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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