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The Band-Aid Congress
Republicans and Democrats have taken the "no blame, no (political) gain" game to new heights as they race to pin fault for increased student-loan rates on each other.
The fight over how to bring the rates back down perfectly encapsulates everything that's wrong with this Congress.
First, they missed the deadline to take action, proving once again that not even a good old-fashioned deadline can force bipartisan action on a pressing issue. Perhaps more importantly, all the noise over student-loan rates misses the much bigger problem of college affordability. In fact, a new paper argues that the government's support of student loans "designed to improve access to college has had the unintended consequence of increasing the cost of college."
But this being the Band-Aid Congress, don't expect much debate over how to lower the soaring cost of higher education. Once they patch up student-loan rates, our leaders will move on to treat another symptom, again leaving the real illnesses for another day.
HOUSE GOP MAY SPLIT FARM BILL. After being harshly criticized for the failure of the farm bill in the House, Republican leaders have decided to split the 1,000-plus-page bill into two parts—farms and nutrition, Roll Call reports. The farm-only portion of the bill is being whipped for a vote that a GOP leadership aide says could happen as early as this week, with the nutrition portion to follow later. Whether the votes are there to pass the bill in two parts remains to be seen. The decision to split the bill comes after Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., harshly criticized the seven Republican committee chairmen who voted against the original comprehensive bill in June, mainly because of expensive food-stamp programs tied in with farm policy. Read more
LEADERS IN EGYPT WANT CIVILIAN CONTROL WITHIN 6 MONTHS. Following a mass killing of more than 50 Islamist protesters, the military leaders of Egypt's interim government outlined a six-month plan today for the country to regain civilian democracy and hold elections, The New York Times reports. The Muslim Brotherhood rejected the timetable, still calling last week's military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi illegitimate. Acting head of state Adli Mansour also named liberal economist and former finance minister Hazem el-Beblawi as prime minister and Mohamed ElBaradei as deputy to the president. Read more
- Egypt's army chief Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi took a shot at the conservative Islamist Al Nour party today by saying he will not accept political "maneuvering," the Associated Press reports. Read more
SNOWDEN ASYLUM OFFER RAISES PROFILE OF VENEZUELA'S MADURO. Recently elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's pursuit of asylum to increase tension with the Obama administration, The Washington Post reports. Maduro announced Friday his country would grant asylum to the fugitive, and added on Monday that he had received a written asylum request from Snowden. "To figure internationally, to show that he is a player among big powers, he offered asylum to Snowden," said a former Venezuelan official. "This grabs headlines, and it shows that he's a strong president, one with character, and that he's capable of challenging the United States." Read more
RAIL COMPANY PRESIDENT DENIES SPOTTY SAFETY RECORD. In the wake of an oil train derailment on Saturday that destroyed part of a Quebec town and killed at least 13 people, Rail World President Edward Burkhardt refuted allegations today that his company has a questionable history of safety, the Associated Press reports. Combating the claim from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation that his train company has had eight derailments and 10 spills since 2009, Burkhardt said the company has only experienced small incidents in recent years. Read more
- The Canadian train disaster is refocusing attention to the debate on—and dangers of—oil transportation, The Washington Post reports. Read more
COMEY CALLS WATERBOARDING TORTURE, DEFENDS SURVEILLANCE. James Comey, President Obama's pick to be the next FBI director, plainly called waterboarding torture and defended the use of government surveillance and intelligence programs as "a valuable tool in counterterrorism" during his testimony at today's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, The New York Times reports. Comey was deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005 under President Bush and said he urged the government at the time to stop using waterboarding as an interrogation tactic. Comey's nomination has garnered strong bipartisan support, though some—including Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.—have expressed concern about his approval of "enhanced interrogation techniques" during his time with the Bush administration. Read more
FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE ADMITS FLAWS IN INTELLIGENCE COURT. James Robertson, a former federal district judge based in Washington, said today that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that reviews the NSA's surveillance programs is flawed due to a lack of legal opposition, the Associated Press reports. "This process needs an adversary," said Robertson, who served on the FISC from 2002 to 2005, adding that the court "has turned into something like an administrative agency." In a Senate hearing today, Comey disagreed, saying the court is "anything but a rubber stamp." Read more
- In 2006, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., anticipated exactly how the government would stretch, exploit, and abuse vague language—and was derided for it, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf writes. Read more
HARRY REID CONDEMNS PLANS TO ADDRESS STUDENT LOAN RATES. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today attacked both a House Republican plan to address rising student-loan rates and a bipartisan one in the Senate as detrimental to students, Politico reports. "If the legislation passed by House Republicans or the plan by Senate Republicans becomes law, student loan rates would more than double over the next few years as interest rates increased," Reid said. "We should support a plan that would be better for students, not worse for students," The majority leader is pushing for a one-year extension of subsidized student loan rates of 3.4 percent, a rate that automatically doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 because Congress failed to pass any new legislation. Read more
- College affordability is often thought of as a young person's issue, but the truth is that most young Americans aren't in college full-time—and most college students aren't all that young, National Journal's Elahe Izadi reports. Read more
PILOTS INTERVIEWED AFTER SAN FRANCISCO CRASH. The four pilots on board Asiana Airlines Flight 214 when the plane crashed at San Francisco International Airport are being interviewed by American and South Korean investigators looking to clarify the state of communications in the cockpit, the Associated Press reports. The pilot at the controls, while experienced at flying other aircraft, was being trained to fly Boeing 777s by the three other pilots on board. It is unclear why the four pilots did not react sooner to the loss of speed that may have contributed to the crash. Authorities also are reviewing first-response efforts, after fire officials acknowledged that an emergency vehicle might have run over and killed one of the passengers. Read more
REPORT: RAND PAUL AIDE HAS CONTROVERSIAL PAST. Jack Hunter, a staffer to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who contributed to Paul's 2011 book, "spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist," the Washington Free Beacon reports. In an interview with the Beacon, Hunter "renounced most of his comments" from that period, which addressed issues such as racial pride and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. "Sen. Paul holds his staff to a standard that includes treating every individual with equal protection and respect, without exception," spokeswoman Moira Bagley said in a statement provided to the Beacon. Read more
- As has been the case for much of his political career, Paul can't shake off the fringe, National Journal's Matt Berman writes. Read more
HOUSE REPUBLICANS MEET ON IMMIGRATION. House Republicans will hold a closed-door meeting on immigration Wednesday that could help chart a path after the Senate passed its sweeping immigration-reform bill last month. House Speaker John Boehner said his conference was listening to constituents over the July Fourth recess, and Wednesday's meeting is designed to take what they heard and "have a conversation on the way forward."
OBAMA TO MEET WITH CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS. Obama is set to meet with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on immigration Wednesday at 11 a.m. The Caucus is wrestling internally over the tenets of immigration reform, but an exact agenda of what is to be discussed was not made public.
WH HONORS CONTRIBUTIONS TO ARTS, HUMANITIES. Obama will award the 2012 National Medal of Arts and the 2012 National Humanities Medal at 2:05 p.m. in the East Room of the White House. Recipients include musician Herb Alpert, playwright Tony Kushner, filmmaker George Lucas, author Joan Didion, political scientist Robert Putnam, and editor Robert B. Silvers.
THE FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. National Journal will hold a policy summit on "The New Knowledge Economy," including "the future of the college degree, and higher education in general, in the United States" at 8:00 a.m. at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Editorial Director Ronald Brownstein will serve as moderator.
"Texas is a big successful state, he's a long term governor, and -- I can't remember the third one." -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., listing three reasons why Texas Gov. Rick Perry could be president (Talking Points Memo)
THE SMOKE-FILLED BATTLE TO SAVE AMBASSADOR STEVENS. Fred Burton and Samuel Katz, who are publishing a book on the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, later this year, recount the incident, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, for Vanity Fair. In their account,they suggest that part of the Libyan government knew of the attack beforehand. It was a person described as "A.", a diplomatic security agent assigned to protect Stevens, who led the ambassador and Sean Smith, an information management officer, into the consulate's safe area during the attack. Later, when the building was set on fire, he tried to lead the two to a window to escape, despite being unable to "see a thing in the hazy darkness." But when A. finally made it through the window, Burton and Katz write, "he reached inside to help Stevens and Smith out. There was no response, though; they had not followed him." Read more
Transparency International's 2013 Global Corruption Barometer breaks down perceptions of corruption around the world. Fifty-one of the 107 countries surveyed rated political parties as among the institutions most affected by corruption. Within the United States, 76 percent of respondents viewed parties as affected by corruption. See U.S. results here
The website DCist challenges Pittsburgh Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman's claim that Washington can't "produce a single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich with oil and not mayonnaise," an assertion made in his review of Mark Leibovich's This Town. The site maintains that D.C. "has no shortage of fine options of ingredients stacked inside a bread roll," and offers Shribman (who himself spent years working in Washington) a host of culinary recommendations for his next visit. See it here