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washington report
30 May 2014

washington report

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This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.


Gridlock … Unanswered Questions vs. Unlistened to Answers … Food Fight … Get Ready for the Climate War … The New Three Amigos Speak … Would You Pay $1,000 Once to Get Free Beer (or Coffee) for Life? … Maya Angelou … and other news of this short week.


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

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BENDING TO THE WILL OF POLITICAL WASHINGTON As the Fix reports, … In “official speak” President Barack Obama accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki this morning. In reality he was fired. “This was a political boil that needed lancing and Obama …  a political pragmatist extraordinaire, did the deed. But he made it clear, he didn’t like doing it.”


ed7fc166d4be2c9d92e82fab_440x267GRIDLOCK IN CONGRESS? IT’S PROBABLY WORSE THAN YOU THINK The Fix writes,”It’s an oft-repeated but rarely backed-up claim: The current partisan gridlock in Washington is unprecedented.

Wonkblog highlighted a new study on the topic. “The rough parity between the parties fuels an intense competition for control of the White House and Congress. …The stakes are high, because the ideological differences are large, and because both parties have a realistic chance of gaining or maintaining control. This leads to strategic agenda-setting and voting, even on issues with little or no ideological content and a tribalism that is now such a prominent feature of American politics,” writes Brookings’ Thomas Mann.




NOT THE LAST WORD ON, WAIT, WAIT…BENGHAZI Maggie Haberman writing for Politico: “Hillary Clinton offers a detailed account of the deadly attack on the American embassy in Benghazi – and a pointed rebuttal to Republican critics who’ve laced into her over the incident – in a much-anticipated chapter of … ‘Hard Choices’ [out June 10] … The 34-page chapter is Clinton’s most complete account to date of the attack and its aftermath. Her tone is less defensive than defiant: Clinton takes responsibility for the ‘horror’ of the loss of life in Benghazi, but puts it in the context of ‘the heartbreaking human stakes of every decision we make’ – and she accuses adversaries of manipulating a tragedy for partisan gain. … The chapter appears intended, in part, to give Democrats a clear framework to respond to Republicans who have raised questions about Clinton’s role and what the Obama administration has said about the Sept. 2012 killing of four Americans.  UNANSWERED QUESTIONS vs. UNLISTENED TO ANSWERS One chapter is a mostly chronological retrospective of the attack interspersed with Clinton’s views. She points out that she ordered an investigation into what happened nine days after the attacks, and that she agreed with and implemented all 29 of the recommendations made by a review board. While saying that … she respects the ‘oversight role that Congress is meant to play,’ Clinton later adds, ‘Many of these same people are a broken record about unanswered questions. But there is a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened to answers.”


I’M A PATRIOT NBC News reports, “In his first American television interview (with NBC’s Brian Williams), Edward Snowden defended his disclosure of the American government’s use of surveillance programs to spy on its own people, and described himself as a patriot for trying to stop violations of the Constitution.  He described … his training as a spy in addition to his technical work as an NSA contractor and CIA employee. U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged to NBC News on Wednesday that Snowden in fact had been a CIA employee, and had passed the routine psychological testing for employees.”


OPPOSITION TO THE COMMON CORE NYTimes reports, “… has gathered momentum among state lawmakers in recent weeks.” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) “are considering signing bills to repeal the standards and replace them with locally written versions. In Missouri, lawmakers passed a bill that would require a committee of state educators to come up with new standards within the next two years.”


MORE MONEY FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS ON GUN BUYERS CNN reports, “The House on Thursday approved a bipartisan measure that would provide more money for background checks on gun buyers nearly a week after a mass murder in California left seven people dead, including the killer. The Republican-led chamber added $19.5 million to expand the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is a federal database that states access when processing gun sales. The amendment to a spending bill for the Justice Department and other agencies was sponsored by Republican Peter King of New York and California Democrat Mike Thompson. It was approved 260-145.”


FOOD FIGHT WITH THE WHITE HOUSE Politico reports that House Republicans are pushing to relax school nutrition standards backed by first lady Michelle Obama. SCHOOL CHILDREN CHEER The House Appropriations Committee voted, 31-18, Thursday to advance a fiscal 2015 agriculture spending bill with a controversial rider that would allow schools to OPT OUT of nutrition rules requiring more fruits and vegetables, less sodium and more whole grain-rich products if they are losing money from the healthier meals. The move sets up what promises to be a contentious conference between the House and Senate bills, although the measures have yet to clear either chamber.” (NOTE TO HOUSE:  READ THE FOLLOWING!) OBESITY The highest proportion of the world’s obese population–13%–lives in the United States. (The Lancet) JUNK FOOD MAY BE ‘ADDICTIVE’ TO KIDS Kids may be more prone to addiction than adults because their brains haven’t developed impulse control yet. One researcher says kids eating highly processed foods can show classic signs of addiction such as loss of control and withdrawal. (TIME)


GET READY FOR THE CLIMATE WAR National Journal writes, “The public-opinion battle over the president’s climate rule is about to intensify. EVERY NUMBER YOU NEED FOR THE UPCOMING POLITICAL FIGHT OVER CLIMATE CHANGE The Fix writes, “Early next week, the Obama administration is expected to unveil new rules limiting the amount of carbon dioxide that existing coal-burning power plants can emit. The move follows a 2007 Supreme Court decision allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change (like carbon dioxide) as pollutants. The proposal will unquestionably provoke a huge political fight. In preparation, here are a number of the relevant numbers worth keeping in mind.

  • 97% of peer-reviewed papers link global warming to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, as NASA points out.
  • 38% of America’s carbon dioxide emissions stemmed from the production of electricity in 2012, according to the EPA.
  • Over a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions are from coal burning, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration
  • Up to 25% of states’ carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and natural gas-burning plants will need to be reduced under the EPA proposal, according to early reports. It’s expected that states will comply by, among other things, implementing marketplaces allowing electricity providers to buy and sell allowances for the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. (Other options include switching from coal to cleaner-burning fuels and trying to reduce overall electricity consumption.)
  • 219 members of the House voted for a proposal to create a national marketplace for carbon in 2009, passing it by seven votes.
  • Zero senators voted for that bill in 2010, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t bring it up for a vote due to the expectation that it would be filibustered.
  • About 41% of states’ electricity production was from coal last March, although that varies by state.
  • The United States is second in global carbon dioxide emissions, behind China. Critics of regulating emissions note that we are only one contributor to global emissions – to prove that point…China: 2,259,583; US: 1,481,608 thousand metric tons of carbon.
  • Over 89,000 people work in the coal industry in the U.S. (2012).
  • Between 2011 and 2012, the number of coal industry jobs dropped 1.9%.
  • 100%.  The odds that the EPA rule will be challenged in court when finalized.
  • 100%.  The odds that the EPA rule will come up on the campaign trail this November.



CARBON REGULATIONS WILL SAVE CONSUMERS $37 BILLION PER YEAR The National Resources Defense Council said EPA’s forthcoming carbon-emission limits, which will be formally proposed Monday, will save consumers a total of $37.4 billion once they fully take effect because of public health and energy-efficiency benefits.

REGULATIONS COULD COST $50 BILLION PER YEAR In direct contrast, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s report. (The Hill)

WILL OBAMACARE EVER BE POPULAR? NJ writes, “Despite the surprising success of the first open enrollment period, the public isn’t warming up to Obamacare. Two new polls — the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly tracking poll and a survey yesterday from Gallup — showed the law staying where it’s been for months, with public opinion divided and tilting negative. And the Kaiser poll has a reminder of why the issue should scare Democrats: anti-Obamacare passions run much deeper than supporters’ enthusiasm. The survey found that Republican voters still want Congress to focus on repealing Obamacare — a sign that the issue still motivates the base, even as the debate in Washington has started to cool.”


EUROPE SAYS ‘MEH’ TO BIOFUELS “EU diplomats on Wednesday agreed to limit production of biofuels made from food crops in response to widespread criticism that they stoke inflation and do more environmental harm than good,” Reuters reports.


ALL EYES ON WEST POINT… Where the Class of 2014 graduated and President Obama gave the commencement address. OBAMA RESETS U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND MILITARY’S ROLE writes, Speaking at West Point, “President Obama set a new course Wednesday for American foreign policy with an associated strategy for the use of force endorsed by his top military commanders. FEW TAKE-AWAYS FROM SPEECH Politico writes, “WHY NOT TRY A SCREWDRIVER OR A WRENCH? Obama argued yesterday that when confronted with problems around the world, the U.S. needs to reach for tools other than military force to solve them. NEW MONEY FOR COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS Perhaps the biggest news from the president’s speech was the creation of a $5 billion counterterrorism fund within the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. There are at least four other funding lines within the federal budget that share similar goals with this new fund. The main difference: This new fund would be much bigger.”

A NUMBER FOR U.S. TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN Obama announced that 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan post-2014. That number will be halved by the end of 2015. Today, there are roughly 33,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan. WHAT’S THE MISSION? “Disrupting threats posed by al Qaeda, supporting Afghan security forces and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own.”

“We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it is not America’s responsibility to make it one,”

– President Obama

THE NEW THREE AMIGOS SPEAK Politico writes, “Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), called the withdrawal announcement foolish: “The President’s decision to set an arbitrary date for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy. … it is difficult to see how we can succeed in Afghanistan when the President tells our enemies that our troops will leave by a date certain whether they have achieved our goals or not.”


CRYSTAL BALL — MORE MANNED-UNMANNED TEAMING Politico writes, “As the military prepares to rely more heavily on drones, it’s increasingly pairing unmanned systems with manned ones … creating new opportunities for defense contractors and make using unmanned systems more palatable to those concerned about taking the military out of the driver’s seat, defense observers say.”

MAKING SPORTS SAFER The president announced new partnerships to advance research on sports injuries, including a collaboration between the NCAA and the Defense Department to commit $30 million for concussion education, and a study including up to 37,000 college athletes. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard are set to support the study as well. (National Journal)


b4a540518a2432e117153584_120x67NEXT ECONOMY … WOULD YOU PAY $1,000 ONCE TO GET FREE BEER (OR COFFEE) FOR LIFE? NJ writes, “For a few dozen people, free beer for life is their reward for investing in a small restaurant called Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub in a quiet southern corner of Minneapolis. And there’s no reason to think the model can’t spread. …Northbound has now been open for almost two years and is thriving. The investors didn’t drink them dry. The restaurant is giving away some 17 beers a day, and the cost is low, at just 40 cents a beer. FUTURE MODEL It has already been used in neighboring St. Paul by a struggling coffee shop looking for a fresh start. “Groundswell” has transformed from being in a small space and bleeding cash to now operating in three times the space and earning eight times the daily profit. And it all happened in one year, and all from the support of 75 people willing to give $1,000 on a gamble.”



“Tweet @SenatorReid to show your #RedskinsPride and tell him what the team means to you.” — A tweet from the Washington Redskins’ official account on Thursday

#REDSKINSPRIDE TWITTER CAMPAIGN VS. REID BACKFIRES Fox Sports  reports: “The Washington Redskins launched a Twitter onslaught at Sen. Harry Reid in their campaign to keep the team’s name (see above). … But fans did not say what the Redskins would have preferred, with many telling Reid they support his efforts to change the name. After many of the responses on twitter backfired on the Redskins, Reid’s digital director, Faiz Shakir, told the Washington Post that the failed Twitter campaign had ‘really made our day.’


HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRESIDENT KENNEDY The Fix writes, “John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th president, would have been 97 years old today. [This picture] captures Kennedy in 1947, at age 30 and in his first term representing the 11th district of Massachusetts.  In 10 years, he’d be a Senator.  In 13 years, he’d be elected president. In 16 years, he’d be dead. The photo comes from the archives of, never seen before images. Check them out7a3ee78dcf64c7408b05ec68_95x120


THIS IS FUN…What your last name says about your politics. Click here.


c86fdb4b92e8067e906321ba_120x76MAYA ANGELOU Iconic poet, author, playwright, professor, social humanitarian died this week. Her poetry and writing proved an honest and forceful examination of race and gender in the United States, which led to their popularity and hers in the political sphere. RIP

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