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.
Tempest Over the Tea Party?
Based on the coverage of Ted Cruz, Paul LePage, Matt Bevin, and Lamar Alexander's primary this week, there's been ample opportunity to argue that a tea-party takeover is occurring within the GOP. But there have been more-important developments suggesting the base's bark is worse than its bite.
More conservative leaders are now backing away from talk of defunding Obamacare, joining the establishment skepticism of such strategy. Scott Walker didn't take the bait. Even Rand Paul said his legislative efforts were designed to facilitate a compromise, not shut down the government. GOP leadership will likely hold a repeal vote to appease House conservatives, but fear of a government shutdown is subsiding.
Meanwhile, the anticipated conservative anger over comprehensive immigration reform never materialized at town halls. Immigration isn't an issue spurring primary opposition to GOP incumbents. That doesn't mean a bill will be passed, but a conservative blowback against immigration-reform supporters is unlikely.
Red-meat rhetoric guarantees media attention, but that outsized publicity can be deceiving. After all, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain were flashes in the presidential pan. Mitt Romney won the nomination.
OBAMA AIMS TO INCENTIVIZE REINING IN COSTS OF COLLEGE. President Obama promised today to reward colleges that keep their cost of attendance down--and punish those that do not--by using $150 billion in federal student aid and a ranking system as leverage, The New York Times reports."Colleges are not going to just be able to keep on increasing tuition year after year and passing it on to students," Obama said to a crowd at the University at Buffalo. "We can't price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of college." Obama said colleges that allow tuition to soar should be penalized with less aid, and those that keep costs down will get more money. Read more
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO CHALLENGE TEXAS VOTER ID LAW. Weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department announced today plans to challenge a voter ID law in Texas on grounds it violates the VRA as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, The Washington Post reports. Additionally, the department will join a challenge to the state's Republican-led redistricting plans. Despite the gutting of the VRA, Attorney General Eric Holder has said his department will pursue other legal means to protect the voting rights of minorities. "We will not allow the Supreme Court's recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights," Holder said. Read more
SYRIA PRESSURED TO ALLOW U.N. ACCESS TO POTENTIAL GASSING SCENE. Western powers are strongly pushing Syria to allow United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to be allowed immediate access to Damascus suburbs where poison gas may have been deployed to kill hundreds of people, Reuters reports. Grisly images of the scene have prompted comparisons to the gassing of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in 1988. Strong rhetoric from countries in the West, especially France, called for the global community to respond with force if the allegations against the Syrian government are true. Britain also said all options are on the table "that might save innocent lives in Syria," but without U.S. support--which appears unlikely to come, at this point--there is little European powers can do. Read more
- Reports of the chemical weapon use prompted immediate outrage from the U.S., which condemned the possible attack and called for an immediate investigation, Newsy's Elizabeth Hagedorn reports for National Journal. But will anything change? Watch here
MUBARAK RELEASED FROM PRISON, FLOWN TO HOSPITAL. Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak was released from prison and flown to a nearby hospital in Cairo today, a move that complies with orders from judicial authorities who ordered his release, Al Jazeera reports. Mubarak, who was ousted in January 2011 following a massive popular uprising, will be placed under house arrest and is still expected to face criminal charges. Prosecutors had 48 hours to appeal Mubarak's release, but chose not to challenge it. The release "confirms what everyone already knows, that Egypt is moving towards a full-blown autocracy," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center. "It's not just returning to what it was under the Mubarak era, but something significantly worse." Read more
- Al Jazeera has created an interactive graphic charting international responses--in terms of economic aid, trade, and political stances--to the ongoing turmoil in Egypt. See it here
SOME LOCAL GOVERNMENTS CUTTING WORKERS' HOURS DUE TO ACA. Several cities and counties are choosing to reduce the number of hours their part-time employees work instead of dealing with the possibility of spending hundreds of thousands in new health-care costs under the Affordable Care Act, The Washington Post reports. "It's not something we prefer to do, but the cost of health insurance is significant and would really impact municipal budgets," said a New Jersey township administrator. "It's not something we can take on, particularly when we don't know some of the other ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. There are far more questions than answers right now." Meanwhile, UPS said Wednesday it will stop providing coverage to spouses of employees who can obtain coverage from their own employers. Read more
- Despite grumblings to the contrary from skittish businesses, experts remain skeptical that ACA is causing coverage reductions or changes, The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump reports. Read more
JOBLESS CLAIMS OVER PAST MONTH FELL TO FIVE-YEAR LOW. Jobless claims for the month ending Aug. 17 dipped to 330,500 a week on average, which marks the lowest four-week average figure since November 2007, Bloomberg reports. The numbers released today by the Labor Department suggest "legitimate improvement in the labor market," senior economist Ryan Sweet of Moody's Analytics said, adding, "It's more important to put the emphasis on the trend in claims, which remains favorable." The numbers align with the median forecast from 48 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Read more
OBAMA FACES TOUGH TASK WITH COMMEMORATIVE SPEECH NEXT WEEK. President Obama will deliver a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial next week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" address, and the pressure is already on, with "split-screen comparisons (between King and Obama) ... inevitable as they are unwanted," The New York Times reports. "It's a hugely daunting challenge," said Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for former President Clinton. "If you give some sort of wonky address on the economic agenda, I think it will sink like a stone. It will have to have some lift." Read more
- A new study examining race in America 50 years after King's speech at the March on Washington shows that nearly half of all Americans think there's a lot of work left to be done to achieve racial equality, National Journal's Matt Berman reports. Read more
FILNER MAY RESIGN AS SOON AS FRIDAY. Embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will resign if the San Diego City Council accepts a proposed mediation agreement, CNN and local television stations report. "It is still our understanding that his resignation is part of the deal that the San Diego City Council needs to sign off on during tomorrow's closed session," an official said, adding that "until that happens, I don't believe you will see an official resignation." Filner, a former Democratic representative from California, has been under growing pressure to resign following a stream of sexual-harassment allegations from 18 women. Read more
WHAT ECONOMIC IMPACT DO IMMIGRANT WORKERS REALLY HAVE? The immigration-reform debate always returns to familiar questions concerning how legalizing immigrants and allowing more low-skill laborers will impact the economy and, in particular, native-born workers and their wages, The Wall Street Journal reports. Economists generally agree that little evidence exists to show new, legal immigrants take jobs away from locals, and they don't drive down wages. But on other issues, including long-term pay decline in places such as the meatpacking industry, economists remain more divided. A meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo., that was raided seven years ago by agents looking for undocumented workers may give some answers, The Journal notes. Read more
MANNING: 'I AM A FEMALE.' A day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in leaking secret military and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning publicly announced a desire to be referred to as a woman and begin hormone treatment "as soon as possible," the Associated Press reports. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female," Manning said in a statement given to NBC's Today. A spokesman, however, said the Army does not provide such treatment or sex-reassignment surgery to its inmates. Manning will serve out his sentence at an all-male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Read more
- Two ongoing legal proceedings about transgender treatment in prisons may pave the way for allowing the military to provide Manning with the appropriate treatment, National Journal's Brian Resnick reports. Read more
OBAMA CONTINUES BUS TOUR IN NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA. President Obama will participate in a middle-class bus tour and town-hall event to "lay out a plan to make college more affordable, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families" at 12:45 p.m. at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at 4:55 p.m. at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa.
RALLY, PROCESSION TO COMMEMORATE MARCH ANNIVERSARY. United for Peace and Justice will hold a commemorative rally as part of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, with commemorative remarks and a wreath-laying ceremony at 8 p.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, followed by a candlelight procession to the Martin Luther King Memorial for commemorative remarks and a wreath-laying ceremony.
"Sergeant, you don't know me, but every year I'm the No.1 pick of all the law-enforcement agencies in Texas. I'm the No. 1 pick and I want you to do whatever is the proper thing." -- Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, who called the Allen Police Department to try to get his niece-in-law Ellen Bevers out of jail after she was arrested for allegedly shoplifting (KXAS-TV)
COMING TOGETHER. Until the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, residents rarely considered the danger of being a volunteer firefighter. It had been decades since one died on duty — of a heart attack — and the last time the town faced a serious threat was in 1896, Texas Monthly's Katy Vine reports. But, in the aftermath of the April 17 explosion, which killed 15 people, everyone in the small, tight-knit town knew someone that had died. Because of the familiarity and generational continuity, residents could usually point out which family included a firefighter; a job which, Vine writes, is "a natural extension" of the dedication to community that West residents cite. Following the explosion, Vine writes, "when the West Volunteer Fire Department posted five new open positions, thirteen people applied. Nobody was surprised." Read more
TODAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
BUT WHAT ABOUT SNAPE? In case you're still mourning the end of the Harry Potter series, BuzzFeed breaks down the congressional doppelgangers for 22 characters. The level of actual resemblance varies from Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., as Draco Malfoy — it's uncanny — to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as Lucius Malfoy. Other picks include Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., as Ron Weasley; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as Dolores Umbridge; and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., as Harry Potter, the boy who lived. See the rest here