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The Washington Report – February 27, 2015

02 Mar 2015

The Washington Report – February 27, 2015


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

 

SENATE PASSES CLEAN DHS BILL … HOUSE NOT QUITE READY TO ‘SUCK IT UP’ … ELECTION? WHAT ELECTION? … PLANET OF THE PHONES … END HUMAN TRAFFICKING … IT’S LIKE ROBIN HOOD IN REVERSE … SENATOR WITH THE SNOWBALL … REPUBLICANS ON COLLISION COURSE OVER DOD FUNDING … CPAC … POLITICAL NERD PLAN FOR THE WEEKEND … 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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Shortly after the November midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the Senate, then-incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We will not be shutting the government down.” Now here we are, just three months later – with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set to run out of funds at midnight. (Politico)

SENATE PASSES CLEAN DHS BILL Politico: “The GOP-controlled Senate passed legislation TODAY that funds the DHS through the end of September with no provisions blocking President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The vote was 68-31. HOUSE NOT QUITE READY TO ‘SUCK IT UP’ OVER DHS FUNDING NPR: “For a few days now, most Senate Republicans have come to terms with how this story would end. The Department of Homeland Security would be fully funded because, as Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois says, the burden of the majority is the burden of governing. “As a governing party, we got to fund DHS, and say to the House, ‘Here’s a straw, so you can suck it up,’ ” said Kirk. But the House isn’t quite ready to suck it up. House leaders have hatched a new plan: to fund DHS through March 19th, so the two chambers could reconcile differences between a bill that sticks it to the president’s executive action on immigration, and one that doesn’t. But the House isn’t quite ready to ‘suck it up.’

“It is a waste of time. We will not allow a conference to take place. It won’t happen,” Senator Reid had said earlier Thursday.

ELECTION? WHAT ELECTION! Politico: “He only controls 46 seats, but Harry Reid is acting like he has 60. Reid’s uncompromising posture during the flap over homeland security funding and his emerging plans for an upcoming fight over immigration make clear he’s doing little to change the hardball style that defined his tenure as majority leader. … The 75-year-old Reid … is betting that Republicans are so nervous about being blamed for a crisis in Washington – as they have been repeatedly before – that they will capitulate again. … ‘He is controlling the agenda,’ Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said of Reid.

SENATE VOTE ON IMMIGRATION Senate Democrats on Friday prevented a bill from being taken up that would have rolled back President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration. The legislation, which failed by a 57-42 vote, focused on undoing two new immigration programs launched by Obama late last year while allowing a 2012 initiative. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) voted with Republicans in support of the legislation.

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planet of the phonesPLANET OF THE PHONES The Economist: “By 2020 80% of adults will have a superconductor in their pocket … The smartphone is ubiquitous, addictive and transformative.  The same phones that allow governments to spy on their citizens also record the brutality of officials and spread information and dissenting opinions. They feed the demand for autonomy and help protest movements to coalesce. A device that hands so much power to the individual has the potential to challenge authoritarianism.”

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AS EXPECTED … VETO Fox: “President Obama on Tuesday followed through on his vow to veto bipartisan-backed legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, marking his first veto of the Republican-led Congress and only the third of his presidency. The president, in a brief statement, claimed the bill would “circumvent” the existing process for reviewing the pipeline, which would extend from Canada to Texas. The decision, while expected, was met with tough criticism from Republicans — and tees up another showdown with Congress in the coming days as GOP leaders try to override. BUT THEN THERE’S THAT But so far, congressional leaders have not demonstrated they have the votes to override, which takes a two-thirds majority in both chambers. The Keystone bill garnered 62 yeas in the Senate, but they would need 67 to override. In the House, the bill got 270 votes — but they would need 281 to override. (Future Uncertain.)

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slaveryEND HUMAN TRAFFICKING Politico: “Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chair and ranking member of … Senate Foreign Relations … announced a bold, bipartisan bill … to end modern slavery.” Sen Corker’s Press Release: “Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” said Corker. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues and a number of other supportive organizations to introduce a transformative initiative that will work in concert with foreign partners and other private entities to help end slavery worldwide.” THE LEGISLATION … similar to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy, will authorize a 501(c)(3) non-profit grant-making foundation in the District of Columbia to be known as “The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation” that will fund programs and projects outside the United States that must: 1. Contribute to the freeing and sustainable recovery of victims of modern slavery, prevent individuals from being enslaved, and enforce laws to punish individual and corporate perpetrators of modern slavery. 2.  Set clear, defined goals and outcomes that can be empirically measured; and 3. Achieve a measurable 50% reduction of modern slavery in targeted populations. HOW TO PAY FOR IT: The initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80% through matching funds from the private sector and foreign governments. Sources of funding are as follows: $251 million in authorized funds from the U.S. over eight years: $1 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, followed by authorizations of $35.7 million in FY 2016-2022; $500 million from other foreign governments; $750 million in private funding. The remaining $500 million will be raised by The End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation from additional private sector contributions.”

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HOW EVERYONE GOT IT WRONG ON NET-NEUTRALITY The Fix: “With the FCC’s approval of robust net neutrality rules on Thursday, a long political fight comes to a surprisingly abrupt — and, for proponents of the measure, remarkable — conclusion. It could have been a political battle royale. It wasn’t. And the tagline meant to rebut neutrality — “Obamacare for the internet” — didn’t go anywhere at all. Even before President Obama offered his support for regulating Internet service providers as common carriers (similar to phone companies), it was safe to assume that pressure from Capitol Hill Republicans and cable companies with deep pockets would be a formidable political opponent. Then Obama made his statement, and then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed with it. A fight that had been simmering should have gone to full boil. But instead, it kept simmering. … Earlier this week, the NYTs reported that Republicans were giving up the fight. They’d hoped to pass legislation that would preempt the White House, but that is tricky when the last signature on the bill has to come from the guy who lives there. … “Net neutrality” is a complicated topic, centered around preventing providers from charging more depending on the type of content that is being transmitted over their networks. But the Obamacare analogy never really caught on. Even this week, as discussion heated up, it barely registered on Twitter. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) used the expression over and over — but it still maxed out at 600 tweets in one day over the last month. Net neutrality, on the other hand, was registering in the tens of thousands.

An interesting read if you’re interested in the New Yorker.

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IT’S LIKE ROBIN HOOD IN REVERSE Politico: “House Republican decided not to vote today on their proposed rewrite of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) after House leadership struggled to lock down support for the bill. UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES The bill aims to reduce the federal footprint on K-12 education, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this week denounced its funding provisions that could cut billions of federal dollars from districts serving high concentrations of black and Hispanic students. Duncan said the House bill would freeze the budget for federal education spending and allow states more authority over where the federal dollars they receive for low-income students go.The current federal formula sends districts with large populations of low-income students far more federal funding than, say, a wealthier district with just a few low-income students. An affluent district has to amass a critical number of low-income children to receive a portion of those federal funds. The bill on the table calls for upending that, and making those federal funds more portable. The idea is to have the dollars follow the low-income child to whatever public school he or she attends, even if it’s an affluent one. THE ONLY CONTENTIOUS PART OF THE BILL IS THE FUNDING According to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Education “Of the 100 largest school districts in the country which serve high concentrations of Black students, could lose a total of more than $1.3 billion in federal funding over the course of 6 years (between 2016 and 2021): For example: Philadelphia City School District — which is 55% Black, could lose $412 million;  Shelby County schools in Tennessee — which is 81% Black, could lose $114 million; Milwaukee Public Schools $159 million.” SOME BACKGROUND JSOnline: “The original No Child Left Behind law, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was passed in 2001. Because of its focus on proficiency, the law ushered in much more achievement testing of student subgroups, such as black and Latino students and students with disabilities, and aimed to better hold individual schools and districts accountable for their performance. Most states … have received a federal waiver from certain NCLB mandates. There’s wide agreement on the need to overhaul the restrictive and outdated law, which set an unrealistic mandate that all children were to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. But a potential reauthorization has been snarled in a political stalemate for years.”

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snowball senatorSCIENCE OR “SENATOR WITH THE SNOWBALL’ Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on Thursday panned Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-OK) use of a snowball during a speech on climate change. Whitehouse used his iPad to argue that a polar vortex was bringing cold air down to Washington in part because of warmer ocean temperatures.  “You can believe NASA and you can believe what their satellites measure on the planet or you can believe the senator with the snowball Whitehouse said in a speech from the Senate floor.” Inhofe threw the snowball as part of an effort to dismiss climate change. The Oklahoma Republican said the snowball was from outside in Washington, using cold weather to argue against claims that greenhouse gases are behind an increase in the earth’s temperature.”

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REPUBLICANS ON COLLISION COURSE OVER DOD SPENDING Politico: “The long-brewing squabble between GOP defense hawks and fiscal hawks over defense spending is coming to a head, with the House Budget Committee planning to move a budget resolution that sets base defense spending next fiscal year $35 billion below what the Pentagon requested. But the defense hawks are lobbying furiously to avoid that outcome, and SASC Chair John McCain is even vowing to personally oppose a budget resolution that doesn’t increase military spending above what’s allowed under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). HASC Chair Mac Thornberry is asking the House Budget Committee to include $566 billion for base spending and a separate $50.9 billion war fund according to DefenseNews.”

PRESIDENTS BUDGET REFRESHER: DOD 2016 request is $585 Billion (up 7.7% from 2015) It is $35 Billion above the caps put in place under the Budget Control Act of 2011, that set in motion sequestration.
-$534 Billion base spending
– $51 Billion OCO

McCAIN VOWS TO OPPOSE SEQUESTER-SIZED BUDGET RESOLUTION: SASC Chairman John McCain said yesterday he’d oppose a budget resolution that sets defense spending at levels required under the Budget Control Act spending caps.”

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GLITZ AND OPEN CHECKBOOKS Defense One: “ABU DHABI — For defense firms, it’s simply all about “being there” at an event like the International Defense Exposition and Conference, better known as IDEX. You never know who will show up: presidents, princes, defense ministers, generals and admirals from all corners of the world are here. And flashiness matters even for companies and even countries that like to keep low profiles. The goal is to catch the eye of a power player, one who could ink a multimillion or even multibillion dollar deal. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that some countries have acquisition systems that simply depend on the depth of a wealthy individual’s pockets, and not approval by the U.S. Congress. Over the next five years, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan are expected to spend more $165 billion on arms, according to Avascent Analytics, including ships, armored trucks and fighter jets. … The United Arab Emirates, the host of the event, has signed more than $4.2 billion in arms deals since IDEX started on Sunday.”

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CIA TO EXPAND CYBER WashPo: “CIA Director John O. Brennan … has even considered creating a new cyber directorate – a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches.”

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NO PLAN IF SUPREMES STRIKE DOWN OBAMACARE Wall Street Journal, “The Obama administration is holding firm that the executive branch has no plan should the Supreme Court strike down the federal health law’s tax credits. ‘We know of no administrative actions that could, and therefore we have no plans that would, undo the massive damage to our health care system that would be caused by an adverse decision,’ Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell wrote to Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, in a letter released today. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in a challenge contending that the language of the 2010 Affordable Care Act restricts the law’s insurance premium subsidies to residents of states that have set up their own insurance exchanges.”

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SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DOESN’T VACCINATE HIS KIDS The Hill: Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), the chairman of a House Science subcommittee, says that he did not vaccinate his children. “I believe it’s a parents decision whether to immunize or not,” Loudermilk, a freshman member of Congress, said. He later added: “Most of our children, we didn’t immunize. They’re healthy.” Rick Wilson, a well-known Republican strategist, called on Twitter for Loudermilk to “Resign” over the comments.” (No comment)

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HOW BIG BUSINESS LOST WASHINGTON Fortune “Consider these four big-ticket asks that are the long-stated legislative priorities of the Business Roundtable, an elite group of 203 leading CEOs and perhaps the closest thing to an organization self for big businesss: an overhaul of the tax code, new foreign-trade agreements, a long-term plan for federal debt reduction and the budget, and comprehensive immigration reform … corporate America as a whole didn’t get any of the major items on its legislative wish list. None. As in Zero.”

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CPAC DAY 1 “Walker Thrills a Packed House at CPAC,” by National Review’s Andrew Johnson: “Scott Walker hit all the right notes when he took the stage at the [CPAC] on Thursday to address a standing-room-only crowd – even gamely handling a heckler.”

SCOTT WALKER COMPARED RIGHT-TO-WORK PROTESTERS TO ISIS JSOnline: “Scott Walker told a huge gathering of conservative activists that … he has the mettle to be commander-in-chief and hold off any threat of Islamic terrorists.”
“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can take the Islamic State.”
– Gov. Scott Walker at CPAC
(I think we can all agree, they are not the same.)

CPAC JEB BUSH ROAD SHOW — GETS CREDIT FOR ‘SHOWING UP’ NPR “Bush … is the presumed Republican establishment favorite in a venue that historically has not been kind to the party establishment. And while many Republicans with presidential ambitions make CPAC an annual pilgrimage, Bush during his years as governor avoided the gathering as part of his overall strategy of staying away from events that would feed presidential speculation. Bush ended that self-imposed exile in 2013 and got a decidedly indifferent reception … he spoke for just under 20 minutes, during which time many in the ballroom carried on conversations over dessert and coffee, ducked outside to answer phone calls, or just left entirely.”

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HILLARY PLAYS THE GENDER CARD (EVEN WHEN SHE DOESN’T) The Fix: “Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at a gathering of female leaders in Silicon Valley on Tuesday, so it’s probably not terribly surprising that she hit gender themes pretty hard. But we can fully expect that she will keep reinforcing those themes as her inevitable presidential campaign gears up for a very simple reason. Clinton does well with women — and there are a lot more women than men in the United States. About 5 million more, according to the Census Bureau’s 2013 estimates, across all age groups. … But those extra 5 million women don’t all vote (and aren’t all registered, as the number includes people younger than 18), and are scattered across the country. HRC TWITTER REACH Clinton gets an average of 14,099 RTs per tweet.

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POT TROUBLES IN D.C. Associated Press, “The new mayor of the nation’s capital was hoping to get along fine with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Instead, they’ve threatened her with prison and she has accused them of acting like bullies in a showdown over legal pot that could end up costing District of Columbia residents dearly. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser defied threats from Congress by implementing a voter-approved initiative on Thursday, making the city the only place east of the Mississippi River where people can legally grow and share marijuana in private. But Congress still has the final say over the city’s budget and laws, and the Republicans in charge seem determined to make Bowser pay.”

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ERIC HOLDER’S BOOK RECOMMENDATION Playbook: “Asked what book he’d recommend to a young person coming to Washington, like his 32-year-old aide Kevin Lewis, who started at the White House at age 26, Holder said: “I say this not to every African-American of his age, but for every American, that you read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X‘ to see the transition that that man went through, from petty criminal to a person who was severely and negatively afflicted by race, to somebody who ultimately saw the humanity in all of us,” Holder said. “And that would be a book I would recommend to everybody.”

Also, check out Diane Roger’s blog – ‘Capstone Goes to the Movies”

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FIRST LADY MICHELE OBAMA announced the theme for White House Easter Egg Roll on April 6: #GimmeFive: “Give me five things that you’re doing to lead a healthier life.” Ticket lottery closed Thursday.”

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POLITICAL NERDS, DO YOU HAVE PLANS FOR THE WEEKEND? Netflix last night released all 13 episodes of the third season of “House of Cards.” YES! SPOILER ALERT It begins six months into President Frank Underwood’s presidency. His approval rating is tanking, and he’s desperate to push an agenda, including a jobs package bill, that puts him in a stronger position to win a full term in 2016. He was once a man who seemed in control, but during an appearance on “The Colbert Report” in the first episode, he’s a punchline. His standing complicates the timing of his expected nomination of a new Supreme Court justice and his wife as ambassador to the U.N.”

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SPECTACULAR SPOCK NYTs “Leonard Nimoy, who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died today. He was 83. RIP

 

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