Two noteworthy things happened this week. Capstone’s Washington Report and Congress are back from its August recess. Congress is out again today. And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that Congress may cancel its upcoming September (23rd) recess as it tackles a number of issues.
And for those who take note of such things, Happy Friday the 13th.
Here are the legislative and political happenings of the week.
The Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Jodi Hrdina and Joyce Rubenstein)
CONGRESS APPROVAL RATING TICKS UP TO 19% (Yes, that’s an improvement, believe it or not) The Washington Post writes, “How poor a job is Congress doing in the eyes of the American public? So poor that fewer than one in five Americans approve – and that’s actually GOOD news for Capitol Hill lawmakers. Congress’ approval rating jumped up five points from 14% to 19% during the last month, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. It’s the highest number since October of 2012. (Of course, “highest” is a relative term given how low the numbers have been.) So why the jump? Gallup suggests it could be related to President Obama asking Congress to approve military action against Syria. (That ask is currently on hold.) Americans strongly oppose a strike, and Congress has been very skeptical, too.”
WELCOME BACK CONGRESS: TOTAL OF 9 LEGISLATIVE DAYS PLANNED IN SEPTEMBER Here’s the “to-do” list beyond Syria according to the National Journal:
1.DEBT CEILING/GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN.
2. SNAP BENEFITS (aka Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), otherwise known as food stamps. During this summer’s debate over this year’s farm bill, House Republicans had proposed slashing $20 billion over 10 years. Just before recess, lawmakers announced plans to introduce a bill in September that would double those cuts. Democrats have condemned the move, but within the context of the larger budget fight, some cuts appear inevitable.
3. VOTING RIGHTS ACT Members of Congress such as WI Republican Jim Sensenbrenner vowed to restore voting protections after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Sensenbrenner set an end of year deadline for legislation so that a revised act would be in place for the 2014 elections.
4. DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL (including major changes to the the way the Pentagon deals with sexual assault in its ranks).
TEAM AMERICA NO LONGER WANTS TO BE THE WORLD’S POLICE The Fix writes, “We’ve written repeatedly in this space over the past two weeks about how much Americans (and Congress) don’t want to get involved in what going on in Syria. This much is clear. But Americans’ hesitation isn’t really about Syria; it’s more about their increasingly non-interventionist attitude toward foreign policy. Case in point: opposition to military action in Syria tracks very closely to overall opposition to foreign intervention.Take two new polls. A newly released CBS/New York Times poll asked people whether they felt the United States should “take the leading role … in trying to solve international conflicts.” A CNN/Opinion Research poll, meanwhile, asked: “As a general rule, do you think the United States should be ready and willing to use military force around the world, or the United States should be very reluctant to use military force?” In each case, just 34% of Americans said they wanted a more involved foreign policy, while more than six in 10 Americans wanted to be more non-interventionist.”
WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT released the results of its annual survey of service members injured or wounded since Sept. 11. The survey, with 14,000 responses, found that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they had experienced post traumatic stress from post-9/11 service. Sixty-five percent said they still have nightmares about traumatic experiences they had in the military.
ZIG, ZAG FOREIGN POLICY Politico’s Editor-in-Chief writes, “Two weeks of zig-zag foreign policy by President Barack Obama – marching to war one moment, clinging desperately to diplomacy the next – culminated Tuesday night, appropriately enough, in a zig-zag address to the nation that did little to clarify what will come next in the Syria crisis but shined a glaring hot light on the debate in the president’s own mind.”
OBAMA’S ADDRESS “Responding to fast and furious developments, President Obama addressed the nation about the Syrian conflict shifted from what was widely expected to be a call for a military strike to a tepid endorsement of a Russian proposal to hand over Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal to the international community,” The New York Times reports.
LET’S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF If President Barack Obama could have canceled his big address to the American people Tuesday night, he probably would have. In a painful reminder of why presidential addresses are usually day-of bookings – made when the White House can match the right timing with a clear message for the American people…”
POINT…Obama’s tough stance on Syria, the threat of U.S. action finally brought Syria (and Russia) to the table.
COUNTER POINT…”an illogical argument from a paralyzed president”
AND WHAT DOES WALL STREET HAVE TO SAY According to Reuters, U.S. stocks closed higher Wednesday with the S & P up for a 7th straight day as geopolitical fears eased among amid diplomatic efforts to allow Syria to surrender its chemical-weapons.”
SHUTDOWN WATCH NYTimes reports, unless Congress approves new spending bills to replace expiring ones, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the borrowing authority to finance the government and pay its debts. … Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Congressional Democrats held firm that they would no longer negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, which they see as the duty of the party in power in the House. And they made it clear to the speaker that they would never accept Republican demands to repeal, defund or delay Mr. Obama’s signature health care law. White House officials dismissed it as ‘a nonstarter.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE STOPGAP BILL? Politico writes, ‘A stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown at the end of this month was pulled from the House schedule Wednesday because of continued Republican divisions over how far to go to challenge President Barack Obama on healthcare reform … Leadership aides insisted that they still hope to act next week. But the GOP is clearly struggling with itself over how best to keep the government operating and placate conservatives who want to cut off all funding for implementing Obama’s signature reforms.’
What’s the likelihood of a shutdown on Oct. 1? “Waiting until next week is not fatal for the House. But it is ominous and shows the struggle facing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) with his fractious conference,” writes Politico’s David Rogers. “Given all the other problems facing Congress, passing a short-term CR ought not to be so difficult, yet in this case Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) must battle not only their own right but an aggressive set of conservatives in the Senate, egging on the resistance. In response, Cantor resurrected an old legislative gambit this week which had been used before in a similar situation in 2011. House members would be assured a vote on the CR as well as defunding health reform. Moreover, the Senate would have to address both issues as well. But even this has not been enough for conservatives, since it doesn’t guarantee the outcome they want.”
Senate Republicans are divided on the House’s budget approach, and some say opposition from tea-party senators like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee has fueled the rebellion among House conservatives.
“They’re screwing us.”
– fumed a House GOP aide who had hoped that giving Senate Republicans yet another opportunity to unanimously oppose Obamacare would be enough to satisfy two of the most prominent Senate conservatives.”
SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 We remember the families of the thousands killed, who can believe it, 12 years ago. Never Forget.