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Immigration Reform Ramping Up This Week


IMMIGRATION REFORM RAMPING UP THIS WEEK. Concerted immigration reform efforts begin this week, with President Obama unveiling a proposal and a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreeing on a set of principles that includes a path to citizenship for America’s 11 million illegal immigrants, The New York Times reported. The lawmakers are expected to announce details of their blueprint today, and Obama is expected to lay out his plan on Tuesday, opening what is expected to be a protracted debate over legislation that is dependent on bipartisan cooperation. Read more


COURT RULES AGAINST OBAMA ON RECESS APPOINTMENTS. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled on Friday that President Obama’s use of recess appointments to install three appointees to the National Labor Relations Board last January was unconstitutional. It’s a victory for Republicans, who view the appointments as an end-run around the Senate. “The D.C. Circuit Court today reaffirmed that the Constitution is not an inconvenience but the law of the land,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. The administration is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, but if Friday's ruling is upheld, it would invalidate much of the work performed by the NLRB for the past year. Read more

RYAN: ‘SEQUESTER IS GOING TO HAPPEN.’ Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., predicted Sunday that the much-feared automatic budget cuts known as sequester are going to happen, and blamed Democrats for not doing enough to stop it. “We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternative,” Ryan said on NBC’s Meet the Press, according to The Hill. Following a deal on the fiscal cliff earlier this month, the cuts are slated to take place after March 1. When asked whether Republicans will use the continuing resolution, which expires March 27, and the threat of a government shutdown as potential leverage, Ryan said, “We’re not interested in shutting the government down.” But he did not rule it out. Read more

FEINSTEIN CONFIDENT ON WEAPONS BAN; NUMBERS SAY OTHERWISE. In interviews on the Sunday talk shows, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., author of a gun bill introduced last week, said that while her effort is an “uphill climb,” she believed her legislation will pass due in part to concessions she made to current gun owners, Roll Call reports. On CBS’ Face the Nation, Feinstein said that she would not require current owners of military-style weapons to register. In all, Feinstein’s bill would ban the manufacture, sale and importation of 157 types of automatic weapons, as well as magazines that carry more than 10 rounds. Feinstein’s confidence may not be warranted, though, as a Bloomberg survey of senators finds that she probably doesn’t have the Democratic votes for passage.  Read more


REPUBLICANS SEE OPPORTUNITY IN HARKIN’S RETIREMENT. With Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s announcement this weekend that he does not intend to seek a sixth term in 2014, the map becomes that much more favorable for Republicans, as National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar reports. “Harkin’s retirement further improves an already encouraging landscape for Senate Republicans in 2014, giving them a credible chance to win back the majority,” he writes. “Seven Senate races are being contested in states that Mitt Romney carried last year – six of them carried by Romney by double-digit margins.  With Harkin running for re-election, Republicans would have faced long odds in winning his seat.  But now, Republicans feel like they have a decent chance at picking up an open seat in a perennial battleground state.” Read more


TED CRUZ HUDDLES WITH IMMIGRATION HARDLINERS. With immigration set to take center stage this week, one crucial lawmaker to watch is freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. He's one of only two Hispanic Republicans in the Senate. And while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is a leading voice in the GOP for a comprehensive reform package that includes a path to citizenship, Cruz is firmly in the anti-amnesty camp. As National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher reports, Cruz gathered with other conservative GOP lawmakers on Wednesday for a strategy session among the hardliners in the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. It’s still unclear how involved Cruz intends to be in mobilizing against the president’s soon-to-be unveiled comprehensive immigration proposal. His office was close-lipped about the gathering, saying the senator doesn’t discuss private meetings. Read more

CRUZ: WE ARE THE PARTY OF THE 47 PERCENT. On Saturday, Cruz chided the GOP over its 2012 electoral losses, saying, "Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent," a clear allusion to the remarks caught on video by presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the campaign. Cruz, speaking at the National Review Institute summit in Washington, was quick to say he wasn't criticizing Romney, but that the party lost a messaging battle with the electorate and that comment was just a symptom of the problem. Read more


SUPER PACS TAKE ON HAGEL CONFIRMATION.  One new conservative group that relies on funding from anonymous donors has begun airing ads in five states targeting Democratic senators and urging them to vote against Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for secretary of Defense, The New York Times reports. Still another group with secret donors, called Use Your Mandate, “presents itself as a liberal gay rights group but purchases its television time through a prominent Republican firm,” The Times reports, and  “is attacking Mr. Hagel as ‘anti-Gay,’ ‘anti-woman’ and ‘anti-Israel’ in ads and mailers.” There are at least five other groups gearing up to fight Hagel, many of which have benefitted from the landmark Citizens United decision, which allows donors to remain anonymous in some cases.  Read more


CAN OBAMA MAKE HISTORY ON IMMIGRATION? President Obama’s speech on Tuesday in Nevada will mark the public unveiling of private planning that has been in the works at the White House and in Congress for at least a year. Administration officials have mulled every possible option for easing the paradox of too many illegal immigrants and a stilted legal system. The only real solution is broad legislation. But no one knows how it will end. Read more

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WASHINGTON READIES FOR SLEW OF EXECUTIVE ORDERS. Obama's inaugural address has lawmakers and lobbyists bracing themselves for an onslaught of executive actions and regulations, as the president works to further his second-term agenda, The Hill reports. “They’re going to try to do with regulation what they cannot do with legislation,” said Mike House of Hogan & Lovells, a law and lobbying firm whose clients include businesses and trade groups. Liberals in Congress and on K Street are putting together packages of new regulations to address climate change, labor rights, financial reform and health care. "While there is precedent for presidents adopting aggressive regulatory agendas in their second terms, some fear that Obama could go further than any has before in wielding his executive authority over the country," The Hill reported. Read more

CLINTON, OBAMA APPEAR ON ‘60 MINUTES.’ In a “60 Minutes” interview raising eyebrows in status-obsessed Washington, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she and President Obama buried the hatchet after their 2008 campaign “because we both love our country.” Obama called Clinton one of the greatest diplomats in U.S. history. Read more

OBAMA REFLECTS ON HIS SECOND TERM. In a long sit-down with The New Republic, Obama reflects on his relationship with Republicans and the road ahead for the next four years. "Until Republicans feel that there's a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you'll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it,” Obama told the magazine. “It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again. I disagree with them, and I think the cost to the country has been enormous." Read more

BIDEN CAMPAIGNS FOR LANDRIEU. Vice President Joe Biden spent Saturday in New Orleans with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is up for reelection to a fourth term next year. “She always puts Louisiana first. ... She will not stop until Louisiana’s interests are served,” said Biden, who served for 12 years in the Senate with Landrieu. About 450 attended the fundraiser, including Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., state officials and members of the Landrieu family. No Republicans have yet entered the 2014 race, though Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and John Fleming, R-La., and former Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., are all viewed as potential challengers.   

PRESIDENT TO MEET WITH MIAMI HEAT. President Obama will meet with the NBA Champion Miami Heat today at the White House, to honor the team and their 2012 championship victory. "The President will also recognize the Heat’s ongoing support to the men and women who serve in our military and their families, continuing the tradition begun by President Obama of honoring sports teams for their efforts on and off the court," according to a release. 


DEFENSE COULD BEGIN FURLOUGH DAYS. The Department of Defense could begin furloughing civilian employees starting in April if the scheduled sequestration cuts go into effect in March, Politico reported. The plan would be to give those employees one furlough day a week. Defense officials will submit this request to Congress in mid-February. And as the department continues to examine potential across-the-board budget cuts, one of the Senate’s more liberal members, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has announced he will chair the Defense Appropriations Committee, Roll Call reports. “This subcommittee will focus on ensuring our military remains the most powerful, ready and capable force in the world,” Durbin said in a statement. “We will also work tirelessly to ensure we’re spending wisely, protecting taxpayers and planning well for the future needs.” Read more

FIGHT CONTINUES OVER HAGEL. The fight over Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of Defense continues as senators and outside groups weigh in on the former senator’s qualifications. Politico reports that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., still refuses to support Hagel’s nomination, while Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., remains uncertain. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and former CIA Director Michael Hayden have thrown their support behind the former Nebraska Republican’s nomination. And the New York Times is reporting that the anti-Hagel push is escalating quickly on television. Read more

MORSI DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN THREE CITIES. In a “stern, finger-waving speech” Sunday night on Egyptian state television, President Mohamed Morsi announced a state of emergency and a curfew in three major Egyptian cities, which have seen escalating rioting and calls for independence in recent weeks. Using the widely hated autocratic powers of former President Hosni Mubarak that remained in Egypt’s new constitution, Morsi called for a one-month state of emergency in Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said. The New York Times reports that police have lost control in those cities, which, located close to the Suez Canal, are important to the country’s economic vitality. In Port Said, tens of thousands of people protested on Sunday, calling for independence from the Egyptian government after roughly 30 protesters were killed — mostly by police — during Saturday’s protests. Read more

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT TO INCREASE CYBERSECURITY FORCE FIVEFOLD IN COMING YEARS. Despite talk of Defense Department budget cuts and forced furlough days for civilian employees, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is still looking to expand at least one area: cybersecurity. The Washington Post reported that the department is aiming to boost its Cyber Command from 900 personnel to nearly 5,000 over the next several years. According to U.S. officials, the initiative will help “defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries,” the Post writes. Read more

FRENCH FORCES HEAD TO REBEL STRONGHOLD. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that French-backed Malian forces have taken Timbuktu — which has been under rebel control for 10 months — on their way to the city of Gao, where the rebels are based. Saturday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon announced it was expanding U.S. aid to French fighters, providing mid-air refueling for French planes and airlifting French forces to Mali from nearby African countries. But Wired reports that rebel forces have learned lessons from last week’s French air strikes, camouflaging themselves during French bombing runs. Read more

FBI RAMPS UP PROBE INTO LEAKS. The FBI is putting more pressure on government officials to disclose information about a classified cyberoperation targeting Iran’s nuclear program in an effort to uncover leaks. The inquiry, ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder last June, is examining leaks about the classified computer virus Stuxnet, which developed by the United States and Israel to damage the nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant. The Washington Post reports that the investigation is possibly the highest-profile probe under the Obama administration, and might implicate senior-level officials. To this point, the Obama administration has prosecuted more officials for disclosing classified information — six — than all past administrations. Read more


TEA PARTY CLAIMS LATEST VICTIM WITH CHAMBLISS RETIREMENT.  Though he denies it, the threat of a Tea Party primary challenge may have figured into Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ decision to not seek reelection next year. Chambliss compiled one of the most conservative records in the Senate over his decade of Congressional service. But his recent sins in the eyes of the most conservative party activists — voting for the fiscal cliff deal, for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and joining Democrats in the compromise-oriented "gangs" made his re-election prospects challenging in 2014. Under that pressure, Chambliss decided he won't seek reelection in 2014, heightening the volatility and significance of the Georgia Senate race. In a statement announcing his decision, Chambliss said political pressure played no role in leaving the Senate.  He instead attributed his retirement to the growing degree of gridlock in Washington. Read more

TEA PARTY LOOKS TO DEMOCRATS TO DEFEAT MCCONNELL. In an effort to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, Democrats have signaled to tea party activists in Kentucky they are willing to throw their fundraising and weight behind a more conservative candidate that enters the race, Politico reports. They hope to weaken McConnell to improve their chances in a general election – or, better yet, defeat him in a primary race in favor of a staunch conservative likely to have a tough time in the general election. “What we’re finding — at least in this stage of the race — we’re finding that our interests align. It’s unusual," said Keith Rouda, a field organizer with the liberal group MoveOn and the Democratic super PAC, Progress Kentucky. Read more

PALIN AND THE END OF AN ERA. The news that Sarah Palin will no longer be a paid contributor to Fox News puts an exclamation point on the end of an era, or at least a chapter, in U.S. political history. She could land somewhere else, and she still has her Facebook friends, but it’s hard to imagine she’ll find a more visible or influential platform than Fox. Read more

RYAN AGAIN PLAYING PARTY LEADERSHIP ROLE. "Prudence," House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan advised a gathering of conservatives on Saturday, "is good judgment in the art of governing." For the eight-term congressman, the word won't just guide the battles he and the House Republicans pick with President Obama in his second term, which was Ryan's message in a speech to the National Review Institute. It's also a model for how he will treat the specter of the 2016 election, promoting party unity to prove his leadership rather than carving out a distinct identity. Ryan has settled back into his role as a leader among House Republicans, at ease playing the inside Washington game and using the speech to call for party unity. Read more

GOP LOOKS TO EMULATE 2012 OBAMA CAMPAIGN. Republican leaders at the party gathering in Charlotte last week conceded that Obama out-campaigned them last year, and they’re eager to adopt many of his tactics, including deploying campaign operatives in battleground states year-round; building "relationships" and "trust" in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods; using social media to bring people together in person; and most of all, a lot of "listening" to the grassroots. (Recipients of the Obama campaign’s earnest and frequent e-mails get it.) “It’s about finding out what the people in a precinct care about, because if you know that, then they are more likely to listen to you,” said North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes. Read more


COURT CURBS EPA BIOFUEL MANDATE.  In a victory for the oil industry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency must lower the amount of biofuel it requires petroleum producers to blend into its product, The Hill reported. Siding with the American Petroleum Institute, the court ruled that EPA cannot continue to mandate levels of cellulosic biofuel blending that exceed the actual supply of that class of biofuel. The court did, however, uphold EPA’s standard for advanced biofuel, which the suit also sought to strike down. The oil industry is also conducting a lobbying campaign to have Congress repeal the renewable fuel standard. Read more

HOW SHOULD WASHINGTON ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE? That’s the question being asked on this week’s Energy & Environment Expert Blog. "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama told the nation in his Inaugural Address last week. That statement and subsequent comments expounding on the issue drew loud applause from the thousands of people assembled on the National Mall to listen to Obama's speech. Since then, the administration has been coy about how, exactly, Obama intends to lead in responding to climate change. What options does the administration have at its disposal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions? Does Congress have the political and legislative appetite to pass any significant energy and climate legislation? Read more

REPS URGE CHU TO ALLOW GAS EXPORTS. More than 100 House members sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday urging him to move forward on approving permits for the export of liquefied natural gas submitted to his department, The Hill reported. “As we all know, the growth of the natural gas industry and the jobs, tax revenues, royalties, orders for equipment and materials from manufacturers, and other economic activity it generates, is being held back by lack of demand,” the 89 Republican and 21 Democratic House members wrote. The question of allowing LNG exports is controversial, putting the natural gas industry, which would profit from exports, at loggerheads with manufacturers, who would see their energy costs rise. Read more

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT CALLS FOR BRETTON WOODS-STYLE CLIMATE SOLUTION. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post called for urgent action on climate change and said the World Bank stood ready to facilitate a Bretton Woods-style framework for addressing the issue globally. Kim cited a November report from the bank warning that Earth could warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of century and said the future would be “bleak” if world leaders continue to put off action. He called for ending fossil fuel subsidies; more accurate energy pricing; and focusing efforts on the six countries and 100 cities that consume the majority of the world’s energy. Read more


WORRIES OVER FED AND BOND-BUYING. A new policy statement is due out from the Fed this week, and there is growing concern among investors that the central bank may not be able to sustain its bond-buying pace and thus threaten the recent market rally, The Wall Street Journal reports. The bond-buying program was started in 2008 to prop up the economy by keeping interest rates low, and as The Journal reports: “Any talk of reining in the Fed purchases will hit a nerve with bondholders. They don't want to be the last investors holding Treasurys when the Fed slows or stops buying and prices fall.” Read more

BILL GATES HAS A PLAN TO FIX THE WORLD. The Microsoft founder took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal this weekend to explain that, in his opinion, many of the maladies afflicting the world today could be solved with one word: measurement. As Gates writes, “In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.” By way of example he points to effective measures that have led to successful vaccine programs in the Third World. Read more


WHY IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH WOULD DO LITTLE TO QUELL GUN VIOLENCE. Mental health has come to occupy a key place in the continuing national conversation on gun violence. President Obama’s plan, unveiled last week, emphasized mental-health screening for children and expanded coverage of mental-health treatment by Medicaid and private health plans. Indeed, the perpetrators of horrific mass killings, such as December’s Newtown shooting, frequently show signs of serious mental illness. But numerous studies of the link between mental illness and violence suggest improved screening and treatment will be of limited utility in reducing these kinds of killings. Perhaps most important, although people with serious mental illness have committed a large percentage of high-profile crimes, the mentally ill represent a very small percentage of the perpetrators of violent crime overall. Researchers estimate that if mental illness could be eliminated as a factor in violent crime, the overall rate would be reduced by only 4 percent. Read more

OBAMA EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER FOOTBALL HEAD INJURIES. In an interview with the New Republic, President Obama said he would "think long and hard" before letting a son play football, since head injuries are so frequent in the sport. The president also said he expected the sport to change gradually to reduce the injuries. “In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much,” he said. Read more

IMMIGRATION REFORM COULD GIVE MILLIONS ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE. The Hill notes that should comprehensive immigration reform pass Congress, millions of new people would be eligible for assistance under Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Currently, undocumented immigrants are prohibited from purchasing insurance on the forthcoming health exchanges and are ineligible for Medicaid in most states. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said legalization – and the health insurance that could result – would benefit hospitals now burdened by uncompensated care. Read more

(YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW. “Bo in #snow!” First Lady Michelle Obama Tweeted Friday. This one has all the ingredients of a viral picture. Cute dog? Check. Snow covered rose garden? Check. Awesome picture of the White House? Check. Tweeted by Michelle Obama? Check. Read more)

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