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The Washington Report – October 30, 2015
30 Oct 2015

The Washington Report – October 30, 2015


Congress is out for the remainder of its “French work-week.” The Senate is also gone after working, well, pretty much all night.

It’s Halloween Eve. We FALL BACK tomorrow night, on Halloween. Enjoy your extra hour!

Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Steve Moffitt, Alan MacLeod, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Ross Willkom)


WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING Politico: The Senate voted 64-35 early this morning to send the two-year budget agreement to President Barack Obama, paving the way to raise the Budget Control Act spending caps by $80 billion and to take the debt limit off the table until early 2017. The Senate approved the measure after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke for the hour he was allowed under Senate rules (No, it wasn’t a filibuster.) and attempted to raise a budget “point of order” to kill the deal. But the Senate blocked Paul’s procedural motion, passed the bill and adjourned at 3:14 a.m. BOUGHT FISCAL BREATHING ROOM after years of bitter budget battles. For Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the agreement achieves his two chief goals: It helps avert a government shutdown and a default on the nation’s debt. And Senate Democrats successfully extracted spending increases for domestic programs, collecting dividends from a risky strategy cooked up this summer to block all appropriations bills to try and force Republicans into budget negotiations. ‘DIAMOND-ENCRUSTED, GLOW-IN-THE-DARK AMEX CARDS‘ (I gotta get me one of those…) AP: “In an hour-long speech that delayed the final vote to around 3 a.m., Paul said Congress is ‘bad with money.’ He railed against increases in defense dollars supported by Republicans and domestic programs supported by Democrats. ‘These are the two parties getting together in an unholy alliance and spending us into oblivion,’ he said. Cruz said the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate had given Obama a ‘diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark Amex card’ for government spending.”


END OF ‘ERA BOEHNERPolitico: “After first grabbing a box of tissues (typical), ex-Speaker John Boehner delivered a tearful, emotional farewell to the House Thursday — then utterly lost it when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) told him: “John Boehner you are the American Dream.” The Ohio Republican from humble upbringings, who went from sweeping floors in his dad’s bar for $2 a day to one of the most powerful positions in Washington, said he leaves with “no regrets and no burdens… just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job.” FOR BOEHNERITES … MUST READ ‘JOHN BOEHNER’S HIDDEN LEGACY.” … the onetime plastics-salesman-turned-professional pol was misunderstood, underrated and woefully unappreciated. They admit that as speaker, Boehner was battered by all sides for years, lurching from one crisis to the next, and was basically forced to resign by conservative hard-liners who had grown weary of him and his backslapping ways. He was easy to caricature and mock: a chain-smoking, Merlot-drinking, perpetually tan golf addict and ‘country club Republican’ who was out of place in the modern GOP, an anachronism whose act had gone as stale as his 1990s-era jokes.”

THE END OF THE ‘BIG FOURWaPo: “For almost nine straight years, Boehner, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) have led their respective caucuses together — longer than any other quartet of party leaders in congressional history … About as different personally as any four people could be, Boehner and his three cohorts have learned each other’s rhythms and tactics, their bargaining ploys and their dead-serious moments of candor. They have overseen a historically unpopular Congress, yet if not for their own battle-tested negotiations, things might have been a lot worse.” VIVE LA DIFFERENCE “They couldn’t be much more different: Pelosi, 75, the extroverted Italian grandmother from San Francisco; McConnell, 73, the introverted only child raised in the South; Reid, 75, the soft-talking Mormon from a tiny mining town in Nevada; Boehner, the gregarious Midwesterner from a family of 12 kids with a penchant for Camel cigarettes and an extra glass of merlot. If they were a four-piece band, Pelosi would be the lead guitarist, providing the energy and drive; McConnell, the bass guitarist quietly holding the act together; Reid, the drummer pushing his silent rage to make things work better. Boehner, of course, would be the lead singer, full of so much passion that he always reached for the most virtuoso performance, even if it meant often burning up in spectacular failure.”


WELCOME PAUL Politico: “Paul Davis Ryan, the 45-year-old policy wonk from Wisconsin, is now speaker of the House. The 16-year veteran of Congress received the support of all but nine of his colleagues in an election to replace John Boehner on Thursday, ending a tumultuous monthlong period for the Republican Party and the House of Representatives. (Interesting … Ryan is the youngest speaker elected since 1869.)

THE OFFICE SOUGHT HIM Reuters: “Newly elected Speaker Ryan promised to sweep away Republican Party differences and repair a ‘broken’ House of Representatives by returning legislative power to committees and rank-and-file members. TECTONIC PLATES OF OUR SOCIETY — AND OUR POLITICS — ARE SHIFTING. CAN RYAN STOP OR REVERSE THOSE SHIFTS? Ryan went on to paint a vision of how he would lead the effort to fix what ails the chamber …”Real concrete results” would be produced, he promised. To which I say: Maybe … leaning toward probably not. There’s no question that Ryan commands more loyalty and respect among the GOP rank and file — particularly on the conference’s ideological right — than John Boehner did. Beyond that, circumstances have conspired to give Ryan the best possible chance of succeeding. Not only will he benefit from a honeymoon period of good will from his members, but he also won’t have to engage in the budget brinksmanship that defined Boehner’s tenure. That’s thanks to the budget deal Boehner negotiated with the Senate and the White House that, while hated by conservatives, takes the prospect of a government shutdown or a default via the debt limit off the table until 2017. But there are also deep structural problems — in the House rules, our political process and the changing ways we live together (and apart) — that will make it harder than you might think for Ryan to heal a broken House.” Among those problems:
1. The Earmark Ban … took away leadership’s ability to sweeten the pot for individual lawmakers trying to bring home goodies for their districts. … without a carrot to offer wavering members on a controversial piece of legislation, leadership has to rely almost exclusively on relationships and good will which doesn’t get you too far in the current incarnation of the House.
2. The rise of outside conservative groups … The rise of these organizations, who not only preached ideological purity but demonstrated an ability to raise lots and lots of money for that cause, meant that the party leadership could no longer choke off campaign funds to those who refused to fall in line. … actually the opposite, bucking the party leadership or refusing to play nice now delivers conservative members a considerable windfall, financially speaking.
3. Polarization in the country … There are lots of reasons for why people these days tend to line up more uniformly behind one party or the other — redistricting, self-sorting, rise of the partisan media — but the outcome is the same: We as a nation agree on less than ever before.
4. Polarization in Congress … Not surprisingly given the rising polarization in the country, the people we elect have become increasingly partisan, too. The “Big Sort” happening in the country has been reflected in Congress over these past five years; only 26 of the 247 House Republicans hold districts that President Obama won in 2012. The picture ABOVE, explains the sorting of the Congress from 1949 to the present. Dots represent each member of the House, sorted by party (Red is Republican, blue Dem, duh) with lines connecting those who vote together frequently.”

HOW JOHN BOEHNER GOT THINGS DONE The Fix: “John Boehner’s five chaotic years as House speaker will be remembered for a lot of things. Among them will be how many times, in the face of a revolt from his own party, he joined with mostly Democrats to pass important bills. (Yes, he routinely broke the often talked about unwritten rule (known as the Hastert Rule) that speakers will not bring a bill up for a vote unless it has the majority support of their party. It was certainly Boehner’s reality — enough to be part of his legacy.
Here are five notable times Boehner was forced to craft an alliance with Democrats over the objections of his party (Ds and Rs working together, hmmmm.)
2013: THE FISCAL CLIFF The House voted to avert the fiscal cliff, with well more than half of the support coming from Democrats. Just 85 Republicans joined 172 Democrats in supporting the deal.
2013: RESTARTING THE GOVERNMENT AFTER A SHUTDOWN In the final bill to reopen the government, Democrats carried the load.(Democrats: 198;Republicans: 87)
2014: RAISING THE DEBT CEILING The bill that ultimately extended the nation’s debt limit for another year passed with 193 Democrats and just 28 Republicans voting for it.
2015: FUNDING THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Republicans proposed cutting off DHS funds unless Obama’s executive actions on immigration were halted.Democrats in the House and Senate held firm. They wanted a bill that funded all of the Department of Homeland Security or nothing. Finally, that’s what they got (Democrats: 182,Republicans: 75).

2015: PASSING ONE FINAL BUDGET DEAL Boehner left his successor, Ryan, a parting gift — an election-year respite from all the budget and debt-ceiling battles he had spent the past two years averting. And so Boehner helped put together a two-year budget deal that will increase domestic and military spending by $80 billion and, most crucially, suspend the debt ceiling until March 2017.The deal passed the House on Wednesday over conservative objections, again thanks to a majority of Democrats and less than half of Republicans (Democrats: 184,Republicans: 91).

THE WEEK THAT WAS … MorningD: “It was arguably one of the most eventful and consequential weeks of the year for the defense world, which started with a surprise budget deal that will provide the Pentagon with two years of stable budgeting – not to mention a higher topline that is likely to prevent any major cutbacks for this fiscal year. The election of a new speaker could be another sign of more stability on Capitol Hill, a request made repeatedly by Pentagon leaders.”
WHAT THE BUDGET DEAL MEANS FOR DEFENSE Politico: “The Pentagon would get most – though not all – of the money it sought for fiscal 2016 in the budget deal. The deal increases the defense and non-defense BCA caps by $25 billion each in fiscal 2016 – to $548 billion for defense – and another $15 billion each in fiscal 2017. In addition, it adds $16 billion in war funding each fiscal year split evenly between defense and non-defense spending. …For the 2016 budget, that adds up to $33 billion of the $38 billion increase above the defense cap that the Obama administration sought in its $561 billion budget request, which is still a significant win for the defense industry and Pentagon if the agreement is signed into law.”

GOP DEBATE TAKEAWAYS “Boulder crushed Bush. … [H]e was tentative – and didn’t seem to exhibit the urgency of other candidates who had far less to lose. … Cruz makes hay out of media-bashing. … Teflon Ben.” –“The incredible shrinking Trump: The usually blustery billionaire offered a downright demure performance.” (Politico) BUSH WALKED INTO RUBIO’S TRAP Playbook: “Jeb’s blunder – scolding Rubio for his many missed votes in the Senate, an attack for which Rubio had prepared endlessly — was instantly obvious. An unaffiliated presidential veteran said: “Jeb … looked small — he clearly didn’t believe what he was saying. Marco was poised, confident. ”IF THE JEB CAMPAIGN DIES, THE DEBATE IS WHEN IT TURNED TERMINAL His disastrous effort to trap Marco Rubio … crystallized how out of his depth Bush has found himself. One of our colleagues said it looked like an aging fighter being jabbed by an up-and-comer.” TWEETS … @NickKristof: “Bush, seeing his presidential aspirations falter, makes a bid to be commissioner of a fantasy football league.” … @BuzzFeedBen: “You don’t typically win the nomination by process of elimination but Rubio does seem to be getting there.”

DOES ANYONE REALLY CARE? The Fix: “In the debate between the candidates versus the media, the candidates won by a mile. Or, at least, the candidates won versus CNBC. On Thursday morning, the rest of the media went to work picking apart the candidates’ flawed defenses. … Fact Checker blog debunked more than a dozen claims made by the candidates. Bloomberg pointed out that Rubio’s questioner, John Harwood, was not wrong in the question he posed to the Florida senator. Politifact debunked Carson’s claim that he had no involvement with the supplement company Mannatech — noting, among other things, that he’d appeared in a promotional video for the company. The Post was quick to point out that Trump’s denial of his critique of Zuckerberg was undermined by a quote on his own Web site. (This was also so egregious that CNBC was able to correct it later in the debate.) And Ben Carson’s tax proposals? No less an outfit that CNBC ran an analysis this morning calling Carson’s depiction of his plan “deeply flawed.” For the candidates, this situation is perfectly acceptable. BASHING MEDIA, GOOD PLAN Bash the media for its bias during a live debate watched by millions, only to be rebutted on Web sites — almost certainly with fewer people paying attention — the day after. The truth will out, as the saying has it, but — to paraphrase another turn of phrase from William Gibson — it is not evenly distributed.”

CAMPAIGNS REVOLT AGAINST RNC Politico: “[C]ampaigns are planning to gather in Washington … on Sunday evening to plot how to alter their party’s messy debate process — and how to remove power from the hands of the [RNC]. Not invited to the meeting: Anyone from the RNC … [M]any of the campaigns told Politico that the RNC … had failed to take their concerns into account. It was time … to begin discussing among themselves how the next debates should be structured and not leave it up to the RNC and television networks.”

THE END IS NEAR. OR NOT. A thoughtful read on the cost of using apocalyptic rhetoric …. and how it leads to a distorted politics.

Time Magazine CoverRED MEA, HOT DOGS AND THE WAR ON DELICIOUS “The modern American diet is a huge, sprawling … affair of generous portions served up on demand. Most primally, that has meant a diet heavy in red meat and processed meat. … Now this is being called into question by doctors, by public heath advocates and by the World Health Organization, … which has not just Americans’ well-being in mind but also that of the entire globe — including country after country to which America has eagerly exported its diet.” … a new report linking meat with cancer raises questions about America’s — and the world’s — eating habits.”

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