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The Washington Report – January 30, 2015

02 Feb 2015

The Washington Report – January 30, 2015


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

 

BUDGET INCREASES AND END TO SEQUESTRATION … WHY IT’S VETO SEASON and the JANICE JOPLIN DOCTRINE … MAJOR BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE … FIRST LOOK: DOD BUDGET … THE CLOCK TO FEB. 27 IS TICKING … LOW LIFE SCUM … CAPTAIN COOKIE AND THE MILK MAN … and other news of the week.

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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OBAMA VEERS LEFT Politico: “… He declared war on ‘mindless austerity’ while pledging fresh tax hikes on banks and the rich to pay for free community college and other goodies. Remember those budget caps put in place in 2011? Obama wants to blast right through them. It’s a progressive’s dream version of Obama, untethered from earlier centrist leanings and flirtations with ‘grand bargains’ with Republicans on entitlement reform.”

OBAMA TO PROPOSE BUDGET INCREASES AND END TO SEQUESTRATION WashPo: “Obama’s budget proposal represents a roughly 7% increase in 2016 discretionary spending over the levels that would trigger cuts under sequestration. The plan would provide $530 billion on the non-defense discretionary side, an increase of $37 billion over the spending caps, and $561 billion in defense spending, an increase of $38 billion over the caps.”

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d6959c1558ad6fcbbbb8c548_280x1014 REASONS WHY IT’S VETO SEASON AT THE WHITE HOUSE NPR: “President Obama is about to get his first veto opportunity of the new Congress. A bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline project will be on his desk soon. He has promised to veto it, and that’s unusual. In his first six years in office, Obama issued just two vetoes — the fewest of any president going all the way back to James Garfield, and Garfield only served 199 days in office! But with the Republican takeover of both chambers of Congress, that will change. Here are four reasons why:

1. Nothing left to lose: the Janis Joplin doctrine. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, Joplin sang. The thing that holds a president back from taking executive action is very often that members of Congress of his own party don’t want him to trample on their prerogatives. When the president has an opposition party controlling Congress, he doesn’t have to worry about that. And he’s no longer concerned with the political fate of red-state, pro-Keystone Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu or Sen. Mark Begich — they both lost their seats in November. So he’s free to stand with the environmentalist base of his party.

2. A divided government. Instead of a divided Congress, where a Democratic Senate kept almost anything from coming to the president’s desk, we now have divided government. A Republican Congress will actually be passing things and sending them to President Obama to sign or veto.

3. The desire to draw a bright line. In the past, presidents often used vetoes as a negotiating tool — to shape legislation. Bill Clinton, who famously said “I was not elected to produce a pile of vetoes,” vetoed plenty of bills, including welfare reform twice before he got a version he was willing to sign. That may be the case with some future Obama vetoes, but right now the dynamics between Congress and President Obama are so contentious that neither side is looking for a negotiation. Both Congress, by passing bills it knows the president will veto, and the president, by vetoing them, are making a political statement.

4. Protecting the president’s legacy and authority. According to political scientists who study this, historically, 90% of veto threats are issued privately, behind the scenes. Obama appears to be breaking with that tradition. He has issued nine veto threats so far — in public. Most are to defend his legacy initiatives: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, immigration action. But several threatened vetoes are to preserve the authority of the executive. He says he’ll veto the Keystone XL bill because it’s up to the State Department, not Congress, to approve cross-border pipelines. He has also promised to veto two bills about the Iran nuclear deal because they infringe on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy.”

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FINALLY – SENATE PASSES KEYSTONE “The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a conflict with President Barack Obama who has promised a veto. The Senate voted 62-36 Thursday for the measure that would circumvent the administration review in progress for six years … Differences with a version passed 266-153 by the House on Jan. 9 must be resolved before the legislation is sent to Obama, but supporters pledged to work through those quickly and send a final version to the president.” (Bloomberg)

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OBAMA DROPS ‘529’ PROPOSAL NYTs “President Obama, facing angry reprisals from parents and from lawmakers of both parties, will drop his proposal to effectively end the popular college savings accounts known as 529s, but will keep an expanded tuition tax credit at the center of his college access plan. … The decision came just hours after Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio demanded that the proposal be withdrawn from the president’s budget, ‘for the sake of middle-class families.'” … calls for the White House to relent also came from top Democrats, including Representatives Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking member of the Budget Committee.”

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BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE “President Obama on Friday announced a major biomedical research initiative, including plans to collect genetic data on one million Americans so that scientists can develop drugs and treatments tailored to individual patients’ specific characteristics. Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the NIH, said the studies would help doctors decide which treatments would work best for which patients. … the “precision medicine initiative,” also known as personalized or individualized medicine, would begin with a down payment of $215 million in the president’s budget request for the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1. The bulk of the initiative’s funding — $130 million — will be earmarked for developing a cohort of one million or more research subjects to help scientists conduct long-term disease studies. This effort will be undertaken by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Another $70 million will go to the NIH’s National Cancer Center to increase research into the genetic drivers of cancer. The rest of the funding will be split between the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology for projects intended to improve rapid DNA sequencing technology and guarantee patient privacy. Many details about how this initiative is going to be designed and operated are still in the process of being worked out.” (The Hill/NYT)

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‘I WILL BE LORETTA LYNCH’ Politico: “President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee came to Capitol Hill with one overriding message Wednesday: ‘I will be Loretta Lynch.’ Translation: She won’t be Eric Holder – not the attorney general who has angered Republicans during a six-year contentious relationship in which lawmakers called for his resignation and the House held him in contempt.  Senate Republicans repeatedly used Lynch’s nearly eight-hour confirmation hearing to invoke the controversies of Holder’s tenure, even as she pledged a fresh start with Congress, promised to maintain her independence from the White House and repeatedly declined to be pulled into drawn-out debates about issues like immigration, gay marriage and alleged targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.” Lynch, who would be the first black female attorney general, turned in a polished performance free of any serious stumbles.”  LYNCH SET TO PASS JUDICIARY Huddle: “Loretta Lynch has enough votes to clear a key committee on her confirmation as the nation’s next attorney general, as two Senate Republicans said Thursday that they’ll back her and another one indicated his potential support. Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona both said after Lynch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that they would vote to confirm the federal prosecutor, believing she is qualified to succeed Eric Holder … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said he was ‘inclined’ to back Lynch.”

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TRIAL BALLOON POPS Politico: “Senate Republicans’ trial balloon calling for abolishing filibusters for Supreme Court nominees is already plummeting back to earth. Democrats are worried about a Republican Senate and president installing anti-abortion justices if the GOP takes the White House in 2017. Veteran Republicans loathe the plan, arguing it further fillets the minority party’s rights beyond current rules that eliminated the filibuster for most presidential nominees. Republicans also face the possibility of losing the Senate in 2016 and they fret about voters giving the confirmation keys to a President Hillary Clinton, who they fear would install liberal judges.” –“Given Republicans’ insistence that any changes to the Senate’s byzantine rules require the support of 67 senators, it’s impossible to envision the filibuster disappearing anytime soon on Supreme Court nominees.”

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RARE SHOW OF BI-PARTNERSHIP AP: “In a rare show of bipartisanship over President Barack Obama’s health care law, a Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to exclude veterans from the 50-worker threshold that triggers required coverage for employees under that statute. [As a practical matter] … there are relatively few firms on the cusp of having 50 workers who could avoid providing health care to their entire work force by hiring qualified veterans. The Senate Finance Committee vote was 26-0, a departure from the usual party-line fights over Obama’s showcase 2010 law.”

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REPEALING CUBA TRAVEL BAN “Eight Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to repeal all restrictions on U.S. citizens’ travel to Cuba, the first step in Congress toward ending the U.S. embargo since President Barack Obama moved toward normal relations last month … Senators backing the bill include Republicans Jeff Flake, Jerry Moran, Michael Enzi and John Boozman, as well as Democrats Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse.”(Reuters)

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DHS FUNDING … THE CLOCK TO FEBRUARY 27 IS TICKING HuffPost: “With less than a month to go until the Department of Homeland Security runs out of funding and no clear end in sight to the gridlock that’s preventing Congress from approving more, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned lawmakers Thursday not to threaten his agency’s budget over immigration disputes. Congress is currently embroiled in a debate over what to do about DHS funding. Many conservatives say they will only approve funding for DHS if the bill includes measures to block the president’s immigration policies, and President Barack Obama has said he will veto anything that includes such riders. THE HOUSE passed a DHS funding bill earlier this month that would end Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration. The president’s actions could allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to temporarily stay in the country and work legally if they came to the U.S. as children or are parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They would also block older policies that instruct immigration agents to focus on deporting convicted criminals, recent border-crossers and national security risks. SENATE DEMS THREATEN DHS FILIBUSTER That bill is almost certain to fail in the Senate. All 46 members of the Democratic caucus said this week they will oppose a funding bill that has immigration measures attached, meaning Republicans won’t get the 60 votes they need to move it forward. On Tuesday, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced their own DHS funding bill without immigration riders. Johnson warned that a full-year budget at higher funding levels is necessary for DHS to carry out a number of plans. Among other things, the agency needs more money for border security efforts and to improve the Secret Service, as well as to hire agents to deal with the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign cycle, he said.

DON’T MESS WITH HOMELAND SECURITY “The three former heads of the DHS are warning Congress not to hold up funding for the sprawling department as lawmakers continue fighting over immigration reform. The three former secretaries of homeland security — two Republicans and one Democrat — say in a letter obtained by The Washington Post that a prolonged fight could risk national security at a time of sustained threats from terrorist groups. Their message comes as the U.S. Senate is expected to begin debating a DHS spending bill in the coming days.”(WashPo)

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NO JOB SECURITY AT CBO The Hill: “Republicans on the Budget committees are interviewing candidates to replace Douglas Elmendorf as head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) … While GOP leaders haven’t publicly confirmed the plan to boot Elmendorf from the nonpartisan office, Republicans have approached several potential candidates about stepping in, sources say. They also say the search is moving toward an end and that Republicans already have a shortlist of candidates.”

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REVENGE Politico: “House Republican leadership’s crackdown against dissenters is continuing. Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, is laying plans to boot lawmakers from the leadership’s elite vote-counting team if they oppose party-line procedural motions. That might sound like insignificant inside baseball, but it’s a critical development – and yet another sign that top Republicans are looking to ostracize troublemakers in the Capitol.”

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McCAIN CALLS PROTESTERS LOW LIFE SCUM “Sen. John McCain dismissed Code Pink protesters as ‘low-life scum’ Thursday after they called for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be arrested for war crimes. A group of Code Pink protesters interrupted the start of an Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, chaired by the Arizona Republican, holding up a banner behind the former secretary of State and chanting repeatedly: ‘Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!'” (TPM)

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DOD BUDGET DEEP DIVE Politico: The Pentagon plans to propose a fiscal 2016 budget of $585 billion – about $35 billion above the caps mandated under sequestration, according to draft budget documents. The defense budget request, set to be unveiled on Monday, includes $534.3 billion for the base budget and $50.9 billion for the supplemental Overseas Contingency Operations account to fund the war in Afghanistan and other counterterrorism operations. The base budget request represents a $38 billion increase from the defense appropriations topline this fiscal year – extra dollars that largely won’t materialize unless members of Congress can agree to a deal to avert sequestration, set to return next fiscal year following a two-year reprieve. The Pentagon’s five-year budget plans call for ramping up base defense spending to $570 billion in 2020.”

BOOST OPERATIONS, MAINTENANCE, PROCUREMENT AND R & D” The Pentagon will request $209.8 billion in operations and maintenance funding in the base budget, an increase of $14.5 billion from this fiscal year. The proposal would also boost procurement spending by $14.1 billion to $107.7 billion and research and development funding by $6.3 billion to $69.8 billion, according to the draft documents. The request includes three new Littoral Combat Ships, the same number Congress approved last year, as part of an $11.6 billion nine-ship procurement package that will also fund two Virginia-class attack submarines, according to the highlights. There’s also $55 million for LCS capabilities improvements”

“In addition, the budget will once again seek to save money by increasing Tricare health care fees and through cuts to housing benefits and commissaries. The highlights show the budget would slow the growth of the basic housing allowance an additional 4% above the 1% Congress approved in December. The Pentagon will propose changes to the pharmacy copay structure to encourage the use of mail-order and generic drugs, which could save $2 billion over the next five years, according to the highlights. And it will seek what are called “modest annual fees” for Tricare-for-Life coverage that would generate savings of $100 million in fiscal 2016 and $400 million over the next five years.”

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DEFENSE and DEFICIT HAWKS SPLIT LATimes: “Though Republicans are eager to see the Pentagon fully funded, the prospect of lifting the spending caps runs up against another core GOP tenet — limiting government spending. An internal struggle centers on that split. ‘There’s debate going on,’ said Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ‘It’s been a standoff, as you know. I have not seen either side running up the white flag.’

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“TRAGICALLY LOW STANDARD FOR EVALUATING THE WISDOM OF GOVERNMENT POLICY”

-Sen. John McCain, to those who still say, ‘Never fear. The sky didn’t fall under sequestration.’ “The impacts of sequestration will not always be immediate or obvious. But the sky doesn’t need to fall for military readiness to be eroded, for military capabilities to atrophy, or for critical investments in maintaining American military superiority to delayed, cut, or cancelled. These will be the results of sequestration’s quiet and cumulative disruptions that are every bit as dangerous for our national security.”

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THAT’S A LOT OF MOOLA USA Today: “The political network led by industrialists Charles and David Koch plans to spend $889 million for the 2016 elections. … The spending, unrivaled for an outside organization, represents more than double the nearly $400 million the Republican National Committee (RNC) raised and spent during the 2012 presidential election cycle … [and] double what the Koch brothers and their network spent in 2012. STAGGERING AND MOSTLY SECRET NPR: “The Republican and Democratic political parties have to disclose their donors. The Koch network consists almost entirely of groups that don’t register under the campaign finance laws and so don’t publicly identify their donors. No other outside money operation matches the Koch network in funding or organizational breadth. Various components of the network run TV ads, do grass-roots work and phone banking, develop voter data files, and reach out to veterans, women, Hispanic voters and young voters. SOMETHING ELSE The Koch network is showing interest in jumping into the presidential primary fight, something it’s never done before.”

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SAY IT AIN’T SO, MITT! Contrary to reports earlier today that he would run, Mitt Romney just announced he will not seek the presidency in 2016.

WI GOV. SCOTT WALKER “Walker’s …. Iowa speech showcased one of his overlooked yet sharpest rhetorical skills: spin. Unlike Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee or most other potential GOP contenders who hail from deeply conservative states, Walker has honed his ability to sell conservatives on his credentials without alienating a critical mass of moderates needed to win a general election.” (Bloomberg)

HILLARY’S TIME LINE The Fix: “The news out of Politico is that Hillary Clinton is likely to push her formal presidential announcement all the way back to July, a three-month delay from the original plan and one born of a desire to make sure the candidate and the campaign are fully ready to go when things are made official. The thinking goes like this: Clinton does best — in the eyes of the public — when she is seen as above or removed from politics. Her numbers, which were damaged by the 2008 presidential race, soared during and after her time as secretary of state. The less political she looks — and you always look less political when you aren’t running for something — the more people like her.”

FOR THE TRUE POLITICOS:  Prez contenders life story visualized.

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CLIMATE CHANGE An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.  … Among Republicans, 48% said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll.” (NYT)

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2fd66ac2fd22b8a19d39da4e_280x210CAPTAIN COOKIE & THE MILK MAN OPENS IN FOGGY BOTTOM Yes, Cookies and milk at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave, NW. From a food truck to a store front – a not-to-miss stop if you live in DC, or just visiting. This first shop officially opens today in Foggy Bottom, where you’ll find fresh-baked cookies, Trickling Springs Creamery milk and a line out the door.

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BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME, even though it has nothing to do with politics, here is an illustrated history of Super Bowl halftime shows.  

The FAA is asking all those heading to this year’s Superbowl to please keep their drones at home.(CQ Roll Call)

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