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The Washington Report – September 20th 2013
23 Sep 2013

The Washington Report – September 20th 2013

A few excerpts from this week’s Washington Report. To read the full write-up click here. To sign up, click here.

Congress is about to have a rough 6 weeks with deadlines and showdowns. You think it’s been bad so far?  Just wait. Check out this video.


Here is a quick review of recent political and legislative happenings.


The Capstone National Partners Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne and Joyce Rubenstein)


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HOUSE PASSES OBAMACARE DEFUNDING BILL RollCall writes, “… A united House Republican majority passed a continuing resolution today that would defund Obamacare and lock in sequester spending levels through Dec. 15, setting up a fight with Senate Democrats as a shutdown looms Oct. 1. The CR passed 230-189 with a nearly party-line vote. … But that was the easy vote for House Republicans. The real battle will be when the proposal bounces back from the Senate, with the Obamacare defunding language almost certainly stripped and the spending level potentially increased from the $986.3 billion the House passed.”


CONTINUTING RESOLUTIONS and OBAMACARE and a SHUTDOWN… OH MY! The Fix does this so well – lays it all out.  “So, what’s next?  Here’s how the debate plays out on Capitol Hill, step by step, with the caveat that there are a lot of moving parts, and things could change in a hurry.

1. The House voted Friday to pass a stopgap spending bill that will fund the government beyond Sept. 30, with one exception: defunding of Obamacare.

2. The bill would then go to the Senate, where it would stand zero chance of winning passage. None. Zilch. A coterie of Senate conservatives has been trying to ramp up support for defunding Obamacare in the budget debate. But their effort has gained virtually no traction. They will continue to fight. (Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has promised to filibuster, though as filibuster veteran Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) noted, it would only delay, not put a full stop to things.) But ultimately, it’s a battle they stand virtually no chance of winning.

3. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would strip out the part of the bill that defunds Obamacare. The Senate would then pass a CR without the Obamacare defunding, likely next week. Even Cruz, a vocal advocate of defunding Obamacare, acknowledged this is the most likely outcome.

4. The Senate-passed CR would be sent back to the House, which would have only days left to vote on it before the end of the month.

And this is where things would get interesting…

5. What Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could say to House conservatives at that point is, ‘Hey, we did all we could, but Senate Republicans couldn’t bring this home. Nor will they ever be able to under the current balance of the upper chamber. Let’s vote for the Senate-passed CR and gear up for next month’s debt ceiling fight, in which we are going to try to delay Obamacare for a year.’

5a. Maybe that would work. More likely, it wouldn’t. Remember, we’re talking about cast-iron House conservatives that Boehner will have to convince. They haven’t budged so far. It’s going to be a very tough sell for GOP leadership.

6. If it doesn’t work (meaning a majority of Republicans don’t buy it), Boehner will have two choices: 1) Cobble together a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to pass the Senate-approved CR and prevent a shutdown, or 2) Don’t vote on it, stand with the cast-iron conservatives and brace for a shutdown. It would not be an easy call. In other words, he’d be in quite a jam.

6a. Neither solution is cost-free for Boehner. The first one would further enrage House conservatives and badly damage his clout in the GOP conference. (If you think things are bad now, just wait.) The second risks a major backlash against the Republican Party. It’s not yet clear what Boehner would do. But what is clear is that it would be one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make yet as speaker.”

NO HOUSE VOTE TO RAISE DEBT LIMIT WITHOUT CUTS National Journal reports, “House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, said on Thursday that the House will not vote to increase the debt limit without including in the bill cuts meant to reduce the deficit. Not including spending cuts as part of a package deal, he said, “isn’t going to cut it.”


HERE’S THE REAL STORY:  SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT WON’T STOP OBAMACARE This is for all you policy wonks. From Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog “…shutting down the federal government won’t stop Obamacare. It might even help it. The Congressional Research Service put it bluntly — well, bluntly given the cautious, careful language favored by the CRS — in a July report. “It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations,” they wrote. So a lot of the law’s funding would be unaffected. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, the lapse in appropriations only hits so-called “discretionary” funding. But the ACA’s core functions are on the “mandatory” side of the budget. So, for instance, the money for tax credits and Medicaid expansion would arrive on schedule. State and federal exchanges would still operate. The individual mandate would still be in place. Meanwhile, the more marginal spending that is affected could be backfilled by the Obama administration moving mandatory money around, and even going beyond that, the White House could argue that crucial positions fall into the bucket of essential personnel who are protected during a government shutdown. So while it wouldn’t be ideal, implementation would move forward.”


CRUZ FANS FLAMES OF GOP CIVIL WAR Politico writes, “Ted Cruz is in the middle of an escalating GOP civil war on Obamacare, a risk that could turn into a major PR debacle for the prospective presidential hopeful. For the past few months, Cruz has been riling up the right, urging Republicans to use a government funding bill as leverage to defund Obamacare. But given Democratic control of the Senate and White House – and growing Republican reticence about shutting down the government – even Cruz’s GOP supporters acknowledge there’s virtually no chance his tactics will succeed. Cruz’s handling of the episode already is sparking criticism from House and Senate Republicans. At the same time, Republicans in each house are turning on each other in ways previously unseen on a goal they actually agree on – getting rid of Obamacare. … Even Republicans who support using the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare agree that the effort is futile. Meanwhile, Cruz has been the most polarizing within the party, calling out wayward GOP senators in speeches and on talk radio, with his chief of staff even singling out Senate Republicans for joining a ‘surrender caucus.’ The talk has made Cruz a hero on the right, boosting his stock among conservatives who argue that the party lacks a spine and needs more brass-knuckled leaders. But it has made him a pariah among many of his colleagues, and that could certainly come back to haunt him should he seek the 2016 nomination. … The House GOP’s outright disdain for their Senate colleagues has never been more pervasive – or pronounced. Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) conference … is flatly sick of the criticism lobbed at them from their Senate colleagues. And after Cruz said on Wednesday that the Senate probably has the votes to include Obamacare funding in the stopgap measure, House Republicans believed he was trying to deflect the blame for near-certain failure.”

MOCKING CRUZ “I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) tweeted, subtly mocking Cruz’s Ivy League education. “The defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position.”

“There isn’t anybody that thinks that Obamacare is going to get defunded. It cannot happen.” -Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho).


WHEN POLITICS AND POPULAR CULTURE [sort of] COLLIDE FromMediaite, “At Wednesday’s White House daily briefing, CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta decided to try his hand at a Sharknado reference when he asked White House Press Secretary Carney “Are we looking at sort of a Gridlocknado, where we could have a government shutdown at the end of the month, and then go into default a couple of weeks later?” For the uninitiated, Sharknado is the title of a legendarily absurd SyFy channel original movie about the catastrophic combination of sharks and a giant tornado. The suffix “nado,” when properly applied, instantly became a pop-culture shorthand to signify a hot mess. You can’t, however, just stick “nado” on the end of just anything. “Gridlock-nado” makes no sense, since combining a tornado with gridlock would actually solve the gridlock. “


BILLIONS CUT FROM FOOD STAMPS The Rogers Report writes, “The House narrowly approved a Republican plan Thursday to cut billions from food stamps by tightening eligibility rules and ending state waivers that have allowed able-bodied workers to continue to get help when unemployed for more than three months.” The vote represents a victory for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) who has promoted the bill as a revival of the spirit that led to welfare reform in the 1990’s.

THE SENATE WILL MOST LIKELY RESTORE THE FOOD-STAMP CUTS But here’s what Republicans did get: They got the legislation out of the House, setting up the chance for a conference bill on the farm bill/food stamp legislation. But as NBC’s Frank Thorp notes, the legislation barely passed by a 217-210 vote (with all Democrats voting against, as well as 15 Republicans). So this is a window into how Republicans are proceeding on the C.R. that defunds Obamacare. It’s messy …but it’s the way how Speaker John Boehner can move the legislation out of the House.

WILL CUTTING OFF FOOD STAMPS PUT PEOPLE TO WORK? Bloomberg Businessweek writes, “The proposal is designed to put more people to work, but it runs up against an unpleasant reality: an unemployment rate of 7.3%. Cantor’s “get-a-job” message rings hollow when there are few jobs to be had. Many of the people who would be forced off food stamps would simply end up going hungry, say experts at anti-poverty organizations.”

THE POLITICS OF FOOD STAMPS National Journal writes, “For decades, the farm bill’s political foundation has been the alliance of rural lawmakers, increasingly Republicans, who represent agricultural producers, and urban Democrats, whose poorest constituents rely on food aid. That alliance fell apart this year, as a collection of interactive maps and charts explores.”Fascinating look district by district and more.


REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS The Washington Post remembers those killed at the Washington Navy Yard and tell their stories.

STALLED DEBATE Fox News writes, “The deadly attack carried out at the Washington Navy Yard by a former reservist with a history of violence and mental problems has once again put the national spotlight on the country’s mentally ill and their access to guns. Efforts to address the problem received bipartisan support following last year’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., but despite the fanfare, very little progress on a national level has been made. Nine months after Newtown, no new federal gun-related mental health laws have emerged. In March, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham spearheaded a plan to change firearm background check laws so that those with court-documented mental illness would not be able to purchase guns. The NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013 would have also clarified gaps in current law pertaining to who would lose their right to buy and carry guns based on mental illness. The proposal, supported by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., would have changed the definition of mental illness in the federal database and alerted gun sellers to people who had been found by a court to be an imminent danger to themselves or others. The measure also called for individuals to be added to the database if they had been found guilty but mentally ill in a criminal case; found not guilty by reason of insanity; found incompetent to stand trial; or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.

The bill was defeated.

DoD officials “on Wednesday ordered a broad review of the procedures used to grant security clearances to employees and contractors, acknowledging that years of escalating warning signs about Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis went unheeded” (Washington Post).


DEFENSE SECTOR HOPE Defense News reports,Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the Senate’s No.2 Democrat and Chairman of its Appropriations defense subcommittee said he believes Congress could pass a full appropriations bill. The full Appropriations Committee earlier this year passed a $594 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes a $516.4 billion base budget and $77.8 billion for America’s wars. Defense and industry officials prefer full-year spending bills because the alternative is a continuing resolution (CR). Such funding bills provide monies at previous year levels and leave the Pentagon unable to do things like start new programs, enter into multi-year contracts and fire up new production lines.

LONGSHOT Many on Capitol Hill and budget watchers in Washington are predicting Congress will fail to pass any annual spending bills amid years-old partisan ill will and looming fights over the nation’s borrowing limit and Obamacare.”


JUST ONE OF THOSE STORIES THAT GIVES YOU HOPE A DairyQueen worker repays blind man – rights someone elses wrong.Good samaritan video goes viral. Must watch.

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