LIST OF DEADLINES, CHECKING IT TWICE … RYAN’S FIRST REAL TEST … TRANSPORTATION BILL (and EX-IM BANK) … GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS … GUN MEASURES FAIL … NDAA … THE DONALD, CHRISTIE, CRUZE, CLIMATE CHANGE, CARBON, CYBERVOTERS … 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)
CONGRESS HAS A LIST OF DEADLINES, IS CHECKING IT TWICE RollCall Congress returned this week for a pivotal work period with multiple deadlines, a busy schedule for an institution that tends to wait until the very last minute to get things done. First key deadline was met (see Transportation Bill below) and next week … Congress faces the Dec.11 expiration of the latest Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the government. The task of moving a year-end OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL through the pipeline is made significantly easier by the budget agreement earlier this fall, which increased spending levels beyond the still-in-place sequester budget caps.”
RYANS FIRST REAL TEST – GETTING SPENDING BILL PASSED ON TIME The Fix: He’s got a group of Republicans who increasingly would rather not vote for any spending bill — and especially one that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood, or President Obama’s climate change initiatives, or the Syrian refugee program or Obamacare. And he’s got six legislative days to pass a spending bill — i.e. putting actual money behind the budget compromise his predecessor passed on his way out the door in October (with the help of mostly Democrats) — to help keep the government open. It’s looking like he will have to work with Democrats to get that done as well.
Sound familiar? That’s because, as predicted, newly minted Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is in the same no-win situation as his predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio), was. (And we all know how that turned out for Boehner.) Yet again, a GOP House speaker is basically faced with either shutting down the government or relying on Democrats Ryan and his team are … making the argument that this spending bill debate is going to be messy … but that next year, under Ryan’s leadership, things will be different.’ But will it? Next year, Ryan will still be working with between 20 and 45 lawmakers (depending on which estimate you believe) who make it their mission to oppose Republican leadership and pull it to the right. That’s been good politics for them, and they have no reason to stop now.”
TRANSPORATION PACKAGE Politico: “The Senate has voted overwhelmingly to clear a five-year highway, transit and rail bill, sending the wide-ranging infrastructure package to the White House for the president’s signature. A majority of senators rallied around the $305 billion bill, showing their support via a 83-16 vote. The Senate vote was the last legislative hurdle to the bill becoming law, and its passage was widely anticipated. The bill sets federal policy and funding levels for highways, transit, passenger rail and bridge programs through 2020 in addition to reviving the expired Export-Import Bank.
EX-IM REAUTHORIZED, BUT … The Hill: “The Export-Import Bank is not out of the woods yet. Thanks to the persistence of U.S. business groups and rank-and-file lawmakers who bucked their own leadership to support it, the credit agency was reauthorized, five months after conservative Republicans allowed it to die. The bank owes its return – albeit with a reduction in its lending cap from $140 billion to $135 billion – to its inclusion in the long-term highway bill, which was approved by the House Thursday afternoon and passed the Senate on Thursday night. PROBLEM LOOMING Only two of the five seats on Ex-Im’s board are filled and, without a quorum, the agency can’t approve loans for greater than $10 million – the kind of loans which make up less than 20% of the bank’s transactions, but an overwhelming majority of the bank’s total financing. That means Ex-Im supporters will have to gear up for a nomination fight soon after the agency’s doors are reopened.”
@brianstelter: “BBC report tonight: ‘Just another day in the United States of America.
VERY PROVOCATIVE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS FRONT PAGE on the San Bernardino shooting The Fix: “Wow. The Daily News’s dismissal of Republican politicians’ calls for prayers in the wake of the mass shooting that has left at least 14 people dead echoes a sentiment that emerged on Twitter in the wake of the incident Wednesday afternoon. Policy Making or Praying …that is the question. The effort to cast “thoughts and prayers” as trite reactions to horrendous events certainly represents a ratcheting up of the rhetoric.” THAT SAID …
GUN MEASURES FAIL IN SENATE Politico: TERRORIST WATCH LIST LOOPHOLE… legislation from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that would deny people on a federal terrorism watch list the ability to purchase guns FAILED, 45-54. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) voted with Republicans to reject the measure, and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) crossed over to vote in favor of the gun restrictions. RE-VOTE ON BACKGROUND CHECKS: “The second vote revived legislation from April 2013, written in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, Conn., with bipartisan backing that would enact universal background checks. The four Republicans who backed the bill then — Kirk and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who co-authored the measure with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — also voted in favor of the Democrats’ plan on Thursday. Heitkamp also opposed the second gun-control measure, which was blocked on a 48-50 tally.”
THIS IS NOT AN ‘ONION” ARTICLE Business Insider “We’ve now had so many mass shootings that entrepreneurs see space in the market for a bulletproof blanket, made specifically to shield small children from gunfire. The Bodyguard Blanket is made by ProTecht. If mass shootings weren’t such an integrated part of our culture, you’d think this was an SNL skit or an Onion article. Kids are being gunned down in their 1st grade classrooms, but what can we do? No we’re not talking about gun laws, just arm your children with these bulletproof shields, you’ll sleep easier at night.”
WHY THE FBI ISN’T CALLING SAN BERNARDINO ‘TERRORISM” ‘The technical definition of such acts is often at odds with public understanding.’ Here’s the FBI’s definition …
“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:
Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
Interesting read in The Atlantic (Full Article).
WHILE WE WERE AWAY — NDAA PASSED Military Times: ” … President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 on the eve of Thanksgiving. The most significant result for troops is the … massive overhaul of the military retirement system. Starting in 2018, newly enlisted troops will no longer have the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing retirement plan. Under the changes, it will be replaced with a blended pension and investment system, expected to give roughly four in five service members some sort of retirement benefit when they leave the military, as opposed to the current system which benefits only one in five.The $607 billion authorization bill also includes comprehensive defense acquisition reform and language designed to stop Obama from closing the detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.White House officials had objected to that language and hinted at a possible veto. But similar language in the measure each of the last six years didn’t stop the president from signing past authorization measures into law. Another ban on a new BRAC round but, but … Like in past years, the measure includes a prohibition on defense officials starting another base closing round. But lawmakers did include language allowing military officials to conduct studies on how much excess capacity exists in their stateside footprint, which could ease the path to such a move in the future. ONLY HALF THE ANNUAL BUDGET PROCESS Lawmakers still need to pass a defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 to start new programs and acquisition plans. Congressional leaders are hopeful that can be done before Dec. 11, when a short-term budget extension expires.”
TWEETING 101 – PENTAGON GOES TO SCHOOL TO COUNTER ISIL’S TWITTER ARSENAL Politico: “The Department of Defense has given a three-year, $1.5 million grant to a collection of computer and social scientists (at Arizona State University) who believe they can identify what makes the extremist group’s social media recruitment so effective and single out the types of propaganda that get the most traction on the Internet – with the ultimate goal of being able to intervene with disaffected individuals who might be crossing the line into terrorism.”
WOMEN ALLOWED – NO EXCEPTIONS Politico: “Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon was opening all combat jobs to women … overruling Marine Corps commanders who requested exceptions for a small number of front-line combat jobs. The decision is a milestone for Obama, who inherited a military that banned gays from serving openly, banned transgender troops and didn’t allow women in units that were primarily involved in ground combat. Now, all three of those exclusions have been, or are in the process of being, overturned. RESERVATIONS Republican skeptics may not have enough power to overturn Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s order to open all combat positions to women. But some are delivering a more subtle warning: it could lead to registering all young women in America for the draft.”
RISE OF THE CYBERVOTER: First there were soccer moms. Today, there’s a new online constituency.” Politico: “[I]t’s time to add a new voting bloc to the list: a section of the electorate that uses the Internet regularly and shows a surprising ability to coalesce behind issues that affect their digital life. Call them ‘cybercitizens.’ … In the 2014 midterms, people who spent at least six hours a day on the Internet made up a quarter of the voting bloc.”
CHRISTIE MOMENTUM IN NEW HAMPSHIRE “In mid-October he was in 9th place in the state at just 3%. Now he’s moved all the way up into the 4th position with his 10% standing. … [H]e’s had a 50 point net improvement in his favorability over the last three months.”
THE DONALD The Fix: “Jeb and his aligned Right to Rise super PAC have dropped $28.9 million to Trump’s $217,000. That spending chasm is almost the inverse of where each man stands in the race — with Trump alone at the top and Jeb mired in the murky middle. … not sure what number is more remarkable: Jeb’s or Trump’s. WANTS A CUT OF DEBATE REVENUE Who knows if he’s serious, but Donald Trump now says he might pull out of a Dec. 15 Republican presidential debate unless CNN, the cable network broadcasting the event from Las Vegas, pays him $5 million. He says he will donate the money to veterans’ charities. PREPOSTEROUS, for several reasons. a. this is extortion, debates have always been separate from the whole financial aspect of campaigning; b. the debate stage is supposed to be a level playing field for all candidates , can’t pay just one of them. TRUMP BEING TRUMP Trump’s argument is that the networks are making money on his appearances, so he should get to decide where at least some of that money goes. … When Trump complains about not getting a cut of debate revenue, he certainly doesn’t sound like a future president. He sounds like what he’s always been: a businessman.”
CRUZE …SOUNDING TRUMPIAN The Fix: “Ted Cruz is nothing if not conservative. It’s kind of his thing. And so far, the Republican senator from Texas has run a very conservative presidential campaign — not just in his policies, but in his steady/not flashy approach. On the latter count, though, things have begun to change. With his poll numbers rising nationally and in the key early state of Iowa (where he’s now basically tied for the lead), the quiet version of Cruz has taken a back seat to a much more outspoken Cruz — a Cruz who will riff (in an almost Trumpian way) on condoms and the sexual orientation of a mass shooter. BLACKLISTED AND LOVING IT POSTER (donate $50 to Cruz for President and it’s yours) … to be fair to Cruz has never really been a boring politician. He’s quite comfortable going outside the box — he embraced this image last year. MAN-O-MAN They suggest a candidate ready for his close-up and to compete with Trump. And in order to compete with Trump, it seems, you have to be willing to say some Trump-y things. ( a la dubious claims and suggestions that fact-checkers will eat up and that will be chewed over quite a bit for that reason. Once again: Very Trump.) Cruz has served notice that he’s willing to step forward.”
CLIMATE TALKS FACE FAMILIAR HURDLE – AMERICAN POLITICS NPR/Politico: For more than 20 years, world leaders have been trying to craft a solution to global warming, without a lot of success. During that time, the U.S. government has been like the big-ticket movie star who has been offered the lead role, but won’t commit. Before leaving Paris and the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference on Tuesday, Obama dismissed fears that Republicans would be able to stymie a deal and said the world should not worry that the U.S. would not live up to the commitments he made there. STILL, Congress does have the power to set budgets — and that gives legislators the ultimate say over how much the government will spend on issues related to climate.”
CONGRESS REBUKES CLIMATE RULES “The House adopted two Senate-passed resolutions blocking EPA rules that apply to new and existing power plants, but the White House has already promised that Obama will veto them. Lawmakers voted 242-180, mostly along party lines, to pass a resolution that would block EPA rules governing existing power plants, and they voted 235-188 to block rules for new or modified power plants.”
BLOOMBERG UNVEILS CARBON CLOCK “Atmospheric CO2 is measured in parts per million, a tiny increment with huge effects. When the U.S. started measuring airborne CO2 regularly in 1958, it stood at 316 ppm. We’re now around 400 ppm. The danger zone? 450 ppm, which we may hit by 2040.”
SIXTY YEARS AGO on Dec. 1, 1955 — Rosa Parks kept her seat, and changed the nation. See the first national story, on Dec. 5, 1955: “MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A court test of segregated transportation loomed today following the arrest of a Negro who refused to move to the colored section of a city bus.” The AP dispatch ran in the next day’s N.Y. Times – 10 grafs on p. 31, “BUSES BOYCOTTED OVER RACE ISSUE: Montgomery, Ala., Negroes Protest Woman’s Arrest for Defying Segregation.”