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.
The GOP's Short-Term Strategy on Voting
There's no mistaking the Justice Department's message to states rushing to adopt new voting restrictions and congressional maps after the Supreme Court freed them from the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act: Not so fast.
The department is asking a federal court to put Texas under a preapproval system similar to what the high court struck down last month. North Carolina could be next. Its GOP legislature is about to pass a voter ID law that Slate calls the most draconian in the nation. At the very least, the Justice Department may slow the stampede in those and other states to clamp down on voter registration, hours, and ID, and to draw House maps that shortchange minorities.
Republicans could demonstrate they are a welcoming party if they pushed reforms making it easier rather than harder for all Americans to vote. Immigration reform is another way to send that inclusive message. The survival of the GOP ultimately may lie down those paths, but it's a hard argument to make when short-term gains of such magnitude are within reach.
SOME DEMS SEE OBAMA'S ECONOMIC PUSH AS A CHANCE TO SWING LEFT. As President Obama delivers economic speeches around the country this week, some Democrats are debating the party's approach to issues involving banks, entitlements, and the rights of consumers, The New York Times reports. While foreign-policy issues, including the war in Iraq, caused the party's last serious internal debate, economic policy appears to be the new dividing line for Democrats even as they increasingly find common ground on cultural matters such as gay rights, gun control, and immigration. "The sooner we get back to a good, progressive, populist message, the better off we're going to be as Democrats," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Read more
- Though they say they hope Republicans will back their economic agenda, Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are well aware that their recent rhetoric is more likely to become a fine campaign platform for the 2014 elections, if not necessarily a winning one, National Journal's Jill Lawrence writes. Read more
U.S. FILES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST HEDGE-FUND GIANT. Federal prosecutors announced criminal charges today against SAC Capital Advisors, The Washington Post reports. The 41-page indictment—which includes four counts of securities fraud and one of wire fraud and charges SAC Capital allowed "systematic" insider trading between 1999 and 2010 due to "an institutional indifference"—follows a decade of investigation into the hedge fund run by billionaire Steven A. Cohen. SAC Capital became one of the most prominent and successful players on Wall Street and during its zenith in 2006 and 2007, Cohen reportedly earned about $900 million each year. The firm's runaway success caused suspicion that employees were illegally gaining an investment edge. Read more
- The indictment offers up another jarring reminder that while the Justice Department continues its old habit of pursuing insider trading cases, it has let the biggest financial scam in history pass it by without a single conviction of a Wall Street executive, National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes. Read more
DEATH TOLL IN SYRIA ECLIPSES 100,000. The United Nations has officially placed the death toll from Syria's civil war at more than 100,000, The Atlantic Wire's Dashiell Bennett reports. In addition, at least 2 million Syrians have fled the country since the conflict began two-and-a-half years ago, with most arriving at refugee camps in neighboring Jordan and Turkey. The milestone comes as the situation on the ground is deteriorating for rebel fighters, prompting some to defect to President Bashar al-Assad's side, The Telegraph reports. Assad's government is offering amnesty to rebels willing to lay down their arms as violence continues unabated. Read more
SENATE PASSES STUDENT-LOAN DEAL. The Senate voted Wednesday to roll back a student-loan interest-rate hike and to restructure the way many federal student-loan rates are calculated, National Journal's Elahe Izadi and Michael Catalini report. The vote, 81-18, came after weeks of negotiations by a bipartisan group of senators that also exposed a divide between many Senate Democrats and the White House over how to handle an automatic rate hike on subsidized Stafford loans. The Senate-passed version, which received White House backing, resembles the House's student-loan bill but differs slightly on rates and does not allow rates to fluctuate over the life of individual loans. Democratic senators who have spoken to House leadership say they are optimistic the House will pass the Senate provisions. Read more
McCONNELL ATTEMPTS TO COURT FEMALE VOTERS. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's team of advisers is planning to directly confront criticisms that the Kentucky Republican is unsympathetic on issues important to female voters, The New York Times reports. McConnell, 71, is facing a challenge to his seat by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, 34, for the 2014 election. But the gender and age difference doesn't spook McConnell's campaign staff: "We're going to be very aggressive in making sure people don't mischaracterize what his record is, especially when it comes to women and women's issues," said Josh Holmes, McConnell's chief of staff for Kentucky operations. "Not only are we not afraid of it, we're very proud of it." Read more
SHHH. REPUBLICANS ARE DEFENDING EARMARKS. Some Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are starting to quietly defend earmarks, three years after Congress banned the practice because lawmakers said it wasted taxpayer dollars during a time of trillion-dollar deficits. Read more about how the committee will tackle an ambitious slate of legislation on highways, waterways, and rail lines in the next 18 months in National Journal Daily's special issue. Read more
HOUSE AMENDMENT TO CURB NSA DATA COLLECTION GOES DOWN IN DIVIDED VOTE. The House on Wednesday night narrowly defeated an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill proposed by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., that would have blocked the National Security Agency from using many of its controversial data surveillance programs, The New York Times reports. The 205-217 vote was much closer than expected and followed a short but passionate debate concerning individual privacy rights and the costs of national security. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and the White House all vocally opposed the amendment. Amash tweeted after the vote, "If just 7 Reps had switched their votes, we would have succeeded... We fight on." Read more
- Amash's amendment resulted in strange bipartisan bedfellows in the House, splitting both parties down unusual lines, The Washington Post reports. Read more
TRAIN DERAILMENT IN NORTHERN SPAIN KILLS DOZENS. A passenger train travelling from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela derailed on Wednesday evening, killing 80 people, The Associated Press reports. Video footage suggests that the train was traveling at nearly twice the permitted speed limit around a curve. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a native of Santiago de Compostela, declared a nationwide three-day mourning period after visiting the site of the crash. Two probes into the cause of the derailment have been initiated by the Spanish government. Ninety-four people remain hospitalized. Read more
MAYORKAS FACES QUESTIONING OVER COMPANY'S VISA. Alejandro Mayorkas, Obama's nominee to serve as deputy Homeland Security secretary, denied allegations today that he improperly aided a company run by the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to secure a foreign investor visa, the Associated Press reports. Mayorkas is being investigated by the Homeland Security Inspector General's Office for his role in the acquisition of the visa. Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee did not attend the hearing this morning, saying that the committee must wait until the allegations against Mayorkas are resolved. The panel's chairman, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was critical of GOP calls to delay the confirmation hearing. Read more
"It is so disrespectful of women, and what's really stunning about it is they don't even realize. They don't have a clue.... If they're clueless, get a clue. If they need therapy, do it in private." —House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on sex scandals surrounding former House colleagues Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Bob Filner, D-Calif. (The Hill)
KING CON? For more than three years, a Secret Service agent was getting positive reviews online for what might seem like an unusual service: providing fake driver's licenses in 13 states, Wired's Kevin Poulsen reports. The investigation, known as "Operation Open Market," has netted federal indictments against 55 people across 10 countries. The operation started after the arrest of Justin Todd Moss, a Nevada homeless man who was carrying identification and credit cards under three different names. Secret Service Special Agent Mike Adams assumed Moss's online identity, conducting business under the handle "Celtic." Moss was arrested in March 2007; the first round of indictments was unsealed in March 2012. "It was the longest of long cons," Poulsen writes of the Secret Service operation. Read more
● @daveweigel: So basically go ahead and kill the immigration bill but don't say anything mean about immigrants, k thx
● @DylanByers: NYT Correction 7/25: An article published Wednesday erroneously stated that Dad Jeans are making a comeback. The article has been retracted.
● @dceiver: The "Carlos Danger" name for "Groundswell Listserv" is "Luis Furtive."
BuzzFeed has compiled a list of "25 Things 'D.C.' People Say But Don't Really Mean," complete with GIFs. Among the highlights: "What do you do? … Oh, that sounds interesting," and "I'll make sure the boss sees this right away." See the rest here