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The Sequester: From Doomsday to Darling
My, we've traveled a long way in just a few days.
On the eve of the sequester, economic Armageddon was said to be looming. Now, Wall Street is soaring, and a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that the public, by a 61-33 percent margin, supports "cutting the overall budget along the lines of the sequester that took effect last Friday." Everyone's talking about how the sequester will slice "only" about 0.5 percent from GDP growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans are feeling good about themselves, having administered a dose of their favorite elixir: sharp spending cuts with no new taxes. The angry game of brinksmanship has been set aside for the moment as Congress finalizes a new continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. In fact, a group of previously cantankerous GOP senators will join President Obama for a dinner tonight.
Is a "grand bargain" back on the table? If so, it may be thanks again to all those good feelings surrounding the sequester.
REID SAYS SENATE CAN GO HOME IF GOP ENDS BRENNAN FILIBUSTER. With Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., conducting a rare talking filibuster on the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, Majority Leader Harry Reid is offering to let the Senate go home if Republicans allow a floor vote today, The Hill reports. If not, the vote will have to wait until Friday. Most in the Senate are still hoping to hold a vote on Brennan today, including Intelligence Committee ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Concerned over a snowstorm in Washington, the House pushed up its votes to wrap up business earlier. Read more
- Rand Paul from the Senate floor: "Are you just going to drop a Hellfire missile on Jane Fonda?"
HOUSE VOTES TO EXTEND CONTINUING RESOLUTION. The House voted 267-151 to keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year and avert a shutdown at the end of the month, the Huffington Post reports. The House bill also gives the Pentagon more flexibility to shift the burden of sequestration cuts away from vital programs. The Senate is expected to extend that flexibility to other government programs when it takes up the bill. Read more
COST OF ‘SNOWQUESTER’ COULD BE AS HIGH AS $71 MILLION. The heavy snow that was expected to pummel Washington turned out to be mostly hype (the snow total at Reagan National Airport as of 1 p.m. Wednesday was 0.2 inches) in all but one department: cost. According to government figures compiled after a 2010 storm, each time the federal government shuts down, it means approximately $71 million in lost productivity each day, The Washington Post reported at the time. The figure can vary based on the number of employees who work remotely. Read more
OBAMA TO VISIT WITH HOUSE, SENATE REPUBLICANS NEXT WEEK. Obama will attend a lunch with Senate Republicans on Tuesday. He’s also scheduling a time to meet with House Republicans, an unnamed GOP aide tells Roll Call. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that the conversation over lunch will focus on fiscal and economic issues. And tonight, barring any weather interruptions, he’s scheduled to meet with a dozen Republican members of Congress over dinner, The New York Times reports. Read more
OBAMA COURT NOMINEE BLOCKED; DURBIN SUGGESTS FILIBUSTER REFORM. After another filibuster Wednesday of Obama nominee Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Sen. Dick Durbin proposed reopening discussions on filibuster reform that had seemingly been settled in January, Roll Call reports. “I hate to suggest this, but if this is an indication of where we’re headed, we need to revisit the rules again,” the Illinois Democrat said. “We need to go back to it again. I’m sorry to say it because I was hopeful that a bipartisan approach to dealing with these issues would work.” Read more
MCCAIN: VISA ISSUE COULD BE BIG HURDLE TO IMMIGRATION REFORM. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tells The Wall Street Journal that negotiations with labor over an overhaul of the visa system for high-skilled and agricultural workers could be a major roadblock to comprehensive immigration reform. Labor groups have been “pretty adamant about some of their positions,” he said. Read more
FRESHMAN DEM ‘SAD’ GRASSLEY TONING DOWN ON TWITTER. Reddit users aren’t the only ones upset that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, known for his unorthodox musings on Twitter, has decided to stick to dry policy tweets in the future. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., confessed to BuzzFeed that the news makes him “so sad.” Murphy says he would like to see more lawmakers show personality in their tweets. Read more
- Classic @ChuckGrassley from October: “Fred and I hit a deer on hiway 136 south of Dyersville. After I pulled fender rubbing on tire we continued to farm. Assume deer dead” (Last year, Politico compiled 12 more favorites)
GIFFORDS REVISITS SCENE OF HER SHOOTING. Gabrielle Giffords revisited the scene of the 2011 shooting that left six dead and the former Democratic representative from Arizona critically wounded. She appeared at a Safeway in Tucson as part of an effort to encourage stricter gun laws, and spoke briefly (audio here). “Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks,” she said. Read more
FOX NEWS CHIEF BLASTS GINGRICH, BIDEN. Fox News chief Roger Ailes does not have kind words for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an upcoming biography by Zev Chafets. In an excerpt published in Vanity Fair, Ailes appears perturbed by Gingrich's actions during his 2012 presidential run, particularly his complaints that Fox News was a Mitt Romney booster during the Republican primaries. Ailes reportedly said of Gingrich, "He's a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner." Ailes offered some thoughts on Vice President Joe Biden, too. "I have a soft spot for Joe Biden," Ailes told Chafets. "I like him. But he's dumb as an ashtray.” Read more
OBAMA TO SIGN VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT. Members of women’s organizations, law-enforcement officers, and lawmakers will join Obama on Thursday as he signs the Violence Against Women Act at the Department of the Interior. Vice President Joe Biden, who authored the original law in 1994, will also attend. “The law strengthens the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking,” a White House spokesman said.
HOUSE BREAKS EARLY DUE TO SNOW. After passing a resolution to fund the government for six months on Wednesday, the House broke early. No votes are scheduled for Thursday or Friday. Read more
"We've all had conversations in the White House, when we've said, 'I can't wait to leave so I can respond to this on Twitter'" -- ex-WH speechwriter Jon Favreau (New York Times).
CHAVEZ: CRAZY MAN, STRATEGIC THINKER, OPPRESSIVE AUTOCRAT, OR ALL OF THE ABOVE? Hugo Chávez’ death has stirred a discussion of the Venezuelan president—some might say dictator or autocrat—and his legacy. But Chávez is a man Americans have been trying to figure out for years. A 2006 profile in The Atlantic explored the impact and psyche of the leader, asking the question, “How dangerous is he?” Chávez certainly had free reign to impose his will, even if it was fickle and whimsical. Chávez “changed the country's official name, shifted its time zone by half-an-hour on a whim and added an extra star to the flag. At one point, he ordered the National Coat of Arms changed on his then 9-year-old daughter's suggestion.” These bizarre actions often led to other leaders dismissing Chávez. “But Chávez is not just a clown with some oil money in his pocket,” Franklin Foer wrote in The Atlantic. “He is a deliberate strategic thinker—ham-fisted at times, but also capable of tactical brilliance.” Read more
CAPITOL COMPLEX IS BOTH LEGISLATIVE CENTER AND FOOD COURT. For people-watching in D.C., The New York Times recommends the Capitol’s various eateries. There are more than a dozen in total, each with its own vibe and varying levels of exclusivity. In the Russell Senate Office Building, for example, the coffee and sandwiches at the Korean Deli Cups & Company are “Washington’s most convincing arguments for private enterprise on government property.” But don’t expect to bump casually into Congressional leaders, even in congressional eateries. On Capitol Hill, the truly powerful eat in. Read more
DEADLINE FOR REGULATIONS HEAD APPROACHES. President Obama has signaled an increasing willingness to use executive power to push his second term agenda, and multitudes of new rules are currently in consideration at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, The Hill reports. But the top post in the office -- which is described as "the most powerful office you've never heard of" -- has been vacant since last August, after Cass Sunstein's departure. According to federal statute, the acting administrator can only serve for 210 days without Senate confirmation, so acting director Boris Bershteyn's tenure is almost up. Obama could let Bershteyn step down to deputy director and continue running the office, as he did with Jeffrey Zients at the Office of Management and Budget, but either way, with a slew of regulations in the pipeline, he'll have to act quickly. Read more