an immigration hard-liner.”  OFF THE HILL The ruling was significant: Wednesday “was supposed to be the day that a part of President Obama’s executive orders on immigration would take effect. The Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was to begin taking a larger pool of applicants who came to the U.S. at a young age. Coupled with a program for parents of citizens and lawful permanent residents (originally set to begin in May), the programs could have provided three-year work permits and deportation deferrals to more than four million undocumented immigrants. But none of that came to pass,” reports National Journal. BIG DREAMS FOR 54 SENATORS Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still faces unrealistic expectations about what exactly the Senate can do.  Unless six Democrats change their votes (or parties) the House’s bill is simply not moving in the Senate, but the GOP leader continues to get flak from the base.” WITH THAT IN MIND … “Don’t count on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to play dealmaker in the fight over DHS funding.” (The Hill)

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WHY CONGRESS DOESN’T REALLY WORRY ABOUT WHAT MOST AMERICAN’S THINK NPR: “President Obama is seeking specific authority to raise the stakes [with ISIL]. Even this commander-in-chief, so widely known for his restraint and for downplaying dangers, is ready to follow in the footsteps of the two Presidents George Bush. Like them, he is asking Congress for a clear Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It is hard to imagine a path from the past he would less like to tread. Remarkably… the otherwise war-weary American people seem to be on board. Even after more than a dozen years of combat in Afghanistan and a disheartening and drawn out struggle in Iraq, this country appears willing to return to the field for yet one more “war on terror.” THE NUMBERS The latest CNN poll says 78% of Americans are in favor of authorizing further actions against the Islamic State. Such an authorization, or AUMF, would be the first since President George W. Bush got one (his second) in the fall of 2002, used to invade Iraq. Stunning as that number may be, it follows another sounding by CNN that showed more than 80% supporting the request. Another poll by NBC News and Marist College has just found that even when the Obama name is attached to the question, only 32% of respondents object. And an amazing two thirds of the respondents were ready to commit at least some ground troops to defeating the Islamic State. ONE GROUP NOT ON BOARD Yet there is one group of Americans that is having far more trouble deciding how it feels about granting the president an AUMF. And that group is Congress. IN THE REPUBLICAN CAMP Many Republicans clearly favor stronger action than the president has taken to date, but they regard the current request as flawed and the president’s leadership as lacking. They want him to ask, but they want him to ask for more. IN THE DEMOCRATIC CAMP Then you have the Democrats who think the three-year time frame envisioned by Obama is hopelessly broad and who blanch at any thought of a ground combat commitment. That is why the White House has explicitly abjured “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” quite possibly a reference to George W. Bush’s “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan (now the longest military engagement in U.S. history). SURPRISE — CONGRESS SEEMS QUITE DIFFERENT The heightened partisanship cemented in Congressional district lines has created safe havens where most Republicans and Democrats no longer worry about pleasing anyone other than primary voters. If the primary voter goes with the incumbent, the incumbent is almost certain to go back to Washington. In the GOP, in particular, the risk now seems entirely in the intraparty struggle. Ask Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who a year ago was expected to be the next Speaker of the House. His political career came to a sudden halt when his Richmond-area district decided he wasn’t really Their Guy anymore. For most members today, the kind of public opinion measured by CNN or Gallup or NBC News is just too broad and diverse and dispersed to matter. The audience that must be served is the far narrower one that cares about party and policy and issues — and works to elect candidates as devoted to their ideology and as hostile to the other party as they themselves are.”

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CONGRESS’ BIGGEST VOTE MISSERS Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Don Young (R-AK) are the three longest-serving members of U.S. House. They are also three of the most likely members, over their 40-plus years in Congress, to have missed a vote. New data crunched by Vocativ from GovTrack.us shows the trio all rank among the 10 most frequent vote-missers in Congress. IN THE SENATE Absenteeism isn’t nearly as much an issue on the Senate side, but the leading vote-misser is a familiar name with 2016 ambitions: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He has missed 8.3% of votes since joining the Senate in 2011. Fellow 2016ers Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also appear in the top 10.”

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OBAMA’S EXTREMISM SUMMIT ILLUSTRATES HARSH REALITIES NYTs: “The three-day White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism wrapped up on Thursday … it provided a case study in the fundamental tension that has bedeviled the American struggle with terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While Mr. Obama has concluded that radicalism is fueled by political and economic grievance, he has found himself tethered to some of the very international actors most responsible for such grievances, dependent on them for intelligence and cooperation to prevent future attacks. … A case in point was Egypt, whose foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, was among those given featured speaking roles on Thursday. Although Egypt’s military has reasserted its primacy and is cracking down on dissent, it has also been one of America’s staunchest collaborators in hunting down terrorists in a dangerous region.”

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SUPREMES SCOTUSblog “Next month’s oral argument in King v. Burwell, in which the Court will consider whether tax subsidies are available to individuals who purchase their health insurance on an exchange established by the federal government, continues to dominate coverage of and commentary on the Court.  Richard Wolf of USA Today reports on the “standing” issue in the case – whether the challengers have a legal right to pursue their lawsuit — while Sahil Kapur reports for Talking Points Memo that supporters of the ACA “are preoccupied with courting the chief justice [John Roberts], whom they view as their most ‘winnable’ swing vote.”   DECISION AGAINST OBAMACARE COULD COST STATES BILLIONS WashPo Plum Line Blog, Greg Sargent suggests that, “[i]f you want a sense of just how far-reaching the impact of a Supreme Court decision gutting Obamacare subsidies could prove, new data on health care signups released this week provide a fresh way to game out such a ruling’s consequences. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the other day that some 11.4 million people have signed up for health plans through federal marketplaces. The new HHS data also provides a breakdown of the number of sign-ups in each of the three dozen states on the federal exchange — precisely the states that would no longer get subsidies if the Court invalidates tax credits to people in all federal exchange states.

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wb54NTMaAHDw_07XBdVfJTIwP5idtEq-U6-BLv5z-Bt13CfDIULDZjEbtQq8eskubQ_UqiwEmUpyhQTStjXgGV-tIwJ95Hc5vldP415L-6cCflvYqLmbnNkPa2DOrX2-MoOY3xzJ5jiB2vT1zbYNVeS39QQ=s0-d-e1-ftGREEN LIGHT TO SELL DRONES OVERSEAS WashPo “The Obama administration will permit the widespread export of armed drones for the first time, a step toward providing allied nations with weapons that have become a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy but whose remotely controlled power to kill is intensely controversial. The new policy, announced Tuesday after a long internal review, is a significant step for U.S. arms policy as allied nations from Italy to Turkey to the Persian Gulf region clamor for the aircraft. This is good news for aerospace firms that have been seeking a bigger global market for weapons (said to be worth more than $6 billion a year) that some experts view as the future of warfare and surveillance – and that civil liberties advocates fear are already making war too much like a video game.

RED LIGHT Politico: “Tuesday’s decision to export armed drones could spark global fears about dictators or authoritarian governments getting hold of state-of-the-art American systems and using them to monitor or attack their own populations. … The State Department is trying to allay concerns by putting forward “stringent” standards for sales and transfers of military drones to foreign countries. Recipient nations will have to allow end-use monitoring and agree to certain principles, including that armed drones be used in accordance with international law and that they not be used for unlawful surveillance.”

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SENATE WOMEN REALLY ARE BETTER AT WORKING TOGETHER NYTs: “A couple of enterprising Harvard University students have uncovered proof of what women in the United States Senate have long suspected and claimed: They really are better than men at working together, passing bills and cutting bipartisan deals. Inspired by a recent article in The New York Times about women in the Senate, Quorum, an Internet start-up founded by two Harvard seniors that analyzes legislative data for corporate clients, put its number-crunchers to work. BIT WONKY BUT STICK WITH IT Over the past seven years, the Quorum analysis found, the average female senator co-sponsored 6.29 bills with another Senate woman, while the average male senator co-sponsored 4.07 bills with another Senate man. Over all, women were far more likely than men to work across the aisle. Quorum found the average female senator co-sponsored 171.08 bills with a member of the opposite party; for the average male senator, that figure was 129.87. Quorum found the female effect was not as strong in the House.”

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FIRST DAY  Wednesday was Ash Carter’s first day as incoming Secretary of Defense.

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NO PLAN FOR SEQUESTRATION Politico: “The Pentagon has not begun a serious planning effort for how it would deal with the return of sequestration, its top money man says.
“My view is that it is not appropriate for us, with [the] budget having been out a week, to start negotiating to surrender to some number that we don’t believe in.”
– Mike McCord, Defense Department Comptroller

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WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU RUDY GUILIANI? Here what Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday night on President Obama, according to a report in Politico: “I do not believe — and I know this is a horrible thing to say — but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” PIECE OF ADVICE “… if you have to preface what you are planning to say with “this is a horrible thing to say,” you probably shouldn’t say it. Second, Giuliani’s comments seem to reflect a final stage of his transformation from serious politician to guy-who-says-inflamatory-things-just-to-say-inflammatory-things. LET’S BE CLEAR: NO politician with any sort of national ambition — or any sort of ambition at all, really — would say what Giuliani reportedly said about Obama. Not one. Questioning patriotism is a line that simply is not crossed at that level of politics. And there’s a reason for that: Once you question whether someone “loves” this country, the possibility — remote as it may have been before that comment — of a civilized debate between two sides goes out the window. But there’s something even more noxious, politically speaking, going on with Giuliani’s comments. It’s not just the questioning of Obama’s patriotism but also the suggested “otherness” of Obama that is at work here. “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up,” said Giuliani.  Context matters here — and makes matters worse for the former New York mayor. HERE’S THE THING Giuliani was once a very important — and intriguing — player in American politics: A tough-on-crime, take-charge guy tasked with running the biggest city in the country. Now, thanks to comments like this one on Obama, he is turning into something far more run-of-the-mill in the political world: A rank partisan willing to say the most outlandish of things to get attention.” MAYOR GIULIANI RESPONDS on Thursday ]he] defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.” PLEASE, STOP TALKING!

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HAVING HIS CAKE…AND EATING IT TOO ON HIS LAST NAME The Fix: “Jeb Bush’s foreign policy speech on Wednesday … 118 words. Out of a speech … that ran well over 4,000 words. Roughly two percent of all the words Bush spoke had to do with his family and his own man-ness. Watch[ing] the whole speech; I guarantee you that the “family” section will feel sort of out of place; kind of like the dream sequence in “Dumbo” — tangentially related to the main plot but barely so.

I’M MY OWN MAN “I’ve also been fortunate to have a father and a brother who helped shape America’s foreign-policy from the oval office. I recognize that as a result my views will often be held up in comparison to theirs. In fact, this is a great, fascinating thing in the political world for some reason. Sometimes in contrast to theirs. Look, just for the record, one more time, I love my brother, I love my dad, I actually love my mother as well, hope that’s OK. And I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make, but I’m my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”
– Jeb Bush

JUST SAYIN…If Bush’s goal is to present himself as his “own man,” his list of advisers undermines the point somewhat: 19 of the 21 people on it worked in the administrations of his father or brother.  Politico: “Bush’s advisory team is being pulled together by two mainstream Republican foreign-policy experts who served both his father and his brother, Richard Haass and Robert Zoellick. They have enlisted not only old GOP lions like James Baker – who first served under Ronald Reagan and distinguished himself as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of State – but also neoconservatives such as Iraq war advocate Paul Wolfowitz and John Hannah, Dick Cheney’s former national security advisor.”

SPEAKING OF CHRIS CHRISTIE Politico: “Add another prominent Garden State Republican to Jeb Bush’s camp. Nicholas F. Brady, a former senator from New Jersey and secretary of the treasury under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, threw his support Friday behind the former Florida governor — and said he is advising Bush on income inequality. Brady’s decision is the latest move by a high-profile New Jersey political figure away from the state’s governor, Chris Christie, who is considering his own presidential bid. In recent weeks, Christie has rapidly lost support among a group of his longtime home-state donors and power brokers, who are either hesitant to back him or shifting allegiance to Bush.”

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60HarScIbFUw3RFErIlzOLqAJKQQb8mcoffno2VS9GPhWQde3MBe6_vPoRlVyCNDa56nvX8e--lGJFk-YkPlVnQwD1CxeParA1O75-bIL2xuo7ep1hYauvVkVQ3MFsP0oa8KC-0AHHxG527pbkGpmPl40Qw=s0-d-e1-ftACADEMY AWARDS’ ROOTS GO BACK TO 534 B. C. NYTs: “Oscars will be handed out Sunday (7 p.m. Eastern, ABC) for the 87th year. But the Academy Awards’ roots really go back to about 534 B.C. That’s when Thespis is believed to have won the prize for tragedy at the annual festival of Dionysus in Athens. That festival gave rise to the careers of the three great tragic playwrights: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were the ancient equivalent of screenwriters.  We don’t know what Thespis’s acceptance speech was like — if he gave one. But we know what the man who gave us the word thespian received: not a golden statuette, but a goat. It’s not because there was extra livestock around.  Goats were the priests of Dionysus, the god of wine and pleasure. In fact, the word “tragedy” comes from the Greek tragos (goat) + ode (hymn, lamentation).

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