N2K Top 10: Double Game; Seen But Not Heard
Thursday, May 5, 2011 | 7:26 a.m.
- DOUBLE GAME. Islamabad has long played a well-thought-out double game with the United States that's involved handing over some jihadis and protecting others for Pakistan’s own purposes. Could Osama bin Laden spend six years ensconced in an obtrusive villa in Abbottabad without anyone in Pakistani officialdom knowing about it? Probably not, NJ’s Michael Hirsh writes. CIA officials have known for years that when it came to the really big game, Pakistani authorities were unlikely to be cooperative: Backlash from the Muslim world and their own country could be too great if they were seen as playing stooges to the Americans.
- SEEN BUT NOT HEARD. President Obama and Biden will travel to New York on Thursday to lay a wreath at Ground Zero to mark the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama will visit with the family of some of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and meet with some of first responders to the World Trade Center. But press secretary Jay Carney said the president won’t be making any speeches to mark the occasion. "The power of that requires no words," Carney said of the wreath-laying ceremony. "It will be a bittersweet moment for many of the families."
- GOOD LUCK, JOE. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday morning will lead the first meeting of a bipartisan group of six lawmakers charged by President Obama with developing a framework for deficit reduction. On Wednesday, members of Congress wished the group well, but were unsure if it would be successful. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said he saluted the effort but would wait to see if they produce a plan. “It would be a big step forward,” Rogers said. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said not to underestimate Biden, “a tenacious gamer.... I think he is going to do everything he can to try to get a bipartisan consensus so that we can then act on something.”
- DEBATE PREP. The Republican presidential campaign gets something like a shotgun start Thursday when Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party host the first of what will undoubtedly be an endless series of debates. Some of the biggest names in the race have taken a pass, but former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and businessman Herman Cain will all be front and center. With Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson vying for the libertarian vote, it could be a lively debate. Start time: 9 p.m.
- JOBS, THE VENN DIAGRAM. Surprise: Senate Republicans and House Democrats both released comprehensive plans for job creation this week -- and they manage to agree on more than a few things, which could add up to a tangible boost for the economy. Among the shared provisions that could attract bipartisan and bicameral support on Capitol Hill: simplifying the tax code, closing loopholes, and reducing rates across the board; making permanent tax incentives for research and development; improving training programs for laid-off workers; and incentivizing deployment of natural gas, the fuel attracting the most support from both parties as an alternative to oil.
- MOVING ON. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is moving ahead with his fiscal 2012 budget resolution since the so-called “Gang of Six,” of which he is a member, has been unable to produce a spending deal. Conrad took some heat from fellow Democrats on Tuesday for including provisions they felt weakened Democrats’ hand -- like deficit-cutting measures negotiated with Republicans -- but which do not currently have broad Republican support. But Conrad said the private feedback has been more positive.
- MEDISCARE. A late-night Washington Post story said Republicans, specifically House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, were moving away from the plan by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to turn Medicare into a subsidy program in the 2012 budget in order to reach a compromise. Cantor’s office swiftly denied that claim, saying the story was incorrect and that Cantor still backed the Ryan plan to “save Medicare.” The kerfuffle came the evening before a bipartisan group of lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden to come to a budget agreement.
- NO COLOMBIA CAKEWALK. When the White House notified Congress on Wednesday that it is ready to begin technical talks on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, many celebrated the next step in the Obama trade agenda, but it is clear that the process is far from complete. National Journal reports that business leaders may be celebrating, but key Democrats, including trade bigwig Sander Levin, D-Mich., are still pushing for progress on the action plan signed by President Obama and Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos.
- ON THE RECORD. In Thursday afternoon’s action on a bill to speed up offshore drilling approval, House Democrats plan to force a vote to repeal subsidies for five of the largest oil companies, chipping away at Republicans on an issue where some cracks seem to have emerged. Whether the vote occurs or gets tabled, Republicans will be forced to go on the record about the tax breaks. House Republicans who have already signaled their flexibility on the matter include Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as well as Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho, Joe Walsh of Illinois, Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Michael Grimm of New York, Randy Hultgren of Illinois, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, Mick Mulvey of South Carolina, Daniel Webster of Florida, and Tom Graves of Georgia.
- PELOSI'S PLANS. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plans to discuss a new energy package (part of a series) at her weekly presser Thursday, an aide tells National Journal. The first package, sponsored by Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., will focus on eliminating tax breaks for big oil companies and addressing fuel-price gouging, oil royalties, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Meanwhile, the conservative Republican Study Committee plans to introduce a bill aimed at reducing gasoline prices. According to a summary obtained by NJ, it’s similar to the bill hitting the House floor Thursday but goes further to expedite oil and gas development on federal lands. It’s similar to a draft bill the Institute for Energy Research floated last month.
Today’s Need-to-Know Video: Debt Ceiling Vote a Lose-Lose for Republicans?