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.
Here Comes the Pain
With 10 days to go until billions in automatic budget cuts kick in, Washington on Tuesday decided to pay some more lip service to stopping the sequester.
Bowles and Simpson did their bipartisan-solution thing. President Obama trotted out first responders and blamed Republicans for putting rich folks’ tax breaks above everyday heroes. And Republicans continued to blame Obama for coming up with the sequester idea in the first place.
None of it changed a damn thing.
When these cuts go into effect and start cutting services and programs — and there’s no sign yet that they won’t — people aren’t going to parse the blame. They’re going to be indiscriminately angry.
And public wrath might just be the only thing that can forge a bipartisan solution. Because nothing brings adversaries together like shared pain.
OBAMA TO CONGRESS: YOU MUST FIX THE SEQUESTER. Obama turned up the pressure on House Republicans on Tuesday, using a speech at the White House to emphasize the effects of the looming across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, The Washington Post reports. Surrounded by firefighters and other emergency personnel, Obama said the sequester would take a "meat-cleaver approach" to deficit reduction, at the expense of the poor and middle class. He also said the cuts would "jeopardize" national security and military readiness. Though many on the Hill have resigned themselves to the idea the sequester will take place, Obama is still pushing for another stopgap measure to delay the cuts and allow time for deal-making. Read more
AKIN TOPS MOST CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKER LIST. Topping National Journal's annual list of the most conservative representatives in the House is former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who is perhaps best remembered for his comment about "legitimate rape" during his 2012 campaign for a Senate seat. On the other side of the aisle, 14 lawmakers are tied for the most liberal title, including Reps. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Donna Edwards of Maryland, John Olver of Massachusetts, and four from California: Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Lynn Woolsey. Read more
- Eight of the 14 House members who tied as the most liberal are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group that wields increasing influence. Read more
SUPREME COURT TO TAKE UP POLITICAL-DONATION LIMITS. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a court case challenging campaign finance laws that place limits on how much an individual can donate to political campaigns, the Associated Press reports. In the case, Alabama resident Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee argue “that it's unconstitutional to stop a donor from giving more than $46,200 to political candidates and $70,800 to political committees and PACs. McCutcheon says he accepts that he can only give $2,500 to a single candidate but says he should be able to give that amount to as many GOP candidates as he wants,” AP reported. Previously, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the limits. Read more
GEN. JOHN ALLEN TO RETIRE. In an interview with The Washington Post, the leader of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan said he would be retiring from the military because his wife is seriously ill. “Right now, I’ve just got to get her well,” Allen said. “It’s time to take care of my family.” Allen, who had been nominated to be supreme allied commander in Europe, denied that his retirement had to do with a Pentagon investigation over e-mail exchanges he made with a Tampa socialite, who was part of the scandal that felled CIA Director David Petraeus. Read more
- The retirement “deprives Obama of a four-star general with whom he had built a close wartime relationship and forces the White House to find a new candidate for the military’s most prestigious overseas assignment,” The Post writes.
SCOTT BROWN ‘THINKING ABOUT’ GOV RUN. Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., isn’t being coy about his gubernatorial intentions. In an interview with Fox 25 in Boston on Monday night, Brown said he is “thinking about” a run for governor next year. “I’m not going to be one of those ‘Ooh, I’m really not thinking about it,’ ” he said, according to The Boston Globe. “Of course I’m thinking about it. He added that while he is mulling, he’s learning Spanish and how to play the guitar. Current Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick is eligible for a third term in 2014, but has announced he will not seek reelection. Read more
AXELROD JOINS NBC NEWS. David Axelrod, a chief strategist for President Obama’s two presidential campaigns, will join NBC News and MSNBC as a senior political analyst, The Washington Post reports. Axelrod, a frequent MSNBC guest, also served as a senior adviser in the White House for two years during Obama's first term. Read more
MASSIVE CYBERATTACKS TIED TO CHINESE ARMY UNIT. A detailed 60-page report released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, has tracked individual members of the most sophisticated Chinese hacking groups to the exact building where a Chinese military unit is headquartered, The New York Times reports. “A growing body of digital forensic evidence—confirmed by American intelligence officials who say they have tapped into the activity of the army unit for years—leaves little doubt that an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organizations, and government agencies originate in and around the white tower,” The Times reports. The Chinese defense ministry has denied it is responsible for initiating the digital attacks. Read more
A POTENTIAL TEA-PARTY CHALLENGE FOR McCONNELL. Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin is gauging support from local tea-party groups as he contemplates a 2014 Senate run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, The Hill reports. Other tea-party groups also reached out to Bevin to encourage him to run, according to Duran, including some who had supported McConnell in the past. Kentucky insiders have long thought McConnell, who is one of the least popular senators in the country, will face a tougher challenge from the right than from the left, and Bevin's tea-party backing, personal wealth and compelling story could make things tough for McConnell. Read more
RUBIO TURNS HIS THIRST INTO MONEY. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is getting more than late-night show attention from his water bottle grab in the GOP’s State of the Union rebuttal. He’s getting money. His Reclaim America PAC raised more than $100,000 from a “Get Your Marco Water Bottle Today” promotion, according to Politico. Since last Wednesday at 8 p.m., when the first e-mail went out about the promotion, the PAC has sold more than 4,000 water bottles. The website reads, “Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you … he hydrates you too.” Read more
KERRY’S FIRST SPEECH TO DISCUSS FOREIGN ‘INVESTMENT.’ John Kerry will deliver his first speech as secretary of State on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the University of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson, the school’s founder, was the country’s first secretary of State). The speech will focus on how “a relatively small investment in our foreign policy and diplomatic efforts results in a big return for America’s economy and security,” according to a release. The speech will be the first in a series of addresses by Kerry. Read more
WILL FED SIGNAL AN END TO STIMULUS? The Federal Reserve will release minutes of last month’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday. Markets are weighing whether the Fed will signal that it will be ending its third round of stimulus measures, known as quantitative easing. Gold declined for the fourth session in a row Tuesday. Read more
'INSIDE THE GIF-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.' How do you make arcane jobs numbers—“a stultifying mix of acronyms and technical terms”—comprehensible to a mass audience? Mike Konczal, an economics specialist with the Roosevelt Institute, had an idea: GIFs, the ubiquitous web animation feature. How better to explain Ben Bernanke’s emotional state than with a Ron Burgundy GIF? Writing in The New Republic, Chadwick Matlin charts the rise of the GIF in 2012 and answers the question, “How did a humble file format that had been largely forgotten reemerge as the Web’s definitive aesthetic?” Read more
"First of all, I rarely drink. The last time I was ever drunk was at my bachelor party and that was what — 28 years ago, 27 years ago? So I guess no one has ever pocket-dialed or pocket-tweeted before." Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., explaining that some tweets he sent out last month were accidental, and not the result of inebriation. Read more.
NEW PLAN FROM SIMPSON, BOWLES, BUT SAME RESULT LIKELY. The outlook is bleak for any "grand bargain" on reducing the nation's debt, according to Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who headed a now-defunct debt commission in 2010. The two unveiled a new plan Tuesday that splits the difference between proposals offered by White House and congressional Republicans, and they hope to pressure the two sides to act. But they aren't optimistic about getting anything done. The new plan would reduce the deficit by $2.4 trillion over the next decade, with larger cuts to Medicare and Medicaid than the White House wants, and far more revenue than the House GOP have heretofore supported. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein takes readers through some of the details. Read more
SWEATIN’ TO IMMIGRATION REFORM. It wasn't good luck or a firm handshake that endeared Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to the more established group of senators working together on immigration, Roll Call reports. It was an early morning workout in the Senate gym, where he shared machines with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “It’s funny how it happened," Durbin said. "I open up the Senate gym in the morning ... at 5:30, and he usually shows up a little bit before 6. So we’ve come to know one another.” And they aren't the only gym rats making immigration plans over the free weights. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have also talked in the Senate gym about the issue. The so-called "Gang of Eight" plans to have a bipartisan bill on the subject by March. Read more