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The Washington Report – September 25, 2015
28 Sep 2015

The Washington Report – September 25, 2015

THINGS WERE BUSY …AND CROWDED … IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK First, Pope Francis and now, Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived for an official state visit at the White House. And of course, the Boehner bomb.

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


SHOCKING, THOUGH NOT ENTIRELY SUPRISING … BOEHNER TO RESIGN IN OCTOBER NYTs: “Speaker John A. Boehner … will resign one of the most powerful positions in government and give up his House seat at the end of October, throwing Congress into chaos as it tries to avert a government shutdown. Mr. Boehner made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans on Friday morning. The Ohio representative had struggled from almost the moment he took the speaker’s gavel in 2011 to manage the challenges of divided government and to hold together his fractious and increasingly conservative Republican members. Most recently, Mr. Boehner was trying to craft a solution to keep the government open through the rest of the year, but was under pressure from a growing base of conservatives who told him that they would not vote for a bill that did not defund Planned Parenthood. Several of those members were on a path to remove Mr. Boehner as speaker, though their ability to do so was far from certain.Mr. Boehner’s surprise announcement came just a day after Pope Francis visited the Capitol, the fulfillment of a 20-year dream for Mr. Boehner of having a pontiff address Congress. He had a private audience with Francis before the pope’s address to a joint meeting of Congress”

“Today was the day. It’s as simple as that.”
– Speaker John Boehner (who was emotional but almost gleeful at his press conference which just ended)

WITH BOEHNER RESIGNING, EXPERTS NO LONGER EXPECT TO SHUT DOWN The Fix: ” … The government is most likely not going to shut down, say our experts. Congress is still caught in a nearly unprecedented number of deadlines and political dramas — everything from a debate on whether to fund Planned Parenthood to international nuclear deals to whether to increase spending on military and/or domestic issues.Adding to all that drama was a group of about 30 tea party Republicans threatening to oust Boehner as their leader if he didn’t help them pass a budget that cut some $500 million for Planned Parenthood, one of the major sticking points in the budget negotiations. LOST LEVERAGE Now, those very same conservatives have lost their main leverage to get what they want. Boehner is offering to step down himself. “HE TOOK A BULLET FOR THE COUNTRY” said Steve Bell, the director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. We’re not in the clear yet, though, warn some experts warn.” (ah, nothing in politics is for certain)

“BOEHNER JUST SACRIFICED HIS CAREER FOR THE GOOD OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY” The Fix: “The stunning decision by House Speaker John Boehner to resign from office in October is a sign of not only his inability to lead a congressional party riven between its establishment and tea party wings, but also the toll fighting that fight has taken on him — and the GOP more broadly. Almost since the day he became speaker — following the tea party-led takeover of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections — Boehner had been caught betwixt and between. His roots were firmly in the establishment end of the party, having spent decades in Congress and moving up the leadership chain not once but twice. But, he owed his majority to a group of House Republicans elected in large part on their promise to stand up to leaders — of both parties — in Washington. Boehner spent the first few years of his speakership trying to play nice with that rump group — insisting that what united them was far greater than what divided them. It didn’t work. The first major defeat for Boehner authored by his own conference came in late 2012 on the “fiscal cliff” fight. Boehner tried to move a bill that would extend the current tax breaks for everyone making less than $1 million a year. Less than 24 hours after he unveiled his proposal, he had to admit defeat because the GOP votes simply weren’t there. Little did we know that the fiscal cliff fight was only the beginning. In the summer of 2013, the farm bill, typically one of the rare instances of bipartisan cooperation in Congress, failed to pass on a floor vote after more than five dozen Republicans rebelled — embarrassing Boehner, again. In February 2014, it was the same story all over again. Boehner tried to rally the GOP conference behind a plan that would allow the debt limit to be raised while extracting a number of concessions from the Obama administration. It failed. “We don’t have 218 votes,” Boehner said at a news conference announcing the failure. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing. Then, this February, Boehner watched — again, again, again — as his attempt to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks (and, in so doing, avoid a partial government shutdown) went down in flames. That vicious cycle did two things: (1) It revealed to anyone paying attention — the White House, the Senate — that Boehner had no real control over his members, and (2) it emboldened conservatives to begin making bigger and grander demands to extract their support. the start of this year, it had become quite clear that Boehner’s ability to hold onto the speakership was in question. While he won the job in a floor vote in January, 25 of his GOP colleagues voted for someone else — THE BIGGEST REBELLION AGAINST A SITTING SPEAKER IN MORE THAN 100 YEARS. That more than two dozen Republicans would vote against Boehner in an election in which there was no true alternative candidate was telling: They just weren’t afraid of him anymore. Meanwhile, outside of Congress, Donald Trump was on the rise — with a message that boils down to this: Everyone in politics is lying to you and is bad at their jobs. Republican leaders are the worst of all because they were elected to represent your views and have caved to President Obama and other Washington Democrats.The prominence of Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — none of whom had ever held office before — in the 2016 race speaks to the present mood coursing through the GOP electorate. Scott Walker’s candidacy fell victim to that anti-everything (or at least everything political) sentiment and others, including Jeb Bush, are struggling to deal with the deep distrust and, in many cases, dislike that the party’s grass roots have for the people elected to lead them. THAT WAS THE LANDSCAPE FACING BOEHNER with another possible (and probably likely) government shutdown looming amid threats from the party’s conservatives that they would shut down the government unless all federal funding for Planned Parenthood was totally stripped. And if it wasn’t Planned Parenthood funding, it might have been something else. FACED WITH WATCHING THE SAME AWFUL MOVIE AGAIN, Boehner decided to offer himself as a sacrifice to conservatives who wanted him out. … The truth was that Boehner and his allies knew that a coup attempt was brewing and that putting it down would have taken considerable effort and was not a sure thing. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R) had put in a legislative measure to vacate the chair of the speaker over the summer, and insurrection was in the air. Boehner, having achieved a life goal of bringing a pope to Capitol Hill, quite clearly saw two paths for his future. The first was to continue banging his head against the wall built against his priorities by the tea party wing of the party. The second was offering his resignation up as a way to try to move the party forward — in the near term and the long term. He, smartly, chose the second option. Whether or not his sacrifice will be meaningful, very much remains to be seen.”

ABORTION BAN BLOCKED Roll Call: “Democrats successfully blocked the Senate from taking up a bill to bar abortions after 20 weeks, a vote that helps lay the groundwork for keeping the government’s doors open.”

MCCONNELL MAKES FIRST MOVE TO AVOID SHUTDOWN Politico: “The Senate will start voting Monday to avert a government shutdown, leaving the House to either accept it or force federal agencies in Washington to shutter their doors. After a government spending bill that would also defund Planned Parenthood went down in flames on the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bit the bullet and set up votes for next week that would keep the government open through Dec. 11 without touching Planned Parenthood.””McConnell’s work isn’t done, though. Now he’s just got to round up 13 Republican colleagues to vote with him and the chamber’s 46 Democratic caucus members. A key procedural vote will occur at 5:30 p.m. Monday, and final passage of the stopgap funding bill that does not defund Planned Parenthood will come no later than Tuesday night…. It was clear by the disastrous result for a conservative-backed plan, devised by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), that there is scant Senate support for a government spending bill that would also defund Planned Parenthood. Eight Republicans voted against the Cruz plan, including presidential rival Rand Paul, a Kentucky senator who called the bill ‘business as usual’ while reiterating that he supports defunding Planned Parenthood.”


unnamedPOPEAPALOOZA IN DC … Ridiculously long lines. Highly intrusive security screenings. Terribly limited access … as Pope Francis’ visited DC and went to Capitol Hill.

POPE GETS POLITICAL The Fix: “From his private meeting with President Obama to giving the first-ever papal address before a joint session of congress, Pope Francis did not shy away from politics during his stop in Washington, DC.”

‘DO UNTO OTHERS’ Politico: “Pope Francis stood before a bitterly divided Congress on Thursday and reminded lawmakers of that most golden of rules, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Those ‘others,’ the pope made it clear to the chagrin of some Republicans, include immigrants, the impoverished, political rivals and the Earth itself…” “[O]verall, with their strong emphasis on the environment and welcoming immigrants, calls to end the death penalty and the arms trade, and relatively brief and opaque references to stopping gay marriage and abortion.” BUT, SO MUCH FOR KUMBAYA Politico: “… any “harmony” the Pope called for quickly dried up when he left: “Pope Francis had barely exited the House chambers Thursday by the time his plea for a ‘spirit of cooperation’ collided with a bitterly divided Congress just days away from shutting down the federal government. Kind words certainly flowed from both parties. But lawmakers were quick to massage the pope’s message to fit their own ideology – and ignore the parts of his address they didn’t agree with… All in all, it’s probably safe to say the historic papal address – as emotional as it was for some members of Congress – isn’t going to change many minds in Washington on the acrimonious debates of the day.” AND TODAY IN NYC CNN: “In a sweeping address to the United Nations on Friday, Pope Francis presented himself as a champion of the poor and dispossessed, urging world leaders to adopt concrete ways to combat war, widespread poverty and economic destruction.

(For those conspiracy theorists, the person between the Pope and Speaker Boehner is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), some say a potential successor to Boehner!)


XI IS IN WASHINGTON: Chinese President Xi Jinping is making the rounds in Washington, with stops at the White House and Capitol Hill ahead of an official state dinner this evening. The Chinese president is slated for a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama, a joint press conference with the president and also meetings with congressional leaders on the Hill.” OBAMA, XI TO RELEASE JOINT CLIMATE STATEMENT Politico: “The United States and China will release a joint statement on Friday outlining their vision for an international climate change agreement – the latest signal that the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters are determined to help broker a deal at a summit in Paris later this year.”


DEMS TO UNVEIL AGGRESSIVE CLIMATE CHANGE BILL True, it will go absolutely nowhere at the moment, but it lays out the party’s priorities for the future. NYTs: “Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday plan to unveil a measure intended to signal their full-throated support of President Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda to 2016 voters and to the rest of the world. The Democrats hope that the bill, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell, of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, will demonstrate a new unity for the party on energy and climate change, and define Democrats’ approach to global warming policy in the coming years. The measure would establish as United States policy a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2% each year through 2025 – a cut even larger than the target set by the Obama administration. The bill has no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress, but Democrats say they believe that forcefully pushing for climate change policies could help them win control of the Senate in 2016. And if they regain the majority, they will move to enact climate legislation along the lines of the Cantwell bill.”


GOP SWEARS MORE ACTION ON IRAN, DESPITE DEADLINE AP: “It’s a done deal, yet opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement won’t go quietly. The 60-day congressional review period has expired… [But] Congress is poised to start cranking out legislation to reinstate sanctions or shore up what some lawmakers say is an ill-fated pact with a state supporter of terrorism. Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has begun a series of hearings on the U.S. role and strategy in the Middle East that will examine the deal’s implications. ‘It’s going to take a while…’ said Corker, R-Tenn., who opposed the deal. ‘It will be a complex piece of legislation…'”


FUTURE TECH … ‘SFERICS’ (not a typo) Politico: “The Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), fearing the Pentagon’s most important navigation system could be knocked out, has discovered what it believes could be one promising alternative to securely pinpoint the location of military forces without relying on relatively weak and vulnerable satellite signals. And it’s a solution that would make Benjamin Franklin proud: harnessing lightning. “The technology, known as sferics, is the process of mining the energy put out by cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and using that data to determine an aircraft or person’s position relative to the strike. Sferics-Based Underground Geopositioning is being tested under a contract with Argon ST, a subsidiary of Boeing, and a series of tests planned for later this year and next could determine whether it could be used by military forces within the next decade, according to senior DARPA officials. It is part of a larger, high-priority Pentagon research effort to develop a backup to the Global Positioning System that is also studying how to use modern imaging technologies to pinpoint locations with the aid of star constellations.”


PENTAGON INTRIGUED BY BREAKTHROUGH IN CLOAKING TECHNOLOGY MilitaryTImes: “Boubacar Kante, a professor at the UC -San Diego, and his colleagues tested the first effective “dielectric metasurface cloak.” That’s a fancy way of describing a super-thin, non-metal material that manipulates electromagnetic waves, including visible light and radio waves. WHAT THE HECK? Those electromagnetic waves and how they come off an object are crucial to the ability to detect it. Radar can’t detect a plane without radio waves bouncing back to a receiver, and seeing requires light bouncing off an object and passing into your eyeball. Manipulating those waves could, in theory, prevent detection, and in certain conditions, Kante said he can do that. WHAT ARE MILITARY BENEFITS? In case it’s not obvious: to hide. There are far-reaching and fairly obvious military implications to getting an object close to an objective. Unmanned Areal Vehicles and other planes, ships and anything else interested in dodging radar could have a use for it. And it could also be used as high-end camouflage for any background colors. The Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center (HDSIA) is a Defense Department contractor tasked essentially to be a matchmaker for the Pentagon and academia/industry. Kayla Matola, research analyst for HDIAC, told Army Times the UCSD design is lighter and cheaper than anything else out there, and “basically what the military’s looking for” regarding cloaking capabilities. ARE THERE LIMITS? Yes. First, even in theory, true invisibility remains a pipe dream; the objects cloaked still are in front of what’s behind them. But there are also limitations to visual camouflage and radar-masking capabilities. NOTE: THE FUTURE OF THIS TECHNOLOGY (5 to 10 years) IS AWESOME.


THIS IS A PUNCH IN THE GUT LONG READ – AND SO SAD NYTs Dave Phillips digs deep into the Marine Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment: “In 2008, the 2/7 deployed to a wild swath of Helmand Province. Well beyond reliable supply lines, the battalion regularly ran low on water and ammunition while coming under fire almost daily. During eight months of combat, the unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and suffered more casualties than any other Marine battalion that year. When its members returned, most left the military and melted back into the civilian landscape. They had families and played softball, taught high school and attended Ivy League universities. But many also struggled, unable to find solace. And for some, the agonies of war never ended. Almost seven years after the deployment, suicide is spreading through the old unit like a virus. Of about 1,200 Marines who deployed with the 2/7 in 2008, at least 13 have killed themselves, two while on active duty, the rest after they left the military. The resulting suicide rate for the group is nearly four times the rate for young male veterans as a whole and 14 times that for all Americans. The problem has grown over time. More men from the battalion killed themselves in 2014 – four – than in any previous year. Veterans of the unit, tightly connected by social media, sometimes learn of the deaths nearly as soon as they happen. Full article


U.S. TO TAKE IN MORE REFUGEES Politico: “The United States will take up to 100,000 refugees a year in 2017, a more than 40% increase that comes as growing numbers of people flee conflicts in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. [Sec. State Kerry] said the U.S. cap on refugees would be lifted in stages, going from 70,000 now to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 the following year. The figure applies to all refugees accepted by the U.S. from around the world, and it’s likely many who come will not be from Syria. That could frustrate human rights advocates, as well as some members of Congress, who already are calling on the United States to take in at least 65,000 refugees, or even 100,000, from Syria alone.”


RUBIO GAME CHANGE Politico: “Sweaty. Lightweight. … ‘no money, zero.’ Donald Trump has spent the past two days bashing Marco … [Yesterday,] Rubio barked back at Trump, calling him ‘a very touchy and insecure guy. … He takes shots at everybody that gets anywhere close to him, in terms of a poll, or anytime he hits a rough spot that’s what he does.’ … “For Rubio, it’s a gamble. It ends a long-term strategy of trying to ignore … Trump. … Rubio is a skill puncher. Trump’s a brawler. Polling in the middle of the pack, Rubio has been running a low-key campaign that … has kept him largely out of the spotlight of … mainstream media. … ‘I’ve made a decision here with Donald Trump, … if I comment on everything he says, my whole campaign will be consumed by it. That’s all I’ll do all day,’ Rubio said in August on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ … “Since then, Rubio has taken an increasing number of veiled shots at Trump because it plays to … one of [Rubio’s] strengths: foreign policy. … Rubio’s criticisms aren’t part of a plan to make the contest a two-way race with Trump – a Bush tactic. … Rubio’s campaign strategy revolves around waiting for the right opportunity to make news. … Fiorina … showed others that the counter-counter-punch can be pretty sweet, as shown by her surge.”


STUNNING FALL FOR WALKER Chicago Tribune: “For Scott Walker, it wasn’t one thing that led to the demise of his presidential campaign. It was just about everything. Financial troubles. A bloated staff. Repeated stumbles and flip-flops. A candidate that professed to be a fighter but too often didn’t show all that much fight. The Wisconsin governor, who dropped out of the Republican race for president Monday after only two months as a formal candidate, did so after making a litany of mistakes and missteps that could make for a “what not to do” manual for future candidates. Walker entered the 2016 race as an ostensible Republican darling, shot into the national spotlight by his victories over unions and his triumph in a recall election. With Midwestern appeal and conservative credentials, and buoyed by a rousing performance at a Republican forum in January, he rose to the top very of early polls in Iowa. That moment in Iowa proved to be Walker’s high point. … In addition to refocusing on Iowa, Walker … unveiled a sweeping blueprint for upending labor unions nationwide, a plan so aggressive that it was even criticized by some Republicans. Then Walker took the stage in last week’s second Republican debate … [He] needed a standout performance in that debate … instead he generated the least amount of speaking time of the 11 candidates on the stage and gave middling responses when attention did turn his way. The final blow came Sunday, with the release of a new CNN/ORC poll [where he] was at less than 1%.”

WISCONSIN SENATE (and the law of unintended consequences) NJ: “Senate races are fierce battles, prompting near-daily combat between rival candidates. But this week in Wisconsin was a reminder that for all the back-and-forth machinations between campaigns, these races are often influenced most by factors outside of their control. And then Monday happened. Gov. Scott Walker’s exit from the presidential race extinguished what was probably Sen. Johnson campaign’s greatest hope: That the governor would win a place on the ticket next fall and give Republicans up and down the ballot at hometown advantage in Wisconsin in 2016. Early on in the race, some senior Republican strategists considered it the only scenario in which Johnson could win. Johnson can still win this race. But for all of its early success on the ground, factors outside of its control have made just as large an impact.”


OFFICE CRAZE CALLED ‘HOT DESKING’ Slate: “Assigning desks ad hoc based on who’s there at any given time, because you don’t have space for everyone … The practical goal of hot desking is to distribute too few desks among too many people, in a sort of never-ending office musical chairs. The management-jargony goals, on the other hand, are to ‘encourage new relationships,’ ‘chance interactions.’

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