Archive for February, 2014
TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK
- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled his department’s $496 billion proposed budget, which would reduce the Army’s size and eliminate an entire class of Air Force jets.
Look ahead: Hagel acknowledged that “readiness is not the same standard” as a result of the reductions.
- House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., unveiled an overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which would involve major changes for both individuals and businesses.
Look ahead: The Joint Committee on Taxation found that Camp’s proposed tax-code overhaul could help to spur economic growth, but the measure has virtually no chance of being acted on this Congress.
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people on the basis of religious beliefs.
Look ahead: Lawmakers in a number of other states are weighing similar “religious liberty” measures.
- The Health and Human Services Department announced that 4 million people have obtained private insurance coverage using the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Look ahead: The administration has conceded that it may fall short of the goal of 7 million sign-ups by the end of open enrollment on March 31.
- The Ukrainian parliament appointed Arseny Yatsenyuk to serve as prime minister and named an interim government to serve ahead of presidential elections on May 25, amid concerns about potential Russian interference.
Look ahead: Russia has guaranteed the safety of deposed, fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who faces mass-murder charges in the deaths of protesters.
- President Obama is weighing options for the disposition of the NSA’s phone surveillance programs—three that would relocate the data to phone companies or another government agency, and one that calls for a total abandonment of the program.
- During a visit to St. Paul on Wednesday, Obama called for $302 billion in surface transportation improvements, to be funded in part by $150 billion generated from the proposed closure of “unfair” business tax loopholes.
- Obama will launch his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, a government task force designed to improve educational and economic opportunities for black and Hispanic young men.
- The president and House Speaker John Boehner discussed an array of issues during a White House meeting this week—including the war in Afghanistan, immigration reform, and the Affordable Care Act—but little progress is expected.
- The unity that had defined the National Governors Association’s annual meeting dissolved after a gathering at the White House, when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted the president’s effort to raise the minimum wage, prompting sharp criticism from Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
- Despite warnings from the Chinese government about potential diplomatic fallout, President Obama hosted the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday.
- The administration has reopened the White House Political Office, which will function as a clearinghouse for election-related information and requests and advise the president on his support of Democratic candidates in 2014.
- Regulations proposed by the White House and the USDA would gradually eliminate advertising of sugary drinks and junk foods in schools—a shift that has the support of the beverage industry.
- House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., unveiled an overhaul of the U.S. tax code, which would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to two and lower the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
- House Democrats filed a discharge petition Wednesday in hopes of forcing a vote to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.
- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will meet Friday with committee chairs to begin crafting an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has delayed a vote on wage-increase legislation at least until the Senate returns from its next recess on March 24.
- Republican senators have placed holds on the president’s selections, but Majority Leader Harry Reid’s deployment of the nuclear option has reduced the efficacy of such tactics.
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people on the basis of religious beliefs.
- Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, offering Republicans a chance to test the impact of the Affordable Care Act at the polls.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter—signed by 636 organizations—to Speaker John Boehner indicating its support of using the House Republican Conference’s “Standards for Immigration Reform” as “guideposts for action” on the issue.
- U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Texas’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but stayed his decision, pending the adjudication of expected appeals.
- Former President Clinton campaigned for Alison Lundergan Grimes, telling the crowd that “it makes a big difference” who wins the race between the Kentucky secretary of state and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- Citing health concerns and frustration with Congress’s ineffectiveness, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., announced plans to step down at the end of the session.
- Priorities USA Action Executive Director Buffy Wicks wrote this week to top contributors that the super PAC is not actively seeking donations this year, and instead urged donors to support House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC.
- In a handful of the most contested Senate contests this cycle—including Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina—the AFL-CIO has conducted a cost-benefit analysis and the results are in: There just aren’t enough union members in those states to make it worth the investment of scarce resources.
- Leaders of United We Dream, a network of immigrant youth organizations, plan to pressure Obama to use executive action to aid undocumented immigrants—including broadening the application of the deportation deferrals he introduced in 2012.
- In an interview, Attorney General Eric Holder said that his state counterparts are not obligated to defend state bans on same-sex marriage if they deem these to be discriminatory.
BUDGET & ECONOMY
- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivers the semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Senate Banking Committee on Feb. 27—an appearance that was postponed due to inclement weather.
- Under Yellen, the Fed is expected to end its reliance on the 6.5 percent unemployment threshold, and could look to the Summary of Economic Projections for its guidance on benchmark interest rates.
- Federal Reserve Gov. Daniel Tarullo told a conference of the National Association for Business Economics that while alternative options exist, “monetary policy action cannot be taken off the table as a response to the buildup of broad and sustained systemic risk.”
- The G-20’s annual summit concluded Sunday with an agreement that developed economies would maintain their easy-money policies, and emerging markets would seek to rein in inflation.
- A survey released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council reveals that just 68 percent of Americans are saving a portion of their earnings, down from 73 percent in 2010.
- The number of Americans who lagged on their mortgage payments dropped to 6.39 percent of loans at the close of 2013, the lowest rate since the first quarter of 2008.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
- Colorado regulators signed off on the first state-level controls on methane release from oil and natural-gas drilling operations.
- Several Supreme Court justices—including, at one point, swing vote Anthony Kennedy—cast skeptical eyes on the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse-gas permit requirements for large industrial polluters.
- Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate State Department’s hiring practices for contracting firms used to complete environmental impact assessments.
- Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has been named chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Oversight.
- Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline should take public health effects of oil-sands extraction into account.
- Supporters and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline pressured Secretary of State John Kerry to take their side in the debate before he weighs in on the project.
- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled his department’s $496 billion proposed budget, acknowledging that “readiness is not the same standard” as a result of the reductions.
- Secretary of State John Kerry increased pressure on China and the Association of South East Asian Nations to resolve tensions over the South China Sea.
- The Ukrainian parliament appointed a new prime minister and named an interim government in the wake of the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand convened a hearing on the relationship between military sexual assaults and suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder.
- President Obama told the Afghan president, who has refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, that the U.S. is preparing for a full military withdrawal from the country.
- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government wants to delay turning over all of its chemical weapons until mid-May.
- HHS announced that ACA private-plan enrollment on the exchanges has reached 4 million.
- The administration released proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans Friday. Reductions to the payment rates are included in the Affordable Care Act, but insurers and lawmakers had urged the White House to avoid any cuts this year. However, shares of Humana and other insurance companies rose Monday as concerns eased over proposed regulations.
- As enrollment on the health care law’s insurance exchange for the individuals and families accelerates ahead of the March 31 deadline, small-business owners remain slow to choose plans on their dedicated exchange.
- Maryland’s ACA exchange continues to flounder, causing the state to replace prime contractor Noridian Healthcare Solutions with Optum/QSSI.
- A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuarial report predicted that 65 percent of small businesses will see premiums increase under the Affordable Care Act. The findings give ammunition to GOP opponents of the law; Democrats argue that the projections do not take federal subsidies into account.
- The new Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control annual report released by the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services found that investigations have recovered a record $4.3 billion in fiscal 2013, and $19.2 billion over the last four years.
- The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that overall consumers prefer higher premiums and broader provider networks, but the target market for the ACA—those uninsured or currently purchasing their own coverage—favors lower cost and a narrower network of providers.
- Some congressional Republicans are touting legislation that pushes back against the Obama administration and the Common Core state standards.
- The Education Department released optional guidelines for how schools can work to protect student data.
- The White House rolled out a proposal that would ban junk-food advertising from school campuses.
- Colleges need to boost fraud protections for financial aid on distance-education programs, according to an Education Department audit.
- It is unclear whether the Education Department’s college-affordability lists have led to universities slowing the rate of tuition increases.
- Complaints, reported to the Education Department, against colleges that are tied to race and ethnicity increased more than 35 percent between 2009 and 2013.
- The House passed a bill allowing cell-phone unlocking, which lets customers switch providers without buying a new phone, but it kept in place a ban on bulk unlocking.
- Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox went offline, losing about 6 percent of all bitcoins in circulation, in total worth more than $350 million—but many bitcoin investors still don’t want any kind of bailout.
- Republican lawmakers plan to introduce a bill to “eradicate” a Federal Communications Commission study on print and broadcast journalism newsroom decisions.
- Verizon is investigating possible data-security breaches at two retailers, which could be similar to the massive data breach at Target in November and December. Verizon would not say which companies may have been hit.
- Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for access to higher-speed access for Comcast subscribers, making it the first time an online company has effectively had to pay for access to customers of a broadband provider.
- Researchers are working toward the “de-extinction” of several species, including the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon.
- A California couple unearthed 1,427 gold coins minted between 1847 and 1894—while the face value of the coins is just $27,000, experts believe the collection could fetch as much as $10 million due to their rarity and condition.
- Scholars have been transfixed by the Voynich manuscript since its 1912 discovery, but have been unable to discern the work’s provenance or its meaning—if it has one.
- Researchers have determined that a zircon crystal found on a sheep ranch in Western Australia is the oldest known piece of Earth, at 4.4 billion years old.
- “I told the president, next game I have him. Just remember, I may be a white boy, but I can jump.” — Vice President Joe Biden, on playing basketball with President Obama (CNN)
- “These guys never go away. Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.” — Biden, on voter-ID laws in Southern states (The Hill)
- “I’m sorry, I’m losing you, we have a technical difficulty.” — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when asked if he was considering running for president (New York Observer)
- “It should be a conversation in every community, in every town hall, in every church group, and every PTA program to put pressure on the governors and legislatures to say, ‘This is not acceptable.’ ” — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who criticized Republican governors for refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare (The Hill)
- “There is not going to be one low-carbon solution. There are going to be multiple low-carbon solutions. We need all the arrows in the quiver, and that is why we will continue to invest across the board in our different fuels and, of course, efficiency and other technologies.” — Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, on the government’s “all of the above” approach to climate policy
- “Little has been done in this Congress, with 57 bills passed into law. That is not Heinz packaged varieties, it is the laws passed by the Congress.” — Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., in a statement announcing his retirement (release)
- “I’m sorry you had to unmask me. I’m really Kevin Spacey in disguise. Not too many people knew that.” — Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to actor Seth Rogen, during a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee hearing (National Journal)
CHARTS AND GRAPHICS
- Gallup charts House Speaker John Boehner’s recovering popularity after the federal government shutdown.
- Quartz tracks the dwindling popularity of orange juice.
- Pew maps outgoing and incoming remittances across the world.
- The Washington Post charts the shifting U.S. obesity rates by age.
- The Wall Street Journal graphs why recent good news in the housing market isn’t very meaningful.
- The Wall Street Journal maps projected 2018 home prices.
- TechCrunch visualizes acquisitions by Apple, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook over the past 15 years.
- National Journal maps the state of same-sex marriage in the United States.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The White House will hold its first-ever Student Film Festival, highlighting the administration’s commitment to get high-speed Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, at 3:30 p.m. in the East Room.
- Wednesday, March 5 – The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal 2015 and the Future Years Defense Program at 9:30 a.m. in 216 Hart. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey are scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, March 6 – The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal 2015 and the Future Years Defense Program at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion, “Mexico’s Political Reform and Electoral Transformation: What are the Global Lessons?” at 9 a.m. at 1030 15th St. NW.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence will hold an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act; urge Congress to extend background checks to include online purchases and gun-show sales; and release a report on the impact of Brady background checks, at 9:30 a.m. in HVC-215.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The Cato Institute will hold abriefing, “The Fed’s 100th Anniversary and the Case for a Centennial Monetary Commission,” at noon in B-318 Rayburn.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The Center for American Progress will hold adiscussion, “Housing Finance Reform: What Does It Mean for Rental Housing?” at 12:30 p.m. at 1333 H St. NW.
- Monday, March 3 – The Peterson Institute for International Economics will hold a discussion on economic sustainability and reform challenges facing the Danish and other “welfare states” in the 21st century, at 11 a.m. at 1750 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
- Tuesday, March 4 – The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold ahearing on the nominations of Stanley Fischer to be a member and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; and Jerome Powell and Lael Brainard to be members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
- Tuesday, March 4 – The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative will hold adiscussion, “The Role of Global Banking in the U.S. Economy,” at 2:30 p.m. at 1225 I St. NW.
- Thursday, Feb. 27 – The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the Center for Clean Energy Innovation will hold an “Energy Innovation on the Hill” reception at 5 p.m. in HVC-201.
- Monday, March 3 to Tuesday, March 4 – Energy Biz holds the 2014 Securing Power Forum at 1330 Maryland Ave. SW.
- Thursday, Feb. 27 – The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will hold a discussion, “U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Regional Security Dilemma,” at 4:30 p.m. at 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
- Thursday, Feb. 27 – The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a Schieffer Series Journalist Roundtable discussion, “National Security and Foreign Policy Flash Points,” at 6 p.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
- Sunday, March 2 to Tuesday, March 4 – The American Israeli Political Action Committee will hold its 2014 Policy Conference at 801 Mount Vernon Place NW.
- Monday, March 3 to Tuesday, March 4 – The Federation of American Hospitals will hold its annual public policy conference at 2660 Woodley Rd. NW.
- Thursday, Feb. 27 to Saturday, March 1 – The Education Department will hold a meeting of the National Assessment Governing Board at 2500 Calvert St. NW.
- Tuesday, March 4 – The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing, “Raising the Bar: The Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education,” at 10 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute will hold a book discussion on It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens at 9 a.m. at 1899 L St. NW.
- Friday, Feb. 28 – The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a discussion on a new report, “Cybersecurity and the North American Electric Grid: New Policy Approaches to Address an Evolving Threat,” at 9 a.m. at 1225 I St. NW.
- Tuesday, March 4 – Georgetown University’s Institute for Law, Science, and Global Security will hold a conference, “International Engagement on Cyber: Developing International Norms for a Safe, Stable, and Predictable Cyber Environment,” at 8 a.m. at 37th and O streets NW.
- Tuesday, March 4 – The Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association will hold the fifth annual Cybersecurity Summit at 8 a.m. at 1001 16th St. NW.
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TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK
- The death toll is rising in Ukraine following the collapse of a fragile truce between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders, as the European Union imposed sanctions on government officials and the United States placed 20 Ukrainian leaders on a visa blacklist.
Look ahead: Fears are mounting that Yanukovych could declare a state of emergency, which would pave the way for military involvement in the conflict.
- A Congressional Budget Office report released this week found that raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour would increase compensation for 16.5 million Americans, but could cost 500,000 jobs.
Look ahead: Expect Democrats to emphasize the plan’s potential to lift 900,000 people out of poverty, while Republicans focus on the potential job losses.
- The six world powers and Iran have agreed to a framework for talks on a long-term agreement on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
Look ahead: The parties will reconvene in Vienna on March 17.
- The White House announced today that the president’s 2015 budget will not revive his earlier offer to reduce cost-of-living increases in Social Security and veterans’ benefits.
Look ahead: The move signals the administration’s acknowledgement that a “grand bargain” on the budget remains elusive.
- President Obama joined Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico, where the leaders made little headway on matters of trade, immigration and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Look ahead: Obama is working to downplay reports of opposition within his own party over the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- President Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made few gains on the major issues before them at the North American Leaders Summit: the Keystone XL pipeline, immigration reform, and international trade.
- En route to Mexico, Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to finalize the International Trade Data System, which is designed to streamline the processing of imports and exports.
- Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is using her experience as a corporate executive to defuse tensions aroused during the president’s first term, and is working to boost trade and investment as well as to develop a highly skilled labor force.
- The president reviewed drought damage in California on Friday, and promised millions of dollars in federal aid to farmers and others affected by the extreme conditions.
- Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday before a meeting with student groups that the United States must “change the culture” in order to reduce the incidence of sexual assault.
- President Obama met Friday with King Abdullah II of Jordan, telling the leader that he will seek additional humanitarian assistance for refugees from Syria.
- Republican Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Susan Collins of Maine are crafting a jobless-benefits extension that could include reforms to the program.
- More than a dozen U.S. House members and some of their spouses arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, on Tuesday for the start of a five-day series of seminars and other events on the changes in Latin America. The trip is sponsored by the Aspen Institute Congressional Program.
- Sequestration was designed to attract Congress’s wrath, but now, with few other options available, it’s becoming legislators’ favorite tool.
- The collapse of a prospective “grand bargain” in the summer of 2011 spared Democrats from what surely would have been a bitter internal reckoning over entitlements.
- In a letter, 117 House Democrats urged the president to remove reductions to Social Security and veterans’ benefits from his proposed budget, due March 4.
- The American Opportunity Alliance, a group of pro-business GOP mega-donors led by billionaire financier Paul Singer, will host a two-day retreat in Colorado later this month that has attracted the likes of House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
- A coalition of women’s groups on Wednesday launched a plan to leverage the power of female voters to pressure House Republicans on immigration reform.
- Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., will retire after eight terms, while freshman Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif., plans to return to local politics with a run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported raising $6.6 million in January, besting the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s monthly total of $4.6 million.
- Democrats aim to minimize their liability over the Affordable Care Act by convincing voters that a Republican alternative would have proven more problematic.
- Under growing political pressure, the National Republican Congressional Committee has overhauled a series of controversial campaign websites that are designed to, at first glance, appear as if they support Democrats.
- U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, but stayed her ruling pending appeals.
- Companies and political candidates are turning to a new technology that allows advertisers to target specific homes with television messaging.
BUDGET & ECONOMY
- Democrats are on the defensive following the release of a Congressional Budget Office report finding that increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour would increase compensation for 16.5 million Americans, but could cost 500,000 jobs.
- The administration marked the fifth anniversary of the 2009 economic stimulus by releasing a report detailing the law’s benefits, including jobs created or saved and increases to the nation’s gross domestic product; Republicans reiterated claims that the law has failed to improve the economic picture.
- China and Japan, the largest holders of long-term U.S. securities, trimmed their investments in December, with Beijing cutting nearly $48 billion during the month, while private foreign creditors increased their holdings by $56 billion during the same period.
- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., expressed hopes that key tax credits and deductions can be “re-enacted promptly.”
- The World Bank aims to increase its loan portfolio by 50 percent–$100 billion–over the next decade.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
- Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said ads targeting her for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline could help her win votes in an energy-rich state.
- The White House directed federal agencies to complete the next round of carbon-emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for large and medium-sized trucks by March of 2016.
- Chinese investment to spur energy efficiency exceeded U.S. investment for the first time.
- Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., called for a temporary brake on propane exports to bring down the price of the fuel.
- Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced final approval for a multibillion-dollar loan guarantee for the first nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years.
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., asked the Federal Railroad Administration to take a closer look at track safety in North Dakota.
- Protesters against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych were killed in fresh clashes with government security forces, as the United States imposed travel sanctions on government officials and European leaders called for early elections.
- Negotiators from the six world powers and Iran expressed satisfaction with a three-day round of talks on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, signaling progress while noting that while much work remains when the parties reconvene in Vienna on March 17.
- The Obama administration is blocking approximately 20 Ukrainian officials, who it says are tied to the government’s recent crackdown, from obtaining a visa to travel to the United States.
- Though administration officials said they are keeping all options on table for U.S. involvement in Syria, Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration still believes diplomacy is the best option.
- As the U.S. emerges from an era of war, Congress must change the law that authorized it, a plurality of National Journal‘s National Security Insiders said.
- A plurality of Americans now believe that it was a mistake to send soldiers to fight in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
- Three soldiers were nearly killed after a U.S. Air Force pilot accidentally dropped a 500-pound bomb on a U.S. infantry outpost in Afghanistan.
- The U.S. launched a new global health initiative, joining over two dozen countries and international organizations to prevent and respond to threats of infectious diseases.
- Party leaders are urging Democratic candidates to address the ACA’s problems and propose solutions, rather than ignore the unease surrounding the health care law.
- California state Sen. Ricardo Lara proposed legislation that would extend coverage under the Affordable Care Act to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
- California’s exchange boasts some of the highest Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers, but has had difficulty signing up Latinos.
- The Arkansas House and Senate will vote today on whether to renew funding for the state’s “private option” for coverage for low-income individuals, following two failed votes in the House earlier this week. If the Legislature revokes the program, the almost 100,000 Arkansans who have enrolled so far will lose their coverage July 1.
- Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp for $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in shares, though the total cost of the deal could reach $19 billion through the issuing of restricted stock to WhatsApp founders and employees.
- The theft of debit- and credit-card information from Target last year is estimated to have cost financial institutions more than $200 million, higher than previous guesses.
- Target executives are determined to win back public support following its data breach, with CEO Gregg Steinhafel saying the company “won’t be defined by the breach, but how we handle the breach.”
- AT&T received more than 300,000 government requests for users’ phone data in 2013, similar to numbers disclosed by Verizon, both of which showed that phone companies received more demands for data than Internet companies.
- Netflix has been in a standoff with Verizon and other broadband providers over streaming fees for a month, and while Netflix has refused to pay extra fees, its speeds have dropped by 14 percent.
- NASA and MIT are shooting “lasers full of Internet” to spaceships on the moon, with Internet speeds almost 10 times faster than anywhere on Earth.
- A Florida jury convicted Michael Dunn of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into an unoccupied vehicle, but failed to reach a verdict on a single count of first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
- The Gap announced plans to raise its employees’ hourly minimum wage to $9 this year and $10 in 2015.
- Swedish athletic apparel company Craft has scored a coup, outfitting the Dutch speed skating team that has won 20 medals in Sochi, while U.S. athletes have raised concerns that their Under Armour skinsuits could be impeding their efforts on the ice.
- European Union regulations governing the export of drugs used in lethal injections have played a leading role in the shortage of those substances in the United States. A number of botched executions have been attributed to the use of untested cocktails to carry out death sentences, and some states are turning to alternative methods of execution.
- “If you’re a whip in either party, you’ve got to corral your caucus and conference members, and you’ve got to provide the votes to get things done to move the legislation, to make Congress relevant to people’s lives, and so you use different techniques to get that done. I think this show is overly dramatic and pessimistic and dark in the portrayal of how that’s done.” — Former Rep. David Bonior, who served as Democratic whip in the House from 1991 to 2002, on Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of fictional Majority Whip Frank Underwood in House of Cards (National Journal)
- “Why should he talk about climate change when we have got 130,000 people in Syria killed?” — Sen. John McCain, on Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments on the danger of climate change (National Journal)
- “All we need is something bad to be in these 27,000 emails, and all attention will turn to Wisconsin.” — Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, on the national political implications of a now-closed investigation of Gov. Scott Walker (Washington Post)
- “When the Council chooses a celebrity to deliver its public health messages, it gives that celebrity a ‘halo,’ to use the jargon of the public relations industry. The question is whether the Council is OK with Coca-Cola and other sugar-drink producers renting that halo for their purposes?” — The Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a letter criticizing retired figure skater Michelle Kwan for appearing in a Coca-Cola ad while serving on the President’s Council on Nutrition, Fitness and Sports (The Hill)
- “Since the first minimum wage was enacted more than 75 years ago, opponents have argued that a wage floor would cause job loss. But this is a myth.” — Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, before release of a Congressional Budget Office report estimating that the economy would lose about 500,000 jobs if the federal minimum wage is raised to $10.10 (National Journal)
CHARTS AND GRAPHICS
- Reddit user Alexander Trubetskoy maps the sources of America’s GDP.
- Quartz charts the rise and fall of long-distance airfare.
- Gallup tracksthe shift in public opinion on the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
- Quartz graphshow Greece has turned around its current-account balance.
- The Wall Street Journal illustrates who would be affected by an increase in the federal minimum wage.
- Thursday, Feb. 20 – President Obama will address the Democratic Governors Association dinner at 5:35 p.m. at 923 16th Street NW.
- Thursday, Feb. 20 – The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will hold a Google+ Hangout, beginning at 3 p.m., to outline national priorities and launch a drive to engage the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
- Tuesday, Feb. 25 – The Office of Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. will hold an event, “Honoring our Past and Celebrating Our Future: Discussing Personal Journeys and a Nation’s Progress With America’s Black Senators,” at 9:30 a.m. at 10 First Street SE.
- Tuesday, Feb. 25 – The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Reauthorizing TRIA (Terrorism Risk Insurance Act): The State of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Market, Part II,” at 10 a.m. in 538 Dirksen.
- Wednesday, Feb. 26 – The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” at 10 a.m. in 2141 Rayburn.
- Friday, Feb. 21 to Monday, Feb. 24 – The National Governors Association will hold its2014 Winter Meeting at 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – The Politics and Prose Bookstore will hold a book discussion on HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton at 7 p.m. at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW.
- Friday, Feb. 21 – The World Bank Group, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Kauffman Foundation will hold a research conference, “Doing Business: Past, Present and Future of Business Regulation,” Feb. 20-21 at Georgetown University’s Hariri Building, 37th and O Streets NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 and Tuesday, Feb. 25 – The National Association for Business Economics holds its 30th annual Economic Policy Conference, “Policy Choices: Immediate Needs, Enduring Challenges,” at 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington.
- Tuesday, Feb. 25 – The New America Foundation’s Asset Building Program and the Center for Social Development will hold a discussion, “The Tax-Man Giveth? Refunds, Savings, and Promoting Economic Security,” at 9 a.m. at 1899 L Street NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – National Journal will hold the “State of the States Policy Summit,” focusing on disaster recovery after weather-related events, at 1:30 p.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
- Friday, Feb. 21 – The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold aforum on national security and international affairs, focusing on lessons learned and insights from the field of operations in Afghanistan, at noon at 1111 19th Street NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs will hold the Second Asia Security Workshop at 8:45 a.m. at 1957 E Street NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, the United States Institute for Peace, and the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication will hold adiscussion, “Blogs & Bullets III: Twitter Evolutions: Understanding the Changing Role of Social Media in War and Protest,” at 9 a.m. at 2301 Constitution Avenue NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – The Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence will hold adiscussion, “The Future of Land Power and U.S. Ground Forces,” at 10 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
- Monday, Feb. 24 – Kaiser Health News and Health Affairs will hold a discussion on the experiences of Arkansas under the Affordable Care Act, including the Medicaid “private option,” at 8:30 a.m. at 1330 G Street NW. Gov. Mike Beebe is among the scheduled participants.
- Friday, Feb. 21 – Politico and Microsoft will hold the fourth annual State Solutions Conference with governors from across the country, focusing on “innovative approaches that their states have taken to address complex problems,” at 8 a.m. at 901 K Street NW.
TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK
- The debt-ceiling standoff ended this week after the House and Senate passed a measure to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without attaching any conditions.
Look ahead: Several Republican lawmakers concede the debt-limit brinksmanship is here to stay, but are accepting the political reality in the short term.
- Lawmakers voted by wide margins in the House and Senate to reverse cuts to pension benefits for working-age military retirees.
Look ahead: The $6 billion cost of restoring the benefits will be offset by extending automatic reductions to reimbursements for Medicare providers for one year.
- The Treasury Department further delayed the employer mandate, saying that businesses with 50-99 full-time workers—those working at least 30 hours a week—will not be subject to the penalty until 2016.
Look ahead: Companies with more than 100 workers, which had been required to provide coverage for 95 percent of full-time employees by 2015 to avoid a penalty, now must extend it to just 70 percent by next year.
- The White House unveiled its highly anticipated cybersecurity framework, which is intended to help businesses defend themselves from hackers, but the
Look ahead: The guidelines are voluntary, and it is unclear how much the government can do to encourage compliance.
- Roughly 3.3 million people have obtained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, including 1.1 million people who selected plans on the health insurance exchanges in January, according to figures released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Look ahead: While young people are gaining coverage in greater numbers, the number of enrollees between the ages of 18 and 34 continues to lag expectations.
- The White House unveiled its highly anticipated cybersecurity framework, which is intended to help businesses defend themselves from hackers, but the guidelines are voluntary, and it is unclear how much the government can do to encourage compliance.
- The president signed an executive order increasing the base pay for new federal contracts from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, and the minimum tipped pay to $4.90 per hour, up from $2.13.
- Obama touted the role of agriculture in the nation’s economy while signing the $956 billion farm bill during an appearance Friday at Michigan State University.
- First lady Michelle Obama praised construction companies’ efforts to hire veterans during an address to the National Symposium on Veterans’ Employment in Construction.
- A White House event introducing the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, designed to increase opportunities for young men of color, was scheduled for Feb. 13 but has been postponed due to inclement weather.
- The Senate approved the House-passed suspension of the debt limit until March 2015, after Republican resistance threatened to derail the measure on a procedural vote.
- The Senate voted 95-3 on Wednesday to adopt a House-passed reversal of cuts to pension benefits for working-age military retirees; the cost of the repeal will be offset by extending automatic reductions to reimbursements for Medicare providers for one year.
- Roughly 80 of the 201 members of the House Democratic Caucus plan to skip the annual issues conference at a posh hotel in Maryland, thanks in part to last night’s storm.
- The Democratic Senate majority is putting forward its vulnerable incumbents to promote popular bills, while keeping the Senate’s agenda focused on a cadre of economic issues that force Republicans to take unwelcome votes.
- Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., announced his retirement on Feb. 13, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
- With 36 gubernatorial races this cycle, the overall map favors Democrats, but Republicans are seeking to hold the top posts in eight states won by President Obama in 2008, and all eyes are on Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
- Trade remains the last major fault line in a Democratic Party more united than it has been in recent memory.
- Organizations on both ends of the ideological spectrum are criticizing proposed regulations on nonprofits as overbroad, warning that they could have a chilling effect on political activity.
- Fearing a repeat of the 2012 cycle, when far-right candidates defeated party favorites and went on to lose general elections, the Republican establishment is working to stamp out dangerous challengers.
- Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., who in October announced plans to retire after the 113th Congress, will mount a bid for lieutenant governor.
- House Majority PAC has placed a $650,000 television buy in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, blasting Republican David Jolly for lobbying on behalf of a group that sought to privatize Social Security.
- As they seek to hold the Senate, Democrats are strategizing how best to use the president without harming incumbents in states where he is particularly unpopular.
- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $19.4 million online in 2013, twice what it raised through the Internet in 2011.
- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is spreading $60 million and 4,000 paid staffers across 10 states as it pursues a data-driven strategy involving voter-registration drives, traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, and television advertising.
- Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., already a major target for Democrats this cycle, plans to retire after the 113th Congress, setting the stage for a likely party switch in the Democratic-leaning 31st Congressional District.
BUDGET & ECONOMY
- In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank would continue the gradual reduction of its monthly bond purchases absent “a notable change in the outlook” for the U.S. economy.
- A report released Monday by the American Farm Bureau indicates that a policy falling short of comprehensive reform would reduce agricultural production and trigger a 5-to-6-percent increase in food prices over the next five years.
- The Treasury Department reports that the federal budget deficit totaled $104.6 billion for the period from October 2013 to January 2014—a decrease of $184 billion over the previous year.
- Comcast has made an all-stock offer of $45.2 billion for Time Warner Cable, a deal that is expected to face intense scrutiny by the Federal Communications Commission.
- In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew declared a “debt issuance suspension period” for the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, effective Feb. 10-27, and warned that as of Feb. 10, he was unable to invest fully the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
- An Energy Department official said the use of carbon-capture-and-storage technology at coal-fired power plants could cause electricity prices to rise by up to 80 percent.
- After expressing concerns for months that President Obama was moving too fast to approve exports of natural gas, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., now says she’s “comfortable” with the strategy.
- Senate Democrats want action on climate change, but can’t agree on what role scientists should play in the debate.
- The Obama administration approved the nation’s sixth natural-gas export project.
- House conservatives aren’t voting to protect the environment according to an analysis by the League of Conservation Voters.
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued a white paper showing that new Environmental Protection Agency regulations and changes in the U.S. energy mix could threaten the reliability of the electric grid.
- Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., moves to the Environment and Public Works Committee following the departure of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
- The Environmental Protection Agency released guidelines for the use of diesel fuel in fracking operations.
- Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting South Korea, China, and Indonesia in a bid to defuse tensions over territorial claims in the East and South China Seas; he also plans to address North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
- President Obama said Tuesday that the Syrian peace talks are still “far from” achieving the goals laid out in the initial Geneva talks.
- The third shipment of chemical materials left Syria this week, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said other materials were destroyed within the country.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who strongly opposes the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program—will meet with Obama next month.
- The Obama administration classified the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization in 2012, but as of November had not blocked or frozen its assets.
- Most U.S. service members in Japan tied to sex crimes between 2005 and early 2013 didn’t go to jail.
- The Treasury Department delayed the employer mandate again, saying that businesses with 50-99 full-time workers—those working at least 30 hours a week—will not be subject to the penalty until 2016, and that implementation will be gradual.
- About 1.1 million people signed up for an insurance plan on the health insurance exchanges in January, according to new HHS enrollment numbers, bringing total enrollment on the exchanges to 3.3 million.
- Lawmakers reached a bipartisan “doc fix” deal to permanently repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate but have not yet found a way to pay for it.
- The White House is considering an extension of its decision to allow insurance plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act for as long as three extra years.
- Officials said individuals who are dissatisfied with their ACA plan may choose a different one before the end of March, as long as they keep the same insurer and level of coverage.
- A GAO study found that the Food and Drug Administration is preventing more shortages than in the past, but that the number of shortages has continued to increase.
- A long-term large-scale study found that mammograms did not reduce the death rate from breast cancer in participants but did lead to overdiagnosis.
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is officially suing the Obama administration over the National Security Agency’s domestic-spying programs, saying his class-action lawsuit could represent “hundreds of millions of people.”
- Foreign governments have hacked the computers of journalists based in the U.S. using off-the-shelf software, despite laws prohibiting unauthorized hacking.
- A U.S. spaceship from 1978 is accidentally still operating, but there is no way to communicate with it or control it.
- A member of an independent advisory board said the NSA’s phone-data collection program has no basis in law.
- Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Jim Sensenbrenner and Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler condemned the NSA for possibly spying on members of Congress, and accused the Obama administration of lying about the circumstances in which it accesses people’s phone data.
- Target’s massive data breach apparently happened because one employee of a heating and air-conditioning contractor fell for an email phishing scheme.
- A powerful winter storm battered the southeastern United States before moving north, where it shuttered government offices and disrupted travel throughout the region.
- Shirley Temple Black, who won great acclaim as a child actor and went on to become an ambassador, died Monday at age 85.
- A massive sinkhole opened up Wednesday beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., swallowing up eight of the cars on display.
- Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted in federal court Wednesday on 20 of 21 counts, including bribery, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns.
- New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez abandoned a legal challenge to his 162-game suspension, and will sit out the entire 2014 season.
- Citing the need to preserve biodiversity in its breeding program, the Copenhagen Zoo killed Marius, a healthy 2-year-old giraffe, on Sunday, and then fed his remains to lions as visitors looked on.
- A Gallup Poll of Americans’ economic confidence found that D.C. residents not only have the highest ratings, but that the District is also the only place in the United States to post a positive index in 2013.
- “I believe that I am a sensible central banker, and these are very unusual times.” — Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen, on the Fed’s use of unusual policy tools like the bond-buying program (Los Angeles Times)
- “Businesses may be exploring, ‘Are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later if and when there is an actual agreement to be had?’ They do so at their own peril right now, because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks with respect to the sanctions that we control.” — President Obama, on businesses violating the economic sanctions against Iran (Reuters)
- “The perception of many across American is Republicans in Washington are the party of ‘no,’ they’re just against things. We shouldn’t be about austerity. We should be about reform. We should spell out a clear message about how we’re going to reform things. I think what voters are hungry for in battleground states is leadership.” — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on the lesson his state can teach the Republican Party (The New York Times)
- “This lawsuit could conceivably represent hundreds of millions of people who have phone lines or cell phones. We don’t do this out of disrespect for anyone but out of respect for the Constitution.” — Sen. Rand Paul, who is suing the Obama administration over the government’s domestic-spying programs (National Journal)
- “You know, we can put the country through two weeks of turmoil or we can get this vote behind us…. Was there some other debate that we were missing here? The fact is, the House could only pass a clean debt ceiling.” — Sen. Bob Corker, on why he was one of the few Senate Republicans to vote to end debate on the debt-limit bill (National Journal)
- “You kind of picture yourself climbing halfway up a mountain, but the top of the mountain is hidden in clouds. And then someone calls you on your satellite phone and asks you, ‘How long is it going to take you to climb to the top of the mountain?’ You just don’t know.” — Omar Hurricane, lead author of a Nature paper on attempting to create a controlled fusion-energy reaction by mimicking the internal working of the sun. (The Washington Post)
CHARTS AND GRAPHICS
- Mashable creates an interactive history of bitcoin.
- Pew Research charts the increasing disparity between those with and without college degrees.
- Quartz graphs the extent to which Ireland is a tax haven.
- Gallup charts Americans’ improving sentiment toward France.
- Quartz illustrates how imports have dominated the U.S. catfish market in recent years.
- The New York Times tracks the progression of the tie for gold in the Olympic women’s downhill skiing event.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 46,000. The number of Chinese millionaires who planned to move to Canada but couldn’t, after Canada ended its “Immigrant Investor Program.”
- 35.8. The percentage of unemployed people who have been jobless for at least 27 weeks, as of January.
- 5. The number of consecutive years North Dakota has led the country in Gallup’s job-creation index.
- 3.3 million. The number of people who have selected a health care plan under Obamacare, through the end of January.
- Friday, Feb. 14 – President Obama will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan at Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
- Wednesday, Feb. 12 to Friday, Feb. 14 — The House Democratic Caucus holds the 2014 House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference at 100 Heron Boulevard, Cambridge, Md.
- Thursday, Feb. 13 — The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of John Carlin to be assistant attorney general for national security at 2:30 p.m. in 138 Dirksen.
- Tuesday, Feb. 18 — The Institute for Policy Studies will hold abook discussion on Unfinished Agenda: Urban Politics in the Era of Black Power, focusing on the movement that emerged during the civil rights era, at 6:30 p.m. at 2021 14th Street NW.
- Friday, Feb. 14 — The Heritage Foundation will hold book discussions on Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America, and Rebound: Getting America Back to Great, at noon at 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE.
- Tuesday, Feb. 18 — The United States Energy Association will hold a discussion, “The ‘Smarter’ Grid: Today vs. Yesterday,” at 10 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
- Tuesday, Feb. 18 — The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion, “U.S. Unconventional Gas Resources: A Reassessment of Supply/Demand Potential,” at 1 p.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
- Friday, Feb. 14 — The Migration Policy Institute will hold a discussion, “A Transatlantic Conversation: Managing Migration in the Era of Mobility,” at 9:30 a.m. at 1400 16th Street NW.
- Friday, Feb. 14 — The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold a discussion, “Public-Private Partnerships in Aid: A Tool for U.S. Policy,” at 12:30 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
- Thursday, Feb. 20 — The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Health Subcommittee will hold a field hearing, “An Examination of Veteran Access to Traditional and Alternative Forms of Mental Health Therapy,” at 1 p.m. at 1 University Drive in Camarillo, Calif.
- Friday, Feb. 14 — The United States Telecom Association will hold a National Cybersecurity Policy Forum, “The National Cybersecurity Framework – Improving Critical Infrastructure: What’s Next?” at 8:20 a.m. at 529 14th Street NW.
- Tuesday, Feb. 18 — The Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will hold a forum on cybersecurity at 10 a.m. at 1501 Lee Highway in Arlington.