The Washington Report is back. And so is Congress (briefly…very briefly).
Top of the list … avoiding a government shutdown. And other news of the week
Yes, there are 53 days until Election Day, BUT WAIT … it’s just 10 days (September 26) till the presidential debate at Hofstra University. (You’ll notice today’s report is light on covering the Presidential race… that’s on purpose. As we get closer to election day you’ll be seeing more about the Presidential and Congressional races, believe me.)
RYAN SEEKS TO AVOID BOEHNER FATE ON OMNIBUS The Hill “Speaker Paul Ryan vowed last December to do things differently than predecessor John Boehner. Most significantly, Ryan declared his hatred for end-of-year spending deals and signaled he’d do what ever he could to avoid being stuck with a massive appropriations package at the end of 2016.
A year later, despite those efforts, many on Capitol Hill expect Ryan will get stuck pushing through a trillion-dollar omnibus anyway. It’s not for a lack of trying by the Wisconsin Republican.
“I HATE OMNIBUS BILLS.”
– Speaker Ryan last year after he reluctantly shoved through an omnibus package after Boehner’s resignation. This year, Ryan sought to move appropriations bills through the House on regular order, but faced with opposition from Senate Democrats in an Election Year with a particularly abbreviated schedule, there was no way those spending bills were going to get to President Obama. All 12 appropriations bills cleared the House this year but were blocked in the Senate.
SO HOW WAS YOUR VACATION? Since returning from a seven-week recess, Ryan has continued to signal his determination to not get stuck with an omnibus. He’s calling for the package to be broken up into more manageable “minibuses.” Passing smaller, bite-sized spending packages preserves much of the appropriators’ work this year and more closely resembles “regular order” — a top priority of Ryan’s during his first year as Speaker. WISHFUL THINKING On Capitol Hill, there is widespread skepticism that Ryan’s efforts will be successful. Very few people believe the mini-buses will have much success in the post-election lame duck right before the holidays. Democrats who hold enough Senate votes to filibuster any spending bill have panned Ryan’s mini-bus strategy, fearing that Republicans will use it to cut Democratic priorities while boosting defense spending. And even some GOP appropriators close to Ryan say the idea of trying to pass a series of contentious spending bills right before the holidays is probably wishful thinking.
NEGOTIATING A 10-WEEK CONTINUING RESOLUTION (CR) The government runs out of money on September 30th. SO…Ryan is negotiating a 10-week CR and prepares for lame-duck budget talks for fiscal year 2017.
DEFINE CONTINUING RESOLUTION (CR) … legislation enacted by Congress that allows government operations to continue until the regular appropriations are enacted: used when action on appropriations is not completed by the beginning of a fiscal year.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ZIKA FUNDING Slate “Among the things Congress has managed to not do this year is allocate money for responding to the mosquito-borne, birth-defect-causing disease Zika. That money would go toward everything from vaccine research to mosquito abatement to testing to prevention education—all the stuff you need to minimize a virus’ reach, hard-won epidemiology lessons. The disease has already infected 20,000 people in the continental US, including at least 1,500 pregnant women, and another 15,000 people in Puerto Rico.
WHY THE STALL ON FUNDING? Republicans added a rider to the bill that would make the Puerto Rican division of Planned Parenthood, Profamilias, ineligible to get the money. Democrats see that language as a poison pill, just as Republicans knew they would. Cue the legislative deadlock.
Restricting funding there would cause real problems. Zika disproportionately impacts the young and poor—exactly the demographic that forms of the majority of Profamilia’s clientele. These clinics help women in high Zika-risk areas gain access to birth control, so they can delay pregnancy until the danger has passed. And they’re also where pregnant women who have contracted Zika can get safe, medically recommended abortions. Because the provision is so vague, many Democrats worry that passing any bill that limits Planned Parenthood, even conditionally, might set a dangerous precedent. Cutting off funding for the health care organization has been a major focus of GOP legislators.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Zika emergency response provisions will probably end up attached to a continuing resolution that Congress must pass by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown. So the money might yet come, albeit belatedly—and at great cost to those people already infected.”
BETTER LUCK IN NOVEMBER – NDAA GETS PUSHED TO THE LAME DUCK: MorningD “The push to finish the National Defense Authorization Act this month has failed and the bill will slip to the lame-duck session, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations. The House and Senate Armed Services committees have begun telling member offices that the differences between the two versions can’t be settled before Congress leaves town, according to the sources. Had House and Senate Republicans agreed to a final defense policy bill, it likely would have been vetoed by President Barack Obama, who has objected to extra funding in the House version and a number of other controversial provisions.
BECAUSE OF AN ODD LOOKING BIRD? “But negotiations to finish the conference measure ground to a halt on Wednesday, thanks to a dispute between Republicans in the two chambers over the greater sage grouse. The House bill had a provision preventing the bird from being listed as on the endangered species list, while the Senate’s did not. … Republican leaders in the two chambers insisted on sticking to their respective positions, and the issue quickly became the key sticking point in the negotiations. ‘We’ve thrown out a couple of compromise options – it’s up to the Senate to take them,’ said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and an Armed Services member who is a vocal supporter of the House provision.”
SNOWDEN REPORT “The House Intelligence Committee released the unclassified summary of its report on the impact of the Edward Snowden leaks. The committee’s final conclusion dinged the NSA – and the U.S. intelligence community as a whole – for not doing enough to minimize the risk of another massive unauthorized disclosure. WEEKEND PLANS? Nice Timing – “Snowden,” the movie, directed by Oliver Stone, hits theaters this weekend. The New York Times review is here.
BUDGET SCRUB Politico “This fall, the Army will rank 780 programs across the service after struggling for years to articulate to Congress what it would need most with additional funding, … the Strategic Portfolio Analysis and Review will assign a value to each program based on what is determined to be its contribution to warfighting capabilities. “We’re going to put a marker on the table with Congress, because I’ve been asked 50 times, ‘If you had more money, what would you do?'” Murray (Deputy COS overseeing resources) said, “We’ve given an answer and they’ve said, ‘Well, show me the analysis.’ This is the analysis.”
GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS … ANYONE LISTENING? The Fix “New data from the Census Bureau offers indisputably good news for the U.S. economy: Average incomes for Americans rose by 5.2% relative to 2014, the highest such increase in any year on record. …Going back to 1988, it’s clear that the increase from 2014 to 2015 was a substantial one, across racial and ethnic groups. From 2013 to 2014, incomes dipped among most groups and Americans overall. From 2014 to 2015, the increase was big. …The biggest gains in income were at the lower end of the economic spectrum, as a percentage of income. Those in the 10th percentile — poorer Americans — saw an increase of nearly 8% from 2014 to 2015. The wealthiest Americans, those in the 95th percentile, saw an increase of only 3.7%.
FLINT AID (The Hill) In the Senate: “Nearly a year after the devastating drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., made national headlines, the Senate passed legislation on Thursday to provide emergency assistance for the city and other lead-contaminated communities around the country. The measure authorizes dozens of water-related infrastructure projects and contains $220 million in direct funding to address drinking water crises in communities like Flint.. In the House: … the prospects for Flint aid in the House remain less clear. The House version of the bill — which could see a floor vote under an expedited process next week — is far narrower and does not contain any drinking water provisions due to jurisdictional differences between the House and Senate committees. … The provisions would be paid for by cutting money from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.”
EPIPEN PRICING FLAP PROMPTS BILL Roll Call “The controversy over the cost of EpiPens is prompting a bipartisan effort to force drugmakers to detail their costs before they increase prices by more than 10%. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democrats, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois said in a statement Thursday that the effort will cut through opaque pricing practices and provide information about treatments that are sometimes developed with taxpayer dollars.”
Newly released data from the Federal Election Commission tallies up the total cost of federal campaigns through June of this year: A healthy $4.38 billion. That’s $13.60 for every American — or $17.60 for everyone over the age of 18.
AGREE … THIS MAY BE THE BEST AD OF THE ELECTION SO FAR
GARY “WHAT IS ALEPPO” JOHNSON Last week wasn’t a good one for Gary Johnson. In fact, the Libertarian presidential nominee who stunned the political world with a single, dizzying question — “What is Aleppo?”
NEARLY HALF OF AMERICANS SAY VOTER FRAUD OCCURS OFTEN. THEY WOULD BE WRONG. The Fix “Nearly half of Americans say that voter fraud occurs at least somewhat often according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a viewpoint at odds with studies showing it rarely occurs in U.S. elections. Republicans and Donald Trump supporters express the greatest concern about voter fraud and election accuracy (69%), as opposed to Clinton supporters (28%). The dynamic marks a reversal from 2004, when Democrats were more doubtful about the legitimacy of the vote.
The prevalence of voter fraud appears to be widely overestimated. A 2012 investigation by the News21 investigative reporting project published in The Washington Post found only 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud had been reported since 2000, including only 10 cases of voter impersonation over the entire period. A separate study by Loyola Law School professor Justen Levitt found 241 potentially fraudulent ballots over a 14-year period out of 1 billion ballots cast.”
5 REASONS TRUMP MIGHT FALL IN AUTUMN Politico ” [T]he story of the past three weeks is less about a Trump comeback than a Hillary Clinton fallback, and the same head-scratching dynamic that defined the Republican primaries – Trump’s Teflon, his opponent (in this case Hillary) is Velcro – took root in August. And there are warning signs aplenty for a candidate whose trajectory has improved only by his capacity to drag his opponent down to his own level of septic-tank unpopularity. And Trump’s early fall ‘surge’ could be quickly reversed as he descends ever deeper into the darkening swamp of national self-hatred this rotten, hope-free, soul-sucking 2016 campaign for president has turned out to be.
1. Everything has gone Trump’s way – and he’s still not ahead …
2. The cable and TV networks are going to vet Trump like he might actually be president of the United States. This one is wishful thinking based on zero evidence. Move along. …
3. Trump is getting cocky again. Trump’s steely messaging team has done a great job duct-taping the boss’s maw since taking over in mid-August. But Trump’s mouth, like LeBron James, is a cosmic force that can merely be contained for limited periods, and never truly shut down – and Trump’s recent success has rekindled the suppressed I-gotta-be-me impulse …
4. Terrified Democrats are Clinton’s secret weapon. This is the big one, the factor upon which the election truly hinges. Raw, small-mammal fear. Trump’s success might be the only thing that gets many Democrats (or anti-Trump moderates outside the party) to hold their noses and vote Hillary.
5. Gary Johnson? Really? … Clinton’s Brooklyn brain trust is in a quandary on dealing with this: Attack him, and Clinton allies have compiled oppo files on the former New Mexico governor, and raise his low profile; let him roam the firmament snatching up progressives in his VW van and lose votes. Fortunately for Clinton’s team, support for Johnson seems relatively soft (as opposed to the smaller, but more militant following attracted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein), and Clinton’s team expects many to drift back to her cause, as third-party defectors often do in October and November.”
TRUMP CRACKS ELECTORAL COLLEGE LOCK Politico “A new round of state polls shows Trump suddenly has a path to 270 electoral votes.” Full Article.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 7 PHONE RECALL The Hill “U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on Thursday officially recalled the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. The recall will cover roughly 1 million phones. The move was spurred by reports of the Note 7 catching fire or exploding, posing serious burn hazards. Samsung was reportedly aware of 95 instances of this happening. The problem is due to an issue with the phone’s lithium ion battery.”
COVER UP YOUR WEB CAM The Hill “The head of the FBI on Wednesday defended putting a piece of tape over his personal laptop’s webcam, claiming the security step was a common sense one that most should take. “There’s some sensible things you should be doing, and that’s one of them,” Director James Comey said during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
REMEMBERING 9.11’s 15th ANNIVERSARY … “WE’RE THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY” – Do not miss reading this Politico Magazine piece on the strange, harrowing journey of Air Force One on 9.11, as told by the people who were on board. Click Here.
“I, TOO, AM AMERICA” NPR “The building rises — bronze and “brooding,” in the words of architect David Adjaye — floating in a sea of white marble and limestone on the sprawling National Mall in Washington, D.C. The mission of the National Museum of African American History and Culture — set to open to the public next week after a 100-year journey into existence — is to tell the story of America through the lens of black history and culture.
That mission is reflected in the exhibits and encapsulated in a Langston Hughes quote featured inside the museum: “I, too, am America.”
The 400,000-square-foot museum fills the last open spot along the National Mall, the magisterial public walk envisioned by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791 as a place for all Americans, a landscape celebrating the country’s democracy.
Sitting adjacent to the Washington Monument, the museum is on an axis with nearly every important memorial and museum in the city. And that location — which Adjaye, the British-Ghanaian lead designer of the project, refers to as a crossroads or “joint” of D.C.’s “monumental landscape” — helped inform the design.
“We’re at the knuckle between one world, which is the Washington Memorial grounds, and the Mall proper, which is very manicured — double alley trees, landscapes, palaces of culture,” Adjaye explains during a tour of the nearly completed museum last week. “This is a building that can’t be that or that, but has to be somewhere between the two … has to be something that also has its own completely significant identity.”
A ‘DARK PRESENCE’ CELEBRATING AFRICA AND AMERICA The decision to eschew the light-colored materials of the other “palaces of culture” on the Mall is one element of this narrative — and it also matched the philosophy of Lonnie Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. The interplay of light and dark is key to the museum’s design. Inside the building, for instance, there’s a stark contrast between the warm, dappled sunlight of the four galleries above ground and the rest of the museum — half of which lies underground, including most of the exhibition space. …”This building is part of the public realm; it’s very much part of the world that everybody has access to.” And that’s at the heart of the museum’s design: Adjaye wanted a structure that both respects its place on the Mall and gives back to it, connects it with what surrounds it and reinforces the idea that the museum is for all Americans.”