Secret Service head resigns
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Wednesday that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has offered her resignation, and he has accepted it.
Pierson's resignation was only a matter of time, as a wave of embarrassing reports of security lapses from the Secret Service had become public over the last two weeks, set off by an intruder armed with a knife jumping the White House fence on Sept. 19 and making it all the way to the East Room before being stopped.
Johnson has appointed Joseph Clancy, formerly special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, as an interim acting director. Clancy had retired from the service in 2011. Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, will take over control of the investigation into the White House security breach.
Pierson was appointed to lead the Secret Service as the organization's first female director in March 2013. She faced an immediately tough task in helping to reform the agency's image following the 2012 prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia. What's happened at her agency in the last month has been perhaps even more difficult. Pierson defended the Service and her leadership to Congress on Tuesday, despite a hostile reception from members of the House Oversight Committee over major security errors and a lack of transparency on what exactly happened.
Aside from just the security failure at the White House, the Secret Service also allowed a convicted felon with a gun onto an elevator with President Obama in Atlanta on Sept. 16. After that incident, managers at the Service told agents not to file a written report, and there was no formal review, according to the Washington Examiner.
Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the president did not know about the elevator incident until Tuesday.
FCC repeals NFL blackout rules
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously this week to repeal federal regulations that prohibit cable and satellite TV providers from showing a sports event in an area if the game was blacked out on broadcast television stations such as Fox or CBS.
The NFL requires broadcast stations to black out games if the local team does not sell out the stadium. So the repeal of the federal rules won't necessarily mean the end of all NFL blackouts—but it does remove any government support for the policy.
The league argued that the rules were necessary to keep games on local broadcast TV stations. The regulations also helped keep stadiums full, boosting local economies, the league asserted.
The FCC began reconsidering whether to keep the regulations in place, which have been in place since 1975, three years ago.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday they plan to push legislation to keep up the pressure on the NFL to end its blackout policy.
Their bill, the FANS Act, would end the exemption to antitrust law that allows the league to force TV stations to blackout games. Without the exemption, the contractual provisions would be illegal.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, and Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, are pushing separate legislation to end the league's nonprofit status.
Click here to watch the Washington Business Brief video, Congressman LaTourette Talks Elections and Lame Ducks
FCC considers banning Redskins
Another federal agency may be preparing to weigh in on the on-going debate about the name of the National Football League franchise based in Washington, D.C. Just months after the Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark; the Federal Communications Commission is weighing whether to ban TV stations from saying the name Redskins on-air.
A law professor filed a petition with the agency earlier this month, claiming that the name "Redskins" violates federal rules barring any indecent content on broadcast television.
At a press conference Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he is reviewing the filing.
"We will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we will be responding accordingly," Wheeler said.
The FCC chief said he personally finds the term offensive and urged the team to change the name. But he didn't say whether he thinks it is illegal.
"There are a lot of names and descriptions that were used for a time that are inappropriate today," he said. "I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those."
Native Americans argue that the term is an ethnic slur and is deeply offensive.
In his petition to the FCC, George Washington law professor John Banzhaf urged the agency to ban use of the "racist, racially derogatory word." The FCC has fined TV stations in the past for airing other forms of profanity, Banzhaf noted.
An FCC ruling that the name is "indecent" would put enormous pressure on the NFL team to pick a new name.
EPA cracks down on dentists
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday released a proposal to cut down on the amount of mercury that winds up in the water supply as a result of a routine dental procedure.
According to EPA, more than half of all mercury detected in public water treatment plants comes from discarded fillings.
Dentists use mercury and other heavy metals to fill cavities, but those metals can harm human health if ingested. And when dentists remove old filings or end up with more cavity-filling material than they need, mercury can go down the drain and end up in rivers and streams.
EPA wants dental offices to adopt new systems that cut down on the amount of mercury and other heavy metals that wind up in the water.
EPA projects that by following the proposed rules—which are not due to be finalized until next September—dentists could cut 8.8 tons of heavy metal annually from water treatment plants.
Transportation in focus
Transportation bill may be coupled with tax reform
It seems like just yesterday that the ink was drying on an extension of the highway bill, but lawmakers and advocates are already talking about a long-term extension of the bill in 2015 and, increasingly, the idea of tying comprehensive tax reform and a long-term extension of the highway bill is gaining traction.
While some transportation advocates prefer to find a long-term solution that utilitzes user fees like the gas tax, many are now warming to the idea of using funds from comprehensive tax reform. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced a comprehensive tax reform bill earlier this year that would have used $126.5 billion in revenue generated from shifting to a territorial tax system to pay for a long-term extension of the highway bill.
Earlier this week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is likely to succeed Camp as Chair of Ways and Means, said that Camp's proposal had "a lot of merit." Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew earlier this month said he also believed a tax overhaul could benefit American transportation networks.
The Obama administration has proposed using revenues from a tax overhaul to invest in transportation. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has been on the road over the past few weeks to play up this idea.
Virginia 10th Congressional District: John Foust (D-VA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) are locked in a tight race to succeed Virginia GOP Rep. Frank Wolf, according to a poll conducted by Victoria Research on behalf of pro-Democratic group House Majority PAC. The poll of 400 likely voters found Comstock was narrowly ahead, 41 to 39 percent,
Iowa: State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) raised more than $4.5 million in the third quarter of 2014, while Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) raised $2.8 million.
North Carolina: According to a new poll of registered voters from the conservative advocacy group Civitas Institute, conducted Sept. 25, 27 and 28 by National Research, Inc., Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) leads Tom Tillis (R-NC), 46 to 41 percent, with Libertarian Party nominee Sean Haugh (L-NC) taking 4 percent.
Iowa: A new Des Moines Register poll of likely voters, conducted Sept. 21-24 by Selzer & Co., shows Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) leading state Sen. Jack Hatch (D-IA), 48 to 34 percent.
The House and Senate are in recess next week
$23.5 billion – Funds withdrawn by Pimco investors following the September departure of manager Bill Gross.
$2 trillion – Estimated unfunded liabilities of U.S. public pension plans, according to Moody's Investors Service.
"I think he's somewhat living in a world of dreams when he says that he can bring the two parties together. But if anybody can, he can." -- Kansas voter Diane Wahto, on independent Senate candidate Greg Orman (Washington Post)
"The federal government is starting to plan for climate change by making extended forecasts that can help people plan for extreme weather — because what can go wrong when you combine the efficiency of government with the accuracy of weathermen?" – Jimmy Fallon
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