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Washington Report September 23, 2016
23 Sep 2016

Washington Report September 23, 2016

Still at the top of the list … avoiding a government shutdown. And other news of the week.

Happy Friday, we’re 46 days away from Election Day. And things are mostly quiet. Everyone is ramping up for the showdown at Long Island’s Hofstra Univeristy on Monday night — the first presidential debate. Just 3 DAYS. I’ve made my debate watching plans, have you?



GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN FIGHT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Politico ” If Congress doesn’t get its act together, the government shuts down next Friday night. The Senate is in the middle of a standoff, of sorts, over a bill to fund the government through December. AP’s Andy Taylor says Democrats are going to block the bill’s passage because it doesn’t include “$220 million to help Flint and other cities with lead emergencies replace pipes and take other steps to clean their water.”
WHAT WE THINK : You think this is bad? Come on! It’s not really in anyone’s interest to shut down the government less than two months before Election Day. Nobody is predicting that this is going to lead to a shutdown. They have a week — the government doesn’t shut down until next Friday — and Congress rarely does anything until it absolutely has to.


CONGRESS LEAVES FOR THE WEEK, STILL DIVIDED OVER THE CR MorningD “Both the House and Senate will be back next week, and there’s plenty of jockeying on both sides over the continuing spending resolution that was released Thursday. Mitch McConnell is playing hardball – forcing Democrats into a take-it-or-leave-it position on a must-pass government spending bill before funding runs dry at the end of the month. IN THE SENATE “With spending negotiations still stymied at the Capitol, McConnell filed a new short-term government spending measure Thursday that concedes key priorities to Democrats – yet still isn’t enough to get the minority party on board. … [it] funds the government until Dec. 9 – also includes language already worked out between Democrats and Republicans to deal with additional funding for the Zika virus epidemic. A procedural vote on the measure is slated for NEXT Tuesday, and McConnell used a parliamentary maneuver to block amendments to the bill, ensuring that the legislation he outlined was essentially the only option.”

ALSO IN THE CR: A FULL-YEAR VA-MILCON APPROPRIATIONS BILL: The CR contains a full-year Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bill, which includes $74.4 billion in discretionary funding for VA programs and $7.7 for Pentagon infrastructure projects. As a result, a potential December omnibus package would only be 11 bills, instead of 12 – and will come with a lower price tag.
WHICH COMES FIRST, THE NDAA OR A SPENDING DEAL? The CR is setting the stage for a lame-duck fight over discretionary spending, which wraps around the pending National Defense Authorization Act. But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) believes Congress will repeat last year’s scenario – reaching a spending deal first and then finishing the NDAA. “Once appropriators make a decision … and we get a [topline funding] number, it’ll get a lot easier to get it done.”


f23739bfde8537a750d8aba9_560x396 CONGRESS IS ABOUT TO GIVE OLYMPIANS A TAX BREAK The Fix “Should Olympians and Paralympians have to pay taxes on their medals and prize money? For decades, the answer to that question — at least in the federal tax code — has been yes. This year, the program hit two milestones: U.S. athletes won their 1,000th Olympic gold medal in the summer games — more than double any other country in modern times. And Congress is poised to cut those winners a tax break. On Thursday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted for a bill to give Olympians who make $1 million or less a year a tax break, and its chances in the Senate look promising, given senators unanimously approved a similar bill earlier this year. WHO KNEW? The U.S. Olympic Committee awards gold medalists $25,000, silver medalists $15,000 and bronze medalists $10,000. Many U.S. sports organizations give their winners cash on top of that. And the medals themselves — made of silver or copper — are valued anywhere from $564 to $300, reports CNN Money. (The bronze is worth about $5, so that’s not taxed.) The IRS treats all of those winnings the same way … as income. And how much income you make determines how much you’ll pay in taxes, so more income from a stellar Olympic performance ostensibly means more taxes. RARITY IN DC Giving Olympians a tax break is one thing it seems most of Washington can agree on.


HAS CONGRESS CHECKMATED PRESIDENT OBAMA? The Fix “This week, President Obama is expected to veto a bill that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged ties to terrorism. The president and some foreign policy experts think the bill will open a can of geopolitical worms; a majority of Congress disagrees, and it looks as if there are enough supporters of the bill in Congress to override an expected veto — which would be a first in Obama’s presidency.”

“The optics are really difficult. But the other piece of it is: There are a lot of non-American victims of terror outside of 9/11. There are more victims of collateral damage from U.S. military action in the last 10 years than there are U.S. victims of terror. We have been using drone warfare for more than a decade. There have certainly been civilian casualties [we could be sued for].”
– Jon Alterman, Middle East expert with the Center for Strategy and International Studies (a critic of the bill)


IN WISCONSIN: SENATE REMATCH RollCall “Former WI Sen. Russ Feingold leads incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson 47%-41% among likely voters in the Badger State, according to the latest Marquette Law School Poll. In late August, the same survey gave Feingold a more modest 3-point edge.Former Wisconsin Sen. Ross Feingold leads incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson 47 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in the Badger State, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll.


ABOUT THAT DEBATE Lester Holt takes the spotlight as moderator Politico “On Monday, the NBC Nightly News anchor will preside over what may be the most highly anticipated presidential debate in American history … It is an immense responsibility, and opportunity, for a man who once seemed destined to spend his career as NBC’s quiet journeyman, working in the shadow of Brian Williams with no guarantee of his own time in the spotlight. But it is a responsibility Holt deserves and is extremely well-equipped to handle, several of his current and former colleagues said. To hear them tell it, Holt is one of the most focused, hardworking and modest personalities in television news — the ideal candidate to moderate a presidential debate.”

TO FACT CHECK OR NOT TO FACT CHECK. THAT IS THE MODERATORS’ QUESTION.The Fix: “The job of a debate moderator is tough — partly because not everyone agrees on what that job entails. When a candidate says something that is misleading, or flat-out wrong, should the moderator jump in with context and a correction? Or is the role of a moderator simply to ask questions, break up squabbles and keep the time?
These questions are hardly new, but they are perhaps more pressing than ever in the 2016 presidential election. Journalists fumed two weeks ago when NBC anchor Matt Lauer declined to challenge Donald Trump’s false assertion, during a candidates forum, that he publicly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet many in the media — especially conservatives — also criticized Candy Crowley, then at CNN, for attempting to fact-check Mitt Romney when she moderated a debate in the last election.
Add to that recent history Trump’s irrepressible habit of ignoring the truth, and it seems all but certain that this year’s moderators will be forced to decide, at some point, whether to interject or step aside, invariably opening themselves up to second guessing. One of the moderators, Chris Wallace, did some memorable fact-checking during a Republican primary debate, using pre-made, full-screen graphics to smack down Trump on points where Wallace anticipated distortions. But he has said voters should not expect a repeat performance in the general election. “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad,” Wallace said on Fox News earlier this month. “It’s up to the other person to catch them.” Bob Schieffer wrote in The Washington Post that “the chief fact-checkers are the candidates.” But he added that “if neither candidate catches the inaccuracy, then the moderator must step in, set the record straight and, if necessary, ask a question about it.” Full interview with Alan Schroeder, author of “Presidential Debates: Risky Business on the Campaign Trail.”


5fa0e047abe5fceaf50c78b5_1196x902WE ARE LIVING IN HISTORICALLY PESSIMISTIC TIMES. THAT HELPS TRUMP. The Fix ” In the … almost 20 years that I have been covering politics and political campaigns, I’ve never, ever seen a candidate anything like Donald Trump. Say what you will about the messenger … it is impossible to deny the power of the message that Trump embodies for a big chunk of the population in this race. THIS CHART — from Democratic pollster Peter Hart’s breakdown of the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll — seems to carry some major clues about Trump’s appeal. It documents how people have responded to a question of whether they think the country is headed in the right direction or is on the wrong track.

It has been more than 12 years since more people said the country is headed in the right direction … The reasons for this are many. The (still) slow economic recovery from the problems of the early 2000s. A growing sense — fueled by the Wall Street collapse — that the gap between rich and poor is growing wider and wider. An ongoing anxiety about what the United States’ role in the world is — and what it should be. The perceived erosion of the American Dream. And a thousand other things. But the broader point is that people don’t feel terribly optimistic about where we are headed. And they haven’t for a very long time.
It’s not hard to grasp then how a candidate insisting that the country is crap and will remain crap unless major changes — most notably electing him president — are made and made soon, is doing so well.
Trump was initially dismissed as a showman whose dark vision for the country would never sell to a Republican electorate raised on the sunny vision for the country of Ronald Reagan. But as the chart above shows, we haven’t regarded ourselves as that shining city on a hill — or had much hope we would become it — for a very long time now. The average “right track” number has averaged 28% over the past six years. That’s stunning.
In an environment of pessimism like this one, a man willing to acknowledge how bad everything is and promising to fix it all with a snap of his fingers has lots and lots of appeal to voters. Especially when that person is running against someone largely promising to maintain the status quo.”

500 MILLION (THAT’S ‘MILLION”) YAHOO ACCOUNTS HACKED … in 2014 WSJ “Yahoo Inc. … said Thursday that hackers penetrated its network in late 2014 and stole personal data on more than 500 million users. The stolen data included names, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and encrypted passwords, Yahoo said. Yahoo said it believes that the hackers are no longer in its corporate network. The company said it didn’t believe that unprotected passwords, payment-card data or bank-account information had been affected.”



ON SNAPCHAT Mashable: “The mobile storytelling app is running a public service campaign in partnership with nonprofit Democracy Works’ TurboVote that encourages voter registration and allows users to check their eligibility and register all within Snapchat. Any Snapchat user in the U.S. who is 18 and older and therefore eligible to vote can see the video ads between Snapchat Stories and Discover that direct to a voter registration mobile webpage within the app that’s powered by TurboVote. The campaign began on Sept. 15 and lasts until Oct. 7.” PER SNAPCHAT – On any given day, Snapchat reaches more than 40% of all 18-34 year olds in the US, making it a particularly important platform for both candidates.” … ON FACEBOOK … FB is using its News Feed to steer people on its platform to register for the November election. Today, the tech company launched posts which run through Monday to remind people across the country to register through After completing their registration, people can let their friends on Facebook know that they are registered and encourage them to register too. Facebook’s registration reminders add to its suite of voter features, which has included Election Day reminders since 2008. The reminders will go out to those on the social network who are 18 and up, which with its broad popularity could mean significant spikes in registration nationwide.”

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