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The Edge

The Edge: Heeding the Hammer

September 19, 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.

Heeding the Hammer

As conservative Republicans threaten to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded, it's worth remembering former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, whose money-laundering conviction was overturned on Thursday, likely ending a years-long legal ordeal.

 

The former Texas congressman's power is often misunderstood. Known as "the Hammer," he could be a disciplinarian, but he also helped his members, knowing what each needed, moderate or not. He worked with Hillary Rodham Clinton on adoption issues, for instance. Above all, he knew how to move legislation using whatever levers he could.

DeLay's handling of money helped make him a legal target, but now that he's had his conviction overturned, Republicans would do well to remember how this hard-core conservative adhered to his principles and made things happen.

Matthew Cooper
mcooper@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

KERRY: U.N. REPORT 'CONFIRMS UNEQUIVOCALLY' SARIN USE IN SYRIA. Secretary of State John Kerry said today that the U.N. Security Council "must be prepared" to act on Syria, and that a recent U.N. report leaves no doubt that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons—including sarin—against civilians. Kerry also said "there's not a shred of evidence" that opposition forces possess such a chemical arsenal. "Time is short, let's not debate what we already know," Kerry said.

BOEHNER: NO HOUSE VOTE TO RAISE DEBT LIMIT WITHOUT CUTS. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said today that the House will not vote to increase the debt limit without including in the bill cuts meant to reduce the deficit. Not including spending cuts as part of a package deal, he said, "isn't going to cut it." Boehner told reporters today that the House will pass a bill Friday to keep the government running while killing funding for the Affordable Care Act. President Obama promised to veto any continuing resolution containing provisions to defund ACA that the House puts forward.

  • A real government "shutdown" will not occur immediately even if lawmakers fail to pass a funding bill before the new budget year begins on Oct. 1, but sometime later in the month or at the start of November when it runs out of cash.

AMID RISING INTEREST RATES, HOME RESALES SPIKE IN AUGUST. Home resales rose in August to a six-and-a-half-year high, indicating that steeper borrowing costs might be not weighing too heavily on the economy. These indicators could prompt the Federal Reserve to finally begin reducing its closely watched bond-purchasing program. Existing home sales grew 1.7 percent in August—a surprise to most analysts, who expected the resales to decline. Factory activity in the mid-Atlantic area also increased by the most in more than two years this month.

  • More people sought unemployment benefits last week, with the figure rising 15,000 to 309,000—but the data was again affected by reporting delays.

INSIDE THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE. From the food-stamps bill on the House floor this week to farmland conservation and commodities regulation, there is very little about the nation's food supply that the House Agriculture Committee doesn't help govern. In its latest special issue, National Journal Daily examines the changing nature of the committee, the people who run it, and the issues and challenges they face. Click here to see the issue

  • For decades, the farm bill's political foundation has been the alliance of rural lawmakers, increasingly Republicans, who represent agricultural producers, and urban Democrats, whose poorest constituents rely on food aid. That alliance fell apart this year, as a collection of interactive maps and charts explores.

STOCKS FALL AFTER FED-SPURRED S&P RECORD RALLY. Stocks dropped today, after the S&P 500 Index rose to an all-time record Wednesday following the Federal Reserve's decision to hold off on bond tapering, Bloomberg reports. The sudden change points to a level of confusion between the central bank and the market, with one economist declaring that the two "have not been on the same page." Another added: "Longer term, there's also an indication of a little lack of confidence from the Fed in terms of the economic growth."

EGYPTIAN MILITARY HITS ISLAMIST STRONGHOLD, SENIOR OFFICER KILLED. Egypt's security forces today sacked the town of Kerdasa, near Cairo, which had become an Islamist stronghold, the Associated Press reported. The operation quickly turned violent, as gunmen fired from rooftops at the security forces, killing a senior police officer and injuring at least 10 other officers. The Kerdasa advances illustrate an increased resolve by the military-backed government to suppress strongholds held by supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. "There will be no retreat until [Kerdasa] is cleansed of all terrorist and criminal hideouts," a government spokesman said.

TEXAS COURT OVERTURNS CONVICTION AGAINST DELAY. A Texas appellate court overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Thursday on grounds of "legally insufficient" evidence demonstrating Delay's guilt on charges he wrongfully influenced Texas state elections with corporate money. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to acquit DeLay of all charges, though the government can still make an appeal. DeLay was originally convicted in 2010 for allegedly attempting to influence Texas elections by funneling corporate money to candidates, which prosecutors claimed helped Republicans win the Statehouse and pass GOP-favoring redistricting laws.

IN INTERVIEW, POPE REPROACHES CHURCH FOR FIXATION ON SOCIAL ISSUES. Pope Francis courted controversy today with comments critical of the Catholic Church's preaching against social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," the pope said in an interview. The remarks double down on earlier comments about not judging homosexuality, which made headlines worldwide in July.

TOMORROW

OBAMA TO SPEAK ON JOBS AND THE ECONOMY IN KANSAS CITY AREA. President Obama will continue his economic speaking tour with a visit to the Ford Kansas City Stamping Plant in Claycomo, Mo.

QUOTABLE

"[Capitol Hill aides] may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just go to K Street and make $500,000 a year. Meanwhile, I'm stuck here making $172,000 a year." -- Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga. (National Review)

BEDTIME READING

MORE MATHLETES, FEWER ATHLETES? In 2012, Ernest Singleton, the superintendent for the Premont, Texas, school district, eliminated the district's sports programs, author Amanda Ripley writes for The Atlantic. In a state known for its football, it might seem like a risky move, but during the first semester, the percent of high school students that passed their classes increased by 30 percent. A majority of former exchange students surveyed by Ripley last year said U.S. students valued sports more than their international peers, while many American principals she interviewed defended their focus on sports. Ripley writes that "sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America's international mediocrity in education.... If sports were not central to the mission of American high schools, then what would be?" Read more

TOP TWEETS

  • @brianbeutler: +1.058T RT @MichaelSLinden: Still don't understand why a CR that actively endorses sequester is being called "clean."
  • @SenBobCorker: I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count -- the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position. –BC
  • @CarrollDoherty: Many factors affect a president's job rating but Clinton was often below 50% pre-1995 #shutdown, never after that. pewrsr.ch/X0JKvP
  • @ariellec: Of course only #Florida would produce a murdering #HiccupGirl
  • @trevortimm: DOJ to journalist: Unless you kill your NSA story, we're giving the answers to your questions to another reporter cryptome.org/2013/09/usa-to…
  • @NYDNstraw: Comey: Alexis' shotgun sawed off at stock and barrel; FBI director wouldn't comment on reported engravings.
  • @morningmoneyben: Preparing to go to iOS7 on phone shortly. If you need to call me, please do so in 2014.

CHART OF THE DAY

ON THE MOVE. The United States has the most international migrants residing within its borders—45 million people out of the global total of 232 million, according to a recent study. Russia comes in a distant second, but the data could be flawed, Robert Tenorio, a student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, writes, because many immigrants move illegally. Read more

 

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