This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
Did you know that Congress is on January recess? Both the House and Senate will be back the week of January 27th.
Here are the week’s highlights.
The Capstone National Partners Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Jodi Hrdina and Joyce Rubenstein)
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A MILESTONE Politico writes, “A landmark $1.1 trillion spending bill cleared the Senate Thursday evening (72-26) which keeps the government funded through September. The omnibus bill wraps all 12 appropriations bills into one massive 1,582-page bill. All 55 Democrats, as well as 17 Republicans voted for the legislation; 26 Republicans voted against it. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama, who has pledged he’ll sign it.
IN THE HOUSE the same spending bill passed on a 359-67 vote Wednesday.
DEFEAT FOR TEA PARTY The House vote came as members shrugged off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups.”
HOW IT PLAYED FOR DEFENSE Military Times writes, “The legislation appropriates overall $572 billion for defense. It funds a 1% pay raise and restores full raises for medical retirees and survivors whose annual COLA adjustments would have been capped under the original Bipartisan Budget Act.
SOME R&D … it also includes $125 million for TBI and psychological health research, $4 million for alcohol and substance abuse research and $100 million for joint warfighter medical research.
Department of Defense The legislation contains $487 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, $39.6 billion below the Obama administration’s request. But that is also below spending caps set by the Ryan-Murray budget agreement, which frees DoD from the effects of sequestration cuts for the rest of this fiscal year. The funding levels also are below both what the House and Senate sought in their separate versions of the bill, requiring much finagling among appropriators who hammered out the agreement.
WINNERS …the personnel budget; the budget for Afghanistan and other overseas military operations, which, at $85 billion, is nearly $6 billion more than the administration’s request; and the budget for “other Defense Department operations,” including the defense health system. LOSERS …the procurement account, which received $93 billion — $6.3 billion below the White House request — and research and development, which at $63 billion is $7 billion less than DoD received in fiscal 2013 and $4.5 billion below the administration’s request.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT This has given badly needed predictability in the budget. Defense Breakdown
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR BUDGET, CONGRESS. AMERICAN STILL HATES YOU The Fix writes, “One month after a divided Congress came together to pass a bipartisan budget plan for the first time since the mid-1980s, the American people have rewarded their kumbaya moment by … hating the two parties about as much as they did before A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows approval ratings for members in both parties are virtually unchanged. Thirty-four percent of Americans approve of Democrats in Congress — the same as last month and as in March 2013 — while 25% approve of congressional Republicans — basically the same as it has been for two years.”
TOP FIVE PROBLEMS According to Gallup:
5) Fed’l budget deficit/debt
LONG MEMORY The Fix writes, “So, when did government become such a big problem in the minds of Americans? It was consistently a top concern throughout 2013. But the government shutdown in October sent worries skyrocketing. Thirty-three percent named government the top problem in an early October poll, up big from 16% in September.
NOTE TO POLITICIANS The shutdown may seem like a distant memory for many Americans, especially as the healthcare debate moved to the forefront of the national conversation. But the public’s feelings about government as a problem have not returned to pre-shutdown levels. It’s all a reminder of 1) how quickly a big event like the shutdown can make Americans lose faith in government and 2) how it hasn’t disappeared totally from the public’s consciousness.”
A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE The Washington Post writes about how “Women are wielding notable influence on Capitol Hill.” Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) once again was at the center of the $1.1 trillion spending plan (with her House counterpart, Harold Rogers (R-KY). … Senate Budget Committee Chair, Patty Murray (D-WA) is credited (along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) with December’s budget deal. … Next month when attention will turn to passing a farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has spent three years working on the measure with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), will be at the center of the action. And women’s influence extends beyond marquee legislation to other policy areas … how the military handles sexual assault, reforming the NSA, major water and public works bill, and on and on.
WHAT’S UP? According to Susan Collins (R-Maine), this is why… “One is the collaborative style that I think women as a whole … bring to legislating,” she said. “Second is that we’re in key positions and that allows us to shape legislation more directly. And third is that we do trust each other.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a recent interview, “Women are often very good at finding common ground and building bipartisan support.”
NSA – STAKING A MIDDLE GROUND NYTimes writes, “President Obama said today that he would require intelligence agencies to obtain permission from a secret court before tapping into …telephone data, but he will leave the data in the hands of the government for now. He announced that he is pulling back the government’s wide net of surveillance at home and abroad, staking out a middle ground between the far-reaching proposals of his own advisers and the concerns of the nation’s intelligence agencies. At the heart of the changes, prompted by the disclosure of surveillance practices by a former NSA contractor, Edward J. Snowden, is an overhaul of a bulk data collection program that has swept up many millions of records of Americans’ telephone calls, though not their content.
CYBERCOMMAND The president rejected splitting command of the NSA, which conducts surveillance, from the United States Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s cyberwarfare unit, to avoid concentrating too much power in the hands of a single individual.”
WON’T END THE DEBATE Bottom line: The debate continues and now it will involve Congress — and maybe even the 2016 field.
IKE WAS RIGHT NPR reports, “The President picked an interesting date to announce the changes he wants…and doesn’t want to see in the NSA surveillance programs.”
ANNIVERSARY On Jan. 17, 1961, President Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn Americans that, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” What irony!
On the heels of Robert Gates’ book, “Duty,” Capstone CEO John Rogers and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense writes about his own experiences working at the DOD. Check it out.
EXIT STAGE RIGHT [OR LEFT] Retiring from the House seems like it’s in vogue right now. In recent weeks, Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA), Bill Owens (D-NY), and George Miller (D-CA), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) decided to hang ’em up. And just yesterday, HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) announced he too was leaving … not a big surprise.
IN CONTRAST TO 2012 The Fix writes, “The total number of retirements and resignations (19) is about the same as it was at this point in 2012 (21). But the party breakdown has been flipped. So far this cycle, 12 Republicans and seven Democrats are retiring or have resigned; in 2012, 13 Democrats and eight Republicans had resigned or announced retirement plans. * There were only 12 retirements or resignations by this point in 2010, the year Republicans won back the House after picking up 63 seats.
“DEPARTMENT OF EVERYTHING” AUTHOR STEPPING DOWN Politico writes, ““Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn …will not serve out his full Senate term and intends to step down after 2014 because of deepening health problems. Coburn is known for his crusade against wasteful government spending, especially at DoD.
IMPACT IN OK National Journalwrites, “Coburn’s retirement has the potential to break open a logjam in Oklahoma’s all-GOP congressional delegation. If the special coincides with the general this November, it might mean that ambitious members won’t get a free shot and will have to risk their House seats to seek a promotion.”
“ICK” FACTOR NPR reports that after a federal ban on producing horse meat was lifted several years ago ranchers stepped up operations with an aim to export meat (the “ick” factor). The rancher’s efforts have hit major roadblocks…lawsuits and plenty of stories about the “ick factor” evoked by the image of butchering a beautiful thoroughbred. A provision in the recently passed omnibus bill bans the funding of US Dept. of Ag inspections at horse slaughter plants. And, without inspections, slaughterhouses can’t be in business. Game over.
OIL AND WATER DON’T MIX – MCCONNELL AND EPA National Journal writes, “President Obama wants to make climate change his legacy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, wants to get reelected this year (and win the Senate). Talk about oil and water. This won’t mix well. [Thursday] we saw the first round in this battle when McConnell filed a disapproval resolution to stop EPA’s climate-change rules under the Congressional Review Act right as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was touting those rules to a Senate committee.
SPEAKING OF WATER … Another day, another crisis. Kate Venne’s “Do’s and Don’ts” on being a good spokesperson. Read it here.
LAWMAKERS PUSH EPA ON RFS Energy Edge writes, “Thirty members of Congress sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking the agency to revise a draft proposal for the mandate that would roll back biofuels targets.”
WRITING LOTS OF BILLS vs. ACTUALLY PASSING BILLS…not so much. From the Sunlight Foundation.
WEEKLY UPDATES ON OBAMACARE In the House, thirty-three Democrats supported the legislation requiring weekly updates. (The Hill)
REVIVING VOTING RIGHTS The Hill, “A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would restore the voting protections shot down by the Supreme Court last year. Sponsored by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the proposal attempts to ensure voters’ rights by requiring certain regions with a recent history of racial discrimination to secure federal approval before changing their election rules. The bill would reduce the number of states requiring federal pre-clearance from nine to four, leaving Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia still covered under that provision of the old law.”
TIME TO REFORM THE WAR POWERS ACT? Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John McCain (R-AZ) are introducing the War Powers Consultation Act of 2014, legislation that would reform the 1973 War Powers Resolution by “strengthening the consultative process between Congress and the president on whether and when to engage in military action,” a spokeswoman for Kaine’s office told Morning D.
FINAL WORD ON BENGHAZI “A long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday faulted both the State Department and the intelligence community for not preventing attacks on two outposts in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in 2012. But the report “found no evidence of the kind of political cover-up that Republicans have long alleged.” (Washington Post)
MAYBE NOT First Read writes, “A newly-released [report]… has given Republicans newfound ammunition as they seek to undermine Hillary Clinton and thwart her potential presidential candidacy in 2016.”
PENTAGON WANTS TO CUT THE NAVY’S LCS BUY Politico writes that the Navy has been directed to cut 20 Littoral Combat Ships from its overall buy. “The decision, in a Jan. 6 memo from Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox, came after the Pentagon received its final 2015 budget guidance from the White House. Several major acquisition decisions, including direction on what to do with the LCS program, were awaiting the numbers from the Office of Management and Budget.”
FROM THE PARKING LOT TO THE WEST WING TO THE SENATE? FirstRead writes, “…. Hey, if Terry McAuliffe could do it in Virginia, why not another DC insider, right? Republican strategist and insider (and former Chair of the RNC) Ed Gillespie officially announced he is running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia for the seat currently held by Democrat Mark Warner. McAuliffe, a Democrat, is now governor having never previously held elective office. He was the former Chair of the DNC and a Dem insider.”