It’s being called a more “responsible” use of federal dollars for commemorative portraits of government officials. At least, that’s the name of the bill.
Turns out, the much-ballyhooed ban on taxpayer-funded portraits of the president and other public officials that passed earlier this year was not permanent. The omnibus fiscal 2014 spending bill did deny funds for commemorative portraits — but just for the fiscal year.
On Wednesday, however, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to consider legislation to completely stop the practice. Well, for most portraits, anyway.
The Bipartisan Responsible Use of Taxpayer Dollars for Portraits Act, pushed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would permanently cap the amount of taxpayer expenditures for such portraits at $20,000. And the bill would limit even that amount to portraits of people in the official line of succession to the presidency, such as the vice president, House speaker, president pro tem of the Senate, secretary of State, and other top officials in executive departments.
“There’s no reason to continue excessive taxpayer spending on oil paintings of government officials,” Shaheen said Monday in a statement.
Most members of Congress and other executive-branch agency heads would not qualify.
The bill would not, however, ban the use of nonfederal funds to help pay for the paintings if the costs exceed $20,000.
Controversy over use of taxpayer dollars for commemorative portraits has existed for years. But amid deficits and spending cuts, the issue has gained more attention. For instance, a review by The Washington Times found that the federal government spent $180,000 on official portraits in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency spent nearly $40,000 on a portrait of then-Administrator Lisa Jackson; the Air Force spent $41,200 on a portrait of then-Secretary Michael Donley; and the Agriculture Department spent $22,500 on a portrait of Secretary Tom Vilsack, according to The Times.
“We should pay for these types of portraits in a way that protects taxpayers instead of wasting their money,” Shaheen said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”