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The Washington Report – September 11, 2015
15 Sep 2015

The Washington Report – September 11, 2015

Love short weeks!

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


“Today, 14 years ago, millions of Americans went to bed quietly, with no thought that the next morning their world would change forever. That night hundreds packed flight bags they would not live to open. Thousands slept with loved ones for the last time. One never knows what a new day has in store. Let us live each day to the fullest, and never miss a chance to let those dearest to us know of our love for them.” (H/T Josh Henderson)


unnamed-2COUNTDOWN TO SHUTDOWN BEGINS Politico: “Capitol Hill is always in crisis mode come September, but this month seems especially dire with the conservative uproar over Planned Parenthood and intensifying threats to use must-pass appropriations to cut off the group’s federal funding. … And the debt limit increase and long-term highway funding are both lurking on the horizon. “Congress return[ed] from its long summer vacation Tuesday to an all-out, three-week sprint to avert a government shutdown – and no apparent plan yet to quell the conservative rebellion over Planned Parenthood that has dramatically increased the odds of a closure.” THE MAD DASH – just 10 legislative work days to solve the shutdown crisis … presents a major test for Republican leaders in both chambers who vowed to end crisis-driven legislating … Yet to be answered is how far Ted Cruz and other Republicans — powered by conservative outrage over Planned Parenthood — are willing to push Congress to the brink of a shutdown in order to defund the women’s health organization.”

BUDGET DETAIL USAToday “Members of Congress … face a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the federal government, a deadline they are certain to miss, as they have each of the past 18 years. The question is: Will the government shut down Oct. 1, or can lawmakers agree to a temporary spending plan while they argue about a longer-term solution? NORMAL CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET (is there such a thing?) involves the House and Senate passing 12 separate spending bills for various agencies and programs around the government, each of which must be signed by the president by the time federal spending authority expires Sept. 30. But according to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has failed to fund all or most federal agencies by the Sept. 30 deadline every year since 1997. Instead, lawmakers pass a series of temporary funding measures — called “continuing resolutions” — and then wrap most of the funding into a single “omnibus” spending package. REMEMBER SEQUESTRATION the House has passed a handful of spending bills that President Obama has threatened to veto for reasons ranging from funding cuts to disputes over policy mandates; the Senate has passed none. Obama said Saturday that a government shutdown “would be wildly irresponsible” and urged Congress to pass a spending bill that would move beyond the government-wide spending caps called “sequester” that have constrained every federal agency’s budget. THE SO-CALLED “GRAND NEGOTIATION” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Our Democratic friends want to spend more on everything. We’d like to spend more on defense, so there will be a kind of grand negotiation here in the fall between the two sides over just how much the discretionary budget of the United States government ought to be and how that ought to be spent.” With Obama wielding a veto pen and enough Democrats in the Senate to uphold his vetoes, McConnell said, there are limits to what Republicans in Congress can achieve. That logic outrages some in McConnell’s own party. Freshman Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., the Tea Party hero who unseated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary, said McConnell “is essentially giving away the kitchen sink before negotiations have even begun.” Brat says he and other conservatives cannot accept a deal that waives budget caps that were previously agreed to for both defense and domestic programs.”

5 SCENARIOS THAT COULD PREVENT A LONG GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN The Fix: “[While] there’s no clear plan in Congress to avoid a full government shutdown at the end of month … on the flip side, there are lots of paths to get to a shutdown scenario. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are hoping to push their ideological goals — including cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and trimming military spending — all via the budget debate. That brinkmanship threatens Congress’s ability to pass even a temporary budget by the Sept. 30 deadline, and experts say there’s a “well over 50%” to 70% chance that the government could shut down for at least a few days come Oct. 1. That said, congressional leaders are trying to come up with a plan to avoid a shutdown. Here are five of the scenarios they’re probably considering, ranked from least likely to most likely. (For this exercise, we are going to focus on the Planned Parenthood debate which many experts consider one of the major sticking points in avoiding a shutdown.)

Scenario 1: Tea party Republicans back off their demands. Likelihood of this happening: Not very. The social conservative vote is of utmost importance to 2016 Republican candidates, including Cruz, who spent the August break drumming up momentum for the cause. Backing off a high-profile abortion fight would be a tough political choice. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has called this scenario “surrender.”
Scenario 2: Democrats approve a budget that doesn’t fund Planned Parenthood. Likelihood: Not very. Senate Democrats have made it clear that they have enough votes to block a spending bill that strips Planned Parenthood funding from even coming to a vote in the Senate. That would send the drama back to the House.

Scenario 3: Republicans find other ways to investigate Planned Parenthood. Likelihood: Possible, especially if Boehner can persuade his fellow Republicans to pursue legislation like the bill introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) that would block funding to Planned Parenthood unless it stops performing abortions. But that measure is unlikely to get through the Senate, where Democrats can block it.

Scenario 4: Republicans team up with Democrats to get a budget passed. Likelihood: In today’s polarized Washington, this might seem like the most laughable of the options. But it’s one that Boehner has used before, such as during the 2013 government shutdown when he worked with Senate Democrats and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to have all 198 Democrats support a bill to eventually reopen the government. Only 87 Republicans voted for that measure.It’s possible, but depends on what Democrats want in exchange for their help. \

Scenario 5: The government shuts down for a few days. Likelihood: Unclear. We’ve already established that budget experts say it’s a “well over 50%” chance that the government will shut down for a few days, which is why this is the most likely scenario on our list.”


A PERFECT STORM Roll Call “… even if all goes well in the short term and lawmakers can craft a relatively hassle-free funding bill, the potential of a continuing resolution (CR) running into November or December could lead to a bigger standoff leading into either the Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks over an omnibus spending bill that also raises the debt limit. “A perfect storm is out there brewing,” Reid told reporters. The most recent formal guidance from Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew indicated the government may exhaust extraordinary measures to extend borrowing as soon as October, though it is widely expected there’s some more flexibility. But some Republicans and Democrats are keen on marrying the deadlines. Reid said timing will be critical, also including a variety of expiring tax provisions in the basket. A Senate Republican appropriator said Wednesday there were preliminary discussions about a roughly 60-dayCR which would bring the timeline to the end of November. The date range has varied from a few weeks, which would dovetail with a deadline to extend spending authority on highway and transportation projects, with the highway bill, to something that runs through nearly the end of the calendar year.”


DEMS HAND VICTORY TO OBAMA ON PACT WITH IRAN: NYTs: ‘Senate Vote Ensures Nuclear Deal Will Take Effect Without Veto Battle’ … Obama is likely to go down in history as a rare president whose single biggest foreign policy and domestic achievements were won with no Republican votes. … As with the Iran accord, the health care law – passed exclusively with Democratic votes – was a policy achievement that has come to define his presidency, in part through the vehemence of its opponents in Congress.” DESPITE YESTERDAY’S OUTCOME the undeterred House is pushing forward on its own Iran plan today. Per AP “On Thursday, the House adopted a resolution on a vote of 245-186 saying that Obama had not complied with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act … ” Today, the House voted against President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran when Republican lawmakers rejected a bill offering approval of the nonproliferation agreement. The 162-269 vote is largely symbolic. … and a way for Republicans to force Democrats to declare their support, in the hope that the issue will hurt them later.”


HOW GOP MUCKED UP NUKE DEAL FIGHT Politico: “Striking back at President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement was supposed to be the easy part of September for the Republican-led Congress. But a conservative revolt against leadership forced Speaker John Boehner and his top deputies to shift course, and the disarray could be a gloomy foreshadow for the rest of the month. The plan to hold a vote of approval on the Iran deal, which Boehner was forced into, highlights several long-running narratives of this GOP majority. Depending on which Republican you talk to, either the rank and file are never happy, or the leadership is out of touch.”


TAKEAWAYS FROM IRAN DEAL WIN Roll Call: “With Sen. Barbara Mikulski providing the deciding vote (on September 2) President Barack Obama won the fight over his Iran deal — sealing for now a key legacy item and preventing what would have been a catastrophic defeat for his presidency. Here are some key takeaways:

1. AIPAC is one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups, but it’s no match for a determined Obama and the broader progressive movement inside the Democratic Party base, outside some strongholds in New York, Florida and a few other pockets. (NYTs: “For decades, AIPAC has been king of the Hill in Washington. Well-funded, it is considered the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying force on United States-Israel security issues. It strongly opposed the deal. But now, there is also an opposing view. J Street – named for a missing street in Washington – is elbowing its way into the conversation. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, a pro-Israel group that lobbied intensively in support of the Iran nuclear deal and spent $3.2 million on pro-deal advertising (as opposed to the $30 million AIPAC reportedly spent), said the defeat for Aipac had shown that the group no longer had a lock on American Jews, and that lawmakers who might once have feared the political consequences of breaking with the group were no longer intimidated. More broadly, the lobbying points to splits within the American Jewish community itself.”)

2. Sen. Charles E. Schumer didn’t exactly put his considerable political muscle into what probably would have been a quixotic effort to kill the deal.
3. For all the talk of Obama being aloof and unable to woo Congress, he’s had a remarkable record of getting his own party in line when push comes to shove. He remains the most popular figure in Democratic politics, and the White House pulled no punches, warning that opposing the deal would put the nation on a path to war.
4. Opponents’ harsh rhetoric and apocalyptic ads opposing the deal succeeded in ginning up Republican opposition, but if anything, those tactics backfired when it came to securing the Democratic votes they needed for a veto override. It probably didn’t hurt the president’s whip count to have every Republican candidate trip over themselves to slam the deal the hardest, while the Democrats running all lined up behind it. Do you really want to be the lonely Democrat siding with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz et al against Obama, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernard Sanders? (Not to mention Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been extremely active on the lobbying front for the deal.)
5. The White House probably held a winning hand once they succeeded in getting Congress to go along with the “resolution of disapproval” gambit for reviewing the Iran deal. If Congress couldn’t find 67 votes to demand congressional approval of the deal, why would they be able to find 67 votes to kill it outright? The math was stacked against the deal’s opponents from the get-go.That, of course, had the right wing upset about the Senate giving up its constitutional prerogative to ratify treaties, which would have required 67 votes to approve. Congress gets to blame itself because of how the sanctions were written into law in the first place. As Corker repeatedly noted, Obama had the authority under existing law to waive the sanctions on his own. And without the Iran-review law, there was every expectation Congress wouldn’t get a say or a vote at all on the Iran deal. Resolutions of disapproval, meanwhile, are a particularly elegant way for Congress to avoid responsibility — with the same tactic deployed repeatedly to raise the debt limit. Most lawmakers get to say they voted no and the president gets what he wants anyway.
6. Ernest J. Moniz helped seal the deal. Nearly every Democrat backing the deal has pointed to Moniz, the energy secretary and nuclear scientist, as a persuasive voice detailing how the deal will shut down each of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — at least for the next decade.
7. The alternative wasn’t appealing. Another refrain from Democratic supporters of the deal — and the White House — was that pulling out of the deal now would mean going it alone. Key allies other than Israel want the deal and warned lawmakers we’d be on our own if we pulled out. There’s also the political hit a veto override would have represented to Democrats writ large. What would it say if the Democratic Party helped nuke the key foreign policy of their president and all of their presidential candidates heading into an election year? That’s a nightmare political scenario Democrats won’t have to contemplate any longer.”


GOP EYEING POLITICAL PAYBACK ON IRAN Politico: “It may be years before the political fallout of the Senate’s mostly party-line vote Thursday to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement becomes clear. But it’s already a defining campaign issue – and like the Iraq War and Obamacare votes last decade, looks likely to remain a stark dividing line in many election cycles to come.” DEMS OWN IT “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to return to the floor next week to force Democrats to take more votes Republicans say they’ll regret as soon as Iran violates the terms of the deal or sponsors terrorist attacks, which critics believe is just a matter of time. After that will come the attack ads, national GOP officials say … ‘It will be very harmful to their chances,’ said NRSC Chairman Roger Wicker of Mississippi.”


COME ON CRUZ … REALLY? “As the international community confronts a refugee crisis, the nominee to head the American agency responsible for overseas humanitarian issues is stalled in the Senate, leaving the Obama administration with a critical vacancy as it grapples with how to assist those displaced by conflict in the Middle East and Africa. The nominee, Gayle Smith … remains tied up in a partisan Senate fight over nominations despite bipartisan backing for her confirmation. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced this summer that he would object to considering any nominees for State Department posts because of his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, complicating efforts to move ahead quickly with floor votes on the president’s picks for international posts. A spokesman for Mr. Cruz said Thursday that those objections still stood.”


LOCKHEED NOT HAPPY Politico: “Lockheed Martin is protesting the Army’s award of the high-profile Joint Light Tactical Vehicle contract to Oshkosh Defense. AM General, which also lost out to Oshkosh, does not plan to protest and will instead seek to ensure the Army continues upgrading its Humvee fleet. Lockheed and AM General had 10 days after being briefed by the Pentagon to lodge a complaint with the Government Accountability Office on the decision-making process that led to Oshkosh’s $6.7 billion award.


SHOCK POLL: Sanders tops Hillary in Iowa, four days after NBC/Marist showed him leading her by 9 in N.H. Quinnipiac: Sanders: 41% … Hillary: 40% … Biden: 12. The Q Poll in July was Clinton 52, Sanders 33, Biden 7.

BIDEN WATCH Politico: “[VP Joe] Biden’s decision whether to run for president may rest more on his wife than anyone else. … “She’s been a no, but she’s also spent 40 years in love with a man who’s dreamed about being president every day they’ve been together. She knows how much this means to him.” FRIENDS SAY (Playbook) that after watching Biden on “Colbert” last night, they think he’s LESS likely to run. Hard to see how you say this, then come back in a couple weeks and say you’re all-in: “I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless … they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion.’ … And I’d be lying if I said I knew I was there. I’m being completely honest. Nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they are willing to give it 110 percent of who they are.”


DONALD TRUMP VS. THE 11 COMMANDMENTS OF PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS Roll Call: ” Donald Trump has defied the rules of engagement observed by generations of presidential aspirants, voicing opinions, waging battles and forming alliances that have sunk other candidates. Here are all the ways he’s defied the rules of political gravity.

11. Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of Any Other Republican Ronald Reagan developed the so-called 11th Commandment during his run for California governor in 1966. Where do we begin? From dismissing establishment favorite Jeb Bush (a “low-energy person”) to publicly revealing Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number and mocking the hearing aid-wearing Rand Paul, most of Trump’s GOP rivals have faced the billionaire’s barbs. Only the equally combustible Chris Christie, Trump’s new BFF Ted Cruz and low-key Ben Carson have avoided the wrath of Trump.
10. Thou Shalt Not Let The Press Into Your Bedroom An allegation of an affair — and a photograph with an attractive blonde aboard the appropriately named boat “Monkey Business” destroyed Democratic front-runner Gary Hart’s chances for the White House in 1988. Trump is seemingly inoculated from an election-year sexual takedown thanks to a New York Post front page with a supposed quote from his mistress praising the married real estate mogul’s bedroom talents.
9. Thou Shalt Not Use An Unauthorized Campaign Theme Song. At Wednesday’s rally to oppose the Obama administration’s Iran plan, he entered to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” as Trump made his way to the podium. Singer Michael Stipe relayed his response via bassist Mike Mills’ Twitter page: “Go f— yourselves, the lot of you–you sad, attention grabbing, power-hungry little men. Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”
8. Thou Shalt Not Stereotype a Region or Ethnic Group. Jesse Jackson’s long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1988 came off the rails when a reporter revealed he had referred to Jewish Americans as “Hymies” and New York City as “Hymietown.’ A generation later, Trump launched his campaign with a speech that included saying Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs, and bringing crime and they’re rapists.’’ At a campaign trip in Iowa later in the summer, Trump adopted a cartoon accent to imitate Asian businessmen: “We want deal!”
7. Thou Shalt Not Be Photographed Wearing Head Gear. In 1988, Democrat Mike Dukakis donned a helmet (with his name on it) for a ride in an M1-A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The stunt was supposed to boost the Massachusetts governor’s military credentials; instead, ‘’Dukakis in the tank’’ is forever shorthand for disastrous campaign imagery.
6. Thou Shalt Not Attract Praise From the Klu Klux Klan. In August, former Klan leader David Duke said Trump’s candidacy was a ‘’great thing’’ and praised his pledge to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. But Duke, an avowed anti-Semite, stopped short of an endorsement because of Trump’s support for Israel.
5. Thou Shalt Not Publicly Display Anger. At the 1976 Vice Presidential debate, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole made headlines when he told opponent Walter Mondale to “stop lying about my record.” Trump had no problem refusing to answer questions from journalist Jorge Ramos, telling him to ‘’go back to Univision’’ and directing his personal bodyguard to escort Ramos out of a news conference.
4. Thou Shalt Not Blatantly Flip Flop. John Kerry lived to regret characterizing his record on funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by saying he “actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” The comment provided opponent George W. Bush with a gold plated example of a flip flop. Trump has explained his financial and electoral support for Democrats such as Hillary Rodham Clinton as akin to Ronald Reagan’s conversion from one-time liberal Democrat to conservative icon.
3. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt Membership in the 1 Percent. Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign was overshadowed by a secret video from a fundraising event where he dismissed the 47 percent of voters who “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” adding that his job was “not to worry about those people.” Four years earlier, John McCain stumbled over the question of how many houses he owned, saying, “I’ll have my staff get back to you.’’ In June, Trump boasted that his wealth totaled “9 billion, 240 million dollars” and said the value of his assets were understated by news organizations trying to independently estimate his empire. His campaign noted that official government filing documents were ‘’not designed for a man of Mr. Trump’s massive wealth.’’
2. Thou Shalt Not Disrespect a TV Blonde. When VP Dan Quayle condemned the sitcom “Murphy Brown” for a storyline in which the lead character decided to have a child out of wedlock, late night comedians had a field day and George Bush’s ultimately unsuccessful re-election campaign had a problem. Trump condemned Fox News star Megyn Kelly for her aggressive questioning at the first Republican debate, going as far as to retweet one of his fans’ tweets calling her a “bimbo.’”
1. Thou Shalt Not Ever Speak of Raising Taxes. The senior Bush famously told voters in 1988: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” While he won the election, his chance of being a two-term president was destroyed by his decision two years later to hike taxes as part of an overall budget deal. For some conservatives, Trump is dangerously unsound on the prospect of tax increases – if only because he has refused to flatly rule them out. He’s also talked up the prospect of the rich paying more – a plan that he may reveal this month.”


Look, I don’t get it. I don’t see how over the long haul that you can insult your way to the nomination or the president — certainly not the presidency, and not the nomination either.”
– Jeb Bush on CNN


THE NEXT R DEBATE On CNN … with candidates who polled at least 1% in three national polls will start at 6 p.m. EST, ending at 7:45 p.m on September 16th. … [C]andidates will not give opening and closing statements though they will have a 15- to 20-second window to introduce themselves. Candidates will also have one minute to respond to questions and 30-second rebuttals, if their name is invoked by another candidate.”


WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION From Al Kamen of the Washington Post: “The [14 House] members and their spouses took off Aug. 31 to, according to a planning document, ‘familiarize’ themselves with ‘Hawaii’s Department of defense assets’ and ‘missions within the region’ and to attend a ‘special commemoration’ of the 70th anniversary of the formal Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri on Sept. 2. — “It sounded like a fine journey via military jet (business class) to stay at the oceanfront Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu. Dinners were planned at the famous Hy’s Steak House – the superb porterhouse is always worth the $88.95 – and the upscale Roy’s Hawaii with its great fusion menu. (We hope they tried the lobster pot stickers.)”


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WISH UNCLE SAM A HAPPY BIRTHDAY on Sunday. NYTs: “The man who, legend has it, gave rise to the iconic symbol of the United States was born on Sept. 13, 1766, in Arlington, Mass. Samuel Wilson was a meatpacker in upstate New York who helped feed American soldiers in the War of 1812, the fight between the United States and Britain that also inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner.” According to the legend, a worker wisecracked that the letters “U.S.” on Mr. Wilson’s shipping crates stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson. The joke that the shipments came from Uncle Sam turned him into a stand-in for the federal government. The somewhat random comment was picked up by others, and he started to appear in drawings in newspapers in the 1830s. Thomas Nast, the cartoonist who gave us the donkey as a symbol for Democrats and the elephant for Republicans, made Uncle Sam’s goatee famous. No matter that Mr. Wilson, who died in 1854, was clean-shaven (picture on right). His name, but not his likeness, was turned into a patriotic symbol replicated forevermore in political cartoons, ads, posters and fine art.



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