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The Washington Report – July 10, 2015
10 Jul 2015

The Washington Report – July 10, 2015

HISTORIC DAY IN SOUTH CAROLINA (Actually in America) … BI-PARTISAN KUMBAYA (Not so much) … THE 21ST CENTURY CURES ACT (In doubt) … POLITICS OF GREECE (“If money were booze, Greece drank too much”) … ARMY DOWNSIZING (Members unhappy) … CUE THE CONFETTI (YAY, women’s World Cup soccer champs!) … and other news of the week.



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


HISTORIC DAY IN SOUTH CAROLINA … AND IN AMERICA NPR: “South Carolina made history today when the Confederate battle flag was removed from a 30-foot pole that sits on the grounds of the State House. The flag was first flown over the state’s Capitol dome in 1961, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. But it was kept there as a protest against the Civil Rights movement. After calls from African Americans to remove it, it was moved to the spot it now occupies in 2000. … The flag and the dark past of American history that it invokes became the subject of debate yet again after a gunman entered a historically black church, opened fire and killed 9 people. After intense debate — about history, hate and Southern pride — both chambers of the state government and S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley agreed on legislation that calls for removing the flag and moving it to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.”

sc cartoon

NIKKI’S STAR RISES AS REBEL FLAG COMES DOWN Politico: “The last Republican governor who took on the Confederate flag in South Carolina lost his job.** Nikki Haley may get a promotion. Haley’s decisive action to drive the final removal of the banner from statehouse grounds quickly and relatively cleanly in the glare of the national spotlight proved a well-timed audition for higher office ahead of the 2016 Republican veepstakes. The fact that the issue at hand aligned perfectly with Haley’s brand — a squeaky-clean, pro-business image that transcends her party’s gender and ethnic liabilities — only helps. “Nikki Haley, to begin with, is a demographic dream for the Republican ticket. She is a female, she’s an Indian-American, she exhibits diversity in a very unique way in the Republican Party,” said Bruce Haynes, president of the political consulting firm Purple Strategies and an adviser to the Republican National Committee’s 2008 presidential independent expenditure arm.”

**David Beasley in 1996, was rebuked by the state Legislature. At the time three-quarters of Republicans in South Carolina supported its presence. He lost his reelection bid in 1998 as a result of the anger his failed stand engendered among whites.
“I’m the last living casualty of the Civil War,”
– Beasley said on Thursday.


CONFEDERATE FLAG DRAMA RIPS THROUGH HOUSE NYTs: “The anguished national debate over the future of the Confederate flag exploded on the House floor on Thursday as Democrats, led by black members from the South, beat back a push by Republicans to allow Confederate symbols at national cemeteries. Coming less than 24 hours after the South Carolina House voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds in Columbia , the spectacle of the United States House pressing for its continuing display was an embarrassment Republican leaders could not accept, and they withdrew the bill from the floor.”

‘”There’s not any room on federal property for the display of the Confederate battle flag. … It represents the dark past as a symbol of separation, a symbol of division, a symbol of hate.'”
— Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a leader of the civil rights movement who in 1965 was nearly beaten to death at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., by club-wielding police officers, some of whom had Confederate flags painted on their helmets.

“We put our heads like a pumpkin on a stick and we’ve given them a baseball bat.”
— Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) doesn’t mince words, saying in this CNN story


SEASON OF SNIPING Politico: “The bipartisan kumbaya that swept Washington after Congress cleared a trade package last month has completely dissipated. And Republicans are clashing in private – and, at times, openly – over their entire agenda. … The party is warring over funding for disease research, bickering over an education bill and deeply divided on the possible renewal of the Export-Import Bank, an object of scorn among the far right. On Wednesday evening, House Republican leaders had to work the floor feverishly to pass the education measure, clearing it with no margin for error.”

SPEAKING OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND Politico: “The House has passed a partisan bill to update the No Child Left Behind education law that would maintain annual testing in schools but reduce the federal role in identifying and fixing failing schools.The White House has threatened to veto the Republicans’ bill, which House Democrats widely opposed because they say it abdicates the federal government’s role in protecting historically underserved groups of children.  Backers said the bill, which passed 218 to 213, would give much needed relief and flexibility to states and districts. The focus now shifts to the Senate, where lawmakers continue debate on a bipartisan bill to update the President George W. Bush-era law.”27 Republicans joined all Democrats in opposition and nearly derailed it on the floor. For most of the roll call, the bill had more votes against it than in favor. Many Republicans either held out their votes until the last minute or changed their votes under pressure from GOP leaders.”


DOUBT ON CURES BILL The Hill: “Objections from both sides of the aisle are stirring doubts about a bipartisan medical cures bill that is slated to hit the House floor today. The 21st Century Cures Act was reported out of committee in May on a 51-0 vote. Supporters of the bill hoped the unanimous endorsement would lead to an overwhelming vote in the House, but they are running into last-minute opposition on the eve of the vote. The bill includes $8.75 billion over five years in new funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That spending is drawing fire from conservatives because it is mandatory, meaning it is not revisited each year through the appropriations process. Some Republicans oppose adding another spending program to the books and are upset that the move would bust budget caps put in place in 2011. Meanwhile, some Democrats are railing against a late addition to the bill that includes Hyde Amendment language further restricting the use federal funds for abortion services.”


THIS WEEK ON IMMIGRATION WaPo: “The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released a draft Homeland Security funding bill that includes language that would prevent the Obama administration from enforcing executive actions on immigration he issued in November 2014 until a court decides if the orders are legal … The bill would require the Homeland Security Department to enforce all immigration laws as written and disregard any executive actions that have not been approved by Congress.”


SENATE GOP PUNTS CUBA FIGHT Politico: “The Senate panel overseeing the State Department’s budget rolled out its fiscal 2016 bill funding the department on Tuesday, and it includes no restrictions on money for an embassy in Havana – splitting sharply with House Republicans who block funding for the official diplomatic post in their legislation. … The omission was notable in part because hawkish Republicans have blasted President Barack Obama for appeasing the Castro regime after the president announced last week that the United States and Cuba would reopen embassies in each other’s capitals. But it’s also surprising because the State panel is chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who promised in December that he would do ‘all in my power’ to block funding for a Cuba embassy.”


NO OBAMACARE REPEAL THIS SUMMER? Politico: “Senate Republicans are downplaying expectations that they’ll use a powerful budget tool called reconciliation to undo Obamacare through a simple majority vote this summer – and conservatives are none too pleased. Republicans pledged earlier this year that they would use the budget’s reconciliation tool to knock out parts of Obamacare. That was to start this month, to get rid of some unpopular Obamacare taxes or mandates even if they can’t scrap the whole law. — Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a member of the Senate leadership and a point person on health policy, said there’s no rush to do reconciliation immediately – and that Senate leaders haven’t decided on how to use the fast-track budget tool. ‘There’s no timeline on the reconciliation bill, so it can be used at any point,’ Barrasso said, even though the GOP’s own budget resolution had instructed five health care committees – two in the Senate and three in the House – to come up with a repeal plan by July 24.”


OPM CYBER ATTACK UPDATE The Hill: “The agency at the center of the likely largest-ever government data breach announced Thursday that more than 22 million people have had their personal information stolen. The total includes 21.5 million people whose sensitive data was taken in a breach of the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) security clearance database, as well as 4.2 million government workers whose personnel files were stolen in an earlier intrusion. But 3.6 million were hit by both hacks, putting the final tally at 22.1 million.” PRESSURE TO STEP DOWN The final tally spurred a new round of calls for OPM Director Katherine Archuleta to step down. The top three House Republicans jointly urged the White House to axe its agency head.”


THE POLITICS OF THE GREECE REFERENDUM, BEST EXPLANATION YET The Fix: “If money were booze, Greece drank too much. And the French and the Germans and Spaniards and Italians were the irresponsible bartenders, serving up Greece even more life-affirming beer … er, money … when the 2008 financial crisis hit Greece hard. Also, Greece was really good at pretending to be sober/financially sound when it waddled up to the bar for more. That’s a riff on a fabulously simple metaphor for how Greece got into this mess, courtesy of Johns Hopkins SAIS professor Matthias Matthijs, as told to Wonkblog’s Ana Swanson. TO CONTINUE THE METAPHOR: Greece is dried up and hungover. And the rest of Europe has to deal with it.

WHAT HAS EUROPE DONE FOR GREECE? In 2010, Europe essentially said, Fine, we’ll write off some of your debts and loan you some money ($240 billion euros!) so you can pay us back. But you’ve got to get your financial house in order! Greece reluctantly agreed. In 2012, Europe gave Greece another bailout. Greece now owes money to the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and 18 euro-zone countries. Last week, Greece missed a crucial payment to the IMF. As Wonkblog‘s Matt O’Brien put it, Greece owed the IMF $1.5 billion euros that it doesn’t have. The new prime minister called for a referendum on it all. THEN THINGS GOT BAD It is hard to exaggerate just how resounding the “oxi,” or “no,” vote was Sunday in Greece in support of the Syriza government and its leader, Alexis Tsipras. The vote — 61% “no” in the most recent tally — is a landslide victory for the recently elected government, and conversely, a stark rejection of the ongoing terms of the bailouts from its creditors. The lopsided outcome was all the more impressive as the polls predicted a cliffhanger (apparently, the polling industry is in serious trouble worldwide), the media was largely controlled by the “yes” faction, and the opposition was, and among some still is, threatening to cut off critical financial assistance and show the Greeks the exit out of the Eurozone.

WHAT’S NEXT? NYTs: “Only a day after grim predictions of financial and social collapse in Greece, a scramble appeared underway to work out the details of a new bailout package to bring the country back from the brink of falling out of the euro.As details of the new offer emerged, it appeared that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was capitulating to demands on harsh austerity terms that he urged his countrymen to reject in the referendum last Sunday, like tax increases and various measures to cut the costs of pensions.NEW TERMS ARE BEYOND WHAT WAS OFFERED PREVIOUSLY Huh? What was breathtaking, however, was how in a matter of hours the entire dynamic in the Greek crisis seemed to shift, from apocalyptic warnings of a Zimbabwe in the Balkans, to a fresh optimism that the basics of a deal could be worked out.


WHERE IS THE DEFENSE SECRETARY? Morning D “The defense secretary visits Sun Valley, Idaho, for a conference focused on “a strong partnership between private sector innovators and government,” the Pentagon says. Carter’s presence at the Allyn & Co. conference is “continuing an effort he launched in April with his visit to Silicon Valley.”

DOWNSIZING … CUTS WOULD HIT NEARLY EVERY BASE Defense News: “The US Army announced a plan to cut 40,000 troops that would impact nearly every Army installation, warning that the reductions could grow if Congress cannot reach a deal to avert sequestration budget cuts. The Army detailed plans to cut the active-duty force from 490,000 to 450,000 within two years. The end-strength target was made public months ago, but members of Congress were briefed Thursday on the specific bases and units impacted. … The cuts land hardest in Georgia, Alaska and Hawaii … they affect troops ranging from the infantry, signal, logistics, civil affairs, and military police and trainees. BUDGET-DRIVEN “The House and Senate had already approved the Army’s first cut, to 475,000 in the 2016 defense bills that each has moved through Congress. The active-duty Army will reach 490,000 soldiers in September and would begin cutting the 40,000 soldiers in October. It would then fall to 475,000 by fiscal 2016, to 460,000 by fiscal 2017 and to 450,000 in fiscal 2018. The Army is also cutting 17,000 Army civilians. The reductions amount to a $7 billion savings over four years, George said.” MEMBERS NOT HAPPY The reaction to the Army cuts is just an early preview of the parochialism likely to flow from Capitol Hill – if and when a new BRAC round gets underway.”

TOP SECRET PHONES COMING TO DOD MorningD: “The Defense Department plans to field a top secret version of its classified mobile phone for select users by the end of July or early August, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said Thursday. DoD took its classified mobile program out of its pilot phase late last month and plans to have 3,000 “Defense Mobile Classified Capability – Secret” users by the second quarter of the 2016 fiscal year.

NDAA UPDATE MorningD: “Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he expects Senate conferees to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act. The House named its members to the joint House-Senate conference committee two weeks ago. McCain also said he expects conference negotiations to wrap up in two to three weeks, ahead of the long summer recess that begins in early August. “We’ve been having pre-conference discussions,” the Arizona Republican told reporters.”


STILL NO IRAN AGREEMENT Politico: “Secretary of State John Kerry warned Thursday that the U.S. will not ‘sit at the negotiating table forever’ as tensions surfaced between America and Russia over how to deal with a U.N. arms embargo as nuclear talks with Iran were in the end stage. Kerry’s comments were the latest sign that the Obama administration would not be able to deliver a nuclear agreement to U.S. lawmakers before Friday, thus triggering a longer congressional review period.”


QUOTE OF THE DAY (Playbook) ‘Frankly, one reason why Democrats are willing to crawl over hot coals naked to vote for me is because I’m willing to tell the truth.”
– The never-shy Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who formally launched his bid for the Senate on Thursday (NBC News)


TALKING RUNNING MATE WaPo: “… Scott Walker “is already talking both privately and publicly about a running mate: Marco Rubio … embrace-and-diminish treatment.” PLAYBOOK FACTS OF LIFE: Rubio is almost EVERY candidate’s top choice for #2, because of the dearth of minority GOP politicians. (The exception is Jeb. The Constitution prevents electors from Florida from voting for both of them — the reason Cheney changed his voter registration, and thus his technical home state, from Texas to Wyoming after picking himself for V.P. in 2000. So operatives think a Jeb-Marco or Marco-Jeb ticket would be too mathematically risky.)”  RUBIO KNOWS his ticket to 1600 Pennsylvania might be as V.P. Yes, he WANTS to be President. But, he KNOWS he could quite easily land a helluva consolation prize. So watch for him to run a cautious, upbeat, future-focused primary campaign. That would benefit him in general election as the nominee, but also avoid hurting his strong shot for the undercard by offending or weakening others in the field. THE MONEY, HONEY: “Rubio super PAC raised more than $16 million,” “[T]hat total likely puts Rubio in third place behind … Jeb Bush (who is expected to raise the most) and fellow Sen. Ted Cruz (whose super PACs said they raised $38 million).”

“DAWN OF THE SUPER PAC ERA” Politico: “In this new reality, there’s less incentive for prospective commanders in chief to invest time and money in building an army of small- and medium sized donors for their campaigns, and more incentive to cultivate a handful of billionaire backers JEBS SUMMER SURGE The super PAC supporting Bush, Right to Rise USA, raised more than $103 million. His official campaign committee … which is limited to maximum donations of $5,400 per person, brought in only $11.4 million (though this was only for 16 days, not modest when you realize Bush announced his candidacy late in the quarter) …”The numbers validate the Bush team’s pioneering strategy of using the super PAC as a central vehicle to test the waters for his prospective candidacy. But they also raise concerns that … big-money groups may erode the power of the political parties and even the candidates … [Ari] Fleischer said ‘the more seasoned and experienced political people would prefer to work for the super PAC because it’s easier. Campaigns have the most brutal demands. … Super PACs are a little bit more organized, better hours, easier to raise money.’


CUE THE CONFETTI NYTs: “New York City will hold a ticker-tape parade today for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, breaking with decades of precedent to bestow a rare honor upon a group that competes outside the metropolitan area.  … the players will be saluted along the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan. Since Monday, lawmakers had noted that a parade would be a landmark city honor for a women’s team. The American women won a record third FIFA World Cup, beating Japan Sunday in Vancouver, Canada, in demonstrative fashion, 5-2. BIT OF HISTORY ON TICKER-TAPE PARADES According to the Downtown Alliance, 130 of the city’s 205 ticker-tape parades occurred from 1945 to 1965. They included parades for national political figures (Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower) and foreign ones (Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. Other honorees have been Nelson Mandela, the crew from a nuclear submarine, Little League champions from Staten Island, Theodore Roosevelt upon his return from an African safari and the emperor of Ethiopia, twice. The first parade, in 1886, was for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.”


SPEAKING OF NYC … NOT TO MISS EXHIBIT — “THE RISE OF SNEAKER CULTURE”  NYTs: “… an exhibit that opens today at the Brooklyn Museum, looks at more than a century’s worth of the footwear that unites the casual, the athletic and the artful. Sneakers got their name from the rubber soles that make them quiet to walk in. Those soles date to the invention of vulcanized rubber in 1843, when Charles Goodyear found that heat could be used to more securely bond rubber to cloth, opening up the marketplace. (A type of rubber-soled canvas shoe developed separately in the 1830s in Britain.) From there, we got Keds in 1916, one of the first mass-market sneakers. The name comes from “ped,” Latin for foot, but that trademark was already taken.”

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