Skip to main content
The Washington Report – July 17, 2015
17 Jul 2015

The Washington Report – July 17, 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)


economist HISTORIC AGREEMENT AP: “After 18 days of intense and often fractious negotiation, world powers and Iran struck a landmark deal Tuesday to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions – an agreement designed to avert the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and another U.S. military intervention in the Muslim world. The accord will keep Iran from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years and impose new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites. And it marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United States and Iran, countries that alternatively call each other the ‘leading state sponsor of terrorism’ and the ‘the Great Satan.'” VOTE ON DEAL UNLIKELY UNTIL SEPTEMBER “Congress is likely to wait until September to vote to approve or disapprove any nuclear deal with Iran, Sen. Bob Corker told reporters on Monday evening. Under a new law signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year, Congress now has 60 days to review a nuclear deal with Iran likely to lift some sanctions in exchange for scaling back that nation’s nuclear program. And that 60-day clock doesn’t start until a number of documents, including certifications from the Director of National Intelligence, have been submitted to Capitol Hill, which could take several days.”  The Economist (Cover: bearded, turbaned leader with Photoshopped shades and making a “V” for victory, with a peace-sign lapel pin) The nuclear deal with Iran is better than the alternatives-war or no deal at all”: “A country of Iran’s size and sophistication will get a bomb if it really wants one. Nothing can change that. But this pact offers the chance of holding Iran back and shifting its course. The world should embrace it, cautiously.”

IRAN DEAL – THE FALLOUT MorningD: “… The impact of the agreement may not be known for years. But what’s clear is the deal reached in Vienna has already caused big aftershocks in Washington – and it’s sure to be a major issue for Congress, the White House and the 2016 presidential campaign. A look at the post-deal landscape:

-OBAMA BETS ON A CHANGING IRAN “President Barack Obama almost came right out and said it: Under the terms of the nuclear deal reached in Vienna, by the time Iran could build a nuclear bomb again the country might be a very different place. That was the message implicit in the president’s remarks  … as he announced terms of the deal.

-REPUBLICANS THREATEN TO KILL THE DEAL “It will be days before Congress receives the full nuclear agreement with Iran and all of its classified annexes for review, but hawkish GOP lawmakers immediately began picking apart the final deal … as ‘dangerous’ and a ‘possible death sentence for Israel.’ Congressional Republicans have been warning President Barack Obama against a deal with Tehran for months, telling him to simply walk away as the negotiations dragged on past initial deadlines. … GOP critics’ job has shifted to building support in Congress to scuttle the deal by blocking Obama’s ability to lift those sanctions.”

-HOW IT AFFECTS THE 2016 GOP RACE “… the more than a dozen Republican presidential candidates quickly mobilized, slamming the agreement in near unison as they sought to make their own short-term play to primary voters. … Looking past the initial race to react, the Iran deal brings two near-term shifts in the crowded Republican race. One, it put foreign policy even more sharply at the forefront of the campaign discussion. … And two, it could give senators a perception edge currently enjoyed by governors, who typically are able to present themselves as the action-oriented executives. In this case, the senators get to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

-HILLARY ENDORSES IRAN AGREEMENT “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a vigorous endorsement of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.”

-BUT SENATE DEMOCRATS ARE WARY “Joe Biden was on the phone Tuesday morning with a fellow Delaware native, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, hoping to lock down his support.  … Coons is among a group of roughly a dozen Democratic senators who constitute President Barack Obama’s firewall on the Iran deal. In interviews with several of them Tuesday, it was clear the White House has its work cut out to shore up a veto-proof foundation: In the Senate, the White House can lose no more than 12 Democrats from the 46-member caucus to keep the deal alive.”

-THE PENTAGON GETS ITS WAY “[W]hile economic sanctions will be lifted and billions of dollars in assets unfrozen, … the restrictions on conventional arms sales will remain in place for five years – and for ballistic missile technologies, which worry the U.S. military commanders the most, for eight years.”

-DEAL IS ‘HISTORIC MISTAKE’ Politico: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted little time denouncing the nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday, deeming it a ‘historic mistake’ with far-reaching repercussions for the entire planet.”


WHY THE IRAN DEAL MAKES OBAMA’S CRITICS SO ANGRY The Atlantic: “The nuclear agreement highlights the limits of American power—something the president’s opponents won’t accept.”

“Mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

-Woody Allen

The point is simple: In life, what matters most isn’t how a decision compares to your ideal outcome. It’s how it compares to the alternative at hand. The same is true for the Iran deal, announced Tuesday between Iran and six world powers. As Congress begins debating the agreement, its opponents have three real alternatives.THE FIRST IS TO KILL THE DEAL, THE SECOND IS WAR. AND THE THIRD ALTERNATIVE: INCREASE SANCTIONS in hopes of forcing Iran to make further concessions. But in the short term, the third alternative looks a lot like the first. Whatever its deficiencies, the Iran deal places limits on Iran’s nuclear program and enhances oversight of it. Walk away from the agreement in hopes of getting tougher restrictions and you’re guaranteeing, at least for the time being, that there are barely any restrictions on the program at all. Full Worthwhile Read


SPENDING GRIDLOCK = LIKELY CR? Politico: “A growing number of top lawmakers in both chambers are predicting they’ll have to pass a stopgap spending bill this fall as partisan warfare over spending levels – and the Confederate flag – have plunged the appropriations process into gridlock. This was supposed to be the year of regular order – the year the new, GOP-controlled Congress would return Capitol Hill to the days when lawmakers actually scrutinized each spending bill, ensuring Uncle Sam was funding top priorities and minimizing government waste. Instead, Republicans and Democrats say they’re spiraling toward the one thing both sides want to avoid: another continuing resolution that essentially keeps government funding on autopilot from one year to the next. ” IS A CR IN OUR FUTURE? WHAT DOES THE CAPSTONE TEAM THINK?


“HOW MANY SICK KIDS DOES IT TAKE FOR US TO ACT?” Politico: “[T]he Obama administration and Congress have all but squandered an opportunity to give the anemic Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of 80% of the nation’s food supply, a level of oversight the public long assumed it already had.”  … On paper, the law that Congress passed in late 2010 — known as the Food Safety Modernization Act — was bigger than anything since Teddy Roosevelt cleaned up the meatpacking industry. The law mandated more inspections and much tougher anti-contamination standards for everything from peaches to imported pesto sauce, and it placed more emphasis on preventing outbreaks than on chasing them down after people become sick. But almost five years later, not one of the sweeping new rules has been implemented and funding is more than $276 million behind where it needs to be. A law that could have been legacy-defining for President Barack Obama instead represents a startling example of a broad and bipartisan policy initiative stymied by politics and the neglect of some of its strongest proponents. REMINDER HOW QUICKLY MOMENTUM CAN BE LOST WITHOUT LEADERSHIP … With no real pressure from the White House or the public, Capitol Hill has given the FDA less than half of what the agency says it needs to actually enforce the new rules, once they take effect. And many of the industry lobbyists and advocates who once championed the measure have turned their attention to other, more pressing policy battles. In the meantime, deadly outbreaks like [the one] earlier this year that resulted in the recall of Blue Bell Creameries’ entire ice cream inventory, keep happening. Since Obama signed the new law, outbreaks involving cantaloupes, salad greens, pomegranate seeds, sushi tuna and cilantro — to name a few of the more publicized incidents — have sickened thousands and killed several dozen people. And the threat posed by an increasingly exotic food system keeps growing: Two decades ago, the FDA oversaw 200,000 imports; last year there were 12 million, accounting for roughly 15% of the nation’s food supply. Obama’s new budget calls for $109 million increase to implement the law next year. It’s a sudden reawakening of White House interest, more than four times what the administration requested last year, but still far short of what is needed to make the law work as intended, according to the CBO. Besides, Congress … focused on squeezing federal budgets, is not likely even to grant that much.”


SENATE COMES CLOSER TO HIGHWAY BILL The Hill: “Top senators from both parties sounded increasingly confident on Thursday that they could negotiate a long-term highway bill, just a day after the House passed the latest in a series of short-term patches. Senators were even still talking up the idea that they could finish off a $275 billion, six-year deal before the looming July 31 deadline, even as most acknowledged that any final product would likely be quite a bit shorter. Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents of the Export-Import Bank acknowledged that the bank’s foes – like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – would likely not be able to keep a reauthorization of the lender’s charter out of any Senate highway deal, no matter how long of an extension.”


TweetAIRFORCE TO OFFER BONUSES TO LURE DRONE PILOTS WSJ: “The Air Force is taking steps to address a chronic shortage of drone pilots, sweetening the allure of flying the unmanned planes as part of a plan to alleviate the strains as it tries to meet demands for drones and the video intelligence they provide. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James is expected to announce a plan Wednesday to give Air Force pilots thousands of dollars in bonus pay if they sign up to fly the remotely piloted craft for five years or more. Ms. James also is directing that for the next year, some Air Force pilots graduating from flight school automatically be assigned to drone duty to bolster its ranks.”  SPEAKING OF THE AIR FORCE SECRETARY … want to share a recent tweet.


DOD PLANS MOVE TO ALLOW TRANSGENDER TROOPS TO SERVE IN MILITARY Politico: “The Pentagon is opening the door for transgender troops to serve in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Monday. … Carter has ordered a six-month study into the ‘policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. NO MAJOR OBJECTIONS “There likely won’t be much opposition on Capitol Hill, with Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) saying he has no major objections.

DOD’S SILICON VALLEY OFFICE Politico: “The Pentagon plans for a reserve general or admiral and a Senior Executive Service-level civilian to lead its new outreach office in Silicon Valley. The “Defense Innovation Unit -Experimental” was announced earlier this year by Defense Secretary Ash Carter on a trip to Silicon Valley. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work followed up this month with a memo outlining the initial staff commitments and the vision for the outpost, to be located in Mountain View, California, the hometown of Google.”

NDAA NEGOTIATIONS Politico: “[SASC Chair John] McCain says he and his House counterparts are haggling now over whether to include his aggressive acquisition reforms in the compromise version of the NDAA. He also said he expected a final conference report to be completed this week, but a spokesman later clarified that the report probably wouldn’t be rolled out publicly until next week. House and Senate conferees are working to iron out differences between their two versions of the defense policy bill for votes ahead of the long summer recess that starts in early August.”


TRAGEDY IN CHATTANOOGA AP: “A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at a recruiting center and another U.S. military site a few miles apart in Chattanooga on Thursday, killing at least four Marines before he was shot to death by police. Federal authorities said they were investigating the possibility it was an act of terrorism, but have no evidence yet that anyone but a lone gunman was involved.”



I KNEW IT The Fix: “The chart above, which comes from Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman’s presentation on the state of American politics, reinforces the  idea  [that] increasingly we live in two different Americas, bifurcated by partisan politics. As Mehlman documents, on a variety of major issues — from taxes to trade to healthcare to the minimum wage — there are vast differences between how Republicans and Democrats view each one.  The Obamacare numbers above may not be all that surprising — the Affordable Care Act has become synonymous with peoples’ feelings about Obama — but I, for one, was surprised at the massive gaps on raising the federal minimum wage and using U.S. combat troops in the fight against ISIS. WHAT THE CHART SHOWS is that the sort of person that Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz is talking to in this primary season is vastly different than the one that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is targeting. Yes, they are all Americans but the distance between how they see most issues is vast. And that difference of opinion extends to how partisans on each side perceive each other.  Data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), shows how partisans view their own party and the other party … views of one’s own party have generally stayed steady but the way people perceive the opposing party has fallen off a cliff — particularly over the last decade or so. Then, [they looked at] how positively or negatively people view the two parties over the last four decades: In the space of three decades, the percentage of people who feel positively about one party and negatively toward the other has DOUBLED.  People seeing both parties in a positive light has dropped five-fold in that time. YES, TWO AMERICAS Not only then do people living in our two partisan Americas come down on totally opposite sides on virtually every issue but they also dislike and distrust people on the other end of the ideological spectrum. Reasonable disagreement, which can occasionally lead to common-sense compromise, is not possible in such a climate.  Compromise requires trust. There is none. HOW TO WIN A PRIMARY IN DIVIDED AMERICA?  Play up your conservative/liberal credentials. It’s less clear how any politician can appeal to the middle in a political world split so starkly along partisan lines. Heck, it’s not even clear there is much of a middle left to appeal to.”


SCOTT WALKER #15 NYTs: “Gov. Scott Walker… announced on Monday that he was running for president as a Washington outsider who would reduce taxes, challenge Iran and Russia, and cut the size of the federal government. Starting his speech with the words “I love America,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said the nation’s fiscal health and global reputation required undoing many of President Obama’s priorities, from the Affordable Care Act to any deal with Iran on its nuclear program. He cast himself as an unwavering fighter who would not compromise his principles as president but would rather pursue a decidedly conservative agenda to make people less dependent on government programs and to transfer power from Washington to the states.”

TALES FROM SCOTT WALKER’S GRAVEYARD Politico: “Scott Walker’s path to the 2016 presidential race is littered with the bones of vanquished opponents. Since 1990, the Wisconsin governor’s name has appeared on a ballot 14 times, and he’s failed just twice — a winning record that’s central to his pitch to Republican primary voters. Along the way, he’s left a trail of defeated challengers, many of them gripped by resentment toward a foe they recall as crassly opportunistic, loose with facts or blindly ambitious. Yet for all the lingering enmity … his rivals also grudgingly respect him as a rare and exceptionally canny politician who’s constantly underestimated and always outperforms expectations. He’s a sneaky-smart campaigner, they say, a polished and level-headed tactician, a master at reading crowds. He learned the value of ignoring uncomfortable questions, rather than answering them. In hindsight, the many politicians he pancaked on the road to the national stage — in races for the state Assembly, county executive and governor — almost invariably see his career as an elaborate practice run for the White House. Walker’s first national test will be in a race more crowded and fractious than any he has faced before.”


HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION” and other ruminations …

Diane Rogers’ Post on Capstone Blog


SPENDING RECORDS SHATTERED Politico: “The crowded field of 2016 presidential candidates spent $48 million through the first half of the year – nearly twice as much as their counterparts had at this point in the 2012 cycle – reflecting the new realities of fast, expensive campaign launches. The dramatic spending spike – detailed in Wednesday’s reports to the Federal Election Commission covering the beginning of April through the end of June – was underwritten mostly by fewer donors, each giving more money. But overall, fundraising increases did not keep up with spending inflation, leading to spending ratios that in past elections might have provoked worry among campaign finance operatives. Such early campaign “burn rates” appear to be becoming more common in an age when races start earlier, pivotal digital and data tools cost more, consultants fetch huge salaries and campaigns rely on megadonor-funded super PACs to fill many traditional functions.”


THE 2020 REDISTRICTING WAR IS (ALREADY) ON The Fix: “There’s a hundred-million-dollar battle brewing for control of Congress, but it’s not going to be resolved for seven more years, and the battles will take place in lands far away from Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans think controlling state legislatures in 2020 is one of the most important political battles to fight, mostly for one reason: The power of the pen — the kind that draws district lines, that is. FIVE YEARS OUT, both sides are in a fundraising battle to build war chests of $70 million to $125 million to swing state legislatures their way by 2020, when new electoral maps will get drawn across the country. The Republican State Leadership Committee announced Thursday it’s launching RedMap 2020 and aiming to invest $125 million to expand their majority in the statehouses and redraw the nation’s electoral lines. PLAYING THE LONG GAME, but as Republicans showed in 2010, investing in state races is one of the best bangs-for-your-buck to swing Washington the way you want it.” REDMAP2020 AND ADVANTAGE 2020 Redistricting has always been important to the political process, but in an age in which Americans are increasingly polarized (SEE ABOVE) — and technology allows for even-more-effective gerrymandering — the shapes and demographics of the districts that are drawn is even more decisive when it comes to control of Congress. Every 10 years, based on new U.S. Census data, states redraw their legislative and congressional districts. In about 43 states, state lawmakers get to decide how to do this. It’s an inherently political tool to help create beneficial districts for whichever party’s in power. And in 2010, Republicans showed just how much can be gained from dominating that process. Fueled by millionaire Art Pope, they invested $30 million into winning state legislature battles. THE RESULT Republicans picked up 675 state legislative seats, gaining control of 12 more state legislatures. The GOP in total controlled about three times as many states in the redistricting process — including many big, swing-y states where the lines are even more fungible and important. New lines were drawn, and in 2012, Republicans took over the House of Representatives with a commanding 234-201 majority — despite the fact Democratic House candidates got 1.4 million more votes than Republican candidates. Some analysts think the current map is such that Democrats simply won’t be able to win a majority on it, barring a massive wave in their direction. DEMS GETTING INTO THE GAME Sensing a winning game plan, Democrats are getting in now, too. They launched Advantage 2020 last year, a super PAC that hopes to raise $70 million to play exclusively in states where redistricting is on the line. (Compare that with the $10 million they raised in 2010.)”


“A-GREEKMENT”! NYTs: “At a marathon session that ended early Monday, European leaders struck a deal meant to resolve Greece’s debt crisis and avert a historic fracture in the Continent’s common currency project. The nation’s third bailout in five years includes both “serious reforms and financial support,” one participant said. Greece still has a tortured road ahead. The plan now goes before Parliament in Athens, and talks on financial support from the International Monetary Fund begin.”


DID YOU KNOW … PLUTO IS THE ROMAN GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD? NYTs: The New Horizons flew within 7800 miles of the former ninth planet… as Alice Bowman, the missions operations manager said, “We didn’t have any autonomy rule firings.” Which means “the spacecraft was happy.”  “After a long day celebrating the arrival of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto … mission controllers finally received confirmation Tuesday night that the spacecraft had performed its scientific tasks. The day climaxed 15 years of dreams and effort. Launched in 2006, New Horizons had traveled nine and half years and 3 Billion (with a ‘B’) miles for a close encounter that was largely completed within hours. And yet that quick reconnaissance of Pluto has transformed what had been a fuzzy dot since it was discovered 85 years ago into a richly textured world, providing insight into the beginnings of the solar system and raw material for new mysteries that astronomers will ponder for years.”


IT’S 5 O-CLOCK SOMEWHERE. RAISE YOUR GLASS TOWARD CHICAGO The Fix: Until Wednesday, Illinois was one of 12 states banning happy hour. That’s right, it was banned — or, at least, offering drink specials for a specific number of hours was.The theory was that people wouldn’t binge-drink if the specials didn’t have a cut-off time.” IN CASE YOU’RE INTERESTED The remaining states in which this cruel remnant of Prohibition-era policies remains are: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.”


HEARTSICK FOR KEVIN SUTHERLAND AND HIS FAMILY His vicious murder on a Washington, DC metro on July 4th, in the middle of the day, has struck a nerve. So sad. So wrong. RIP Kevin. Full Article.

Related Posts



The Washington Report: October 30, 2020 … “Fasten Your Seatbelt…”

Count down - 4 days! Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy...

The Washington Report: April 9, 2021 … “Go Big Or Go Home”

Biden's Skinny Budget ... Once In A Lifetime Realignment ... Women Steer The Economic Recovery...