Archive for December, 2013

This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 19, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • The Senate passed the bipartisan budget agreement on a 64-36 vote Wednesday, with nine Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill.
    Look ahead: Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski; her House counterpart, Rep. Harold Rogers; and their subcommittee chairs have already begun discussions and will be working through the holidays to craft a 12-bill omnibus package that Congress will address when lawmakers return in January.
  • The Senate voted 71-29 Wednesday to invoke cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, placing the measure on track for a vote late Thursday evening.
    Look ahead: The measure is expected to pass the Senate and head to President Obama for signature.
  • U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, a veteran of controversial cases involving the government, ruled this week that the National Security Agency’s compiling of Americans’ phone records is likely unconstitutional.
    Look ahead: Leon stayed his own opinion to allow the administration to appeal.
  • President Obama plans to nominate Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is retiring next year after six terms in the Senate, to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
    Look ahead: Baucus appears to have a clear path to confirmation, and his departure could trigger a domino effect on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Tom Latham, R-Iowa, all announced plans to retire following the 113th Congress.
    Look ahead: The trio of retirements could present pickup opportunities for the opposing parties.

WHITE HOUSE

  •  President Obama plans to nominate Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is retiring next year after six terms in the upper chamber, to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
  • The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies issued a report Wednesday concluding that the National Security Agency should no longer maintain a database of Americans’ phone records, and recommending further scrutiny of proposed surveillance of foreign officials.
  • Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who previously served as director of legislative affairs and as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is reportedly weighing a 2014 departure from the administration.
  • Obama met this week with leading technology executives, assuring them that he “will consider their input” on questions surrounding government-surveillance programs.
  • Obama commemorated the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary by lighting candles for the 26 victims and calling for action on gun control.
  • The president and first lady Michelle Obama met Wednesday with a group of mothers to emphasize their “unique role” in encouraging young adults to obtain health insurance.
  • The first family attended the star-studded “Christmas in Washington” celebration, which benefits the Children’s National Medical Center and will be broadcast on television Dec. 20.

CONGRESS

  • The Senate passed the bipartisan budget agreement on a 64-36 vote Wednesday, with nine Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill.
  • The Senate voted 71-29 Wednesday to invoke cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, placing the measure on track for a vote today or Friday.
  • Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski; her House counterpart, Rep. Harold Rogers; and their subcommittee chairs have already begun discussions and will be working through the holidays to craft a 12-bill omnibus package that Congress will address when lawmakers return in January.
  • House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is reportedly eyeing the top spot on the Ways and Means Committee, a post that would heighten his profile and influence in the GOP policy arena.

POLITICS

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that despite early problems with implementation, the health care law will turn out to be “a net positive” for Senate Democrats, ultimately helping them to retain control of the chamber.
  • Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo entered the state’s gubernatorial race Wednesday, likely launching a Democratic primary battle against Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.
  • Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, will not seek reelection in 2014, he said Tuesday, a development that National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., called “a warning signal to Democrats coast to coast.”
  • Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., on Tuesday announced plans to retire after more than 30 years in the House; he said he’ll focus on “human rights and religious freedom” at home and abroad.
  • Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the 113th Congress.
  • Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne, a Republican, won the special election in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, capturing two-thirds of the vote against Democrat Burton LeFlore, a Realtor who has never held public office.
  • The rocky implementation of the Affordable Care Act has stolen focus from the immigration push and raised concerns about the government’s ability to process the millions of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for legal status.
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $5.1 million last month, an off-year November record for the DSCC, which began December with $12 million on hand and $5 million in debt, down from $6.2 million at the start of November.
  • At least nine Republicans—both former members and failed challengers—are moderating their rhetoric in comeback bids, instead targeting the Affordable Care Act.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The Federal Reserve announced plans to reduce its monthly purchases of long-term Treasury bonds from $45 billion to $40 billion, and of mortgage-backed securities from $40 billion to $35 billion, beginning in January.
  • The Fed will not impose a planned requirement for banks’ capital holdings relative to their total assets, which would apply to eight of the country’s largest financial institutions, until the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision presents its final rule.
  • A White House push for congressional approval of fast-track trade-promotion authority is emerging as a key early test next year of President Obama’s already-battered second-term clout on Capitol Hill, with a main obstacle being the majority of his fellow Democrats in the House.
  • Just three days after Christmas, 1.3 million people will lose their federal emergency unemployment insurance, after an extension of benefits failed to make its way into the budget deal that passed the Senate this week.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the near-ban on U.S. crude oil exports is ripe for revisiting, comments that arrive as major producers, including Exxon Mobil, are pressing to relax limits imposed in the 1970s.
  • The federal Export-Import Bank vowed to restrict financing for overseas coal-fired power plants.
  • Six Senate Democrats want the Interior Department to suspend plans to sell more oil-drilling leases in Arctic waters until there’s a “thorough reevaluation” of environmental risks.
  • Fifteen states, including California and New York, want the agency to grant states flexibility in implementing caps on carbon emissions from power plants.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to vow cooperation on climate change and warn China about the environmental effects of building dams upriver.
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus proposed an overhaul of energy tax policy that he says will simplify today’s “confusing and costly” maze of incentives.
  • Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu joined the board of directors for a Canadian company that works on carbon-capture and storage projects.
  • Former Environmental Protection Agency official John Beale was sentenced in federal court to spend 32 months in prison after pleading guilty to theft of government property.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • About 365,000 people chose a health care plan on the state and federal exchanges in October and November.
  • The HHS secretary testified Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, assuring members that payments to insurers would be made on time.
  • The one-month extension eases concerns that the sickest people may face a coverage gap due to problems with HealthCare.gov.
  • Enrollment records for close to 15,000 consumers shopping on HealthCare.gov were not sent to insurance companies in October and November.
  • HHS says the number of missing enrollments since the beginning of December has been near zero, but insurers claim improvements are overstated.
  • The White House announced Tuesday that Kurt DelBene, a former president of Microsoft’s Office division, will lead the administration’s efforts to repair the troubled health care site upon the departure of Jeff Zients to serve as chief economic adviser.
  • AHIP extended the deadline for consumers in most states to pay their premiums for coverage beginning Jan. 1 until Jan. 10, responding to the Obama administration’s request that insurers relax some coverage rules.
  • ACA enrollment is surging in state exchanges; California averaged 15,000 enrollments per day early last week.

TECHNOLOGY

  • A D.C. District Court judge determined that the NSA’s collection of metadata on phone calls is likely unconstitutional and characterized the programs as “almost Orwellian.”
  • The Federal Communications Commission began compiling a database of subscribers to its Lifeline phone subsidy program, also known derisively as the “Obama phone” service.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on how to curb abusive patent litigation practices, but senators remain divided on how to approach the issue.
  • Edward Snowden released an open letter Tuesday seeking asylum in Brazil.
  • Chinese hackers reportedly infiltrated the Federal Election Commission computer system during the October shutdown.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress.” –Obama adviser John Podesta, on dealing with House Republicans (Politico)
  • “The Republican Party is also a nonviolent party, and if you allow 2 million passengers every day to yap their innermost thoughts while strapped in 17-inch seats between two other persons, you’d have to have 10 new air marshals on every airplane.” –Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on opposing cell-phone calls on airplanes (National Journal)
  • “I don’t want to do it more than eight more years.” –Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on how long he will retain his post (Roll Call)
  • “I don’t think there’s going to be unanimous consent on anything until hell freezes over.” –Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. (Roll Call)
  • “That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not.” –New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the heartbreaking story of a homeless girl (Politicker)
  • “That’s like trying to convince people that Dan Quayle is smart.” –Mitt Romney, on his image issues (BuzzFeed)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Pew charts various measurements of income inequality.
  • NASA makes a rainbow with the sun’s wavelengths.
  • Quartz charts the increased permission requests by free apps.
  • Kaiser charts potential health care enrollees by age group.
  • Pew charts public opinion on the big stories of the year.

 

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This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 12, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • A budget agreement reached Tuesday by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., includes a $63 billion spending increase for 2014 and 2015, but offsets these gains with $85 billion in deficit reductions over the next decade, a move that could make it palatable to conservatives.
    Look ahead: The House is expected to pass the deal, and Senate Republicans say it is likely to pass the upper chamber, as well.
  • Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday announced a compromise bill that includes some changes to the handling of sexual assault, but falls short of the amendment offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
    Look ahead: The House could vote as early as Thursday on the bill, but aides described the timing of the vote, which would occur under a suspension, as “very fluid,” saying that it could instead occur on Friday.
  • The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Patricia Millett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and later confirmed Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The body confirmed Cornelia Pillard for the D.C. Circuit early Thursday morning.
    Look ahead: Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened to hold the Senate through the weekend, if necessary, to confirm the remaining presidential nominees.
  • The Federal Reserve, SEC, FDIC, CFTC, and OCC on Tuesday adopted the Volcker Rule, a critical provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law that aims to seeks to reduce risk-taking among banks.
    Look ahead: Banks have until July 21, 2015 to come into compliance with its regulations.
  • House and Senate negotiators conceded Tuesday that a final farm bill will not be ready this year, but expressed optimism that agreement could be reached next month.
    Look ahead: House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., on Tuesday filed a short-term extension of the legislation through the end of January.

WHITE HOUSE

  • Phil Schiliro, a former legislative-affairs director who aided in the passage of the health care law, is returning to the White House “for a short-term appointment to help coordinate the policy implementation,” working with Congress and various federal agencies.
  • The president told a forum moderated by television mogul Haim Saban that while the interim nuclear agreement with Iran could yet fail, “we have to try,” as it is the best option to ensure U.S. and Israeli national security.
  • Speaking in a Johannesburg soccer stadium filled with scores of dignitaries and thousands of South Africans, President Obama told the crowd, “The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.

CONGRESS

  • Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Tuesday announced a budget agreement that will increase military and domestic spending over the next two years.
  • House Democrats expressed frustration at Republicans’ efforts to include the “doc fix,” which they had hoped to use as a legislative vehicle to extend the long-term unemployment insurance program, and are not whipping the overall budget deal.
  • Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday announced a compromise bill that includes some changes to the handling of sexual assault, but falls short of the amendment offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
  • After negotiators conceded Tuesday that a final farm bill will not be ready this year, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., on Tuesday filed a short-term extension of the legislation through the end of January.
  • The Senate confirmed Patricia Millett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on a 56-38 vote, and later confirmed Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
  • On an early-morning vote Thursday, the Senate confirmed Cornelia Pillard, a Georgetown law professor, to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

POLITICS

  • Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, withdrew his filing for reelection on Monday, instead seeking to oust Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has drawn conservative fire for breaking with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on defunding Obamacare.
  • Tough reelection battles for Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., could serve as a referendum on the Southern Democrat.
  • Former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, who has never sought elective office, floated a challenge to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., calling it “a very winnable race,” saying that the incumbent is not the centrist he has claimed to be.
  • Democratic state Sen. Katherine Clark garnered 66 percent of the vote in a special election for the House seat vacated by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and will be sworn in Thursday.
  • A CBS News/New York Times poll finds the president’s approval ratings recovering following repairs to the Affordable Care Act website, while a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows disapproval at an all-time high for both Obama and Democrats, and an Associated Press/Gfk poll finds both the president and Congress underwater.
  • For most of this year, House Republicans pursued a simple agenda for Obamacare: Repeal it. Recently, party members have focused more on how they might fix it—and Democrats are seizing on some of their comments as proof that the GOP fears the political consequences of a repeal-only strategy.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The Federal Reserve, SEC, FDIC, CFTC, and OCC on Tuesday adopted the Volcker Rule, a critical provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law that aims to seeks to reduce risk-taking among banks.
  • The Treasury Department sold its remaining shares of General Motors, recovering $39 billion of its $49.5 billion investment, and said that the alternative to the controversial bailout would have included the loss of “more than 1 million jobs, billions in lost personal savings, and significantly reduced economic production.”
  • Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s prediction that the central bank would begin scaling back its monthly bond purchases by the end of 2013, officials have yet to reach a consensus on timing, as some seek additional evidence that the economy is rebounding.
  • The United States and 11 other nations failed to reach agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during four days of negotiations in Singapore, but expressed optimism for another round of talks in January.
  • Federal prosecutors are nearing a settlement with JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s ties to Bernard Madoff, which could involve a criminal action and approximately $2 billion in penalties, much of which would be used to compensate the victims of Madoff’s scheme.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The Interior Department finalized a rule which lengthens the current five-year permitting for unintentional eagle deaths caused by wind farms and other facilities.
  • White House Council on Environmental Quality Director Gary Guzy announced he is leaving the Obama administration.
  • Governors from Northeastern states want EPA to impose stricter controls on Midwestern and Southern states.
  • TransCanada has started loading the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which brings crude to Gulf Coast refineries.
  • John Podesta, who will serve as an adviser to Obama on energy and climate change issues, has asked not to be involved in a final determination on the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • The new Capitol Hill budget plan cleared the way for a U.S.-Mexico offshore drilling agreement to proceed, signaling the apparent end of a House-Senate impasse that has stalled implementation of the 2012 accord.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s chief diplomat, said Thursday that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, under fire for rejecting a trade and cooperation pact under pressure from Russia, has reversed course and now “intends to sign” the deal.
  • The United States and the United Kingdom paused nonlethal aid to northern Syria after Islamic Front fighters took over bases held by Western-backed rebel forces.
  • Diplomats in Vienna aren’t expected to reach an agreement on when the six-month enrichment freeze of Iran’s nuclear program—under the interim agreement reached last month—should start.
  • Current and former intelligence officials said the CIA’s 12-year-old espionage program to collect information on terrorists has largely failed.
  • The White House clarified that Iran testing a ballistic missile would not violate the interim agreement reached last month over its nuclear program.
  • The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Alejandro Mayorkas’s nomination to serve as deputy Homeland Security secretary, over strong objections from a key Republican.

HEALTH CARE

TECHNOLOGY

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation Wednesday that encourages federal agencies to cede their spectrum for auction to the private sector.
  • Eight technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Apple, pushed for reforms to government surveillance in an open letter printed in national newspapers and on a website launched Monday.
  • National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander told Congress on Wednesday that he knows no better way to ensure the safety of Americans from terrorism than the agency’s controversial domestic-surveillance programs, which he conceded have the potential to be “extremely intrusive.”
  • The National Security Agency is using cookies—which can be used to track a person’s movement across the Internet—and other location data to help find potential targets for hacking and increased surveillance.
  • Republicans in the House accused the Federal Communications Commission with attempting to revive the Fairness Doctrine, which once required TV and radio to broadcast opposing views on controversial issues.

OTHER NEWS

  • General Motors named Mary Barra, a 33-year veteran of the company who began her career as a co-op student with its Pontiac brand, as its new chief executive.
  • Thamsanqa Jantjie is defending himself from accusations that he faked the sign-language interpretation of speakers’ remarks during Tuesday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
  • Cade Foster, a placekicker for the University of Alabama, received a handwritten note of support from former President George W. Bush following his team’s loss to Auburn.
  • Police in Los Angeles have arrested 16 teenagers for looting a vacant La Habra Heights mansion of valuables, including a mounted snow leopard valued at $250,000.
  • A Nevada couple and four children who disappeared Sunday during a trip to play in the snow were found safe Tuesday; rescuers credited their survival to the decision to remain with their disabled vehicle and set fires for warmth.
  • An internal report revealed that animals at the Smithsonian National Zoo are adversely impacted by staff shortages.

QUOTES

  • “It’s a strange new normal, isn’t it?” — Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on opposition to his budget by conservative groups. (National Journal)
  • “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” he said. “This is ridiculous.” — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the same groups. (Los Angeles Times)
  • “As a conservative … ” — Ryan, three times, in describing his budget deal. (National Journal)
  • “You are in a foxhole fighting to save our constitutional Republic … and the last thing you need is a Republican bayonet in your back.” — Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, announcing his run against Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Stockman’s website)
  • “[Stockman] wasn’t on my radar screen.” — Cornyn (National Journal)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Quartz charts the growth of various commodities in the Chinese economy.
  • Carlos Scheidegger and Kenny Shirley chart voting trajectories for the MLB Hall of Fame.
  • The Washington Post charts spending levels in the new budget deal.
  • National Journal charts the cost savings that will cover sequestration relief.
  • Fast Company envisions D.C. without height restrictions.
  • National Journal demonstrates how to make Eisenhower’s eggnog.

Future events

  • Thursday, Dec. 12 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Joseph Westphal to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Mark Gilbert to be ambassador to New Zealand and to the Independent State of Samoa; George Tsunis to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway; John Estrada to be ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; and Luis Moreno to be ambassador to Jamaica, at 2:30 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Thursday, Dec. 12 – The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion, “Key Policy Issues for U.S. Nuclear Cooperation: Ensuring a Safe, Secure, Competitive Global Nuclear Industry,” at 3 p.m. at 1030 15th Street NW.
  • Friday, Dec. 13 – The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a field hearing, “Fueling America: Enabling and Empowering Small Business to Unleash Domestic Production,” at 2 p.m. at 211 E. Devalcourt Street, Lafayette, La.
  • Friday, Dec. 13 – The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security will hold a meeting by teleconference of the President’s Export Council Subcommittee on Export Administration on policies of encouraging trade with all countries with which the United States has diplomatic or trading relations and of controlling trade for national security and foreign policy reasons.
  • Friday, Dec. 13 – The Alliance for Health Reform and The Commonwealth Fund will hold a briefing, “Tackling Health Care Costs: Finding Common Ground,” at 12:15 p.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
  • Friday, Dec. 13 – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a markup to vote on the nominations of Sarah Bloom Raskin to be deputy Treasury secretary; John Koskinen to be commissioner of Internal Revenue for the term expiring Nov. 12, 2017; and Rhonda Schmidtlein to be a member of the U.S. International Trade Commission for a term expiring Dec. 16, 2021.
  • Friday, Dec. 13 – The Center for Law, Economics and Finance at GWU Law; and the Department of Finance at the GWU School of Business will hold a symposium on “The Past, Present, and Future of the Federal Reserve System” at 8:45 a.m. at 805 21st Street NW.
  • Monday, Dec. 16 – First lady Michelle Obama will visit the Children’s National Medical Center at 2 p.m. at 111 Michigan Avenue NW.
  • Monday, Dec. 16 – The State Department will hold a meeting of the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization at 10 a.m. at 2201 C Street NW.
  • Monday, Dec. 16 – TechFreedom and the International Center for Law and Economics will hold a conference, “The FTC (Federal Trade Commission): Technology & Reform Project,” at noon at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 17 – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “The Federal Arbitration Act and Access to Justice: Will Recent Supreme Court Decisions Undermine the Rights of Consumers, Workers, and Small Businesses?” at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 17 – Common Cause will hold a conference-call briefing, beginning at 3 p.m., to discuss “important victories and looming challenges” in the organization’s “battles to protect voting rights, stem the corrosive influence of money in our elections and get the U.S. Senate working again,” at 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 17 – The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a discussion, “Does Dodd-Frank Work for Non-Banks? Insurance as the Test Case,” at 10 a.m. at 1225 I Street NW. Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio are scheduled to participate.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 18 – The Aspen Institute will hold a discussion, “Paralysis, Dysfunction and Gridlock in Washington – and Solutions for Fixing the Mess,” at 11:30 a.m. at 1 Dupont Circle NW.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 18 – The Health and Human Services Department will hold the 15th meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to discuss the BRAIN Initiative and ongoing work in neuroscience at 9 a.m. at 1001 14th Street NW.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 18 – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a markup of S.1486, to improve, sustain, and transform the United States Postal Service, and the Cybersecurity Recruitment and Retention Act, at 10 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 18 – The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing, “What Information Do Data Brokers Have on Consumers, and How Do They Use It?” at 2:30 p.m. in 253 Russell.
  • Thursday, Dec. 19 – Mrs. Obama will visit Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, where she will deliver toys and gifts donated by Executive Office of the President staff to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Campaign, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12 – The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing, “Rethinking the Federal Reserve’s Many Mandates on Its 100-Year Anniversary,” at 2 p.m. in 2128 Rayburn.
  • Thursday, Dec. 19 – The Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy will hold a meeting of the Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee at 8:30 a.m. at 775 12th Street NW.
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This Week in Washington…

Posted on December 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • A meeting this week between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray yielded no agreement on a final budget, but aides say the chairs remain optimistic that a deal can be reached.
    Look ahead: House Republicans are prepared to pass a short-term continuing resolution to preempt a government shutdown before heading home next Friday for the holiday break; Democrats have publicly opposed the measure.
  • The Obama administration announced Sunday that it had met its goal of having HealthCare.gov working smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of November.
  • Look ahead: The site faces a key test this week with an expected influx of users, while many states and insurance companies remain reluctant to rely on the federal infrastructure.
  • The four principal conferees on the farm bill said that comprehensive discussions held Wednesday helped to bridge disagreements on the legislation, but that a final measure is unlikely to pass before January.
    Look ahead: Lobbying efforts by competing agricultural interests are raising tensions at a time when appropriators have less funding to work with and are struggling to balance House and Senate visions of a new agricultural safety net.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen separately suggested that Afghan President Hamid Karzai need not be the one to authorize a bilateral security agreement.
    Look ahead: A spokesperson said that Karzai “will not authorize any minister to sign it” until previous demands are satisfied.
  • Vice President Biden, on a weeklong tour of Japan, China, and South Korea, has conveyed the administration’s displeasure with China’s newly declared air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.
    Look ahead: Biden’s visit, initially billed as a trade mission, has assumed greater urgency as the vice president aims to defuse tensions among the region’s powers.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, close tax loopholes to secure funding for infrastructure improvements, and reverse the budget cuts imposed by sequestration.
  • The Obama administration is facing calls to hold people accountable for the flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and an ongoing review of the failings could lead to the ouster of senior-level officials.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, beginning his weeklong Asia tour in Tokyo, signaled the administration’s displeasure with China’s “unilateral effort to change the status quo,” but stopped short of calling on the Chinese government to roll back its newly declared air-defense identification zone.
  • The Obama administration announced Sunday that it had met its goal of having HealthCare.gov working smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of November.
  • During an event observing World AIDS Day, President Obama announced plans to allocate $100 million in funding for a National Institutes of Health program seeking a cure for the disease.

CONGRESS

  •  House Democrats are coming out against a continuing resolution that Republicans could bring for a vote next week, which would maintain the funding cuts imposed by sequestration.
  • Lobbying efforts by competing agricultural interests are raising tensions at a time when appropriators have less funding to work with and are struggling to balance House and Senate visions of a new agricultural safety net.
  • Highly anticipated Senate votes on reforms to the military justice system are in doubt because of an impasse over the annual defense bill and flaring tensions over divisive changes to Senate rules. The situation has reform advocates intensifying their efforts, fearful that their moment is slipping away.
  • The budget conference committee missed its first deadline of sorts Monday, failing to reach an agreement on top-line budget numbers within a time frame requested by anxious congressional appropriators.
  • The House returned to work Monday with just seven more days on the legislative schedule this year and time running out on a budget deal, a farm-bill reauthorization, and a long list of other items requiring action by year’s end.
  • The House voted Tuesday to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, without provisions designed to combat an influx of weapons produced using 3-D printers.
  • House Speaker John Boehner has hired Rebecca Tallent, director of immigration policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center, to spearhead House efforts on immigration reform, spurring optimism among reform advocates and consternation among opponents.
  • The week before Thanksgiving, the four principal negotiators on the farm bill failed to meet their own self-imposed deadline of reaching a framework for a conference report before taking a break for the holidays, but met three times last week and have talked on the phone several times since.

POLITICS

  • Democrats and Republicans face an uphill slog in their efforts to regain majorities: both parties have effectively consolidated their positions in the House, leaving little room for either party to make significant gains. Senate Republicans have had trouble defeating incumbent Democrats and, for that matter, winning the close races. In 2014, they have to do both.
  • Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who has seized on Cochran’s reputation as an earmarker and occasional compromiser to gain the backing of influential conservative groups and a political foothold to oust the incumbent.
  • poll released Wednesday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics suggests that young voters are increasingly disillusioned with both the president and his signature health care overhaul.
  • More than anything else, voters would be happiest if Congress and President Obama focused on creating jobs, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. And they don’t care if lawmakers use Republican or Democratic ideas to do so.
  • Former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., will mount a challenge to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., despite earlier saying that he would stay out of the race.
  • Former California state Sen. Tony Strickland, a Republican, will mount a primary challenge to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., in the state’s 25th Congressional District, rather than attempting a rematch of his 2012 contest with Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., in the 26th District.
  • State Rep. Elbert Guillory, a Republican who switched to the Democratic Party in 2007 before returning to the GOP this year, is backing Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., in his challenge to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2014.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • The Commerce Department said Thursday that the country’s gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 3.6 percent, rather than the 2.8 percent previously reported.
  • The Justice Department plans to pursue fraud charges against banks early next year.
  • Federal regulators have reached a preliminary agreement on finalizing the “Volcker Rule,” which aims to prevent banks from engaging in certain speculative behaviors.
  • A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, setting the stage for the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.
  • Bank of America will pay a $404 million settlement to Freddie Mac to resolve all outstanding claims related to home loans issued by Bank of America from 2000 to 2009. BofA previously agreed to repay $3.6 billion in cash to Fannie Mae, and to buy back $6.75 billion in loans sold by the bank and Countrywide Financial.
  • Despite record crowds over the long holiday weekend, the National Retail Federation expects total spending to decline by nearly three percent, to $57.4 billion.
  • Figures released Monday by the Institute for Supply Management indicate that domestic manufacturing increased at its fastest pace since April 2011, thanks to rising production, increased hiring, and a steady flow of orders.
  • The Supreme Court has denied petitions from Amazon and Overstock.com challenging New York state’s decision to subject Internet purchases to the sales tax applied to brick-and-mortar stores.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an ad praising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a strong supporter of the coal industry.
  • The White House moved to extend an initiative to boost energy efficiency in federal buildings through 2016.
  • Nine states with a regional power-plant emissions cap want EPA to let them use the system to meet federal carbon-emissions rules for existing plants.
  • Industry groups asked a federal court to overturn BPs suspension from new government contracts following the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
  • Sixteen Democrats in Congress called for cutbacks on hydrofluorocarbons.
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency raising concern that the Energy Star program lacks transparency.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • The NSA is monitoring cell-phone locations, allowing the agency to track individuals.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that the interim agreement with Iran does not impact the core sanctions against the country.
  • Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen separately suggested that Afghan President Hamid Karzai need not be the one to authorize a bilateral security agreement.
  • The four members of Congress that would lead a potential conference committee on the National Defense Authorization Act met on Monday to discuss how they could get the bill passed under a limited schedule.
  • Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Saturday that the United States will help destroy some of Syria’s chemical weapons at sea.
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is pushing for a bill to define what is, and is not, acceptable in any final deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday that Christine Fox, who previously served as the director for cost assessment and program evaluation, will step in as the acting deputy Defense secretary on Thursday.

HEALTH CARE

TECHNOLOGY

  • Following hours of back-and-forth verbal sparring, the House passed a bill Thursday that intends to reduce predatory patent litigation, marking the first step forward for patent reform advocates since the passage of the 2011 America Invents Act.
  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s big reveal of his company’s planned use of delivery drones got everyone talking about the future of such technology—including the Senate, which announced plans to hold at least one hearing early next year discussing the use of commercial drones.
  • President Obama said he is unable to use an Apple iPhone for “security reasons,” though the president does use an iPad.
  • The Library of Congress released a landmark study finding that only 14 percent of American silent films still exist today in their original and complete format.
  • The Obama administration said it would begin reviewing facial-recognition technology early next year, following privacy concerns raised by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and others.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “[I]f the Democrats think that Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga should be setting American energy policy, I am happy to go on record denying that it’s a good idea.” — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, accusing Democrats of taking their cues from Hollywood. (National Journal)
  • “We’ve got to start changing the conversation and we can’t think that bankruptcy is the worst thing that ever happened to us. It can help us.” — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (MLive)
  • “Yeah, I wish I hadn’t called it Obamacare before because that has politicized it, and has been used by Republicans as a pejorative term.” — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., sending a different message than the White House. (National Journal)
  • “Mother, get a life.” — Alexandra Pelosi, when her mom offered to let her veto her first congressional run. (Politico)
  • “[W]e’ve learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it’s going to be at all times.” — Obama, on implementation of the health care law. (National Journal)
  • “I got nothing to say to you guys. But have a nice day, all right?” — Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on budget progress. (National Journal)
  • “This is my compass. My North Star. It gives me comfort and guidance to do what’s best for Arkansas.” — Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., holding the Bible in a new campaign ad. (National Journal)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Scientist Stuart Rojstaczer charts grade inflation.
  • Princeton University economists Alan W. Blinder and Mark W. Watson chart the economy under different administrations.
  • Pew Research Center charts minimum-wage fluctuations since before 1940.
  • The National Retail Federation and the Census Bureau chart the growth of holiday sales and Cyber Monday buying.

Future Events

  • Thursday, Dec. 5 – The McCain Institute will hold a discussion, “Drone Wars: Are We Going Too Far?” at 5 p.m. at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Thursday, Dec. 5 – The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion, “The Emperor Has No Clothes? The Limits of OPEC in the World Oil Market,” at 4:30 p.m. at 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Friday, Dec. 6 – UBIC North America will hold a seminar, “Big Data & Information Governance,” at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Thursday, Dec. 5 – The president will host two Hanukkah receptions in the Grand Foyer of the White House.
  • Friday, Dec. 6 – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a field hearing, “Obamacare Implementation, the Broken Promise: If You Like Your Current Plan You Can Keep It,” at 10 a.m. at 300 E. Superstition Boulevard, Apache Junction, Ariz.
  • Friday, Dec. 6 – The Center for Responsive Politics will hold a discussion, “Politically Active Nonprofits: What We’ve Learned About Dark Money,” at 8:30 a.m. at 716 20th Street NW.
  • Saturday, Dec. 7 – Vice President Joe Biden will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial of Korea; meet with U.S. Embassy staff and with American service members and their families; and travel to the demilitarized zone.
  • Monday, Dec. 9 – The Senate will resume consideration of S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act, at 4 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 9 – The Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the nomination of Patricia Millett to be U.S. circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit at 5 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. the Senate will proceed to a vote on confirmation of the Millett nomination.
  • Monday, Dec. 9 – The Woodrow Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program and the National History Center of the American Historical Association will hold a seminar, “The Myth of Race and Its Many Political Uses, From the Colonial Era to Obama’s America,” at 4 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – Houston Mayor Annise Parker will deliver a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon address on “her political future and past, the renaissance of the American oil and gas energy industry, Texas’s thriving economy, and the challenges of managing city finances,” at 1:30 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of John Koskinen to be commissioner of Internal Revenue at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – 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 528 Dirksen.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion, “The Danger of Divergence: Transatlantic Financial Reform & the G20 Agenda,” focusing on the future of international financial regulation, at 3 p.m. in 485 Russell.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee and Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee will hold a joint hearing, “Human Rights Abuses in Egypt,” at 9 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Does It Further U.S. National Security?” at 1 p.m. in 2172 Rayburn. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 10 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing, “The Transition in Afghanistan,” at 2:30 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11 – The House Administration Committee will hold a hearing on “Establishing a Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women’s History Museum” at 10:30 a.m. in 1310 Longworth. Witnesses include Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11 – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “Continued Oversight of U.S. Government Surveillance Authorities,” at 2:30 p.m. in 226 Dirksen. Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, is scheduled to testify.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11 – The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Afghanistan 2014: Year of Transition,” at 10 a.m. in 2172 Rayburn.
  • Disruptive Women in Health Care holds the fifth annual mHealth Summit Dec. 9-11 at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, Md.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: What’s Next?” at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 11 – The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing, “The Small Business Health Options Program: Is It Working for Small Businesses?” at 1 p.m. in 2360 Rayburn. Gary Cohen, deputy administrator and director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, is scheduled to testify.
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The Nuclear Option

Posted on December 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

The funny thing about the detonation of the nuclear option on Capitol Hill last month is that when the dust cleared, everyone was still standing. It’s the coming fallout that may be the most deadly.

The so-called nuclear option is a rule change backed by Senate Democrats to dislodge stalled judicial nominations by requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditional super majority of 60 votes, for confirmation.

That the Democrats would tamper with the time-honored tradition of the filibuster had Republicans crying foul. “You will regret this,” warned Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “You may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

McConnell is right about that, of course. When the Republicans inevitably regain the majority in the Senate, do you think they’ll still be outraged? Do you think they’ll cling to their moral indignation and change the rule back? No.

This could be a good thing, really. It does at least partially eliminate the totally non-productive exercise in which the minority party can frustrate the administration by blocking virtually everything it tries to do, right down to the naming of judges.

The rule change applies only to nominations, so the Republicans still have the power to block any piece of legislation with filibusters, which can only be stopped with the aforementioned 60-vote supermajority.

It’s not like the Republicans wrote the book on intruding on the confirmation of judicial nominees. In fact, the Democrats were pretty much the strategy’s pioneers.

Many point to George W. Bush’s nomination of conservative Hispanic Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit Court in 2003 as the start of it all. Democrats feared that it would be only a matter of time before Bush named Estrada to the Supreme Court. Instead of waiting for a high court nomination, the Democrats decided to filibuster to keep Estrada off the circuit court.

Things just devolved from there to the point where virtually all nominations were being blocked for no other reason except that they were proposed by President Obama. A President Romney probably would have fared no better.

In an op-ed published recently in the Desert News, former Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah recalled that back in the day the filibuster was never used to block judiciary nominations.

“That’s why Clarence Thomas, the most controversial appointee to the Supreme Court in recent memory, was able to be confirmed with 52 votes,” Bennett wrote.

Which makes us wonder what senators will be saying about today’s Senate ten or 15 years from now. Will this be the moment they point to as the beginning of the end of the filibuster and the transformation to a Senate ruled strictly by majority?

One of the only Democrats to oppose the nuclear option, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, worried that the Senate will one day be like the House, ruled at the whim of a majority that has no need to win minority votes and therefore no need to compromise.

“If a Senate majority demonstrates it can make such a change once, there are no rules which bind a majority, and all future majorities will feel free to exercise the same power, not just on judges and executive appointments but on legislation,” Levin said.

“Down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people’s health and welfare will be lost,” he said.

 

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The FAA Sees a Future for Commercial Drones

Posted on December 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

Amazon made headlines this week with its announcement that its future Prime Air service will deliver packages to your door within minutes of online orders using drones.

The retail giant faces a series of Olympian hurdles including regulation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before it will be able to get its fleet of delivery robots off the ground. This time, though, the federal government may be ahead of the game.

In its first steps toward regulating what could become a multi-billion break out industry of the future, the FAA last month rolled out its five-year Roadmap to integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into America’s airspace.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a release issued along with the Roadmap on Nov. 7, that the use of commercial UAS, popularly called drones, is still a distant dream.

“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” Foxx said. “This Roadmap is an important step forward that will help stakeholders understand the operational goals and safety issues we need to consider when planning for the future of our airspace.”

The plan calls for three phases of regulation: accommodating existing UAS, integrating future UAS and evolving the rules to deal with emerging issues and new technologies. It’s this second phase, integration of future UAS, businesses should be keeping an eye on since that is where performance standards will be set.

Think this sounds like some far-flung science fiction that has no meaning for your business? Think again. In years past, businesses missed opportunities when they failed to embrace now-ubiquitous technologies, like online shopping and mobile applications to name just two.

Even if you’re not in the delivery business, imagine what near instant delivery could mean for just-in-time manufacturing models, or the delivery of supplies your business uses, or even how you lunch gets dropped off. It could eventually mean fewer vehicles on the road, enhanced fuel conservation, and less pollution.

It could be revolutionary for all areas of business and commerce and, thus, for the economy as a whole. And the FAA is taking the possibility of a sky filled with commercial worker bees very seriously.

It sounds like the FAA is headed toward regulations that would put UAS somewhere between highly regulated manned aircraft and the largely unregulated smaller remote control aircraft that fly within the line of site of the operator.  The Roadmap suggests, for example, that UAS pilots will require certification that differs from that required of manned-vehicle pilots. Airworthiness rules, meanwhile, would likely be similar to those that govern manned aircraft.

“The FAA is committed to safe, efficient and timely integration of UAS into our airspace,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are dedicated to moving this exciting new technology along as quickly and safely as possible.”

 

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A Novel Richmond, California Plan to Avert Foreclosures Gaining National Traction

Posted on December 6, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Turner GPA Staff

Just a few short months ago Richmond, California seemingly stood alone in its fight to stem the tide of home foreclosures hollowing out that working-class city. Championing a novel plan to bailout underwater homeowners, which includes the option of using eminent domain, city leaders there have thus far withstood a storm of threats and litigation from big banks and Wall Street investment firms.  The tenaciousness of Richmond officials and that of their ally, Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP), which is working with the city in its anti-foreclosure fight, is finally garnering the attention of other beleaguered cities.

Richmond’s growing profile is thanks in large measure to the zealous efforts of MRP Chairman Steven Gluckstern who has crisscrossed the country over the past year talking about what is playing out in this East Bay city of 100,000 people.  One evening in late October, Gluckstern, squired by Caren Turner, president of Turner Government and Public Affairs, was in Washington, D.C. working a room at a gathering of high-powered progressive politicos and their supporters having spent the first part of day doing several media interviews. According to Gluckstern, winning this fight pitting Main Street against Wall Street is about getting the word out and building a grassroots movement.

A key point that Gluckstern presses home is that the “plan” isn’t first and foremost about cities using the power of eminent domain to seize mortgages with negative equity. Instead, he says the goal is to get banks and other institutional mortgage holders to sell underwater mortgages—those most likely to go into foreclosure—to cities at fair-market value. The cities would in turn reduce the debt on those mortgages, which means families will be able to stay in their homes, neighborhoods can avert the blight of vacant houses, and property values will remain stable.

Apparently Gluckstern’s nonstop evangelism is gaining converts. Last month the mayor of Irvington, New Jersey announced he is considering a plan similar to Richmond’s as a way to save “anywhere from 500 to 1000 homes,” from foreclosure. According to the Associated Press, Newark, New Jersey, Brockton, Massachusetts, Chicago, and Yonkers, New York are also looking to bailout struggling underwater homeowners facing foreclosure. Other cities, including Baltimore and Pomona and Oakland in California are considering Gluckstern’s plan as well.

For its part Wall Street, the big banks, institutional investors, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are pushing back. In September, a California District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by bondholders challenging Richmond’s plan. However, that has not stopped banks and other lenders from threatening legal action and other punitive measure, including restricting credit. The FHFA too has promised legal action against any city seeking to use eminent domain to seize underwater properties. And a two Republican Congressmen have proposed legislation that would block access to federally-back mortgages in places that use eminent domain to seize mortgages.  Likewise, four Senators have proposed a similar plan.   But lest you believe this is a David and Goliath situation… it is not.  The Mayor of Richmond has formally requested the Department of Justice to conduct a formal investigation of threats waged against the community and the ACLU stepped in, as of yesterday.  They sued FHFA to comply with freedom on information (FOIA) requests.

Neither the City of Richmond nor MRP is backing down. According to Gluckstern his firm is finalizing terms of a Joint Powers Authority with at least five other California jurisdictions that will allow the governments to act as one.  As Gluckstern said in a January 2013 interview with Mother Jones: “…I believe this is the right thing for people and we will fight to the finish…”

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