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The Washington Report – November 8th, 2013

08 Nov 2013

The Washington Report – November 8th, 2013

A few excerpts from this week’s Washington Report. To read the full write-up click here. To sign up, click here.

Only 16 legislative days left in 2013!

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Now, for the highlights of the week.

Best,

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

AN APOLOGY  Chuck Todd, NBC interview, “President Obama said Thursday that he is ‘sorry’ that some Americans are losing their current health insurance plans as a result of the ACA. THE ART OF THE PRESIDENTIAL APOLOGY From a piece written in February 2012 by Washington Post’s Scott Wilson, “…explores when – and what for – past presidents have apologized and what they aimed to accomplish by doing so.” …APOLOGY TOUR … “Obama knows that he has no option at the moment other than to submit himself to a sort of public apology tour as he waits for the Web site to begin working and the furor over the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” fiasco dies down. So, that’s what he’s doing. But, he doesn’t like it and his frustration over the entire situation occasionally bubbles to the surface.”
“An apology is certainly in order, but what Americans want to hear is that the president is going to keep his promise,”
-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
“We have a disability right now — it’s called in the Senate ’55 of them and 45 of us.’ I’m not great at math, but 55 is more than 45.”
— Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with Peggy Noonan, on the GOP’s inability to repeal Obamacare.
DEMS TO WHITE HOUSE…FIX SITE Politico writes, “At the pleading of senior White House officials, Senate Democrats are holding off on demands to delay major aspects of the health care law until the Obama administration has the opportunity to fix the website problems that are thwarting enrollment in the program. Democratic senators facing reelection have a green light to bash the White House and call for certain legislative fixes. But they’ve been urged by senior administration officials not to insist on delaying the controversial law’s core: The mandate for individuals to purchase insurance coverage or face penalties. Their requests are being heeded – for now.”HOW’S THAT WORKING OUT Roll Call writes, “Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) teamed up with Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-IL) to introduce legislation to delay the individual mandatepenalty under Obamacare for a year.”
OBAMA’S APPROVAL RATING IS DOWN National Journal has an excellent chartshowing why.
SHUTDOWN DIDN’T HURT JOBS AS EXPECTED The Wall Street Journal reports that “The U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate rose to 7.3%. Combined with yesterday’s report that 3rd quarter GDP growth of 2.8%, October economic data “have been surprisingly strong, especially considering many economists thought the 16-day partial government shutdown would skew the numbers.”STILL,THE SHUTDOWN WAS A COSTLY, DISRUPTIVE MESS Washington Postreports, “… partial shutdown of the federal government cost taxpayers about $2 billion in lost productivity from 850,000 furloughed employees, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said Thursday in a report quantifying the ripple effects of the impasse in Congress. On top of those costs, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the OMB, said the shutdown set off a cascade of “negative ramifications on a number of fronts.” From $500 million in lost spending by visitors to closed national parks to stalled oil drilling permits, the first shutdown in 17 years disrupted private industries, slowed home buying and delayed crucial safety inspections, according to the OMB report.”
ENDING DISCRIMINATION The Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last week, Roll Call reports. “The bill, if it were to become law, would set a federal non-discrimination standard to ensure that private employers cannot fire employees based on their sexual orientation or identity.” THE BREAKDOWN Final tally: 64 to 32. How many members of the Senate Democratic caucus voted for the bill? 54. (52 Dems and two independents) How many Republicans voted for the bill?10. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA). How many senators didn’t vote? 4. John Barrasso (R-WY), Robert Casey (D-PA) – wife health issue, Tom Coburn (R-OK) – health issue, and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). WORTHWHILE TO NOTE Approval of ENDA serves as just the latest example of the remarkably rapid change in public opinion for gay rights. Consider this: Eighteen current senators were present in 1996 when the Senate first rejected a bill resembling ENDA. Two of those senators, Hatch and McCain, voted no in 1996. TOO EARLY TO CELEBRATE Success in the Senate guarantees nothing in the House, where the measure faces serious Republican resistance. Speaker John A. Boehner has made no commitment to put it to a vote.
MORMONS POWERFUL ALLY The New York Times writes, “At nearly every critical juncture, the Senate bill that passed Thursday banning workplace discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation has had an unconventional and powerful ally. Mormons, reflecting shifting attitudes inside their church, have stepped in to provide the political muscle, the additional momentum or the decisive vote. And more often than not, they were not just Mormons, but Republicans. The bill … was a priority of Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, who, as the Mormon Church’s highest-ranking member in the government, put the nondiscrimination measure at the top of the Senate’s agenda once the government reopened last month. …Senator Orrin Hatch ofUtah, who at 79 is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, became the first Republican to signal he would reverse his opposition as the bill faced a crucial vote in committee. Senator Dean Heller, the Nevada Republican who has taught Sunday school at his Mormon church, provided the crucial 60th vote to break a filibuster. In the end, all but two of the Senate’s seven Mormons voted yes.
‘People shouldn’t be able to fire them because of their sexual orientation any more than you can fire them if they’re Mormon,’
– Mr. Reid said Thursday in an interview.
WHAT HAPPENED TO RE-BRANDING? The Cloakroom’s Taegan Goddard writes, “Today was a very bad day on Capitol Hill for Republicans who hoped their party might take heed of a Republican Party report released earlier this year [what the WSJ called a “scathing self-analysis” that highlighted sweeping changes that needed to be made] to remake itself as more tolerant and inclusive in time for the 2014 midterm elections. Here’s what happened:
1. A majority of Republican senators voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to end to workplace discrimination against gay Americans (Roll Call)
2. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation that would ban abortions nationwide for women more than 20 weeks pregnant (The Washington Post).
3. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) told Greg Sargent that House Republicans would not hold a vote on immigration reform this year and that “the window for getting anything done next year is closing fast.”
These are stands on important issues that further push away gay, female, and Hispanic voters — voting groups that Republicans claimed, at least in their autopsy report, they didn’t want to alienate any longer.”
NSA, CYBER COMMAND STRUCTURAL CHANGE The Washington Post writes, “The Obama administration is considering ending a controversial policy that since 2010 has placed one military official at the head of both the nation’s largest spy agency and its cyber-operations command.  … also discussing whether the NSA should be led by a civilian.”
BRAC As unpopular as it is, Congress can’t fend off BRAC forever, said Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS’) David Berteau, who moderated a panel at this week’s CSIS Global Security Forum. “DoD can’t continue to carry such excess capacity, given today’s budget pressures, he said. But he agreed that it’s going to take some time before Congress becomes a willing, or even unwilling, partner.”
PENTAGON’S TO-DO LIST Defense priorities as laid out by Defense Secretary Hagel (at CSIS conference) 1. Institutional Reform;  2. Revise force planning to better reflect shifting strategic environment; 3. Prepare for a prolonged readiness challenge considering shrinking budgets; 4. Protect investments in space, cyber, special ops and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to preserve the U.S. “edge;” 5. Balance — so cuts don’t come too much at the expense of any one service or capability; 6. Personnel and compensation policy reforms led by Congress (not something lawmakers have been keen to go along with in the past).
BUDGET CLIMATE WORST EVER Defense One writes, “The current budgetary environment for Defense is “the worst I’ve seen for doing a sound plan and executing it with any kind of confidence,” the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said on Thursday. … main three problems…uncertainty, the lack of a “ramp” or a “graceful slope” in budgeting that makes changes manageable, and lack of a clear direction. “ …Cutting training, investment and research and development will mean “a hollow force” in the next few years, he warned.
HASC BRIEFING ON MILITARY READINESS NEXT WEEK Morning Defensereports, “If you thought the military’s public warnings on sequestration were grim, what are they saying behind closed doors? Next Thursday, House members can find out at a classified briefing hosted by the HASC.”
THANK YOU STARBUCKS The company announced yesterday that it plans to hire at least 10,000 military veterans and active-duty spouses over the next five years, reportsThe Seattle Times.
PINTEREST IS NOT JUST FOR WEDDING IDEAS AND KITCHEN DESIGNSSteadfast Jazz is NOT a music festival – it’s actually a NATO training exercise “that involves 6,000 troops simulating a response to an attack on a member state” taking place this month in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, reports the BBC’s Jonathan Beale. Check out the Pinterest page.
NEVER EASY IN BIG APPLE Bloomberg writes, “New York Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio scored a landslide victory championing an ambitious agenda that includes taxing the rich to pay for universal pre-kindergarten, building 200,000 units of low-income housing and creating better-paying jobs … When the 52-year-old Democrat is sworn in on New Year’s Day, he’ll confront a deficit of as much as $2 billion in the next fiscal year and the limits of his power. The only tax he can raise without the approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature is on property. To boost the levy on income above $500,000 to pay for his education plan, he’ll have to go through Albany, where Cuomo has appointed two commissions on how to lower taxes. As the first Democrat to run the biggest U.S. city in 20 years , de Blasio will be challenged to pay for his programs while balancing a $70 billion budget and maintaining the city’s AA credit rating … His most difficult task will be settling expired labor contracts and negotiating new ones with New York’s almost 300,000 public workers, some of whom haven’t gotten a raise since 2009. After an acrimonious relationship with three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg, labor leaders are banking on getting a sympathetic ear. They’re also lowering expectations for retroactive raises, which could run as high as $8 billion, more than 10% of the budget. … Investor reaction to de Blasio has been muted.
HOW TERRY McAULIFFE WON in 1 map. Pssst…it’s all about NoVa. FINGER POINTING The Washington Post, “McAuliffe’s unexpectedly slim victory [for Governor] in Virginia over Cucinelli set off an explosion of recriminations among Republicans on Wednesday, and rather than settling the battle between the GOP’s tea party and business factions, the election appears to have deepened the internal divide.””
“The RNC spent $9 million in 2009 to win and spent $3 million this time, pulling money out of Virginia, to lose by a hair. The RNC truly screwed up in Virginia this time and no amount of spinning can distract from that screw up,”
– Erick Erickson wrote on Red State
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SINGLE LADIESThe Fix writes, “Conventional political wisdom goes like this: Republicans have a “woman” problem. That is, the party and its candidates are struggling mightily to convince female voters that the GOP is a home for them due to policies on abortion and contraception — as well as comments during the 2012 election about rape — that suggest the opposite. That’s only part of the story, however, as illustrated by the result in the Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday. The real problem for Republicans going forward is not women broadly but single women in particular. Apparently, Cuccinelli lost female voters by nine points, identical to Romney’s losing margin.  Where he did get swamped, was among non-married women where he lost by a massive 42-point margin, according to exit polls. … Here’s the two-pronged problem for Republicans: 1) They aren’t winning married women by nearly enough to make up for their huge deficits among unmarried women and 2) There aren’t that many more married women than single women in the electorate to make up the margins. (Worth noting: The married/unmarried divide isn’t just among women.  Cuccinelli won married men by six points but lost single men by 25.)
CHRISTIE’S LANDSLIDE GREAT NEWS FOR EVERY GOP CANDIDATE NAMED CHRIS CHRISTIE The Fix writes, “… as much hope as Christie gives the GOP in 2016 [with his 60% win in a Blue State], his victory is hardly reason for GOP optimism in 2014. WHY? 1. Because Christie made pains to separate his brand from the congressional GOP [remember when he labeled House R’s conduct “toxic” and “disgusting” when they blocked aid for Superstorm Sandy]; 2. The Christie model is extremely difficult to replicate. He’s one of a kind. Other Rs are not allowed to run afoul of the NRA, embrace Obama and publicly criticize their party’s shutdown strategy. And, 3.Try and name another Republican — or politician, period — who is as good on his feet and has such an original brand.”
SUMMARIZE: TAKEAWAYS FROM ELECTION NIGHT 2013  The Fix reports, “1.Virginia isn’t for social conservatives. 2. The Republicans’ unmarried people problem. 3. The Virginia white vote is eroding, rapidly. 4. Republicans don’t need independents; they need moderates. 5. The path forward is clear for Republicans. They just have to convince their base. 6. And/but…Christie ran as the un-Republican (more about the Christie brand than the Republican brand).” WINNERS: Terry McAuliffe’s campaign; Christie 2016; Moderates; Fairfax County and its massive turnout; Unions (mayors-elect in NYC and Boston); Mark Obenshain (new Republican VA attorney general – if he hangs on – who will start 2017 as a favorite for R nomination for governor). LOSERS: Social Issues (Cucinnelli let himself be defined by social issues…and that was the game, set and match in the most critical voting region of the state – NoVa); Independents (judging from results, moderates are the key swing group now); Public Polling: missed in VA; Michael Bloomberg whose successor, Bill de Blasio, ran against virtually his entire tenure and talk that his spending in VA on guns had backfired; White Voters (their erosion continues…In VA – 78% of vote in 2009, 72% on Tuesday); Government (52% of VA voters said “government is doing too many things.” – in VA, where the Federal government – and contacting industry – makes this a government company town. Whew…
FDA SEEKS TO BAN TRANS FATS Reuters’ writes, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed banning artificial trans fats in processed food ranging from cookies to frozen pizza, citing the risk of heart disease. … Reducing the use of trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease a year … N.Y. Post cover shows Pillsbury Doughboy: with tagline, ‘You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead, doughy hands.”
FOR THE TV – AND DC — OBSESSED, MARK NOV 15th ON YOUR CALENDARPolitico preview, “Although it’s technically 234 miles from Washington, any Beltway insider could be forgiven for mistaking Stage K at the Kaufman Astoria Studio in Queens for the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. It is that eerily similar. The stage is the filming location for ‘Alpha House,’ a new show from Amazon.com starring John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Mark Consuelos and Matt Malloy that focuses on four Republican U.S. senators living as roommates in Washington. The sitcom, which aired its pilot in April, was greenlighted by Amazon in May and premieres on Nov. 15.”
IS YOUR GOVERNMENT HIGHLY CORRUPT? Time Magazine reports on a Gallup Poll that asked people from 63 countries with a free press. Here’s how many said yes in — Czech Republic (94%); Ghana (89%); U.S. (73%); Finland (30%) and Sweden (14%).  Really?

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