This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
Wrapped up the mid-term elections and looking ahead. I’m sure you all join us in eagerly awaiting Congress’ return — and the Lame Duck session to start — next week (really!).
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Kathryn Wellner and Ross Willkom)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK re: election results:
‘This is a real ass-whuppin.”
– Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
PICTURES WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS… Time and The New Yorker covers for next week (which inevitably tackles the Republican Party’s impending majority in Congress).
HOW THE DEMOCRATS LOST THE SENATE … Deep Dive
ALASKA..STILL WAITING FOR SENATE ELECTION RESULTS Politico “Because of the way the votes are counted in the state – officials begin counting absentee and questioned ballots a week after the election – the 2014 race between Democratic senator Mark Begich and Republican Dan Sullivan still has not been settled. It’s the third Senate election in a row that’s kept Alaskans waiting.”
DEMS BAIL ON LANDRIEU Politico: “Democrats are scrapping a multimillion dollar ad buy, liberal groups aren’t jumping in to help her campaign and national political staffers haven’t moved down en masse to help get out the vote. Just days after enduring a shellacking that left Senate Democrats in the minority and licking their wounds, the Louisiana Democrat is calling her own shots in her uphill battle to fend off Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in a Dec. 6 runoff. Her early strategy is to blunt Republican attempts to nationalize the race, as they did when the balance of power was up for grabs in the Senate, into a local campaign.” STILL IN THE FIGHT Landrieu campaign officials insist they are confident that she has a path to victory and point to her success in the past two runoffs in 1996 and 2002.”
HOW GILLESPIE ALMOST SLAYED WARNER Politico “Gillespie digital director Eric Wilson said the mainstream media was not paying attention as Gillespie attracted huge crowds for rallies, grew social media followers and built an impressive ground game … “During the summer, there was extensive back-and-forth among Gillespie’s top advisers about when to spend their money … One school of thought inside the campaign was to spend money early in the summer to tighten up the polls and get outside groups interested. The other side warned that going up early was too risky because it might not move the numbers and then the money would dry up in October. Gillespie elected to hold his fire, even pushing back his first ad buy a week later in August than originally planned.”
IT’S THE MAP, STUPID The Fix, “In the end, politics is often very, very simple. Like the battle for Senate control on Tuesday. The biggest reason Republicans won back control of the Senate was the seats that were up in 2014 heavily favored their side. Seven Democratic-held seats were in states Mitt Romney carried in 2012; Republicans flipped six of them with the seventh, in Louisiana, headed to a runoff on Dec. 6 where the GOP is favored. JUST SAYIN The numbers make clear just how disastrously bad the map was for Democrats. But they may even underplay the built-in difficulties Democrats had going into election day because they don’t take into account the retirements of well-established (and totally re-electable) Democratic Senators in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That trio of retirements made those seats virtually un-holdable. YES The difficulty of the terrain was compounded by President Obama’s declining popularity in virtually every one of the states where Democrats were trying to hold on. IN THE END Republicans won states where Republicans traditionally win. That’s how they won the majority. (Even without winning Iowa and Colorado, Republicans would have the six seats they need to be in the majority assuming Alaska falls their way, which it should.) AND YES, IT’S CYCLICAL In 2016, Republicans will be the ones faced with the tough terrain; there are 23 Republican seats up compared to just 10 for Democrats and in six of them — Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — Obama won in 2008 and 2012. If Democrats manage to take the Senate back in two years, they’ll have the map to thank. Just like Republicans in 2014.”
SENATE GETS YOUNGER AP writes. “With several races still to be called, the 11 newly-minted senators set to take office in January are, on average, 16 years younger than the lawmakers they are replacing. Each incoming senator is younger than the departing senator – some by decades. Four of the new senators are under 50, boosting a small contingent of Generation X members in the upper chamber.”
ANGUS KING STAYS WITH DEMS The Maine senator, as expected, says he’ll continue caucusing with Senate Democrats. (Portland Press-Herald)
THE 2014 ELECTION COST $3.7 BILLION. WE SPEND TWICE THAT MUCH ON HALLOWEEN Yes, $3.7 billion for the 2014 elections is a massive amount of money (according to the Center for Responsive Politics) but it’s a pittance when it comes to how much Americans spend on things like dry cleaning and Halloween. Check out this chart from Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman’s. CAVEAT It’s estimated that .2 percent of the U.S. population of 316 million helped finance Tuesday’s election. All the other categories on the chart are populated by lots and lots more Americans. So, where election spending stands out is in how few people are responsible for its cost.
WHY WAS THE 2014 ELECTORATE SO OLD? The Fix, “ In 1978, 20% of the electorate was over 60; half of them backed Republicans. In 2014, exit polls indicated that 34% of the electorate is over 60; 55% of them backed Republicans. Note: People who are 60 years old in 2014 were born in 1954, at the height of the Baby Boom. In other words, we should expect that the percentage of voters that is in that age range comprises a bigger share of voters.”
GENDER GAP The Fix, “The GOP win includes two new female senators — Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia and Joni Ernst in Iowa — as well as the first black female Republican in Congress, Utah’s Mia Love. But the GOP’s gains came in large part due to men, and in fact, there was a larger “gender gap” than we’ve seen in 20 years. According to exit poll data, the 20-point gap between the voting preferences of men, who favored the GOP by 16 points, and women, who favored Democrats by four points, is bigger than any election since the 1994 GOP wave. It didn’t matter much, this election, given the GOP’s increasing strength with men.
POLLSTERS GOT IT WRONG Republicans nearly swept the 10 Senate races rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report on Election Day, winning seven of the 10 outright – they lost New Hampshire, Alaska remains undecided and Louisiana is going to a runoff. …But it wasn’t that Republicans won so many of the most competitive races — it was how much they won by. Tom Cotton (Ark.), David Perdue (Ga.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Mitch McConnell (Ky.) all blew out their opponents, despite polls showing much closer contests. Republicans have long claimed that public polls, usually conducted by randomly dialing phone numbers rather than only contacting voters with a history of turning out in midterm elections, include too many people who won’t ultimately cast a ballot – a group that tends to lean Democratic.”
ELECTION MODELS GOT IT RIGHT Scroll to the bottom to take a look at the Election forecasting models from the Washington Post, New York Times and Five Thirty-Eight. Really interesting.
HARRY THE FIGHTER Politico, “In interviews with more than a half-dozen surviving Democratic senators … Democrats have Senator Harry Reid’s back, prepared to stand by him as minority leader through a tumultuous two years as he simultaneously runs for reelection in Nevada. … the Nevada senator is being praised for taking arrows for the party.”
FRUSTRATION WITH PELOSI Politico “Nearly a dozen senior aides and Democratic insiders said there is a desire for a broader election message from party leaders. There are complaints about Pelosi focusing so strongly on women without a broader message that could play to other groups, such as older voters and men. … The private grumbling about Pelosi is unusual. Unlike House Republican leaders, who have faced a continued threat of rebellion from conservative members, Democrats are far more loyal to Pelosi, in part because of her prolific fundraising prowess.”
ANIMAL HOUSE Politico Magazine, “… When the next Congress convenes in January, soon to retire Rep. Tom Petri (a Republican from central Wisconsin known for doing the often unsexy work of legislating without making national news) will be replaced by Glenn Grothman, a 59-year-old Tea Party firebrand who attracts headlines the way that character in “Charlie Brown” draws dirt. Grothman has called for the elimination of the African American-themed holiday Kwanzaa—which he says should be treated with “contempt”—and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which he has called an “insult.” That’s just for starters. Grothman, who was [overwhelmingly] elected to Petri’s seat on Tuesday, is just one of a group of incoming GOP lawmakers with a penchant for controversial rhetoric who will make up the historic 114th Congress, which amassed the most Republican House seats since 1931. … After three years of utter turmoil in his conference, no one is more motivated than [Speaker] Boehner to keep his members in line, at long last, and silence the rabble-rousers. … If Boehner had trouble controlling an all-too-unified Tea Party insurgency after 2010, now he and the GOP leadership might find that what they face is more like herding cats. … privately, GOP strategists admit they’re concerned about what might be coming.”
“All of that willingness to work together we’ve heard from Congress the past few days? “Yup, we’ve heard that before too.””
LAME DUCK SESSION (DEFINED @Senate.gov) When Congress (or either chamber) reconvenes in an even-numbered year following the November general elections to consider various items of business. Some lawmakers who return for this session will not be in the next Congress. Hence, they are informally called “lame duck” members participating in a “lame duck” session. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CONGRESS RETURNS Republicans … will try to use the first few weeks in December to pass a long-term spending bill to keep the government open through most of the next year. Funding runs dry Dec. 11, as does the authority for President Barack Obama’s administration to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against the Islamic State.” (Politico)
LAME DUCKERS RUSH WashPo “Before ceding full control of Congress to the GOP in January, Senate Democrats are planning to rush a host of critical measures to President Obama’s desk, including bills to revive dozens of expired tax breaks and avoid a government shutdown for another year. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) is also aiming to chip away at a backlog of presidential nominations to the federal bench and the State Department over the next month, although Democratic aides say they will be unable to process all of the hundreds of pending appointments before turning the chamber over to Republicans.” –“Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years.”
GET READY TO DEAL Politico ‘There will be no government shutdown, and there will be no national default.”
– Senator Mitch McConnell, speaking here at a news conference at the University of Louisville.”
MAYBE THEY CAN GET SOMETHING DONE NYT “After years of clashes and a grudging truce, fiscal and economic policy was brought back to center stage by the wave of Republican electoral victories on Tuesday, with President Obama and the new congressional leadership expressing hope that they could reach deals to simplify the tax code, promote trade and eliminate the budget deficit. The president and [likely majority leader] Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, immediately pointed to tax-code changes, international trade and budget policy as potential common ground for a divided government in Mr. Obama’s final two years in office. On Thursday, Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, listed a tax overhaul and the federal debt as the House’s top two priorities.”
McCAIN’S DREAM JOB Yahoo: [The] Arizona senator is poised to take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) with the GOP control of the Senate: “It is a remarkable return to semi-power for the often irascible 78-year-old former Republican presidential nominee – and one the senator is already planning to use robustly, vowing to hold hearings, conduct investigations and ‘demand answers’ from administration officials in order to expose what he calls the ‘abysmal’ failures of Obama’s national security policies. TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK ‘Look at the world in January 2009 and look at the world today … we’ve had a rudderless, feckless national security policy and no strategy.’ REPEALING SEQUESTER? “McCain has an ambitious agenda, ranging from repealing mandated sequester cuts at the Pentagon (‘That’s our first priority,’ he said) to investigating the prisoner swap that freed four Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. But more broadly, he says, ‘we need to hold hearings on [the White House’s] strategy, to find out what the administration is doing.’
BRACING FOR HURRICANE McCAIN Politico “McCain’s ascent to the top of the SASC … is likely to make it one of the most combustible panels on Capitol Hill. Well known for his bulldog approach to oversight and his often bombastic rhetoric, the Arizona Republican can set his sights even more directly on the Pentagon and defense industry, which he has long blistered as wasteful. – Once he settles in, defense industry sources say McCain is expected to overhaul the Republican committee staff, as he did when he took over as ranking member in 2007. One former congressional aide says McCain’s pick for Armed Services staff director will be a good indicator of how he plans to run the committee. “Is that somebody who can speak truth to power and somehow rationalize the instincts of McCain with the realities of defense?” the former staffer said. “Or is it somebody who doesn’t filter McCain at all? In which case, it’ll be ‘McCain unleashed’ – and that portends confrontation and a lot of ‘ready, fire, aim.'”
McCONNELL ON SEQUESTRATION? Politico, “McConnell took to the Senate floor last year and praised sequestration, saying the automatic spending cuts that have hit the Pentagon especially hard were a major victory for conservatives and that maintaining them was a “priority.” He’ll now lead a divided Republican majority in the Senate – with defense hawks like John McCain of Arizona pressing to reverse sequestration for the Defense Department and budget hawks like Rand Paul of Kentucky pressing to make sure the cuts stick. …McConnell spokesman Donald Stewart signaled he might do just that, distancing the senator from the defense portion of sequestration, which has hit both defense and domestic spending.”
BUDGET BULLETIN I – $3.2 B TO FIGHT ISIL The president plans to request an additional $3.2 billion in war funding for the fight against ISIL, according Bloomberg News. The request will come as an amendment to the administration’s $58.6 billion request for fiscal 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for the military. (Politico) ISIL AT TOP OF AGENDA The Fiscal Times The temporary authorization for President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels – one element of the campaign – expires on Dec. 11, so lawmakers will have to take up that issue when they return from recess. A handful of lawmakers are also pushing for Congress to consider a broader Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which would set out guidelines for the overall effort to halt the militants.”
BUDGET BULLETIN II – CBO PROJECTS BIG GAP BETWEEN DoD PLANS, SPENDING CAPS The CBO projects a big gap between the cost of carrying out the Pentagon’s long-term spending plans and the budget caps put in place under the Budget Control Act of 2011. In a new report, CBO estimated the costs of carrying out the Pentagon’s Future Years Defense Program, which covers fiscal years 2015 to 2019 … it notes that the Pentagon’s base budget request for 2015 complies with the federal spending caps. But after 2015, “the costs of DoD’s plans” would “significantly exceed CBO’s estimate of the funding the department would receive under the BCA.” LOOKING AHEAD To comply with the budget caps (and avoid sequestration), “DoD would have to make sharp additional cuts to the size of its forces, curtail the development and purchase of weapons, reduce the extent of its operations and training or implement some combination of those three actions. At the Pentagon, top commanders are hoping Congress will strike a deal to lift the current budget caps, allowing them to avoid these cost-cutting measures. … The report also says that the cost of DoD’s long-term budget plans are well above recent historical norms for Pentagon spending, and that’s not counting the supplemental OCO war fund. “According to the CBO projection, the average real cost of DoD’s base-budget plans from 2015 through 2019 would exceed average spending for DoD from 1980 to 2014 by $64 billion a year.” (Politico)
HE LOST Grantland, “In North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers retained her post for another two years, defeating challenger and American Idol runner up in 2003, Clay Aiken, 59 to 41 percent.