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Nobody Spoils a Good Story Like Congress
Enjoy the good news, America, while it lasts.
The Labor Department reported today that U.S. employers added 165,000 jobs in April and far more in February and March than expected, despite tax increases and federal spending cuts.
Enter Congress. Lawmakers return from vacation Monday to begin squabbling over another self-created economic crisis: the nation’s debt limit. House Republicans will push a bill signaling no retreat from their demands for more spending cuts as a condition for avoiding default.
Also on Congress’s crowded agenda:
- A bill that would give states the ability to require large Internet retailers like Amazon to collect sales taxes on behalf of local governments, raising as much as $11 billion in new tax revenues.
- A hearing Thursday on the Boston Marathon bombing that will likely include second-guessing of the Obama administration.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee debates immigration reform.
JOBS REPORT BEATS PROJECTIONS, BUT LAGS BEHIND NECESSARY GROWTH. The Labor Department released its monthly jobs report this morning, reflecting faster-than-expected increases in employment in April and an upward revision of the employment figures for February and March. Nonfarm payrolls added 165,000 jobs in April, and overall unemployment dropped to 7.5 percent, a level not seen since December 2008. The figures beat economists’ projections ahead of the report. Despite the gains, the growth rate lagged behind the first-quarter monthly average of 206,000 jobs added, signaling a potential economic slowdown. The increases were driven by private-sector growth, as public-sector employment dropped by 11,000 in April. Economists estimate that employment must grow by an average of 300,000 positions per month to markedly reduce unemployment. Read more
- The glaring caveat to this jobs report is the huge number of Americans who remain out of the workforce, National Journal's Nancy Cook reports. The labor force participation rate held steady in April at 63.3 percent—the lowest level since 1979. Read more
OBAMA IN MEXICO CITY: COUNTRIES ARE ‘GREATEST OF PARTNERS.’ In a speech at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City this morning, President Obama expounded on the relationship between Mexico and the United States. “This is your moment,” Obama said. “As you dream for that future, always remember that you have the greatest of partners, the greatest of friends, the nation that is rooting for your success more than anybody else, your neighbor, the United States of America.” The president also addressed the ongoing debate over immigration reform, telling the crowd, “I am optimistic that after years of trying, we are going to get it done this year. I'm absolutely convinced of it.” Obama also urged the abandonment of “old stereotypes” on both sides of the border. Read more
- Obama told the crowd, “In fact, without the support of Latinos, including so many Mexican-Americans, I would not be standing here today as president of the United States. That's the truth.” Read more
INOUYE’S WIDOW BACKS HANABUSA IN SPECIAL ELECTION. Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, has endorsed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii in the special election to replace her husband. Sen. Inouye wrote to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, shortly before his death to urge Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to his seat. Abercrombie instead appointed his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz. “Shortly after she was elected president of the Hawaii state Senate, Dan recognized that Colleen was more than capable of succeeding him and he began to mentor her,” Irene Inouye said in a statement. “His last wish was that Colleen serve out his term because he was confident in her ability to step into the Senate and immediately help Hawaii. I am honoring one of his last requests, and look forward to supporting Colleen on the campaign trail.” Read more
STATE DEPARTMENT WILL NOT FURLOUGH EMPLOYEES THIS YEAR. The State Department will not furlough any of its employees due to budget cuts imposed by sequestration, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy said today. Ultimately the department will have to cut $400 million from its budget, rather than the $850 million that was initially expected. Kennedy said that in light of this revision and cost-cutting measures such as travel and hiring reductions, the department will avoid furloughs at least until the end of the current budget year. Read more
PRITZKER NOD COULD HIGHLIGHT ‘TENSE RELATIONSHIP’ WITH JARRETT. President Obama’s nomination Thursday of Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker to serve as Commerce secretary brings to Washington a rivalry with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, BuzzFeed reports. Jarrett reportedly attempted to “torpedo” the appointment on the grounds that labor groups would oppose Pritzker due to tensions with the Hyatt Hotel corporation, which is controlled by her family. Pritzker has close ties to the business community, which in large part backed her nomination Thursday. Read more
- The Washington Post has a graphic showing Obama’s second-term Cabinet members and current nominees, including a demographic breakdown.
THE GOP’S ‘OBAMACARE’ PLOY. A legislative proposal from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., will keep alive the controversy over whether Democrats in Congress really want their colleagues in government to get their insurance on new health exchanges--a story that is playing well for Republicans. But it will come at the cost of a federal-employee health insurance system that conservatives have long held up as a model for how insurance should be delivered, National Journal’s Margot Sanger-Katz reports. Read more
STOPPING TERRORISM AT ITS SOURCE. The more we learn about the Boston Marathon bombings, the greater our sense that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspected perpetrators, could have been stopped. It’s a seductive notion: The families of an 8-year-old boy, two young women, and a campus police officer might still have their loved ones today, and that dozens of others might still possess limbs and their former lives, if only the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies had pieced together clues that in hindsight appear obvious. After an era when homeland terrorism was nearly forgotten, Americans had better be set for the next threat, and fast, National Journal’s Michael Hirsh reports in this week’s magazine cover story. Read more
- National Journal’s James Oliphant reports on the sticky issue of the death penalty and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Read more
WHAT IS A RED LINE WORTH? The United States can’t bluff. That is the consensus inside the White House on the issuing of “red lines,” including President Obama’s publicly declared prohibition against Syria using or transferring its chemical weapons, or Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. But as National Journal’s James Kitfield reports, Syria is testing the idea that nations can’t cross the United States. What happens if other countries copy it? Read more
THE CAJUN COMEBACK. New Orleans officials are trying surprising new approaches that, before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, would have been impossible. These tactics aren’t designed merely to repair the damage and restore the city that was, but to improve on it. A crisis, New Orleanians seem to have collectively decided, is a terrible thing to waste. From education to tech to film, residents have turned their town into a laboratory for civic experimentation. They’re luring Hollywood studios by teaching themselves showbiz tricks, advancing a state tax-credit program launched before Katrina. They’re running new data-driven nonprofits. And they’ve chartered more than 80 percent of the school system, National Journal’s Adam Kushner reports. Read more
- Don't miss this Q&A with a man who has the wind at his back, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED: THE AL FRANKEN COOKBOOK. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has published a cookbook of recipes from the state delegation’s annual “Hotdish Cook-Off,” which took place April 10. Among the offerings are the contest-winning “Hermann the German Hotdish” from Democratic Rep. Tim Walz and the “Hormel ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not SPAM’ Pepperoni Pizza Hotdish” from Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The book is available for download online. Read more
"I pray that Hillary Clinton decides to run for president of the United States." –Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking in Arkansas (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A ZOO OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS IS RELEASED ON A TOWN? Early one evening in Zanesville, Ohio, retired schoolteacher Sam Kopchak was doing a routine check on his horses, walking toward a barn when his eye caught something out of place, “just sitting there on the ground, facing their way. A fully grown male African lion,” writes Chris Heath for GQ in his National Magazine Award-winning piece about a depressed, desperate man, Terry Thompson, who set a vast array of exotic animals loose—including 18 tigers, 17 lions, eight bears, three cougars, two wolves, one baboon, and one macaque. Heath chronicles the tragic hunt for the animals that played out in the days after their release, and the national discussion that ensued about the unregulated world of exotic pets that is much more commonplace than most people could imagine. Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
OBAMA IN MEXICO. President Obama’s trip to Mexico had Jay Leno dwelling on two of his favorite political topics: Obama’s economic record and the immigration issue. The president is in Mexico to talk with leaders there about the North American economy and immigration, which prompted the Tonight Show host to say that Obama “actually has to leave the country” to tout any economic successes. Leno later compared talking about immigration in Mexico to touting same-sex marriage in San Francisco. Stephen Colbert jumped on Obama’s recent comments about closing the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay. With hunger strikes ongoing, Colbert mentioned Mahatma Gandhi’s fame in the arena. Watch it here
THINK DEMOCRATS HAVE MILLENNIALS LOCKED UP? THINK AGAIN. President Obama carried the 18-to-29-year-old voting bloc by 34 points in 2008 and by 23 points last year. But a national survey of millennial voters conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics suggests that this emerging generation might not be as locked into the Democratic camp as conventional wisdom suggests, and that young voters exhibit some of the same stark partisan divides as older Americans, The Cook Political Report’s Charlie Cook writes. Read more
SYRIA, BOSTON AND IMMIGRATION ON TAP. This week the Sunday shows are focusing on Syria and the continuing investigation on the Boston Marathon Bombing. The specter of immigration reform will also have a role in the programming. President Obama will appear on Univision's Al Punto. Read more
- NBC’s Meet the Press hosts Sen. Patrick Leahy D-Vt.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R; former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.; Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
- CBS’s Face the Nation hosts Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; Mike Rogers, R-Mich.; and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.
- ABC’s This Week hosts businessman Warren Buffett; former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, D.
- Fox News Sunday hosts Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.
- CNN’s State of the Union hosts Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
- Bloomberg’s Capitol Gains hosts NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
- C-SPAN’s Newsmakers hosts Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.
- Univision's Al Punto features President Obama, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Venezuela Opposition Member of Parliament Julio Borges and Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel