This Week in Washington…

Posted on January 16, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

  • During a closed-door session at the White House on Wednesday, the president sought to present a united front with Senate Democrats, urging members to delay action on new sanctions against Iran.
  • President Obama and the first lady will host college and university presidents, as well as officials from nonprofits, state governments, and the private sector, at the White House on Thursday for an event focused on “expanding college opportunity.”
  • Obama nominated community-bank founder Maria Contreras-Sweet to chair the Small Business Administration, filling the final vacancy in his Cabinet and addressing concerns about the lack of diversity among his top appointees.
  • The president will outline his plans to reform the National Security Agency in a speech Friday at the Justice Department.
  • In a visit to Raleigh on Wednesday, Obama announced the formation of a “manufacturing innovation institute” to be led by North Carolina State University and backed by $70 million from the Energy Department and matching funds from non-federal government sources.
  • The Justice Department on Friday announced plans to recognize the 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court halted the practice pending the outcome of an appeal by the state government.

CONGRESS

POLITICS

  • As Democrats point to encouraging economic data ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans plan to emphasize the underlying instability of the national economy, in a shift away from their previous focus on the struggles of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Recently, lobbyists-turned-candidates have taken starring roles in key Senate, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns. It’s odd timing for lobbyists to seek office, because they’re closely linked to the country’s dysfunctional and unpopular politics.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s troubles continued this week, as recently released documents appear to indicate attempts by gubernatorial aides to conceal their involvement in the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
  • Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, who on Thursday announced a challenge to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., could offer his party the best opportunity to oust a popular, well-funded incumbent.
  • This week saw retirement announcements from Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., Bill Owens, D-N.Y., Jim Moran, D-Va., and Buck McKeon, R-Calif.
  • Former lobbyist and congressional aide David Jolly captured 45 percent of the vote in the GOP special-election primary in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, and he will square off March 11 against 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • Officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission, concerned that the Volcker rule lacks sufficient enforcement mechanisms, may seek additional regulatory tools to police Wall Street.
  • The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that the national economy continued its moderate expansion from late November through the end of 2013, with two-thirds of the 12 districts surveyed reporting gains in hiring.
  • The news that the U.S. economy added only 74,000 jobs in December appeared to contradict recent pronouncements about the recovery, but economists said the report could have been an aberration, with inclement weather causing some distortions.
  • The Commerce Department reported an uptick in retail sales during December, signaling an accelerating economy that should continue to improve in 2014.
  • A new report from the National Association of Counties finds that while the national economy shows signs of marked improvement, approximately half of U.S. counties have yet to recover from the recession.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sidestepped questions Tuesday about whether he would allow a bill to increase sanctions against Iran come up for a vote.
  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to formally end the Iraq War.
  • The Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were preventable, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report.
  • Robert Martinage, the Navy’s second-in-command, stepped down Wednesday after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asked for his resignation due to a lack of confidence in his abilities.
  • Thirty-four nuclear-missile crew members at an Air Force base in Montana have been linked to a cheating scandal.
  • House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon has endorsed vice chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, to succeed him in the panel’s top spot.

HEALTH CARE

  • The Obama administration has chosen Accenture to replace CGI Federal as the lead contractor on HealthCare.gov.
  • Maryland state officials did not heed warnings regarding the insurance exchange website a year before it launched.
  • Insurers are seeking a break from spending rules that would penalize them for extra administrative costs due to problems with HealthCare.gov.
  • Nearly 1.8 million people selected an insurance plan on the federal and state exchanges in December, but just 24 percent of enrollees to date are between the ages of 18 and 34, raising concerns about the burdens imposed by older, less healthy enrollees.
  • The Supreme Court refused to hear arguments on a lower-court ruling that struck down Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban.
  • During oral arguments Wednesday, Supreme Court justices suggested that the Massachusetts law restricting protesters around abortion clinics could violate the First Amendment.

TECHNOLOGY

  • A federal court on Tuesday overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s network-neutrality regulations, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s effort to ensure the openness of the Internet.
  • The NSA is using radio waves to infiltrate computers worldwide (although not in the U.S.) to use technology that allows the agency to control data even when a breached computer is not connected to the Internet.
  • Sens. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., introduced a new data-security bill intending to protect consumers from identity theft or fraud in the wake of recent breaches involving Target and Neiman Marcus.
  • A federal District Court judge wrote to Congress this week arguing that a privacy advocate on the judicial body responsible for approving the National Security Agency’s foreign-surveillance orders is “unnecessary” and potentially “counterproductive.”
  • Apple agreed Wednesday to refund at least $32.5 million to parents whose children made digital purchases without their permission as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • The Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit cofounded by Daniel Ellsberg, announced Edward Snowden’s appointment Tuesday to its board of directors, which already includes Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two of the journalists to whom Snowden entrusted his secret documents.

OTHER NEWS

  • American Hustle and Gravity led the Academy Award nominations announced Thursday, with 10 nods apiece, including Best Picture, while 12 Years a Slave picked up nine nominations.
  • New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball this week, following arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s ruling that Rodriguez should be suspended for the entire 2014 season, including the postseason, over his suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs.
  • A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the concussion settlement agreement reached by the National Football League and more than 4,500 former players, citing concerns that “not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their [families] … will be paid.”
  • An argument over texting in a Tampa-area movie theater ended in a fatal shooting Monday, with a retired Tampa police officer accused in the killing.
  • Authorities filed assault charges against a 12-year-old New Mexico boy who is accused of shooting two other students at a middle school in Roswell.

QUOTES

  • “This can be described very charitably as a mixed bag. This is a 1,500-page bill that nobody has actually read.” — Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., on the omnibus spending bill passed by the House. (The Hill)
  • “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better.” — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, addressing the George Washington Bridge scandal in his State of the State speech. (The Washington Post)
  • “One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because, frankly, it’s one of the cheapest for the state.” — Wyoming state Sen. Bruce Burns, on proposing an alternative method of execution in the wake of lethal-injection drug shortages. (National Journal)
  • “I felt he came to have doubts about whether his own strategy could succeed, and I think that some of the early reporting suggested that he made the decision in December or November of 2009 believing it wouldn’t work. I don’t believe that for a second. President Obama would never do that, in my view. I think when he made that decision in November of 2009, he believed that strategy would work.” — Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on Obama’s decisions on the war in Afghanistan. (National Journal)
  • “U.S. military assets were not positioned to respond in time to save the four Americans killed.” — a Senate committee report on the 2012 attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya. (The New York Times)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • The Washington Post graphs Cyber Command’s rising budget.
  • Gallup charts people’s views on the country’s biggest problems, led by politicians themselves.
  • Pew finds that opinions on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have barely changed.
  • Quartz maps where the world’s biggest coffee drinkers are.
  • ·       The Washington Post graphs how Obamacare enrollment rates compare to previous rates under the state law in Massachusetts.

Future events

  • Thursday, Jan. 16 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Robert Barber to be ambassador to the Republic of Iceland; George James Tsunis to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway; and Colleen Bradley Bell to be ambassador to Hungary, at 2:30 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Thursday, Jan. 16 – Politico will host a discussion on policy, politics, and the new book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, at 6 p.m. at 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW. Author and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates will participate.
  • Friday, Jan. 17 — Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade will host the North American Ministerial for discussions on advancing North American prosperity, North America’s leadership on energy and climate change, international engagement, and citizen security, at 8 a.m. at 2201 C St. NW.
  • Friday, January 17 – President Obama will outline his proposed changes to the National Security Agency during an event at the Justice Department.
  • Friday, Jan. 17 – The Aspen Institute will hold abook discussion on The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs & Boost Profits, at noon at 1 Dupont Circle NW.
  • Friday, Jan. 17 – The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will hold a discussion, “Tech Policy 2014: The Year Ahead,” at 9:30 a.m. at 1150 17th St. NW.
  • Friday, Jan. 17 – The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus will hold a discussion, “Court Strikes Down FCC Open Internet Rules, What Does It Mean for the Net?” at noon in 2226 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 21 – The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on telecommunications policy at noon at 1015 15th St. NW. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly will participate.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 21 – National Journal Live will hold a “Conversation With Charlie Cook” at 1:30 p.m. in 345 Cannon.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 21 – The Center for the New Energy Economy will hold a briefing on a new report, “Powering Forward: Presidential and Executive Agency Actions to Drive Clean Energy in America,” at 9:30 a.m. at 529 14th St. NW.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 22 – National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will deliver a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon address, “The Most Recent Collective-Bargaining Agreement and Players’ Concerns Over Concussion-Related Injuries,” at 12:30 p.m. at 529 14th St. NW.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 22 – The Commonwealth Fund will hold a webinar, beginning at 2 p.m., “The Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplaces: What’s the Experience So Far?”

 

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Did Obama make any comment about the jobs report?


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