This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.
In Case You’ve Been Living Under a Rock … Bergdahl … Duck and Cover … Politwoops … Thad Cochran … Booted Out, Dead or Retired … Carbon Cuts … Comedy Central Education … America’s Best Burrito … D-Day’s 70th Anniversary and other news of the week.
Also, a shout out to Kate Venne, Capstone’s Director of PR, who was honored for her work at the annual Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Awards ceremony on Tuesday.
Thank you for ending your week with the Washington Report. Have a wonderful weekend!
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kate Venne)
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JOBS REPORT U.S. employers hired at a healthy pace in May for a fourth straight month. The Labor Department says employers added 217,000 jobs last month. … Despite the gains, the unemployment rate … remained 6.3%.” (AP)
HOW TO WIN SENATE CONFIRMATION Politico writes, “She assiduously courted lawmakers. Promised to be more transparent and responsive. Won them over with her private-sector credentials. In short, Sylvia Mathews Burwell ran a textbook campaign for one of the most controversial posts in the administration: implementing Obamacare. With her overwhelming confirmation Thursday to succeed Kathleen Sebelius at HHS, Burwell has already started to cultivate a friendlier relationship with Republicans – one that could ease some of the tensions between the Hill and HHS simmering for four years over Obamacare.”
IN CASE YOU’VE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK the big story that rocked the world this week was the release of American POW Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban fighters. BERGDAHL CROWDING EVERYTHING ELSE OUT Morning Defense writes, “….Washington … [and national media] are single-mindedly focused on learning more about Bergdahl – his disappearance in Afghanistan, his release, his mental state, his father’s motivations, the Taliban prisoners swapped for his freedom and who on Capitol Hill knew what when. The demand for information seems insatiable.” QUESTIONS BEING ASKED OF THE WHITE HOUSE, from Politico: — NOTIFICATION A lot of them concern the notification the White House provided – or didn’t provide – key members of Congress, as well as its media strategy for informing the public about Bergdahl’s release. And, once again, comments made by National Security Adviser Susan Rice on television are being scrutinized. — WHO KNEW WHAT WHEN? It’s clear the Obama administration decided to ignore the 30-day notification period required whenever a Guantanamo prisoner is released, but it isn’t clear why the White House didn’t give more congressional leaders a classified heads up about the operation. The acrimony and distrust between the executive branch and Congress is well known, but the decision not to alert key lawmakers still took many by surprise. [It seems that] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was the only one notified before the swap. — FEINSTEIN SPEAKS OUT The Wall Street Journal, “Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Tuesday said the Obama administration flouted U.S. law when it negotiated Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s exchange, saying the last time lawmakers were consulted on the matter was a January 2012 letter from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” Her comments prompted an apology from the White House. WHAT’S CONGRESS GOING TO DO? Hold hearings. The SASC has planned a closed briefing for June 10.
DUCK AND COVER: THEN Four months ago, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said he would support the exchange of five hard-core Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. NOW “I would not have made this deal.” … the prisoner exchange is “troubling” and “poses a great threat” to service members. Hearings must be held, he said, and sharp questions asked. DEMONIZATION OF BERGDAHL some may say, in the absence of actual facts. Soldiers in his unit are telling reporters that he was a deserter who cost the lives of several soldiers searching for him. A review of casualty reports by Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of The Times showed there is no clear link between any military deaths and the search. And a classified military report shows that Sergeant Bergdahl had walked away from assigned areas at least twice before and had returned. It describes him as a free-spirited young man who asked many questions but gave no indication of being a deserter, let alone a traitor. SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS Thousands of soldiers desert during every war, including 50,000 American soldiers during World War II. As many as 4,000 a year were absent without leave for extended periods during the Iraq war. They leave for a variety of reasons, including psychological trauma, but whatever their mental state, it is the military’s duty to get them back if they are taken prisoner. That’s the case being made by the Obama administration.”
ATTENTION POLITICIANS. WE SEE YOU DELETING THOSE BERGDAHL TWEETS The Fix writes, “When Bowe Bergdahl’s transfer from the Taliban was announced, the initial reaction of many Americans was one of happiness and relief. Including … a number of elected officials, some of whom tweeted their pleasure. And then the politics shifted, quickly. So they deleted their tweets. THE “STREISAND EFFECT” REDUX Why Streisand? Because about a decade ago, Babs tried to keep photos of her house in Malibu from being published. Which, of course, simply inspired everyone to want to publish photos of her house in Malibu. This became known as the “Streisand effect.” As soon as we know you don’t want us to see something, man, do we want to see it. So it is with politicians’ tweets. EXPLAIN “POLITWOOPS” The Sunlight Foundation runs a nifty service called “Politwoops,” which throws elected officials’ tweets into a database and then posts them if they’re deleted. Often, the tweets are typos or misfires. Sometimes, they’re attempts to cover tracks. Earlier today, three different members of Congress — two Republicans and a Democrat — deleted their tweets of support for Bergdahl’s release.” NOTE to Rep. Jim Renacci (R), Senator Thad Cochran (R) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) and Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) – WE SEE THESE, GUYS!
SOME HARD QUESTIONS TO PONDER How long can the U.S. keep open its terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay – and what’s to become of those interned there? And just what has the U.S. gained from 13 years of war in Afghanistan?
VA REFORM Sens. Bernie Sanders and John McCain have struck a deal on Department of Veterans Affairs reform legislation that would make it easier to fire VA officials and expand veterans’ access to health care. The deal, announced on the Senate floor Thursday, would allow veterans to see private doctors if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The measure would also fund the construction of more than 25 new VA medical facilities in 18 states.
Wall Street Journal reports, “The White House is considering nominating the chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic to be the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Delos ‘Toby’ Cosgrove has led one of the nation’s most prestigious hospital systems and is a decorated Vietnam veteran.”
$4.5 BILLION TO RESEARCH HOW BRAINS FUNCTION NJ writes, “The funding recommendation for the NIH is part of President Obama’s Brain Initiative, and would gradually increase to $500 million per year in 2020, where it would remain until 2025. The president has already requested $100 million for the NIH in the 2015 fiscal year, according to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.”
THAD COCHRAN DID IT HIS OWN WAY. IT DIDN’T WORK The Mississippi Senate (Republican) primary between Sen. Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel on Tuesday night was one for the ages. RUN-OFF They will face off in a June 24 runoff after both candidates fell short of a majority. Last count McDaniel leads Cochran, 49.5% to 49%. Many observers believe McDaniel, powered by insurgent conservative groups, starts the runoff as the favorite. (WaPo) “After five long years of experimentation, veteran Senate Republicans now say there are a few clear paths for easily beating back a tea party challenge. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) took a separate route and now finds himself in a desperate three-week sprint against a GOP state senator, hoping that the Republican establishment will prop him up against an onslaught of money from Washington-based conservative groups. …Publicly and privately, Republicans are bemoaning the incumbent’s campaign operation, from the candidate’s own stumbles on the stump to his lack of preparation for the race. Cochran would be the first incumbent senator to fall in the 2014 primary season, and, despite conservative activists fielding an unprecedented number of challengers, no other GOP incumbent is imperiled.”
RUNOFFS UNKIND TO INCUMBENTS The Fix writes, “Sen. Cochran is headed to a runoff with state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). And … history suggests Cochran faces a tough path. Here’s a summary of “why” – 1. The primary is generally all about the incumbent, and if someone doesn’t vote for the incumbent in the primary, it’s unlikely they’ll be wooed in that direction in the runoff. 2. On top of that, turnout in runoffs is often much lower, which generally leads to a more ideologically polarized electorate. More motivated voters tend to be more conservative in GOP primaries, which again hurts Cochran.”
BOOTED OUT, DEAD OR RETIRED Only 11 people in Congress have served as long as (or longer than) Thad Cochran. … One senator was born the year that 76-year old Cochran won federal election for the first time (1972). Of those 11, five are leaving Capitol Hill this year, many citing frustrations with the whippersnappers who now outnumber them as the reason they’d rather not stay [among them, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Rep John Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep George Miller (D-CA), and Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)]
Eight states voted in primaries on Tuesday in a coast-to-coast vote-a-thon (The Fix) …
**Chris McDaniel** SEE ABOVE
** Joni Ernst** Became the GOP nominee for the Hawkeye State’s open seat outright, taking better than 56% in a five-way primary. Such a large margin gives Ernst — and national Republicans — momentum heading into the general election race against Rep. Bruce Braley (D).
**Club for Growth** The Club went all in for McDaniel — spending better than $2 million on the race. While the deed isn’t done (yet), the Club has to feel good about its chances of adding another Republican incumbent scalp to its wall in three weeks time.
** Mississippi Democrats** No, former Rep. Travis Childers (D) isn’t a 50-50 shot against McDaniel. (This is Mississippi in a midterm election, after all.) But Childers’ easy win in the Democratic primary coupled with three more weeks of nastiness (and money-spending) on the Republican side gives Democrats a very long shot of winning the seat.
**Mike Rounds** The former South Dakota governor cruised to a primary win on Tuesday night, setting up his likely coronation to the Senate this fall. Rounds took a major step toward joining the likes of Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, Angus King and John Hoeven as popular former governors who walked into open Senate seats.
**California Secretary of State** This Web site is still the gold standard for election returns and historic results.
**Thad Cochran** Dick Lugar anyone?
**Iowa 3rd district Republicans** Six Republicans ran for the right to be the party’s nominee in the competitive race to replace retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R). None of them came even close to getting the 35% needed to become the party’s nominee. So, the standard-bearer will be picked at a party convention — where all bets are off. Meanwhile, Democrats cleared the field for former state Sen. Staci Appel. Advantage, Democrats.
**California turnout** According to the secretary of state’s Web site, less than one in five (18.3%) of registered voters actually, you know, voted. In Los Angeles County, turnout was an even more dismal 13%. Ugh.
BILL WOULD ALLOW FAMILIES TO CONFISCATE GUNS The Hill writes, “California lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would allow family members to take guns away from people who “pose a threat.” Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (Ds-CA) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced the Pause for Safety Act in response to the May 23 mass shooting and stabbing spree in Isla Vista, Calif., by Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old former Santa Barbara City College student. Seven people died in the attack, including Rodger, who killed himself. S. 2445 would establish a federal grant program for states to set up a system where family members who are concerned about the mental stability of a person could petition the court for a gun-violence prevention warrant. The warrant could prevent someone from buying a gun and would allow the police to confiscate guns already owned by the person if the court deems the person as a threat.”
CURBS ON HIGH-SPEED TRADING The Hill writes, “The SEC is looking to establish a broad new set of rules to better monitor high-speed traders and other less-watched corners of the market. SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White unveiled the sweeping new initiative Thursday, which aims to bring the regulator up to speed with a high-tech stock market dominated by computer algorithms that trade in fractions of a second.”
CARBON CUTS Politico writes, “The Obama administration will require existing power plants to cut their greenhouse gas pollution 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, the EPA just announced. The move is meant to advance U.S. efforts to tackle climate change and address a major unmet priority of Barack Obama’s presidency. The administration also says it will reduce illnesses from asthma and heart attacks while lowering electric bills through increased energy efficiency. But the rule will also supply an instant campaign issue for Republicans, who are already pounding vulnerable Democratic candidates as accomplices in a job-destroying, Obama-led “war on coal.” Legal challenges from some states and industry groups are considered inevitable, although EPA has won a string of recent court victories that have boosted the agency’s confidence in its strategy.” NO SURPRISE “Natural gas would be a winner in coming years under the EPA’s plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants, a proposal that would push electricity production away from coal toward cleaner-burning gas and renewables. But that doesn’t mean the Beltway’s most powerful oil-and-gas-industry lobbying group is going to endorse the proposal, or even stay neutral. Instead, the American Petroleum Institute has come out guns blazing,” reports the National Journal. CAR RULES TRUMP CLIMATE PROPOSAL The EPA’s previous efforts to impose the first-ever carbon limits on passenger cars and light trucks will do more — by just a smidgen — to address climate change. By 2030, according to EPA estimates, the new power plant proposal will cut 550 million metric tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions. The fuel efficiency standards for the passenger car and light truck for the fleet years between 2012 and 2025 will cut 580 million metric tons by that same year. In the short term, the power plant rule would make steeper cuts since the car fleet turns over gradually. By 2020, the power plant rule would cut 370 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, while the car rules will save 180 million metric tons.”
WILLING TO PAY The Fix writes, “A lopsided and bipartisan majority of Americans support federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds most are willing to stomach a higher energy bill to pay for it. Fully 70% say the federal government should require limits to greenhouse gases from existing power plants, the focus of a new rule announced Monday by the EPA. An identical 70% supports requiring states to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions within their borders.”
The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee tentatively plans to mark up the Senate’s defense spending bill early next month, according to the chairman, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
COMEDY CENTRAL EDUCATION The Fix writes, “Don’t get campaign finance? Experts recommend watching more Comedy Central. News comes from a new study published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania titled, “Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson: How Colbert Super PAC Taught Viewers About Campaign Finance.” …When it comes to actual knowledge about super PACs and 501(c) 4s, however, watching “The Colbert Report” had a more significant effect than all other forms of news consumption. …Not only has this study found that Colbert helped the public understand tangly campaign finance laws; previous research has shown that watching “The Colbert Report” can be a “‘‘gateway’ to additional news use.”
THE SEARCH FOR AMERICA’S BEST BURRITO FiveThirtyEight has created a 64-restaurant bracket and hired a burrito correspondent to track down the best burrito in the country. For more info than you could possibly want on how this will be accomplished, click here.
TODAY MARKS THE 70th ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY Seventy years after more than 150,000 allies stormed the beaches at Normandy — and at least 4,400 lives were lost –President Obama honored the D-Day veterans who ‘gave so much for the survival of liberty at its maximum peril’ during World War II.” America’s claim to liberty ‘is written in the blood on these beaches,’ Obama told an audience of world leaders and decorated old soldiers. ‘It will endure for centuries.'” (USA Today) Check out these D-day landings scenes in 1944 and now by Peter Macdiarmid. As you move through time by tapping or clicking on a historic image to reveal the modern view. Photography then and now.
RONALD REAGAN died 10 years ago yesterday. His death came just shy of 20 years to the day after he delivered one of the most memorable speeches of his career to mark the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
LET’S NOT FORGET THE PACIFIC FRONT Wednesday marked the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway, when “a vastly outnumbered and outgunned U.S. Fleet defeated the finest of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the waters off a small Pacific Atoll named Midway.”