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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