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The Edge

The Edge: Care and Feeding

July 31, 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.

Care and Feeding

President Obama came to Capitol Hill today to give congressional Democrats a pep talk ahead of the August recess, urging Democrats to go home and defend immigration reform and the health care law.

 

But really, the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue was about meeting congressional Democrats on their home turf to reassure them that he wasn't going to get rolled by the GOP this fall. (It's Obama's 10th trip to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers, according to CBS News stat hound Mark Knoller.) Obama reiterated his position that he won't negotiate more spending cuts to raise the nation's debt limit, as Republicans are demanding.

The team-building meetings came after news broke that the president's chief of staff has been quietly meeting for weeks with Republican senators to search for a grand fiscal bargain. So, as one Democratic aide put it, it was important for Obama to do some care and feeding of his own team ahead of the coming fall showdowns.

Because if things get ugly, he'll need his guys to have his back.

Chris Frates
cfrates@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

U.S. DECLASSIFIES NSA DOCUMENTS AS MORE LEAKS SURFACE. Aided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian published more secret documents today detailing a National Security Agency program that mines Internet browsing data, a revelation timed to coincide with the simultaneous release of once-classified information from the Obama administration about NSA programs already disclosed by Snowden, The New York Times reports. The documents released by the government at the start of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing include an April ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting an order requiring Verizon to hand over phone logs, as well as two classified briefing papers sent to Congress in 2009 and 2011 explaining the collection of phone and e-mail "metadata" as a tool used to fight terrorism. Read more

  • The NSA program leaked today is known as "XKeyscore" and allows analysts to search Internet databases of e-mails, chats, and browsing histories of millions of people, The Guardian reports. Read more

EGYPT ORDERS POLICE TO REMOVE PRO-MORSI PROTEST CAMPS. Egypt's interim government ordered police to take "all necessary measures" to clear out two Cairo protest camps filled with thousands of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, The Washington Post reports. The government is justifying the decision by calling the protesters a national security threat that is "terrorizing" citizens. The Muslim Brotherhood characterized the decision as one made by a "conspiratorial gang" and said there are no plans to break up the demonstrations. "This is an open sit-in. We don't have control over the people…. It is free choice," said a Brotherhood spokesman. More than 260 people have been killed since Morsi was deposed on July 3. Read more

  • An amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to halt the $1.5 billion in annual aid sent to Egypt was defeated 86-13 in a vote Paul decried as "against the law," The Hill reports. Read more

SECOND-QUARTER GDP GROWTH EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS. The U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annualized 1.7 percent from April to June, outpacing expectations of a 0.9 percent increase, The Wall Street Journal reports. In addition, data revisions show that GDP expansion in 2012 occurred at a rate of 2.8 percent, up from an earlier 2.2 percent estimate. Reaction from economists was largely muted, however. "Although GDP growth in the second quarter came in above expectations, combined with the downward revision to first quarter growth the story remains the same. The economy is expanding but growth remains disappointing," said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services. Read more

TAX OVERHAUL IN THE PUBLIC EYE AFTER OBAMA'S 'GRAND BARGAIN' SPEECH. President Obama's Tuesday speech on tax reform may have breathed new life into a bipartisan tax overhaul plan that has been languishing for months in Congress, The New York Times reports. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., have been speaking with business owners and policymakers for months in an effort to formulate a fairer, simpler tax code. While some of the president's proposals conflict with those of Baucus and Camp, the two chairmen of Congress's tax-writing committees see Obama's backing of tax reform as "a major development." However, a major overhaul of the tax code will be difficult in partisan Washington. Read more

MANNING DEFENSE MOVES TO REDUCE POSSIBLE SENTENCE. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning's defense team is looking to merge two of his espionage convictions and two of his theft convictions, which would reduce Manning's maximum prison sentence from 136 years to 116 years, the Associated Press reports.The sentencing phase of Manning's court-martial began today after he was acquitted Tuesday of aiding the enemy but convicted of 20 other charges related to his release of hundreds of thousands of classified national security documents to WikiLeaks. "We're not celebrating," said defense attorney David Coombs. "Ultimately, his sentence is all that really matters." Prosecutors plan to call as many as 20 witnesses for the sentencing hearing. Read more

  • Americans should not be celebrating the "awful" Manning verdict in a trial that never should have happened in the first place, The New Republic's John B. Judis writes. Read more

NEW FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR WON'T BE SELECTED UNTIL FALL. White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said today that President Obama has not chosen the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, and will not do so until the fall, Politico reports. The top candidates to succeed Ben Bernanke at the Fed are former White House economic adviser Larry Summers and Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen. The possibility of Obama tapping Summers worries some senators, who feel that Yellen is better suited for the job. A letter signed by 19 Democratic senators and one independent last week urged the president to nominate Yellen. Obama reportedly defended Summers during a meeting today with House Democrats, but reiterated that he had not yet made a decision on the nomination. Read more

McCONNELL PUSHES FOR OPPOSITION TO SPENDING BILL. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor this morning to lobby his colleagues to oppose a Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, Roll Call reports. "Voting for appropriations legislation that blatantly violates budget reforms already agreed to by both parties moves our country in the exact wrong direction," McConnell said. "It puts us on the Democrat path to austerity." If enough Republicans join McConnell in his opposition, the move could become a proxy for "top-line spending levels in a continuing resolution come September," Roll Call notes. Read more

  • Calling something a "grand bargain," as Obama often does around late summertime, is a sure-fire way of making sure it's going to fail, The Atlantic's David Graham writes. Read more

LUNDERGAN GRIMES HOLDS KICK-OFF EVENT FOR SENATE BID. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes officially launched her campaign for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's seat with a kick-off event Tuesday intended in part to make up for an underwhelming campaign announcement earlier this month, The Hill reports. Lundergan Grimes attacked McConnell, R-Ky., for having "gone Washington" during his time in the upper chamber at her rally, which featured a supportive video message from former President Clinton and an endorsement from Gov. Wendell Ford, who skipped the event due to health reasons.

  • Coming off her tepid, unsure campaign announcement, Lundergan Grimes' event on Tuesday was "as splashy as the first try was slapdash," The Washington Post's Melinda Henneberger writes. Read more

SENATE CONFIRMS ALL FIVE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD NOMINEES. The Senate on Tuesday confirmed all of President Obama's nominees for the National Labor Relations Board, the Associated Press reports. The Senate confirmed current NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce for a new five-year term, and confirmed Democrats Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer and Republicans Philip A. Miscimarra and Harry I. Johnson III. Pearce's current term expires in late August; had the Senate not confirmed at least one of the president's nominees by that time, the board would have fallen short of its quorum and been powerless to act. The president issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "I applaud the Senate for putting in place a full board and look forward to working together on other steps we can take to grow our economy." Read more

TOMORROW

HOUSE PANEL EXAMINES ACA IMPLEMENTATION. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) Pulse Check" at 10 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is scheduled to testify.

'LET'S MOVE!' EVENT AT DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, CSI: NY star Hill Harper, and former Washington Redskins running back Brian Mitchell will host the fourth of five 2013 "Let's Move!" events to promote summer reading, healthy eating, and physical activity at noon at 400 Maryland Avenue SW.

QUOTABLE

"We want women's health care, not cookies." -- Protesters opposing restrictive abortion legislation, in a note to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who had brought them cookies as they demonstrated outside the governor's mansion (Charlotte Observer)

BEDTIME READING

GOOD COP, BAD COP? There are two sides to Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times. "There's 'Good Jill,'" she says, "and there's 'Bad Jill.'" In fact, Abramson has been described in a multitude of ways. In an April 2013 Politico article, anonymous former and current staffers of The Times described her as "condescending," "disengaged," and "unreasonable," among other things. (Abramson admits that the Politico piece brought her to tears, adding that "I should say it went right off me, but I'm just being honest.") But Newsweek's Lloyd Grove, in a profile, writes that she's "down-to-earth, whip-smart, funny, and fun." Her term as executive editor is over at the end of 2019, but it's unlikely that she'll retire for good. "They're gonna have to take me out feet first, or chop off my head," she said. Read more

THE QUIRK

HOW THE MAVERICK GOT HIS GROOVE BACK. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sat down for a freewheeling interview with The New Republic's Isaac Chotiner to discuss, among other things, foreign affairs, political coverage, potential 2016 presidential candidates, and whether he's happy. "Am I happy? I'd like to be president of the United States," McCain said. The once-and-future GOP "maverick" also offered his thoughts on a potential rumble between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, in 2016, saying with a laugh, "It's gonna be a tough choice." Read more

TODAY'S PHOTO GALLERY

The Hill has released its annual list of the "50 Most Beautiful People," including White House and executive-branch staffers for the first time. The list is still laden with congressional members and staff; Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., described as "a walking advertisement for the benefits of healthy living," captured first place.

 

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