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The Washington Report – July 25, 2014

25 Jul 2014

The Washington Report – July 25, 2014

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




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


BROKEN WASHINGTON, AT YOUR SERVICE NBC News reports “Partisan divides and ideological battles are hardly new to Washington. But what is new is how the legislative process has essentially stopped, making Capitol Hill more dysfunctional than it’s been in decades. The latest examples of dysfunction are the responses — or lack of responses — to crises that had once seemed to unite Washington: the unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and the veterans who have been unable to get timely care at Veterans Affairs hospitals around the country. On the border crisis, President Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency aid for humanitarian and border-enforcement funds. But House Speaker John Boehner has demanded that Obama ask his fellow Democrats to back a measure to reverse a 2008 law granting additional rights to Central American minors.  … On the VA hospitals, both the Senate (by a 93-3 vote) and House (by 426 to 0) easily passed reform legislation. But they’ve been unable to come together in a conference committee to reconcile the two bills.


A TALE OF TWO PARTIES Read why, “maybe every politician in Washington needs to go to a party.”..

A Blog Post by our own Diane Rogers.




NOT TOSSING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATH WATER The Fix writes, “According to a new Pew Research Center poll of voter attitudes, “When it comes to their own members, only 36% percent [would like to see their member sent packing]. That’s up just two points from four years ago and not much higher than in 2006. R’s AND D’s AGREE Of course, it’s well established that people’s aversion to Congress often doesn’t extend to their own member of it. After all, my guy/gal isn’t part of the problem; it’s those other losers. Which is a big reason more than 90% of incumbents — and often much more — get reelected. That’s one reason. The other big reason is that many Americans’ default is simply to hit the “reelect” button. And it’s actually a strikingly bipartisan/nonpartisan impulse.”


HOW NOT TO RESPOND TO A POLITICAL SCANDAL The Fix writes “… about 24 hours after the New York Times’s broke the story about Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Montana, appointed in February to fill Max Baucus’ seat) pretty apparent plagiarism  … the Walsh campaign sent out a “fact sheet” laying out its side of things. It begins, “Senator Walsh included 96 citations for a 14-page paper at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He acknowledges the citations were not all done correctly, but that it was an unintentional mistake.”  This is the main argument from the Walsh campaign. When confronted with the allegations by the Times, Walsh said he didn’t do anything wrong (“I don’t believe I did [plagiarize], no”). Now his team is kinda, sorta admitting he did something wrong, but saying it was “unintentional” and just a few missing citations. Except that Walsh doesn’t have a citation problem; he has a plagiarism problem. As Martin’s story and the accompanying graphics show, Walsh didn’t just fail to cite things, he basically lifted whole blocks of text from other sources — without using those pesky quotation marks. Even if Walsh had correctly cited the works where these words came from, it’s still plagiarism if you pretend like you wrote those sentences. … On stuff like this, the temptation is almost always to try and explain it away, when the better course is to admit what you did was wrong and hope it’s a one-day story, quickly forgotten by voters and journalists alike. And that’s often what happens. This is no longer a one-day story. And the Walsh campaign is making sure it will last even longer.”


CUCKOO CLOCKS AND THE LAWSUIT AGAINST THE PRESIDENT Politico writes, “The House Rules Committee approved a resolution Thursday allowing the full House to vote on authorizing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama accusing him of abusing executive authority. The 7-4 vote was split along partisan lines, just as the vote in the full chamber is sure to be. A vote by the whole House to move forward on the legal action is expected next week. … Republicans say they’re simply holding the president accountable for circumventing Congress on a major policy change related to the implementation of Obamacare. Obama and congressional Democrats have dismissed the suit as little more than election year theater.” REAL MOTIVATION? According to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) during the hearing, “This has nothing to do with the law.  This has to do with trying to manage some of the extremists, in [the Republican Party] – some of the cuckoo clocks who have been talking about impeachment. Predictably, McGovern’s remarks “ruffled the feathers” (lame, I know) of committee Republicans in the room.”


REFUGEE PLAN NYT reports, “The Obama administration is considering a plan to treat young adults and children from Honduras as refugees. If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. … Administration officials stressed that no decision had been made to move forward, saying the idea was one of many being discussed by officials.”


TAX LOOPHOLE ‘INVERSIONS’ Bloomberg reports: “At least four Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee say they’re not ready to back the push by President Barack Obama and party leaders for retroactive tax legislation to prevent companies from moving their legal addresses out of the U.S. In interviews and statements this week, Senators Tom Carper of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Warner of Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania all declined to back a stand-alone retroactive tax bill to limit inversions. … The tactical split makes it harder to pass Democratic legislation to penalize eight companies including Medtronic Inc. and AbbVie Inc. with pending mergers that would move their legal addresses outside the U.S. to limit their tax bills.”


RYAN ANTI-POVERTY PLAN WSJ writes, “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out a 73-page plan [that] leans heavily on consolidating federal social-welfare programs and shifting administrative control to the states. Its centerpiece would create an ‘Opportunity Grant’ that would lump money for food stamps, housing assistance and other antipoverty programs into one funding stream for states that join the new system. WSJ’s RESPONSE “The absence of program cuts is a departure for Mr. Ryan and the budgets he has guided through the GOP-led House. In previous proposals, spending on a number of social-welfare programs has been trimmed to help balance the budget.”


ARE WE THERE YET? House Republicans don’t have an Obamacare replacement plan. “Not there yet,” Speaker John Boehner said. (Talking Points Memo)


THE CONFLICTING OBAMACARE RULINGS HuffPost reports, “On Tuesday two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on a subject that’s important to millions of people:  the availability of subsidies to help purchase coverage under the health-care law.

Q: What did the courts decide?

A:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the health law’s subsidies are available only to individuals in the 14 states and the District of Columbia now operating their own health insurance exchanges NOT to individuals who live in one of the 36 states who “opted out” and turned to the federally run exchange. Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion in the 2-1 decision, said they concluded “that the ACA unambiguously restricts” the subsidies to “exchanges ‘established by the state.’ “

In a separate ruling, a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled unanimously for the Obama administration, allowing subsidies to be available to residents in all states.  Judge Roger Gregory, writing the opinion, said while the health law is “ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations,” the court decided to uphold the IRS’s interpretation of the law that residents of states using the federal exchange are entitled to subsidies.

Q: What was the issue the courts decided on?

A:  The case centers on a brief description in the health law that says subsidies will be available “through an exchange established by the state.” In implementing the law, the IRS interpreted the law to allow eligible consumers to receive subsidies to help purchase coverage, regardless of whether they are in an exchange run by their state or by the federal government. Opponents of the law questioned that interpretation, saying that the law as written clearly directs subsidies to state-based exchanges only.  But proponents– including several lawmakers who helped write it – said lawmakers fully intended that subsidies be offered on all exchanges no matter if they were administered by the feds or state officials.

Q. I live in a state with a federally run exchange, and I get a subsidy … am I going to lose it?

A: Nothing is happening immediately.  Justice Department officials said Tuesday they plan to seek an en banc review from the D.C. Appeals Court, meaning that the panel’s full contingent of 11 judges would hear the case.  Six of the court’s judges would have to agree for the full panel to review the case. The full panel is dominated by judges appointed by Democrats, 7-4. Eventually the case could be considered by the Supreme Court, but the current subsidies would likely remain in place until there is a final legal decision on the matter.


NDAA Politico writes, “With the Senate’s annual defense authorization bill once again held up over procedural disputes, Levin has instructed his staff to begin preliminary discussions – or pre-conferencing – with their House Armed Services counterparts. Last year, the bill became snagged in a partisan dispute over amendments and had to be considered in December through a fast-track procedure.”


VA BILL IN PERIL Politico writes, “When revelations surfaced earlier this summer that the Department of Veterans Affairs provided poor health care to veterans – leading to some deaths – a genuine scandal erupted and Congress promised to impose big changes. But staring down the August recess, the effort to overhaul the agency is on the verge of collapse. NOT SUBSTANTIVE POLICY DIFFERENCES In fact, Democrats and Republicans agree on the core outlines of the bill. Instead, Congress is in the middle of another standoff over money. Democrats and Republicans are struggling to agree on how to pay for legislation that could cost between $25 billion and $30 billion. That logjam is transforming the VA debate from one that united both parties to yet another fiscal fight, prompting the same type of partisan finger pointing that has become familiar after years of budget showdowns.”  — “Tension that had been bubbling for weeks exploded with a parade of Senate Democrats taking to the floor Thursday to blast House Republicans for suddenly calling a conference committee meeting. They said that decision was made unilaterally by House Veterans Affairs’ Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) to offer a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ proposal with just days left before a five-week congressional recess. Miller responded by accusing Senate Veterans’ Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of lobbing ‘grenades’ at him through the media.”


$225M FOR IRON DOME Politico writes, “The Senate Appropriations Committee’s emergency supplemental funding bill will include $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said in a statement that the $225 million is meant to accelerate production on the missile interceptor program, which has played a significant role in recent weeks at stopping rockets fired from Gaza. “The $225 million is part of a $3.57 billion supplemental Mikulski introduced that is primarily intended to address the border crisis. The funding bill will be $1 billion less than President Barack Obama’s request. Both Mikulski’s panel and the House Appropriations bill have doubled the Pentagon’s 2015 funding request for Iron Dome to $351 million.’


PUSH FOR STRICTER RUSSIA SANCTIONS BEGINS “Three top Senate Democrats, including Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan, are asking President Barack Obama to toughen sanctions against Russia, reports Politico. The senators are urging the president “to give additional consideration to imposing broader sanctions on Russia’s energy and financial industries, as well as other sectors of the Russian economy as appropriate.”


NO CEASE-FIRE IN SIGHT via The Post: “Despite a swirl of shuttle diplomacy, the war looks far from over. Israeli leaders told their soldiers to prepare for an escalation inside the Gaza Strip, while the leader of Hamas vowed that his Islamist militant movement would not sign a permanent cease-fire until Israel ends its blockade of the coastal enclave.”


GEORGIA PRIMARY Businessman David Perdue defeated 11-term Rep. Jack Kingston in Georgia’s GOP Senate runoff. This sets up a general-election race between Perdue and Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn.  A senior House appropriator, Kingston was viewed as a major ally to the defense industry. And defense contractors contributed more than $112,000 to his campaign through their political action committees and individual employees.


2014:  SEINFELD ELECTION … ABOUT NOTHING? NJ writes, “It seems the 2014 midterm elections are shaping up to be about…nothing. A new poll from CNN/Opinion Research, in fact, shows not one issue is seen as “extremely important” by a majority of Americans — the first time that’s happened since before the recession. Just three years ago, three different issues were seen as extremely important by a majority of Americans: the economy, the deficit and health care. Almost every major issue – those three as well as guns, education, foreign affairs and taxes – are seen as less important today than they have in recent years. The only thing on the upswing is illegal immigration. And even that is “extremely important” to fewer than 40% of Americans. The most striking shift is on the economy, which has understandably been Americans’ top priority for years. CNN’s poll shows a 10 point drop in importance since April 2013, to 49% today (it was 70% at its peak). The only thing on the upswing is illegal immigration. And even that is “extremely important” to fewer than 40% of Americans. At its peak, 70% of Americans said it was of the utmost importance.”


CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FLEXIN ITS POLITICAL MUSCLE CNN, “The old Chamber wisdom was that governing and campaigning were more or less distinct enterprises, in which the lobbyists and wonks handled business downtown while the political team did its best to assist its favored candidates every election year. Today that sounds naïve. … The Chamber is vowing to play in every competitive and semi-competitive Senate race this election year.”


CHUCK HAGEL:  BEST DRESSED IN OBAMA CABINET Intercepts reports that “In a city where the powerful often wear boring, dark-color suits, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel bucks that trend. The Nebraskan can often be found wearing bright-colored socks, slick power ties and casual kicks that have made the man in charge of the world’s most powerful military the best dressed in President Obama’s cabinet. For pics.


600a50aafe4cb2f9cfed2397_280x210MILITARY DOGS TAKE CAPITOL HILL NPR writes, “The canines joined their human advocates at a Capitol Hill briefing Wednesday, “Military Dogs Take the Hill,” to spotlight an effort to require that all military working dogs be retired to the U.S. Congress passed a law last year saying the military may bring back its working dogs to the U.S. to be reunited with their handlers, but it does not say they must be brought back. MANDATE “We’re suggesting today that an easy solution, so very easy, is just to mandate that the dogs are returned to U.S. soil before they’re retired,” said Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association, which hosted Wednesday’s event. “And then, of course, these wonderful groups that we work with can work with the military to make sure the dogs are reunited.” MY SHADOW HAS COME BACK One such handler is a Marine vet named Deano Miller, who was in Afghanistan four years ago with a yellow Lab named Thor. “He’d never leave my side. He was never on leash. He was never in a kennel. He was always just — I didn’t have to worry about that. He didn’t leave me,” says. Miller. But Miller had to leave Thor behind at the end of his tour. “So I had to wait 3 1/2 years for him, but I’d wait more if I had to. … I was like, if he’s 10 years [old] and has one leg, I’ll still take him. In May, the two were reunited. “Everything’s a lot better now at home, and it wouldn’t be possible if I wouldn’t have him,” Miller says.



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