THE CONGRESS SCRAMBLE … NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ERA IS OVER … RUBIO’S QUIET SABOTAGE OF OBAMACARE … VISA WAIVERS … BYE BYE MISS AMERICAN PIE … ELECTABILITY, WHO CARES? … HE’S SUCKING THE AIR OUT OF THE ‘PROVERBIAL’ ROOM … ROSS PEROT ON STEROIDS … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Steve Moffitt, Alan MacLeod, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
NYTs: “Government funding expires at midnight, and the House is expected to pass a stop-gap funding measure (extending government funding until December 16th) approved by the Senate on Thursday, to allow more time for talks on a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill.” OMNIBUS Congressional leaders expect the legislative text of a year-end omnibus spending bill to be released Monday (with a vote on Wednesday).
CONGRESS SCRAMBLING ON SPENDING DEAL AP: “Dozens of issues remain unresolved, mainly policy disputes over environmental and other issues that lawmakers of both parties are trying to attach to the must-pass spending legislation.”
DEMS LINK VOTES ON SPENDING BILL TO ALLOWING GUN VIOLENCE RESEARCH The Hill “Democrats are demanding that the omnibus spending bill eliminate a provision that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from looking into firearm incidents. Language keeping the CDC from doing the research has been included in annual funding bills for years.Republicans will almost certainly need Democratic votes in the House to pass the spending measure, and negotiations have been taking place for weeks.
A DEAL IS CLOSE: OIL EXPORTS NJ “An energy-policy quid pro quo seems to be taking shape in the omnibus budget talks, with Democrats apparently willing to trade ending the ban on domestic oil exports in exchange for a multi-year extension of solar and other renewable-energy tax credits.”
OBAMACARE TAX DELAYS POSSIBLE NJ “It is increasingly likely that two prominent Obamacare taxes that help pay for the law — on medical devices and high-cost health plans — will be delayed for two years. Congressional negotiations are overlapping on an omnibus spending bill and a bill to renew several expired tax provisions.
MCCONNELL WARNS ON TRADE DEAL Washington Post: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dealt a significant blow to President Obama’s global trade agenda Thursday, declaring that a sweeping pact with 11 Pacific Rim nations should not be sent to Congress for approval until after the 2016 elections — and maybe not until after Obama leaves office. McConnell, who previously supported efforts to enhance Obama’s trade negotiating powers, signaled that he was undecided on how he would vote on the deal, but he was clear that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be defeated if it were sent to Capitol Hill next spring or summer, as the administration was planning to do.”
FOR 9/11 RESPONDERS – DRAMA IN SPENDING DEAL’S FINAL DAYS Jon Stewart, who has has long championed this cause, came back to the Daily Show on Monday, revealing his real reason for the visit — “I have this issue. I care about it deeply … and wanted to get some attention paid to it. But I was realizing, I don’t have a show.” AND THEN New York Daily News: “Finally, some good news for 9/11 survivors. House Speaker Paul Ryan told members of his conference Thursday morning that Congress will reauthorize the Zadroga Act in a comprehensive spending bill that will come up for a vote next week … Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said House and Senate negotiators were ‘close’ to finalizing the bipartisan deal. …
HOUSE TIGHTENS VISA WAIVERS USA Today “The House voted 407-19 to approve the bill tightening security with so-called visa-waiver countries including most of Europe. The Senate already has a companion measure and the White House has offered support, although European officials and civil libertarians have voiced concerns.” –“Under the bill, if a traveler from visa-waiver country has visited one of the ‘high-risk’ countries since March 2011 or has dual-citizenship, an interview would be required at an overseas consulate. Visas from other countries already require an interview. The bill also would require visa-waiver countries to adopt passports with electronic chips to confirm the traveler’s identity by April 1, in an effort to reduce fraud.”
‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’ ERA IS OVER Washington Post: “The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping legislation that resets Washington’s relationship with the nation’s 100,000 public schools, ending the landmark No Child Left Behind Act and sending significant power back to states and local districts while maintaining limited federal oversight of education. The 85-12 vote mirrored the bill’s bipartisan passage in the House last week. President Obama plans to sign it into law Thursday.” … The bill would keep a key feature of No Child: the federally mandated statewide reading and math exams in grades three to eight and one such test in high school. But it would encourage states to set caps on the time students spend on testing and it would diminish the high stakes associated with these exams for underperforming schools.”
RUBIO’S QUIET LEGISLATIVE SABOTAGE “A little-noticed health care provision that” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) “slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of” Obama’s “signature health law. So for all the Republican talk about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one Republican presidential hopeful has actually done something toward achieving that goal.” (New York Times)
$3 BILLION DESTROYER’S FUTURE NJ: “In a departure from standard operating procedure, the Pentagon may not throw good money after bad when it comes to the new, $3 billion USS Zumwalt destroyer. A technological marvel, the Zumwalt had its first tests this week. But Wired reports that as doubts remain on the stability of the hull’s unique shape, the Navy now only plans to put two of the boats into service, down from 32 initially. They’ll likely just update an older class of destroyer instead.”
DRONES LATimes “The Air Force unveils a $3-billion plan, which would have to be approved by Congress, to vastly expand its drone program over the next five years by doubling the number of pilots.”
SCALIA The Hill: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks suggesting African-American students perform better in “less-advanced schools” has stoked a firestorm of criticism. Politico: “Top Democratic leaders are condemning Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for saying “there are those who contend” that black students might do better at “slower track” schools during court proceedings on an affirmative action case. Harry Reid said Thursday morning that Scalia had ‘endorsed’ racist ideas while a leading African-American lawmaker said Scalia should rescue himself from the case.
AMERICANS FEAR OF TERRORISM NJ “It’s a bull market for hawkishness on the campaign trail, as Americans’ personal fears about terrorism have spiked from a year ago. According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 47% of respondents say they’re worried that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism, up from 33% a year ago. And a whopping 75% say terrorism is “a critical issue in the country.” … Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, … according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. … A month ago, only 4% of Americans said terrorism was the most important problem; now, 19 percent say it is, above any other issue.”
BYE BYE MISS AMERICAN PIE (Wait for it…) The words to “American Pie” have been in a permanent loop in my brain this week. WHY? Because of an interview I read where Don McLean said the song was more than a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. RIchardson who died in a 1959 plane crash. The interviewer wrote, “That photograph was always a little bit blurry. At more than 800 words, the meaning of “American Pie” proved elusive even for a generation used to parsing inscrutable Bob Dylan and Beatles lyrics. The lyrics had to do with the state of society at the time.” What does it all mean? Just what a song about the day the music died seems like it might be about: the end of the American Dream.”(Check out the lyrics here) McLean continued, “Basically in ‘American Pie,’ things are heading in the wrong direction,” he told Christie’s, as the Newcastle Herald reported. AND I THOUGHT OF THIS INTERVIEW WHEN I READ THIS — 48% OF MILLENNIALS THINK THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD. Here is why: The Fix: “ When Harvard’s Institute of Politics asked 18- to 29-year-olds if they considered the American dream to be alive or dead, the result was an even split. About half said they considered the American dream alive and well for them personally. About half said it was dead as a doornail. … Within that American dream data was a noticeable split. Those with a college degree thought that the American dream was alive and well at a rate 16% points higher than those who weren’t in college or who had never attended.”
MIDDLE CLASS NO LONGER A MAJORITY LATimes: “Rapid growth of upper-income households, coupled with an increase in less-educated low earners, has driven the decline of the middle-income population to a hair below 50% of the total this year, Pew found. In 1971, the middle class accounted for 61% of the population, and it has been declining steadily since.”
WHO CARES ABOUT ELECTABILITY The Fix “One of the things that helps establishment Republicans fall asleep at night these days is the idea that GOP voters won’t ultimately vote for Donald Trump because they want to win back the White House so badly that they will never nominate someone who simply dooms their chances of doing so. NOT SO MUCH according to a New York Times-CBS News poll released Thursday. Electability is WAY down the list of what matters most to Republican voters as they think about which candidate to vote for. Seven times as many people said that a candidate who is a “strong leader” matters more to them than a candidate who “can win a general election.” Electability is right there with “right experience” at the back of voters’ minds at the moment. The next question the Times-CBS pollsters asked is equally illuminating. More than 6 in 10 (62%) said it was more important to them that the party’s presidential nominee agreed with them on issues while just 36% said it was more important that the nominee can win a general election.
Electability as an issue voters — in either party — care about is regularly overrated by members of the permanent political class. Political insiders love this stuff, they view it all as a massive game of chess — obsessing about what it might mean to move one piece on the board here or replace it with another piece there.Normal people — and, yes, political types, this means we are not normal — don’t think of politics like that. In fact, they almost never think of politics at all. They’re busy with their actual lives, which they believe have almost no connection to politics. When they do dial in to politics and make decisions about who to vote for, it tends to be more on who they like, who they trust and who they think represents their hopes and fears than who they think gives their side the best chance to win. ESPECIALLY TRUE THIS YEAR Many Republican voters believe the whole idea of who is most “electable” is purely a construct of an establishment that has been forcing moderate nominees down their throats for years. Mitt Romney was supposedly the most electable candidate in 2012. He lost. John McCain was the most electable in 2008. He lost. So, why should the Republican base now put any faith in the idea of electability? THIS MENTALITY PLAYS RIGHT INTO TRUMP’S HANDS At the heart of his message is the idea that politicians — Democrats and Republicans — have been lying to the public for a very long time and it’s time for that public to stop trusting them. Preaching electability, in Trump’s calculation, is just another way for Republican elites to keep control of the process and keep conservatives from having their voices heard. This poll suggests that lots of Republican voters agree. ROLL YOUR EYES Every time you hear some Republican pundit talk about how much electability matters and how that will ultimately bring Trump down, roll your eyes. There’s zero evidence — at least right now — than that bit of conventional wisdom is right.
BUSH SUPER PAC SPENDING “[Jeb Bush SuperPac] Right to Rise, has already gone through nearly half of the $103 million it brought in during the first half of the year … It raised only about $13 million in the five months that followed … That leaves the super PAC with around $67 million.”
H/T TO DR. SEUSS — CRUZ THE GRUFF NYTs “As his crowds swell in Iowa and he battles with Donald J. Trump to lock down the party’s more conservative voters, Mr. Cruz … is working diligently at the simple task of establishing human connections. It is a bigger lift than it might seem. Mr. Cruz appears keenly aware of his charm deficit … He is folksy by memorization …”He does voices, recreating extended scenes, with multiple characters, from ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ … His vocabulary can seem culled from another era, flecked with flourishes like ‘Jiminy Cricket!’ … Some key phrases, like ‘simple flat tax’ and ‘Reagan revolution,’ are growled for effect. He almost always transitions to … audience participation … with the same line: ‘I’m happy to answer or dodge any questions.”
HE’S SUCKING THE AIR OUT OF THE PROVERBIAL ROOM NJ You want some data on how Donald Trump is sucking all the air out of the proverbial room? Here it is: Chris Stirewalt at FoxNews.com points out that Trump garnered a per-day average of “62,000 more mentions than everyone else put together.” The New Analytics Company determined that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Trump was mentioned an average of 64,638 times across all U.S. media. His rivals, meanwhile, netted 2,566 mentions between them. Oops, we just did it again.”
WHY THE MEDIA LOVES DONALD The Fix: “… it’s obvious that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is very good for the news business. … He hasn’t done much of the ad-buying — he says he doesn’t need to — but that’s only because he’s done so much of the reportable-quotes-giving. His presence in the race has helped television networks raise their ratings and their rates, and compelled rivals to spend big in attempts to catch up. Why, then, is it so jarring to hear that CBS chief executive Les Moonves said this on a taped call with investors this week, according to an Intercept? … remarks like those Moonves made this week reinforce people’s worst perceptions about the media — that it’s mostly after ratings and money, and not so much about informing the public.”
WHITE RACIST GROUPS SEE BUMP Politico: “Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike. As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT TRUMP COULD SAY THAT WOULD MAKE HIM TOO TOXIC FOR GOP?
… [S]everal of his rivals for the GOP nomination and the top House Republican have criticized Trump for proposing to bar, for now, entry of all Muslims into the United States. But top Republicans, including” Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “also grudgingly say that if Trump becomes the nominee, he’ll have their backing.” Other Republicans on Capitol Hill “disagreed with, or at least declined to endorse, Trump’s plan. But responses varied as to whether there’s a line Trump could cross that would prevent them from backing him should he win the nomination—a prospect that increasingly worries a number of Republicans, at least in private.” (National Journal) ROSS PEROT ON STEROIDS Politico Caucus, weekly insider poll of early-state officials, activists and operatives – “… Trump independent bid would ruin GOP chances … “79 percent … said it would be either ‘impossible’ or ‘very difficult’ for the Republican nominee to win the general election if Trump launches a third-party bid. … The Republican nominee would be forced to constantly respond to the makeup of the race.” WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS’ AD National Organizations Ran Full-Page ‘We Are Better Than This’ Ad … Urging Politicians to Denounce Hate and Division”: “More than 700 groups and individuals are backing the campaign … Here’s the Ad
“I have to say I no longer think he’s funny. … You know, I think for weeks you and everyone else were bringing folks to hysterical laughter and all of that. But now he has gone way over the line, and what he’s saying now is not only shameful and wrong, it’s dangerous.”
– Hillary Clinton on “Seth Meyers,” asked about the Donald:
TROUBLE WITH TRUMP POLLS Hotline: “One of the (many) things that drives establishment Republicans batty about Donald Trump is their belief that many public polls overestimate his level of support because they greatly overestimate GOP turnout in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries. Trump’s commanding showing in polls, in turn, is cited as a justification for the non-stop media coverage of him and his polarizing rhetoric.
TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE Monmouth University and CNN each released Iowa caucus polling Monday showing dramatically different results. Monmouth’s survey showed Ted Cruz overtaking Trump by 5 points (24-19%), with Marco Rubio surging and only 2 points behind the Donald. Of note: The poll’s sample was drawn from a list of registered voters who voted in one of the last two state primary elections. THEN LATER IN THE DAY CNN released its own Iowa survey with significantly different findings. The CNN/ORC poll showed Trump with a commanding lead over Cruz, 33-20%, with Rubio polling a distant fourth with 11%. The CNN/ORC survey, however, drew its sample from all Iowa adults, concluding that Trump’s margin of victory was attributable to voters who said they haven’t participated in past Iowa caucuses. HUGE 14-POINT GAP in Trump’s vote share, based on the different methodologies, enough to make the difference between an imposing frontrunner and second-place insurgent. Neither method is necessarily right or wrong, but the more bullish Trump polls usually depend on the candidate drawing new voters to the caucuses and primaries. That’s a big assumption to make, especially given Trump’s organizational disadvantages. (His Iowa co-chair, for instance, was a runner-up candidate on The Apprentice. BIG CHALLENGE FOR POLLSTERS Guesswork of turnout patterns is becoming increasingly important — and it’s an art, not a science. Hillary Clinton famously underestimated the dedication of President Obama’s supporters in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, which propelled him to the presidency. Will Trump benefit from a similar phenomenon in 2016, or will the public polls be wrong … yet again.”
WISCONSIN GOVERNOR National Journal “Scott Walker’s presidential bid may have come to an unceremonious conclusion less than three months ago, but he’s already hinting at his next act. After winning three gubernatorial elections in four years, including a 2012 recall, Walker hinted Wednesday that he may seek a third term in 2018.”… If Scott Walker does choose to run for a third term in 2018, he’s about to enact legislation next week that will lay out an easier path. Walker said he’d sign off on a set of bills to double the limit for individual campaign donations and allow candidates to coordinate with independent outside groups. Another bill would gut the state Government Accountability Board, a non-partisan campaign watchdog, and replace it with two appointed partisan commissions.”
TIME PERSON OF THE YEAR: Angela Merkel, “Chancellor of the Free World”
WHO WAS ON THE SHORT LIST?: 2) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS … 3) Donald Trump … 4) Black Lives Matter Activists … 5) Iran President Hassan Rouhani … 6) Uber CEO Travis Kalanick … 7) Caitlyn Jenner