This Week in Washington…

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

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

WHITE HOUSE

CONGRESS

  • Senate Republicans are planning to offer a spate of amendments on a bipartisan tax-extenders package, with a repeal of a medical-device tax chief among them, lawmakers said Tuesday.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is planning to finalize legislation Thursday to authorize more spending for transportation projects—but where the funding will come from remains a six-year, $100 billion question still to be addressed.
  • Democrats unveiled legislation that would permit student-loan borrowers to refinance public and private loans at 3.86 percent; Republicans were quick to criticize the costs associated with such a measure.
  • A bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, designed to boost energy efficiency in buildings failed to advance on a 55-36 procedural vote Monday after Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked votes on amendments to the bill.
  • Legislative earmarks that for decades were placed in spending bills as lawmakers’ local pet projects no longer exist due to a congressional ban, but today a close cousin to outlawed pork is alive and well, as evidenced by the chest-pumping over upcoming action on the first Water Resources Development Act conference agreement since 2007.
  • The bipartisan budget agreement that Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan brokered late last year was designed to stop Congress from lurching from crisis to crisis; but it’s not stopping some Senate Republicans from raising questions about the spending figures that Murray introduced into the record.

POLITICS

  • Midland University President Ben Sasse, who had the backing of national conservative groups, captured 49 percent of the vote in Nebraska’s five-way GOP Senate primary. Bank president Sin Dinsdale trailed with 22 percent, while former State Treasurer Shane Osborn placed third.
  • Nebraska businessman Pete Ricketts eked out a win over Attorney General Jon Bruning in the GOP gubernatorial primary, garnering 26.5 percent of the vote to Bruning’s 25.5 percent.
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., cruised to victory in the GOP Senate primary, earning 87.4 percent of the vote over two lesser-known candidates, while Secretary of State Natalie Tennant garnered 77.9 percent of the votes in a three-way Democratic primary.
  • Alex Mooney, a former Maryland state senator and GOP chairman backed by the tea party, won 35.8 percent of the vote in a seven-way primary for the seat being vacated by Capito.
  • Marine veteran Ed Jany withdrew from the race to challenge Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., leaving national Democrats reeling.
  • A county clerk ruled Tuesday that Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., had failed to reach the threshold for inclusion on the primary ballot following the invalidation of hundreds of signatures.
  • Democrats are wary of touting improvements in the economy, as many Americans hold a more negative view than the data suggests, and instead are focused on issues such as raising the minimum wage.
  • FEC commissioners unanimously approved an advisory opinion allowing bitcoin donations, while limiting such donations to $100 per candidate, per cycle and requiring documentation of the name, address, and employer of each donor
  • The latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll found that most Americans believe they can have the greatest influence over issues in their own neighborhood; that local institutions such as community groups are doing the most to improve life in America; and that lasting change is more likely to emerge from movements led by ordinary citizens than to be imposed by government or business leaders.
  • Chicago businessman Fred Eychaner, who gave an astounding $14.1 million to liberal super PACs in 2012, making him the largest Democratic donor to outside spending groups during that election cycle, has managed to stay almost completely out of the public eye.
  • Former American Idol competitor Clay Aiken was declared the winner of North Carolina’s 2nd District Democratic primary Tuesday, one day after his opponent, businessman Keith Crisco, died at home following an accident.

BUDGET & ECONOMY

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown warned that climate change could submerge some of the state’s low-lying coastal areas, even forcing the costly move of airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • The American Energy Alliance, a group linked to the Koch brothers, is out with an ad buy attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado for not coming out in support of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Domestic crude production climbed to a 28-year high last week, buoyed by the shale boom in the U.S.
  • Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s remark that the U.S. is weighing whether crude-oil exports should be allowed sent oil prices upward Tuesday, even though John Podesta already said the same thing recently.
  • In an address delivered at the University of Chicago, Al Gore said Republicans refuse to face facts on climate because fossil-fuel backers like the libertarian financiers the Koch brothers are cutting them big checks.
  • The Obama administration unveiled solar panels on the White House roof, bringing them back for the first time since they were taken down in 1986.
  • The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration isn’t doing an adequate job of making sure that the nation’s system of pipelines are maintained.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • In a confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president’s nominee for HHS secretary, said she will use “the full extent of the law” to recover federal funds that were misspent on failed ACA exchanges.
  • Despite Obamacare’s strong national enrollment numbers, several states are at risk for big premium hikes. Proposed premium rate changes vary largely in states — insurers in Virginia are requesting rate increases ranging from 3.3 to 14.9 percent, while requests in Washington state vary from a proposed 6.8 percent decrease to a 26 percent increase.
  • Despite dire predictions of a doctor shortage with expanded coverage under the health law, there have been limited reports of major delays in patient care, according to reports from insurers, physician practices, and community health centers.
  • A report from the Urban Institute found that elimination of the employer mandate would only reduce the number of people covered by 200,000, but would lessen opposition from the business community and end potentially harmful changes to hiring and labor-market practices.
  • In 17 of the 26 states that did not expand Medicaid, enrollment grew by more than 550,000 patients, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. This could cost some states more than expected, since they don’t have 100 percent of the costs covered by the federal government, like expansion states do.
  • The World Health Organization called for urgent measures to control MERS, after a second case was confirmed in the U.S., but stopped short of declaring the recent spread of the deadly virus an international public-health emergency.

TECHNOLOGY

  • A European court ruled that Google has to allow users to delete search-result links to old, embarrassing results, referring to it as the “right to be forgotten.”
  • The Writers Guild of America, West warned the FCC that if Internet providers are able to charge fees for high-speed access, ” the Internet will become like cable television,” the guild wrote. “A few corporate gatekeepers such as Comcast will be allowed to decide what content consumers can access and on what terms.”
  • The National Association of Broadcasters is suing over the FCC’s policy cracking down on media consolidation, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.”
  • A U.S. Appeals Court declined to take up Samsung’s patent lawsuit against Apple, siding with an International Trade Commission decision that Apple had not infringed on Samsung patents.
  • Apple’s potential purchase of Beats Electronics would give it ownership of a subscription music app that would get the company a foot in the door of music-streaming apps, which could be just as important to Apple as Beats headphones.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “The truth of the matter is the United States is a country, it is not a planet.” — Sen. Marco Rubio, arguing the U.S. can do little about climate change (National Journal)
  • “The question isn’t whether the Internet treats everyone equally—because it doesn’t already. The question is whether adding a new level of discrimination in the last mile is the critical difference.” –Harold Feld, senior vice president of consumer-advocacy group Public Knowledge, on net-neutrality regulations (National Journal)
  • “These are two people who are really good friends of mine. I don’t know what happened. I’m sad for Jill and hope for the best for Dean.” — former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, on Executive Editor Jill Abramson unexpectedly being replaced by Managing Editor Dean Baquet (Washington Post)
  • “I scratched my ear and noticed I had a hangnail. My mom always told me to keep my fingers out of my mouth, and now I know why. I look forward to immigration reform going viral.” — Rep. Joe Garcia, who was caught on camera picking his ear and then putting his finger in his mouth (NBC Miami)
  • “It’s completely fake.” — University of Illinois professor George Gollin, on congressional candidate Ed Jany’s degree from Madison University, a known “diploma mill” (Tampa Bay Times)

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • National Journal graphs how many people are engaged in politics, and in what ways.
  • MarketWatch maps median home prices in major metropolitan areas, using data compiled by the National Association of Realtors.
  • Bloomberg charts levels of income inequality by congressional district.
  • Market research firm Scarborough charts the correlations among Internet browsing habits and political leanings and likelihood of voting.
  • The New York Times maps Americans’ favorite NBA teams.
  • The World Health Organization maps every country’s alcohol consumption.

Future events

  • Tuesday, May 20 to Friday, May 23 – Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Romania and Cyprus, where the vice president will address the conflict in Ukraine, as well as negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
  • Wednesday, May 21 – The president will welcome the Seattle Seahawks to the White House to honor the team’s victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.
  • Thursday, May 15 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Andrew Schapiro to be ambassador of the United States to the Czech Republic and Nina Hachigian to be representative of the United States to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at 2:15 p.m. in 419 Dirksen.
  • Thursday, May 15 – The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing, “Progress and Challenges: The State of Tobacco Use and Regulation in the U.S.,” at 2:30 p.m. in 430 Dirksen.
  • Thursday, May 15 – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights will hold its 38th annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner at 7 p.m. at 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW.
  • Tuesday, May 20 – The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion, “Shaping Political Parties in the 21st Century,” focusing on electoral reform in the U.S. and Mexico, at 9:15 a.m. at 1030 15th St. NW.
  • Thursday, May 15 and Friday, May 16 – The Small Business Administration will hold events marking National Small Business Week. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to participate.
  • Thursday, May 15 – Former President Clinton will deliver the inaugural Robert S. Brookings President’s Lecture, “The Global Economy: Challenge of the Century,” which will be webcast at 5 p.m.
  • Monday, May 19 – Politico will host a Playbook Lunch discussion, “Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises,” at noon at 600 14th St. NW. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is scheduled to participate.
  • Monday, May 19 – The Financial Stability Oversight Council will hold a conference on asset management and risks to U.S. financial stability at 12:45 p.m. at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Friday, May 16 – The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a discussion, “Is the U.S. a Rising Energy Superpower?” – focusing on implications for global markets and Asia, the Middle East, Russia, and Europe, at 10 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
  • Thursday, May 15 – Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy will hold its 2014 commencement ceremony at 5 p.m. at 37th and O Sts. NW. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will address the graduates and receive an honorary doctorate.
  • Monday, May 16 – The National Democratic Institute will hold an awards luncheon to present the 2014 Madeleine K. Albright Grant to Aswat Nisaa (Women’s Voices) of Tunisia, at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
  • Monday, May 19 – The National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease (WomenHeart) will hold its 14th annual Wenger Awards and Dinner at 6:15 p.m. at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Honorees include Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
  • Thursday, May 15 and Friday, May 16 – The New America Foundation will hold its annual “Big Ideas for a New America” conference, which is available via livestream. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver keynote remarks.
  • Friday, May 16 – The U.S. Telecom Association will hold a national cybersecurity policy forum, “Moving Forward with the Cybersecurity Framework,” at 9 a.m. at 607 14th St. NW.
  • Friday, May 16 – The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus will hold a discussion, “The FCC’s Internet Plans for an ‘Open Internet’ and for the Auctioning of the Mobile Spectrum,” at noon in 2226 Rayburn.

 

 

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