Archive for November, 2013

This Week in Washington…

Posted on November 21, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • The Senate on Thursday approved a rules change that eliminates the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the Supreme Court, after Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., invoked the “nuclear option.”
    Look ahead: The new system could ease the way for President Obama’s nominees, but Republicans warned that Democrats could regret the change when the GOP regains control of the White House and Senate.
  • House Republicans are mounting a messaging campaign designed to wage a cascading series of attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
    Look ahead: A memo distributed to members this week outlines the strategy, which involves soliciting comments from individuals affected by the health care law.
  • While some observers are cautiously optimistic that Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., could reach a narrow agreement to replace some of the sequester cuts, partisans remain at odds over the appropriate strategy.
    Look ahead: With few signs of progress emerging from the budget conference committee’s negotiations, at least two of its members, Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., have already begun discussing a Plan B.
  • Senate Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday on amendments to the defense authorization bill that addressed military sexual assault, citing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s apparent unwillingness to allow debate on GOP amendments.
    Look ahead: A proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would remove military sexual assault cases from the military chain of command has the backing of 53 senators, but lacks the requisite 60 votes.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States and Afghanistan have agreed to terms for the Bilateral Security Agreement governing relations between the countries after 2014.
    Look ahead: Afghan President Hamid Karzai endorsed the pact before a gathering of elders, but sought to defer signing it, leaving his successor to formalize the agreement following the April elections.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama expressed openness to a piecemeal approach to immigration reform during a wide-ranging interview before The Wall Street Journal CEO Council.
  • Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to honorees including former President Clinton, former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, and Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks. Posthumous awards were given to Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and astronaut Sally Ride.
  • The president met with Senate leaders and key committee chairs on Tuesday, asking them to postpone consideration of additional sanctions on Iran pending the outcome of this week’s nuclear talks in Geneva.
  • Obama met Friday with insurance company executives in a bid to reassure the industry on his administrative solution to the policy-cancellation problem.
  • Obama nominated Vivek Hallegere Murthy, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to serve as surgeon general of the United States.

CONGRESS

  • The Senate voted Thursday on a rules change that eliminates the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the Supreme Court, after Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., invoked the “nuclear option.”
  • Senate action on the National Defense Authorization Act stalled Wednesday as Republicans sought assurances that the chamber would vote on amendments other than those offered by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday attended the House Republican Conference meeting, urging members to hold firm in sequester negotiations with Democrats.
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., can’t run from her record of support for the Affordable Care Act, but she can distance herself from President Obama and his signature legislative achievement—and some say she’s trying.
  • Senate Republicans blocked the president’s nomination of District Judge Robert Wilkins to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
  • An extension of unemployment benefits is set to expire for 1.3 million Americans at the end of December, and for another 850,000 in the first quarter of next year.
  • Time and again, Senate Democrats have delivered the votes for President Obama, but now, cast into shadow by the problem-plagued rollout of Obamacare, many are saying privately that they are feeling little love in return.

POLITICS

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported Monday that it raised $4.8 million last month, its best-ever haul in October of an off year. It was $1 million more than the $3.8 million collected by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised about $7 million in October and had $25 million cash on hand at the end of the month, while the National Republican Congressional Committee raised $4.6 million during the period and had $18.2 million on hand.
  • Businessman Vance McAllister, a Republican, secured nearly 60 percent of the vote against Republican state Sen. Neil Riser in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.
  • House Democrats who walked the plank for Obamacare in 2010 now have to watch the White House mess it up.
  • The Republican Party can’t bear a repeat of 2012—not while facing its last best shot at taking the Senate from Democrats. And not while it tries to rehabilitate its image before the 2016 presidential election, a contest Republicans are desperate to win. So GOP leaders are vowing to step in.
  • Mary Cheney is publicly criticizing her sister, Liz Cheney, who has emphasized her opposition to gay marriage during a GOP primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve on a 14-8 vote Thursday.
  • The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released theminutes from the Oct. 29-30 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, revealing that board members debated ways tohold down short-term interest rates and considered their messaging strategy.
  • The “Volcker Rule,” a provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform law that would ban banks from making risky bets with their own money, was supposed to be ready in 2011, but has been delayed by disputes between banking regulators (the Fed, the FDIC, and the OCC) and market regulators (the SEC and the CFTC).
  • The Justice Department and international authorities are investigating the possibility that major-bank traders colluded to manipulate currencies.
  • Beginning in March, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will serve as president and managing director of private-equity firm Warburg Pincus.
  • The U.S. workforce now includes a record 67.5 million women—up from the previous high of 67.4 million in early 2008—and 69 million men, down from 70.9 million in June 2007.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal for next year’s renewable-fuel standard, lowering the overall volume obligations for the first time.
  • House Energy and Commerce Committee members said the Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped in mandating the technology for future power plants.
  • The House passed a bill to speed up the permitting process for oil and gas drilling on public lands.
  • Top U.N. official Christiana Figueres warned that failure to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from coal will speed the pace of climate change.
  • The U.K. government has followed the lead of the United States in deciding to cut funding for overseas coal plants.
  • Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began removing the fuel rod assemblies this week.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • President Obama on Thursday announced an administrative fix for the Affordable Care Act, allowing insurers to renew for 2014 individual coverage plans that would have been canceled.
  • A bill introduced by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., to allow people to keep their health care plans drew its share of Democratic support Friday.
  • Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and other House Republicans say states should have to pay for at least part of their expanded Medicaid programs.
  • Insurance companies have sent thousands of misleading, threatening, and incorrect letters to consumers to keep them on their plans and away from the ACA exchanges.
  • A risk assessment by McKinsey & Co., delivered to administration officials between March 28 and April 8, previewed the failings of the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov.
  • The bipartisan legislation increasing federal oversight on drug-compounding pharmacies passed in the Senate on Monday, and will head to the president’s desk.
  • An online calculator that accompanies new guidelines for lowering cholesterol seems to dramatically overestimate risk.
  • The White House released a report showing health care spending growth is the lowest on record, and the administration says it reflects changes under the ACA.

TECHNOLOGY

  • The Justice Department called Bitcoins “legal means of exchange” at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing.
  • The House Judiciary Committee rejected a Democratic alternative Wednesday to a patent-reform bill authored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., aiming to curb abusive patent litigation.
  • President Obama called for “blow(ing) up how we procure for IT” on Tuesday, referring to a system some have blamed in part for the failed rollout of the federal health-exchange website.
  • A secret deal with British intelligence officials gave the National Security Agency access to phone, Internet, and email records of U.K. citizens, according to new disclosures from Edward Snowden.
  • Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is launching a campaign to lobby Congress to ban Internet gambling that intends to portray the activity as dangerous to children and the poor.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “I want to see it because I barely remember it. I was very, very inebriated.” — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, on the video of him smoking crack cocaine. (Today)
  • “I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.” — Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., on his cocaine arrest. (release)
  • “You guys have just attacked Kuwait. This is going to be outright war in the next election.” — Ford, on a city council vote to remove many of his powers. (National Post)
  • “It’s really interesting it came on the heels of Republicans voting on everyone who had access to food stamps get drug tested. It’s like, what?” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Radel’s arrest. (BuzzFeed)
  • “I am a painter.” — Former President George W. Bush. (National Journal)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • The Global Carbon Project charts trends in global emissions.
  • The Council of Economic Advisors charts the slowed growth of healthcare costs.
  • Quartz charts the top carbon-polluting nations.
  • Pew charts declining percentages of Americans who participate in the stock market.
  • Quartz charts racial dating preference data using online responses.
  • National Journal charts a host of categories on public perception of Obamacare.

Future events

  • Friday, Nov. 22 – The White House will hold a ceremony to honor the winners of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards at 2:15 p.m. First lady Michelle Obama will participate.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 – The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Housing Finance Reform: Developing a Plan for a Smooth Transition,” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 – Arlington National Cemetery will hold a wreath-layingremembrance ceremony at President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 – George Washington University, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland University College and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland will hold a Kalb Report forum on “A Presidency, a Legacy and a Day that Changed America,” at 8 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather is scheduled to participate.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 – The Newseum, Allstate, and National Journal will hold adiscussion, “Fiscal Future: America’s Financial Reality, Five Years After the Crash,” drawing on findings from the upcoming Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll.
  • Monday, Nov. 25 – The Center for Economic and Policy Research will hold a book discussion on Getting Back to Full Employment with authors Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker, at 6:30 p.m. at 1025 Fifth Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 – The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will hold a meeting by teleconference of the State Energy Advisory Board.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 – The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a book discussion on Of Empires and Citizens: Pro-American Democracy or No Democracy at All? focusing on “the politics of civic engagement in the Arab world,” at 5:30 p.m. at 1957 E Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 – The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion, “U.S. Foreign Aid – Which Way Forward?” at 6:30 p.m. at 1957 E Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 26 – The New America Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for a New American Security will hold a discussion, “The National Security Agenda: Foreign Policy Challenges in Obama’s Second Term,” at 1:45 p.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 – Capital Bank will hold a discussion, “The Future of Health Care: What to Expect & How to Prepare Your Business,” as part of the Thinking Ahead Business Series, at 3:30 p.m. at 9600 Newbridge Drive in Potomac, Md.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 – The Alliance for Health Reform will hold a briefing, “Health Insurance Marketplaces: The First 8 Weeks,” at 12:15 p.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 – The National Military Family Association will host aforum, “Cyber Crisis: Protecting the U.S., Companies, and Your Family in a War Waged by Hackers,” at 3 p.m. at 901 17th Street NW. Former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden is scheduled to participate.
  • Monday, Nov. 25 – The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion, “How Social Media is Changing Government and Governance around the World,” at 10 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
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This Week in Washington…

Posted on November 14, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • President Obama acknowledged Thursday that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act “has been rough,” and extended the law’s grandfather clause to allow insurers to continue enrolling consumers through 2014 in plans that do not meet the law’s requirements.
    Look ahead: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that House Democrats have their own plan to resolve the insurance cancellations triggered by the health care law.
  • The Health and Human Services Department this week released the long-awaited enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act, revealing that 106,185 people have selected a plan using the exchanges.
    Look ahead: Government and contract workers report that HealthCare.gov can handle only half its projected volume, and technical issues may not be resolved by the Nov. 30 deadline set by the administration.
  • The budget conference committee remains far from a deal, with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., negotiating on behalf of their respective parties.
    Look ahead: Ryan conceded that the panel—which will not convene again until after Thanksgiving—may miss the Dec. 13 deadline for an agreement.
  • The Obama administration is urging the Senate to hold off on strengthening sanctions against Iran, with Secretary of State John Kerry telling the Banking Committee on Wednesday that the move could jeopardize negotiations.
    Look ahead: A faction of Armed Services Committee members is pushing the Banking Committee to lead the charge on sanctions, in order to avoid attaching the controversial measure to the defense-authorization bill.
  • The Senate on Thursday weighs the nomination of Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve; the Fed vice chairwoman is expected to tell lawmakers that while the economy has made “good progress” since the recession, the central bank’s quantitative easing measures should continue.
    Look ahead: If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Yellen will arguably be the most powerful woman in Washington.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama acknowledged Thursday that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act “has been rough,” and extended the law’s grandfather clause to allow insurers to continue enrolling consumers in plans that do not meet the law’s requirements.
  • President Obama continues his economic speaking tour on Nov. 14, delivering remarks at steelmaking facility ArcelorMittal Cleveland.
  • The president addressed the Tribal Nations Conference on Wednesday, expressing his administration’s commitment to the interests of Native Americans.
  • Speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, President Obama emphasized the administration’s commitment to the country’s veterans.
  • In an interview last week, President Obama apologized personally to Americans who are losing their existing coverage in spite of “assurances they got from me.”

CONGRESS

  • The budget conference committee remains far from a deal, with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., negotiating on behalf of their respective parties.
  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will meet Thursday with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., for what is billed as an update on tax-reform legislation, expected this year.
  • In a news conference Wednesday, Boehner ruled out a conference on the Senate comprehensive immigration-reform bill, reiterating House GOP leadership’s preference for a piecemeal approach.
  • Several congressional Democrats warned administration officials Wednesday that they could back legislation from Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would allow consumers to maintain their existing insurance coverage.
  • A 56-41 Senate vote fell short of the 60 required to proceed with consideration of Cornelia Pillard, the Georgetown University law professor nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

POLITICS

  • The Republican Party is weighing a possible change to its presidential primary calendar, with a “Midwestern Super Tuesday” designed to reduce the influence of Southern states and yield a nominee more likely to win the general election.
  • Liberal and Democratic outside groups are mounting a large-scale effort to upgrade their data infrastructure ahead of the 2014 midterms.
  • Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday signed into law the same-sex marriage legislation passed the previous day by the state Legislature.
  • Former Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who switched parties after serving as a Republican, said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has backed sitting Lt. Gov. John Walsh for the state’s open Senate seat, sought to avoid a primary.
  • A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Democrats and Republicans are now tied on the generic congressional ballot, with each at 39 percent. A combined 23 percent of registered voters either prefer another candidate, wouldn’t vote, or are undecided.
  • An ad by the Judicial Crisis Network, referring to nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, accuses Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., of “helping Obama pack a key court with new liberal judges.”

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The Senate on Thursday will weigh the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve.
  • The monthly budget deficit for October—boosted by hiring increases—was $91.6 billion, compared with $120 billion in October 2012 and a median estimate of $102 billion among economists surveyed last month.
  • Despite some positive economic reports, employment opportunities and wage growth have lagged for some Americans.
  • Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is in Asia this week, with stops planned in a handful of countries that are party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.
  • The country’s gross domestic product grew in the third quarter at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent. Many economists had predicted a decline to 2 percent.
  • Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, argued against tapering, while Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, advocated an increase in the central bank’s bond purchases.
  • AMR and US Airways have reached a settlement with the Justice Department that will allow American Airlines and US Airways to merge, and will require the combined carrier to cede slots, gates, and ground facilities at major airports around the country, including LaGuardia and Reagan National.
  • According to a Gallup poll, 76 percent of Americans would vote to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • World leaders met Monday in Poland to kick off a United Nations summit on climate change, but hopes for a groundbreaking agreement are slim, at best.
  • A train transporting crude oil from North Dakota crashed Friday morning in western Alabama.
  • The American Petroleum Institute pushed back against a payments-disclosure rulemaking.
  • Organizing for Action asked supporters to issue comments on upcoming Environmental Protection Agency regulations for power plants.
  • An Associated Press article reported that federal efforts to increase ethanol production have caused environmental damage as cornfields have replaced conservation land, contaminated water supplies, and destroyed habitats.
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., met with Premier Alison Redford of Alberta, Canada, and made a push for Keystone XL approval.
  • The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lowered its estimates of historic carbon emissions.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on Wednesday that he would place a hold on Jeh Johnson’s nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., suggested Wednesday that House members could move forward with a resolution on Iran that would stress the need for more sanctions.
  • Ahead of a closed briefing Wednesday for members of the Senate Banking Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said that toughening sanctions at this juncture could jeopardize negotiations.
  • Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are holding “internal discussions” about improving their offer to build Turkey a Patriot missile-defense system, sources say.
  • French officials on Tuesday dismissed notions that the country’s stance during recent talks over Iran’s nuclear program derailed a potential agreement.
  • Kerry said on Monday that the Geneva talks over Iran’s nuclear program failed because Iran rejected an offer made by the P5+1.
  • The State Department announced that it is classifying two Nigeria-based groups, Boko Haram and Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations.

HEALTH CARE

  • HHS released long-awaited ACA enrollment numbers Wednesday, showing 106,185 people have selected a plan through the exchanges.
  • The FDA proposed a measure would all but eliminate artificial trans fats from the food supply.
  • Members of Congress and their staffers will be on ‘gold’ level ACA plans, with coverage expected to be very similar to what Capitol Hill employees have now.
  • Former President Clinton, a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, said Obama should make good on his promise to Americans about keeping their health plans.
  • About 275,000 people who unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in coverage on HealthCare.gov are being contacted by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials this week, as website fixes continue.
  • New guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology advise physicians to assess patients’ risk levels on a broader basis than the specific cholesterol targets used previously.
  • In a House Oversight Committee hearing with ACA IT officials Wednesday, both sides agreed on the need for federal IT reform.
  • Democratic support is growing for bills that would allow individuals to keep their insurance plans, as political tensions escalate between Democrats and the White House over the ACA.

TECHNOLOGY

  • U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild against Google, ruling that the company’s Google Books project is legal under the fair use doctrine of copyright law.
  • Apple and Samsung returned to court this week in a retrial on damages in a patent lawsuit over smartphone technology.
  • Early reports suggest that short sellers are eyeing Twitter stock, which debuted last week.
  • Micro-blogging site Snapchat reportedly spurned purchase offers worth billions, including one from Facebook.
  • Sprint will not take part in a government auction for a batch of spectrum known as “H-block,” near spectrum already used by the telecom company.
  • IBM plans to make its Watson supercomputer available via the internet for use by academics, companies, and software developers.

OTHER NEWS

  • Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday that the number of people killed by Super Typhoon Haiyan could be between 2,000 and 2,500—down from the initial estimated death toll of 10,000.
  • Two Secret Service agents have been removed from the presidential detail following allegations of misconduct, including an attempt by one to gain entry to a woman’s room at the Hay-Adams hotel, and the sending of suggestive emails to a female subordinate.
  • A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Boston gangster Whitey Bulger to two life sentences, plus five years, following his conviction earlier this year on charges involving murder, extortion, drug trafficking and other crimes.
  • Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they aim to seek the death penalty against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
  • Francis Bacon’s painting, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” set a world record on Tuesday when it sold for $142.4 million.
  • A woman in Taiwan has been diagnosed with a version of the bird flu which scientists believed could not infect humans.

QUOTES

  • “In fact, I guess I’m responsible since I plucked both of them from obscurity. To ask me to pick favorites is like asking a father to pick his favorite son.” — former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, on criticism he didn’t do enough to help Democrats avoid a primary in that state’s Senate race. (Roll Call)
  • “I personally believe even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.” — Bill Clinton, on the Affordable Care Act (National Journal)
  • “I think it’s possible but unlikely.” — former GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, on his odds of winning as an independent in South Dakota. (National Journal)
  • “I didn’t design the website. I didn’t make it fail, so I don’t think they should have any reasons to hate me.” — Adriana, who was targeted after her image was used on the problem-riddled Obamacare website. (ABC News)
  • “I don’t wanna be overly cocky, but I’m gonna be the Republican nominee next year.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on his reelection bid. (Wall Street Journal)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • National Journal charts the increasing share of carbon emissions from developing countries.
  • The USDA charts the economic gap between cities and rural areas.
  • Gallup charts the record-low approval rating of Congress.
  • Journalist Dante Chinni maps the 15 distinct types of communities that make up the United States.
  • Gallup charts plunging perception of Obama as a “strong and decisive leader.”

Future events

  • Wednesday, Nov. 20 — The White House will hold a ceremony to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recipients include former President Bill Clinton, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The House will meet to consider H.R. 3350, the “Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013,” at 9 a.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The House Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “DHS Financial Management: Investigating DHS’s Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars,” at 9:30 a.m. in 311 Cannon.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — The Reclaim America Now Coalition will hold a “Second American Revolution” rally at 10 a.m. in front of the White House. Scheduled participants include former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., and former Ambassador Alan Keyes.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — National Journal will host “TRIA Triage: A Discussion of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act” at 8 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Housing Finance Reform: Fundamentals of Transferring Credit Risk in a Future Housing Finance System,” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — The Senate Banking Committee’s National Security and International Trade and Finance Subcommittee and Economic Policy Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing on “The Present and Future Impact of Virtual Currency” at 3:30 p.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver remarks at the National Economists Club annual members dinner at 6 p.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 14 — The Atlantic Council’s Energy-Water Nexus Initiative will hold a discussion, “Public-Private Partnerships: Financing Water And Wastewater Infrastructure,” at 3 p.m. at 1030 15th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20 — The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will hold a discussion, “Next Gen Data Centers: Bringing Energy Efficiency to Government,” at 9 a.m. in 122 Cannon.
  • Thursday, Nov. 14 — The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion, “Toward a Transatlantic Renaissance: Ensuring Our Shared Future,” at 4:30 p.m. at 1030 15th Street NW. Participants include Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a symposium, “Pragmatist + Idealist: Bridging the Divide Between Security and Development,” at 9 a.m. at 1111 19th Street NW.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program will hold a discussion, “Egypt in Crisis,” at 11 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 18 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a conversation, “A Path for Durable Defense Reform,” with Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, at 11 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19 — The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing, “Is My Data on HealthCare.gov Secure?” at 10 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The New America Foundation will hold a briefing on “The Technological Impact of NSA Surveillance” at 12:30 p.m. in H-137 U.S. Capitol.
  • Friday, Nov. 15 — The Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative will hold a discussion, “Cyberconflict and War: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” at 3 p.m. at 1030 15th Street NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 18 — The Software and Information Industry Association will hold a discussion, “Driving Government Innovation Leveraging Technology to Change the Federal Government,” at 2:30 p.m. in 2247 Rayburn.

 

 

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This Week in Washington…

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

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won a second term on Tuesday; former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe had a narrower-than-expected victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race; and former Alabama state Sen. Bradley Byrne triumphed over tea party-backed candidate Dean Young in a GOP primary runoff.
    Look ahead: The special election in Alabama’s First Congressional District could be a harbinger of intraparty struggles for Republicans in the 2014 cycle.
  • Congressional review of the Affordable Care Act implementation continued this week, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee.
    Look ahead: The administration has set the end of November as the goal for having the ACA enrollment website running smoothly for the vast majority of users.
  • Nuclear talks began today between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, as representatives on both sides of the negotiations expressed guarded optimism about the prospects for a deal.
    Look ahead: The United States is open to easing economic sanctions, on the condition that the Islamic republic halts its nuclear program.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to hold procedural votes on two of the president’s nominees to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, following Republicans’ opposition to another nominee.
    Look ahead:  The Senate could be headed for another showdown over the nominations, as some Democrats are calling for the deployment of the “nuclear option.”
  • President Obama continued his push for comprehensive immigration reform, meeting with business leaders at the White House, while the AFL-CIO is increasing its advocacy efforts on the issue.
    Look ahead: The prospects for large-scale reform remain bleak, absent internal consensus within the House Republican conference.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama met Tuesday with business leaders to discuss immigration reform, noting that the issue “has strong bipartisan support” and has brought together “some unlikely bedfellows.”
  • The administration’s top national security attorneys told the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that the government should continue its controversial monitoring of Americans’ phone records, as the suspension of the program could stymie law-enforcement efforts.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that his 2009 decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices in civilian court, which was derailed by “largely political” opposition, has been vindicated by the delays that have plagued the military trial, which has yet to begin.
  • The president, in Dallas to headline DSCC and DNC fundraisers, thanked workers assisting with the health care enrollment process and urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion.
  • The White House and congressional leaders are rejecting Edward Snowden’s bid for clemency, calling instead for him to return to the United States and face the charges against him.

CONGRESS

POLITICS

BUDGET & ECONOMY

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • Newly-elected Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., joined the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
  • President Obama released an executive order to better prepare against extreme weather brought about by climate change.
  • Lawmakers including Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Steve Womack, R-Ark., sent a letter asking the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the renewable-fuel standard requirements for corn ethanol next year.
  • The American Energy Alliance is calling for an end to the wind-production tax credit.
  • Environmental groups loudly applauded Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s defeat of Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
  • The U.N. Meteorological Organization’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin indicates greenhouse gas levels hit a record high in 2012.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 open today amid an atmosphere of cautious optimism, with the U.S. expressing willingness to ease sanctions and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterizing the issue as “not insoluble.”
  • The trial of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi began Monday in Cairo, but adjourned shortly thereafter due to frequent outbursts from Morsi, who insisted that he remains the country’s “legitimate” leader.
  • Syrian opposition leaders on Sunday established prerequisites for their participation in peace talks slated for this month, including a timeline for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, and the exclusion of Iran from any negotiations.
  • The poppy trade is booming in Afghanistan, despite U.S. efforts to combat the practice, with the Pentagon warning that this year’s crop could be “considerably” larger than last.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal sought Monday to project a united front amid tensions over the U.S. handling of events in the Middle East.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has raised about $13.5 million for its mission to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal, but that funding covers only October and November.

HEALTH CARE

  • The Food and Drug Administration set new rules to combat drug shortages, which will require more notification of impending supply changes.
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., subpoenaed HHS for testing and enrollment data for the Affordable Care Act website. Issa released 175 pages of internal CMS notes on Tuesday.
  • Nine House Democrats proposed a bill that would delay the individual mandate penalty until HealthCare.gov is fully functional.
  • Despite the unfortunate first few weeks of HealthCare.gov, the latest Kaiser poll shows public opinion of the Affordable Care Act the same as it’s been for the last three years: divided.
  • Staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee interviewed Henry Chao, who supervised construction of HealthCare.gov, for over nine hours Friday.
  • A new Kaiser Family Foundation website aims to help individuals with HIV navigate the law and how it affects them.
  • Some insurance companies are hiding more affordable Obamacare alternatives from consumers in order to lock them into more expensive plans.
  • CGI was one of only four companies to bid on HealthCare.gov, after a shortened bidding process limited ACA contractor options.
  • Applications submitted by alternate means still have to go through the HealthCare.gov portal, leaving paper and phone applications to face the same problems as online, according to newly released HHS documents.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay $2.2 billion in civil and criminal penalties, in one of the biggest health care fraud settlements in American history.
  • A Kaiser Family Foundation study found 17 million Americans eligible for premium tax credits under the ACA in 2014.
  • Insurers report enrollees in ACA exchanges are older than expected so far, but younger individuals likely will sign up closer to the enrollment deadline.
  • CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner outlined HealthCare.gov improvements before the Senate HELP committee Tuesday, saying there is still time to get people enrolled.
  • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejected bipartisan calls for a delay of the health care law while testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
  • CMS’s chief information officer, associated with the ACA website, is stepping down. The agency would not say whether his departure was requested as a result of problems with HealthCare.gov.

TECHNOLOGY

  • The Central Intelligence Agency reportedly is paying more than $10 million annually to AT&T, which searches its databases for information on terrorism suspects.
  • Twitter shares opened at $45.10, a 73-percent increase over the $26 price set for the company’s initial public offering.
  • Blackberry Ltd. will abandon a planned sale, opting instead to replace its CEO and raise $1 billion in capital from institutional investors.
  • Google responded to speculation about its barges in San Francisco and Portland, announcing plans to use them as “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
  • A month after authorities shuttered Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal activity, another iteration of the site has emerged, boasting greater levels of protection for its users.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013,” at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.

OTHER NEWS

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted that he used crack cocaine “probably a year ago” after drinking. But, during a speech on Tuesday, Ford refused to resign.
  • There are more than 8 billion Earth-size, habitable planets in the Milky Way, according to a study published on Monday.
  • Sen. Rand Paul faced another plagiarism accusation this week. Parts of the Kentucky Republican’s op-ed in The Washington Times in September “appear nearly identical” to an earlier column by The Week‘s Dan Stewart.
  • Illinois will become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage after Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signs the bill.
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, married fiancée Anna Flores on Saturday. The couple is expecting their first child next month.

QUOTES

  • “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. … Probably in one of my drunken stupors.” — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. (Toronto Star)
  • “Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate. That’s it.” — Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. (Roll Call)
  • “Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t delay people’s cancer or diabetes or Parkinson’s, it wouldn’t delay the need for mental-health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care.” — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (National Journal)
  • “Hm-mm. Hm-mm. … Maaaaaan. … Wow. … But is he a good mayor?” — LeBron James, responding to the Rob Ford scandal (Toronto Star)
  • “I think we need to understand that some of these races don’t apply to future races. Every race is different–it has a different set of factors–but I congratulate (Christie) on his win.” — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Chris Christie’s win. (CNN)
  • “You son of a gun!” — Vice President Joe Biden, congratulating the wrong Marty Walsh on his mayoral victory in Boston. (Springfield Republican)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Wonkblog charts the Earth’s climate failure.
  • National Journal charts the decline of the coal industry.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics charts the importance of third-quarter economic reports.
  • National Journal charts the gap between the Tea Party and other Republicans.
  • The Commonwealth Fund charts trends among Obamacare shoppers.

Future events

  • Thursday, Nov. 7 — George Washington University and the Politics and Prose bookstore will hold a book discussion on Double Down, as part of GWU’s Newsmaker Series, at 7 p.m. at 805 21st Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7 – Friday, Nov. 8 –The International Monetary Fund will hold the fourth annual Jacques Polak Research Conference at 720 19th Street NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7 — Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will participate in a news conference at the United States Energy Association’s Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum along with International Energy Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, Norway Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lein, and United Kingdom Minister of Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, at 3:50 p.m. at 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7 — The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold a discussion, “Challenges of the Syrian Opposition,” at 5:30 p.m. at 2201 G Street NW.
  • Friday, Nov. 8 — The International Institute for Strategic Studies-United States will hold a discussion, “The Future of Navy Operations Under Sequestration,” at 9 a.m. at 2121 K Street NW.
  • Friday, Nov. 8 — The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold the sixth annual Conference on U.S.-China Economic Relations and China’s Economic Development at 9 a.m. 1957 E Street NW.
  • Friday, Nov. 8 — The History Channel, Cox Communications, and the Veterans Affairs Department will host an event as part of the seventh annual “Take a Veteran to School Day,” including a video message from first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, at 10 a.m. at 4015 Fielding Street in Alexandria, Va.
  • Friday, Nov. 8 — The White House will hold a workshop for high school students from Washington, New York, and Boston about careers in film at 1 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 8 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center will hold the “Global IP Summit: Enhancing our Today, Building our Tomorrow” at 9 a.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 11 — The Friends of the National World War II Memorial, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Postal Service will hold a Veterans Day ceremony to pay tribute to the more than 16 million men and women who served with the U.S. armed forces during World War II at 9 a.m. on the National Mall.
  • Monday, Nov. 11 — The Institute for Policy Studies will hold a book discussion on Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction at 6:30 p.m. at 2021 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold its quarterly economic briefing “to provide insights on the future course of economic activity, the Fed, and fiscal policy” at 9 a.m. at 1615 H Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — National Journal will hold a discussion on the outlook for the 2014 midterm elections at 8:30 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute will hold a news conference to discuss the results of a new poll on President Obama, Congress, and national issues such as health care at 4 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The United States Energy Association will hold a briefing, “The Status of Afghanistan Power Sector: Current Scenario & Roadmap for the Future,” at 2 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The Jamestown Foundation will hold the seventh annual Terrorism Conference at 8:30 a.m. at 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The Washington Diplomat will hold the 2013 Country Promotion Strategies Conference at 9 a.m. at 1150 22nd Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 12 — The George C. Marshall Institute and the Space Enterprise Council will hold a discussion, “Beyond Earth: Removing the Barriers to Deep Space Exploration,” at 9 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The White House will host the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 –The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “Implementation of an Entry-Exit System: Still Waiting After All These Years,” at 10 a.m. in 2141 Rayburn.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Homeland Security secretary at 10 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 –The House-Senate conference committee will hold a meeting on a concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2014, revising the appropriate budgetary levels for FY2013, and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for FY2015 through FY2023 at 10 a.m. in HC-5.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on pending judicial nominations at 2 p.m. in 225 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 – Thursday, Nov. 14 — The Bureau of Labor Statistics will hold a “Symposium of the U.S. Statistical Agencies,” at 200 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Cato Institute will hold a briefing, “Does History Predict the Future of Climate Science?” at noon.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The United States Institute of Peace will hold a discussion, “Egypt’s Challenges and Opportunities,” at 9:30 a.m. at 2301 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The SETA Foundation will hold a discussion, “The Syrian Conflict: A Regional Dilemma,” at noon at 1025 Connecticut Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — Autism Speaks will host the first national policy and action summit to focus on a national strategy on autism at 9 a.m. at 805 21st Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Family Research Council will hold a discussion on alternatives to the Affordable Care Act at noon at 801 G Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — Autism Speaks will host the first national policy and action summit to focus on a national strategy on autism at 9 a.m. at 805 21st Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Family Research Council will hold a discussion on alternatives to the Affordable Care Act at noon at 801 G Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — National Journal will hold a policy summit, “Powering Innovation: Technology and our Energy Future,” at 8:30 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 13 — The Eno Center for Transportation will hold the 16th annual Eno Policy Forum, “The Future of Aviation,” at 8:45 a.m. at 1221 22nd Street NW.
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Self Inflicted

Posted on November 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Self inflicted pain seems to be the order of the day in DC.  From Republicans who shut down the government only to face the wrath of their own constituents and each other (read more) to Democrats whose premature launch of their “piece de resistance,” the Affordable Care Act, led to a “miserably frustrating” debacle.  (read more)

Defending the somewhat indefensible is a tall order for congressmen and congresswomen, yet that is what they are doing at the moment…both on the ACA and on the government shut down.

Federal agencies are somewhat more functional.   For example, we are pleased the FAA is allowing most electronic devices to be used throughout flights.  The SEC unanimously voted to create rules to allow companies to buy and sell securities through crowdfunding. (read more)

The Department of Justice completed litigation against JP Morgan  and is slated to collect $13 billion in compensation.  (read more)

Our advice for navigating this?  Focus on reaching out to the federal agencies and local governments for implementation of what you need! (read more)

What do you think?   Regulatory Issues?  Click Here

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Obama Promises a Fix of the ACA Website, But at What Cost?

Posted on November 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

A major flow of cash to the contractors building the new insurance exchanges was not enough to prevent an embarrassing website failure that has left the administration defending not just the healthcare reform package, but the technology behind it as well.

“There’s no denying it, right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck.  And I am not happy about it.  And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible,” President Obama said during a visit to Boston on Wednesday.

“There’s no excuse for it.  And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.  We are working overtime to improve it every day,” the president said.

But a fix could be a costly proposition considering the amount already invested in the creation of the exchanges. According to a Bloomberg Government Analysis the administration spent almost $352 million on the creation of the exchanges during the six month run-up to the opening Oct.1.

“Given the seriousness of the IT problems and the fact that most of the contracts are on a cost-plus basis, the companies almost certainly are in line for another burst of spending aimed at quickly making repairs,” wrote Bloomberg Government analyst Peter Gosselin.

Even with this massive torrent of spending, when the website opened it failed and people seeking to gain mandated coverage were prevented from doing so. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed three and a half years ago and the creation of the exchanges have cost a total of $1 billion.

Republicans opponents of the ACA have jumped on the administration for its website failure, saying it is just another example of how the entire program is flawed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the website is hardly the only problem.

“A website can be fixed. But the pain this law is causing – higher premiums and canceled coverage – that’s what’s really important. And that’s what Democrats need to work…to address by starting over fresh with true, bipartisan health reform,” he said.

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Protecting Pentagon Spending

Posted on November 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

Big U.S. defense contractors say the sequester and the government shutdown are exerting serious downward pressure on their business, even as they reported better than expected profits.

An expected downturn in Pentagon spending is prodding a furious lobbying effort by the big contractors. But the cuts will, by extension, also affect many smaller subcontractors who also should be seeking to direct some lobbying muscle at lawmakers and the administration.

So far, the biggest contractors, like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, appear to be weathering the storm quite nicely. Lockheed and Northrop both beat earnings in the third quarter and their shares and those of other big defense contracts have soared. The third quarter ended before the shutdown took place.

Analysts’ estimates for the third quarter were conservative in anticipation of cuts in spending expected with the U.S. withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. The big contractors have been cutting costs for some time in anticipation of a decline in investment from by the federal government.

But the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) says the shutdown had series implications for the industry, including worker furloughs.

“There are too many government responsibilities, from national security to public safety, which have been negatively impacted either directly or indirectly,” said AIA CEO Marion C. Blakey.

In a letter to the leaders of the bicameral committee working to craft a budget deal, the AIA leadership called for an end to sequestration.

“Its impact on the industrial base and national supply chain has eroded our ability, not only to create new jobs, but to maintain our current intellectual human capital,” the letter said.

The AIA also said impacts of the shutdown spread beyond the Pentagon, to include the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

With the shutdown over, the defense industry is focusing it lobbying blitz on trying to salvage the $52 billion in sequester cuts that were approved in 2011. This would be a cut of approximately 10 percent, enough to mean sweeping changes for Pentagon contractors in the coming years. The Pentagon has been able to maintain spending on some bigger weapons systems, like the F-35 fighter, but it cannot do so much longer.

Among those seeking to get the point across on Capitol Hill was aerospace and defense industry supplier Gregory Bloom, president of Seal Science, Inc.

“We’re here to tell Congress to decouple the conversation of sequestration from national security. Congress’ number one constitutional priority is to provide for the defense of the people,” Bloom said during a recent lobbying visit to the Capitol.

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This Week In Washington…

Posted on November 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the glitch-ridden Affordable Care Act website in a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, and took responsibility for fixing it.
    Look ahead:  Jeffrey Zients, who is leading HHS’s “tech surge” to repair HealthCare.gov, said Friday that the website will be running smoothly for most users by the end of November.
  • The leaders of France and Germany called for an agreement with the United States to cease the types of surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, including the alleged monitoring of the calls of 35 world leaders.
    Look ahead: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that an E.U. summit in Brussels last week featured no discussion of halting trade negotiations with the United States.
  • House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that the budget conference committee will not convene again until Nov. 13.
    Look ahead: With so much attention focused on what, if anything, can be accomplished by the budget conference, it would be easy to forget about the debt limit. But many of the budget conferees have not forgotten.
  • The House on Wednesday passed legislation that scales back a major provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, allowing large banks to continue to keep some forms of derivatives trading “in house.”
    Look ahead: While the legislation is unlikely to gain traction in the Senate, House members could net hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions as a result of the vote.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that Syria “has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”
    Look ahead: The Syrian government and the OPCW next must agree on a protocol for the destruction of remaining materials by Nov. 15.

WHITE HOUSE

  • In remarks Wednesday at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the president defended the Affordable Care Act, vowing to resolve the problems with its rollout and citing the successes of Massachusetts’ law.
  • The president is facing fresh criticism over his previous claims that Americans would be able to retain their existing insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Members of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday expressed support for the president’s pivot toward Asia, but said that U.S. allies must increase their own military capabilities in support of the effort.
  • Headlining a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the president said that the government shutdown highlighted “a contrast in visions” between the parties, and maintained that Democrats have “the better side” of that argument.

CONGRESS

  • Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote on the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would require members of Congress to vote to stop the debt ceiling from increasing—rather than vote to approve an increase.
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced on Wednesday that he will place a hold on the nomination of Janet Yellen to be chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.
  • House and Senate farm bill conferees held a conciliatory first meeting Wednesday and vowed to wrap up the legislation that has been in the works for two years.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he will “block every appointment in the United States Senate” until survivors of the Benghazi terrorist attack are “made available” to testify before Congress.
  • Alex Conant, a spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the senator does not support a conference committee on comprehensive immigration legislation, because he believes a proposal could not get enough votes.
  • The House on Wednesday passed legislation that scales back a major provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, allowing large banks to continue some types of derivatives trading.

POLITICS

  • In a boost to Democrats’ prospects of picking up Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a Democrat, says she will run for the seat.
  • FreedomWorks announced on Monday that it is backing state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican, in his primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  • Banker French Hill, a top recruit for the National Republican Congressional Committee, announced on Tuesday that he is seeking the Republican nomination for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
  • The Republican National Committee is targeting Asian voters in Virginia’s gubernatorial election with a TV ad linking former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, the party’s nominee, to alleged wrongdoing by GreenTech Automotive, a company he founded.
  • The Senate Conservatives Fund is airing a television spot against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for making a deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
  • First lady Michelle Obama cut a radio ad for McAuliffe’s campaign, emphasizing voter turnout.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The private sector added 130,000 new jobs in October, according to the ADP National Employment Report. The October numbers mark a six-month low for growth.
  • The Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that the deficit for the 2013 fiscal year was $680 billion. The figure marks the first time it has been below $1 trillion for a fiscal year during the Obama administration.
  • The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday—in a widely expected decision—that it would keep its bond-buying program at current levels.
  • Consumer sentiment fell in October, with the 73.2 figure coming in below economists’ predictions.
  • With manufacturing production growing by 0.1 percent in September, and the number of previously owned homes purchased last month hitting a three-and-a-half-year low, the data points to a slowing economy.
  • Financial reserves in more than half of the country’s 250 largest cities have yet to bounce back to their 2007 levels.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • Former Vice President Al Gore compared climate-change deniers to substance abusers during a Thursday speech.
  • The American Petroleum Institute said that scaled-back corn ethanol targets from the Environmental protection Agency are still too high.
  • The Obama administration, after wielding its executive muscle to fight climate-change pollution from U.S. coal plants, is now using its influence to block new coal-fired power plants worldwide.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., introduced a discussion draft blocking federal regulations to limit carbon emissions from future power plants.
  • According to Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, vast reserves of recoverable oil have been discovered near Sergipe, a state on the country’s northern Atlantic coast.
  • The State Department is analyzing rail shipments of crude — a finding that could impact a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said attempts to speed up permitting of cross-border permits are equivalent to an attempt to “mandate approval” of the Keystone XL pipeline.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that Syria “has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”
  • In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Gen. Keith Alexander denied reports that the National Security Agency amassed millions of phone records of European citizens, saying instead that the material was shared by NATO allies.
  • Egyptian authorities on Wednesday apprehended Essam el-Erian, deputy leader of the Freedom and Justice party, who had been in hiding since the July ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, but has continued to release messages to Islamists.
  • The Chinese government announced plans to increase its own security following new revelations on National Security Agency surveillance of world leaders.
  • U.S. commandos were preparing a raid to capture Ahmed Abu Khattalah, an Ansar Al-Sharia militia leader suspected in the Benghazi attack, following the apprehension in Tripoli of Abu Anas al-Libi earlier this month, according to CNN, but the orders never came.
  • The leaders of France and Germany called for an agreement with the United States to cease the types of surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, including the alleged monitoring of the calls of 35 world leaders.
  • The White House maintains that President Obama, while briefed on broad intelligence “priorities,” was unaware of U.S. surveillance of world leaders until an internal review this summer. Meanwhile, a Spanish newspaper reports that the NSA monitored over 60 million calls in Spain during a one-month period.
  • German media reported that the NSA began monitoring the phones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as early as 2002, and that Obama was informed in 2010. The NSA issued a statement Sunday denying the latter claim.
  • Several E.U. nations are moving to restore sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and its subsidiaries, in defiance of an order from the European General Court.
  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is weighing a reduced role in Afghanistan following the end of combat operations at the close of 2014, with NATO troops tasked with monitoring the distribution of more than $4 billion in military aid from the United States and Europe.
  • European leaders, who recently have denounced U.S. surveillance abroad, are taking a deliberative approach to crafting new privacy protections for their own citizens.

HEALTH CARE

  • Contractors for HealthCare.gov pointed fingers at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday on the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online federal marketplace, but questions remain.
  • The Food and Drug Administration recommended tighter controls on certain prescription painkillers that would reduce the number of refills patients could receive before returning to their doctors.
  • CMS said 700,000 people applied for coverage, but declined to give a breakdown of how many applications came from state- versus federally run exchanges.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 would save $19 billion over 10 years, dramatically lower than its 2012 estimate of $113 billion.
  • The IRS has received over 330,000 requests for subsidy calculations from exchanges, an indicator of the number of people who have gotten past submitting applications for coverage on the site, to find out through the data hub how much financial help they will receive from the government.
  • CMS said the ACA is leading to zero growth in Medicare Part B premiums, and billions of dollars have been saved in the prescription-drug “doughnut hole.”
  • The White House announced Monday that it is giving individuals an extra six weeks to buy health insurance under the ACA exchanges. The new deadline is March 31.
  • A federal judge ruled that new Texas abortion limits are unconstitutional.
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, though the focus was not on the Affordable Care Act website problems.
  • Since Oct. 1, health insurance companies have started to cancel plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s coverage requirements, leaving Obama on the defensive and giving Republicans more ammunition against the ACA.
  • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the problem-riddled Affordable Care Act website at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, and took responsibility for fixing it. She also said that the much sought-after enrollment numbers haven’t been released because problems with HealthCare.gov render the data unreliable.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.,obtained a memo issued days before HealthCare.gov‘s launch that reveals knowledge of security concerns.

TECHNOLOGY

  • The National Security Agency has secretly accessed data centers at Google and Yahoo, collecting millions of records—including metadata, audio, video and texts from user accounts—according to sources and documents provided by Edward Snowden.
  • Lauri Love, a British national described by prosecutors as a “sophisticated and prolific computer hacker,” has been charged in connection with cyberattacks on government agencies including the Health and Human Services Department, the Energy Department, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
  • Blackberry executives met last week with Facebook to discuss a potential bid for the troubled smartphone company.
  • Google is building structures on two massive barges in San Francisco Bay that are believed to be floating data centers.
  • Twitter has been sued for $124 million by two financial firms in advance of its initial public offering. The firms claim that the company engineered a doomed private sale in order to boost investor interest.
  • The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Tom Wheeler to lead the Federal Communications Commission.
  • Some investors and entrepreneurs are working to move bitcoin into the mainstream, convinced that the digital currency could lower the fees associated with processing payments and improve the security of transactions.
  • Absent federal action to improve privacy protections, a number of states are crafting their own laws, covering questions such as the collection of student data and the ability of the police to track cell-phone locations.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing this problem, and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.” — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, on problems with the HealthCare.Gov rollout. (National Journal)
  • “I was in third grade there and I thought I saw on you a tricycle there one day.” — Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, to Sebelius on repeated references to Kansas during the hearing. (National Journal)
  • “Whatever.” — Sebelius, on whether the flawed rollout was Obama’s responsibility. (Washington Post)
  • “My words weren’t appropriate, but my frustrations are real.” — Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on using an impolite word for derriere to describe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (Roll Call)
  • “This should have been a slam dunk. Virginia almost always votes against the president’s party…. All we needed was a mammal up there.” — Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., on the campaign of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. (National Journal)
  • “You can’t turn every one of these regulatory reviews into a circus. Or else we’ll get nothing done in this country.” — TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, on the still-stalled approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline. (Politico)
  • “I’m the first Republican. I expect more to come on board.” — Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., announcing his support for an immigration bill that includes citizenship opportunities for some illegal immigrants. (Washington Post)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • The Washington Post maps the average median income in congressional districts represented by the Republicans who most frequently voted to push the country toward a fiscal cliff.
  • Pew charts state abortion laws.
  • Gallup charts falling support for the death penalty.
  • Wonkblog charts high unemployment in deep-red congressional districts.
  • Pew charts the economic recovery using a variety of factors.
  • Wonkblog charts next month’s food-stamp cuts.

Future events

  • Friday, Nov. 1 — The Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Kennedy School, and the Religious Freedom Center will hold a discussion, “Religion and Politics in a World of Conflict,” at 7:30 p.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Nov. 1 — Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, will speak at the 2013 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium lecture series at 8 p.m. at 3400 North Charles Street in Baltimore.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion, “2014 Midterm Election Preview: One Year Out,” at 10 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — National Review will hold a “2014 election preview” event at noon at 101 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Woodrow Wilson Center and the National History Center of the American Historical Association will hold a seminar, “The Other Welfare: Supplemental Security Income and U.S. Social Policy” at 4 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The White House will hold a ceremony to honor the Chicago Blackhawks to celebrate their 2013 Stanley Cup victory at 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 – Thursday, Nov. 7 — The United States Energy Association will hold the fifth Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum on the future of carbon-capture and storage technologies at 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Federation of American Scientists will hold a briefing, “Future Nuclear Risks and Deterrence,” on the use of Quantitative Risk Analysis to reduce nuclear threats at noon in 121 Cannon.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion, “The Energy Revolution: Key Geopolitical Impacts,” at 5:30 p.m. at 1740 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Chamber of Commerce will hold a discussion on “the ongoing and strategic bilateral economic relationship between the United States and Egypt” at noon at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The East-West Center in Washington will hold a seminar, “Responding to the Rebalance: ASEAN between China and the U.S.,” at noon at 1819 L Street NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will hold a discussion, “Obamacare, month one: Monitoring the vital signs,” at 1150 17th Street NW.
  • Monday, Nov. 4 — The Institute of Medicine will hold the 2013 National Cancer Policy Summit “New Opportunities and Challenges in Cancer Research and Care” at 8:15 a.m. at 500 Fifth Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — Bloomberg Government will hold a summit, “Mind the Gap: Connecting Health Care Policy With Next Century Innovation,” at 8 a.m. at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing, “The Online Federal Health Insurance Marketplace: Enrollment Challenges and the Path Forward,” at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold the Global Security Forum 2013 at 8 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Commerce Department will hold an “Innovative Spectrum-Sharing Technology Day,” to showcase “advances in spectrum sharing and other innovations and initiatives aimed at satisfying the nation’s surging demand for wireless services, devices, and applications” at 10 a.m. at 1401 Constitution Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Housing-Finance Reform: Protecting Small-Lender Access to the Secondary Mortgage Market,” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at 2:30 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6 –The Farm Foundation Forum will hold a discussion on how work is progressing on the farm bill and how the outcome may affect the nation’s food and agriculture system at 9 a.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6 — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Sloan Gibson to be deputy VA secretary, Linda Schwartz to be assistant VA secretary for policy and planning, and Constance Tobias to be chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals at 10 a.m. in 418 Russell.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7 — The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing, “The Impact of Sequestration on the National Defense,” at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5 — The Peterson Institute for International Economics will hold a discussion, “Keeping Cyclical Unemployment from Becoming Structural Inequality,” at 12:30 p.m. at 1750 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6 — The Peterson Institute for International Economics will hold a conference, “Abenomics: From Macroeconomic to Structural Reform” at 9:45 a.m. at 1750 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6 — The New America Foundation and United Nations Relief and Works Agency will hold a discussion, “The Socio-Economic Consequences of Armed Conflict in Syria,” at 9:30 a.m. at 1800 L Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6 — The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing, “Health Insurance Exchanges: An Update from the Administration,” at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.
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