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The Washington Report – July 24, 2015
24 Jul 2015

The Washington Report – July 24, 2015



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


CR COMING CQ Roll Call: “With only 16 scheduled legislative days before government funding runs out, Speaker John A. Boehner … acknowledged Thursday that the House and Senate were headed toward funding the government through a continuing resolution … Boehner wouldn’t say how long a potential CR would last – ‘no decisions have been made about that’ – but appropriators are already expressing concern that a stopgap, yearlong spending bill would not incorporate changes lawmakers adopted in the individual appropriations bills.”



CUBA OPENS DC EMBASSY Reuters: “The Cuban flag was raised over Havana’s embassy in Washington on Monday for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations, opening a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes. … Even with continuing friction, the reopening of embassies in each other’s capitals provided the most concrete symbols yet of what has been achieved after more than two years of negotiations between governments that had long shunned each other.” GOP CHILL TO CUBA THAWING? AP: “A GOP-controlled Senate panel has voted to lift a decades-long ban on travel to Cuba, giving a boost to President Barack Obama’s moves to ease travel restrictions and open up relations with the Castro-governed nation. The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted to block enforcement of a law prohibiting banks and other U.S. businesses from financing sales of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. … The Senate Appropriations Committee 18-12 vote comes just days after the U.S. and Cuba formally ended more than a half-century of estrangement by re-establishing diplomatic relations cut off during the Cold War.”


HI-HO LONE RANGER Maureen Dowd: “[I]n the sunset of his presidency, Obama’s bolder side is rising. He’s a lame duck who doesn’t give a damn. … Obama is rewriting the book on Oval Office juice. … ‘This is the guy I know,’ David Axelrod told me.”


INSERT DRIVING METAPHOR HERE – The Senate’s highway bill runs into a … speed bump? Roadblock? Is stalling? CQ Roll Call: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s highway deal with Sen. Barbara Boxer hit a pothole Tuesday, as Democrats helped torpedo a vote to advance the 1,030-page bill about an hour after senators received it. In a bizarre turn of events, Boxer ended up voting to filibuster bringing up a bill she helped negotiate, while saying she hopes to get on the bill by Wednesday. ‘Keep our eye on the prize,’ she said in floor remarks.” –“Minority Leader Harry Reid and Boxer had called for a delay so Democrats could read the mammoth bill, and senators blocked bringing it up, 41-56 vote, well shy of the 60 votes need to advance … After the vote failed, McConnell said the Senate would have to be in session this weekend in an effort to complete the highway bill before the August recess, and Reid said he’d be ‘fine’ doing so.”  ‘SCENIC ROUTE’ ON HIGHWAY (BILL) The Hill: “Senate and House Republicans are headed to a showdown over transportation spending [with] opposition to Senate bill growing on the other side of the Capitol.” IN THE HOUSE “Republican leaders want the Senate to pass a five-month highway patch (Senate wants six-month) and won’t say whether they would give the Senate transportation bill a vote in their chamber. McConnell is betting that House GOP leaders will relent once they have the bill in their laps, with the Highway Trust Fund due to expire on Aug. 1 … McConnell tried a similar gambit in May when he attempted to jam the House with a clean extension of the National Security Agency’s surveillance authority. It blew up when he failed to muster the 60 votes needed to pass it out of the Senate.” GETTING UGLY Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused his own majority leader of effectively lying to fellow senators about his intentions Friday in a floor speech that could have serious repercussions. Cruz was charging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with misleading senators and others about there not being a deal to provide for reviving the Export-Import Bank. Cruz blasted McConnell for using the procedural tactic known as filling the amendment tree that was used frequently by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to preclude the offering of unwanted amendments.The first amendment the Senate will consider on the highway bill is a proposal by McConnell to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act that’s sure to fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance.But after that, McConnell has lined up an amendment from Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk to revive the Export-Import Bank, without allowing further amendments to that. Filing cloture to limit debate on both the Obamacare repeal and the Export-Import Bank measure during Friday morning’s session likely sets up stacked cloture votes Sunday, with the health care amendment falling short of the 60 votes to advance, and the Kirk amendment getting over that hurdle.”


READ THIS AND SOUND SMART (Deep Dive on Export-Import Bank) The Fix: “In a fiery floor speech Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) railed against a seemingly obscure agency he derided as “corporate welfare” for our nation’s biggest corporations. He was talking about the Export-Import bank, a government-funded, self-sustaining bank that provides loans to U.S. companies making risky-ish investments abroad.  In June, Congress let the bank expire and is currently debating whether to reauthorize it. Supporters say the bank helps level the playing field for U.S. companies against competitors in Europe and China, who get significant help from their governments. Detractors call the bank crony capitalism that mostly helps big business. But really, as Cruz’s speech showed Friday, the bank has become a proxy battle for something else entirely: Government’s place in business. And it appears those who want government out of business have won this battle — for now. Here’s everything you need to know about the debate.

First, [here’s] exactly what the bank does. During the Great Depression, FDR created the bank. Its mission was to generate U.S. jobs by supporting American companies’ business abroad. But the bank’s job is not to hold up every company that wants to expand overseas. It finances less than 2% of exports, according to the WSJ. The bank only steps in when private insurers don’t want to cover the cost of a risky investment — for example, the U.S. building a railroad in a politically unstable country.”

So, who would be against such a seemingly do-good agency? Tea party and libertarian groups are not a fan. The bank represents all that is wrong with America, they argue; it’s crony capitalism that props up the wealthy corporations with taxpayer money. They point to the fact that 87% of the bank’s loan guarantees go to Boeing, Caterpillar and GE. The Export-Import Bank might as well be called “The Boeing Bank,” they say. “It is the purest form of corporate welfare,” Dan Holler of the conservative group Heritage Action for America told the AP.”

Do most Republicans dislike the bank, then? No, not really. In fact, a majority of Congress on both sides of the aisle has signaled support for the bank, including “dozens” of House Republicans, the WSJ said. Pro-business and Republican-leaning groups like the Chamber of Commerce are lobbying heavily on Capitol Hill to keep it. And they’re surprised that this is even an issue they have to lobby so hard for: The relatively obscure bank has always had its critics, but it’s never risen to such a prominent debate before. (Note: it’s survived 81 years, 13 presidents and 16 reauthorizations.)”

So why are we here now? There’s one really important person who matters … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who controls what bills come to the floor. (JUST IN: McConnell has lined up an amendment from Illinois Republican Mark S. Kirk to revive the Export-Import Bank, without allowing further amendments (see above: It’s part of the Highway Bill). The House’s No. 2 and No.3 Republicans also have opposed the bank, and Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has stayed mum — a sign he’s torn between competing factions in his party. There are other really powerful people who just happen to oppose the bank, too: Billionaire GOP donors Charles and David Koch, who according to The Washington Post are funding “a fierce assault” on the bank.

What will happen if Congress lets the bank expire? “… the bank is allowed to follow through on the $112 billion in loans that it’s already agreed to, but it won’t be allowed to start up any new ones. That will throw at least a little wrench in the U.S. business community, but its impact is more notable in the political realm. The bank’s (possibly temporary) expiration is a huge win for the right wing of the Republican Party like Cruz & Co. They’ve succeeded in convincing the highest levels of government that the bank is a symbol of big government and has to go. The war on the Ex-Im Bank is the beginning of the end for government welfare programs that don’t abide by the free market, they hope. BLOW TO BUSINESS LOBBY The bank expiring is also a blow to the business lobby, whose power on Capitol Hill appears diminished in this fight. They are arguably the biggest losers in all of this, because not long ago they dominated the Republican Party.”


“SUPPORTING THIS DEAL DOESN’T MAKE YOU NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN; OPPOSING IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU DR. STRANGELOVE” says Thomas Friedman on the Iran deal … ” Both sides have legitimate arguments. But having studied them, I believe America’s interests are best served now by focusing on how to get the best out of this deal and cushion the worst, rather than scuttling it. That would be a mistake that would isolate us, not Iran, and limit our choices to going to war or tolerating an Iran much closer to nuclear breakout.”

LOBBYING ON IRAN Politico: “President Barack Obama personally delivered a stark message on the Iran nuclear agreement to nearly a dozen House Democrats on Thursday: there is no better deal out there. The 90-minute meeting in the White House Situation Room marks the beginning of a personal campaign by Obama to push House Democrats to support the Iran deal. The meeting included almost all the freshmen Democrats and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. ‘BAMBOOZLED’  Politico: “Republicans offered withering criticism of President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal on Thursday, as they focused their fire on Secretary of State John Kerry, who GOP lawmakers accused of being ‘bamboozled’ and ‘fleeced’ by Tehran’s leaders in years-long negotiations. Kerry, for his part, argued that if Congress votes down the deal, the United States would disappoint allies and isolate itself from other world leaders, while leaving Iran with a much quicker path to a nuclear bomb.”

AD DOLLARS AGAINST IRAN DEAL USA Today: “As Congress starts review, … “AIPAC, … Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, United Against a Nuclear Iran and the Republican Jewish Coalition are among groups that will spend … $20 million [to] $40 million to blast the deal … The opponents’ effort dwarfs that of supporters.”


THERE IS NO CHRISTMAS IN JULY – NDAA PUSHED BACK: MorningD: “Holding up a compromise on the annual National Defense Authorization Act are about half a dozen unresolved issues ranging from military retirement benefits to – believe it or not – the greater sage-grouse. …. And the sticking points make it all but certain that House-Senate negotiators won’t meet their goal of delivering a bill in time for final floor consideration ahead of the long congressional recess that begins in early August. TIME IS RUNNING SHORT for negotiations among the “Big Four” – HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) – to finish the conference report before summer recess that begins in early August. Without a finalized bill this week, McCain acknowledged “it’s going to be very difficult obviously to get it done before the August recess.” Recess did not appear to be a real deadline to get the two chambers to cut a deal, one House aide said: “There is no Christmas in July. Meaning, the August recess does not appear to be enough of an incentive to force compromise on the remaining issues.” REALITY CHECK: Obama has threatened to veto the NDAA over Guantanamo every year, and he’s yet to do so. But that doesn’t mean he won’t this year, his last with any real time left on his term, and especially with the fight over the Overseas Contingency Operations war funding. One Morning D reader suggested the two issues could get intertwined: “Could there be a concession to not veto the bill if OCO remains plussed-up but the Senate gets its Gimto language in conference?” Stay tuned.



SHOUT-OUT TO INSTITUTE FOR CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIES (ICT) at the University of Southern California. World renown expert on Virtual Reality, Dr. Skip Rizzo, director of  Medical Virtual Reality at the ICT is quoted  in this article, “Virtual Reality’s Very Real Place in Medical Care.”  He is using virtual reality in exposure therapy with soldiers who experience post-traumatic stress from war. Check out this article.

AND TO THE MEDICAL COLLEGE OF WISCONSIN Reuters: “Six innovative studies on identifying concussions, the severity of brain trauma injuries and speed of the healing process have been named winners of the GE & NFL Head Health Challenge. … practical applications from the researchers, who each received a $500,000 award to advance their work, could be seen within the next two years. … Among them …  Medical College of Wisconsin, will] focus on neuroimaging tools and EEG-based traumatic brain injury detection to analyze and understand concussions. Here’s the article.


JUST A REMINDER.  JULY POLLS ARE VERY BAD AT PREDICTING REPUBLICAN NOMINEES The Fix: “Just ask Rudy Giuliani (2007) and Rick Perry (2011). Neither became president … won his party’s nomination … or won a single delegate.”

2016 … WHO’S IN? (16Rs – 4Ds in order of announcement) Ted Cruz. Rand Paul. Hillary Clinton. Marco Rubio. Bernie Sanders. Carly Fiorina. Ben Carson. Mike Huckabee. Rick Santorum. George Pataki. Martin O’Malley and Lindsey Graham. Lincoln Chafee. Rick Perry. Jeb Bush. D. J. Trump. Bobby Jindal. Chris Christie. Jim Webb. Scott Walker. John Kasich (It’s pronounced KAY-sik).


SWEET 16 CNN: “Ohio Gov. John Kasich burst onto the Republican playing field Tuesday with a freewheeling and, at times, emotional speech that hit on two main points: Americans should be working together and he can win, despite long odds. The second-term Ohio governor told his life story … at his alma mater, Ohio State University … and 20 minutes into his speech … he made it official.  The 63-year-old Republican has a resume tailor-made for presidential politics: elected twice statewide in battleground Ohio, worked in the private sector and served nearly two decades in Congress, which included a six-year run as chairman of the House Budget Committee.”


THE 11 FREE-AGENT BILLIONAIRES TO WATCH IN 2016 The Fix: “It’s official. 2016 is the billionaires’ election. As presidential candidates shared with the world this week how much money they’ve raised so far, it became clear that super PACS are taking over the heavy lifting when it comes to fundraising. Outside groups like super PACs and nonprofits have raised $4 out of every $5 for the GOP from April to June, according to The Washington Post’s Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy. IN FACT,  at this point in 2015, super PACs for individual candidates have raised 17 times as much money as they had at a similar moment in 2011, according to calculations made by Republican Bruce Mehlman. Which means we all should be keeping an eye on the wealthy big-money donors just as much as the candidates — maybe even more so. DANCE CARDS Not all the biggest names in money circles are spoken for just yet, however. We’ll have to wait until the end of the month, when super PACs share the names of their donors, to see whose aligned with who. So far, here is our list of the top free-agent billionaires you should keep an eye on to see where they eventually land candidate-wise.”


WHAT IS ‘DOXXING?’ WashPo: “Yet again, Donald Trump has blown away our expectations of how far he’s willing to go to get attention. While at a campaign event in South Carolina on Tuesday, Trump decided to read out loud a phone number. Turns out, according to CBS News, it was the cellphone number of fellow GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). What Trump did is basically an old-school form of DOXING, an act made popular by the Internet to blast out to the world people’s personal information. Doxxing is a form of harassment. It’s serious, and it’s also, apparently, in most cases, legal (Urban Dictionary: Its name is derived from “Documents” or “Docx.”) Trump wasn’t necessarily threatening Graham. But it’s clear he was trying to retaliate against attacks from Graham, who has been one of the more vocal GOP candidates to call out Trump’s ridiculousness. As recently as Tuesday morning, Graham called Trump a “jackass.”
“I don’t care if he drops out. Stay in the race, just stop being a jackass.”
– Graham said on CBS.———–

MOON6 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK, WE LANDED ON THE MOON. The Fix: “July 20, 1969. This day in 1969 was arguably one of the most impressive moments of human scientific achievement. And yes, an estimated 500 million people worldwide were glued to the black-and-white broadcast to watch this giant leap for mankind, and the moon landing made dramatic headlines across the world…. As last week’s historic Pluto flyby and this week’s remembrance of the moon landing shows, Americans’ relationship with space

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