This Week in Washington…

Posted on February 13, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

CONGRESS

POLITICS

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

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • 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.

TECHNOLOGY

  • 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.

OTHER NEWS

  • 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.

QUOTES

  • “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.

Future events

  • 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.
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