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The Washington Report – October 16th, 2015
16 Oct 2015

The Washington Report – October 16th, 2015

All good reccesses come to an end, Congress is back in session next week.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Steve Moffitt, Alan MacLeod, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Ross Willkom)
DEBT CEILING INCREASE PoliticoHouse Speaker John Boehner is looking to move a bill to lift the debt ceiling before he leaves Congress, a tactic aimed at helping his successor, according to multiple sources with knowledge of internal party planning. Timing has not been decided, but the nation’s borrowing limit needs to be raised, according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, by Nov. 3 (two days earlier than originally thought), and Boehner (R-Ohio) would like to resolve the issue before a new speaker is sworn in. Boehner [still] expects to step down Oct. 30.”
BUDGET TALKS Politico: “Negotiations to keep the government running for one, maybe two years are shrinking already. Democrats are now completely rejecting any changes to entitlement programs, which Republicans have been eyeing as a way to open up a larger fiscal discussion. NOT HAPPENING, says a source familiar with the negotiations, who further went on to splash cold water on finding more than $80 billion or so in cuts and new revenues, likely not enough for a two-year deal through the election. A Republican close to the talks was more optimistic: “We’re not ready to throw in the towel.” POSTURING CONTINUES Reports are that the GOP is floating changing Social Security benefits and Medicare eligibility. That’s mostly a negotiating posture, but it would also have brought a lot more Republicans into the conversation that otherwise are going to frown on raising spending. “We’ve got to get into mandatory spending, those are the cuts, the savings that stick. And most of us would trade higher discretionary spending to do it,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). But that’s not going to fly, according to Democrats, who see no correlation between the solvency of those programs and the small ball budget deal.
HISTORIC BLOCKADE OF NOMINEES Politico: “The GOP is fighting President Obama’s nominees tooth and nail, and it’s proving to be their most effective strategy to hit back at the White House given their limitations in Congress. As of Tuesday, the current GOP Senate has moved 107 of Obama’s picks, according to a Congressional Research Service report. By comparison, the 2007 Democratic regime confirmed 192 of Bush’s civilian nominees. Furthermore, Democrats say this Senate is on pace to confirm the fewest civilian nominees since the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the earliest records tracked on congressional databases … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been quick to back his fellow Republicans, using his procedural power to force votes on just one nominee who faced a procedural ‘hold’ this Congress: Attorney General Loretta Lynch. By comparison, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) overrode GOP holds nearly 100 times last year when he led the Senate.”
JANESVILLE OR BUST What happens if Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t want to be speaker? NO ONE KNOWS. “If Kevin McCarthy was Plan A, and a very resistant Paul Ryan is Plan B, House Republicans don’t currently have a viable Plan C to become their next speaker. The half-dozen or so Republicans seriously looking at running believe they can unite the warring GOP Conference. But most or all of them would face a serious challenge wooing the several dozen hard-line conservatives who don’t have the numbers to get one of their own in the No. 1 spot but have demonstrated that, if they stick together, they can veto other candidates.”
NEW CONSERVATIVE MEME — LIBERAL PAUL RYAN: Perhaps the clearest sign that Ryan’s candidacy is viewed seriously? The budding criticism from the right. “He is being criticized on issues ranging from a 2008 vote to bail out large banks to his longstanding interest in immigration reform to his work on a bipartisan budget measure. On Sunday night, the Drudge Report – a prime driver of conservative commentary – dedicated separate headlines to bashing Mr. Ryan on policy positions … ‘Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive,’ said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma.” IMMIGRATION RECORD DRAWS JEERS: Rep. Paul Ryan has made no secret of his support for immigration reform, a direction that instantly brings the knives out from many of his conservative colleagues. Worse, in their eyes, Ryan has met multiple times with future Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in the past couple years … to discuss how to get immigration reform done during the 113th Congress. The attack on Ryan will boil down to three words: RYAN SUPPORTS AMNESTY. “There will be a ‘major intraparty battle over immigration if Paul comes forward,’ predicted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a well-known immigration hard-liner, in an interview this week.”
HASTERT’S HUSH MONEY GUILTY PLEA: ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR CONGRESSThe Hill: “With former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s forthcoming guilty plea related to an alleged hush money scheme that skirted federal banking laws, it could bring to light not only his own misconduct but also his record as the top administrative officer in the House. Hastert lost the top job when the party was ousted from power in 2006, in part because he failed to respond to mounting allegations of misbehavior among Republican congressmen. The scandal surrounding powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff proved a major political liability for the party in races across the country. While the indictment that has further soiled Hastert’s legacy alleges wrongdoing after his tenure in Congress — that he violated banking laws and lied to the FBI — entering a guilty plea in his next court appearance on Oct. 28 will undoubtedly only further tarnish the public’s view of the institution. Chicago Tribune “The plea negotiations, first revealed in a hearing late last month, mean many of the details surrounding Hastert’s prosecution might never be publicly aired, including the identity of Individual A, the mysterious figure who prosecutors say took cash from Hastert to keep quiet about a dark history with him.”
WILL SPEAKERS EVER AGAIN BE ABLE TO STAY ON THEIR OWN TERMS Hawkings: “Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation continues, and possibly cements, a remarkable pattern in modern American politics.The most powerful position in Congress has also become one of the most unstable jobs in American government. After almost a century of orderly departures and orchestrated transitions, five of the six most recent speakers of the House have now been pushed from the Capitol by circumstances they could not control. Assuming this little-noticed rhythm of the House’s political dynamic continues, the 62nd speaker will become one of the nation’s premier nationally polarizing figures sooner rather than later — and not long after that will get sacrificed on the altar of either internal partisan discord or electoral defeat. This newly inherent job insecurity looks to be as much a product of the multimedia age as of the steady devolving of the legislative branch into near total paralysis.This roster of careers cut short leaves off just one speaker from the past 15 Congresses. THE ONE WOMAN Nancy Pelosi now stands out as not only the first woman to preside over the House, but also the first speaker since the mid-1980s who’s never lost control of her own political timetable.” Hmmm…
BRAC – PENTAGON SEES GREEN LIGHT FOR INITIAL PHASE OF BASE CLOSINGS, thanks to a little-noticed provision tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act, reports Politico: “The Pentagon finally sees a green light from Congress to take the first steps toward a new round of military base closings. Provisions in the just-passed National Defense Authorization Act and the House defense appropriations bill allow the Defense Department to conduct a ‘capacity analysis’ of all Pentagon facilities for the first time in a decade. That is the first formal step needed to justify the creation of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission, an independent panel that would recommend which military bases and facilities are no longer needed and until now has been considered a political third rail for members of Congress concerned about protecting jobs back home. Congress is ‘telling us to do what I would characterize as the first couple steps of a BRAC round,’ said John Conger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment, said.”
OBAMA LOSES PEACEMAKER LEGACY PoliticoFor Obama’s foreign policy critics, who have long said exiting Afghanistan next year was an unrealistic goal, it’s a told-you-so moment. AP: “President Barack Obama will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017, according to senior administration officials, casting aside his promise to end the war on his watch and instead ensuring he hands the conflict off to his successor.”Obama had originally planned to pull out all but a small, embassy-based U.S. military presence by the end of next year, a timeline coinciding with the final weeks of his presidency. But military leaders argued for months that the Afghans needed additional assistance and support from the U.S. to beat back a resurgent Taliban and hold onto gains made over the last 14 years of American bloodshed and billions of dollars in aid.”The president was to announce the changes Thursday morning from the White House. Officials said he would outline plans to maintain the current force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of next year, then draw down to 5,500 troops in 2017, at a pace still to be determined by commanders.”
ANALYSIS OF THE DEBATE ANALYSIS Hillary Clinton was solid … Bernie Sanders struggled on guns. Martin O’Malley was competent but didn’t break out. Lincoln Chafee was completely out of his element. Jim Webb is still complaining about not getting enough debate time. SCORECARD ” 1. Hillary awakens! … 2. Bernie gave her a free pass. … 3. O’Malley was the odd man out. … 4. A Trump-less debate is a smarter debate. … 5. Clinton did OK on emails – Wall St., not so much. … 6. Sanders can’t handle a gun. … 7. Chafee and Webb were subatomic.
PLAY OF THE DEBATE: SANDERS: “[L]et me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.” (APPLAUSE) CLINTON: “Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.” SANDERS: … “Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”
ACTUALLY, ONLY DEMS ARE SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT CLINTON’S EMAILS The Fix: …The Post, in partnership with ABC News, has repeatedly asked whether the e-mail server issue is a legitimate one for the campaign. In May, a plurality of respondents said it was. By September, a plurality said it wasn’t. But in both months, opinion was pretty evenly split. The idea that Americans on the whole think the e-mail issue doesn’t bear additional examination, though, is incorrect. …[for] those who consider Clinton the likely Democratic nominee and hope to ensure that she doesn’t win the presidency, the issue is very much alive and will be a big part of the conversation for the next 12 months.
@danpfeiffer: “Two people in trouble tonight: the person who advised Hillary to do less debates and the person who told Sanders he didn’t need to prepare.”
BEST LINE FROM THE REPUBLICANS “Can’t take it any longer,” presidential hopeful South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted. “Wouldn’t make Gitmo detainees watch all of this.”
DEMS DIVERGE ON DEFENSE MorningD: “The Democratic presidential candidates sought to portray themselves Tuesday night as ready to deal with a world on fire, but had clear divisions on the details. ONE THING WE DID NOT HEAR in sharp contrast to the Republican presidential debates: Any talk of boosting military spending.”
HEY JOE, WHAT’S UP? Politico: “Vice President Biden clearly didn’t enjoy all those stories saying Hillary’s strong debate performance had narrowed his lane. Former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), one of Biden’s top advisers, emailed Biden alumni at 9:26 last night to keep them pumped up.”  Bloomberg “In more than a dozen calls, Biden has been seeking out political operatives with detailed knowledge of the race and about organizing in individual states. Biden already was making calls prior to the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night, but his engagement has increased since then.” TIMING FOR DECISION: Likely will be at least a couple of days. Playbook is told that there’s no date certain, but that clearly the time is coming when the decision needs to be made.”
BENGHAZI HEARINGS ACOMING The Fix: “Hillary Rodham Clinton won’t appear before the House select committee tasked with investigating the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, until next Thursday. But, thanks to House Republicans, she’s already got a major leg up, politically speaking. First came House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s career-killing comment that the Benghazi committee deserved credit for dragging down Clinton’s poll numbers. Now we have Rep. Richard Hanna (N.Y.) who told a local radio station this week that “this may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.” Hanna added: “I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.” OOMPH While McCarthy’s comments were the sort of thing where, in the most positive light, you could see them being something short of an indictment of the roots and goals of the Benghazi committee, Hanna’s are not. This is a politically motivated operation aimed at trying to damage the leading Democratic candidate for president, according to Hanna. Not much room for misunderstanding there (SIDEBAR: If you are a politician, or really anyone, and you hear yourself saying “this may not be politically correct,” just close your mouth and immediately stop talking. Same goes for “this is going to upset some people, but…”) FOR MONTHS Clinton struggled to find a way to discredit the committee and, more broadly, the whole e-mail controversy. THANK YOU Then came McCarthy and Hanna, handing Clinton a way to cast doubt not only on the Benghazi committee but any and all of its findings. It’s hard to overestimate how big a favor McCarthy and Hanna have done for Clinton as she angles to win the Democratic nomination. Not only do their comments allow her to effectively dismiss much of the noise surrounding the committee but they also help unite wary Democrats behind her — something she has struggled to do on her own in the campaign so far.  Clinton as the target of a relentless Republican machine forever trying to discredit her is a much better look than Clinton as the forever calculating politician without any core convictions.”
 MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Q3 raised, spent, cash on hand, debt for each presidential candidate.  Full Report.
GOP IN DISARRAY Politico: “A Republican National Committee conference call to discuss plans for the Oct. 28 GOP debate with top advisers to the presidential campaigns spiraled into chaos Thursday afternoon … First, Jason Miller, a top strategist for Ted Cruz, said his campaign would consider bailing if there were no opening and closing remarks. Then, Chris LaCivita, an aide to Rand Paul, chimed in: ‘If we don’t have opening and closing statements, CNBC can go f— themselves.'” @realDonaldTrump: .@CNBC has just agreed that the debate will be TWO HOURS. Fantastic news for all, especially the millions of people who will be watching!”
So WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DONALD TRUMP AND BEN CARSON? The Fix: ‘Donald Trump has led the Republican field for president for 88 days, as of Wednesday. It’s a statement that many people would never have expected to be true, and yet it is. It’s like Matt Novak’s long-running Twitter joke counting down to Trump’s inauguration. When Novak started the gag, 100 days ago, Trump was way back in the pack. With each day Novak has counted down, the prospect of it coming true has apparently gone up. Until recently. On Tuesday, while the political world was gearing up for the first Democratic presidential debate, Fox News dropped a new poll of the Republican field. The short version of the story is that the status quo was maintained: Trump first, Ben Carson second, and so on down the list. The longer version, as longer versions tend to be, is more interesting. Trump’s lead over Carson was only one percentage point — the smallest lead Trump has seen in Fox polling and down from an eight-point lead in September. Trump didn’t fall; Carson gained. Beyond those two, not much has changed. Carly Fiorina, who was expected to be part of the top-three conversation, hasn’t kept up her rapid post-debate growth. Jeb Bush saw a bump, but then slid downward again. WHERE DOES THAT BASE GO? One of two things will happen: The first is that Trump or Carson will win the nomination, once again proving those idiot experts wrong. The other is that Trump’s lead will finally vanish in a blink and Carson’s will at some point thereafter. The field will evolve and the issues will shift. And voters who now back Trump or Carson will become voters who, like so many voters before, briefly dallied with glamorous rebels before settling down to marry a politician with a lot of money and endorsements. Only a fool would use the data at hand try to predict which politician that will be. A fool, or an expert.”
ACLU SUES PSYCHOLOGISTS WHO DEVISED CIA INTERROGATION PROGRAMReuters: “The American Civil Liberties Union sued two psychologists who devised the CIA’s Bush-era interrogation program on Tuesday, saying they encouraged the agency “to adopt torture as official policy” and made millions of dollars in the process. NAMING NAMES James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two former military psychologists, “designed the torture methods and performed illegal human experimentation on CIA prisoners to test and refine the program,” the ACLU said in a statement.They personally took part in torture sessions and oversaw the program’s implementation for the CIA,” it said. The CIA declined to comment on the suit. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington state on behalf of three U.S. prisoners – Gul Rahman, Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud. It said Salim and Ben Soud suffered lasting psychological and physical damage and that Gul died from hypothermia caused by dehydration and exposure to cold. A U.S. Senate report last year found the CIA paid $80 million to a company run by two former U.S. Air Force psychologists without experience in interrogation or counterterrorism who recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face and mock burial for prisoners suspected of being terrorists. The psychologists were not named in the report but U.S. intelligence sources later identified them as Mitchell and Jessen.”

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