McCarthy memo highlights House GOP agenda
This week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a memo that highlights some of the House GOP's agenda for 2015.
Not surprisingly, the memo focuses on House Republicans' efforts to reign in what they see as an out of control federal government:
"Restoring competency in government requires both shrinking government to its appropriate scope and mission and reforming how government operates in its core sphere.
Inefficient, ineffective, and incompetent federal agencies along with failed government policies have real world consequences. They hurt economic growth and job creation. Restoring economic growth and job creation will be the central policy goal of the next Congress and restoring competence in government will be part of that effort. The inability of the government to accomplish its most basic tasks has eroded the public’s trust in government, as polls have repeatedly shown. Worse, throughout the country there is an emerging sense of resignation that our great country is on the decline."
When it comes to specific legislation the Majority Leader highlighted both the water resources bill and the highway bill:
"We must work to end this cycle of failings and make government functional again. Building off our progress in the 2012 highway bill and WRRDA this year, a portion of our 2015 legislative agenda will focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should."
In addition to working on regulatory reform McCarthy says the House Republican Majority will act to restore trust in government by reforming the way Congress works:
"One reform I would like to include is sunsetting new agency reports. Different provisions added to our laws over the years has resulted in a legal requirement that 466 different agencies and non-profits submit over 4,200 different reports to Congress this year. The annual number of reports demanded by law increased nearly 25 percent in the past 25 years. Many, like the annual "Report to Congress on Dog and Cat Fur Protection," are no longer relevant. However, absent Congressional action, agencies and non-profits must still submit these reports. We can save taxpayer money and thousands of hours of time by sunsetting these requirements.
I would also like to work with the committees to include basic regulatory reforms in any legislation that authorizes or requires new regulations. As you know, we have passed a number of government-wide reforms to the regulatory process, such as increasing public input in the regulatory process, requiring agencies to adopt the least costly proposal, and requiring regulators to limit the impact of regulations on small businesses. Unfortunately, these bills have not advanced in the Senate. Yet, there is no reason we cannot work towards implementing these reforms on an agency by agency or program by program basis."
Obama unlikely to shake up staff after election
Midterm elections, particularly the notorious six-year itch midterms in a President's second term, often lead to losses for the party in control of the White House. It is not surprising then that Presidents often respond to losses in the midterms by shaking up their staff. White House watchers, however, are predicting that President Obama - unlike President Clinton or President Bush - will not respond to November losses by changing staff.
The lack of a White House shake up could come as a disappointment to many Democrats - particularly those in Congress - who blame the White House staff for leaving them without sufficient political cover in a tough campaign.
From the day of his first inauguration, President Obama has shown an aversion to firing people. His reluctance to dismiss Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she was under fire for the start-up of the healthcare website or his reluctance to fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki are examples of this. Both eventually left, but in neither case did Obama want to fire them.
Historically, disastrous midterms have led to significant and high profile staff changes. Eisenhower pushed out his top aide, Chief of Staff Sherman Adams, only 34 days after Republicans lost 48 House seats and 13 Senate seats in 1958. Reagan dumped his controversial chief of staff, Donald Regan, two months after Republicans lost control of the Senate and got hit by the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986. Clinton changed his political team after Democrats got clobbered in 1994. And Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld less than 12 hours after the polls closed in 2006, with Republicans losing both the House and the Senate.
Click here to view the Washington Business Brief video, “Latest on the November Elections.”
Rubio proposes visa ban in response to Ebola
Amid growing panic about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Republicans in Congress are shifting away from calling for a blanket travel ban from countries affected by the disease, and moving instead toward wanting to limit visas for people from those countries.
While banning visas may seem like a watered-down travel ban, it could actually be more successful at targeting people trying to enter the U.S. from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak than an outright ban.
Sen. Marco Rubio proposed a bill Monday that would temporarily ban the U.S. from issuing new visas to citizens of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The bill would ban the issuance of any new visas to those countries, except for people who have traveled to the U.S. to help combat the disease. Rubio will introduce his bill when the Senate returns in November.
Rubio joins an ever-growing bloc of lawmakers pushing for travel restrictions for people coming from West Africa. So far, 72 House members and 15 senators support a blanket travel ban from countries battling Ebola.
Health experts have said that an outright ban would not be feasible. That's because people traveling from West Africa to North America often take circuitous, multi-leg routes, making it more difficult to track their travel.
That's where the visa ban would come into play. "Banning new U.S. visas for Liberian, Sierra Leonean, or Guinean nationals would make it hard for those people to evade detection, because it would restrict their entry to the U.S. no matter where their journey begins.
There are also economic considerations to take into account. President Obama's administration has insisted until now that a travel ban is unnecessary, in part because of the limited spread of the disease to the U.S. If the White House suddenly said that a travel ban is necessary, that could send shock waves through the stock market and create public panic.
Perhaps for that reason, the State Department has shot down the visa ban idea as well as an outright travel ban.
"There are no plans to suspend visa operations at this time. We can't control this epidemic through the visa process," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said on Monday.
Reading the tea leaves on executive action on immigration
Some are claiming that recent solicitation by the Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) is proof that President Obama is preparing for sweeping executive action on immigration after the November midterm elections.
The solicitation, discovered by the conservative news outlet – Breitbart News – is a procurement request for as many as 34 million work permits and green cards. The solicitation says the bidders must be able to produce at least 4 million cards annually over a five-year contract and “surge” to provide as many as 9 million documents in the early years of the contract.
Such a procurement order would far surpass the current levels at which work permits and green cards are being issued by the federal government.
President Obama’s Press Secretary was quick to throw cold water on those speculating that this solicitation was evidence of an impending action, going as far as to call the suggestion “crazy” and “too clever.”
President Obama postponed action on immigration until after the election, saying he was worried that acting in the summer could politicize the issue.
Transportation in focus
New regulations in place on travel from West Africa
Travelers flying between West African nations affected by Ebola and the United States will now be subject to additional screenings and "protective measures" to help prevent the disease from spreading into the U.S., the Homeland Security Department announced Tuesday.
All passengers flying from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea into the U.S. will be required to enter the country through five major airports: Dulles International Airport in Virginia; John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York; Newark Liberty International Airport; Chicago O'Hare International Airport; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"These airports account for about 94 percent of travelers flying to the United States from these countries," Johnson said. "At present there are no direct, nonstop commercial flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea to any airport in the United States."
All five airports will now be required to specially screen passengers whose trips originated in any of those three countries and to submit passengers to "added protocols, including having their temperature taken," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a release on Tuesday.
Johnson stopped short of announcing a full ban on travel between the three nations and the United States, despite increasing calls from members of Congress to do so. The White House has said as recently as last week that it opposes such a restriction. However, Johnson added: "We are continually evaluating whether additional restrictions or added screening and precautionary measures are necessary to protect the American people and will act accordingly."
The changes announced by Johnson on Tuesday will take effect on Wednesday morning.
These restrictions alone aren't likely to seriously quiet the calls from congressional Republicans and others for more restrictive measures, such as instituting complete travel bans from those countries or visa bans for their citizens trying to come to the U.S.
Florida 2nd Congressional District: Former President Bill Clinton (D) will campaign for Gwen Graham (D-FL) on October 26th. Democrats believe this Tallahassee-based district could be a surprise pick-up opportunity for them.
Nevada 4th Congressional District: Crossroads GPS is pouring in $1 million dollars in television ad buys in a last minute effort to knock off Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), whose seat was considered safe.
Colorado: A new USA Today poll shows Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) pulling away from incumbent Mark Udall (D-CO). The poll shows Gardner leading, 46 percent to 39 percent.
Iowa: A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows the Iowa Senate race is one of the closest in the nation. The poll has Joni Ernst (R-IA) with a 47 percent to 46 percent lead - within the margin of error - over Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA).
Kentucky: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is back up in the air in Kentucky after recent polling suggesting that Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) has closed the gap on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Michigan: It appears that the Michigan Senate seat, which once seemed within reach for the GOP, is solidly in the Democratic column. A poll out this week shows Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) with a large lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R-MI), 45 percent to 34 percent.
New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Senate race hasn't been on the national radar screen until very recently when polling suggested that former Senator Scott Brown (R-NH) was closing the gap on Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). A CNN poll out this week confirms what other polls are showing: Shaheen leads Brown by just a 49 percent to 47 percent margin.
Alaska Governor: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) endorsed the independent candidate Bill Walker (I-AK) in the Governor's race against her former Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell (R-AK).
Wisconsin Governor: According to a new Wisconsin Public Radio poll, incumbent Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) narrowly leads challenger Mary Burke (D-WI), 47 percent to 46 percent.
A LOOK AHEAD
The House and Senate are in recess next week.
WASHINGTON BY THE NUMBERS
$745 million - Production costs through March 2014 for the Hobbit trilogy, the final installment of which is due for release in December.
THEY SAID WHAT?
“I didn’t exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I’m not worried about it. I’m much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop.” -- Cleveland attorney Peter Pattakos, who visited the same shop as Ebola patient Amber Vinson (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"At a polling station while President Obama was standing next to a woman, a man shouted out, 'Hey, Mr. President, stay away from my girlfriend.' He didn't say this because Obama was flirting with her, but because his girlfriend is a Democrat running for re-election." – Conan O'Brien
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