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The Washington Report – July 11, 2014

11 Jul 2014

The Washington Report – July 11, 2014


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

 

“I’M THE GUY DOING MY JOB, YOU MUST BE THE OTHER GUY” … WHY THE HIGHWAY TRUST FUND IS RUNNING OUT OF MONEY …. CLEVELAND HITS THE LOTTERY … THE ‘REDEEM ACT’ …HOW THE ACA IS CUTTING COSTS … GUN POLITICS SHOOTS DOWN HUNTING BILL … PUSH TO OVERTURN HOBBY LOBBY DECISION … and other news of interest.

The House and Senate were both back this week, the first of four straight weeks the two chambers are expected to be in session before the month-long August recess. It’s also likely to be the last significant chunk of time Congress meets before the midterm elections and a potential lame-duck session at the end of the year.

Best,

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

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WHO ARE THE POLITICALLY APATHETIC AND WHY DO THEY MATTER? A new political typology study from the Pew Research Center refers to [the politically apathetic] as “bystanders.” These are the 10% of Americans who aren’t registered to vote and don’t really follow political news. Almost all of them (96%) have never made a political contribution in their lives. MEANWHILE … the “bystanders,” as you might imagine, are not wealthy, old or educated. They’re also disproportionately Hispanic. Hispanics’ share of the “bystanders” (32%) is about 2½ times as large as their share of the entire population (13%), and young people’s share of the most apathetic group (38%) is nearly twice their share of the populace (22%). SO WHICH PARTY IS IMPACTED? These “bystanders,” as a whole, also tend to favor the Democratic Party and a liberal ideology — to the extent that they even care, of course. So, it’s pretty clear which side this apathy hurts the most. Unfortunately for Democrats, these folks are too busy playing “Call of Duty” and reading about Miley Cyrus to care.”

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WHY THE HIGHWAY TRUST FUND IS RUNNING OUT OF MONEY The Fix writes, “The economics of building and repairing the nation’s highways is relatively simple. You drive a car. You buy gas for that car. A portion of what you pay for the gas is directed to the federal Highway Trust Fund. That money goes (mostly) toward highway work. This system worked reasonably well for a long time as a way of having people pay their share of the costs of upkeep. It no longer does. The Obama administration now estimates that the fund could go broke as soon as August, which could put at risk as many as 700,000 jobs.”

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How did the problem reach this crisis point in the first place? There are a number of factors at play.

1. The gas tax hasn’t been increased in two decades … since it was increased by the Clinton administration to about 18 cents per gallon. Ever since, the amount of the tax has stayed flat, even as the price of gasoline has increased.

2. Cars are more fuel-efficient … and will be more so. By 2025, that efficiency should increase rapidly, given the 2012 rule mandating 54.5 miles-per-gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by that year.

3. States are buying less gasoline = less money headed to the fund. In part due to increased efficiency, the amount of gas people buy is down almost 4% since prior to the recession. Outlier is North Dakota, it saw a big increase in gas used, largely due to the surge in its population that stemmed from — wait for it — increased oil and gas drilling.

4. People are driving less (or, at least, the amount that people drive hasn’t increased at its pre-recession rate).

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NO GRIDLOCK Roll Call, House and Senate committees both approved measures on Thursday to fund highway projects into next year, raising hopes that Congress could soon reach a deal to prevent sidelining construction projects this summer. The two measures rely on similar provisions to provide roughly the same amount of money — just under $10 billion — for highway projects. … The Department of Transportation (DOT) had warned that the Highway Trust Fund would run out of money next month and it would have to cut its funding to states by 28% if Congress does not act quickly. … Budget analysts have predicted that the gap between gas tax revenues and infrastructure spending would be in the neighborhood of $16 billion next year without congressional action this summer.”

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WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS… “SUE ‘EM” (Saul on Breaking Bad) NYT  writes, “Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama will focus on changes to the health care law that Mr. Boehner says should have been left to Congress. … the lawsuit would specifically challenge the president’s decision to delay imposing penalties on employers who do not offer health insurance to employees in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”

“Really? Sue me for doing my job? Use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job while you don’t do your job? “… I’m the guy doing my job…you must be the other guy.”

– President Obama, in a seemingly unscripted turn at rally yesterday in Texas (citing a line from the Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio & Jack Nicholson movie, “The Departed”)

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THE ACA … CUTTING COSTS Kaiser Health News reports, “More than 1,500 people have been screened for hepatitis C since February 2013 at public health “field stations” run through the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Community Outreach Intervention Projects, thanks to a $150,000 grant funded through the ACA. While the sweeping federal law is best known for expanding insurance coverage, its authors also hoped to improve health and cut costs by investing upfront in prevention, wellness and public health initiatives.  $1 BILLION is to be distributed through the law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to local health departments and organizations that deal with smoking, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, immunization, suicide prevention, early cancer detection and other issues. By comparison, the law’s insurance provisions are expected to cost $36 billion this year, according to the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation. HOW TO KEEP HEALTH CARE COSTS DOWN The initiative’s proponents see preventive care as a way to keep health care costs from spiraling out of control. Americans spend $2.7 trillion a year on medical care, according to the CDC, with more than 75% going toward chronic, often avoidable, diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and lung cancer.”

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CORY BOOKER, RAND PAUL AND THE “REDEEM ACT” Politico writes, “The duo of high-profile, first-term senators – one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 – will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system. The measure, called the REDEEM Act, … encourages states to change policies so children are directed away from the adult criminal justice system; automatically expunges or seals … criminal records of juveniles who committed nonviolent crimes; and limits solitary confinement of children …”The legislation also creates a path for adults with nonviolent offenses to seal their criminal records and restores food stamp and welfare benefits for low-level drug offenders who have served their sentences. Paul … has made reforms to the criminal justice system one of his signature issues.”

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GUN POLITICS SHOOTS DOWN HUNTING BILL Roll Call is declaring the popular sportsmen’s bill almost dead. “…Gun politics appear all-but-certain to destroy any chance of advancing a bipartisan hunting, fishing and conservation package – and with it, a chance for Sen. Kay Hagan and other endangered Democrats to tout their bipartisan legislative bona fides ahead of the November elections. The package had huge initial support on a test vote, but like so many other bills this Congress, it quickly devolved into a standoff over politically charged amendments. A fight over gun control isn’t what Democrats had in mind when they brought the bill to the floor, but that’s what they got. –“Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., wants to broadly expand firearm access within the District of Columbia, and numerous other amendments by Republicans would expand access to firearms and ammunition, cheered on by the group Gun Owners of America. That group has blasted the bill as a ‘fake ‘pro-gun’ bill designed to re-elect endangered anti-gun Democrats up in 2014 in pro-gun states,’ and the ‘Harry Reid Preservation Act.’ Collectively, the amendments could be dicey for Democrats who came into the week looking for relatively easy votes in favor of hunting and fishing.”

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DEMS PUSH BILL TO OVERTURN COURT’S HOBBY LOBBY DECISION Politico writes, “With an eye on the November elections, congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby contraception decision. Democrats and women’s health groups believe they have a powerful campaign weapon in pushing back on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that Hobby Lobby and other closely held for-profit companies don’t have to comply with the health law’s contraceptive coverage requirement if it violates the owners’ religious beliefs. … The bill would prohibit any employer that provides health plans from refusing to cover any item required by federal law.”

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Facebook Holds Its Fourth f8 Developer ConferenceEVEN ZUCKERBERG COULDN’T GET IT DONE Politico writes, “Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration reform push had all the capital, connections and star power to merit success. But not even Silicon Valley could make this investment – and the Facebook founder’s first foray into national politics – pay off. Tech leaders poured millions into FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group that has dominated ad buys, launched elaborate hackathons and coddled conservatives in an effort to revamp the country’s immigration system. It galloped into the debate with the tech industry’s classic certainty but wound up facing the same obstacles that have halted reform for decades. Now … the group must reconcile Silicon Valley’s highflying ambition with the sobering lessons of Washington.”

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DOJ WON’T PROBE CIA-HILL SPYING SPAT McClatchy story: “The Justice Department has decided not to pursue accusations that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee and allegations that committee staff slipped classified documents from a secure agency facility. … The news marks an apparent end to an extraordinary feud that spilled into the public forum in early March over the committee’s report on the agency’s post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program. The dispute included competing Justice Department referrals, with both the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee accusing the other side of criminal conduct throughout the course of the interrogation study.”

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IN THE HOUSE Roll Call writes, “The House late Thursday evening passed its sixth fiscal 2015 appropriations bill to fund the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers. Passage of the $34 billion measure, 253-170, marks the halfway point in the House’s consideration of fiscal 2015 appropriations.” MEANWHILE, the Senate has not passed any appropriations bills for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 due to a disagreement over amendments. A stopgap funding measure, also known as a continuing resolution (CR), appears likely to keep the government running and avoid a shutdown through the midterm elections.”

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$3.7 BILLION REQUEST NYT writes, “President Obama urged Congress on Tuesday to quickly provide almost $4 billion to confront a surge of young migrants from Central America crossing the border into Texas, calling it “an urgent humanitarian situation.” But the request quickly became entangled in the fierce political debate over immigration: Republicans said they were wary of Mr. Obama’s request and could not immediately support it, given what they called his administration’s failure to secure the Mexican border after years of illegal crossings. Mr. Obama could face resistance from members of his own party as well. GOP WANTS QUICKER DEPORTATIONS OF CHILD MIGRANTS WSJ: “Republican lawmakers on Wednesday called for a change in law so that many children crossing the U.S. border could be deported more quickly, and some said the change should be a condition of approving President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to stem a surge in minors entering the country. A group appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) as well as some rank-and-file Republicans said they would push to revise a 2008 law when considering Mr. Obama’s funding request to address what he has called an ‘urgent humanitarian situation’ on the border. The president has asked for more flexibility with the law, and on Wednesday, he suggested the changes be included in the emergency spending bill.”

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SAC-D MARK UP Morning Defense writes, The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is set to mark up its fiscal 2015 defense spending bill on July 15, the panel announced. The full Appropriations Committee is set to take up the bill two days later – the last of the four congressional defense panels to move its annual defense legislation for the year.”

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HASC TO HOLD OCO HEARING Politico writes,”The House Armed Services Committee is holding a not-yet-announced hearing July 16 on the Pentagon’s request for fiscal 2015 supplemental war funds, called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. It’ll be the first public hearing on OCO since the White House submitted its $66 billion request (including State Department funds) late last month.”

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ISRAEL, HAMAS Los Angeles Times, reporting from Jerusalem: “A fresh round of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip sent Israelis scurrying for bomb shelters as far as Tel-Aviv, 40 miles away Wednesday morning, the second day of Israel’s military offensive on the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a volley of rockets intercepted before hitting Tel-Aviv, as other rockets landed throughout central Israel, shutting down main traffic arteries and causing concern for air traffic. Israel pounded Gaza overnight by dozens of airstrikes against 160 targets, including 120 concealed long-range rocket launchers, Hamas facilities and command positions, Israeli army officials said. The military offensive came as plans were made to deploy a third infantry brigade along the Gaza border and continued drafting of army reservists.” GROUND INVASION? NYT writes, “Palestinian deaths from Israel’s aerial attacks in Gaza rose sharply on Thursday, while militants there fired more than 180 rockets into Israel, reaching new targets spread across a vast area of the country. The escalation appeared to increase the likelihood of a ground invasion and prompted the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to call urgently for a return to calm and a cease-fire.”

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IRON DOME COULD GET BOOST via Morning D, “Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptors’ success in stopping rockets from Gaza over the past week could lead to more U.S. funding for the program, lawmakers say.”

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SIGN OF THE TIMES – VETS IN CONGRESS IN STEEP DECLINE Politico wrties, “Only 20% of today’s lawmakers have served in the military, the lowest rate since World War II and a dramatic fall from over 70% in the 1970s. And that figure could sink even lower after the 2014 midterms. In this year’s primaries, the number of veterans winning party nominations has fallen strikingly compared to the 2012 cycle, according to research from the Veterans Campaign, an organization that helps former soldiers run for office. …This year, about 105 veterans have won nominations in the states that have held primaries through June – down from 135 in the same states during the 2012 cycle.”

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GOP TO TODD AKIN:  SHUT-UP Politico writes, “He’s not sorry. Two years after the Missouri Republican’s comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion doomed his campaign [and the GOP’s chance of taking the Senate], … one of the few regrets he mentions in a new book is the decision to air a campaign ad apologizing for his [‘legitimate rape’] remarks. ‘By asking the public at large for forgiveness … I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said. … This is something fertility doctors debate and discuss’ … ‘Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom’ [will be out Tuesday].’

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MISSISSIPPI SENATE RACE? The Clarion-Ledger: “A lawyer for Chris McDaniel said campaign canvassers started going through records at every courthouse statewide on Monday and he’s confident McDaniel can successfully overturn the June 24 GOP runoff. The Thad Cochran campaign countered that few voting irregularities are being found and the vote should stand. … McDaniel’s campaign reported 4,900 late last week, and McDaniel in television interviews said 5,000. The McDaniel campaign has said a majority of these are people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary, then crossed over June 24 and voted in the Republican runoff, which is prohibited by state law.” — But the Mississippi GOP said Cochran won the race by 7,667 votes and sent the results Monday to the Secretary of State to be certified,” AP reports.

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CLEVELAND HITS THE PROVERBIAL LOTTERY on Tuesday, landing the lucrative opportunity to host the Republican National afc9306ca2fdb3a4cf951452_280x157Convention in 2016. The city has a sparkling, almost-new 750,000-square-foot convention center to show off, a downtown casino and, of course, that priceless Lake Erie waterfront. [As a former Clevelander, I agree with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who said, “if you haven’t been to Cleveland lately, it’s a real surprise!”) Cleveland can’t seem to shake that pesky, cringe-worthy “Mistake on the Lake” moniker (which sometimes surfaces as “Mistake by the Lake”). Even more galling, praise for Cleveland often seems like a backhanded compliment: Cleveland is nice, but it used to be terrible. (WashPo report) DOES THIS MEAN THE REPUBLICANS WILL WIN OHIO? The Fix writes, “Well, if a century of history has taught us anything, it’s that the party will likely do worse in the state than it did in 2012.  [Looking] at how the three most recent convention locations affected the vote for each party’s presidential candidate in the host cities — the Democrats saw increases in support in their last three convention cities. Results for the Republicans were … mixed. For a full-blown analysis.” Full Analysis Here 

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SUPER-COOL PLUGIN TO SHOW WHERE CONGRESS GETS ITS MONEY – “Wouldn’t it be nice to easily be able to see who’s funding your congressperson? A new browser plugin for Safari, Google Chrome, and soon Firefox, promises to do just that,” writes Business Insider’s Dave Smith. “The free plugin, called ‘Greenhouse,’ (click for website) was created by 16-year-old Nicholas Rubin, a self-taught programmer based in Seattle. Greenhouse was designed to expose the role that money plays in Congress by offering ‘detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation.’ … After you install the plugin, hovering over the name of a congressman will display the latest 2014 contribution data available on www.opensecrets.org

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BELTWAY PROVIDES BACKDROP FOR EMMY-NOMINATED SHOWS (for the TV-obsessed like me) Politico writes, “At least six political series – from ‘House of Cards’ to ‘Scandal’ – were nominated Thursday for Emmy Awards. Like its ruthless lead character, ‘House of Cards’ led the pack with six nominations. Kerry Washington of ABC’s ‘Scandal’ and Claire Danes of Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ also received nominations in the lead actress category. HBO’s ‘Veep,’ chronicling a screwball vice president played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus was recognized for its eclectic cast of characters. HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’ and FX’s ‘The Americans’ also earned nominations.”

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HAPPY B-DAY WALL STREET JOURNAL @125  See the front page of July 8, 1889:

 

 

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