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The Edge: Obama Could Look to Virginia on Sequester The Edge: Obama Could Look to Virginia on Sequester

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The Edge: Obama Could Look to Virginia on Sequester

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.

Obama Could Look to Virginia on Sequester


Supporters of President Obama’s insistence on additional revenue as the only way to avoid the sequester should take a close look across the Potomac River for an alternative way of getting things done.

Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell has helped shepherd a bill that raises the state’s sales tax and adds taxes on wholesale gasoline purchases in order to secure long-term funding for transportation.

The conservative governor challenged his own base to secure a lasting legacy, all while appealing to the center. 


There’s no reason—at least to avert the arbitrary pain of the sequester—that Obama couldn’t agree to smaller, better-targeted spending cuts, without corresponding revenue.  Presidents frequently achieve governing successes by taking on their base, providing some goodwill to the opposition party in the process. 

It’s a lesson that Obama could learn from as he remains mired in fights with congressional Republicans over the budget. 

Josh Kraushaar


OBAMA, BIDEN ADDRESS GOVERNORS. President Obama took his sequester message to governors Monday at a White House event. Many of the GOP governors have already offered him more support than their congressional counterparts, and Obama continued to press the message that the cuts must be averted. He also highlighted initiatives for infrastructure and education projects, both of which he stressed should not be stymied by partisanship. "This town has to get past its obsession with focusing on the next election instead of the next generation,” he said. Read more


LITTLE HOPE FOR AVERTING SEQUESTER. Just four days remain until Friday’s sequester deadline, but lawmakers returned to Washington on Monday with little hope for an eleventh-hour solution. Most of the $85 billion in cuts will be stretched out over the remaining seven months of this fiscal year, but the impacts on the economy, government services, and programs could become evident within weeks, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers could face furloughs by April. Read more

  • The Washington Post has “The states most and least affected by the sequester, in one chart.” See the chart here

McCAIN THREATENS HOLD ON BRENNAN NOMINATION FOR MORE WH INTEL. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he will place a hold on John Brennan, Obama’s pick for CIA director, until he gets more of his questions answered about the terrorist attack in Benghazi last September. McCain issued his threat Sunday, though Politico reported recently that the White House would release some documents on the attack to help speed the Brennan confirmation. Read more

SCOTUS WON’T HEAR CORPORATE-CONTRIBUTION CHALLENGE. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the ban on corporate contributions to candidates for federal office, the Associated Press reports. A federal judge had ruled that the ban was unconstitutional before the 4th Circuit reversed that decision. Last week, the high court agreed to hear a separate challenge to the cap on overall personal contributions to candidates and political committees. Read more

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  • “The reform community dodged a bullet” - Rick Hasen, law professor at UC Irvine (Election Law Blog)

VAN HOLLEN: FUTURE MR. SPEAKER? The New Republic taps Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., as a speaker-in-waiting, arguing that he has “diplomatic instincts combined with a daredevil streak.” Author Robert Draper writes: “The last two years have in fact been career-makers for him. From the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations to early January’s fiscal-cliff agreement to the latest sequestration wrangles, Van Hollen has emerged as the Democrats’ leading budgetary strategist on Capitol Hill.” Van Hollen’s rise comes at a moment when the party seems to be on the cusp of a generational shift in leadership. Read more

KENTUCKY DEMS THINK JUDD WILL TAKE ON MCCONNELL. Actress Ashley Judd is making preparations for a long-rumored run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., tells ABC News. "I would be surprised if she doesn't run at this point," Yarmuth said. The congressman says he expects the announcement of a formal decision to come soon. Read more

  • “Don’t Run for Senate, Ashley Judd! It’s a Trap!” - New York Magazine headline

HIGH-STAKES BP TRIAL OPENS IN NEW ORLEANS. A massive civil suit against BP and it contractors brought by the federal government, Gulf states, and private plaintiffs over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill opened in federal court in New Orleans on Monday. The suit could generate tens of billions of dollars in damages, though The New York Times reports that the federal government and the states have offered the company a $16 billion settlement. Absent a settlement, legal proceedings are scheduled to last three months. Read more

FORMER OBAMA AIDE HIRED TO TOUT ‘SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.’ Harvey Weinstein quietly hired former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter to tout his company’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” New York Magazine’s Vulture blog reports. Cutter, whose relationship with the Weinstein Company has not been previously made public, touted the film on Twitter in the weeks leading up to Sunday night’s Oscars and told ABC’s This Week that it was her favorite movie of the year. Read more

  • Another Oscar-winning film, Zero Dark Thirty, has been the subject of intense controversy regarding the usefulness of torture in locating Osama bin Laden, but an Army intelligence Officer, writing in Foreign Policy, says the movie gets things more right than wrong.


HAGEL VOTE COULD COME AS EARLY AS TUESDAY. The Senate is expected to vote as early as Tuesday on the confirmation of Obama’s nominee for Defense secretary, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, even as some Republicans continue urging the president to withdraw the nomination.

LEW VOTE SCHEDULED. President Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, has a vote scheduled in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday. Obama’s former chief of staff, despite questions over his tenure at Citigroup and investments in the Cayman Islands, is expected to have smooth sailing on his way to confirmation. Read more 

HOUSE EXPECTED TO VOTE ON VAWA. The House is expected to act on a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. A Rules Committee hearing is set for Tuesday on an amended version of the Senate-passed bill, and a floor vote is anticipated later in the week. The Senate’s bills last session and this year have been passed with bipartisan votes, but there are still differences to be tackled between the House and the Senate.

OBAMA BRINGS SEQUESTER CAMPAIGN TO VIRGINIA. President Obama will continue to put pressure on Republicans over the sequester on Tuesday, when he travels to a shipyard in Newport News, Va. The shipyard, the biggest industrial employer in the state, depends on the defense industry for its work, and Obama is looking to highlight what he sees as pain for everyday Americans should the automatic budget cuts kick in. Read more

NEGOTIATIONS BEGIN WITH IRAN. Iran negotiators will be meeting with their Western counterparts Tuesday — including the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany — in Kazakhstan, The New York Times reports. But don’t expect a lot of movement, as most experts anticipate that Iran will take a hard line on its nuclear program. Read more


"It would be a great economic stimulus. It would be Christmas for six months or more" — Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., on the benefits of outside money pouring into his state if Ashley Judd decides to run for Senate, quoted by ABC News.


CAN ERIC CANTOR REDEEM HIS PARTY AND HIMSELF? Before the last election, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor scuttled a grand bargain deal on revenue and budget cuts between House Speaker John Boehner and the president. Not wanting to give Obama a political victory ahead of Nov. 6, Cantor took a bet on letting the issues play out in the election cycle. The bet failed, writes Ryan Lizza in a profile of Cantor for The New Yorker, and now Cantor finds himself leading a party divided against itself and in need of an intervention. “It’s a little like a dysfunctional family right now, where everybody knows old Uncle Joe at the end of the table’s an alcoholic, but nobody wants to say it,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. Read more


ARGO IS GREAT, BUT 52 AMERICAN HOSTAGES ARE STILL LOOKING FOR JUSTICE. Argo has been showered with honors, topped by a Best Picture Oscar. There’s no dispute that it is historically inaccurate and ignores a larger tragedy to focus on a tiny sliver of success associated with a humiliating chapter in the nation’s history. But give Argo its due. The film is serving to remind the country of a time, a place, and a debacle at what could be a pivotal moment in the history of the Iranian hostage crisis. The former hostages and their advocates are mobilizing for a Capitol Hill push that they hope will be the final chapter in a 33-year quest for relief and for justice, reports National Journal’s Jill Lawrence. In a few weeks, members of Congress will receive powerful statements and videos from the former hostages and their survivors. Some will be telling their stories publicly for the first time. One is Steven Lauterbach, whose written account opens with this sentence: “I slashed my wrists while in captivity in Iran.” Read more


Ernest Moniz

  • Why he’s in the news: Moniz, an MIT professor, could be Obama’s choice to head the Energy Department, replacing outgoing secretary Steven Chu. Read more
  • Education: B.S. summa cum laude in physics from Boston College; Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University.
  • 67 years old
  • Married to Naomi Moniz for 39 years.

Career Highlights:

  • Moniz received his bachelor’s degree in 1966 and became a faculty member at MITechnology by 1973. He remains on staff to this day.
  • Moniz was a loyal member of the Clinton administration and has worked for the Obama administration. He was undersecretary of the Department of Energy from October 1997 until January 2001, where he was the public face for a leaking incident at a nuclear weapons plant, and the subsequent fallout over how the government handled the radioactive waste.
  • Throughout his career, Moniz has advocated for the expansion of nuclear energy, arguing that untested new options take a long time to develop and are subject to a nuclear-licensing process "which is inherently tortuous." He also supports setting aside $36 billion in government loan guarantees to fund new nuclear-power plants.
  • Moniz is a proponent of fracking and of expanding domestic shale-gas production, which has given some environmentalists pause about his nomination.  
  • In the odds-and-ends category, in a 2009 interview with his alma mater's alumni publication, Moniz said his next goal was to “get better at fly fishing.”

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

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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