Archive for August, 2013

This Week in Washington…

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

TOP FIVE STORIES THIS WEEK

  • President Obama continued his cross-country speaking tour this week with a stop in Phoenix, where he endorsed bipartisan congressional efforts to wind down government-backed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The New York Times reported. Read more
    Look ahead: The president is set to elaborate further on his economic policy proposals; the White House indicates that he will address education, health care, retirement security and “ladders of opportunity.” Read more
  • The State Department this week shuttered 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa until Saturday and issued a travel alert for Americans in the regions, The New York Times reported. Read more
    Look ahead: If al-Qaida’s objective was to sow fear and disrupt U.S. operations, then its threat is already a success, National Journal‘s Sara Sorcher writes. Read more
  • The White House this week canceled a bilateral summit between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled to take place in Moscow in September, The New York Times reported. Read more
    Look ahead: Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are scheduled to meet Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Read more
  • The Justice Department has filed murder charges against Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala in connection with the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last year, CNN reported. Read more
    Look ahead: The department has filed sealed criminal charges against an unspecified number of individuals, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more
  • Egyptian acting President Adly Mansour’s office released a statement this week declaring that foreign efforts to mitigate political turmoil in the country have failed, Reuters reported. Read more
    Look ahead: Egyptian leaders said that crackdowns against two Cairo protest sites are inevitable.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Citing inadequate progress on the “bilateral agenda,” the White House on Wednesday announced President Obama will not attend a planned September summit meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • President Obama spoke this week in Phoenix, where he touted the virtues of homeownership and backed congressional efforts to unwind government mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • Obama wrapped up his two-day Western tour Wednesday with a visit to Camp Pendleton in California, meeting with service members and their families at the Marine Corps base.
  • Obama took part in an online question-and-answer session on the housing market Wednesday with real-estate website Zillow, CNN Money reported. Read more
  • White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that while “chatter” about potential threats led the State Department to shutter 19 embassies and consulates across Asia and North Africa, the core of the terrorist network has been “greatly diminished,” The Hill reported. Read more
  • The lofty goals Obama touted in his State of the Union address in January are going largely unaddressed six months later, The Hill reported. Read more
  • President Obama turned 52 Sunday, celebrating on the eve of his birthday with a golf outing at Joint Base Andrews that featured three foursomes, including White House aides and the president’s friends from Hawaii and Chicago. Read more
  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, on Thursday cited budgetary disagreements among congressional Republicans as cause for optimism on looming fiscal talks, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more
  • President Obama appeared this week on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he discussed a range of subjects including terrorism, his relationship with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russia. Read more
  • Former President George W. Bush, 67, was released from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas Wednesday, after having a stent inserted during heart surgery on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Read more

CONGRESS

  • House Republicans are working on new food-stamp legislation that would cut $40 billion from the program over 10 years, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said Friday that the committee will mark up the Water Resources Reform and Development Act in September, National Journal‘s Fawn Johnson reported. Read more
  • Need any more evidence that tax reform is the longest of long shots this fall? Well, look no further than Dave Camp’s decision to consider a run for Michigan’s open Senate seat, National Journal‘s Nancy Cook reported. Read more
  • Legislation to change the way the military justice system handles sexual-assault cases faces some very long odds, National Journal‘s Stacy Kaper reported. Read more
  • Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would consider the “nuclear option” to end filibusters for nominations to Circuit Courts, Roll Call reported. Read more
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sounded a positive note during an interview with CNN on the House’s immigration-reform efforts, saying that things are headed in the “right direction,” The Hill reported. Read more

POLITICS

  • Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., announced his long-expected challenge to Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., National Journal‘s Alex Roarty reported. Read more
  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney is mentioned once—briefly—as “Liz’s dad,” in Liz Cheney’s biography on her campaign website, National Journal‘s Beth Reinhard reported. It reflects the backseat role he’s taking in his daughter’s bid to defeat three-term Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., in the 2014 Republican primary. Read more
  • Businesswoman Nancy Mace announced Saturday that she will challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in June’s GOP primary, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. Read more
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will target 17 House Republicans during the August recess, Roll Call reported. Read more
  • The Club for Growth PAC backed Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in his Senate bid and released a television ad against Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Roll Call reported. Read more
  • Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Wednesday that he will seek reelection next year, Tulsa-based radio station KRMG reported. Read more
  • Organizing for Action is considering supporting Michelle Nunn, a Democrat running for the Senate in Georgia, Politico reported. The group has also spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about promoting Democratic candidates in 2014, an official said. Read more

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said Monday that there are people being considered as a possible successor to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke whose names are not being floated by the media, Bloomberg reported. Read more
  • Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Don McGahn said Monday that a number of undisclosed e-mails between FEC employees and the Internal Revenue Service raise questions about improper contact between the two federal agencies in connection with efforts to target conservative political groups, CNN reported. Read more
  • The Commerce Department announced Tuesday that the U.S. trade gap is the lowest it has been in more than three and a half years, Reuters reported. Read more
  • Defying conventional wisdom, a new study out finds that the 55-to-64 demographic has become the most likely group to buy a new car, suggesting the auto industry would get more bang for their buck targeting aging baby boomers instead of their economically noncommittal children, Bloomberg reported. Read more
  • The FBI has found holes in the government’s system that is supposed to prevent leaks to traders of economic information that would likely affect the market, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more
  • The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday estimated the federal budget deficit through the first 10 months of the fiscal year clocks in at around $606 billion, The Hill reported. Read more
  • A four-week average of new claims for state jobless benefits dropped last week to its lowest level since before the Great Recession, Reuters reported. Read more

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told BP on Monday that the corporation has 30 days to respond to allegations of market manipulation in the Houston Ship Channel or it will face close to $29 million in penalties, Reuters reported. Read more
  • The State Department will begin an inquiry into whether the contractor hired to create an environmental-impact statement for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline had a conflict of interest. Environmental groups have alleged that the firm, Environmental Resources Management, had ties to the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association which supports creation of the pipeline, The Hill reported. Read more
  • Four former Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Republican presidents urged the U.S. to take action to prevent climate change from worsening and stated their position in an op-ed for The New York Times. Read more
  • President Obama released an executive order to strengthen oversight and regulation of chemical-handling facilities at the federal, state, and local levels. Read more
  • EPA announced the breakdown and amounts of biofuels to be added to the U.S. fuel supply for 2013 under the renewable fuel standard program, requiring 16.55 billion gallons of biofuels to be blended with gasoline. Read more
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he would authorize the government to intervene in efforts to control radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant after Tokyo Electric Power confirmed that contaminated groundwater has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • During a two-day trip to North Dakota’s Bakken Formation, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell highlighted the need for oil and gas companies to limit greenhouse emissions, Fuel Fix reported. Read more

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Citing an “abundance of caution” rather than the emergence of a new threat, the State Department said in a statement Sunday that 19 embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa will remain closed until Saturday, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • The Justice Department filed murder charges against Libyan militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala in connection to the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last year, CNN reported. Read more
  • In a sign of growing concern that a terrorist attack may be imminent, the State Department on Tuesday evacuated 50 to 100 nonessential government personnel from Yemen due to an “extremely high” security threat level, the Associated Press reported. Read more
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the number of furlough days for the department’s civilian employees had been cut to six, Defense One reported. Read more
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took office over the weekend, said Tuesday during his first news conference as president that he is “seriously determined” to begin “serious and substantive” negotiations with the United States concerning Tehran’s nuclear program, Reuters reported. Read more
  • Yemeni security officials said Wednesday that they had successfully derailed a Qaida plan to seize a port and kidnap or kill foreigners who work there, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi denied claims on Thursday that Syrian rebels’ rockets hit President Bashar al-Assad’s motorcade as it traveled through an upscale Damascus neighborhood en route to his place of worship, the Associated Press reported. Read more

HEALTH CARE

  • The nearly 40-member House Republican freshman class is pressing party leadership to finally allow action on a bill to repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices that was enacted to help pay for President Obama’s health care plan, National Journal‘s Billy House reported. Read more
  • The House voted 232-185 on Friday in favor of a bill that would ban the Internal Revenue Service from its role in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Politico reported. Read more
  • House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Sunday that he disagrees with the idea of some Republicans to use the threat of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 as an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, Reuters reported. Read more
  • Individuals in the 34 states participating in a federal insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act were able to open an account on healthcare.gov beginning Monday, Kaiser Health News reported. Read more
  • The Affordable Care Act includes a provision (known as the Cadillac tax) that will tax expensive health plans beginning in 2018, which has increased pressure on unions involved in benefits negotiations to accept less expensive health benefits, The New York Times reported. Read more
  • WebMD announced its new online Health Care Reform Center on Tuesday, designed to educate consumers on the Affordable Care Act and guide them through purchasing coverage in the insurance exchanges, The Hill reported. Read more
  • The Inspector General’s Office at the Health and Human Services Department released a report that shows the federal government is several months behind on testing data security for the insurance exchanges scheduled to launch Oct. 1, Reuters reported. Read more
  • The Office of Personnel Management released a proposed rule Wednesday to allow the government to continue paying for a large percentage of health coverage for members of Congress and their staff under the Affordable Care Act, Politico reported. Read more

FUTURE EVENTS

Saturday, August 10 — President Obama will speak at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., at noon.

Monday, Aug. 12 — The National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee will hold a discussion on “Government Public Affairs Offices: More Hindrance Than Help?” at 6:30 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.

Monday, Aug. 12 — Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., will speak at a roundtable discussion on federally qualified community health centers and on implementation of the Affordable Care Act at 2 p.m. in Baltimore.

Tuesday, Aug. 13 — The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement holds the Cyber Security for Government Summit at 9 a.m. at 10 Thomas Circle NW.

Tuesday, Aug. 13 — The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a discussion on “Between War & Peace: Do We Need New Tools for Messy Transitions?” at 9:30 a.m. at 1111 19th St. NW. Participants include Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen Jr. and former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations James Schear.

Tuesday, Aug. 13 — The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a webinar, beginning at 1 p.m., on “Rate Shock—Or Not?” on “what insurance rates will look like when state insurance exchanges open for enrollment on Oct. 1.”

Wednesday, Aug. 14 — The Homeland Security Department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate will hold a meeting of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council on the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors and information systems at 4 p.m. at 2451 Crystal Drive in Arlington, Va.

Wednesday, Aug. 14 — The Energy Department will hold a meeting of the Loan Programs Office to receive comments on the draft of a potential future solicitation announcement for Federal Loan Guarantees for Advanced Fossil Energy Projects at 10 a.m. at 1000 Independence Ave. SW.

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 http://www.turnergpa.com.

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Taxes Too High?

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Caren Z. Turner

CZT Bio Photo medium resizeAfter dozens of hearings, the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee are embarking on the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax code since the 1980’s. Committee sources expect a draft to be ready sometime in the fall. It’s not too late to get your two cents in…If you are interested in contacting the tax committees with a plan for tax overhaul, please do not hesitate to call us. We will help ensure your idea is vetted. House Republicans are quite steadfast that this will be a comprehensive redraft, not a piecemeal approach.

Hill staffers are abuzz and upset. One of the requirements of Obamacare is for staff to get health insurance through exchanges. However, it is not clear that the government is required to pay for the premiums. Congress and the White House are working on a fix to avoid a massive exodus from the Hill.

As the national list of political scoundrels grows, so does their determination to campaign on.  Truly amazing! Wouldn’t it be nice if the better qualified candidates would win elections rather than the ones with the best media presence?

Enjoy August.

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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Zeal to Repeal Health Care Law Misguided

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

obamacare-enrollmentWith the Oct.1 deadline fast approaching for the launch of the state “insurance exchanges” – a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – House Republicans, before leaving for summer recess, voted yet again to repeal the law. And just like the previous 39 times, the 40th attempt by the GOP to derail Obamacare will not be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

However, the GOP’s failure to generate congressional traction doesn’t mean opposition to the health care law is waning. If anything the battle is heating up with both sides going into action ahead of one of the law’s most sweeping changes – the enrollment of customers through the new health insurance exchanges.

According to Politico, the tea party, which has been at the forefront of the anti-Obamacare fight, has a full slate of events – rallies, protests, demonstrations – planned for August and September to reinvigorate opposition to the law.

“The American people don’t want this law,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, recently told Politico. Martin said that her organization would fan out across the country protesting the law and would take aim at any lawmaker not supporting its repeal or defunding.

Meanwhile backers of Obamacare are crisscrossing the country as well touting the benefits of the ACA and specifically the health care insurance exchanges. One of the major challenges facing health care law is getting enough healthy people, particularly the young, to enroll.

The latest salvo in the war against the law is the claim that it will spark huge premium increases. However, the democratic leaning website Think Progress recently reported that opponents of Obamacare are cooking the books and playing fast and loose with the numbers. In fact several states, including Maryland and New York, are reporting lower than expected premiums.

Still, a recent Gallup poll shows that supporters of the health care law have their work cut out for them. According to the poll, 42 percent of Americans think the law will make their “family’s healthcare situation worse,” while only 22 percent believe the law will improve their lives. But the fear among opponents is that once Americans learn more about the law and see it in action their perspective will change. As Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page noted: “…while most Americans don’t think Obamacare will help them personally they want to give it a chance.”

What Americans don’t want is more congressional gridlock and yet another threatened government shutdown. However, according to The Hill, that is exactly what will happen if conservatives “demand that the healthcare law be defunded in a stopgap spending measure that Congress must pass to avert a government shutdown at the end of September.”

Yes, healthcare reform is an important issue, but so are the economy, education, climate change, homeland security and a host of other issues that are too crucial to America’s well-being to be held hostage to more political gamesmanship.

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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Congress Takes a Break from Doing Nothing

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

By Carl Chancellor

congress.vacationWhile federal lawmakers officially left Washington on Monday to begin their five week recess, it could be argued that the 113th Congress has essentially been on vacation since being sworn in last January.

According to CBS news, Congress has passed just 23 laws this year—“one to name a bridge and another to promote fishing in Tennessee’s Cumberland River.” If federal lawmakers keep up their current snail’s pace, the 113th Congress could end up being the all-time least productive Congress in history.

Is it any wonder that Congress has a dismal approval rating—an embarrassing 17 percent.  A recent Fox News poll finds that 82 percent of American’s think Congress is so bad at doing its job that it doesn’t deserve a vacation.  According to a Fox News release, “we’ve finally found an issue everyone can agree on: large majorities of independents (87 percent), Republicans (82 percent), and Democrats (80 percent) say Congress shouldn’t get August off.”

When Congress returns in September it will come back to mounds of unfinished business from guns to climate control to jobs to transportation to housing to immigration to what will be its most pressing agenda item—passing a FY 2014 spending bill before the September 30 deadline. With Republicans promising deeper spending cuts, including calls to defund Obamacare and the Democrats looking to roll back the sequester, a government shutdown is very much in the cards.

Perhaps the glimmer of bipartisanship, which was displayed just prior to Congress leaving on break, is a reason for hope. Having missed a July 1 deadline to reach a deal on student loans, which saw new subsidized Stafford loans doubling to 6.8 percent, House Democrats and Republicans passed legislation on July 31st to lower student loan rates in the short-term.  On a vote of 392-31 the House approved a bill tying student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note. The House measure follows the passage of a Senate bill capping interest rates at 8.25 percent and 9.5 percent for subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, respectively. The bill is waiting for the President’s signature.

What’s for sure: all eyes will be on Congress once it returns to D.C. next month.

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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