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Washington Report May 20, 2016

20 May 2016

Washington Report May 20, 2016

SPENDING BILLS …. ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL … VETERANS AND MIL CON … CHAOS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR … RELIEF AND ANGER ON PUERTO RICO … GOP MONEY SHIFTS TO HOUSE AND SENATE RACES … #NEVERTRUMP MOMENT IS SO OVER … ENOUGH IS ENOUGH … and other news of the week.

Our hearts and prayers are with the victims of the Egyptair crash. Worth remembering, the point of terrorism is never mainly to kill immediate victims, it’s always to provoke a panicky over-reaction (h/t James Fallows).

Best,
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Will Stone, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)

__________________________

59 days to Cleveland
66 days to Philly
172 days to Election Day

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IN A RARE DEPARTURE … Bloomberg News “The U.S. Senate passed its spending bill covering transportation, veterans and combating the Zika virus Thursday, continuing a rare period of productivity in the closely divided Congress. Included in the bill passed 89-8 is a provision allowing VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients.

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ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL … FIGHTING ZIKA ABC “The House has passed a $622 million Zika funding measure along party lines Wednesday night, ignoring President Obama’s veto threat and putting the lower chamber on a collision course with the Senate and White House over how to best fight the spread of the Zika virus. The measure — about a third of President Obama’s $1.9 billion Zika funding request — will have to be reconciled with the Senate’s own Zika package before heading to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The Senate’s bipartisan proposal, a $1.1 billion anti-Zika amendment to a military spending bill, is passed Thursday, setting the stage for difficult negotiations with House Republicans over how much money to devote to fighting the virus and whether to cut Ebola funding to help pay for it.. Obama has signaled that he would accept the Senate compromise.
It’s been three months since the administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency funding, but a deal has yet to be finalized — a delay that Tom Frieden (Director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said he finds astounding. Frieden opposes the $662 million House GOP bill, which would in part allocate remaining Ebola funding to fight the Zika virus.
“You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. That’s no way to fight an epidemic,” Frieden said.
AND THIS … CDC MONITORING NEARLY 300 PREGNANT WOMEN IN U.S. WashPost “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that it is monitoring 279 pregnant women with likely Zika virus infections across U.S. states and territories. The largest number of cases by far are in Puerto Rico, where officials are keeping tabs on 122 pregnant women. But officials said they also are tracking 157 other pregnant women across the country. CDC has concluded that there is little doubt the mosquito-borne virus can cause pregnancy complications and severe fetal abnormalities, as well as some neurological problems in adults.”
NYTs Editorial Board “… for sheer fecklessness it’s hard to top the House’s response this week to the Zika virus. (agree.)

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VETERANS AND MILITARY CONSTRUCTION NYTs “The House on Thursday approved an $81.6 billion spending measure for veterans affairs and military construction programs after hours of contentious floor debate that at times focused on cultural disputes, including efforts to restrict the flying of the Confederate flag and a bitter split over workplace protections for gays and lesbians employed by federal contractors…The bill, which was considered must-pass legislation, passed along with the amendment by a vote of 277 to 147.

PROVISION IN NDAA SPARKS MAJOR FEUD OVER LGBT AMENDMENT Politico “The House erupted in chaos Thursday morning with Democrats crying foul after Republicans hastily convinced a few of their own to switch their votes and narrowly block an amendment intended to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination. It was an unruly scene on the floor, with Democrats chanting ‘shame!’ after GOP leaders just barely muscled up the votes to reject, 212-213, an amendment by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would have effectively barred federal contractors from getting government work if they discriminate against the LGBT community.” The amendment was seeking to blunt a provision that Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) added to the House NDAA during committee markup. Democrats and a group of Republicans sought to remove it on the floor this week, but their effort was blocked by the House Rules Committee.”

dc9590d5217f31c23fec7a19_240x178 HOUSE BARS CONFEDERATE FLAG FROM VA CEMETERIES “The GOP-led House on Thursday morning voted to bar the Confederate battle flag from flying over some federal graveyards, with Speaker Paul Ryan and his top lieutenants joining Democrats to approve the measure despite most Republicans voting against it. Lawmakers voted 265-159 on a Democratic amendment offered by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) that would bar the Civil War symbol from being flown at cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was the first time the House has cast a ballot on the divisive issue.”
The Milcon/VA bill ultimately passed the House, 295-129. And the Senate easily passed its own package of bills Thursday, 89-8, including the chamber’s Milcon/VA spending bill.”

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LOOKING AHEAD MorningD “The Senate plans to take up its defense policy bill next week, keeping the steady stream of defense legislation moving on Capitol Hill. And if that wasn’t enough, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee also expects to mark up its defense spending bill. … it appears as though the House plans to take up the Energy and Water appropriations bill on the floor next week. The Senate’s defense spending bill will keep to the funding levels in last year’s budget agreement, unlike the House’s bill, which moves an additional $16 billion from the Overseas Contingency Operations war account to fund base programs. Asked how the two will be reconciled, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) predicted: “Painfully. Eventually.”

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McCAIN’S PLANS SASC Chairman John McCain said Thursday evening he’ll likely push for at least $17 billion in additional defense funding when the annual defense policy bill hits the Senate floor next week … he’ll offer an amendment to “increase defense spending above the current spending caps” as well as reverse cuts in modernization and readiness.”

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RELIEF AND ANGER IN PUERTO RICO WashPost “In a badly broken Washington, even small victories for normal governmental process count as cause for celebration. Consider Thursday’s agreement between House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Obama administration on a measure to help Puerto Rico out of its debt crisis. AP “After months of pleading from Puerto Rico’s government, the U.S. Congress has agreed to help the territory restructure its massive public debt. But it comes at a steep cost: a degree of lost sovereignty with the imposition of a fiscal control board as well as a potential lower minimum wage for young workers on the island. Those provisions in the bipartisan measure are aimed at staving off a chaotic wave of defaults on the island’s $70 billion public debt.

HuffPost: “House Republicans have unveiled revised legislation to help Puerto Rico tackle its $70 billion debt. The bill is the third attempt by lawmakers to aid the commonwealth, which is home to 3.5 million Americans. Its underlying text is primarily unchanged, but is now language the Treasury Department appears ready to support. RECAP Puerto Rico defaulted on a roughly $400 million debt payment on May 1, and if the House bill doesn’t reach the president’s desk before July 1, the commonwealth will default on a massive $2 billion payment. According to Paul Ryan, “pushing back against opponents who have characterized the bill as a ‘bailout,” [the bill] gives Puerto Rico a path to real reform while protecting taxpayers.”

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DEAL TO EXPAND REGULATION OF TOXIC CHEMICALS NYTs “House and Senate negotiators reached agreement … on far-reaching legislation to overhaul the nation’s 40-year-old law governing toxic chemicals, a compromise that would subject thousands of household chemicals to regulation for the first time. Public health advocates and environmentalists have complained for decades that the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is outdated and riddled with gaps that leave Americans exposed to harmful chemicals. Under current law, around 64,000 chemicals are not subject to environmental testing or regulation. Under the new bill, E.P.A. regulations would pre-empt most new state regulations, although states could still enact measures such as monitoring and labeling of chemicals. State chemical restrictions passed before April 22 would be allowed to stand. Environmental groups failed in their push to allow states to enact laws stronger than federal rules.Daniel Rosenberg of the Natural Resources Defense Council said Thursday that the new bill was still too weak, citing its pre-emption of states’ authority, its failure to provide the E.P.A. with enough authority to check imported products, and its restrictions on citizens’ abilities to petition the E.P.A.Anytime you have the Chamber of Commerce and you have the manufacturers and the Environmental Defense Fund all together on this thing, then that gets people’s attention,” said Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who helped negotiate the agreement.”

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SENATE HOLDS THE LINE ON SALARIES Roll Call “The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a legislative branch spending bill Thursday that did not address raising salaries for the chamber’s staff — unlike their counterparts in the House. The appropriations bill also includes a provision, which has been in place since 2009, that would prevent any pay increase for members of Congress.”

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CONGRESS CONTRIBUTING TO LONG AIRPORT LINES The trade group Airlines for America on Thursday said Congress should reverse a 2013 decision that diverted $12.6 billion in passenger-security fees to reducing the federal budget deficit. The airlines want that money to pay for airport security screening.”

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STUNNINGLY ILLOGICAL WashPost “In their push to repeal a measure giving D.C. the right to spend its own tax dollars, House Republicans repeatedly sounded the argument that the Constitution gives Congress “supreme authority” over the District. They are right about that power. But that doesn’t answer why a party that professes to champion local control and abhor government overreach would choose to undermine self-government in an American city that is home to 700,000 people.”

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OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT BILL The Hill “Two Republican lawmakers on Thursday introduced an alternative to ObamaCare as the House develops its own healthcare plan. The bill from Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) does not fully repeal ObamaCare, a notable departure from the GOP’s long-stated goal.”

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2016 GOP MONEY SHIFTS TO SENATE AND HOUSE RACES NYTs “Hundreds of millions of dollars that Republican groups had been poised to spend in the 2016 presidential election are now increasingly likely to move into Senate and House races, as many big donors look to distance themselves from the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump. These groups and their Democratic counterparts have already spent more than $25 million on advertising in Senate general election races alone, according to Kantar Media/CMAG, significantly outpacing both the 2014 and 2012 campaigns in outside spending. And more than $134 million in advertising for Senate races alone has been reserved by groups for the general election.”

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9c8261de4a781e1a510e8c17_560x372STOP THE POLLING INSANITY (Norman J. Ornstein,resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Alan I. Abramowitz,professor of political science at Emory.) OVER the past few weeks, cable news networks and other media sites have trumpeted wild fluctuations and surprising results in polling on the presumed general-election matchup between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. …NEWS MEDIA SEE EVERY POLL LIKE AN ADDICT SEES A NEW FIX The problem is that the polls that make the news are also the ones most likely to be wrong. And to folks like us, who know the polling game and can sort out real trends from normal perturbations, too many of this year’s polls, and their coverage, have been cringeworthy.” Full Article

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#NEVERTRUMP MOMENT IS OVER Politico “While a small group of Republicans has wrung its hands raw over the choice between the GOP’s nominee and Hillary Clinton, the party’s firmament – social and intellectual conservatives, the lobbyist and donor class, powerful operatives and outside groups – is increasingly getting in line behind Donald Trump. … “The thawing has slowly but surely begun … from mega-donors like Foster Friess rallying Republican governors to Trump, to Mitt Romney’s allies agreeing to raise money for him, to leaders of the Never Trump movement conceding their cause is lost.”

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HAZARDS OF REWIRING ELECTORAL MAP “Trump’s map: The downside,” Politico: “[P]olls out of Arizona and Georgia are heightening GOP anxiety about the prospect that the two states, long reliably red at the presidential level, could bolt to Hillary Clinton … It’s the downside of Donald Trump’s potential to rewire the electoral map. Just as [he] shows signs he could pick off some longstanding Democratic Rust Belt states, his hardline approach to immigration and controversial remarks about women and minorities run the risk of accelerating trends in Arizona and Georgia that could turn them blue.”

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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH The Fix “Hillary Clinton has been waiting (relatively) patiently for Bernie Sanders to recognize the mathematical and political realities of his current situation and either end his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination or heavily scale back the rhetoric he has been using against her.He has done neither. And in an interview Thursday with CNN, Clinton made clear that she’s had enough. The not-so-subtle message? Look, man, I’ve walked in your shoes. It sucks. But I did the right thing for the party. Time for you to do the same.

On the merits, Clinton is absolutely right. Her delegate lead over Sanders is both considerable and considerably larger than Obama’s was over Clinton eight years ago. And no matter how you count it, she has a 2.9 million raw-vote lead over Sanders.These numbers — in terms of delegates and popular vote — haven’t changed all that much in the past few months. (Sanders’s inability to beat Clinton in New York or Pennsylvania effectively ended any realistic chance he had to win.) What has changed is that the Republican race is now over, meaning that Donald Trump is now free to go after Clinton day in and day out while she remains at least somewhat distracted by Sanders’s ongoing challenge. Clinton reiterated that Sanders “has to do his part to unify. He said the other day that he’ll do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump. He said he’d work seven days a day week. I take him at his word.” Message sent. Now we wait to see how Sanders and his loyal supporters react.”

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CLIENT IN THE NEWS … SHOUTOUT TO THE GODFATHER OF VIRTUAL REALITY — SKIP RIZZO Excellent article about Skip, Director of medical virtual reality at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT). [Skip] is a trained psychologist and virtual reality pioneer [who] has been at the forefront of medical applications of the technology — using VR to treat everything from brain injuries to autism and post-traumatic stress disorder — for more than two decades. Read the entire article.

 

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REMEMBERING MORLEY SAFER “Safer, the CBS Newsman who changed war reporting forever when he showed GIs burning the huts of Vietnamese villagers and went on to become the iconic 60 MINUTES correspondent died [Thursday]. He was 84 … A huge presence on 60 MINUTES for 46 years – Safer enjoyed the longest run anyone ever had on primetime network television.

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