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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