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The Washington Report – June 20, 2014

20 Jun 2014

The Washington Report – June 20, 2014


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

 

Americans = Nihilists? … Only 7% Confidence in Congress … Mirrored The Secrecy of a Papal Election … The Person On the Foxhunt Responsible for Keeping the Dogs Focused … Incumbent Survival Instinct … Welcome to the White House Nightmare … Climate Politics … and other news of the week.

Best,

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

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FAREWELL JAY!  Three weeks after announcing he would be leaving the White House, press secretary Jay Carney stepped away from the podium for the final time on Wednesday. (Carney’s official last day is Friday but he won’t be giving another briefing to the White House press corps).

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AMERICANS BECOMING NIHILISTS?

DEFINE NIHILISM (h/t Merriam-Webster)

: the belief that traditional morals, ideas, beliefs, etc. have no worth or value

: the belief that a society’s political and social institutions are so bad that they should be destroyed

ONLY 7 %The Fix writes, “Americans have very little confidence in Congress. In fact, according to a new Gallup Poll, just 7% have either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as an institution. That’s the lowest it has been since at least 1973 — and probably ever. Ouch! ITS WORSE THAN THAT But for all the constant chatter about how Americans increasingly hate Congress, much of the analysis misses this key point: Americans increasingly hate almost everything else too. IN THE PUBLIC’S DOGHOUSE In fact, Gallup has regularly tested 16 institutions over the past four decades, and … confidence is also at a historic low when it comes to organized religion (45%), the Supreme Court (30%), public schools (26%), newspapers (22%) and TV news (18%). And it’s within a few points of an all-time low when it comes to banks (26%), organized labor (22%), the presidency (29%), the police (53%), the medical system (34%) and big business (21%). So it begs the question: Are all of these institutions truly falling apart before our very eyes, or are Americans being a little … well … dramatic? SOMETHING TO PONDER Doesn’t it seem odd that pretty much everything would come crashing down all at once? Are Americans really emerging nihilists who no longer believe in their societal institutions? Or are they just more aware of these institutions’ various foibles and, thus, more willing to register their discontent? DON’T CELEBRATE YET CONGRESS You’re still the worst of the worst. But at least you’ve got some company.”

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MIRRORED THE SECRECY OF A PAPAL ELECTION WashPo writes, “House Republicans dramatically reshaped their leadership team Thursday by selecting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as the next House majority leader and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as the next majority whip. The pair will serve alongside Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH) and steer the often rancorous GOP caucus through an intense four months of critical legislative work on several spending matters leading up to November’s midterm election. … McCarthy is serving his fourth term in Congress and his win makes him the fastest-rising majority leader in American history. Scalise currently leads the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative Republicans, and has been in office since 2008.”

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A PRAGMATIC DEALMAKER NYTimes writes, “In Kevin McCarthy … lawmakers are likely to see a more pragmatic and inclusive leadership than Mr. Cantor preferred. Mr. McCarthy’s sensibilities and survival skills were honed during his time in Sacramento, where Democrats held a powerful legislative majority and parochial interests among Republican lawmakers were almost as numerous as those now in the House. … Politically obsessed (Mr. McCarthy is known for lugging the 1,883-page Almanac of American Politics to read on his almost weekly flights back to California) and manically social (he cannot seem to eat dinner in Washington with fewer than eight guests). … USA Today writes, “[McCarthy] has spent his brief time in Congress cultivating relationships with charm and a jovial approach that includes bike rides and movie nights with the chamber’s 233 Republicans. MY WEEKLY REFERENCE TO ‘THE HOUSE OF CARDS’ Kevin Spacey says McCarthy helped him shape the character of the Machiavellian majority whip Frank Underwood for his role on ‘House of Cards.’

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WHAT DOES THE MAJORITY LEADER DO? 2nd in command of his party after the Speaker … decides what bills come to the floor and when … also sets the tone of the party and pushes its legislative goals.  Some say the majority leader’s #1 job is to keep the majority. And to do that they need to raise money. A lot of it. And then, decide where the money is deployed in support of its #1 job.

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THE NEW WHIP Politico writes, “[Steve Scalise] is known for giving his friends a little bit extra. In Louisiana, it’s called lagniappe (LAN-yap), or a small unexpected gift. Sometimes it was a praline … Other times it was a personalized note, T-shirt or flowers. On Wednesday night, the lawmakers who helped put him in a position to become the next House majority whip got an engraved red baseball bat. …The story of Scalise’s ascent … is a tale of keen attention to detail, unrelenting drive and intense commitment. He worked over the House Republican Conference until his walk to the Thursday vote, making roughly 100 calls on the final day.”

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REMIND ME For those wondering … the Whip is responsible, along with the party’s leader, for ‘whipping up’ support for a particular position (they are the vote counters). “First used in the British House of Commons in the 1700s, they were named after the “whipper in”— the person on a foxhunt responsible for keeping the dogs focused.” (Slate). Whips serve as liaisons between the members and party leadership, which means they help mold legislation in such a way that members will support it, as well as persuading members to vote a particular way once the legislation is complete.

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SUPREMES DEAL MAJOR BLOW TO PATENT TROLLS Wired writes, “On Thursday, the court upheld the notion that an idea alone can’t be patented, deciding unanimously that merely implementing an idea on a computer isn’t enough to transform it into a patentable invention. … The decision does leave room for patenting specific ways of implementing an idea, but it could prevent some of the most frivolous patent cases from moving forward.” AND TO STRAW BUYERS OF FIREARMS By a 5-to-4 vote, the court allowed a prosecution under a federal law that requires gun buyers to disclose that they are making their purchase for someone else, even if both the straw buyer and the real one are eligible to own guns.

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THE SINGLE MOST DEPRESSING NUMBER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA The Fix writes, “A new national poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal is stuffed with bad news for President Obama. But one number stands out… “Thinking about the rest of Barack Obama’s term as president, do you think he can lead the country and get the job done or do you no longer feel that he is able to lead the country and get the job done?” Fifty-four percent — let me repeat, 54 percent — said that Obama “cannot lead and get the job done,” while just 42% said he could lead.  … the party ID breakouts on that question:  84% of Republicans said that Obama can’t lead or get the job done, as did 61%of independents.”  (Just 20% of Democrats agreed.)”

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YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE FRIENDS The Fix writes, …Five days and counting until Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel face off one final time. The latest polls are close, and allies on both sides of the race are spending gobs of money in hopes that it could tilt the results, if only by tenths of a percentage point. STEPPING UP Cochran’s fellow officemates … have stepped in to save one of their own. Part of it is that he’s their colleague, and that’s just what you do. Another part is that they are allowed to give a maximum donation to Cochran again in the runoff. INCUMBENT SURVIVAL INSTINCT But the other part is that the last thing incumbents in Congress want is for potential tea party challengers to be emboldened by McDaniel’s success. And thus a fountain of funds rushes from leadership PACs everywhere to Cochran’s bank account. EXHIBITS A THROUGH Z:  ERIC CANTOR However, money can only do so much. The polls are still close, and there is only so much money you can spend in three weeks.”

GENTLEMEN, THE CIRCUS HAS COME TO TOWN Politico writes, “[W]hat began as a bare-bones campaign against Sen. Thad Cochran [by now-insurgent state Sen. Chris McDaniel] has bloomed into a full-blown political carnival. … If a voter woke up in the last few days of the election, they’d look around and find all the familiar staples of conservative TV and talk radio arrayed before them: Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum are here. And there’s Ron Paul! And – could that be Chuck Woolery [‘Love Connection’ game-show host), too? … “It’s the same rogues gallery that flocked to Indiana for the 2012 nomination fight between moderate Sen. Dick Lugar and upstart Richard Mourdock; many of the same little-funded groups and C-list political celebrities rushed to Missouri two years ago to dig in behind Todd Akin’s doomed Senate campaign. They have descended upon Mississippi only in the last few weeks, as McDaniel’s campaign has taken on unmistakable momentum. …”[T]he spectacle … is not just a Mississippi phenomenon; it’s the way we live now in the age of frenzied, hyper-nationalized activist politics. YES, BRETT FARVE TOO!  “Cochran has his own out-of-state and celebrity backers: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has dropped $700,000 into the runoff fight, most recently for ads featuring NFL legend Brett Favre endorsing Cochran. Arizona Sen. John McCain is expected to campaign for Cochran this weekend, and a host of Mississippi officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant [and former senator Trent Lott], have hit the trail or recorded ads on his behalf.”

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IMPLOSION. THY NAME IS BRIAN SCHWEITZER WashPo writes, “Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer is nothing if not unusual.  … The governor, who has somewhat inexplicably turned into a hero of some on the political left, can probably say goodbye to that niche in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.”  AN APOLOGY for making controversial comments about outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Dianne Feinstein that sparked outrage. He said, “I recently made a number of stupid and insensitive remarks to a reporter from the National Journal. I am deeply sorry and sincerely apologize for my carelessness and disregard.”

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WI CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, “Prosecutors allege Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and those of Republican state senators facing recall elections during 2011 and 2012.” Fox News writes, “No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff. The documents were filed in December 2013 as part of an ongoing lawsuit by the conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which challenged a secret investigation into campaign fundraising coordination.” GOVERNOR RESPONDS “This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” he added. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judges’ orders to end this investigation.”

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END IN SIGHT ON DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS Politico writes, “The House is expected to pass its fiscal 2015 defense appropriations bill today after working through more than 70 amendments over the past two days. …In one of the biggest funding fights, the House blocked the retirement of the A-10 fleet. The 300-to-114 vote bucked the chairman and ranking member on the Defense Appropriations panel, just as rank-and-file lawmakers did in the House Armed Services Committee. Last night’s vote was the clearest sign yet that Congress will not allow the Air Force to retire the Warthog in 2015.”

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THE CAPTURE OF A BENGHAZI SUSPECT Politico writes, Ahmed Abu Khatallah was arrested last weekend by U.S. special operators and law-enforcement agents in Libya. The capture of one of the suspected ringleaders of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, has reopened a debate over what exactly happened that night and whether the Obama administration has handled the situation appropriately. OBAMA VINDICATED In the immediate aftermath of the news of Khattala’s capture Democrats seized on it as an affirmation of their belief that the Obama administration did exactly what it should have done both during and after the attack. OR THIS CHANGES NOTHING Republicans praised the capture but quickly turned to how and where Khattala should be tried — Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio  insisted it should be Guantanamo Bay — and to making the point that his capture does not change their desire for more answers about the events of Sept. 11, 2012.”

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300 MILITARY ADVISERS TO IRAQ Playbook writes, “The President’s announcement that he’ll send up to 300 more “American military advisers” to help “train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces” was the LEAST he could plausibly do. The minimalist announcement, according to metaphor-mixing advisers, shows his leeriness about the slippery slope: You dip a toe in, and you can be pulled under. His approach reflects the limits of military intervention, when the root problem is political. It also shows his practical side, eschewing symbolic strikes. …Of course, the biggest takeaway is that, as much as he wants to, he just can’t put Iraq in his rearview mirror. … Obama’s announcement did not impress Republican hawks clamoring for the administration to do more in Iraq, such as launching airstrikes. …Democrats, meanwhile, are supporting Obama.”  MALIKI MUST GO The Wall Street Journal, “The Obama administration is signaling that it wants a new government in Iraq without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, convinced the Shiite leader is unable to reconcile with the nation’s Sunni minority and stabilize a volatile political landscape.”

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WELCOME TO THE WHITE HOUSE’S NIGHTMARE NJ writes, “Of all the things to rise up and bedevil President Obama again, Iraq seemed to be low on the list. But now the White House must live with the reality that, almost three years after the war was declared over, American blood could be spilled anew in a conflict that could readily escalate. SO … 10 YEARS AGO Yet here was Obama on Thursday using the language of presidents past such as John Kennedy and George W. Bush, talking of sending “advisers” into a global hot spot and warning of the need to deny “safe haven” to terrorist groups. “Right now, this is the moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said—something that sounded So 10 Years Ago. … Other than targeted airstrikes, there aren’t great options for Obama beyond this point: The public is dead set against a further involvement and Congress—especially Obama’s fellow Democrats—is skittish. If the president wants to do more on this battlefield, he’ll end up owning this in a way he never wanted and, a few years ago, probably couldn’t have contemplated.”

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SAME-SEX SPOUSE BENEFITS WashPo writes, “The Labor Department will issue a proposed rule [today] stating that any employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status. …Due to FMLA’s scope, the Labor Department rule would apply only to private-sector employees, but administration officials said the Office of Personal Management would issue its own proposal Friday extending the same benefits to federal employees.”

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CLIMATE POLITICS BURN SPENDING BILLS NJ writes, “A big federal spending package has stalled in the Senate as Democrats play defense against a GOP assault on President Obama’s second-term climate agenda. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that proceeding with the bill to fund several agencies should require a 60-vote threshold for amendments, not a simple majority. That would ensure Democrats could thwart passage of a GOP amendment, which would likely attract support from some conservative Democrats including Mary Landrieu, to scuttle EPA regulation of power plants’ carbon emissions. Democratic leaders and environmentalists are also battling a GOP push to block a separate EPA proposal to clarify—or, according to Republicans, dangerously expand—the scope of Clean Water Act regulation (an issue also addressed in a bill introduced Thursday  by 29 Republicans). The battle over EPA amendments also led Democrats to cancel consideration of an Energy Department spending bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

GOOD NEWS FOR CLIMATE RULE A new poll from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News shows that over two-thirds of Americans like the Obama administration’s climate rule aimed at cracking down on carbon emissions from power plants. And 57% of respondents said their support would not waiver even if the rule drives up the price of electricity.

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BIPARTISAN PAIR WANTS TO RAISE GAS PRICES Reuters reports, Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Democrat Chris Murphy unveiled legislation that would increase the federal gas and diesel-fuel tax by 12 cents per gallon to raise money for the Highway Trust Fund.”

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NOT BUYING IT The Hill writes, “IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Friday denied that his agency is covering up [embattled, ex-IRS official] Lois Lerner’s [lost] emails and told Republicans his agency has nothing to apologize for. …The IRS has produced 67,000 emails to and from Lerner to date … all provided to Congress. Fox News writes, “Republican lawmakers charged that the IRS knew for months they had “lost” the emails but kept it “secret” until this week.” The hearing quickly grew heated, with Republicans audibly gasping when Koskinen said that Lerner’s crashed hard drive — which kept her archived emails — had been “recycled and destroyed,” something the commissioner said was standard procedure.”

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NEW NAME “The U.S. Patent Office announced Wednesday that it is canceling the trademark for the Washington Redskins, the
D.C. football team that has faced much backlash for their team name recently. The ruling from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board notes, “Based on the evidence properly before us, these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” The office has made a similar rulings in the ’90s, which was reversed by the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia on a technicality. The team is sure to appeal the decision again.” (Bleacher Report)

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