N2K Top 10: Military Narrative of Afghan Surge Takes Shape; Biden Group Holds Third Meeting of Week
Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 7:34 a.m.
- MILITARY NARRATIVE OF AFGHAN SURGE TAKES SHAPE. Senior U.S. military and defense officials argue that since it was announced at West Point in December 2009, the "surge" of 30,000 additional U.S. troops has accomplished two of its primary goals. They are confident the Taliban will fail to reestablish control of Helmand and Kandahar this fighting season, and they claim significant progress has been made in creating Afghan National Security Forces that will be able to transition to operational lead by 2014. Expect an announcement on the numbers next week.
- BIDEN GROUP TO HOLD THIRD MEETING OF WEEK. A group of six lawmakers led by Vice President Joe Biden working on a plan to reduce the deficit will meet Thursday afternoon for its final meeting this week. The group is expected to review where they are with respect to mandatory programs, according to House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a member of the Biden group. On Wednesday the group discussed the use of caps to bring down the deficit; there was agreement on the use of caps, but not on how they would work, according to Van Hollen. Democrats are pushing for a cap on the deficit, so that taxes can be used to lower the deficit, while Republicans are calling for a cap on spending alone.
- HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES PROBES INTERNATIONAL REGULATION. The committee plans to haul federal regulators up to Capitol Hill on Thursday to find out where the U.S. stands in comparison to its foreign counterparts on financial reform. Look for regulators to tout the positive aspects of coordination and cooperation and listen for Republicans to pull that apart and question whether the U.S. is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage as other nations lag in reforms like derivatives regulations.
- BLANK FOR CEA CHAIRWOMAN? All eyes have been on a possible successor since Austan Goolsbee announced he would be leaving his position as chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors last week. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s top economic advisor, Rebecca Blank, may be just what administration officials are looking for: a Senate-confirmed academic economist, pragmatic and progressive like Goolsbee. Her view on the recovery? Blank is reluctant to call for another government stimulus and told National Journal the economy could “absolutely” take off again on its own. She remains mum on the possibility of heading the CEA: “I’m not looking for other employment at the moment.”
- DEMS WANT OIL AND GAS TAX BREAKS TO BE ON THE TABLE FOR BUDGET TALKS. As Vice President Joe Biden leads budget negotiations heading into the August 2 target for default, there is a growing consensus among Democrats that tax breaks for the oil and gas industry have to be on the chopping block. “As you work toward the creation of an agreement to reduce the deficit, we urge you to protect taxpayer dollars by eliminating these wasteful tax subsidies,” a group of nearly 50 members write Biden in a letter obtained by National Journal. The letter, led by Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Lois Capps (Calif.), Peter Welch (Vt.), John Conyers (Mich.), and Tim Bishop (N.Y.), will be sent to Biden on Thursday.
- TWO MORE ETHANOL VOTES ON TAP. Senators will cast back-to-back votes on ethanol subsidies Thursday afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Wednesday evening. The first will be on a measure sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to repeal the subsidies, worth about $5.5 billion annually. The second will be on a measure introduced last week by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would restrict federal funds from going toward ethanol infrastructure, specifically blender pumps. If neither measure is approved, the fight over the subsidies could then move to the budget negotiations, with senators calling for their inclusion in any overall package.
- EMPTY THREATS ON WEINER. House Democratic leaders meet Thursday to decide whether to kick Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., off the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. The inclination is to do it, but the move would take time and divide the caucus. It's not as if Weiner has any allies -- he doesn't. But some Democrats are leery of stripping a top committee assignment from a member who has never even been accused of a crime. Former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., lost his Ways and Means Committee seat only after being indicted on corruption and bribery charges and winning reelection.
- REPUBLICANS DEMAND RESOLUTION IN MEDICARE FIGHT. In a letter to President Obama, Senate Republican Conference members warned the administration was in violation of federal law if it did not produce a proposal addressing the Medicare funding issue in the 2010 Medicare trustee report. "Your administration has failed to submit proposals for the last three years," the senators wrote. "This not only defies federal law but also abdicates your administrations responsibility to lead."
- POWER COMPANY CONTRADICTS ITSELF ON EPA RULES. American Electric Power, one of the nation’s biggest coal utilities, downplayed the impact of EPA regulations to its investors while forecasting a doom-and-gloom outcome for Washington policymakers. Other utilities employ this strategy, too. Investors have different concerns than average Americans and lawmakers, after all. But the seemingly contradictory comments are drawing renewed scrutiny in the wake of AEP announcing it was closing coal plants and shedding jobs because of a slew of controversial air-pollution standards EPA is finalizing in the coming years.
- RLC KICKS OFF IN NEW ORLEANS. The Republican Leadership Conference begins Thursday in New Orleans, marking the last major occasion for Republican presidential hopefuls to audition for a large crowd of primary voters before the Iowa straw poll in early August. Look for live dispatches on Hotline On Call as we cover Newt Gingrich's speech Thursday night, and then talks by Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum on Friday. On Saturday, we'll cover the newest kid on the block, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The audience gets to vote in a straw poll this weekend, with results due out on Saturday.
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