Archive for December, 2012

This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • President Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that there will be no deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” that does not include a hike in tax rates on the top 2 percent of earners. Read more
    Look Ahead: Obama’s climbing approval rating, combined with polls that show his solutions to the fiscal cliff are more popular than those offered by Republicans, is an indicator the president is bargaining from a position of strength.
  • House Speaker John Boehner accused President Obama of stalling fiscal-cliff negotiations, trying to run out the clock to force the GOP to making concessions. “We can’t sit here and negotiate with ourselves,” he said. Read more
    Look Ahead: Despite Boehner’s tough language, Republicans are seeking public relations help from lobbyists, an acknowledgement they’ve been outmaneuvered on fiscal cliff messaging by the president.
  • Obama warned Republicans that he wouldn’t let the limit on the national debt be dragged into current negotiations over the fiscal cliff, and The Treasury Department is proposing that authority to raise the debt ceiling be handed to the president. Read more
    Look Ahead: Treasury estimates that the current debt ceiling will be reached by the end of the year but is planning to use “extraordinary measures” to delay default until early 2013, pushing the issue back past the presumed resolution of fiscal cliff negotiations.
  • The Syrian military has loaded sarin nerve gas into aerial bombs that, if given the order by President Bashar al-Assad, could be dropped on civilians, NBC News reports. Read more
    Look Ahead: Evidence continues to build that the Syrian civil war is reaching a tipping point, and some U.S. officials worry that Assad will grow desperate. If Assad uses chemical weapons, the U.S. will have little choice but to act, given Obama’s strong warnings.
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., an outspoken conservative and champion of the tea party movement, will leave the Senate in early January to lead the Heritage Foundation. Read more
    Look Ahead: DeMint has been a leading conservative voice and fundraiser for conservative candidates. The new job shifts his role from the political arena to the policy world. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will name DeMint’s replacement.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that there will be no deal to avert the fiscal cliff that does not include an increase in tax rates on the top 2 percent of earners. Read more and watch clips here.
  • The White House quickly rejected Speaker of the House John Boehner’s fiscal-cliff counteroffer this week, which included $800 billion in additional revenue over 10 years but did not end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Read more
  • Obama warned Republicans that he wouldn’t let the debt ceiling be dragged into current negotiations over tax and deficit policy. Read more
  • A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Obama breaking 50 percent in his approval rating for just the second time in more than three years. Read more
  • Six governors met with President Obama and congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday to describe the effects of fiscal-cliff uncertainty on their states and urge leaders to reach a deal. Read more
  • White House chief speechwriter John Favreau is considering leaving the administration shortly after Obama’s second inaugural, The Washington Post reported. Read more

CONGRESS

  • House Speaker John Boehner accused President Obama of stalling fiscal-cliff negotiations, trying to run out the clock to force the GOP to making concessions. “We can’t sit here and negotiate with ourselves,” he said. Read more
  • House Republicans are seeking public relations help from K Street to improve messaging on the fiscal cliff. Read more
  • Boehner’s cliff proposal, which included $800 billion in additional revenue but did not end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, engendered a backlash among some conservatives, who fear capitulation on tax issues without enough cuts to entitlement programs. Read more
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., an outspoken conservative and champion of the tea party movement, will leave the Senate in early January and will head up the Heritage Foundation. Read more
  • Though the House is done for the week, Speaker John Boehner will stay in Washington. “I’ll be available at any moment to sit down with the president and get serious about solving these problems,” he said. Read more
  • Speaker John Boehner and House Republican leaders removed four members of their caucus from prime committee posts this week. Read more
  • Amidst the negotiations over the fiscal cliff, there are strong signs that Congress might enact a farm bill this year, as National Journal’s Jerry Hagstrom reports. Read more
  • Chart: A bar chart of both Obama’s and the Republicans’ initial fiscal-cliff offers. See it here.

POLITICS 

  • President Obama asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to stay on as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee this week. Read more
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., will head up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while keeping much of the party’s leadership infrastructure in place for the coming cycle. Read more
  • Reince Priebus is all but guaranteed to stay on for a second term as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, though former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., has been encouraged to run. Read more
  • Former Rep. Dick Armey has resigned as the chairman of FreedomWorks, a conservative group that helped support the tea party movement in recent years, Mother Jones reports. Read more
  • A new poll shows a majority in favor of legalizing marijuana, with younger voters strongly supportive of such a policy. Read more

BUDGET & ECONOMY 

  • The Treasury Department is proposing that authority to raise the debt ceiling be handed to the president to avoid another crisis caused by congressional inaction. Read more
  • Between Hurricane Sandy, a summer buildup in inventories, and feeble consumer spending, economic growth may be weak in the fourth quarter—very weak, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more
  • For the average American, higher taxes will be the most salient impact if Congress allows the fiscal-cliff spending cuts and tax increases to kick in with the new year. Read more
  • If Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff, 53 percent of people surveyed by a Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll say that Republicans would be more at fault. Read more
  • In an attempt at normalizing trade between the U.S. and Russia, the Senate is taking up a bill that will end four decades of trade restrictions, the Associated Press reports. Read more
  • Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will earn a spot on the Senate Banking Committee after she is sworn in next month, Bloomberg reports. Read more

ENERGY 

  • U.S. crude oil production reached its highest level in 15 years, in part due to fracking, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more
  • The United States, which is sitting on a glut of cheap natural gas, stands to gain economically by exporting, concludes an Energy Department report released this week. Read more
  • As the 18th annual U.N. summit on climate change continues this week in Doha, Qatar, the effects of climate change are already being felt and cannot be stopped. Read more
  • In an unexpected twist, oil-rich Gulf states are now embracing a “green revolution”: Saudi Arabia is spending $109 billion over the next several years on solar power, The Financial Times reports. Read more
  • If demand for oil is falling and many economies are weakening, why have oil prices remained high both this year and last? Read more
  • Geological consultant Arthur Berman explains why he thinks the shale-gas revolution will be the next bubble to burst. Read more
  • Map: A look at shale-oil plays in North America. See it here.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • The Syrian military has loaded sarin nerve gas into aerial bombs that, if given the order by President Bashar al-Assad, could be dropped on civilians, NBC News reports. Read more
  • President Obama warned Assad that any use of chemical weapons “would be totally unacceptable.” Read more
  • Obama is said to be “genuinely conflicted” about whether to nominate his favored candidate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, or Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of State. Read more
  • The Senate approved Gen. Joseph Dunford, Obama’s choice to be the top commander in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reports. Read more
  • By a 98-0 margin, the Senate on Tuesday passed a sweeping defense bill authorizing $631 billion for Pentagon programs. Read more
  • Israel is ignoring requests by several nations around the world to discontinue plans to build settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Read more

HEALTH CARE

  • Despite attacking Democrats as Medicare-cutters during the campaign, congressional Republicans have begun demanding cuts to the program as part of a fiscal-cliff deal. Read more
  • The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenges the legality of patenting genes on First Amendment grounds. Read more
  • A federal appeals court in New York ruled that statements made by drug companies about their products are protected by the First Amendment. Read more
  • A federal grand jury in Boston began subpoenaing employees of New England Compounding Center, the pharmacy that could be responsible for three-dozen deaths in a fungal meningitis outbreak, The Boston Globe reported. Read more
  • The Food and Drug Administration announced it will work with a new industry group, the Medical Device Innovation Consortium, to accelerate the pace of medical innovation by streamlining the testing of new medical devices. Read more

FUTURE EVENTS:

Wednesday, Dec. 5-Friday, Dec. 7 — The National Conference of State Legislatures will holds its 2012 Fall Forum at the Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.

Friday, Dec. 7 — Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter James Taylor will deliver a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon address on election reform at 12:30 p.m. at 14th and F streets NW.

Friday, Dec. 7 — The New England Healthcare Institute will hold a discussion titled “Improving Medication Adherence and Controlling Costs: What’s Next?” at 8:30 a.m. at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW.

Friday, Dec. 7 — America’s Health Insurance Plans will hold a webinar titled “Achieving Member, Financial and Operational Health: The Next Generation of Fraud, Waste & Abuse Detection Prevention and Recovery,” at 1 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 7 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion titled “Europe Through War and Peace: A Nobel Prize and an Uncertain Future” at 1 p.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Read more

Friday, Dec. 7 — National Journal, The Atlantic and Allstate will host an event featuring a Heartland Monitor poll on “America’s To Do List: How America Can Energize the Economy and Protect the Middle Class.”

Friday, Dec. 7 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion titled “Can Working Longer Solve Our Budget Problems?” at 9 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Monday, Dec. 10 — The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a discussion titled “Improving Quality and Reducing Costs in Health Care: Engaging Consumers Using Electronic Tools” at 9:30 a.m. at 1225 I St. NW. Former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will deliver keynote remarks.

Monday, Dec. 10 — The RAND Corporation will hold a briefing titled “Skin in the Game: How Consumer-Directed Health Plans Can Affect the Cost and Use of Health Care” at 2 p.m. in B-354 Rayburn.

Monday, Dec. 10 — The Center for American Progress, Google, and Harvard University will hold a discussion titled “Investing in the Future: Higher Education, Innovation, and American Competitiveness” at 10 a.m. at 1333 H St. NW. National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Harvard President Drew Faust will participate.

Monday, Dec. 10-Tuesday, Dec. 11 — The Atlantic Council will hold a conference titled “Global Trends 2030: U.S. Leadership in a Post-Western World” at The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Tuesday, Dec. 11 — The New America Foundation will hold a discussion titled “Syria in Transition: An Insider’s View” at 12:15 p.m. at 1899 L St. NW.

Tuesday, Dec. 11 —The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Streamlining and Strengthening HUD’s Rental Housing Assistance Programs” at 10:30 a.m in 538 Dirksen.

Wednesday, Dec. 12 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on judicial nominations at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Wednesday, Dec. 12 — The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline” at 2 p.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Wednesday, Dec. 12 — The Cato Institute will hold a discussion titled “The Law and Politics of Marijuana Legalization” at 4 p.m. at 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Wednesday, Dec. 12 — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Keith Kelly to be assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training at the Labor Department at 10 a.m. in 418 Russell.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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113th Congress to Have Record Number of Women

Posted on December 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

House RepublicansCount them—20 female senators and 78 female House members. When the 113th Congress convenes in January it will have the largest number of women in U.S. history and just as significantly, white men will no longer be a majority in the House Democratic caucus.

Despite this new looking Congress, one picture unfortunately remains stubbornly unchanged. Count them—0 (zero). That is the number of women and minorities who will chair the major House committees in the next Congress. Not one women or minority was included in the 19-member House committee chair lineup recently announced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The GOP’s introduction of their major House committee leaders—all white men—could have doubled as a casting call for an episode of Mad Men, the wildly popular TV show set in the less than enlightened 1960s.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) upon learning of the committee chairs in the GOP-dominated House tweeted: “Disappointed to see House committee chairmanships in the 113th Congress will not include a single woman.”

In the wake of significant pushback Boehner tapped five-term lawmaker Rep. Candice Miller (R-Michigan) to head the House Administration Committee charged with among other duties, the orientation of new members and office assignments.

To be fair, House Republicans were at a distinct disadvantage in terms of diversity when it came to their chair selections since chairmanships as a rule are based on seniority on the committee and as the Huffington Post recently noted—most committees don’t have Republican women or minorities at senior levels. When the new Congress convenes House Republicans will count 20 women as members while 61 women fill the Democratic House ranks.

In the upper chamber come January, women will hold 20 seats setting a new high water mark. Led by Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown, women won senate races across the nation. With the election of Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) the Senate has its first Asian-American woman, while Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is the Senate’s first openly gay member.

In the 2012 election, women, who make up the country’s largest voting block, flexed their substantial political muscle. Case in point: New Hampshire, where voters elected Democrat Maggie Hassan governor, making the Granite State the first state ever to have its top five elected officials (governor, two Senators, and two House Representatives) women. Still, according to the Women &Politics Institute at American University, even though 2012 was a “banner year” for female candidates and elected officials, women are still under-represented in Congress and state houses. “Concerns about democratic legitimacy and political accountability necessitate that we continue to examine and work to ameliorate gender disparities in office holding,” reads the WPI report Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics.

“When women are part of the negotiation and are part of the decision-making, the outcomes are just better,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D—New York) in a Huffington Post interview. We, at Turner GPA, couldn’t agree more.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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What’s Happening With Grover Norquist and his Tax Pledge?

Posted on December 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

US-TAX REFORM-NORQUISTGrover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is the author of the Taxpayer’s Protection Pledge which many conservative politicians sign vowing not to raise taxes and not to close loopholes without cutting government spending at the same time.

The vast majority of Republicans in Congress have signed the pledge, making it difficult to sculpt a compromise on taxes. Still, there have been rumblings that some Republicans are willing to go back on their no-new-taxes promise.

Could this be an early signal of the end of the influence of Norquist and his pledge, which has been keeping Republicans from backing tax hikes for almost 30 years?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he would violate the pledge “for the good of the country” and others may be similarly inclined. “When you’re $16 trillion in debt, the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece,” he said.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) added that he believes “everything should be on the table” including tax hikes.  “I’m not going to prejudge it, and I’m just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions,” he said.

And Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the House majority whip, reportedly told House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) the Republicans should turn their back on Norquist and his pledge and join President Obama and the Democrats in passing an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the 98% of Americans who earn under $250,000.

Norquist has been around Washington for a long time, having founded Americans for Tax Reform in 1985, during the height of Reagan Republicanism. Republican lawmakers have signed the pledge since 1986 and it has contributed to many conflicts over tax policy on Capitol Hill over the years.

One of the most influential voices within conservative circles, Norquist says the pledge is more than a promise to him or to the Americans for Tax Reform, it is a promise to the office holders’ constituents.

In a recent blog on Investors.com, Norquist said the pledge is much more powerful than verbal promises, which in the past have “crumbled like pie crust.”

“The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is public. In writing. Voters don’t have to parse the phrasing or a speech. There are no weasel words in the pledge. It says what it means and it means what it says. No tax increases. No excuses,” Norquist wrote.

He also pointed out that President George H.W. Bush won election on his “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge in 1992.  Four years later, Bush failed in his bid for reelection largely because he broke that pledge, Norquist believes.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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Happy New Year: Are we Really Heading Over the Cliff?

Posted on December 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

BoehnerIf the U.S. Treasury could get a dollar for every time someone in Washington uses the term “fiscal cliff,” the budget deficit could be erased in no time.

But sadly, all the talk about the fiscal cliff is worthless and, in the latest round of Washington high stakes brinksmanship, America is left to watch the political theatre and pray for common sense to prevail. This, of course, never happens.

The fiscal cliff, for those who have been too disgusted with Washington to tune in, is the new term for a fiscal perfect storm beginning in 2013 as tax increases and spending cuts automatically take effect. If nothing is done, economists predict a dive off the fiscal cliff that could plunge the economy back into recession.

So naturally, both the Obama White House and Republicans in Congress have dug in their heels and are refusing to compromise. If nothing happens, the Bush tax cuts will end in January, raising taxes not just on the rich, but on all Americans.

Obama wants to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by eliminating the Bush tax cuts on families that make more than $250,000 per year and cutting Medicare, Medicaid and military spending. Those in the very top bracket, about 2 percent of Americans, would see their tax rate restored to what it was under Bill Clinton: 39.6%.

House Republicans, most of whom have signed the no-new-taxes pledge explained in the story below, have said they can save $2.2 trillion through tax reform, health care cuts and other cuts in discretionary and mandatory spending.

Fresh off his November victory, won in no small part on his promise to protect tax cuts for the middle class while increasing taxes on the rich, Obama definitely has the political capital to sustain his position. So it’s up to the Republicans to decide if their commitment to maintaining tax cuts for millionaires is worth allowing tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans to lapse.

There is probably some room for compromise, perhaps raising taxes only on families making over $500,000 per year, or $1 million per year. At the moment though, with more than three weeks left in the year, neither side appears flexible with both plotting to blame the other if America falls over the fiscal cliff.

Which brings us back to Washington’s most overused buzzword.  It is certainly a fiscal situation, but it is hardly a cliff so don’t let fear harsh your buzz at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The U.S. economy will not crash and burn as the clock strikes 12, in fact the two sides could well continue talks into the New Year with no major impact on the economy.

Perhaps fiscal bungee diving would be a better phrase.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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