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The Washington Report – September 19, 2014

19 Sep 2014

The Washington Report – September 19, 2014


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

 

Lawmakers have left town – both chambers are now essentially done with their work before the November 4th election.
And then… THE NEXT CLIFF on Dec. 11, when the continuing resolution (CR) funding the government expires.
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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HOUSE GETS SOMETHING DONE Politico writes, “The vote was 273-156 and was backed by 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats. Eighty five Democrats and 71 Republicans opposed the measure, with three GOP lawmakers not voting. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) – who took the unusual step of voting for the Syria proposal – and his leadership team worked closely with White House officials and congressional Democrats to whip nervous lawmakers and drive the vote count as high as possible. TWO FOR ONE The new Syria authorities were passed as an amendment to the continuing spending resolution (CR) that was also approved by the House yesterday. The appropriations bill will keep the government funded at current levels past the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30 through Dec. 11.”
BIG SWING ON THE HILL Just think, a year ago at this time House Republicans were locked in a bitter battle with Obama over repealing his signature health care law, leading to a 16-day government shutdown that left both sides bruised.
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SENATE GETS SOMETHING DONE, TOO Politico writes, “While the Senate voted to arm Syrian rebels that oppose the Islamic State and temporarily fund the government, the administration’s authority to train those fighters will run out on Dec. 11. While the measure cleared both chambers by a comfortable margin, there was major unease in the ranks of both parties. Many voted for the measure either to get the issue off their plates ahead of the midterms or because they believe they would be able to reengage on the matter in December.  Several of the [Democratic] party’s rising stars, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, rejected the proposal, while in the House, Obama’s proposal won approval only because a vast majority of Republicans backed him. Many rank-and-file Democrats who did support Obama said they expect a broad debate in November and December, after the midterm elections, so that legislation can be approved to place broad constraints on the U.S. military’s ability to carry out the operation and set a specific deadline for the mission’s end.”
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BOEHNER SETS UP 2015 AGENDA Roll Call’s Matt Fuller read on where Speaker John Boehner will start next year. “On the 12th floor suite of the American Enterprise Institute, Boehner pushed tax reform, reduced spending, and improvements to the legal, regulatory and education systems as items Congress needed to address in order to make America ‘the best place to work, save and invest.’ OH YEAH and immigration: Boehner gave a surprise plug to immigration reform after the AEI speech.”
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LAME DUCK PANIC? Politico writes, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have some disagreements over the likelihood of controversial legislation in the lame duck. “While Cruz (R-Texas) and [Sen. Mike] Lee (R-Utah) have been raising alarm surrounding any significant legislation moving through Congress during the lame duck, McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he had little fear that controversial legislation would be jammed through by senators and representatives that just lost their seats.” WHAT IS A ‘LAME DUCK’ – an elected official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure, especially one whose successor has already been elected. The ‘Lame Duck Period‘ is the time between an election in November and the inauguration of the officials early in the following year.”
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THIS WEEK’S BIG TAKEAWAY – OVER WAR MESSAGING Politico reports, “The administration is divided on a messaging strategy for the war against the ISIL, if not divided on the war plan itself. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey made headlines when he said he’d consider recommending the use of ground combat troops in Iraq if the current approach fails – a move that would violate President Barack Obama’s no-boots-on-the-ground pledge. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry have also made statements that veered off the administration’s script. THE BIG QUESTION … to what extent their remarks signal substantive differences among top administration officials about how far the United States should be willing to go to stop ISIL. As for Congress, the body that’s supposed to declare war has put off until at least after the November midterm elections taking up a measure to authorize the anti-ISIL campaign, though Congress did pass the more targeted amendment authorizing the president to train and equip Syrian rebels. The failure to act on a war authorization measure essentially gives the president tacit approval to justify his airstrikes against ISIL under the 2001 Authorization of Military Force against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. LET ME REPEAT THAT STATEMENT  (emphasis my own) The failure to act on a war authorization measure essentially gives the president tacit approval to justify his airstrikes against ISIL under the 2001 Authorization of Military Force against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. But a number of think tanks and experts say the administration is on shaky legal ground, especially since ISIL has parted ways with Al Qaeda. Yesterday, the National Security Network said in a policy brief that “neither the 2001 nor the 2002 AUMF authorize the kind of sustained military campaign that is being proposed” Third Way, another think tank, is also calling for a new AUMF.”
Fifty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign policy, a 10-point jump from last month, according to a new New York Times/CBS News Poll.
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HEARTBREAK FOR THOSE DREAMING OF SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE WashPo writes, “Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay within the United Kingdom … decisively 55%- 45%. Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city, crU-ssZocN4AkbF821l1keh72NlPiHja9vX4m9isz4tJAK2jYHscU7DydulF8EUeSE4k_PiOcgXjUZJolwlohIyrTUbJUaalyAYrErXbf5QfvUvaFExQy5t5BaFXAFZ41yp1uJhmpKncS0KXKre3eJYqM3k=s0-d-e1-ftand it voted “yes” to independence. The city center was teeming with rock music and blasting car horns throughout the night — until shortly before it became clear that the “no” camp would win.
“Let’s not dwell on the distance we’ve fallen short – let us dwell on the distance we have traveled.”
Scottish First Minister Alex Salamond
Tweeted when he didn’t wake up this morning as prime-minister-in-waiting
“British Empire To Be Reduced To 8 Acres Around Buckingham Palace By 2050.”
The Onion story this week
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DEPRESSING DATA POINT OF THE DAY Only 36% of Americans can name the three branches of government (Annenberg Public Policy Center).
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SENATE BLOCKS EQUAL PAY BILL Politico, “The Paycheck Fairness Act fell short 52-40, failing to clear a 60-vote procedural vote hurdle on Monday evening, the third time the measure has failed since spring of 2012. That might be the last vote this year on Democrats’ poll-driven, election-year legislation aimed at creating a national contrast between Democrats and Republicans, aides said, given this is likely the last week the Senate is in session before recessing for the midterms…. The issue of gender pay equity is playing a significant role on the campaign trail ahead of the November elections as Democrats seek to boost enthusiasm among women voters. Democratic incumbents and candidates in competitive states are highlighting their support for the bill and GOP opposition to it – a fact not lost on sitting Republican senators.”
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DEFENDER OF BAD YELP REVIEWS Mashable reports, “To combat the rise in businesses suing over bad online ratings, a congressman is introducing a bill that will clarify the relationship between reviewer and reviewee while trying to prevent frivolous lawsuits. [Rep. Eric Swalwell (D.-Calif.)] is introducing the Consumer Review Freedom Act on Tuesday in an effort to prevent businesses from taking legal action against those who publish online reviews.”
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CYBER Politico writes, “A House aide suggests that the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees are hoping to present a deal on cybersecurity legislation during the lame duck and met on Thursday to chart a path forward for staff during the recess.”
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CANDIDATES AND PACS HAVE SPENT ALMOST $20 FOR EVERY SECOND OF THE MIDTERM CYCLE.  YES. EVERY SECOND. Candidates for the House and Senate and the PACs that support (or oppose) them have spent about $19.47 for every second since the current election cycle began in January of 2013, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That translates in over $1 billion. Check out this tool…calculates the change in spending since you opened the web page.
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WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE PERSONAL LIVES OF POLITICIANS The Fix writes, “Matt Bai has a fascinating piece in the New York Times magazine based on this simple but profound idea: Ever since the unmasking of Colorado Sen. Gary Hart as an adulter in 1987, political journalists have become obsessed in extremis with proving the men and women running for president are not-so-good people. (That’s a slight oversimplification but not much of one.) Here’s the key paragraph in Bai’s piece, which is an excerpt from a forthcoming book titled “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid”:
“As an industry, we aspired chiefly to show politicians for the impossibly flawed human beings they are: a single-minded pursuit that reduced complex careers to isolated transgressions. As the former senator Bob Kerrey, who has acknowledged participating in an atrocity as a soldier in Vietnam, told me once, “We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, and there’s a tendency to think that we are.” That quote, I thought, should have been posted on the wall of every newsroom in the country, just to remind us that it was true.”
Bob Kerrey — and, by extension, Matt Bai — are absolutely right.  No politician should be covered solely through the lens of the worst/most embarrassing thing they’ve ever done. THAT SAID … it doesn’t mean that the focus on the personal is completely misguided or corrosive to politics, journalism or both. RICHARD BEN CRAMER, who wrote “What it Takes” a magnum opus on the 1988 campaign, in which he details the rise and fall of Hart had a unique approach writing about politicians and politics more generally. While most reporters were talking to the press secretary or the campaign manager, Richard went to the candidate’s hometown. He sat in the living rooms where these men grew up.  He talked to their mothers, their brothers, the long-forgotten best friends of their youth.  He wasn’t looking for Hart’s “Monkey Business” scandal; what he was doing was trying to understand what made these people — who had the audacity to put themselves forward as the single best person in the country to represent it — tick. He was pilloried by colleagues – for this radically different approach to what constituted campaign reporting at the time – but as the years went on, his book became viewed…as a masterpiece. PAST IS PROLOGUE (h/t Shakespeare) It was an attempt to understand the life experiences — successes and failures — that shaped these people, under the belief that grasping those experiences told the public far more about what sort of president they would be than simply consuming the reams of press releases, canned statements and speeches that the candidates and their campaigns were shoveling. TO BE CLEAR … Matt Bai’s argument is that the pendulum that was once heavily tipped in the direction of never writing about a candidate’s personal life (see JFK) has swung too far in the other direction. The GOTCHA CULTURE has turned some political coverage into treating any slip/gaffe/misstatement as THE NEXT BIG THING.
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THE TRIALS OF DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ Politico reports, “Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most. Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters. …The perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win.”
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REPUBLICANS LEADERS SETTLING IN Politico reports, “Tensions in House Republican leadership were once so fraught that aides and allies were constantly keeping track of who was looking to knife whom. But now, top lawmakers will go home [today]comfortable in their position, with most of their rivals quiet and their operations gearing up for the next Congress. The government is funded – for now – and controversial legislation is shelved until well past the midterm elections and the next leadership race. For the first time in years, the power structure is remarkably solid and drama free within the House Republican Conference – a dynamic that’s evident from the top to bottom of the House.”
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Our very own Maggie Moore’s BLOG POST on the ‘Future of the House GOP Leadership.’
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OBAMACARE:  FROM GAME CHANGER TO BACKGROUND NOISE “[E]ven Republicans who still believe it’s a significant issue … can’t point to races that are likely to be decided on the health care law alone. … Now, the health care law is taking a back seat to continuing anxieties about the economy and newer crises … The growing attention to the ISIL threat … ‘has certainly taken some of the “ouch” out of Obamacare,’ … said GOP ad maker Fred Davis.” (WashPo)
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ANYONE TALKING ABOUT MINIMUM WAGE? NYTimes, “… The Democrats’ strategy of making an increase in the minimum wage a midterm election rallying cry has been drowned out by world events. The party continues to talk about it, but it appears that few are listening.”
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THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE PARENTS The Fix writes, “When it GswPEnPLVU3FO3mUmFhcR-T6jTAAv8zukFhQSfskhI2fe54eUqfascUPzxzr3l_s0_wwcXpnMAOGAYyrQb5uAkfKkHHbPcHMzeGJ3MIwvVmYsLxUFs4yzLubzzGiUCWflgYkvo8vUnT-xQjEerWiyjTF1Og=s0-d-e1-ftcomes to child-rearing, American parents are largely on the same page — regardless of their political beliefs. Except when it comes to two things: religion and tolerance. As the chart from the Pew Research Center shows, conservative parents are much less interested than liberal parents in teaching their children about tolerance, while liberal parents are far less interested in instilling religious faith. No other values tested by Pew come close to those gaps.”
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