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The Washington Report – January 16, 2015

19 Jan 2015

The Washington Report – January 16, 2015


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

 

JE SUIS CHARLIE … MEA CUPLA … CONGRESS, THE ANGER GAMES … ENDGAME IN IMMIGRATION FIGHT … HERE’S HOW DEMS WIN BACK SENATE IN 2016 … UNIVERSE HAS A KEEN SENSE OF HUMOR … #MILLENIALS DON’T MUCH MATTER … and other news of the week.

Looking at next week: Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Then, on Tuesday, the President will give the State of the Union address.

Best,

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

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CHARLIE HEBDO … ALL IS FORGIVEN edition sells out in minutes,” by Reuters, “The first edition of Charlie Hebdo after an attack by Islamist gunmen sold out within minutes on Wednesday, featuring a cartoon of a tearful Prophet Mohammad on a cover that defenders called a moving work of art but critics saw as a new provocation. French readers queued up at dawn for copies to show support for the newspaper.”

“Funny people were killed for being funny. This new cover is the only possible response – a response that makes you laugh.”

– Jonathan Jones, art critic for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, called the cover “a life-affirming work of art”.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis said … there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.”

MEA CUPLA The White House conceded Monday that it made a mistake in not sending a senior official to the weekend unity march in Paris. Capstone’s Diane Rogers’ agrees, check out her blog post — Je Suis Charlie. The administration is facing criticism from Republicans, pundits and others for the noticeable absence of a senior official at Sunday’s Paris unity march. About 40 presidents and prime ministers from around the world took part in the march, one of the largest demonstrations in French history. U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley was the top-ranking U.S. official to attend. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris on Sunday but did not join the march. Capstone’s Diane Rogers’ agrees, check out her blog post.

“‘I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile.”

– Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary told reporters.”

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REALITY CHECK David Von Drehle, Time, “The European Front”: “The slaughter of 17 people in the City of Light … was … not particularly bloody by the gruesome standards of radical Islamist terrorism. Paris was not even the deadliest scene of the week, which saw up to 2,000 people massacred in Nigeria by the militants of Boko Haram and nearly 40 people killed by what was likely an al-Qaeda car bomb in the capital of Yemen.”

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CONGRESS OFF TO A FAST START The Fix, “One of the interesting things about the recently departed 113th Congress — the second-least productive in modern history — was that it actually started out with a bang. Within three days of being in session, the 113th had a bill signed into law by President Obama, a measure that provided relief measures for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Then things started to slow down. Most recent congresses haven’t gotten their act together in only three days’ time. Using data from GovTrack, we figured out how far into each session (and each starting year) the first bill signed into law by the president occurred. On average, it’s taken about 19 days. THE 114th On Jan. 12, President Obama signed H.R. 26 into law — six days after Congress returned to session and 11 days after the start of the New Year. That brought the average time between the start of session and the first bill down to 18.4 days.

CONGRESS APPROVAL RATING: 16 PERCENT Gallup has the new Republican-led Congress starting (at least on public approval, anyway) right where the old Congress left off!

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Cartoon“THE ANGER GAMES” Micahel Kinsley in Vanity Fair, “‘Washington’ has come to mean everything they hate. Washington is not the Lincoln Memorial or the Smithsonian. It’s the bitterness of the debate, the ugliness of the rhetoric, the stupidity of the political ads … Of course, … the bitterness, ugliness, and stupidity wouldn’t exist if the voters didn’t respond to them.” Full Article.

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SMALLEST U.S. DEFICIT SINCE 2007  The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. last year racked up its smallest budget deficit since 2007, marking an economic shift of fortunes as President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans prepare to face off over legislative priorities this year. Capped off by a $2 billion surplus in December, the government ended the calendar year with a deficit of $488 billion, $72 billion less than the 2013 tally, according to data from the U.S. Treasury.

–“The federal government uses a fiscal year that begins in October; on that basis, the 2014 fiscal year ended in September saw a deficit of $483 billion, also the lowest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

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MAKE ‘EM SQUEAL, JONI Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has been tapped to give the GOP response at the SOTU. Ernst will be the first, first year Senator to give the address, according to her office.” — And for the not-so-official Republican SOTU response – Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) is delivering one on behalf of the tea party. “SURVIVING THE SOTU RESPONSE” by Jim Papa, “1. Hydrate. … 2. Understand that the President has the upper hand. … 3. Take satisfaction if the speech is largely ignored. … 4. Remember your audience isn’t only FOX news. … 5. Speak to middle class Americans where they’re at right now. … 6. Consider the moment. … 7. Look directly into the pool camera. … 8. Prepare to use humor afterward.”

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A 50 YEAR DEMOGRAPHIC GAP WSJ, “House Democrats represent an American population mix as it is projected to look about 30 years from now –more heavily Hispanic and Asian American — while House Republicans represent America as it looked about 20 years ago. Check out this interactive infographic.

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ARREST IN CAPITOL ATTACK PLOT NYTs: “An Ohio man who had hoped to ally himself with the Islamic State was arrested Wednesday in connection with a planned attack on the United States Capitol … Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, near Cincinnati, was charged with attempting to kill a federal officer and with possession of a firearm with the intent to commit a violent crime … In a series of conversations with an F.B.I. informant, Mr. Cornell claimed that he was in contact with terrorist groups overseas, but said he would not wait for authorization before waging an attack.

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REID’S RETURN The Las Vegas Review Journal, “Sen. Harry Reid is likely to return to the Capitol next week after missing the first two weeks of the Senate while recuperating from injuries suffered in a home accident … Reid said last week the accident had cost him vision in his right eye. He said doctors were hopeful it would return but full recovery of his vision was ‘not anything that is a slam dunk.’

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HOUSE LOOSENS DODD-FRANK, AGAIN Wall Street Journal: “The House Wednesday passed a bill to ease nearly a dozen Wall Street regulations, the latest legislative effort to roll back provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. The House voted 271-154 to pass the measure, which included a controversial delay to a provision stemming from Dodd-Frank requiring banks to sell stakes in certain complex securities. The bill marks ongoing clashes between the two parties over government regulation of financial markets … Wednesday’s vote was held a week after Republicans failed to secure enough Democratic support to advance the bill under a fast-track process in which the normal rules of debate are suspended.”

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McCAIN ‘SAVORS SENATE DREAM JOB  NYTs profiles the Arizona Republican, who “finally has the only job in Washington, other than being president, that he ever wanted: chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.” As chairman, McCain “will push to end the across-the-board budget cuts for the Pentagon known as sequestration, and he wants changes made to cut waste in the military’s procurement system, which has the defense industry on edge,” writes the Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “And by using his new platform to draw attention to global threats, he hopes to create a favorable climate for a Republican to win the White House in 2016.”

— … wondering what happened to McCain’s self-imposed ban on talking to the New York Times.

–Meanwhile, McCain calls Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) his “illegitimate son”:

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WHAT’S THE ENDGAME IN IMMIGRATION FIGHT? Politico, “The aggressive package that House Republicans passed Wednesday revoking Obama’s immigration executive actions won’t be the language that ultimately gets signed into law. But what will? “For the rightward-leaning House Republican Conference, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will get its budget filled only if President Barack Obama’s actions on immigration are gutted. But the real outcome will be a lot different. And the House GOP will almost certainly have to bend.” EVERYONE KNOWS the Senate cannot pass this version of the bill, and Obama won’t sign legislation that undoes his executive actions. What really worries members of both parties is that no one – not even leadership – seems to know what kind of bill could get through Congress in time to avert a funding lapse for DHS after Feb. 27 … In particular, House Republican leaders don’t yet know what kind of package could squeeze through the Senate by the deadline … Several House Republican aides, previewing the leadership’s message for when the bill ultimately gets blocked in the Senate, said it’ll be some version of: ‘Why couldn’t Ted Cruz [R-Texas] get the votes to pass this bill?'”

WHAT NEXT? The Hill, “Republicans struggled Thursday to describe a resolution to their impasse on the House-approved spending bill for the DHS … Needing at least six Democratic votes to pass the House’s confrontational bill, Senate Republicans sense the legislation will fail if their leaders put it on the floor. But some would still like to see the Senate vote on the House $40 billion proposal to prove it can’t pass the chamber, rather than prematurely admit defeat on Obama’s unilateral moves to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.” ANOTHER OPTION One option is for the Senate to pass a ‘clean’ Homeland Security funding bill that lacks the immigration riders. But that won’t fly in the House, said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who predicted: ‘There won’t be a clean bill. We have to absolutely confront the president.'”

— Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) stresses that a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security is “off the table.”

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WAR AUTHORIZATION Politico, “Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama took … a step toward finally authorizing the U.S. air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Senate GOP leaders said after the White House meeting that Obama told them he’s preparing to send a legislative framework to Capitol Hill directing an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. … The topic of authorizing the continuing air war against ISIL emerged as a rare area of cooperation in a year that has so far featured several veto threats.”

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INTEL PORTFOLIO RETURNING TO FULL HASC Politico, “The intelligence portfolio is being moved from the HASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee into the full committee under new Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas.”

TAX HIKES TO AVERT SEQUESTRATION: Politico, “The new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is taking a bold stand for a Republican and fifth-generation Texan who represents one of the most conservative districts in the country: He’s not ruling out tax hikes as part of a deal to avert sequestration. Rep. Mac Thornberry isn’t advocating higher taxes – he’s just acknowledging the reality that President Barack Obama will demand some new revenues be paired with entitlement cuts championed by Republicans as part of any deal to avert the automatic spending cuts set to return next fiscal year.”

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MOVE TO BLOCK GITMO CLOSING Politico, “Key Senate Republicans … unveiled legislation that would effectively block the president from fulfilling his pledge to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before he leaves office in two years. The legislation from Sens. Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Richard Burr and Lindsey Graham would prohibit for two years the transfer of detainees designated medium- or high-risk to the United States. It would also ban transfers to Yemen, where dozens of the 127 remaining Guantanamo detainees are from. The bill is the Republican rebuttal to the Obama administration’s recent ramping up of Guantanamo detainee transfers – 21 have been sent to foreign countries since mid-November – in an effort to cut down the prison population and bolster the argument to shutter the prison.”

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ENFORCE Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the fifth-ranking Senate Republican, is rolling out a new push on legislation, called the ENFORCE the Law Act, that would allow Congress to authorize a lawsuit against the executive branch for not carrying out laws – precisely what Republicans say Obama is doing on immigration.”

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OBAMACARE’S LITTLE SECRET Politico, “Elizabeth MacDonough holds no elected office. Few people outside of Capitol Hill even know her name. And forget about knowing her political leanings or loyalties. But she may very well be the most powerful person in Washington in determining how far Republicans can go in trying to repeal Obamacare. As the Senate parliamentarian, MacDonough will make the decisions on which pieces of the law qualify to be repealed using a complicated budget procedure called reconciliation.” HUH? “Her decisions would allow Senate Republicans to vote to kill major provisions of the health care law under a simple 51-vote majority without giving Democrats a chance to filibuster. Republicans have not yet decided whether to use reconciliation – and whether to use it for Obamacare or tax reform. MacDonough would have a pivotal role in either scenario.”

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HERE’S HOW DEMOCRATS WIN BACK THE SENATE IN 2016. SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE. The Fix, “The Senate map is Democrats’ friend in the 2016 cycle. They are defending only 10 seats while Republicans have two dozen of their own seats to hold. But wait, it gets better. Seven of those 24 Republican seats are in states that President Obama won not once but twice: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. To win the majority back, Democrats need to win five of those seven seats in November 2016. (If Hillary Clinton, or some other Democrat, wins the White House in 2016, then Senate Democrats need to win only four of those seven. That’s the exact path Republicans took to the Senate majority in 2014 when, needing a six-seat gain, they won all six of the states — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 and were represented by Democrats. (Republicans also won two states — Iowa and Colorado — that Obama carried twice and one, North Carolina, that Obama won in 2008 and Romney won in 2012.) Of course, 2014 was a historically good year for Senate Republicans. The last time the party won more than nine seats in a midterm election was 1994 when they won 10.  Prior to 1994, you have to go all the way back to 1946 when Republicans netted 12 seats. And, while the map looks great for Democrats on paper, several of those seven races look less rosy in reality. Iowa is a very tough Democratic pickup unless Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) decides to retire, which he insists he isn’t going to do. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is a gifted politician and fundraiser while the Democratic bench in the state is decidedly thin.  The Democratic fields in New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois are still quite muddled. And neither Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) nor Ron Johnson (Wis.) are political dead men walking. Not yet, at least. There are also two genuinely vulnerable Democrats — Sens. Harry Reid (Nev.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.) — on the ballot in 2016. LESSONS LEARNED Still, as the 2014 election revealed, the map and the math are huge factors in the battle for the Senate. Both are on Democrats’ side this time around.”

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ClimateHOT, HOT, HOT As you will see everywhere imminently-if-not-already, 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. Bloomberg News has a great visualization of annual monthly temperatures over time; 13 of the hottest 14 years on record have happened since New Year’s Day, 2000. The skeptics will quickly seize on various anecdotal points to undermine the argument that the temperature record is related to climate change. And it is very much the case that one year doesn’t prove the fact that the world is getting hotter (much less that carbon emissions are the cause). Science, however, is highly confident that the world is getting warmer, and that we should expect exactly what just happened: hotter and hotter years, thanks to the release of greenhouse gases. UNIVERSE HAS A SENSE OF IRONY The U.S. [is] arguably, home to the most prominent climate-change skeptics anywhere. And, over the course of 2014, temperatures in the United States were actually lower than normal. 2014 was actually only the United States’ 34th warmest year on record, thanks to colder-than-average temperatures in the Midwest and most of the East Coast.”

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ONLY 549 DAYS FROM TODAY (1 year, 6 months, 2 days): RNC release announces July 18 to 21 as the 2016 convention, in Cleveland.

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#MILLENNIALS DON’T MATTER MUCH IN AMERICAN POLITICS Politico “Every presidential cycle, candidates look lustily at the newest crop of voters like Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused.” Elections keep getting older, but the young voters stay the same age. And those young voters — by and large — keep on not voting. There’s a lot of benefit to getting younger voters involved in campaigns: they’re often tireless volunteers, and having a strong advocate in a home with regular voters certainly doesn’t hurt. But 18 – to 24-year-olds are often among the smallest percentage of the electorate. If you consider the composition of House voters over the past 23 years, it looks like this. Candidates can try to woo young voters all they want — and should, because people tend to form party loyalties early. But don’t expect those voters to turn out in force. People born in the 1990s play a big role in our culture. But they’ve got almost no voice in politics due to age and turnout. THE AGE OF BOOMER-CONTROLLED POLITICS IS FADING. Gen Xers are ascendant. #Millennials, the generation that’s done so much to shape our culture, have largely yet to appear on the political scene. Candidates running in 2016 are certainly going to do their best to help that process along.”

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SMOKE THAT! Washington Post, “The District of Columbia defied the new Republican Congress on Tuesday, challenging the House and Senate to either block or let stand a voter-approved ballot measure to legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) sent the measure to Capitol Hill, starting the clock on a 30-day review window that Congress has used only three times in 40 years to quash a local D.C. law.”

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Wine sinkParting Weekend Picture.

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