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The Washington Report – January 9, 2015

12 Jan 2015

The Washington Report – January 9, 2015


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

 

Paris. Prayers. Solidarity. 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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JE SUIS CHARLIE

NOUS SOMMES TOUS CHARLIE

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“…there is no sense to be made of this … our hearts go out to the staff of Charlie Hebdo and their families. I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage … But those guys at Hebdo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons. Stark reminder that for the most part, the legislators and journalists and institutions that we jab and ridicule are not, in any way, the enemy, for however frustrated and outraged the back-and-forth can become, it’s still back-and-forth, a conversation between those on, let’s call it “Team Civilization.” And this type of violence only clarifies that reality. Our goal … is not to make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this. Our goal, as it is always, is to keep going.

– Jon Stewart

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23 Heartbreaking Cartoons BuzzFeeedNews: Cartoonists mourn in the wake of the Paris shootings.

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“One of the joys … of a democracy is that it allows time and room for people who find the whole lark of maturing, whether in politics or in personal conduct, to be overrated.”

– From Anthony Lane, The New Yorker Shooting the Jesters” (recommended read)

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“Hebdo’s usual circulation is around 30,000, but the surviving staff are planning to print 1 million copies of next week’s run … The Fund for Digital Innovation (funded by Google …) has donated 250,000 euro … while French newspapers have pledged an equal amount.” (The Verge)

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2014: STRONGEST YEAR FOR JOB GROWTH SINCE 1999 CNN: “More than 2.95 million jobs were created last year, according to the latest figures from the the Dept. of Labor. The economy added 252,000 jobs in December … Unemployment rate fell to 5.6%, down from 5.8% in November.”

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THEY’RE BACK The 114th Congress began on Tuesday bringing with it a stronger Republican majority in the House and a new Republican majority in the Senate. WELCOME NEWBIES AP: “… 58 incoming freshmen lawmakers, including a new group of millennials, a host of veterans and a more diverse class of Republicans. The incoming classes will bring new gender and racial diversity to Capitol Hill, with 104 women in the House and Senate and close to 100 black, Hispanic and Asian lawmakers. The newcomers include the youngest woman elected to Congress, 30-year-old Elise Stefanik of New York, and the first black Republican woman, Mia Love of Utah.”DIVERSE? REALLY? The 114th Congress is the most diverse Congress of all time! But, as The Fix pointed out earlier this week, that still means “mostly white and male.” (SEE CHARTS)

SOMETHING IN THE WATER IN OHIO WashPo, “The birthplace of aviation, it turns out, is also the birthplace of senators. Ohio has produced more senators than any other state over the past 100 years, according to a review of data by Eric Ostermeier, who writes at the Smart Politics blog.

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HELL HATH NO FURY…LIKE A SPEAKER SCORNED John Boehner quickly moved to punish two of the Republicans who bucked his bid to seek a third term as speaker. Ultimately the rebellion didn’t matter, Boehner got support from 216 Republicans – more than enough to secure the post – but that didn’t stop the Ohio Republican from stripping Florida Reps. Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent from their seats on the influential Rules Committee. And there could be more to come. Reps. Steve King, Marlin Stutzman, Scott Garrett and 20 others also cast ‘no’ votes for Boehner, who’s allies are promising that any political retribution could unfold over the course of months.”  FAILED COUP … HOW NOT TO OUST A SPEAKER Huddle: “A group of House conservatives spent almost a year dreaming big about toppling Speaker John Boehner, but less than a day before the vote they still hadn’t found someone to replace him. One promising candidate finally jumped in – but only at the last minute, not even telling his closest friend in Congress he was running. The result was a vote Tuesday that ultimately yielded an ugly, controversial win for Boehner, with the most defections from his own party that any speaker had seen in decades. The Ohio Republican’s allies were left howling for revenge, and hopes of a big tea party victory once again went unfulfilled. The contest also made a conservative hero out of Florida GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, who drew 12 of the 25 dissenting votes. But mainly, the disorganized attempt to oust Boehner was a reminder of how hard it is to unseat a speaker.”

“It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish.” Even worse, he continued, was being called “establishment.”

– John Boehner, Speaker of the House (interview with WSJ Washington Wire)

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CASE FOR CONGRESSIONAL OPTIMISM Economist: The paper argues why the 114th Congress might be just more productive than in years past. “Congress works best when it is wholly controlled by one party, as the new one is. When one side holds just one chamber of Congress and the presidency, as was the case for the Democrats between 2010 and the end of 2013, the other lot has plenty of power-in the sense that it can stop things happening-but not much incentive to co-operate in governing. It is harder for a party to act as a protest movement when it is in charge of the legislature.”

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BUT, BUT, BUT … WE’RE NOT IN POST-PARTISAN PARADISE YET NPR Politics: “This week the new political season opened in Washington [and] all the cheery holiday talk about consensus and working together seemed forgotten overnight. “It’s going to be a little bumpy,” was the gentle warning relayed from Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican just re-elected in November and newly installed as the majority whip for the Senate.

Here are five ways you could tell the winter chill outside was penetrating the Capitol (NPR Politics).

1. Keystone Return The new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has made the Keystone pipeline his first order of business. McConnell has anointed it Senate Bill 1, announcing there would be a hearing on it Wednesday, a committee vote on Thursday and floor debate next week. But Senate Democrats would not accede to holding the hearing during a regular Senate floor session. And President Obama immediately issued a veto threat in advance.

2. Rumblings of Veto Avalanche Obama has cast only two vetoes so far in his presidency — fewer than any president in the 20th century — and neither was a big deal. He hasn’t needed the veto pen because he has been protected from unwanted bills reaching his desk. Now the Democrats’ last line of defense will be the president himself. The issuing of the Keystone veto threat before the bill had even been officially considered in the Senate was a clear sign that the White House is ready, even raring, to play this kind of defense.

3. Agenda Of Cloture And Overrides As much as McConnell would like to preside over a productive Senate — and no one questions that he would — at this point he seems far more likely to supervise a parade of cloture petitions and veto overrides. Keystone would only be the beginning. … McConnell has a raft of regulations and restrictions on business he would like to address, but his early weeks are more likely to be dominated by leftover business and held-over controversies — including the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s choice for attorney general.

4. Hardened Party Lines Everywhere McConnell’s team has identified a handful of Democrats it sees as centrists ripe for alliance with the majority and a few more as prospects for persuasion. But the truth is, the six Democrats most likely to side with the GOP on floor votes were the six who lost their seats to Republican challengers in November — three from the South and three from the Mountain West. And it’s harder to base bipartisanship on personal friendship. Nearly two-thirds of the senators in the 114th have been in the chamber eight years or fewer. And most of this Senate arrived after serving in the House, the home of partisan warfare. Speaking of the House, Republican gains there have depressed the Democratic minority to something resembling an irreducible minimum. That means the remaining Democrats are more liberal, not less, and more likely to vote as a bloc than ever. 5. Tea Party Still Brewing The largest GOP majority in nearly 70 years was supposed to give Speaker Boehner a stronger hand. But 25 Republicans voted openly against the speaker’s re-election. That was the biggest rebellion against a speaker since the Civil War. In the Senate, McConnell will have several colleagues with Tea Party ties to contend with. An extra, vexing challenge given that at least three of them are running for president.

ALSO Politico “A number of complicated – and hidden – legislative fights are spread throughout the year, which could give House and Senate leadership nearly monthly headaches as they seek to preserve the improving economic climate in the U.S. The legislative land mines range from tricky transportation issues to funding controversial slices of the government, to updating a pricey Medicare program and, of course, the ever-explosive debt ceiling.”

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TWO YEARS OF FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE “President Barack Obama will need the approval of Congress to realize his proposal for making two years of community college free for students. So far, that plan doesn’t have an official price tag – other than “significant,” according to White House officials. If all 50 states participate, the proposal could benefit 9 million students each year and save students an average of $3,800 in tuition …. Federal funding would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college, and Obama is asking states to pick up the rest of the tab – assuming Congress agrees to the plan in the first place.”

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30 THE NEW 40? The House passed a bill Thursday redefining the workweek under Obamacare to 40 hours, but the path toward passage in the Senate is getting increasingly rocky. Though moderate Democrats Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin have co-sponsored the bill, finding four more Democrats is proving difficult. Sen. Bob Casey (D –PA): “I’m concerned by the CBO’s independent analysis which has determined that the ‘workweek’ legislation could increase the deficit by $53 billion (as an estimated 500k people would end up on government programs; Medicaid or enroll through the exchanges with a federal subsidy) and leave hundreds of thousands more people uninsured.” Casey joins Jon Tester in opposing the bill, and several other centrist Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp and Mark Warner have expressed major reservations.” DEEPER DIVE NPR Politics: ‘On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would make a change in Obamacare. It would raise the law’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours to 40 hours a week, reducing the number of workers to whom employers would have to offer health insurance (this bill already passed during the last Congress). The argument is that by requiring companies to offer health insurance coverage to employees working 30 or more hours, the ACA creates an incentive for managers to reduce workers’ hours to below 30 per week. That way, employers could avoid providing coverage or paying a fine. The change to 40 hours a week has been supported by businesses, most prominently in the restaurant sector, says Joe Antos, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute. The bill is likely now goes to the Senate … the White House said on Tuesday that if the bill reaches President Obama’s desk, he will veto it.”

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KEYSTONE XL Politico: “The Nebraska Supreme Court removed a major legal obstacle for the Keystone XL pipeline today – placing the project back on the path toward President Barack Obama’s desk. Overturning a lower-court ruling, the justices upheld a Nebraska law that had allowed Republican Gov. Dave Heineman to approve the long-delayed oil pipeline’s route inside the state. The White House has repeatedly cited uncertainty about the Nebraska case to argue that it’s premature for Congress to step in. Today’s court ruling came mere hours before the House is scheduled to vote on a bill that would grant the pipeline’s federal approval and take the decision out of Obama’s hands. The Senate is set to take up its version of the bill next week. The White House has said Obama would veto the legislation. MCCONNELL MEETS REALITY Politico: “The new majority leader finally reached the pinnacle of his power Tuesday, and was set to begin carrying out his pledges to ‘restore’ the chamber and empower its committee chairmen – using a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline as his opening shot. But he ran into a problem that has dogged his predecessors for decades: the Senate’s arcane procedures. Democrats objected to McConnell’s move to allow a quick Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Wednesday on the Keystone bill before the committee vote Thursday and the full-fledged floor debate starting next week. Republicans had to scrap the hearing, throwing a wrinkle in McConnell’s carefully crafted plans and prompting Democrats to accuse the GOP leader of undermining his vow for ‘regular order.’

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UPCOMING FREE TRADE BATTLE Reuters, “Supporters and critics of free trade are readying for a bitter battle this year over major free trade deals and legislation to fast-track trade agreements through the U.S. Congress. A bill to give the White House fast-track power, allowing Congress a yes-or-no vote on trade deals in exchange for setting negotiating goals, did not advance in the last Congress but new legislation will be introduced in 2015. Unions, progressive lawmakers, consumer advocates, environmentalists and social justice and human rights lobbyists will kick off a campaign on Thursday to oppose fast-track.”

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THE EXIT OF A LIBERAL LION LA Times, “The news that Sen. Barbara Boxer would not run for her Senate seat again after nearly four decades in public life was a watershed moment for California and for her fellow Democrats, signifying the end of a political career that has come to embody Bay Area liberalism. FIRST OPEN CA SENATE SEAT IN 24 YEARS Speculation centers on these four: … KAMALA D. HARRIS: California’s attorney general has name recognition … GAVIN NEWSOM: [Lt. gov.] has a high profile and Bay Area support … TOM STEYER: The wealthy environmentalist could finance his own campaign … ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA: The former Los Angeles mayor.”

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CLIMATE SKEPTIC TAKES REINS WashPo: “Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) … cemented his status as public enemy No. 1 for environmentalists long ago … This year he takes over the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – the panel most associated with climate policy oversight – and says he plans to continue his role as a ‘one-man truth squad’ on the issue.”

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BENGHAZI Gail Collins wrote (at the end of November), “The House Intelligence Committee spent two years conducting a bipartisan investigation into the terrible night in 2012 when four Americans, including the Libyan ambassador, were killed in a violent attack on an American compound. It found that while mistakes were made, the Americans on the ground in Libya made reasonable decisions, as did the people trying to support them. The C.I.A. was brave and effective. Nobody in the White House thwarted a possible rescue or deliberately tried to mislead the public about what happened. Whew. You can imagine the excitement when this report was unveiled. Or, actually, quietly posted on the committee’s website … on a Friday evening [just before the Thanksgiving] holiday week. The Intelligence Committee [was], of course, led by members of the Republican majority. The silence was pretty deafening. Except for Senator Lindsey Graham, who told CNN: “I think the report’s full of crap.” And Newt Gingrich, who theorized that the Intelligence Committee had been “co-opted by the C.I.A.” The committee and its staff spent what one Democratic member said was “thousands of hours” reading intelligence reports, cables and emails about the incident. It was a heck of a commitment. Although, to be fair, surely no more than the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which have been looking into exactly the same events and coming up with pretty much the same conclusions.” THIS WEEK The Republican-led House voted Tuesday to extend a special committee’s investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The move to reauthorize the politically charged panel was included in a rules package for the new Congress that passed 234 to 172, mostly along party lines. WHY? The effort is needed, Boehner said, because the “American people still have far too many questions” to let the inquiries drop now after nobody has had a chance to look into the matter except a special independent review board, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. WHO SAYS CONGRESS CAN’T REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT? Last March, the Defense Department said that it had devoted “thousands of man-hours to responding to numerous and often repetitive congressional requests regarding Benghazi, which includes time devoted to approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings and interviews” at a cost of “millions of dollars.”  Stay tuned.

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DIDYAKNOW Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel’s new Republican chairman (who has a whopping 1.93 million Twitter followers).

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HOUSE GOP TO UNVEIL DHS FUNDING BILL Politico: “The House Appropriations Committee is expected today to post its bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year. DHS, which is now funded through Feb. 27, was the one government agency that didn’t get a full appropriations bill in the December omnibus deal – giving Republicans more time to craft a response to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The big question is whether Obama will sign the DHS funding bill, with Republicans planning to attach legislation to override his executive actions.” BUT DON’T EXPECT A DHS SHUTDOWN “At the end of the day, we’re going to fund the department,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Wednesday.

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WAR FUNDING REQUEST TO DROP Bloomberg: “The Pentagon will request about $51 billion in war funding for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, a 20% reduction from the $64 billion Congress approved this year and the least since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials and congressional aides said. The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding will be sent to Congress in addition to basic defense spending of about $534 billion when President Barack Obama offers his proposed fiscal 2016 federal budget on Feb. 2.”

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NEW ROUND OF EUROPEAN BASE CLOSURES Politico: “The Pentagon yesterday unveiled a new round of base closures and consolidations in Europe calculated to strengthen its hand as it prepares for another battle with Congress over closing bases in the U.S. In announcing the realignment or closure of facilities across Britain and Europe, defense officials wanted to show they’ve already gone after the low-hanging fruit overseas – and now want to try for much bigger savings at home. About 2,000 American troops and DOD civilians would return to the U.S. as part of the changes, which continue years of reducing the once vast Cold War-era U.S. military presence on the continent. All told, the military plans to move units, close facilities or return them to their host nations in Britain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.”

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WANTED … DRONE PILOTS Stars and Stripes: “The Air Force is considering bonus pay to address a major shortage of drone pilots, according to officials at Air Combat Command. The demand for drones – which the Air Force calls “remotely piloted aircraft” – has skyrocketed over the past decade and continues to increase. Since the early 2000s, the number of combat air patrols has increased from just a handful to 65. The Air Force is only at 85% of desired manning levels for drone pilots and that number is decreasing.

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e0b118079530c2870d603b10_280x2802016 GOP AP: “Wisconsin Gov. SCOTT WALKER … plans a trip to Iowa in a few weeks as he looks at ways to raise money to pay for a potential campaign.” The Fix: “Walker, if elected president, would be the first since Harry S. Truman to have not graduated college, according to an overview from Rasmussen College completed in 2013. The last president to have not attended college at all was Grover Cleveland, who was so dumb that he won the presidency twice in non-consecutive terms. Walker said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I’ve got a master’s degree in taking on the big-government special interests and I think that is worth more than anything else that anybody can point to.”

CHRIS CHRISTIE On Sunday, the world (or at least people obsessed with sports or politics or both) watched New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie excitedly bounce around in the Dallas Cowboy’s owner’s box [after they beat the Lions]. If newspaper front pages are statistically sound sources for polling data (we are checking with our polling staff, they haven’t gotten back to us yet), here’s how the moment played in Christie’s home state. (See Trentonian Cover Above)

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Need to say it. a95abc1019a969c2301e0247_117x117

On Sunday.

Packers v. Cowboys.

(Apologies to Cowboy fans!)

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