Editor's note: Washington came to a halt at the beginning of the week with the shooting at the Navy Yard. This tragedy, which marks the largest loss of life in Washington since 9/11, is sure to have political implications as well as implications for policy on the Hill related to gun control, mental health and crisis response/management. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy.
Republicans in House plan vote on continuing resolution defunding Obamacare today
After an internal back and forth within the House Republican caucus, House leadership is moving forward on a vote on a continuing resolution that would keep the government open that includes defunding the president's signature healthcare law—the Affordable Care Act—more commonly known as Obamacare.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) had crafted a bifurcated plan that would have allowed the House to vote to continue to fund the government and vote to defund Obamacare but would have given the Senate the ability to pass the continuing resolution portion while rejecting the defunding portion. Conservatives in the House balked at this approach and forced Boehner and leadership to take this more aggressive approach.
If the House continuing resolution passes, which is expected, it is going nowhere in the Senate—at least not the provisions defunding Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reacted angrily to the House decision to tie avoiding a government shutdown with defunding the healthcare law. Reid blamed the move on "anarchists" in the House Republican caucus and declared bipartisanship is "dead."
Many observers believe the once politically unthinkable—a government shutdown—is now a real possibility as time runs short on the opportunity for a deal.
House passes cuts to food stamp program
On Thursday, the House passed the food stamps portion of the farm bill re-authorization. By a narrow 217-210 vote, the House voted to cut $39 billion from the program over 10 years. Every Democrat in the chamber and 15 Republicans voted against the proposal.
The move sets up a showdown between the House and Senate in conference over the future of the food stamp program (also known as the SNAP program). While the House has approved almost $40 billion in cuts, the Senate version cuts only about $4 billion over those same 10 years.
An earlier version of the House farm bill included roughly half of the cuts included in the bill that passed yesterday. That bill, however, was defeated on the floor when conservative Republicans rejected it. The only question yesterday was whether moderate Republicans would abandon this new bill. In the end, only 15 voted no, allowing the bill to pass.
House cancels September recess
As expected, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced this week that next week's scheduled House recess was being cancelled. Cantor informed members to be prepared to work not only next week, but possibly next weekend as well, as the House grapples with the possibility of a government shutdown.
Obama says he won't negotiate with Republicans on debt ceiling
While most of the attention in Washington is on the fight over a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, another fight—with arguably even higher stakes—is on the horizon. In mid-October the federal government will bump up against the debt ceiling. To avoid the U.S. defaulting on its debts, the House, Senate and the president will have to agree on a debt ceiling increase—and that does not look promising, at least not at this point.
Republicans in both chambers are insisting on entitlement reforms as part of any debt ceiling increase package, while the White House is flatly refusing to play ball. This week, President Obama again warned Republicans he will not negotiate with them over a debt ceiling increase and asked that a clean debt ceiling increase bill be sent to his desk.
In a speech on Monday, President Obama claimed the last time Republicans considered not raising the debt ceiling that the mere talk of a debt default sent the stock market into a months-long tailspin and slowed U.S. economic growth. Obama was emphatic, saying, "I will not negotiate over whether or not America keeps its word and meets its obligations. I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States."
Summers withdraws name from consideration for Federal Reserve
Former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers was considered the front-runner to replace Ben Bernanke as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. This past week, however, after coming under fire for comments he made about women and with his "temperament" being called into question, Summers withdrew his name from consideration.
The controversy around Summers had led many to believe there was not sufficient support for him to be confirmed by the Senate. Indeed, a potential Summers nomination had already drawn both Democratic and Republican opposition on the Senate Banking Committee.
Summers' withdrawal could pave the way for Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen to become the Federal Reserve's first female chair. Yellen, if nominated, would likely have a fairly easy path to confirmation.
EPA issues coal regulations
This morning the Obama administration released new draft EPA rules that would require all new coal plants built in the U.S. to limit their emissions to less than 1,100 pounds of carbon pollution per megawatt-hour—just over half the carbon pollution now produced by a typical coal-powered plant.
The new rule will force owners of coal plants to install expensive "carbon capture and sequestration" technology. While the technology, which traps carbon pollution and injects it underground before it spews out of smokestacks, is commercially available, it could cost power companies billions of dollars to install.
Today's action sets the stage for an increasingly aggressive set of EPA climate regulations on coal plants. Following this step, the EPA will start drafting a far more controversial regulation, requiring cuts in carbon pollution from existing coal plants—a measure that could lead to the closure of current plants. Obama has told the agency to propose that rule by June 2014. By June 2015, just six months before Obama leaves office, the EPA is expected to issue final versions of the regulations on new and existing plants. Those could, in the years that follow, freeze construction of new coal plants and lead to closures of existing plants.
New Hampshire 1st Congressional District: University of New Hampshire Business School Dean Dan Innis (R-NH) is stepping down and is expected to announce in several weeks that he is running for the GOP nomination. Innis' decision sets up a likely primary tilt against former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), who is expected to make an announcement within the next several weeks as well.
North Carolina 2nd Congressional District: Chatham County Republican Party Chairman Jim Duncan (R-NC) is forming an exploratory committee to run against Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) in next May's Republican primary. Duncan said he is prepared to make a significant financial contribution to his campaign, should he get into the race.
Michigan: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), the fiery young libertarian leader in the House, will not run for Senate in 2014 according to several sources.
West Virginia: Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D-WV) formally announced her bid to succeed retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) this week. Tennant is likely to square off with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in next year's general election.
A look ahead:
Thursday, September 19 – The House Homeland Security Committee’s Oversight and Management Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “DHS Acquisition Practices: Improving Outcomes for Taxpayers Using Defense and Private-Sector Lessons Learned” at 2:00 p.m. in 311 Cannon.
Friday, September 20 – The House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness
Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Resetting the Force for the Future:
Risks of Sequestration” at 9:00 a.m. at 2212 Rayburn.
Tuesday, September 24 – The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation" at 2:30 p.m. in 216 Hart.
Tuesday, September 24 – The Senate Budget Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "The Impact of Political Uncertainty on Jobs and the Economy” at 2:30 p.m. in 608 Dirksen.
Tuesday, September 24 – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Black Carbon – A Global Health Problem with Low-Cost Solutions" at 10:30 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.
Thursday, September 26 – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Outside the Box: Reforming and Renewing the Postal Service, Part II – Promoting a 21st-Century Workforce" at 10:00 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.
Washington by the numbers
44 – The percentage of Americans who view Russia as an enemy, the highest total in 15 years.
“We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us...They just beat the living daylights out of little West Virginia, but they sure like what we produce.” – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on new EPA coal-plant regulations. (Daily Caller)
"Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell admitted they have no Plan B if the House doesn't avoid a government shutdown. Of course this raised a lot of questions, like: Since when did they have a Plan A?" – Jimmy Fallon
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