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The Washington Report – September 18, 2015
21 Sep 2015

The Washington Report – September 18, 2015

We remember … it’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

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


SIX WORKING DAYS LEFT AND CONGRESS HAS NO PLAN TO AVOID A SHUTDOWN Politico: “The same Republicans who campaigned on doing away with legislative crises are careening toward a government shutdown in less than two weeks with still no concrete plan to stop it. It’s not that Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) leadership team is hiding their best hand. They have no trick up their sleeve, no ace in the hole – pick your cliché. … It just depends how long it takes, how painful it is and whether Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) team stumbles into their second government shutdown in three years.”


HOUSE VOTES TO FREEZE FEDERAL FUNDING FOR PLANNED PARENTHOOD The Hill: “The House [today] voted along party lines to freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood. … In a 241-187 vote, nearly all Republicans and two Democrats approved legislation that would block Planned Parenthood’s federal funding for one year, giving time for Congress to fully investigate claims of wrongdoing by the provider. The House vote represents the first time that congressional Republicans have approved legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of this summer’s undercover video controversy. The vote is largely symbolic, as Democrats are expected to block the bill in the Senate. Cutting off Planned Parenthood’s federal funding would result in a net savings of $235 million over a decade, according to a report this week by the CBO. It would also cut off access for as many as 600,000 patients.”

SHUT DOWN FIGHT … WHO’S ‘IN?’ Politico: “Many of the Republican candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night joined in a full-throated endorsement of Ted Cruz’s damn-the-torpedoes strategy to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it means shutting down the federal government. But two candidates who’ll soon be casting votes on the matter were noticeably silent: Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul…When it comes to the premier congressional debate over the next two weeks, Rubio (R-Fla.) and Paul (R-Ky.) are in danger of being overshadowed by the bawdy Cruz. The Texas senator making a direct play for tea party voters is all-in: Do whatever it takes to deny Planned Parenthood its federal funding, including shuttering the government if necessary. But the calculation for Rubio and, to a lesser extent, the fading Paul, isn’t so straightforward. Back Cruz’s play and they risk getting sullied by congressional ineptitude and looking less than presidential; oppose it and they potentially get tagged as squishy conservatives, not a good place to be four months before voting begins.”

SENATE GROUNDWORK NJ: “Two weeks before the government is due to run out of money, the Senate is laying the groundwork for a potential end game if the House stumbles. The Senate will vote on Tuesday to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers and aides sketched out a path from there: First, the Senate would take up a government spending bill that cuts Planned Parenthood funding, knowing that it will fail. They would be most likely to schedule that vote if the House appears to be struggling to pass its own funding bill denying money for the group. Assuming that maneuver is blocked, at the 11th hour the Senate would proceed to a spending bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood.”

HOUSE GOP LEADERS TO MEMBERS: WE WILL BE BLAMED “NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) “presented members” of the Republican conference “with a poll of 18 battleground districts that showed dire political repercussions for Republicans if they follow through with this battle” to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. (National Journal)


COULD DEMS SAVE JOHN BOEHNER? Politico: “John Boehner’s future as speaker may well rest in Nancy Pelosi’s hands. If hardline conservatives move to dethrone Boehner in the coming weeks – as many expect — House Democrats will be in the enviable position of deciding whether he stays or goes. If they side with the Ohio Republican or refuse to play ball, the coup will fail. If Democrats side with the Republican rebels, Boehner will be forced out, plunging the House into chaos. In the meantime, Democrats are more than happy to sit back and watch the ongoing public Republican infighting…. While top GOP leaders insist they are still backing Boehner’s leadership – and allies maintain that he can weather the challenge — other Republicans have already started canvassing their colleagues for support in anticipation of a move against the speaker. That’s got some Democrats weighing a list of demands, such as a renewal of the Export-Import bank or the easing of budget caps, they’d want met in return for saving Boehner, even as some would prefer to stay out of the fight entirely.”


OVERACHIEVER Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) cast her 6,000th consecutive vote, becoming one of only three senators ever to reach that milestone. The record, held by the late Sen. William Proxmire, is 10,252. (AP)

THIRD TIME’S NOT A CHARM A third and final legislative attempt to block the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran failed in the Senate. (Reuters)

IT’S NOT JUST YOU According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this summer was the hottest on record worldwide. August was particularly brutal. The world experienced the warmest August on record, and the planet is still on pace for the hottest year in measurements that date back to the late 1800s. (National Journal)


ANOTHER FOOD FIGHT FOR CONGRESS AP “Congress is deciding whether it wants another pitched battle with first lady Michelle Obama and the administration over school lunches that put more whole grains in kids’ meals and cut salty foods. Last year, school food rules pitted Mrs. Obama against Republicans seeking full exemptions for some schools. The first lady declared that she’d fight “to the bitter end” to make sure kids have good nutrition. Lawmakers are now hoping to find bipartisan compromise on the rules and also dollars for the nation’s child nutrition programs before the law expires Sept. 30.”


TROUBLE AHEAD WashPost: “A popular fund that has supported hundreds of parks around the country is set to go away in less than two weeks, and Congressional dithering is to blame … as the Congressional majority is making no move to reauthorize the fund, despite its history of broad support among both political parties for half a century. Several Democrats took to the House floor on Wednesday night to call on leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee to allow a vote on reauthorizing the program, called the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”


“That the Pentagon is opening a new Silicon Valley office is an acknowledgment that commercial tech is now ascendant.” E.B. Boyd on a plan to dream up new defense technology in the heart of the American start-up scene. (The California Sunday Magazine)

POSSIBLE NDAA COMPROMISE EMERGING? Politico: “There appears to be movement on the stalled National Defense Authorization conference report.” The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are close to resolving a dispute over military health care fees that has ground to a halt negotiations to craft a final version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, according to multiple sources.”

DOD WANTS WORKERS OUT OF CIVIL SERVICE (Government Executive)”The Defense Department is considering a proposal to reclassify thousands of civilian workers and place them outside the civil service system, according to a DoD document. The reforms are part of the Pentagon’s “Force for the Future” initiative and would reclassify many civilian employees currently under Title 5 General Schedule (or GS) personnel system to the Title 10 classification that usually applies to military workers. That would likely give the Pentagon more control over how it manages its employees. … And a top labor union (the American Federation of Government Employees) is not happy.”


3-HOUR DEBATE FROM HELL Politico: “By the third hour, … the candidates looked like long-distance runners fading in the final lap: A sweating Marco Rubio ran his hands through his hair, Chris Christie’s face turned red, a sagging Donald Trump grasped his lectern … By the time … Jake Tapper asked each of the 11 participants to pick a Secret Service code name, a question meant to provoke bright responses but that fell flat, the combatants were out of gas … “The … debate was, in the nearly unanimous opinion of the campaigns, both too long and too loosely governed. ‘It was a little bit like a Charles Dickens story. It might’ve been good, but it would’ve been better if there had been an editor involved,’ quipped Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager. … CNN President Jeff Zucker defended the length of the debate, saying with 11 candidates the network needed the time to get deep into the issues.” AND THEN THERE’S THIS … DEBATE HAS BIGGEST RATINGS IN CNN HISTORY with average 23 million viewers from 8:15-11:15 p.m., just short of Fox’s monster 24 million – CNN release: “Prior to [this] debate, CNN’s highest rated presidential primary debate was the California Democratic debate on January 31, 2008 which averaged 8.3 million viewers. CNN’s most-watched program ever was a special ‘Larry King Live’ with Ross Perot and Al Gore with 16.8 million total viewers.”

THE NARRATIVE: (Playbook) “Is the summer of Trump over? With an underwhelming debate performance, the mogul’s dominance of the race may be fading. The three-hour debate exposed Trump’s weak command of several issues. TRUMP FEVER BREAKING “Radio and television conversation about Trump peaked on Aug. 7, the day after the first Republican debate, with close to 11,000 mentions of his name on each medium that day, according to data … by media monitoring firm Critical Mention. The last time Trump reached even half as many mentions … was on Aug. 26, the day after he clashed … with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos at a news conference in Iowa. “That was Trump’s most dominant day of the campaign on Twitter, when 80% of conversations about Republican presidential candidates were about him, according to data through mid-Thursday provided by the analytics firm Echelon Insights. Since that day, his share of Twitter conversation has trended downward.”

…A well-wired Republican’s take on the post-debate GOP landscape: “The biggest change is Trump’s unstoppable momentum has been stopped. The second … is the acceleration of the demise of the Walker campaign. The third is that Carly is now a top-tier candidate and has the potential to become a real contender until the HP story goes deep (L.A.Times above the fold has a graph of HP falling stock price uner Fiorina). The fourth is that Rubio [showed] presidential bearing … and, as such, has an answer for the age-and-experience question that is visceral, not just verbal.The fifth is that Jeb had a solid performance which calmed his donors, but he has no connection point with Republican voters. Sixth: Christie has his head above water. He needs a big shake up in the race to go further, but he has some breathing room. Carson may well consolidate the evangelical vote, which will push Huck out sooner.”

CARLY, CARLY Carly Fiorina won the debate, but she is already facing meaningful logistical challenges and a lot more scrutiny. (National Journal)
— She has no real organization in the early states
— Her corporate record is getting a second look.
— There’s lots more opposition out there.
— One of the biggest donors to her super PAC is the former head of Univision, something that might not play well with the Breitbart crowd (Breitbart was an American conservative publisher).

GOV. RICK PERRY’S 98-day 2016 CAMPAIGN The Fix: “2016, in a way, was just a continuation of 2012. Perry came in low and stayed low. And now it’s over.”


WE ARE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS HERE, PEOPLE The Fix: “The first question Donald Trump took at an event Thursday night in New Hampshire was a doozy. “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims,” the questioner began, going on to state that President Obama was himself Muslim. “We have training camps, growing, where they want to kill us. That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?” Trump’s response met with immediate backlash. He didn’t correct the questioner’s incorrect assertion about Obama’s religion and, further, suggested that his administration was “going to look at that.” Trump’s campaign insisted that the “that” they’d be looking at wasn’t getting rid of Muslims — but rather, those alleged training camps. AND THE WHITE HOUSE’S REACTION President Obama’s top spokesman slammed Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump on Friday for failing to condemn a supporter who claimed Obama is a Muslim who was born abroad. “Is anybody really surprised this happened at a Donald Trump rally?” White House press secretary Josh Earnest asked reporters. He said it was a shame that Trump failed to challenge offensive views of his supporters, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) famously did at a rally during the 2008 presidential campaign.”


unnamed-3BERNIE, BERNIE … “A grinning Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will grace the cover of TIME Magazine this week. While Sanders continues to trail former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton based on national polling on the Democratic presidential race, he has surged in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.”


TURN AND FACE THE CHANGE National Journal: “Next year’s presidential and Senate battleground maps look a lot like 2012’s. But some of the key states in that map have changed considerably in that time, new Census data shows. And they will change more by the time November 2016 comes around.
— On Thursday, the Census released the 2014 version of its American Community Survey, one of its annual population estimates. The ACS has particularly detailed stats on racial demographics, and the latest report says that since 2012, the non-white populations in Nevada and Florida have gotten over a percentage point larger, while Virginia’s increased by 0.98%. At those approximate rates, Nevada will be 3 percentage points less white in 2016 than in 2012 and Florida and Virginia will be 2 points less white.
— A handful of percentage points may not sound like a lot. But unless the Republican presidential nominee can dramatically reverse GOP performance among Hispanics—which is driving the population growth in all three of those states—the practical effect of this is to give Democrats’ another point or more of breathing room in the fight to win voters in major, key states in 2016. (Florida and Nevada will also have hugely consequential Senate races next year; in Nevada, Rep. Joe Heck’s (R) record of outreach to Latinos is sure to be a major point of the campaign.)
— Analysts spend a lot of time poring over past results to get a hint of what might come in the future, and they should. But it’s also important to note where the population is changing particularly rapidly, and how that might speed up or arrest political trends.
Meanwhile, Hawaii was the only one of 50 states that got whiter from 2012 to 2014, according to the ACS. Demographic change is moving particularly fast in some states, but it’s evident everywhere.”


unnamedREPUBLICAN BRAND HITS A NEW LOW The Fix: “The Pew Research Center regularly surveys Americans on their views of the two major political parties. Since January, those with a favorable opinion of the Republican party have dropped from 41 to 32 percent of the total. Opinions of the Democratic party are mixed, with a net plus-1 favorability. For the GOP, it’s far worse, with a net -18. The change since January has largely been among Republicans themselves. Republican favorability toward their own party plummeted 20 points, while independents viewed it 8 points less favorably. WHY? It’s tempting to leap to a very close-at-hand conclusion: That Donald Trump is, as predicted, tanking his party! His views are driving away a key part of the party’s base! Maybe. And maybe not. Pew also asks respondents for their opinions about which party is doing a better job with various issues. One might think that if people were turning on the GOP because of Trump, it’s because of his immigration position. But in recent surveys, attitudes toward the Republican Party have tracked with attitudes toward the Dems. … Lending support to the idea that it’s anti-party sentiment that’s helping Trump (and not vice versa) is the fact that Ben Carson — dissimilar from Trump in countless ways — is the second-highest polling Republican. Maybe, though, it’s Trump that’s fueling that anti-party sentiment. We’ve entered the realm of the rabbit hole here, in which it’s impossible to tell which end is up. The answer that’s probably closest to the truth is this: “Donald Trump’s rise has alienated some voters but is also due in part to dissatisfaction with the Republican Party.”


MARK ZUCKERBERG, on Facebook: “You’ve probably seen the story about Ahmed, the 14 year old student in Texas who built a clock and was arrested when he took it to school. Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest. The future belongs to people like Ahmed. Ahmed, if you ever want to come by Facebook, I’d love to meet you. Keep building.”


POPE ARRIVES TUESDAY Stars and Stripes: “Federal authorities are mobilizing one of the largest security operations in U.S. history ahead of Pope Francis’s arrival Tuesday, an effort that is straining law enforcement resources in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. …The challenges are immense. The pope’s five-day tour, his first in the United States, will include appearances at the White House and Congress, a parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, a mass at Madison Square Garden, a procession through Central Park in New York, and an open air mass with up to 1.5 million people in Philadelphia. STAY AWAY FROM NYC His Big Apple visit coincides with the 70th U.N. General Assembly, where more than 150 foreign delegations are also expected, creating a virtual lockdown in portions of midtown.”


REFLECTIONS ON 9/11 AND WHERE WE ARE TODAY … Check out our own Alan MacLeod’s Blog post.


CLOSING THOUGHT “Sometimes you can observe a lot just by watching.” — Yogi Berra

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