Archive for October, 2013

This Week in Washington…

Posted on October 24, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • During remarks at the White House on Thursday, President Obama reiterated his call for Congress to advance immigration reform, saying, “this is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done.”
    Look ahead: The president continues to endorse the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate, while House Republican leadership prefers a piecemeal approach.
  • Leaders of the budget conference committee held a planning call this week ahead of their first meeting, which is expected to take place on Oct. 30.
    Look ahead: The budget negotiations and their outcome could impact House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s political future, presenting both opportunities and risks for the Wisconsin Republican.
  • President Obama defended the Affordable Care Act in a speech on Monday, but acknowledged the flaws in the program’s rollout and vowed that his administration is working to resolve the technical problems that have hindered the exchange website since its launch.
    Look ahead: Obama tapped former OMB official Jeffrey Zients to oversee a “tech surge” at HHS designed to resolve the ongoing issues.
  • The Friends of Syria Core Group, which includes the United States and nations in Europe and the Middle East, met Tuesday in London to lay the groundwork for peace talks slated for November in Geneva.
    Look ahead: Leaders of the Syrian opposition are resisting pressure to attend the Geneva talks, and will meet soon to decide whether to participate.
  • The Obama administration on Tuesday defended its drone strikes, which were the subject of critical reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, CIA and Pakistani diplomatic documents detailed cooperation between the two nations during the period from 2007 to 2011.
    Look ahead: Citing civilian casualties due to U.S. drone strikes, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for an end to the tactics during a bilateral meeting Wednesday with Obama.

WHITE HOUSE

  • During remarks at the White House on Thursday, the president called on Congress to move forward with bipartisan immigration reform, telling lawmakers that delaying the process will not ease passage.
  • White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that thepresident has assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the United States is not monitoring her cell-phone communications.German media reported that Merkel’s calls may have been monitored in the past.
  • Flanked by individuals who have recently obtained health insurance or who stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act, the president defended his signature legislation, while acknowledging the flaws in the rollout of the online insurance exchanges.
  • President Obama on Tuesday tapped Jeffrey Zients, a former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, to lead a “tech surge” intended to resolve the ongoing technical difficulties plaguing the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
  • President Obama nominated Jeh Johnson, a former Defense Department general counsel, to serve as the next secretary of Homeland Security.

CONGRESS

  • House lawmakers voiced their frustration with the federal exchange website’s technical problems at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday morning.
  • White House officials will meet with a group of Senate staffers on Thursday, in an effort to get Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., to delay voting on new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, according to a senior Senate aide.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is drafting legislation that would delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by one year.
  • Senate Democrats are working on a tax-reform proposal that would include $50 billion in new taxes.
  • Sean Rushton, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that the senator will maintain a hold on Tom Wheeler’s nomination to lead the Federal Communications Commission until Wheeler says he will not push for further disclosures from sponsors of political ads.
  • The first meeting of the House and Senate conference committee on the farm bill – expected to take place next week – promises to be the biggest spectacle in American agricultural and nutrition policy in decades.
  • GOP members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in a letter Tuesday that they would examine what—if any—decisions the White House made about the exchange website, HealthCare.gov.
  • Today’s special issue of National Journal Daily offers an inside look at the House Ways and Means Committee.

POLITICS

  • Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., took the political world by surprise on Monday when he announced he wouldn’t seek a third term.
  • Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, announced his primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran on Friday. McDaniel already has support from the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.
  • State Sen. Neil Riser and businessman Vance McAllister, both Republicans, will face off in a Nov. 16 runoff in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.
  • Businessman Matt Bevin earned the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund in his primary bid against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The group will raise an initial $200,000 for his campaign.
  • Tom Young, a retired businessman and the brother of the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, is considering a bid for his brother’s former seat. The Florida Republican’s son, Bill Young II, and widow, Beverly Young, are also considering bids.
  • The business-friendly Republican establishment is putting its cash to work in skirmishes across the country with the tea party that might reshape the 2014 elections.
  • House tea partiers are distancing themselves from national Republicans over the fiscal fight, and many are not donating to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The American Petroleum Institute will file suit if the Environmental Protection Agency misses its Nov. 30 deadline to issue next year’s renewable-fuel standard.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has rescheduled two stops on a listening tour on regulations to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
  • A train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas crashed near Edmonton, Alberta, raising concerns about the safety of shipping oil and gas by rail.
  • The British government reached a deal with French energy provider EDF to construct a nuclear-power plant in the U.K.
  • Tokyo Electric Power reports that contaminated rainwater at the Fukushima Daiichi plant may have leaked into the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Department of Energy will make $60 million available to help fund solar-energy research and development through the SunShot Initiative.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • The income-verification measure in the fiscal deal requires very slight changes to Health and Human Services verification of incomes submitted by applicants in the exchanges, a provision acceptable to supporters of the law.
  • Oregon’s online ACA marketplace is not yet operational, but officials have fast-tracked enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan to sign up 56,000 new people and cut the number of uninsured in the state by 10 percent in two weeks.
  • Despite recent calls from Republicans for her resignation in light of the bumpy rollout of the health care law, siblings of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius say she has no intention of stepping down.
  • Hundreds of thousands of individuals who purchase their own insurance are receiving cancellation letters, primarily because the plans do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
  • After months of debate, a legislative oversight panel approved Michigan Gov. John Kasich’s plan to spend federal money to expand Medicaid in the state without the approval of the Republican-held Legislature.
  • Insurers say the federal exchange site is generating incorrect data, making it difficult to handle incoming applications. Top White House and Health and Human Services officials met with about a dozen CEOs of insurance companies Wednesday to address problems with the ACA enrollment site and the issue of flawed information being sent to insurers.
  • Activists are taking a state-by-state approach in their efforts to dismantle the health care law, attempting to dissuade states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.
  • Experts said some of the restrictions placed on the nonprofit insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act made financial problems more likely.
  • Problems with the exchange website’s online Medicaid enrollment for eligible beneficiaries and the Spanish-language version of the exchange enrollment process could take longer than previously estimated to fix.
  • Advocacy organizations are pressing HHS to include an out-of-pocket expenses calculator, so individuals with chronic conditions can make a more informed choice regarding coverage plans.
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has askedGoogle, Microsoft, and three other companies to give information about their possible involvement in HHS’s “tech surge” to repair HealthCare.gov.
  • Medicaid enrollment is outpacing enrollment in private plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges in several states.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Google this week launched a service allowing users in Internet-censoring countries including Iran, China, Syria and Russia to shield their online identities using counterparts in less restrictive countries as proxies.
  • eBay announced plans to acquire Shutl, a U.K.-based startup, in an effort to bring one-hour delivery times to the country.
  • Apple introduced updated models of its MacBook, Mac Pro, and iPad product lines, and released a new operating system, free of charge.
  • Pinterest has raised an additional $225 million in funding—led by Fidelity Investments— triggering a new valuation of $3.8 billion.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “I cannot even stand to look at you.” — An unnamed member of GOP House leadership, to Obama, according to a disputed Facebook post by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (Chicago Tribune)
  • “[W]e’ve asked all of our contractors to look at their teams on the ground and bring in their absolute A team.” — Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, likely not calling for Mr. T to fix Obamacare (Business Insider)
  • “I can tell you that the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor.” — White House press secretary Jay Carney, omitting the past tense after reports the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone (National Journal)
  • “Just fix it.” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the Obamacare website. (Roll Call)
  • ”It reminds me of politicians here in the United States who got a lot of support from the tobacco companies and who argued to the public that there was absolutely no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.” — Al Gore, on Australian efforts to revoke a carbon tax. (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • “[Y]our presence at my husband’s memorial services will be unacceptable. I have watched over the years, as Bill had, your transparent attempts to manipulate the political arena. I don’t want my husband’s memorial service to be another opportunity for that, and I will not tolerate anyone turning this into a platform for political gain.” — Beverly Young, the widow of Rep. C.W. Bill Young, to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (USA Today)
  • “We’re all really rootin’ haaahd to bring the World Series Cup back to Boston.” — Boston Mayor Tom Menino, in his latest sports flub. (Yahoo!)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Pew charts approval of drone use by country.
  • The New York Times maps the various factions in the House Republican caucus. [switch]
  • The Sunlight Foundation maps individual political contributions by county across the country. [switch]
  • Pew charts public reaction to health insurance exchanges.
  • The U.S Energy and Information Administration charts the sky-high potential for shale gas in China.
  • Pew charts dropping levels of government trust.

Future events

  • Thursday, Oct. 24 — President Obama will participate in an event with the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum at 1200 16th Street NW at 4:50 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24 — Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will participate in a panel discussion, “Progress Rising: Embracing Our Changing Nation” at the Center for American Progress 10th Anniversary Policy Conference at 3:15 p.m. at 923 16th Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24 — Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., will participate in a meet-and-greet to kick off the National Organization of Italian American Women’s 2013 to 2014 programs at 6:30 p.m. at 816 East Capitol Street NE.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24 — The Politics and Prose Bookstore will hold a book discussion on The Map and the Territory, about economic risk and forecasting, at 7 p.m. at 600 I Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 24 — Secretary of State John Kerry will deliver a keynote address at the Center for American Progress 10th Anniversary Policy Conference at 2:15 p.m. at 923 16th Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 25 — The National Academies’ Committee on National Statistics will hold a seminar on “Understanding Immigration: Measuring Flows, Populations, and Economic Effects” at 2 p.m. at 2101 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 25 — President Obama will deliver remarks at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn at approximately 3:45 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 25 — President Obama will attend a fundraiser in New York City for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
  • Friday, Oct. 25 — President Obama will attend a fundraiser in New York City for the Democratic National Committee.
  • Monday, Oct. 28 — The Center for American Progress will hold a discussion on “Criminals and Campaign Cash” at noon at 1333 H Street NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 28 — The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion, “New Leadership in Tehran: Time for Rapprochement?” at 4 p.m. at 805 21st Street NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 28 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion, “DOJ’s Role in Combating the Cyber Threat,” at 10 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 28 — The Alexander Hamilton Society will hold a discussion, “NSA (National Security Agency) Surveillance: A Necessary Evil?” at 12:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — House (Select) Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on “NSA Programs” at 1:30 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics will hold a discussion on a new report, “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12,” at 10 a.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing, “Twenty-five years of Acquisition Reform: Where do we go from here?” at 10 a.m. in 2118 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing, “Federal Housing Administration: Implications of a $1.7 billion Taxpayer Bailout” at 10 a.m. in 2128 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Housing Finance Reform: Essentials of a Functioning Housing Finance System for Consumers” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The Cato Institute will hold a discussion, “Is Slow Growth the New Normal?” at noon at 1000 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will hold a discussion on “the importance of global supply chains and trade facilitation and the critical link to the competitiveness of business” at 1 p.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The House Natural Resources Committee’s Public Lands and Environmental Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Threats, Intimidation, and Bullying by Federal Land Management Agencies” at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — Bloomberg Government will hold a discussion, “Inside the CIA” at 8:30 a.m. at 1101 K Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on “Affordable Care Act Implementation” at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The Senate (Special Committee on) Aging will hold a meeting, “Roundtable – Tackling Diseases on Aging: Why Research Collaboration Matters” at 4 p.m. in 526 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold a discussion, “Humanitarian Crisis: Impact of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon” at 9 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Next Steps on Egypt Policy” at 10 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — President Obama will attend a DCCC fundraiser in Weston, Mass., at the home of Alan Solomont, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — The House-Senate Conference Committee will hold a meeting on H.R. 2642, the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013” at 1 p.m. in 1100 Longworth.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion on “U.S. Nuclear Energy Policy/Interagency Efforts” at 11:30 a.m. at 1957 E Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — The Women’s Foreign Policy Group will hold a discussion, “What’s Next in the Middle East: Iran, Syria and Egypt” at 6 p.m. at 2410 California Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will hold the second annual Health Care Summit, “Harnessing Efficiencies to Increase Value and Improve Outcomes” at 8 a.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on pending health care and benefits legislation at 2 p.m. in 418 Russell.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30 — Bloomberg Government will hold a conference, “Cybersecurity: Costs and Solutions” at 7:30 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
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This Week in Washington…

Posted on October 17, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama voiced frustration with the recent fiscal fight at a press conference Thursday morning, and urged Congress to tackle larger budgetary concerns going forward.
  • Following the president’s signing of the continuing resolution, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell issued a memorandum formally reopening the federal government and instructing furloughed employees to return to work.
  • President Obama sat for interviews with local television affiliates in New York City, Los Angeles, and Des Moines, calling glitches in the Affordable Care Act exchanges “unacceptable” and saying that fiscal negotiations were hindered by the fact that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “can’t control his caucus.”
  • President Obama conferred the Medal of Honor on former Army Capt. William Swenson, a veteran of the Afghan war, for his actions during a Sept. 2009 battle in the Ganjgal valley.
  • The president, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughter Malia met Friday with Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl wounded in an assassination attempt by the Taliban last year.

CONGRESS

POLITICS

BUDGET & ECONOMY

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • Representatives from 10 countries appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power arguing for expanded U.S. liquefied natural gas exports.
  • The Yom Kippur War was 40 years ago, but it sparked a brief market panic last week.
  • Senators passed legislation to enact the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement.
  • Leaked biofuel targets are only a draft proposal for next year’s renewable-fuel standard, according to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the latest Republican to call for the Environmental Protection Agency to hold public comment sessions on an upcoming regulation to limit emissions from existing power plants in coal states. Meanwhile, the first two stops of the 11-city tour have been postponed.
  • An aide to Ken Cuccinelli offered legal advice to energy companies while working for the Virginia attorney general, an action the state inspector general has deemed inappropriate.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • Insurance experts differ about how long it may take to fix glitches on the Affordable Care Act marketplace websites. In the meantime, insurers have started enrolling individuals on their plans directly.
  • Twenty-week abortion bans compel women to carry profoundly disabled children to term. At the heart of a wave of state laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, is the question of whether a fetus can feel pain.
  • The fact that the health care exchanges will include the opportunity for eligible voters to register has caused some controversy among Republicans.
  • The federal government will pay very different subsidy amounts for individuals’ health insurance under similar plans, depending on the state.
  • The pathway to ACA individual mandate exemptions is confusing, and a system for individuals to apply is not yet in place.
  • According to a Kaiser report released Wednesday, 5.2 million poor uninsured adults will fall into the coverage gap in the 26 states that have opted out of Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
  • Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said Wednesday that the ACA won’t be repealed unless Republicans win control of the White House and Senate, but that Republicans have to do something to stop it before 2014.

TECHNOLOGY

  • When it comes to the country’s drone program, the Central Intelligence Agency depends largely on the National Security Agency for phone and email records, as well as other signal intelligence, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden.
  • In the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. government surveillance, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is facing increased pressure to internationalize control of the Domain Name System.
  • The Obama administration has filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to decline to review immediately the NSA’s surveillance programs, maintaining that cases pending in lower courts should be allowed to proceed.
  • Apple Inc. this week hired Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to lead its retail and online sales divisions.
  • As Twitter Inc. prepares for its highly-anticipated initial public offering, the company is leveraging its popularity to extract favorable terms from the banks that will sell its shares.
  • Verizon Communications declined to rebuild the copper-line phone network on New Jersey’s Mantoloking Island after it was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, replacing it with wireless telephone service.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “Credit worthiness is like virginity, it can be preserved but not restored very easily, so it is crazy to play around with it.” — Warren Buffett (CNBC)
  • “There are members with a different agenda. And I’m not sure they’re Republicans and I’m not sure they’re conservative.” — Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., on his Tea Party colleagues (National Journal)
  • “[M]aybe the quality of the enchiladas.” — Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., on what was discussed by Republicans meeting in secret at Tortilla Coast (Roll Call)
  • “There are no winners here.” — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, on the end of the shutdown (Time)
  • “It all comes down to whether Howard will do it, and I need Howard.” — former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, on a possible presidential bid with shock jock Howard Stern (Politico)
  • “Blaming the National Park Service for the closure of the parks is like voting for capital punishment and then blaming the hangman,” — Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. (National Journal)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

Future events

  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The New America Foundation will hold a discussion on an upcoming report from the Committee to Protect Journalists titled, “Obama and the Press: Leak Investigations and Surveillance in Post-9/11 America” at 2 p.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with Air Force Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, at the White House at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The Woman’s National Democratic Club will hold a discussion on good governance proposals at the federal and state levels at 6:30 p.m. at 1526 New Hampshire Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18 — The Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Joint Public Advisory Committee will hold a regular session meeting on “20 Years of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the NAAEC (North American Agreement On Environmental Cooperation) at 2000 H Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will hold a discussion on “Housing and Government Finance in the Post-Bubble, Post-Bernanke World” at 2 p.m. at 1150 17th Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The Peterson Institute for International Economics will hold a discussion on “The Yin and Yang of Resolving the European Sovereign Debt Crisis” at 4 p.m. at 1750 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The Atlantic Council will hold a conference call briefing on “Geneva Talks on Iran: A New Beginning?” at 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion on “Troika and the Dynamics of the Washington-Tokyo-Beijing Triangle” at 4:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The Washington, D.C. Chapter of the World Future Society will hold a discussion on the Integrated Synergetic Information System, which is being developed for Egypt “to see the nation’s situation as a whole, its future options, and the full range of citizens’ views, government programs, and feedback on priorities” at 6:30 p.m. at 2019 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 — The America’s Future Foundation will hold a discussion on “Obamacare: To Delay, Defund, or Defy?” at 6:30 p.m. at 901 15th Street NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 –The Politics and Prose Bookstore will hold a book discussion on The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, on how Amazon.com changed the nature of retail sales, at 4 p.m. on 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 – Friday, Oct. 18 — The American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section will hold a conference, “Beyond the Horizon: What’s Next in Aviation and Space Law Litigation,” at 1150 22nd Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion on “Syria’s Moderate Opposition: Challenges to Ending the Conflict” at 11 a.m. at 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond will hold the 2013 Resolution Conference, “Planning for the Orderly Resolution of a Global Systemically Important Bank” at 8 am. at 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The New America Foundation will hold a book discussion on Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare, on the use of financial sanctions and intelligence “against the financial networks of terrorist groups, rogue regimes, proliferators, and criminal syndicates” at 12:15 p.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The National Research Council will hold a meeting, “Reviewing the 2010 Census,” at 9 a.m. at 500 Fifth Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The National Press Club Newsmaker Program will hold a news conference on “Finding Common Ground with the NRA (National Rifle Association) on Gun Control” at 2 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion on “The Energy Roadmap: Setting the Direction for 21st Century Energy” at 4:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The Economic Policy Institute and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education will hold a book discussion on Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools at 1 p.m. at 1333 H Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 — The Politics and Prose Bookstore will hold a book discussion on Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools at 7 p.m. at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 21 — The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a discussion on “Climate and Security: Views from the Global North and South,” including “how climate change is impacting the national security and economic development” of Canada and Indonesia at1 p.m. at 1111 19th Street NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 21 — The Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies will hold a discussion on “The New Political Landscape of Afghanistan’s Neighborhood After 2014” at noon at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 21 – Monday, Oct. 22 — Medicaid Health Plans of America will hold its 2013 conference titled “Health Reform from East to West: Preparing Medicaid Health Plans for 2014,” at 8 a.m. at 201 Waterfront Street in National Harbor, Md.
  • Monday, Oct. 21 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion on “Rare Earth Elements: Implications on U.S.-Asia Environmental and Security Issues,” on China’s near-monopoly on chemical elements “critical for mobile phones, laptops, green technologies and even defense systems” at 7 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 21 — The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project will hold a discussion on “Improving College Outcomes: A Modern Approach to Financing Higher Education” at 1 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — The National Business Group on Health will hold a briefing to announce “the results of a survey of employees on their perspectives on the Affordable Care Act, health insurance exchanges and the future of benefits and health care delivery” at 10 a.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “The Modernization of Health Care through Mobile Technology and Medical Monitoring Devices” at 2 p.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — Foreign Policy Initiative will hold the 2013 FPI Forum on “Will America Lead?” at 9 a.m. at 1301 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 – Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations holds the 22nd annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference, “Navigating Arab-U.S. Relations: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities,” at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 – The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Housing Finance Reform: Essential Elements of a Government Guarantee for Mortgage-Backed Securities” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — The Center for American Progress, PolicyLink, and the Rockefeller Foundation will hold a discussion on a new poll examining attitudes toward rising diversity and continued inequities titled “The Next 30 Years: Political and Policy Implications of Changing Demographics in the United States” at noon at 1333 H Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — The Environmental Law Institute will hold a forum on “Big Data: A Game Changer for Environmental Managers, Advocates and Regulators?” at 9 a.m. at 2500 Calvert Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22 — The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a discussion on a new study by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) titled “Nuclear Weapons Security Crises: What Does History Teach?” focusing on “China’s near-nuclear crisis” during the Cultural Revolution at 11:30 a.m. at 1111 19th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Expanding Access to VA Health Care” at 10 a.m. in 418 Russell.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of John Owens to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; Matthew Leitman to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan; Judith Levy to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan; Laurie Michelson to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan; Linda Parker to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan; and Peter Kadzik to be an assistant attorney general at 2:30 p.m. in 266 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The Peterson Institute for International Economics will hold a discussion on “A Global Perspective on Fiscal Uncertainty: Is U.S. Government Debt Different?” at 4 p.m. at 1750 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The Family Research Council will hold a discussion on “An Obamacare Alternative,” focusing on the Republican Study Group’s American Health Care Reform Act at noon at 801 G Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will hold a discussion on “From Multiple Choice to One Size Fits All? Obamacare and the Future of Competition in Health Care” at noon at 1150 17th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Financial Services Roundtable will hold a discussion on “Cybersecurity: 21st Century Threats, Challenges, and Opportunities” at 8:30 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
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This Week In Washington…

Posted on October 11, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed Thursday morning a short-term plan that would raise the debt ceiling through Nov. 22.
    Look ahead: If enough House Republicans back the proposal, the House could vote as soon as Thursday evening. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the Obama administration prefers a longer-term deal.
  • Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned during a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday that “irrevocable damage” could result from the United States defaulting on its obligations.
    Look ahead: Moody’s Investors Service downplayed the risk of default, saying that the government would prioritize what bills to pay, even though the Obama administration has panned such an approach.
  • As Egypt’s military-backed government prepares to try former President Mohamed Morsi in November, the U.S. is withdrawing substantial aid to the country—including military systems and cash assistance—until Egypt makes “credible progress” toward an inclusive, democratically-elected government.
    Look ahead: What this policy shift will prove now, months after the military takeover and years after the crackdown on democratic civil society began, is unclear—and that’s not a good thing if the United States will cut back assistance that has been central to the relationship between both countries for three decades.
  • U.S. special forces conducted weekend raids in Libya and southern Somalia—the former resulted in the capture of a suspected al-Qaida operative, and the latter ended prematurely and without the apprehension of the targeted individual.
    Look ahead: The missions demonstrate the reach of the U.S. military, and could provide a window into future counterterrorism efforts.
  • President Obama on Wednesday nominated Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to chair the central bank.
    Look ahead: Yellen could face pushback from Senate Republicans on her touting of the Federal Reserve’s easy-money program. It is unclear when her nomination hearing will take place.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama met Wednesday with House Democrats, and is expected to meet separately Thursday with House Republicans and Senate Democrats; a meeting with Senate Republicans is slated for Friday.
  • In televised remarks Tuesday, the president reiterated his willingness to speak with Republicans about the budget stalemate, but said he had told House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that “negotiations shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.”
  • National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said Monday that the White House could be amenable to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, which would allow for negotiations to end the ongoing fiscal battles.
  • In an unannounced visit to FEMA on Monday, the president thanked furloughed agency employees who returned to work—without pay—to aid preparations for Tropical Storm Karen.

CONGRESS

POLITICS

  • Supreme Court justices appeared divided when they heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that could further loosen campaign finance restrictions.
  • Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., said he will retire at the end of his current term.
  • Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, largely blamed President Obama and Senate Democrats for the shutdown at a Family Foundation fundraiser on Saturday, but said both parties should agree to a short-term spending bill.
  • Former Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, a Democrat, announced a bid against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who withstood a recall election year.
  • With less than a week to go, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, is leading the New Jersey Senate election with 53 percent of the vote in a new Quinnipiac University poll, with former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a Republican, capturing 41 percent.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen was nominated Wednesday to succeed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that trying to determine what bills to pay if the country defaults would be “chaos.”
  • Moody’s Investors Service said the government would prioritize what bills to pay, even though the Obama administration has previously panned such an approach.
  • The United States and the European Union canceled trade talks scheduled to occur next week in Brussels, with U.S. trade officials citing staff shortages due to the furlough.
  • U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that in addition to impeding trade discussions, the government shutdown is “hurting the American economy and the creation of American jobs.”

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • As Egypt’s military-backed government prepares to try former President Mohamed Morsi, the U.S. is withdrawing substantial aid to the country—including military systems and cash assistance—until Egypt makes “credible progress” toward an inclusive, democratically-elected government.
  • Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was held captive in the Interior Ministry building for several hours by members of a militia linked to the government, reportedly in retaliation for the regime’s purported role in the U.S. capture of suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi.
  • A suicide car bombing in northern Sinai killed four members of Egypt’s security forces on Thursday. It is the latest in a series of violent clashes across Egypt, where the government is involved in a military offensive.
  • U.S. Special Forces members on Saturday captured Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Libya.
  • Navy SEALs staged a raid on a town in southern Somalia on Saturday, but were unable to capture their target and aborted the mission after encountering “fiercer resistance than expected.”
  • During a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the countries are “very pleased” with the initial phase of Syrian disarmament, and looked ahead to scheduled nuclear talks with Iran.
  • Under the supervision of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a team of Syrians this weekend began destroying “mixing equipment, missile warheads, and aerial bombs.”

HEALTH CARE

  • Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s enthusiastic implementation of the Affordable Care Act is being met with high enrollment on the state exchange in its first few days.
  • The chief administrative officer of the House sent guidance to Congress requiring lawmakers and their staffers to purchase “gold” level plans, one of the top-tier options available on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
  • As ACA enrollment site glitches continue in the second week, weekend Web repairs helped a bit. The administration has attributed glitches to high traffic, but software problems are also to blame. The insurance industry is calling for patience, saying there is time to fix the system before coverage begins.
  • The GOP remains strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, but the law’s coverage expansion would benefit House districts represented by Republicans nearly as much as those represented by Democrats.
  • A Kaiser survey released Monday shows increases are expected even in states not expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
  • Some insurers are receiving faulty data from the federal exchange. The extent of the problem is not known, but industry reports indicate technical problems faced by consumers aiming to enroll in coverage may be affecting insurers as well.
  • A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows two-thirds of Americans think Congress should keep the government open and address health care separately.
  • The Center for Disease Control’s ability to track an antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak that began in California has been hindered during the government shutdown.
  • Affordable Care Act state exchanges are experiencing fewer glitches and having more success enrolling uninsured individuals than federal exchanges during the first week of implementation.

TECHNOLOGY

  • An Aug. 9 ruling by the International Trade Commission, which banned the importation or sale of certain older models of Samsung smartphones and tablets due to infringement on Apple patents, is set to take effect after the U.S. Trade Representative declined to challenge it.
  • The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of Amazon in a dispute between the online retailer and IBM over a $600 million contract to provide cloud computing services to the CIA.
  • Over the past 13 months, the National Security Agency’s new data-storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, has suffered 10 meltdowns, which have damaged key equipment and delayed the opening of the facility, slated to play a key role in the agency’s surveillance operations.
  • NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander criticized media coverage of his agency’s surveillance practices as “irresponsible,” warning that the leaks could cause “irreparable damage to our nation.”
  • According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, advertising on mobile devices increased from $1.2 billion in the first half of 2012 to $3 billion in the first six months of 2013.

OTHER NEWS

  • Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Stamford, Conn., was shot and killed by Capitol police Thursday following a pursuit that began when Carey allegedly attempted to breach a security barrier near the White House.
  • The Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry, Physics, and Literature were announced on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively.
  • Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy of Florida and Bill Foster of Illinois are pushing legislation that would close down the members’ gym while the shutdown continues.
  • The Federal Reserve began circulating some 3.5 billion new $100 bills this week, an upgrade that was delayed more than two years due to printing defects.
  • Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., on Tuesday brought his son John onto the House floor, where the toddler took members’ voting cards, cast votes, and engaged House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in “what was surely a high-level conversation.”

QUOTES

  • “There’s hardly anybody working down there. There’s no towel service, we’re doing our own laundry down there.” — Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, on the shutdown suffering of House gym members. (Talking Points Memo)
  • “I’m on your side, don’t screw it up.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, whose protest to free D.C.’s budget overlapped with a Senate Democratic photo op. (Washington Times)
  • “That is one of the worst stories I have ever heard.” — Utah judge Thomas Willmore, to a man who blamed his upset stomach for a 111-mph police chase. (UPI)
  • “We spend more money guarding the World War II Memorial than we do protecting our ambassador in Libya.” — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (floor remarks)
  • “I’ve never done twerking in my life and I don’t intend to take it up.” — Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on a Miley Cyrus Saturday Night Live parody of her. (Tea Party News Network)
  • “New Jersey needs a leader, not a tweeter.” — Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, on Newark Mayor Cory Booker. (Politicker NJ)
  • “I’ve advised her to raise money.” — Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, on whether he has discussed the Affordable Care Act with Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. (Hotline On Call)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

Future events

  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Center for Digital Innovation Technology and Strategy at the University of Maryland, and Smartronix will hold a forum on “Digital Innovation,” focusing on “how the General Services Administration and other federal agencies could operate Facebook-like online service platforms” at 8 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The New America Foundation will hold a discussion on “The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria: What More Can Be Done?” at 11:30 a.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will hold a discussion on Detente and Democratization: Can Rouhani Change Iran? at 12:30 p.m at 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Institute for Korean-American Studies and the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service will hold a symposium on “The Korean Peninsula Issues and U.S. National Security” at 1:15 p.m at 3600 N Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 – Sunday, Oct. 13 — The Family Research Council will hold the 2013 Values Voter Summit: Standing for Faith, Family, and Opportunity for All,” at 2500 Calvert Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Institute for Policy Studies will hold a discussion on “The future of the progressive movement(s),” part of the IPS 50th Anniversary Celebration, including a look at campaigns for dealing with workers’ rights, poverty, and inequality at 7:30 p.m. at 415 New Jersey Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Georgetown University Law Center and Americans for Financial Reform will hold a symposium on bank regulation titled “Opening Wall Street’s Black Box, Pathways to Improved Financial Transparency” at 10 a.m. at 120 F Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion on “U.S. Trade Policy in the 21st Century: Can the Multilateral Trading System Survive?” at 12:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold a discussion on “prospects for a trade facilitation agreement and other deliverables at the WTO’s (World Trade Organization) 9th Ministerial Conference in December and other issues confronting the rules-based trading system” at 2 p.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “U.S. Global Leadership in the Second Obama Administration: Policies and Realities” at 2 p.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on “The Way Forward Toward Fiscal Sustainability and Economic Growth” at 10 a.m. at 1100 Longworth.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on “The Impacts of the Government Shutdown on Our Economic Security” at 11 a.m. in 253 Russell.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “The Road to a New Global Climate Change Agreement: Challenges and Opportunities” at 9 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 — The Organization of American States and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development will hold a joint meeting to discuss “Developing the Global Framework to Confront Climate Change” at 11 a.m. at 200 17th Street NW.
  • Monday, Oct. 14 – Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The National Iranian American Council will hold the 2013 Leadership Conference at 1221 22th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The Women’s Foreign Policy Group will hold a discussion on “A Status Report on Syrian Refugees: A View from the Field” at noon at 1615 M Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing on “Small Businesses Speak: Surviving the Government Shutdown?” at 2:30 p.m. at 428-A Russell.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion on “Oil Market Trends and Forecasts” at 10 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a field hearing on “Offshore Energy and Jobs: America’s Governors Speak Out” at 10:30 a.m. at 1141 Bayview Avenue in Biloxi, Miss.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15 — The Technology Policy Institute will hold a discussion on “Competition, Net Neutrality and Other Issues Facing the New FCC” at 8:30 a.m. at 555 13th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 16 — The Heritage Foundation will hold a book discussion on Smoking Them Out: The Theft of the Environment and How to Take It Back at noon at 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 16 – Thursday, Oct. 17 — The TechAmerica Foundation will hold the 2013 Vision Conference at 6715 Commerce Street in Springfield, Va.
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Sequester’s Looming Consequences

Posted on October 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

Lost in the soul-crushing debate over the government shutdown and the federal debt limit  are the ballooning impacts of the sequester, which took effect on March 1 and forced tens of billions of dollars in budget reductions on the federal government.

True, you may not have felt it, adding fuel to the argument of conservatives that the budget axe fell only on bloated and wasteful federal spending. This is untrue, as America is soon to find out.

The government-wide spending cuts already are having impacts on programs for states, for the poor, for critical health research, for national defense and for pretty much everything else the government does.

On top of any impacts government agencies may feel because of a shut down or a cap on borrowing capacity, they also are dealing with $85 billion in sequester cuts. Furloughs, hiring freezes and limits on overtime have meant cutbacks in government service that are just now taking their toll.

Early effects were minor, like longer customs and security checkpoint lines at airports. Longer term, these cuts will effect important government investment in such thing as health research, aid to the poor, fighting crime and national security. Inconvenience is one thing; lives are another.

“We’re headed for some troubled waters on the sequester issues,” Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters recently.

National security, he said, is threatened.

“We’ll have some intelligence operations around the world that will have to shut down. We’ll have to curtail certain operations,” Rogers said. “And that information that’s collected is highly important to protecting the United States, so I do worry about it significantly.”

President Obama sought to restore sequester losses in his 2014 budget, which, of course, went nowhere. Even with an increased debt ceiling, the sequester cuts will continue to erode spending on national security and other core government functions.

The sequester, you’ll remember, came about as result of spending cuts demanded by Republicans in exchange for an increase in the debt limit two years ago. It was designed as sword of Damocles, ready to fall if Congress could not come up with $1.2 trillion in targeted budget savings. Of course, Congress failed as usual and the across the board cuts went into effect this spring.

Some agencies, like the Pentagon, were allowed to shift money around and make their cuts more targeted. But those fixes exhausted their ability to cut unneeded programs and projects in the first few months. Cutting fat is over, now we’re getting closer to the bone.

For example, FBI director James Comey said the federal law enforcement enterprise would not be able to train any new recruits and, like other federal employees, G-men faced furloughs.

Just as worrisome are how the cuts will impact longer term government programs, like health care research toward cures for major illnesses like Alzheimer’s, autism and cancer.

“And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of National Institutes of Health, told The Huffington Post.

According to NIH estimates, more than 700 research grants have been cut. That number will grow to more than 1,000 this year is nothing is done.

And those aren’t the only impacts. The cuts have had devastating consequences for America’s poor, those who can afford cutbacks the least and a constituency that lacks any true lobbying voice with the powers that control the purse strings.

Where the budget axe meets the bone, though, is not just in Washington, it’s also in the state capitals.

Take New Jersey for example. The White House says the state will loose $11.7 in funding for primary and secondary education, $17 million in funds for children with disabilities, $4.9 million in environmental funding, $840,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats, and much more. Some 11,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $75 million in total. And that’s just in one state.

The rippling economic impacts are incalculable. In the end, claims that the sequester proved the federal government can get by with less are true. The real question is at what longer-term price.

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The Kamikaze Caucus

Posted on October 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

Let’s face it; American politics has never been pretty. There have been threats, intimidation, even physical confrontations on the floors of our legislative bodies almost from the beginning.

But never before has a small group of lawmakers threatened the Republic with ruin if it didn’t get its way. We’re speaking here, of course, about the tiny Tea Party with its 30 or 40 minions who would shut down the government or trash the economy if they don’t get their way on the historically insignificant issue of health care reform. It’s enough to make Pyrrhus roll his eyes.

We’re not sure if he was the first to use the k-word, but conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News that the Republican plan was a kamikaze mission. And while kamikaze missions were effective in their ability to destroy, by design they didn’t work out too well for the pilots.

Here’s what Krauthammer said: “If we end up with a shutdown, it is going to be kamikaze, and the Republicans will end up sushi. Very thin slices. And everybody knows this, this is sort of a charade.”

This is blunt talk from a conservative, especially when it is aimed at fellow Republicans. But Krauthammer was not alone. Plain spoken Republicans like Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Peter King of New York used no uncertain terms in describing the recklessness of their party colleagues who were ready to sink the ship if they didn’t get what they wanted.

The kamikaze pilots, as we all know, are members of, or sympathizers with, the amorphous group called the Tea Party, which has latched onto a scorched earth strategy to wield unearned influence on the entire Republican Party, the Congress and the nation.

Their latest plan would use the threat of a government shutdown, or the economic ruin that would follow a refusal to increase the federal debt ceiling, to get what they want. This time it’s the defunding of Obamacare, but do you think if they succeed that will be the end of the kamikaze approach to legislating?

No. Anything could be next. Any part of a agenda that includes the far right’s pet projects could well be forced upon America using this strategy. Gay marriage, abortion, gun control, you name it.

This is not how Democracy is supposed to work. Federal policy is supposed to be set by lawmakers sent to Washington by America’s majority and that majority is not with the Tea Party agenda.

It may be true that a majority of American’s oppose all or parts of the Obamacare law, but the way to gain its repeal is for all those opponents to elect members to Congress that will vote to do so. This is how the American legislative process was designed to work.

Tea Party activists are famous for invoking the Constitution and the founding fathers to support their agenda. But assembling a shrill minority to control the agenda in Congress with threats to the very survival of the Republic is hardly what America’s founders had in mind.

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Fighting terrorism requires a united front at home and abroad

Posted on October 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Turner commentary:

Even before the smoke cleared from last month’s bloody attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, as many as 50 Nigerian college students were gunned down on Sunday as they slept in their dorm rooms in the latest act of terror in the name of radical Islam.

The deadly raid on the Kenyan mall was carried out by al-Shabaab while the attack at a college in northern Nigeria was the work of the Boko Haram—two of dozens if not hundreds of jihadist groups bent on shaping a world to their view—though it isn’t clear if any share the same Islamist vision.

What isn’t in doubt is the fact that to effectively respond to rising terrorism be it in North Africa, Southeast Asia, Boston, or currently and most critically in Syria—where al-Qaeda in Iraq has merged with several rebel groups seeking to overthrow the corrupt Assad government—the United States cannot and should not go it alone. Confronting a decentralized and increasingly franchised enemy requires responsible governments to stand together, setting aside ideological differences to find ways to deal with an immediate and very real mutual threat. (Russia facing its own Islamic extremist threats at home is understandably concerned about any power shift in Syria.)

These radical groups look at the dysfunction in the international community, played out in places such as the United Nations, and see opportunity. And though the U.N. Security Council resolution to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, which passed last Friday after more than two years of Russian and Chinese opposition, is a positive and welcomed action, cooperation among major players on the world stage is a must if the underlying conditions fueling radical militancy—poverty, corruption, and political frustration—are to be adequately addressed.

Likewise, dysfunction domestically underscored by hyper-partisan fights, the latest of which has us on the brink of a government shutdown with another more serious confrontation just weeks away, potentially emboldens those who wish us harm.  A government that lurches from one self-made crisis to another can’t help but to be viewed as being in disarray. And while any enemy foolish enough to attack us will quickly learn—in spite of outward appearances—the singularity of American strength and resolve, projecting a chaotic air only serves to encourage those who believe there are deep divisions that can be exploited.  To put it simply: lawmakers looking to score political points at the expense of good governance risk undermining America’s image abroad and safety at home.

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