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The Edge: Death of the Backroom Deal

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.

Death of the Backroom Deal


There’s been so much talk about relationships in Washington recently that opening a newspaper can feel like reading Cosmo.

Let’s review. GOP House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama don’t get along. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t calling Veep Joe Biden to cut a last-minute deal anytime soon. And while Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have a fine working relationship, neither man thinks the other is much good at running his chamber, aides to both men say.

So it’s no surprise that nobody expects much to come from Friday’s White House powwow between congressional leaders and Obama about how to avoid the across-the-board spending cuts that begin taking effect the same day.


Can leaders with dysfunctional relationships create a functional solution?

Increasingly, that seems to be the wrong question. The cuts will almost certainly kick in, and House and Senate aides in both parties expect Congress to address them through the regular budget process—an approach both Reid and Boehner have endorsed.

In other words, no backroom deals. At least not for a while, anyway.

Chris Frates



FOURNIER: WHY THE WOODWARD-WHITE HOUSE WAR MATTERS. The fight between the White House and journalistic legend Bob Woodward is a silly distraction to a major problem: The failure of President Obama and House Republicans to lead the country under a budget deadline. But it’s a distraction the White House welcomed, even encouraged, as part of a public-relations strategy to emasculate the GOP and anybody else who challenges Obama, National Journal’s Ron Fournier writes. It is a distraction that briefly enveloped Fournier, who recently cut ties with a senior White House official—and wishes he’d done so sooner. Read more

  • How to threaten Bob Woodward in one chart, courtesy of The Washington Post.

THE OVERHYPED, OVERBLOWN, OVERLY POLITICIZED SEQUESTER FEARS. The sequester isn’t a doomsday scenario, or a meteorite that will squash the economy. In fact, the only guaranteed effect over the next few days, experts say, is that federal employees across agencies will likely start receiving 30-day furlough notices. Just how bad will it be? National Journal has a reality check on the impacts Read more

  • NJ’s Josh Kraushaar writes that Obama’s sequester stance threatens to derail his push on guns and immigration.

WHITE HOUSE THREATENS VETO ON GOP SEQUESTER BILL. The White House threatened to veto a Republican bill—which ultimately failed in the Senate—that would give the administration power and flexibility to implement the $85 billion in sequester spending cuts, The Hill reports. The bill was an attempt by Republicans to place the onus of the cuts on the president. In a separate statement, the White House said it supported a Democratic sequester bill that would close tax loopholes and impose new taxes on millionaires. The Democratic bill failed as well. Read more


Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy , Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

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HOUSE PASSES VAWA BILL. The House today approved a bipartisan Senate bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in a 286-138 vote, The Hill reports. The reauthorization was held up for the last year by Republicans with varying concerns about how money is spent and which individuals are protected under the law, among other things. Read more

SCHWARTZ STEPS DOWN AS DCCC FUNDRAISER. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., is stepping down as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's chief fundraiser. She will be replaced by Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a former Goldman Sachs executive. Schwartz is exploring a run for Pennsylvania governor and, as National Journal reported last week, that ambition left House Democrats in a tough position. It appeared unlikely she could focus on both helping the party and her own statewide run. Read more

MANNING PLEADS GUILTY IN WIKILEAKS CASE. Bradley Manning, the army private who was charged with leaking classified material to the antisecrecy website WikiLeaks, pleaded guilty today to 10 of the 22 charges against him, CBS News reports. The 10 guilty pleas could carry a sentence of 20 years in prison, and prosecutors could still decide to pursue the 12 other charges. Read more

  • In his court appearance, Manning said he released the documents in order to “spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy.”

RAMIREZ TO CHAIR FTC. Obama will appoint the Federal Trade Commission’s Edith Ramirez to chair the commission, Reuters reports. Ramirez, who practiced law in California before her appointment as FTC commissioner in 2010, will replace Jon Leibowitz. Her appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Read more

SENATE DELAYS CONSIDERATION OF GUN BILLS. The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed consideration of four Democratic-sponsored gun-control bills until next Thursday, giving lawmakers time to receive more information from witnesses and consider new amendments, The Washington Post reports. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said some Republicans may be prepared to vote for one of the bills, which would expand federal background checks for gun purchasers. Read more

POPE BIDS FAREWELL, RIDES INTO THE SKY. Pope Benedict XVI gave a tearful farewell to the faithful at the Vatican today before he rode by helicopter to the papal summer palace at Castel Gandolfo, the Associated Press reported. There, he was greeted by another throng of well-wishers as he made his last public appearance as pope. "I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth," he told the crowd before his papacy expired at 8 p.m. local time. Read more


NOT MUCH EXPECTED IN OBAMA-CONGRESS MEET-UP. President Obama will sit down with House and Senate leadership from both parties Friday, on the same day the sequester cuts go into effect. The talks are designed to be a "constructive discussion" about how to minimize the impact of the cuts, according to the White House. But Republicans were deeply skeptical of the effort, and White House press secretary Jay Carney conceded that any plan to avoid the cuts is unlikely to succeed before they take effect. Read more


"Watching Woodward last two days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated." —Former Obama adviser David Plouffe, quoted by ABC News.


WILL HUMANS BE AROUND IN A BILLION YEARS? What’s the biggest near-term threat to humankind? Not nuclear war or an asteroid from space, according to Oxford’s Nick Bostrom, but artificial intelligence. But that’s just the near term, according to an Aeon Magazine piece by Ross Andersen. If we survive, we’ll also have to deal with the expiration of the sun in 4 billion years, and then the expansion of the universe itself. Bostrom’s work has gained the attention of Washington: last year gave a keynote talk on extinction at a conference hosted by the State Department. Read more


CAN A FURLOUGH BE A GOOD THING? With sequestration set to take effect on Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees may soon be facing unpaid days off. While most are no doubt dreading such news, there are some who see opportunity, as National Journal’s Billy House reports. One reason is that Congress has sometimes granted furloughed federal employees back pay for the wages they missed, though there is no guarantee that will happen this time. Another reason is that agencies have to cap the furloughs at 22 days because unpaid leave beyond that becomes a layoff. And while nothing in the law requires federal agencies to schedule 22 days of furlough consecutively, there is also nothing in law that prohibits it. “Bring it on! I’ve requested the consecutive 22 days so I can draw unemployment and travel,” wrote one federal employee. Read more


  • @pontifex: Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.
  • @TheTweetofGod: Catholics: there's no pope! Quick, start sinning before it starts counting again!
  • @MrDanZak: D.C.'s hottest club is Rayburn. This place has everything: Long hard security lines, legislaves, twerking clerks, DJ Steny Moneypenny.
  • @geneweingarten: Postulation: Every single member of Congress has one personal secret which, if known, would force his or her resignation. Discuss 
  • @mattyglesias: Woodward’s managed to make me suspect Nixon got a raw deal.
  • @MeredithShiner: Only way this makes any sense to me is if it's an elaborate ruse to highlight absurdity of modern political-media complex#My1stWoodardTweet

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Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy , Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

Sign up form for the newsletter
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