This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
Both the House and Senate are still on recess. They will return next week. Upcoming … the president will deliver his 6th State of the Union address next Tuesday, which one Morning D reader describes as the “official kickoff of the silly season,” noting this year is an election year, making it a particularly silly season.
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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SOME DATES TO KEEP ON YOUR RADAR:
Jan. 28th: State of the Union (SOTU) at 9:00 pm ET.
Feb. 7: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling by this date.
March 4: The president plans to release his 2015 budget which means the budget will be submitted to Congress later than federal law requires (the first Monday in February), but it is coming a month earlier than last year’s.
March 17: Saint Patrick’s Day.
HOW OBAMA CAN SAVE HIS PRESIDENCY (OR NOT) As Norm Ornstein writes for National Journal, “On the cusp of his 2014 State of the Union message, President Obama is not exactly floating on air. … Second-term presidencies rarely result in strings of major accomplishments. Things get tougher as each year passes. One’s own party begins to get distance as the sixth-year midterms approach, and the number of one’s partisans almost inevitably diminishes with that election. And members of the other party pay less and less attention to a lame duck. But those generalizations are not inevitable. There have been examples of major policy victories in a second term, most notably Ronald Reagan’s bipartisan triumph on tax reform. And trends and patterns are not written in stone.” Stay tuned.
#SOTU REPUBLICAN RESPONDER The Fix writes, “Republicans have selected Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to deliver the official Republican response. Five things to know about her:
1) She’s the highest-ranking woman in the GOP Conference.
2) She’s the first woman to respond since Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, current HHS Secretary, in 2008. The last Republican woman to respond was Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in 2000.
3) She made history with the birth of her third child [becoming] the first member to give birth three times while serving in Congress.
4) She co-founded the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus (her son Cole has Down syndrome).
5) She’s the descendant of pioneers who settled in Walla Walla, Wash., in 1853.
WHAT WILL OBAMA SAY #SOTU? Morning Dwrites, “Defense hawks have low expectations, saying it’s unlikely he’ll spend much time on foreign policy problems like Iraq and Syria. The president wants to focus on economic development, immigration and other priorities on his domestic agenda – not Middle East violence.” MORE ON THIS NEXT WEEK.
IN THE HOUSE: IMMIGRATION BACK ON AGENDA Politico reports that, “The same House Republicans who punted on immigration last year are now privately crafting an intricate plan to try to pass it in 2014. Most people close to the planning expect votes on four bills by the end of the summer, including one that would give undocumented workers legal status. And though none of the bills is likely to offer a path to full citizenship, the fact Republicans are preparing to take on immigration at all is a sign the party is coming to grips with a political reality: if they want to win elections in the long run, they’ll have to face the issue.
FARM BILL HAGGLE Politico’s Rogers reports, “Yards from the finish line, farm bill negotiators are struggling with two final issues – dairy and payment limits – each of which takes Congress back full circle to the question asked when the whole debate began two years ago. How far should government go to protect farmers from bad times – and, sometimes, themselves?”
GOOGLE The Wall Street Journal writes, “… Google has hired a string of Republican operatives as part of an effort to build relationships with GOP lawmakers and has evened out the campaign donations from its political-action committee, which had skewed in favor of Democratic candidates.”
MIKE HUCKABEE, UNCLE SUGAR AND POOR WORD CHOICES
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let’s take that discussion all across America.”
– Mike Huckabee, former and potential future Republican presidential candidate, at the RNC winter meeting.
NOTE …The contraception issue is not the GOP’s friend. A March 2012 Washington Post-ABC poll showed Americans favored mandating contraception coverage by a margin of 61-35. Those who felt strongly in favor of the mandate outnumbered those who strongly opposed it nearly two to one, 50-27.
HOW “CITIZENS UNITED” CHANGED POLITICS The Fix writes, “Four years ago today, the Supreme Court issued the Citizens United ruling, a case that has drastically re-shaped the political landscape in its relatively short life span. … So, what hath Citizens United — which, in short, allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited funds on direct advocacy for or against candidates – actually wrought? Here are six charts that tell the story.
A year after President Obama’s pledge to address voting problems, a commission he established recommends expanding early voting and online voter registration to improve efficiency at polls nationwide.” (National Journal)
RESTORE COLA The Navy Times writes, “The Senate is poised to consider a massive veterans bill that not only would improve education, health and employment benefits for former troops, it would restore the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) reduction for military retirees set by the Bipartisan Budget Act. But it also takes on the most contentious portion of the budget deal forged by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA – the reduction of the cost of living adjustment to military retired pay by 1% for retirees under age 62. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would repeal the provision.”
WAIVER POLICY FOR RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES AP writes that “The Pentagon has approved a new policy that will allow troops to seek waivers to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time, or engage in religious practices.”
ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK via Military.com, “The Defense Department is discussing a $1 billion cut over the next three years to the commissary’s budget in a move that could lead to a widespread closure of stores. The potential Defense Department cut would reduce the agency’s budget over three years until it stood at $400 million in fiscal 2017.”
ARMY JOBS OPEN TO WOMEN, via Army Times, “The Army will open about 33,000 positions to female soldiers in April as part of the Defense Department’s ongoing effort to open all military jobs to women.”
COURT RULING ENDS MISSOURI’S RIGHT TO LIMIT NAVIGATORS States that opted to let the federal government run their exchanges can’t limit how the insurance hubs operate, a Missouri judge ruled Thursday. (USA Today)
Meanwhile, TEXAS ISSUES TOUGH RULES FOR INSURANCE NAVIGATORS NPR reports that , “The navigators must register with the state, undergo a background check and fingerprinting, and complete 20 hours of additional training — beyond the 20 to 30 hours of federal training they’ve already received.”
HEALTH INSURANCE COUNT TPM writes that 3 million Americans have now enrolled in private coverage through Obamacare through January 15, up 800k from the end of December. Before Obamacare launched, the administration had projected seven million enrollees by March 31, when open enrollment closes.
THE GUT: RUNNING GOP CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1854 Hotline writes, “It’s a complaint mostly from next-generation GOP consultant types: Campaigns spend all this money on television and traditional advertising without any real data to inform their spending. That’s the subject of a new Campaigns & Elections op-ed submission from Vincent Harris, a GOP new-media consultant. “Gut instinct continues to be the primary form of decision making within Republican campaigns,” Harris writes, “some of which spend millions of dollars on inefficient media buys based on campaign methods passed down through decades of political lore.” Harris, who headed up now-Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) digital ops in 2012 thinks that too much money is going into TV and direct mail, and not enough is going into digital. The FL-13 Special is an interesting test case; the NRCC has already spent $725,000 on TV ads (through Feb. 10) and $100,000 on web ads. FL-13 is an older district, and special elections usually attract an older electorate, anyway. But the NRCC ultimately intends to use FL-13 to test the effectiveness of both TV and digital to reach “persuadables” and turn out their voters — even if that spending level is “in contrast to undeniable research concerning rising digital usage,” as Harris writes. Digital spending by corporations has moved to nearly a quarter of their overall advertising budget, and politics (particularly on the Republican side) hasn’t kept up with that. The demographics of midterm-election voters don’t necessarily match up with the overall consumer base, and 2014 won’t necessarily be won or lost online. But, as Harris and others argue, spending smarter will boost the GOP’s chances of capturing the Senate this year and the White House in 2016.”
NOT TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT 2016 Priorities USA Action, which supported the Obama campaign over Clinton in 2008, has aligned itself with Clinton before she has even announced her candidacy. It’s a high-profile endorsement for Clinton, as the committee seeks donations in the millions of dollars. (NYT)
STOP HILLARY PAC, “a super PAC aimed at stopping” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) “from becoming president filed a complaint with the FEC on Wednesday against” Clinton “and Ready for Hillary” alleging that Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign violate campaign finance law by renting its list of email addresses to “Ready for Hillary.” (Buzzfeed)
GOP CRACKS DOWN ON 2016 PRIMARY CALENDAR (and, Florida, This Means You) National Journal writes, “For Republicans yearning for a less front-loaded, more orderly presidential nominating contest, the long national nightmare may be over. The RNC is poised this week to enact its toughest crackdown yet on states that try to infringe on the special, first-in-the-nation status afforded to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Florida, this means you. In the last two presidential elections, the state held its earliest primaries ever in an effort to wield more influence over the nominating process. That led the four states picked to hold the first primaries to schedule them even earlier, turning Christmas into crunch time. THE RNC punished Florida, cutting its 99 delegates in half, yet, the late-January primary worked as planned. The nation’s largest swing state clinched the deal for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.”
CHRISTIE RETURNS TO PRE-SANDY POLL NUMBERS FirstRead writes, “By now, we’ve seen plenty of polling — both nationally and in New Jersey — on Chris Christie two weeks after the bridge scandal became a national story. But this Rutgers-Eagleton poll, which was released Wednesday, probably captures Christie’s political situation best: He’s now lost the big bump he got after Hurricane Sandy. Per the poll, Christie’s fav/unfav rating among registered voters in the state is 46%-43%, down from 65%-27% in November. But his current score is almost identical to the 48%-42% rating he had in Sept. 2012 before the superstorm. In other words, his numbers have come down to earth, and he’s viewed through a more partisan lens than he was before the storm. In this Rutgers-Eagleton poll, he’s well-liked among New Jersey Republicans (78%-15%), viewed warmly among independents (55%-33%), and disliked by Democrats (19%-69%). Those are decent numbers, governing numbers, but they aren’t “shock and awe,” “this guy is the most electable Republican in the country” numbers anymore.”
SNAIL MAIL The post office will raise the price of a first-class letter and most other mail by three cents to 49 cents on Monday, the 27th.
CALL ME, MAYBE We can all use this. From the Fast Company, ” Mastering the Fine Art of Getting to the Point.”
TRUE BELIEVERS TAKE NOTE Apples’ Macintosh computer was introduced 30 years ago today with that unforgettable 60-second commercial released during the Super Bowl. The computer cost $2,497 ($7,053 in today’s dollars). In case you haven’t seen the TV commercial in a while, here it is.