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The Washington Report – October 10, 2014

10 Oct 2014

The Washington Report – October 10, 2014


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

 

WHO CARES ABOUT THE MIDTERMS? … VOTERS DON’T LIKE ANYBODY … DID THE SUPREMES LEGALIZE GAY MARRIAGE? … LEON PANETTA’S BOOK … HAIL MARY IN S. DAKOTA … HOW DO ASTRONAUTS VOTE IN SPACE? … WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ON MEET THE PRESS … and other news of the week.
This week in Congress:  How many ways can I come up with to say, “nothing.”
Enjoy the weekend!
Best,
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Kathryn Wellner, Maggie Moore and Ross Willkom)

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ELECTION DAY 2014 COUNTDOWN:  25 Days

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YOU ARE ONLY ONE OF EIGHT OF YOUR FRIENDS WHO CARES ABOUT THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS The Fix: “ If you are reading this, you like politics…or you hate yourself…or both. But, you are in a distinct minority. Pew Research’s latest survey … indicates that only 15% of Americans are paying very close attention to the midterm elections — a number that is both very low and, apparently, significantly lower than the midterms in 2006 and 2010. For Democrats in particular, the not-paying-attention data is bad news. The party needs higher-than-average turnout, particularly in key races, if it wants to hold the Senate. And if people aren’t really paying attention, or if they don’t know the Senate is in play, they’re less likely to do that. You knew this, though. You’re a political junkie. And you’re dreading 25 days from now when there’s no midterm news at all.”

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TRENCH WARFARE FOR THE HOUSE Politico: “The battle for the House has turned into trench warfare, with Republicans trying to scrape out enough wins to give them a historic majority and Democrats doing everything they can to minimize GOP gains. If the election were held today, strategists from both sides say, Republicans would expand their current majority by between six and eight seats – a respectable showing that would put them just short of an 11-seat goal. If they can hit that benchmark, Republicans will have their largest House majority since Harry Truman’s presidency. A WAVE? … While the 2014 environment is favorable for the GOP, it doesn’t resemble the wave-like atmosphere that propelled Republicans in 1994 and 2010 or Democrats in 2006 and 2008.”

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VOTERS DON’T LIKE ANYBODY WSJ: “The GOP’s advantage springs more from intense anti- Obama feelings than from a wave of voters who believe Republicans will transform Washington. Indeed, disillusionment with politics may help explain why Republicans’ edge isn’t wider at a time when job approval ratings of the Democratic president have slid into the 40% range. The backdrop of this fall’s voting is a mood of voter anger over the status quo, polls suggest. Just one month before the Nov. 4 election, it isn’t even clear what exactly the midterm contests are about. No single issue dominates, except unhappiness with the established order…. Interviews and a review of polls reveal an electorate with less faith than ever in the political system. Two-thirds of registered voters believe the country is on the wrong track, while just a quarter say the U.S. is moving in the right direction-the widest gap before a midterm election in more than 20 years.”

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JUST HOW BAD IS IT FOR THE BLUE TEAM? The Fix: “… with a little less than four weeks left in the 2014 election …  a new poll from Gallup: The good news for Democrats: Americans in general aren’t that enthusiastic about the 2014 election — and that includes Republicans. The bad news: Democrats are less enthusiastic at this point than they have been in at least the last four midterm elections. And that includes the big GOP wave year of 2010.”

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DID THE SUPREME COURT JUST LEGALIZE SAME SEX MARRIAGE? Politico: “The Supreme Court has turned down 6WQwp0_d85u44jIXIZXYjQyaEQVLVZtawXBrYfsQoV94b151mz-gGrmvNHyeSUvDPRcCVhd6K1_x66TawbtxQjuiPj0YelQX5wg3uRobtJ4CWF_Za_Neor7CbLMQw0wfndG9KqWNpwmDL_mhETRS1p1gpWc=s0-d-e1-ftall seven pending petitions urging the court to decide whether there is a right to same-sex marriage under the U.S. Constitution. NPR: “Technically, the Supreme Court Monday did not establish a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. It merely declined an opportunity to rule definitely one way or the other on the question. But in the not-too-long run, the consequences may well be the same. Because the situation the court created — or acknowledged — will almost surely continue trending in favor of same-sex couples who want to marry. Conversely, the legal ground is eroding for states that want to stop such marriages or deny them legal recognition. For the moment, the court’s denial of review means state-enacted bans on same-sex marriage in five states were wiped off the books. The denial meant lower court rulings that spiked those bans will now stand. CAN’T PUT THE GENIE BACK IN THE BOTTLE …The genie got out back in June 2013, when the court decided Windsor v. United States, throwing out the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. By smacking down this pivotal federal statute, the court threw wide the gates for other challenges to state laws barring gay marriage or otherwise treating gays differently. Now, as those challenges come in waves, the federal courts at all levels are applying the reasoning from Windsor with great consistency.”
“The number of states still prohibiting same-sex marriage probably will dwindle to 14 within a few weeks as a result of the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the issue Monday.” (Los Angeles Times)

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SUPREMES BLOCK VOTER ID LAW IN WISCONSIN Fox News: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs, overturning a lower court decision that would have put the law in place for the November election. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law constitutional on Monday. The following day, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Advancement Project filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to block the ruling. On Thursday night the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-page order that vacated the appeals court ruling pending further proceedings.”

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WELL, NOT SO FAST A day after same-sex marriage became legal in Idaho, Justice Anthony Kennedy signed an order that temporarily stops marriages in the state of Idaho. (USA Today) BEYOND SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Constitution Daily writes: “Justice Kennedy did not explain his order, so its meaning could only be guessed at. At a minimum, he was just seeking more time. But, if the Idaho case was no different from those from five other states that the court has just turned aside, why would he or the court step into this belated fight over Idaho’s ban? It was that question that Idaho’s lawyers had in mind when they asked Kennedy to intervene. As they pursued further appeals, they said, they would not be asking the court to decide the basic constitutional question of whether states may ban same-sex marriages and whether they may refuse to recognize such marriages already performed in other states. Instead, they want the court to do something it has never done yet, in years of ruling on gay rights cases. That is, they plan to ask the court to spell out the constitutional test that is to be used to judge when a law discriminates against gays, lesbians and transgender people on the basis of their sexual orientation – an issue that goes far beyond same-sex marriage. WHAT’S NEXT? If Justice Kennedy alone, or he and his colleagues, conclude that the issue is one that they should now take on – that is, if they decide it needs spelling out at this time – then the pace of the campaign to extend same-sex marriage to new states might slow down considerably, until the outcome is known. Whether or not that happens, the events of the week in the federal courts illustrated, once more, that this constitutional dispute can change with great speed, and leave everyone guessing.”

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GAY MARRIAGE REIGNITES GOP DEBATE AP: “The court’s decision Monday to reject appeals from five states that sought to prohibit same-sex marriage pits the GOP’s pragmatic wing eager to move past the divisive social issue against religious conservatives – a vocal minority that vowed to redouble its efforts and punish those unwilling to join them. … Among the GOP’s crowded 2016 class, only a handful of potential contenders – [Ted] Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, among them – aggressively criticized the court’s decision. … [But h]igh-profile Republican governors from Wisconsin to Indiana suggested the debate was over – in their states, at least.”

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FIRST U.S. DEATH National Journal: “Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola while inside the United States, is now the first person to die from the virus after being treated in the U.S. Duncan died yesterday morning, and his death raises plenty of questions: Did the experimental drug he was given make things worse? Could he have survived if the hospital hadn’t sent him home when he initially sought treatment? And does Duncan’s death indicate whether treatments like heavy doses of fluids are actually sufficient to beat back the virus?” MONITORING CONTINUES Health officials in Dallas are still monitoring 48 people who came in contact with Duncan. If any of them contracted the Ebola virus from him, they would likely begin to show symptoms sometime this week.” JUST DO SOMETHING NYTimes: “Federal officials said Wednesday that they will begin temperature screenings for all passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea at five U.S. airports — the first time this measure has been taken. Screenings will begin at Kennedy International in New York on Saturday, and at Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson International, and Newark Liberty International next week.” AIRPORT SCREENINGS DON’T WORK NPR: Beefed-up airport screenings for fever and other symptoms wouldn’t have caught Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan’s infection, and may not work in general. “Let’s not have the false impression that this is a tried-and-true method and it’s going to keep Ebola out of the United States,” one public health expert said. EBOLA BY THE NUMBERS: Each day, treating a single Ebola patient requires 52.8 gallons of water and 20 gallons of bleach. (Wall Street Journal) FEAR SPREADS FASTER THAN EBOLA: There have been 5,000 false alarms since Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas last week, and no new cases. (Forbes) BILLIONS LOST A new study from the World Bank warns that if the outbreak in West Africa spreads to neighboring countries, the financial impact could end up being $32.6 billion by the end of 2015. (World Bank)

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EBOLA FUNDING STILL HELD UP ON THE HILL Politico: “Despite appealing directly to lawmakers, the Obama administration is still facing congressional resistance to its bid to quickly direct $1 billion to fighting Ebola. Administration officials held briefings on Wednesday with the House and Senate Armed Services and House Appropriations committees to answer lawmakers’ questions so the panels would release the requested funding, according to congressional aides. Some lawmakers were persuaded; ranking Democrat Adam Smith of Washington state lifted his objections and the House Armed Services and Appropriations committees are allowing $750 million to be spent. But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have not yet released a hold they put in place that prevents spending more than $100 million. Last month, three of the four defense committees put restrictions on the $1 billion in requested Pentagon funding, limiting spending to $50 million to $100 million until they received more detailed information on the administration’s plans to deploy U.S. troops to fight Ebola. The money was requested through a reprogramming process that requires the sign-off of all four congressional defense committees.”

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DOD DEPLOYMENT COULD LAST OVER A YEAR Politico: “About 4,000 U.S. troops are set to help with Ebola relief efforts in West Africa, but a top U.S. commander said Tuesday that that number could grow, and declined to give an estimate of when their work might be complete.”

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OBAMA URGES SEQUESTRATION DEAL Politico: “President Barack Obama used a visit to the Pentagon yesterday to renew his call for Congress to free the military from what he called “draconian” budget strictures that would return next fiscal year under sequestration. Washington must “make sure that if we’re asking this much of our armed forces, that they’ve got the equipment and the technology that’s necessary for them to be able to succeed at their mission.” …the president’s mention of sequestration also is rare. Obama has seldom spoken about it since last year’s budget compromise relaxed the spending limits for two years, but the automatic, across-the-board restrictions will return in fiscal 2016 unless Obama and Congress can agree on how to avert them.”

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LEON PANETTA BASHES OBAMA Politico: “Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s memoir, “Worthy Fights,” is out. In a book-tour interview with USA Today, Panetta skewers Obama – knocking the president for not pushing harder to notch a deal to allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after 2011 and for rejecting advice that he begin arming the Syrian rebels in 2012. Panetta says Obama’s actions, or lack thereof, contributed to the chaos in the region we see today.” ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS BASH PANETTA (PRIVATELY) Politico: “The White House is trying to avoid a public spat with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is accusing the president of making several foreign policy blunders in a memoir out this week. Privately, though, officials are bashing him. …Multiple officials also noted, with some pique, how strange it was that Panetta – considered a savvy political player would publish his book, … only weeks before Obama’s last midterms, with Democratic control of the Senate in doubt.”

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SCHOOL LUNCH:  THE LATEST POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND NYT: “… What began as a war on obesity turned into war among onetime allies. Republicans now attack the new rules as a nanny-state intrusion by the finger-wagging first lady. Food companies, arguing that the new standards are too severe, have spent millions of dollars lobbying to slow or change them. Some students have voted with their forks, refusing to eat meals they say taste terrible.”

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ALL-TIME HIGH EPA reported on Wednesday that fuel economy for model-year 2013 cars and light trucks reached an average of 24.1 miles-per-gallon (MPG), an all-time high and a 0.5-MPG increase from the prior year.

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The NRSC “collected a record $15.5 million in September — more than doubling its August haul of $6 million.” (Wall Street Journal)

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HAIL MARY PASS IN SOUTH DAKOTA The DSCC “will spend $1 million in South Dakota — mostly on television and the rest on field operations — in a last-minute attempt to hold a … Senate seat they now view as winnable (Bloomberg Politics). “To have $1 million available to throw at a long-shot race, less than four weeks from the election and facing a brutally difficult map that has required significant spending in numerous other states, is remarkable.”(Hotline).

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WveXpzS6DWzZfTG_romxjIYSN0CIKLOzYnaLxxXl48bJJI2RW4BOO3u0_hKrsORtnuhDJibVM1absSHodgoFOTXEox3gCHGYLrFWuft3vglB_GoXmwbb2Aeg9jQRjngiyZyZ0v2ygRTOoPzV-IFIKkzdq2c=s0-d-e1-ftMARY LANDRIEU JUST REPLACED HER CAMPAIGN MANAGER.  THAT DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN SHE’LL LOSE. The Fix, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) replaced her campaign manager on Wednesday, just under four weeks before the election. This is not something that campaigns that expect to win handily do — but it is also not something that dooms a campaign to a loss. … Looking at campaign manager departures on federal or statewide campaigns since 2000, though, the record is mixed. In 18 cases where a campaign manager was fired, six of the candidates went on to win. … By a month out, most of the big decisions have already been made and the campaign apparatus is already in gear: TV ad slots have been bought; GOTV plans are in-hand; most of the mail is scheduled, if not already printed and at the mail house. Meaning that the effect of swapping out campaign managers now might actually be less significant than, say, three months ago. It’s the perception that’s bad. Of all of the points that we’ve made here, that’s the one that Landrieu already knew.”

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SUPREMES STEP INTO NC SEN: “The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Wednesday that means voters in North Carolina will not be able to vote out of their precincts on Nov. 4 nor register to vote and cast ballots on the same day. The ruling blocked a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Oct. 1 that reinstated same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting for the coming election.” (Raleigh News & Observer)

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NO, SAM BROWNBACK.  IT’S NOT THE MEDIA’S FAULT YOU ARE LOSING The Fix: “Here’s how embattled Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback diagnosed his political problems in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network:  “I think they (the mainstream media) want what’s happening in this state to fail,  that they’re shopping for a factual setting to back that up because it’s working.” UM, NO.  While blaming the media is both one of the most common strategic moves and one that regularly reeks of desperation, in this case — as in most of them — what Brownback is saying is simply not true. So why then is Brownback in so much trouble in a state where President Obama won just 38% of the vote in 2012 and is, inarguably, one of the five most conservative states in the country? MAYBE – JUST MAYBE — it has something to do with the massive (and massively unpopular) income tax cuts championed by Brownback and passed into law in 2012. Or a further reduction in the income tax in 2013.  The combined effect of those two cuts was a more than $330 million budget shortfall in the state and the downgrading of the state’s credit by several major rating agencies. Or it could have been the considerable spending cuts that Brownback also pushed through that led per pupil spending by the state to drop from $4,400 in 2008-2009 to $3,838 in 2012-2013, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department. ANY – OR MAYBE ALL — of these facts seem more responsible for the decision of more than 100 former and current Republican officials to endorse state Rep. Paul Davis’ (D) campaign over the summer than the mainstream media’s alleged plot to drive a storyline about conservatives ruining state governments.”

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WHO LEADS US? WHITE MEN This fascinating website maps out who is leading the nation. To no one’s shock, it’s mostly white men. The study, funded by the Women Donors Network, looks at the representation breakdown both in Congress and state government among men and women and elected officials of color.

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IMPORTANT Q. YOU NEVER THOUGHT TO ASK … “How do astronauts vote in space?” The astronauts get the ballot in email form, sent in an encoded document that only they and the clerk can open. Once they send in their vote, the clerk hand-copies their selection and submits a standard ballot as a proxy. (The Atlantic)

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WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN “Before choosing” Chuck Todd, “NBC News president Deborah Turness held negotiations with Jon Stewart about hosting ‘Meet the Press.’ … One source explained that NBC was prepared to offer Stewart virtually ‘anything’ to bring him over.” (New York Magazine)

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