This Week in Washington…

Posted on January 23, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama is expected to highlight income inequality in his fifth State of the Union address, offering policy prescriptions including an increase in the federal minimum wage.
  • Top administration officials are meeting with lawmakers in both parties to secure their backing for trade-promotion authority.
  • Citing a new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls which found that college women are at the highest risk of sexual assault or rape, President Obama on Wednesday signed a presidential memorandum creating a task force to protect students.
  • In a 112-page report submitted Wednesday, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration said that Americans should not have to wait longer than 30 minutes to cast a ballot, and warned that aging voting equipment could present major problems in the coming years.
  • The president is scheduled to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands on March 24-25, followed by a U.S.-E.U. summit in Brussels and bilateral talks with Belgian officials and the NATO secretary general and meetings with the Italian president and prime minister in Future events
  • Tuesday, January 28 – President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m.

CONGRESS

  • Despite being adamantly opposed to hiking the debt ceiling without spending cuts, some Republicans are showing signs of surrender on the issue, amid deep skepticism that they can win cuts from Democrats.
  • The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, designed to prevent conflicts of interest and shed light on lawmakers who negotiate for post-Capitol Hill work while still in office, has been worn thin by a series of administrative rulings and narrow interpretation.
  • Congressional Republicans have touted small cuts aimed at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but most of the funding for the law is mandatory, not discretionary, leaving GOP appropriators with few options when it comes to depleting the law’s resources.
  • While the Obama administration is already sounding alarms about the debt ceiling, Republicans appear ready to demand another round of spending cuts, according to lawmakers.
  • House Republicans are quietly discussing the option of not writing a budget in 2014, a maneuver that would free up time on the legislative calendar and protect GOP lawmakers from a potentially damaging vote in an election year.
  • House Republicans plan to offer a statement of principles on immigration that would include legal status for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, but would not offer a path to citizenship.

POLITICS

  • A federal grand jury handed up a 12-count indictment against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in connection with the couple’s receipt and disclosure of gifts provided by Jonnie Williams, then CEO of dietary-supplement maker Star Scientific.
  • Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he will not defend the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage.
  • Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor, faced criticism this week following a report revealing inaccuracies in her personal biography.
  • A number of Republican lawmakers addressed the annual March for Life, held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision—this year’s focus was on adoption as an alternative to abortion.
  • Sen. David Vitter, R-La., announced his gubernatorial candidacy this week, highlighting education, tax reform, and government accountability as priorities and telling supporters that the post would be his “last political job, elected or appointed, period.”
  • Neel Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official who helped oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program, launched a challenge to California Gov. Jerry Brown, citing jobs and education as top priorities.
  • A bipartisan, bicameral proposal would amend Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to require states to undergo preclearance changes if five or more voting-rights violations have occurred within the last 15 years in the state, or a locality within the state, with at least one violation being committed by the state itself.
  • Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is battling a recurrence of prostate cancer, announced plans to retire at the end of this year, emphasizing that his decision was not prompted by health concerns.
  • Republicans hope to capitalize on the president’s struggles, picking up Senate seats in states he won in 2012, and outside groups are already launching costly advertising campaigns in key markets.
  • Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., announced his bid for the seat held by retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, and conservative groups are already pushing back.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • HHS official Gary Cohen testified that the back end of the Affordable Care Act site is still being built, and a temporary system is in place that allows insurers to calculate what they are owed.
  • Former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning are featured in new ads touting health coverage under the ACA.
  • The House passed a bill Thursday that would require weekly reports on enrollment and operation of the insurance exchanges.
  • Early estimates of enrollees on the ACA exchanges suggest the majority already had health coverage.
  • Employers are supposed to offer equal coverage to all employees, regardless of how much they are paid, but regulations have yet to be developed, leading the administration to delay enforcement of the requirement.
  • A new resolution introduced in the Republican National Committee encourages Republicans to “fight back” against the war-on-women narrative.
  • Target announced plans to drop coverage for part-time workers, and transition those working fewer than 30 hours a week to the ACA exchanges.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Lobbying associations representing the retail and banking industries are pointing fingers over who’s to blame over the breach last month that exposed the credit-card numbers of as many as 110 million Target customers.
  • America greeted President Obama’s speech last week announcing reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs with collective indifference and broad skepticism, according to a new wide-ranging Pew Research Center/USA Today poll.
  • Twelve firms—including three NFL teams—settled with the FTC over charges that they falsely indicated they were covered under the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Agreement, which lets American companies send European user data to the U.S. without breaking E.U. law.
  • Local and federal law-enforcement officials demanded data on Verizon customers 321,545 times last year, the company revealed Wednesday.
  • Edward Snowden denied allegations lobbed from some lawmakers that he might be a Russian spy, saying in an interview that he acted alone when he downloaded classified NSA documents.
  • Microsoft announced Wednesday it would offer customers in foreign countries the option to have their data stored outside U.S. borders in an attempt to placate growing concerns that such information might be vulnerable to NSA access.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit-card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.” –Maureen McDonnell, in an email to an aide who expressed concerns about a business executive buying her gown for her husband’s inauguration. (The Washington Post)
  • “You live in New York, I live in Syria.” — Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in a heated exchange at the International Conference on Syria. (The New York Times)
  • “As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” — President Obama. (The New Yorker)
  • “The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.” — Obama, outlining reforms to the National Security Agency. (National Journal)
  • “The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.” — Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., in a controversial memoir released last month. (The Washington Post)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Peakbagger.com graphs the rise and fall in populations of the U.S.’s largest metropolitan areas since 1790.
  • Quartz graphs the new Web domains like .coffee and .ninja that are on the way.
  • The Atlantic Cities maps the whooping cough outbreak.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek charts the increase in Super Bowl advertising costs.
  • The Washington Post maps the ways Roe v. Wade changed abortion rights.

Future events

  • Thursday, January 23 – The Library of Congress will hold the annual Maguire lecture on “Ethics, Politics, and Institutions: A Moral Vocabulary for Modern Democracy,” on how “contemporary politics is plagued by a shrinking moral vocabulary,” at 3 p.m. at 10 First Street SE.
  • Thursday, January 23 – The American Enterprise Institute will hold a book discussion on Names, Numbers, and Network Solutions: The Monetization of the Internet, at 5:30 p.m. at 1150 17th Street NW.
  • Thursday, January 23 to Saturday, January 25 – Families USA holds a conference, “Health Action 2014: Making the Promise Real,” at 400 New Jersey Avenue NW.
  • Friday, January 24 – Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich.; former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez; and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will participate in a discussion on the economic case for passing immigration reform in 2014, at 1:30 p.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
  • Friday, January 24 – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy will hold an event, “Tracing the Revolution: Three Years of Upheaval in Egypt,” at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Monday, January 27 to Wednesday, January 29 – The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement will hold the Tactical Power Sources Summit on “Revolutionizing the Future of Battlefield Energy” at 300 Army Navy Drive in Arlington.
  • Monday, January 27 to Wednesday, January 29 – The National Council for Science and the Environment will hold the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment with the theme “Building Climate Solutions,” at 2799 Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington.
  • Monday, January 27 – The International Foundation for Electoral Systems will hold a discussion, “Revolution or Resolution: Is Ukraine Poised for Change?” at 12:30 p.m. at 1850 K Street NW.
  • Monday, January 27 – The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion, “How the Affordable Care Act Changes the Distribution of Income,” at 10 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
  • Monday, January 27 – The Hudson Institute will hold a discussion on telecommunications policy at noon at 1015 15th Street NW. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly is scheduled to participate.
  • Tuesday, January 28 – The Brookings Institution and the Economic Club of Minnesota will hold a discussion, “The 20th Anniversary of NAFTA and the Future of Free Trade” at 9 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Tuesday, January 28 – The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing, “A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Expanding Economic Opportunity,” at 10 a.m. in 210 Cannon.
  • Tuesday, January 28 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to be ambassador to China; Arnold Chacon to be director general of the Foreign Service; and Daniel Bennett Smith to be assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research, at 10 a.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, January 29 — National Journal and The Atlantic will hold the 12th annual “State of the Union Congressional Debrief” at 8 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

 

 

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