Obama unveils budget
This week, President Obama unveiled his much anticipated, and overdue, budget for 2014. Obama’s budget is a $3.77 trillion proposal that would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years and add $580 billion in new taxes.
The most talked about part of President Obama’s budget are his entitlement reform proposals. The proposals, while modest and incremental, drew attacks from progressives (see story #2 below). The centerpiece of Obama’s entitlement reform is a proposal to rewrite the way Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments are calculated, also known as “chained CPI.”
In addition to changes to Social Security, President Obama is proposing changes to Medicare and Medicaid. President Obama’s budget would reduce the growth of federal health spending by $401 billion over 10 years, including $57 billion from higher payments by Medicare beneficiaries; cuts of $306 billion in projected Medicare payments to health care providers; and $19 billion in cuts to Medicaid.
The President’s budget, however, is not all austerity. He proposes a wide-range of new spending initiatives, including: universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds; increases in funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and Title X family planning; and substantial new investments aimed at spurring manufacturing growth.
President Obama will pay for these new spending initiatives through a proposed increase in the cigarette tax, as well as a cap on how much wealthy individuals can accrue in their tax-free retirement accounts.
Obama budget under fire
While it wasn’t surprising that the President’s budget was met with resistance from Congressional Republicans, his budget did come under fire from an unusual source: his own base. After details of the President’s budget began to leak out, progressive Democrats reacted angrily to news that Obama planned to include entitlement reform in his budget, while this news was actually met with a mixed response from Republicans, some of whom thought he should be commended for taking a step (even a small one) towards reform.
On Tuesday, a coalition of left-wing groups — including MoveOn.org, the National Organization for Women, and the AFL-CIO — held a protest in front of the White House to oppose any changes to Social Security or Medicare. Some progressive organizations have gone as far as to threaten to "primary" any Democratic member who votes for entitlement reform.
Gun control passes procedural hurdle
On Thursday, advocates of new gun control efforts won the opening battle in what is likely to be a long war over the divisive issue. By a vote of 68 to 31, the Senate overcame a filibuster led mostly by Republicans. Sixteen Republicans joined with all but two Senate Democrats to move forward on the gun control debate. The two Democrats who joined with 29 Republicans in leading the filibuster were Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), both red state Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.
Earlier in the week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) and Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) announced they had struck a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks for gun purchases. The Senate is likely to consider the Manchin-Toomey legislation first, before considering other amendments – including more controversial amendments.
Two of President Obama’s cabinet nominees were confirmed this week by the Senate. Mary Jo White, nominated by President Obama to Chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Sally Jewell, nominated by President Obama to be Secretary of the Interior.
President Obama’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, will have a tougher confirmation path ahead of her. Republicans, particularly those from oil and coal producing states, are skeptical of President Obama’s agenda when it comes to the environment and are likely to push hard during McCarthy’s confirmation hearings.
While observers expect conservatives will put up a fight, most believe that McCarthy will eventually be confirmed.
On Wednesday, thousands gathered outside of the Capitol to rally in support of legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S.
Similar rallies were held in cities across the country. McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies President, former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette, snapped this photo of democracy in action from his office window on Wednesday:
National Labor Relations Board in limbo
Earlier this year, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by President Obama, casting doubt on some 600 decisions the board has made since January 2012.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill today that would stop the board from taking official action until either the Supreme Court rules on the D.C. Circuit's decision or the Senate confirms a quorum of the NLRB.
While the bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled House, it is likely dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
North Carolina- First term Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, one of the Republicans' top targets in 2014, announced that she raised $1.6 million in the first quarter of this year and has $2.7 million cash on hand. Potential Republican challengers include Rep. Renee Elmers, State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, and State House Speaker Thom Tillis.
West Virginia- Conservatives looking for an alternative to Republican front-runner Rep. Shelly Moore-Capito got their wish this week when former State Delegate Pat McGeehan (R) entered the race for the open Senate seat currently held by Jay Rockefeller (D). While national groups like the right-wing Club for Growth have been critical of Capito, it is unclear at this point whether they will seriously finance a primary challenge to her candidacy.
A look ahead:
Tuesday, April 16 — The House Natural Resources Committee will hold an Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing on H.R.3, the "Northern Route Approval Act," to approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline at 2 p.m. in 1334 Longworth.
Wednesday, April 17 — Democrats say they are putting the finishing touches on a bipartisan immigration bill, which is now expected to be introduced early next week. Voting may not begin until May. Over objections of Republicans, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on immigration reform, based in part on the Senate Gang of Eight’s expected proposal.
Washington by the numbers:
20 percent: The amount of Sen. Lindsey Graham's salary that he plans to give to charity due to sequestration—half to Wounded Warriors and half to the American Cancer Society.
"Kim Jong-Un's wife on Nuclear Threats: 'This isn't the man I was forced to marry'"— The Onion
Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.737.8933
McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
101 Constitution Avenue NW, Suite 600 East, Washington, D.C. 20001
Although McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC is owned by the law firm McDonald Hopkins LLC, McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. Accordingly, the retention of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies does not create a client-lawyer relationship and the protections of the client-lawyer relationship, such as attorney-client privilege and the ethics rules pertaining to conduct by lawyers, do not apply.