This Week in Washington

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • John Brennan, President Obama’s pick for CIA Director, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing Thursday, which will likely be dominated by questions about the legality and morality of U.S. drone strikes. Thursday morning, the administration released the long-secret legal rationale for the program to the committee. Read more
    Look Ahead: Whatever the outcome for Brennan—which is unclear—targeted killings are likely to continue, but today’s hearing may provide a rare window on the program and how it is conducted. 
  • Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation vote for Defense secretary was delayed in the Senate Armed Services Committee after 25 Republican Senators sent Hagel a letter this week demanding more information. Read more
    Look Ahead: Hagel is continuing his Capitol Hill courtesy calls this week. By the end of the week, he will have met with 72 lawmakers, and the White House has said they have the votes to secure his confirmation. Read more
  • President Obama urged Congress to pass a short-term package of spending cuts to avert the automatic reductions known as the “sequester” that will take place in March. He also called on Congress to close tax loopholes, saying the deals he had offered before were still on the table and that the sequester “doesn’t have to happen.” Read more
    Look Ahead: Despite Obama’s plea, it’s hard to see Congress acting in time to forestall the budget cuts. Democrats and Republicans remain on opposite ends of what the replacement would be and the GOP still seems completely closed to the idea of revenue that Obama is demanding. Read more
  • The House Judiciary Committee focused on two major issues in its hearing on immigration reform: whether it should include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and whether it should be achieved in a comprehensive bill or through piecemeal legislation, The Hill reported. Read more
    Look Ahead: The hearing made clear two things: Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., will make sure the language-writing process is thorough, preventing Democrats from extracting too many concessions from Republicans. And he’ll likely block any legislation that includes a path to citizenship, which he described as one of two “extremes,” the other being mass deportation.
  • Obama jetted to Minneapolis this week and delivered a campaign-style address touting his proposal to expand background checks on gun buyers and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. Read more
    Look Ahead: Despite Obama’s speech, gun legislation faces an uphill climb in Congress, where not just Republicans, but many Democrats, fear new laws. There does not appear to be a broad appetite for an assault weapons ban in the Senate. Background checks may be much more popular. Read more

WHITE HOUSE

  • Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation vote for Defense secretary was delayed in the Senate Armed Services Committee after 25 Republican Senators sent Hagel a letter this week demanding more information.
  • President Obama urged Congress to pass a short-term package of spending cuts to avert the automatic reductions known as the “sequester” that will take place in March. He also called on Congress to close tax loopholes, saying the deals he had offered before were still on the table and that the sequester “doesn’t have to happen.” Read more
  • Penny Pritzker, a major Obama fundraiser and a Hyatt Hotels board member, is being vetted by the White House for Commerce Secretary, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more
  • The White House said Tuesday that, for the first time as president, Obama will visit Israel. Israeli media said the visit would be March 20, but the administration would not confirm the date. Read more
  • The White House missed its deadline to send a budget to Congress on Monday, as it has four of the last five years. Though the delay was expected, it drew strong criticism from Republicans. Read more
  • Obama jetted to Minneapolis on Monday and delivered a campaign-style address touting his proposal to expand background checks on gun buyers and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. Read more

CONGRESS

  • Senate and House Democrats decamped for retreats this week, in which the looming sequester, fiscal policy, immigration, gun laws, and the difficult 2014 elections were all discussed.
  • The House Judiciary Committee focused on two major issues in its hearing on immigration reform: whether it should include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and whether it should be achieved in a comprehensive bill or through piecemeal legislation, The Hill reported. Read more 
  • Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., made a decision last month to use his personal funds to reimburse a prominent political contributor — $58,500 for two flights to the Dominican Republic. That was no small cost, as National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher reports. Late this week, The Washington Post reported that Menendez intervened on behalf of the same donor in a separate government case involving the overbilling of patients.  Read more
  • The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service announced plans to cut Saturday mail delivery beginning in August, a move estimated to save $2 billion annually. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., called it a “common-sense reform” in a letter to House and Senate leaders, according to Politico.

POLITICS

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will deliver a bilingual rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday night.
  • Attempting to rebrand the GOP as a family-friendly party, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor delivered a major speech to propose a package of reforms aimed at “making life work better.” Read more
  • Former Sen. Scott Brown and a slew of other big-name Massachusetts Republicans announced they would not run in the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. Read more
  • A Gallup poll released as Obama turned his attention to immigration reform showed his approval rating among Hispanics at 70 percent. Read more
  • By laying out plans to protect Senate Republicans and other seasoned candidates from tea-party insurgents on the front page of the Sunday New York Times, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC provoked a backlash from the party’s grassroots. Read more
  • Federal records show that Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., raised only about $13,000 in the fourth quarter of 2012, fueling rumors that he will not run for reelection next year, The Detroit Free Press reported. Read more

 BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its annual budget and economic outlook this week, which estimates that the unemployment rate will remain high in 2014 (about 7.5 percent), but could decline in 2017 to 5.5 percent. Read more
  • The CBO also estimated that budget deficits will shrink to $845 billion this year, the smallest since 2008. Read more
  • The House this week passed a bill that would force President Obama to outline his plan to eliminate the budget deficit and estimate when it would be completed. Read more
  • The Justice Department is suing the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s for its role in the financial crisis. Read more
  • Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner plans to write a book about his response to the financial crisis.

ENERGY

  • Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced he will resign from his post once a successor is confirmed. Read more
  • The president nominated Sally Jewell, president and CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., an outdoor and recreational retailer, to replace Ken Salazar as Interior secretary.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called for allowing the export of natural gas and the continued long-term use of coal in her energy policy blueprint unveiled on Monday. Read more
  • A bipartisan energy bill is being crafted in the Senate to expand offshore energy production. Read more
  • Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, is currently Obama’s preferred pick to succeed Lisa Jackson at the head of the agency, Reuters reports. Read more

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • John Brennan, President Obama’s pick for CIA Director, will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing today, which will likely be dominated by questions about the legality and morality of U.S. drone strikes. Just this morning, the administration released the long-secret legal rationale for the program to the committee.
  • Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a detailed response to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Although he offered little new information in an opening statement, Panetta argued there wasn’t enough time to get American ground forces or attack aircraft to the scene. Read more
  • Over the past three months, there have been 30 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan, the lowest for any three-month stretch of the war since late 2008 and early 2009, the Associated Press reports. Read more
  • Iran officially agreed to resume long-halted talks with the U.S. and five other nations about curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, starting Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Read more
  • Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday rejected the idea of future one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. over Tehran’s nuclear program, even as multilateral talks are set to begin later this month. Read more
  • Reflecting improving relationship between Iran and Egypt, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt on Tuesday, the first time an Iranian leader has visited Egypt in the last three decades. Read more
  • The CIA has been operating a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia, used for operations against al-Qaida members in Yemen. Read more

HEALTH CARE

  • Despite optimistic pronouncements from the administration, the Congressional Budget Office does not think key pieces of the president’s health reform law are going to roll out as planned. Read more
  • Ohio will expand its Medicaid program, Republican Gov. John Kasich announced Monday. Kasich is the fifth Republican governor to back the expansion. Read more
  • Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett hasn’t warmed to the Medicaid expansion. His state’s annual budget for fiscal 2013 does not include the expansion. Read more
  • Unable to win legislative support for a state-run health insurance exchange, Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is now retreating from the plan he pitched to Health and Human Services, and which was conditionally approved last year, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Read more
  • The Obama administration released a new contraception-coverage regulation that differs little from an administration proposal months ago. Read more

FUTURE EVENTS

Thursday, Feb. 7-Friday, Feb. 8 — The House Democratic Caucus will conclude its annual Issues Conference at Lansdowne Resort, 44050 Woodridge Parkway, Leesburg, Va.

Thursday, Feb. 7-Friday, Feb. 8 — The George Washington University’s Center for Law, Economics & Finance, the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law, the Center for Banking and Finance at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and the Institute for Law and Economic Policy will hold a conference titled “The Political Economy of Financial Regulation” at George Washington University Law Center, Lisner Hall, 2000 H St. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and chairman and editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report delivers remarks to the Economic Club of Washington, at 8 a.m. at the Renaissance Washington, 999 Ninth St. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold its quarterly economic briefing on the state of the economy at 9 a.m. at 1615 H St. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold a discussion titled “Sanctions and Medical Supply Shortages in Iran” at noon at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold a discussion titled “The Battle for Syria” at 12:15 p.m. at 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — The Institute of World Politics will hold a lecture titled “Africa and International Terrorism” at 6 p.m. at 1521 16th St. NW.

Friday, Feb. 8 — Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and National Institutes of Health Administrator Francis Collins hold a town hall with NIH employees titled “How the Latest Federal Budget Battles and Looming Sequestration May Affect You” at 11 a.m. at 9000 Rockville Pike, Masur Auditorium, Bethesda, Md.

Friday, Feb. 8 — The Center for Global Development will hold a discussion titled “Financing Universal Health Coverage: Lessons and Pitfalls” at 12:30 p.m. at 1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Saturday, Feb. 9-Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs will hold its 2013 annual conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St. NW.

Monday, Feb. 11-Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Institute of Medicine will hold a workshop titled “Implementing a National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century,” at 8:15 a.m. at 500 Fifth St. NW.

Monday, Feb. 11 — The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing titled “Medicare 101: What You Need to Know” at 12:15 p.m. in G-50 Dirksen.

Monday, Feb. 11 — The Women’s Foreign Policy Group will hold a discussion titled “Afghanistan After 2014: The Impact of Troop Withdrawal on Democracy, Stability, and Women’s Rights” at noon at 1615 M St. NW.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing titled “Opportunities and Challenges for Natural Gas,” focusing on issues surrounding natural gas, including environmental implications, exports, and impacts on the economy,” at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing titled “The CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook” at 10:30 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Hudson Institute will hold a report release and discussion titled “Institutional Choices for Regulating Oil and Gas Wells” at 1 p.m. at 1015 15th St. NW.

Monday, Feb. 12 — The White House will hold an event to award a former active-duty Army staff sergeant the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Details TBA.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee hearing titled “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting Our Communities While Respecting the Second Amendment” at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a discussion titled “State of the Union: The Speechwriters’ Perspectives” at 8:30 a.m. at 1225 I St. NW.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., delivers remarks, beginning at 5 p.m., titled “the nation’s divisive political climate,” at 5 p.m. at Duke University.

Tuesday, Feb. 12 — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivers remarks at an event hosted by Smithsonian Associates at 7 p.m. at 730 21st St. NW.

Wednesday, Feb. 13 — National Journal and The Atlantic hold a congressional debrief titled “State of the Union Snapshot” at 8:30 a.m. at 529 14th St. NW.

Wednesday, Feb. 13 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on immigration reform at 9:30 a.m. in 216 Hart. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify.

Wednesday, Feb. 13 —  The House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “The Future of the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board): What Noel Canning vs. NLRB Means for Workers, Employers, and Unions” at 10 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn.

Tuesday, Feb. 13 — President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to both houses of Congress. Time TBA.

Tuesday, Feb. 13 —Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will deliver the Republican rebuttal to Obama following the president’s speech.

Wednesday, Feb. 13 — The Environmental Law Institute will hold a conference call briefing, beginning at 5 p.m., titled “Climate Policy 2013-2016” at 5 p.m

Wednesday, Feb. 13 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion titled “Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term” at 5:30 p.m. at 1800 K St. NW.

Wednesday, Feb. 13 — The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing titled “Impact of Budget Decisions on Families and Communities” at 10:30 a.m. in 608 Dirksen.

Thursday, Feb. 14 — The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on itemized deduction for charitable contributions as part of comprehensive tax reform at 9:30 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.

Thursday, Feb. 14 — The House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight Hearing – Embassy Security” at 9:30 a.m. in H-140.

Thursday, Feb. 14 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Crisis in Mali: U.S. Interests and the International Response” at 10 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn.

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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