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The Edge

The Edge: Brennan Clears Committee Hurdle

March 5, 2013

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Battle Lines Shaping Up for 2014

The White House drew scrutiny over the weekend when the president’s advisers told the Washington Post that their primary focus is to win control of the House in 2014 to help advance Obama’s agenda.


But math can get in the way of unbridled confidence. House Democrats need to net 17 seats, and there are only 16 House Republicans in districts Obama carried. Meanwhile, Democrats must also play defense; the DCCC on Tuesday named 26 of their own members that are vulnerable.

An Obama-centered strategy focused on rallying the base is risky. For the midterms, it could threaten Democratic control of the Senate, where the party’s majority isn’t rock-solid. Democrats can’t afford to lose more than five seats (net); they’re defending seven seats in states Mitt Romney carried.

The White House believes political pressure is vital to accomplishing its goals. But Democrats should take a closer look at the 2014 map before assuming they can break Republicans at the ballot box.

Josh Kraushaar


SENATE PANEL APPROVES BRENNAN AFTER WHITE HOUSE TURNS OVER DRONE DOCS. John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director is back on track: the Senate Intelligence Committee approved his nomination this afternoon 12-3 after the White House turned over documents to the Committee that it had been withholding on its targeted drone killing program. Committee members Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, characterized the administration’s capitulation as a victory for constitutional checks and balances in a statement. “The appropriate next step should be to bring the American people into this debate and for Congress to consider ways to ensure that the President’s sweeping authorities are subject to appropriate limitations, oversight, and safeguards,” they wrote. Read more

DCCC RELEASES LIST OF MOST VULNERABLE INCUMBENTS. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program has released a list of the party’s 26 most vulnerable incumbents, designated for special protection in the 2014 election cycle. The list is chock-full of first-term representatives who have not yet had time to consolidate power. It also includes Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., a nine-term congressman who won with just 48 percent of the vote last year after his brother-in-law became a fugitive and his wife pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to an illegal offshore gambling operation. Read more

BOEHNER SAYS HE WON’T IGNORE ‘HASTERT RULE’. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that he won’t likely continue getting bills passed that do not have the support of a Republican majority, The Hill reports. “It’s not a practice I would expect to continue long-term,” Boehner told reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Republican Conference. Democrats have carried legislation through the House three times in the last two months, including last week’s Violence Against Women Act. The so-called “Hastert Rule,” calls for bills to be brought to the floor only if it they have support of a “majority of the majority.” Read more

  • As National Journal’s Tim Alberta writes in this week’s magazine, House conservatives are giving Boehner a chance now, but their patience is wearing out.

DOW HITS NEW HIGH. Looks like Wall Street isn’t too hung up on the sequester. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 126 points to 14,254—its highest level ever—today, beating the previous record closing of 14,165, The Wall Street Journal reports. The rally was driven by confidence that the economy is recovering and better-than-expected growth in the nonmanufacturing sector last month. Read more

DID THE POST HAVE THE WRONG WOMAN? The Washington Post reported Monday evening that a woman in the Dominican Republic claimed she had been paid to make up a story about being paid by Sen. Robert Menendez, R-N.J. to have sex. But questions are now being raised about The Post’s reporting. The Post story sought to debunk a piece by The Daily Caller, a conservative website that published videos last fall with two women claiming that Menendez had paid them for sex. In a story published in the wee hours Tuesday morning, The Caller claimed that The Post had the wrong woman, and further, that The Post didn't reach out prior to publishing their piece. The Post stands by its reporting. Read more

  • @ClaraJeffery: Most DC headline ever: "WaPo report confuses one prostitute for another in bid to debunk Menendez allegations"

POLITICIANS OVERESTIMATE HOW CONSERVATIVE CONSTITUENTS ARE. A study of nearly 2,000 state legislative candidates revealed that politicians “massively overestimate the conservatism of their constituents on the issues of gay marriage and universal health care,” The Huffington Post reports. Politicians underestimated the percentage of their constituents who supported those issues by 10 percentage points—and conservative politicians underestimated by about 20 percentage points. “Nearly half of conservative politicians appear to believe that they represent a district that is more conservative on these issues than is the most conservative district in the entire country,” the study said. Read more

TSA LOOSENS UP, ALLOWS KNIVES ON PLANES. In order to conform to international standards, the Transportation Security Administration is allowing a slew of items banned after 9/11 back on airplanes, Bloomberg reports. Airline passengers in the U.S. will now be able to carry items such as small pocket knives, lacrosse sticks, and ski poles on-board. Read more


HEARING ON HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS. A House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday examining the future of health care entitlement programs. The title of the hearing, “Saving Our Seniors and Our Most Vulnerable Citizens From an Entitlement Crisis,” suggests that the outlook of the witnesses may be less than sanguine. Read more

ROLL TIDE—TO THE WHITE HOUSE. The president will meet with the national champion University of Alabama football team on Wednesday. It will be the Crimson Tide’s third visit in four years to the White House. Read more


NORTH DAKOTA’S OIL TECHNOLOGY: THE ‘SKELETON KEY’ TO OTHER FOSSIL-FUEL TREASURES. Susan Connell is one of a few women driving an 18-wheeler in the oil patches of North Dakota. But she’s one of thousands who have swarmed the state to take advantage of the booming production—up nearly 150-fold since 2006—on what’s known as the Bakken formation. The extraction technology refined in the Bakken that gave Connell this chance “is in effect a skeleton key that can be used to open other fossil-fuel treasure chests,” writes Edwin Dobb in this month’s National Geographic. The number of wells in North Dakota may increase from roughly 8,000 operating today to between 40,000 and 50,000 when the frenzy ends, perhaps 20 years from now. Read more


"His campaign wasn't the best, but he would have been a really fine president."—Jeb Bush, quoted by Politico, on Mitt Romney's loss in the presidential election.


JEB BUSH’S IMMIGRATION BUNGLE. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s new book was aimed at nudging a reluctant Republican Party toward reforms that would allow illegal immigrants to live and work without fear of deportation. But by recommending only legal residency and backing off his past support for citizenship, Bush is throwing cold water over a fledgling deal in the Senate, denting his own reputation as a bold policymaker and stoking speculation that he will run for president in 2016. None of those things were supposed to happen. The stunning reversal by one of the Republican Party’s leading champions of immigration reform and Hispanic outreach, at least in part, comes down to a colossal political miscalculation, National Journal’s Beth Reinhard writes. Read more


MEDICAID EXPANSION MAY STILL FAIL IN FLORIDA. Though Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott reversed himself to support the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion last month, the state still may not participate in the program, The Washington Post reports. A committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in Florida signaled Monday it will not entertain the legislation that would expand the program. Florida's not alone in facing this hurdle—Republican Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan will both need Republican legislatures to sign off on their proposals. Read more

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