This Week in Washington…

Posted on March 20, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama will take part in a forum with Valencia College students and workers from the Orlando area before delivering remarks on his administration’s efforts to improve educational opportunities for women and workplace parity.
  • Obama met this week with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, urging the leader to work toward restarting peace talks with Israel.
  • Vice President Joe Biden visited Poland and Lithuania in a bid to reassure allies of the administration’s commitment to their defense.
  • Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War who had been denied recognition due to their race or ethnicity.
  • The president has tapped Anita Decker Breckenridge, who has been on his staff since 2003 and currently serves as his personal assistant, to replace departing Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco.
  • First lady Michelle Obama is traveling through China on a “soft diplomacy” mission centered on education and the bonds between the two nations.

CONGRESS

  • House Speaker John Boehner described a bipartisan Senate deal to extend emergency unemployment benefits as “unworkable” after the National Association of State Workforce Agencies warned that some states could attempt to opt out due to the bill’s additional costs and strict requirements.
  • The House voted 238-181 to pass legislation permanently repealing the flawed Medicare physician payment formula, but the otherwise bipartisan proposal was attached to a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate, ensuring that it will not clear the Senate.
  • According to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the Friends of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his support for the GOP’s principles on the immigration reform, telling Boehner that the Irish “will do whatever they can” to help.
  • While President Obama and several congressional candidates are backing a proposal to increase the base pay rate to $10.10 per hour, most concede there is little hope of congressional action this year.

POLITICS

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • After its first meeting since Janet Yellen took over as Federal Reserve chair, the Federal Open Market Committee announced plans to reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion, as expected, and eliminated the 6.5 percent unemployment threshold from its forward guidance on interest rates.
  • Stocks dropped Wednesday following the Fed’s announcement and Yellen’s suggestion that the federal funds rate could rise six months after the end of quantitative easing.
  • The Fed is set to release the results of stress tests to assess the ability of the nation’s largest commercial lenders, regional banks, securities firms, credit-card issuers, and custodial banks to weather new economic crises—the results could impact the institutions’ ability to pay dividends to their investors.
  • Baby boomers are increasingly turning to reverse mortgages to sustain them in retirement, taking out $15.3 billion in loans in 2013—an increase of 20 percent over the previous year.
  • The Justice Department and Toyota have reached a $1.2 billion settlement, which includes the formation of an independent entity to review the automaker’s safety practices. The deal concludes a years-long investigation of unwanted accelerations by Toyota’s vehicles.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • With crude-by-rail shipments creating bottlenecks that have slowed down ethanol freight rail delivery, ethanol is selling at a higher price.
  • A new study found that an increase in the number of earthquakes in Ohio corresponds with the rise of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the state.
  • Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear-power plant, can’t find skilled labor to decommission the reactors.
  • The state of Alaska filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for blocking evaluation of oil and gas resources in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a report that spells out the dangers of climate change in no uncertain terms.
  • BP won 24 out of 31 bids entered in an Interior Department offshore drilling lease sale, the first it was allowed to participate in after its 16-month federal contract suspension was lifted last week.
  • The White House announced that Google and other private-sector partners will help increase access to federally available climate data alongside new government initiatives to boost transparency and circulate information relating to climate risks.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

TECHNOLOGY

  • The Commerce Department denied “abandoning” the Internet after it announced the U.S. government would no longer control the technical system behind the Internet, instead handing it over to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg criticized President Obama for the government’s spying programs, saying the “U.S. government should be the champion for the Internet, not a threat.”
  • A National Security Agency “time machine” program called MYSTIC allows the agency to collect every single call in an entire country within the last 30 days, although the specific country has not been disclosed.
  • Brazil will drop a portion of a law that required Internet companies to store data on Brazilian users within the country so the U.S. government cannot spy on them; it instead ruled that those companies are subject to Brazilian laws regardless of where they store the information.
  • The Pew Research Center found, not surprisingly, that countries with higher rates of Internet use tend to have a populace that support ending government control of the Internet.
  • Defense Department Inspector General Anthony Thomas said he did not know about the NSA’s spying activities until they were disclosed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden—despite claims that the agency is thoroughly overseen.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “My Lithuanian-born mother would be proud her son made Vladimir Putin’s American enemies list.” — Sen. Dick Durbin, after hearing he would be sanctioned by Russia (National Journal)
  • “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. It’s kleptocracy, it’s corruption. It’s a nation that’s really only dependent upon oil and gas for their economy. And so economic sanctions are important.” — Sen. John McCain, on CNN’s State of the Union (Yahoo News)
  • “Crimea is our common legacy. It can only be Russian today.” — Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Russia moved toward annexing Crimea (Washington Post)
  • “I think we’re in for a tsunami-type election in 2014. My belief is, it’s going to be a very big win, especially at the U.S. Senate level, and we may add some seats in congressional races.” — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, on Republicans in the November midterm elections (The Hill)
  • “When I got the call. I had to ask if it was real. To me, this is bigger than the Higgs boson.” — Marc Kamionkowski, theorist at Johns Hopkins University, on possible proof of the inflationary-universe theory (Time)
  • “It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.” — Russian businessman Vladislav Surkov, on being named to the U.S. sanctions list over the Ukraine crisis (ABC News)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Pew Research graphs China’s public concerns, including crime, education, and corruption.
  • Quartz charts the stagnant sales of microwaves as Americans move toward fresh foods.
  • Gallup charts Americans’ self-reported understanding of global warming.
  • FiveThirtyEight graphs the nationalization of gubernatorial elections.
  • NPR graphs which professions lead workers to make more or less money than their parents.

Future events

  • Friday, March 21 – Vice President Biden will address the National Association of Community Health Centers 2014 Policy & Issues Forum at 2660 Woodley Rd. NW.
  • Monday, March 24 – Third Way will hold a discussion on “the imperative for Congress to keep working toward the goal of long-term fiscal sustainability” at 11 a.m. at 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is scheduled to participate.
  • Monday, March 24 – The House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the U.S. Capitol Police budget at 4:30 p.m. in HT-2 in the Capitol.
  • Tuesday, March 25 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing, “Syria After Geneva: Next Steps for U.S. Policy,” at 10 a.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Friday, March 21 – The Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, Near Southeast Community Partners, the Sierra Club D.C. Chapter, and United for a Healthy Anacostia River will hold a D.C. mayoral candidate forum on sustainability, clean water, and environmental health at 6 p.m. at 300 Tingey St. SE.
  • Monday, March 24 – The Center for American Progress will hold a discussion on the evolution of anti-immigration policies on the state and local level at 12:30 p.m. at 1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
  • Tuesday, March 25 – The Cato Institute will hold a discussion, “State-Based Visas: A Federalist Approach to Immigration Reform,” at noon at 1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
  • Thursday, March 20 – The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will hold adiscussion, “The Fed: Philosopher King or Servant of the Treasury?” at 3:30 p.m. at 1150 17th St. NW.
  • Friday, March 21 – NDN will hold adiscussion, “Raising Our Game,” focusing on improving the U.S. economy, at noon at 729 15th St. NW.
  • Friday, March 21 – The Washington International Trade Association will hold adiscussion, “Tools of the Trade: Trade Finance,” at noon at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Monday, March 24 – The Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center will hold adiscussion, “D.C. Tax Reform: The Path to Fairness and Competitiveness in Local Taxes,” at noon at 2100 M St. NW.
  • Tuesday, March 25 – The Atlantic will hold aTax Policy Summit focusing on tax-reform legislation aimed at “slashing the corporate and individual tax rates,” at 8:30 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Friday, March 21 – The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold a book discussion on Oil Sparks in the Amazon: Local Conflicts, Indigenous Populations, and Natural Resources at 9 a.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Friday, March 21 – The Wharton Club of D.C. will hold a Green Business Forum on the Army’s approach to energy and sustainability, and an overview of the Army’s Renewable Energy Task Force, at 11:45 a.m. at 529 14th St. NW.
  • Thursday, March 20 – The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold a discussion, “The Future of Syria,” at 4 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Thursday, March 20 – The Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies will hold a discussion, “How to Read the Crimea Crisis?” at 4 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Tuesday, March 25 – The American University Washington College of Law will hold the Administrative Law Review’s annual symposium, ” ‘In the Process of Fixing’ Health Care: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act,'” at 10 a.m. at 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
  • Friday, March 21 – The American University Washington College of Law will hold the second annual Cherry Blossom Symposium, “Traditional Knowledge: IP (intellectual property) and Federal Policy,” at 9 a.m. at 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
  • Monday, March 24 – The New America Foundation will hold a discussion, “Controlling Surveillance: Export Controls as a Tool for Internet Freedom,” at 1 p.m. at 1899 L St. NW.
  • Monday, March 24 – The Brookings Institution will hold a Hamilton Project Policy Forum, “The Wireless Spectrum and the Future of Technology Innovation,” at 1 p.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
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