OBAMA’s TO-DO LIST … NDAA … WEAK-KNEED TENDENCIES OF CONGRESS … THE SPEAKER HAS NO HOUSE … ‘OPERATION WETBACK’ DELUSION … THE FINAL FRONTIER … and other news of the week.
Here’s a thought. Just 361 days till we get to pick a President.
And one more thing, we want to welcome Kayla Baca to our team in the Milwaukee office!
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Steve Moffitt, Alan MacLeod, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
OBAMA’S TO-DO LIST The Fix: “For President Obama, it’s legacy time. With less than a year before his successor is elected and he officially becomes a lame-duck president, time is running short. Obama has moved the ball forward on a number of legacy items already this year. Some have solidified; others remain in limbo. His 2010 health care reform law will already be mentioned at the top of the 44th president’s Wikipedia page. But the Obama White House is moving quickly on a number of issues.
1. Finally close Guantanamo
He’s planning a final standoff with Congress, by dropping a plan as soon as this week to close Guantanamo without Congress’s help. On Tuesday, Congress passed its annual defense spending bill that, per usual, restricts the president from transferring detainees to the United States. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is threatening to sue the president if he acts over Congress’s wishes.
2. Get the TPP through Congress
3. Ink an international climate change deal
Here’s one place Obama might not need to do battle with Congress. Whatever comes out of a major United Nations summit on climate change held in Paris at the end of this month will likely not have to ratified by the Senate.4. Find some sort of political agreement in Syria
5. Implement the Iran nuclear deal
6. Sign a criminal justice reform bill into law (A bipartisan bill to change federal sentencing mandates is moving quickly in the Senate and has the potential for bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, too.
7. Win a court case over his immigration actions
OH AND THAT Just like your dad, the President got on Facebook this week.
SENATE SENDS NDAA TO OBAMA … AGAIN: Politico: “The Senate on Tuesday sent a revised $607 billion defense policy bill (NDAA) back to President Barack Obama, who vetoed a previous version … “The House-passed bill, approved by the Senate 91-3, was revised to conform to the budget deal forged last month between Congress and the White House – allaying Obama’s concerns about the earlier version’s endorsement of a Republican budget plan that boosted defense spending without corresponding increases for domestic federal agencies. The new NDAA, however, maintains restrictions on transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the United States, among other limitations – provisions designed to block Obama from moving some detainees to federal prisons. BUT OBAMA IS SET TO SIGN ANYWAY: The president is set to sign (expected today) the just-passed NDAA despite provisions he has said will make it harder to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [White House Press Secretary suggested there still could be ways to move forward on closing the prison, despite the restrictions.” AND THEN THERE’S GITMO Washington is bracing for the release of a range of options from President Barack Obama on how he will finally move to shut down the infamous island prison, and Republicans that can battle him to a stalemate in Congress are already looking to the courts.”
THE BATTLE FOR 51: Huddle: “A budget reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood won’t become law under this president, but Republicans are treating the matter very seriously anyway. But today Republicans are just trying to get a dang majority in the Senate, and it’s not proving easy. The Hill …. Moderate Senate Republicans are voicing new opposition to a conservative-backed plan to defund Planned Parenthood — a move that could imperil the GOP’s long-cherished goal of sending an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk. Several GOP moderates were hoping the Senate parliamentarian would help them avoid a tough election-year vote on the Planned Parenthood provisions by forcing Republican leaders to remove the defunding language from a broader House-passed bill that also dismantles Obamacare. … “The latest ruling from the parliamentarian’s office, which has the ultimate say on what can be passed using fast-track budget rules, said the defunding language could stay — robbing the leadership and moderates of a procedural escape hatch. WHY IT’S HARD: The Hill: Repealing Medicaid would also be a big problem for senators from states that have benefitted. “‘I am very concerned about the 160,000 people who had Medicaid expansion in my state. I have difficulty with that being included,’ said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.” `
CUT, CUT, COWER AP: “House Speaker Paul Ryan promises a big, bold agenda and says lawmakers won’t shy from difficult choices. But several recent votes demonstrate Congress’ continuing penchant for small ball and timidity — and the tendency of lawmakers to reverse course at the first tingle of political pain.
A recent budget and debt deal and separate legislation to fund highway programs were laced with gimmicks masquerading as offsetting spending cuts. And, when some of the few real cuts stirred protests in farm communities and among the nation’s largest banks, lawmakers quickly served notice that they would back down. Continue reading at Capstone blog…
THE SPEAKER HAS NO HOUSE NYTs: “Of all his unusual traits for his new role — relative youth, a love of Clif Bars for lunch and an excessive interest in tax policy — the most notable may be Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s insistence on sleeping in his Capitol Hill office. THE COT CLUB Like scores of other members of Congress, most of them Republican, Mr. Ryan chooses to bed down on a cot in his office every night the House is in session. He chooses this over the speaker’s official palatial suite in the Capitol, which Mr. Ryan has pointed out stinks thanks to smoke from its prior inhabitant, John A. Boehner.”
“More than 540,000 people selected a health insurance plan through the federal ObamaCare marketplace in the first week of this year’s sign-up period, the Obama administration announced Thursday.” (The Hill)
“Companies’ healthcare costs increased this year by the lowest rate since at least 1996, according to a new study. … from cconsulting firm Aon … average healthcare costs for medium and large companies increased 3.2% this year, the lowest increase since the firm started tracking the costs in 1996. However, the study finds that even as overall costs grow more slowly, employees’ share of those costs continues to increase, in part because of the looming ObamaCare “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health plans. The tax is aimed at constraining healthcare costs, and one way for companies to avoid being hit with the 40% levy is to shift more costs onto employees. (The Hill)
Smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, continued to decline last year, federal health authorities reported Thursday, with the share of American adults who smoke dropping to 16.8 percent, down from 17.8 percent in 2013.” (NYTs)
“IT WAS LIKE THE TWILIGHT ZONE” – WHAT THE CIA KNEW BEFORE 9/11 … “The Attacks Will Be Spectacular” An exclusive look at how the Bush administration ignored this warning from the CIA three months before 9/11, along with others that were far more detailed than previously revealed.” Feature in Politico Magazine: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The CIA’s famous Presidential Daily Brief, presented to George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, has always been Exhibit A in the case that his administration shrugged off warnings of an Al Qaeda attack. But months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming. Full Read…Fascinating.
EYE-OPENING STAT ABOUT REPUBLICAN PARTY STRENGTH NYTs: “In January, Republicans will occupy 32 of the nation’s governorships, 10 more than they did in 2009. Democratic losses in state legislatures under Mr. Obama rank among the worst in the last 115 years, with 816 Democratic lawmakers losing their jobs and Republican control of legislatures doubling since the president took office – more seats lost than under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Republicans have more chambers today than they have ever had in the history of the party,’ said Tim Storey, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.”
GO AHEAD, TRY AND DEFINE “CONSERVATIVE’ WSJ: “Populism Rises in GOP Race: Debate shows how 2008 financial crisis has reshaped the Republican Party … Candidates bash big banks, the Fed, corporations and international trade deals.” … “Candidates voiced concerns about the power of big banks, even as they promised to sweep away new regulations, including the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.”
OY USA Today “VA BONUSES PAID AMID SCANDALS: “The Department of Veterans Affairs doled out … $142 million in bonuses to executives and employees for performance in 2014 even as scandals over veterans’ health care … racked the agency. Among the recipients were claims processors in a Philadelphia benefits office that investigators dubbed the worst in the country … They received $300 to $900 each. … VA spokesman James Hutton … underscored that no top senior executives in the Veterans Health Administration received bonuses.”
DEBATE TAKE-AWAYS Politico:
GOP rediscovers Reagan’s 11th Commandment. This was the (relatively) harmonious and (modestly) party-building debate Republicans wanted after three trips to the flea circus. 2. GOP rediscovers Reagan’s foreign policy. The most memorable — and substantive — clash in Milwaukee came at the halfway point when Paul, a libertarian non-interventionist, challenged Rubio, a GOP traditionalist who has backed a more muscular, Reagan-esque foreign policy. 3. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz cruise. The two candidates rising fastest prior to the debate continued their steady upward trajectory on Tuesday night.4. Jeb Bush was halfway decent — finally. The politically and financially embattled former Florida governor wasn’t great, but he finally showed a little life. 5. The Taming of the Trump.Trump … wasn’t dissing anyone’s hair, face, sweat glands or congenital idiocy.”
KASICH THRASHING “[C]onservative media [are] thrashing the Ohio governor for soft positions on immigration and bank bailouts. Kasich has made no bones about his strain of compassionate conservatism that can ring hollow to evangelical voters and those looking for a true political outsider. But as Tuesday night evolved into a contest of conservative bona fides, Kasich appeared even more out of step with the rest of the GOP field, and came off as edgy, interrupting his rivals throughout the two-hour event.”
BUSH IS 2016’s SAFE HARBOR Politico: “Kerry’s [2004 primary] victory was not predicated on getting a personality transplant. He stuck to his boring script, used his personal finances to keep the campaign afloat and waited for everyone else’s weaknesses to become apparent. Once the others flopped, voters flocked to him as a safe harbor. Written off a few months earlier, Kerry ended up running the table, winning virtually every primary and caucus. Bush is in the same position Kerry was in November of 2003: floundering with the public yet surrounded by untested candidates and stocked with institutional resources. These are the necessary ingredients for outlasting the competition.”
RUBIO = GOP “GOLDEN BOY” WashPo: “For Rubio, it is a return to the lofty status he had after he burst onto the national scene five years ago. Many Republican elites are once again celebrating him as the party’s golden boy, … and fear seeing him bruised too badly during the primary season.”
Sorry Marco, Philosophy majors actually make more than welders.
TRUMP”S “OPERATION WETBACK” DELUSION Daily Beast: “This isn’t the first time Trump has mentioned Operation Wetback without mentioning it. He did it on 60 Minutes back in September. At the time, the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice [explained] what Operation Wetback was and what bringing it back would mean. The long and short of it was that we quite simply rounded people up and sent them back at gunpoint. It was ugly business. HISTORY The Fix; “In 1954, Eisenhower’s attorney general, Herbert Brownell, expanded a Border Patrol effort to repatriate Mexicans who had entered the United States illegally, following a wave of border crossings. That effort, officially named Operation Wetback, was approvingly referenced by Donald Trump during the fourth Republican debate Tuesday (though not by name) as proof that millions of illegal immigrants can indeed be deported — despite general understanding at this point that the operation was inhumane. FULL STORY
CLINTON’S EARLY LEAD AP: “Clinton has locked up public support from half the Democratic Party insiders who get to cast ballots at the party’s national convention. … The [AP] contacted all 712 people known as superdelegates, and more than 80% responded. … Clinton got endorsements from 359, while Sanders was endorsed by eight. Two superdelegates supported O’Malley, and the rest were uncommitted.”
WHY YOU SHOULD FEAR THE FUTURE OF NEWS
In two words: Ad Revenue. SEE CHART.
Assuming you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, you know that print newspaper ad revenue is dropping as print circuation continues its death spiral. Which means less money to spend on journalism.”
FINAL FRONTIER “Tuesday Congress … [passed] H.R. 2262, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, with bipartisan support. The legislation provides a number of pro-business measures, such as establishing legal rights for citizens to own resources in outer space as well as extending indemnification for commercial launches through 2025.” (Ars Technica)