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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