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The Washington Report – November 6, 2015

06 Nov 2015

The Washington Report – November 6, 2015

THE JOBS PRESIDENT … TRANSPORTATION WIN … NDAA NEAR FINISH LINE … MAPPING THE HEALTHCARE UNINSURED … CAN JEB FIX IT? … CHRISTIES UNLIKELY MOMENT … RUBIO’S IMMIGRATION TEST … LIBERAL ISSUES CRUSHED ON TUESDAY … and other news of the week.
Today in Congress: Nada.
Have a great weekend.
Best,
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Steve Moffitt, Alan MacLeod, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Ross Willkom)

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KEYSTONE PIPELINE REJECTED NYTs “President Obama on Friday announced that he has rejected the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a seven-year review. … The once-obscure Keystone project became a political symbol amid broader clashes over energy, climate change and the economy.”

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5af6b835d2a8421151f7fa6c_220x164OBAMA: THE JOBS PRESIDENT REPUBLICANS WERE LOOKING FOR? The Fix: ” … we are very well aware that the assertion we make above is controversial. But it’s not without merit. Republicans regularly argue that the goal of a president should be to reduce the size of government and to oversee growth in the private sector. The last Republican president, George W. Bush, was not successful in that regard. Between the January he took office and the January he left it, private sector employment declined by 463,000 and government employment increased by 1.7 million. AND THEN President Obama, by contrast, [who] has seen a net change in private sector jobs of 9.3 million, as of the new jobs report out this morning — and that’s even after the dip due to the recession. Government jobs, meanwhile, are down 591,000. There are lots of other ways to read this data and lots of extenuating circumstances. And, of course, Barack Obama’s term isn’t yet over. By this time in Bush’s second term, private sector employment was still increasing and was at nearly 4 million more than when he took office. But it’s hard to argue that most Republicans would rather see a president’s jobs graph look like Obama’s rather than Bush’s.”

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RYAN NOTCHES A TRANSPORTATION WIN Politico: “Speaker Paul Ryan just pulled off what no House leader has been able to do in a decade —corralling an unruly chamber into passing a massive, multiyear highway and transit bill. The measure would also revive the Export-Import Bank, a trade-promoting agency that expired last summer amid attacks from conservative lawmakers. The bill is an important first victory for Ryan, giving him something tangible to underpin his promises of a more open and collaborative legislative process. Shortly after Thursday’s vote, Ryan played up his new, open era by pointing to the more than 100 amendment votes on the House floor allowed on this bill alone.” THE BILL But for all the leadership pomp, the bill itself does little more than punt on a viable solution for a long-worn problem — how to get federal transportation programs on a sustainable path to solvency. Still, the bill provides a much needed lifeline to the construction industry, which for years has operated under stop and go federal funding while highways and bridges fell further into disrepair. …it authorizes nearly $340 billion for highway and transit program over six years. The original bill would have paid for just three years of funding, but an amendment adopted at the last minute Thursday could add an additional $40 billion, shoring up funding for the life of the bill. The lower chamber’s bill must still be reconciled with a similar Senate bill that also allows for six years of highway and transit policy, albeit at slightly higher funding levels.”

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WHY CAN’T WE STUDY GUN VIOLENCE ? The conclusion, at least to U.S. Rep. David Price, D-Durham, is: Of course the federal government should fund research into gun violence, just like it funds research into infectious diseases and mental health and the genetics of grapes and myriad other things, big and small, to use as an empirical basis for policy making.” A BILL The Hill: “A new House bill unveiled this week would lift a ban on allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes of gun violence. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the bill’s author, said that allowing a public health agency to study the causes of gun deaths would offer a “data-driven approach” to preventing violence. The CDC’s self-imposed prohibition has been in place since 1996. WHY? In the 1990s, the NRA accused the CDC of trying to use scientific studies to promote gun control, such as one that found having a gun in the home increased the odds for injury. Congress later threatened to cut the CDC’s budget by the same amount the CDC was spending on gun violence research. Lawmakers also enacted legislative language prohibiting the use of funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The CDC has since then shied away from pursuing the topic.”

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PELOSI’S POWER PLAY Huddle: “A week ago Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi marshaled the votes to pass a sweeping budget deal that was overwhelmingly opposed by the party actually running the House. Fresh off that win, she hopscotched across the country to rake in $1.5 million for her party at a series of fundraisers. It’s been that kind of year for Pelosi — an improbable stretch of prominence that’s been perhaps the most surprising twist of her three-decade congressional career… the rise of the House Freedom Caucus, combined with her skill at managing her caucus, has given Pelosi and the 188 House Democrats far more clout than their numbers would dictate. She’s used it to push through legislation that would count as successes if Pelosi were still speaker and to quiet talk of her retirement.”

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WAYS AND MEANS Wall Street Journal “Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas), who won a race this week to become the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has his sights set on lowering the nation’s corporate tax rate. He’s not waiting until 2017 for everything, seeing an opening for international tax changes next year. Mr. Brady, 60 years old, takes over from former Chairman Paul Ryan, the new House speaker, as one of the Republican Party’s top voices on tax, trade and health policy.”

NEXT FOR KEVIN MCCARTHY? Politico: “For the first time in his political career, Kevin McCarthy has tasted defeat. And for the first time, the House majority leader, who rocketed to No. 2 in leadership faster than many members land a committee chairmanship, is going to have to be content to stay where he is, possibly for years. When McCarthy ditched his bid for speaker last month — in the face of fierce opposition from the right, a major gaffe about his party’s probe of the Benghazi attacks, and rumors about his personal life — some of his Republican colleagues wondered whether the majority leader would or even could stay in Congress. But long before his aborted bid for the speakership, the affable California Republican built up a deep reservoir of good will within the GOP Conference. And he appears to still have the confidence of leadership — starting with new Speaker Paul Ryan — and rank-and-file members to remain majority leader.”

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REPUBLICANS TARGET THE FILIBUSTER Politico: “Frustrated with Democrats blocking their agenda, a cadre of upstart Republicans are pushing to revamp the Senate’s rule book to make it harder for the opposition to keep key legislation from coming to the floor. But the move pits the maverick conservatives against the party’s “old bulls” — such as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain — who argue the changes would erode key rights of the minority and undermine how the Senate was designed to work. Many of the upstarts have never been in the minority, but veteran Republicans are wary of taking bold action now that could haunt them if they ever lose control of the chamber.”

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NDAA NEARS THE FINISH LINE Politico:”The House on Thursday passed a revised version of the National Defense Authorization Act, 370-58. The bill was approved using a fast-track procedure that precluded amendments but required a two-thirds majority. A previous version of the bill was vetoed by President Barack Obama. Since then, Congress and the White House forged a two-year budget deal. That deal resolved Obama’s main objection to the annual defense policy bill, namely that increases in defense spending should come in tandem with new domestic investments. The Senate is expected to clear the bill next week, and the president is likely to sign it into law – despite his lingering concerns about restrictions he says will make it more difficult to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”

SENATE DEMOCRATS BLOCK DEFENSE SPENDING BILL Senate Dems on Thursday, for the third time, united to block consideration of the defense spending bill for this fiscal year. The Senate voted 51-44 on a motion to cut off debate on the measure. Sixty votes were needed to proceed. The past two Democratic filibusters of the bill were because of a dispute over government spending levels. Now, Democrats are blocking the defense spending bill because it can be used as leverage to ensure Republicans take up other appropriations measures. BUT, BUT, BUT … the military construction and Veterans Affairs bill is proceeding.”

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MAPPING THE UNINSURED NYTs: “Two years into Obamacare, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t. The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor. They tend to live in Republican-leaning states. The rates of people without insurance in the Northeast and the upper Midwest have fallen into the single digits since the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions kicked in. But in many parts of the country, obtaining health insurance is still a problem for many Americans. … States that were late to expand Medicaid, including Pennsylvania and Indiana, showed substantial reductions in their uninsured residents compared with last year. In other places, the changes have been more modest. In a few — like Mississippi — things appear to have gotten worse, with fewer people having health insurance this year than last. Excellent interactive maps to get the full picture.

“The uninsured rate has fallen to a new low of 9%, marking 16.3 million more people with health insurance since ObamaCare’s coverage expansion took effect in 2013, according to data released Thursday. The survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that the uninsured rate was 9% percent in the first six months of the year, corresponding to 28.5 million people, ticking down from 9.2% in the first three months of the year. The 9% figure is down from 11.5% uninsured in 2014 and 14.4% in 2013.” (The Hill)

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ON THE TRAIL 2016

CAN JEB FIX IT? Tampa Bay Times: “Journalists are writing Jeb Bush’s political obituary, asking him about dropping out of the race soon. Every day seems to bring ever-grimmer polls … Yet Bush appears strikingly upbeat on a three-day bus tour. … “The former Florida governor has never been adroit at masking his real feelings, and he hardly looks joyful in the role of sputtering longshot candidate, but neither does he look defeated or glum.” JEB BUSH’S COMEBACK TOUR WashPost: … sounds like a therapy session,” … In N.H., an introspective Bush tries to breathe life into his candidacy.”

51a223b7f5f48ea9d67f3614_236x171CHRIS CHRISTIE’S UNLIKELY MOMENT The Fix: “As part of its “’16 and President” video series, Huffington Post filmed Chris Christie speaking about addiction during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. An outtake, which features the entirety of Christie’s six-plus- minute riff on the subject, has become a VIRAL SENSATION this week. As of Thursday afternoon, it has been viewed nearly six million times since it was originally posted a week ago. It has been shared on Facebook more than 78,000 times. It’s also drawn wall-to-wall coverage on cable TV and been featured in packages on the broadcast networks as well. In short, if elections are about moments, Christie is having one. You can understand why. … In re-telling his mother’s long fight with addiction to cigarettes … it also showcases his natural gifts as a communicator — a guy who talks like and connects with regular people. IT’S POSSIBLE — possible, not probable — that this HuffPo video could mark the moment when Christie started to make his comeback.” (Really powerful to watch if you have a few minutes.)
RELEGATED TO THE KIDDIE TABLE DEBATE WaPo: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will not be present on the main stage during next Tuesday night’s Fox Business/Wall Street Journal debate. The event will feature eight candidates, the fewest Republican contenders to appear on one debate platform so far. Neither Christe nor Huckabee cleared the threshold of having scored at least 2.5% in an average of the four most recent national polls conducted through Nov. 4.”

RUBIO’S FAST APPROACHING IMMIGRATION TEST Hotline: “The perception that Marco Rubio is rising to the top of the Republican presidential primary (even if polls don’t yet agree) means that the future of the GOP might once again hinge on immigration reform—in this case, because of the Florida’s senator’s prior support for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That’s appropriate, because no other issue in the recent past has been more contentious within the Republican Party, and it might decide who wins the presidential primary right now. — Time and time again in this fight, immigration hawks in the conservative base have come out on top. Mitt Romney used it to squash Rick Perry’s campaign in 2011, and Donald Trump’s much-ballyhooed proposed wall on the Mexican border helped fuel his rise this year. Congressional Republicans stopped legislative action the issue twice, during the second terms of both President Obama and former President George W. Bush. — In those cases, proponents of so-called comprehensive immigration reform were blunt in their support, which made them easy targets for the conservative grassroots who despise it. Perhaps heeding that lesson, Rubio has been evasive, saying that any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants would now have to become law after he’s served even a full eight years in the White House. The maneuver is smart politics, but it won’t save him from the already sharpening accusations that he’s soft on “amnesty.” What Rubio’s candidacy becomes, then, is the latest chance for the GOP establishment—which generally backs reform—to prove that it can finally beat the party’s activist wing on the issue. Pushing to victory a candidate who has disavowed support for a pathway to citizenship might seem like a modest achievement for the pro-reform wing of the party, but the stakes for future legislation couldn’t be higher. No major GOP leader will soon back immigration reform if Rubio’s campaign unravels because of it.”

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FROM BAD TO WORSE Hotline: “Democrats as a whole fared poorly on Tuesday, losing gubernatorial contests and ballot measures alike. But the Smart Politics blog at the University of Minnesota calculates that KY GOV nominee Jack Conway (D) and MS GOV nominee Robert Gray (D) peformed historically badly, both getting fewer votes than fellow Democratic gubernatorial nominees in their respective states in every cycle going back over 150 years.”

LIBERAL ISSUES GOT CRUSHED National Journal ” At the polls … so-called ‘liberal’ issues appeared to have been crushed in some of the most watched elections across the country.
IN TEXAS the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that guaranteed equal rights to gay, lesbian and transgender people — as well as banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and 10 other classes already protected by federal law — was struck down.
IN OHIO marijuana legalization amendment was rejected by about 65% of voters (the amendment was considered ‘deeply flawed’ by pro-marijuana activisits).
IN PORTLAND MAINE a proposal for a $15/hour minimum wage was rejected.
IN SAN FRANCISCO voters struck down a proposal that would have trimmed the number of days a home owner or renter could rent property through Airbnb.
IN KENTUCKY’S closely watched governors race, Matt Bevin became just the 2nd Republican to govern the state in four decades. Bevin ran on a platform to repeal Medicaid expansion that would leave hundreds of thousands uninsured and on his support for a county clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples.”

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BUSH 41 SWINGS AT SON’S AIDES, RATTLES CLAN NYTs Former President George Bush’s unusually sharp indictment of his son’s presidential advisers touched off a round of recriminations on Thursday that exposed rifts within America’s leading political dynasty and complicated its efforts to recapture the White House. Mr. Bush’s assertion in a new biography that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld undercut George W. Bush’s presidency rattled the extended Bush political world, and forced the second Bush son now seeking the presidency, Jeb, to straddle an awkward line between family and politics.The comments, included in Jon Meacham’s “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” to be published by Random House next week, drew a biting retort from Mr. Rumsfeld.

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FUTURE OF NEWS “Facebook is preparing its latest push into news with a new stand alone app called Notify that is scheduled to launch next week … It will feature content from … companies including Vogue, Mashable, CNN and the Washington Post. CBS, Comedy Central and Billboard magazine are also involved.” TA-DA … JON STEWART RETURNS The Fix: “The former “Daily Show” host is poised to resume his quadrennial campaign to be satirizer-in-chief, now that he’s inked a deal with HBO. … Stewart’s role at HBO will be different from his post at Comedy Central. … he’ll produce short online videos in which “[he] will view current events through his unique prism,” according to HBO. FOR WEEKEND WATCHING Donald J. Trump hosts “Saturday Night Live”… 007 IS BACK For weekend planning purposes: “Spectre,” the 24th “official” James Bond film and the fourth for Daniel Craig in the starring role, opens today.

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