Politics: Need-to-Know Video

Defense Budget Politics

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Jan. 21, 2011, 1:13 a.m.

‘02/‘08 NH-01 can­did­ate/ex-HHS Com­mis. John Steph­en (R) has raised $89K more than Gov. John Lynch (D) “since the primary.”

Steph­en’s cam­paign said 10/13 he had raised al­most $221K since the Sept. 14 primary. Lynch re­por­ted rais­ing $132K. Steph­en “out­spent Lynch dur­ing the peri­od” — $435K to $376K by Lynch. Steph­en also has more CoH, $322K to Lynch’s $294K (AP, 10/13).

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

Just Not Enough

State House and Sen­ate GOP­ers “failed in their at­tempts to get the Le­gis­lature to re­con­sider part of a pa­role law that passed last ses­sion” (Schoen­berg, Con­cord Mon­it­or, 10/14).

The is­sue “has be­come a dom­in­ant one” in the GOV race (See 10/13 story for more) where “two con­ser­vat­ive groups” have already bought $450K in at­tack ads crit­ic­al of Lynch’s sup­port for the law. Steph­en “called for re­peal of the en­tire law but sup­por­ted this GOP le­gis­lat­ive man­euver” (Landrig­an, Nashua Tele­graph, 10/14).

Op­pos­ite Day

Two “statewide groups of law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials weighed in on op­pos­ite sides” of the con­test this week.

The NH Assn. of Chiefs of Po­lice on 10/12 en­dorsed Lynch for re-elec­tion, in what Lynch’s cam­paign de­scribed as the group’s first GOV en­dorse­ment in memory. The same day, Steph­en was en­dorsed by the NH Sher­iffs Assn. All nine elec­ted sher­iffs in the state are GOP­ers (the sher­iff’s of­fice in Rock­ing­ham Co. is cur­rently va­cant) (Leubsdorf, Con­cord Mon­it­or, 10/14).

Already, the smart money in Wash­ing­ton is bet­ting that the con­gres­sion­al su­per com­mit­tee cre­ated by this week’s debt-ceil­ing deal to de­vel­op a plan for tam­ing the long-term fed­er­al de­fi­cit will stale­mate along party lines and fail.

No one has won much money lately bet­ting against fail­ure in Wash­ing­ton. But each party has power­ful in­cent­ives to seize the op­por­tun­ity this com­mit­tee of­fers to set the na­tion on a sus­tain­able fisc­al path through paired en­ti­tle­ment and tax re­form. “There is real po­ten­tial for a win-win agree­ment for both sides,” said one seni­or White House of­fi­cial closely in­volved in the ne­go­ti­ations.

(PIC­TURES: Who Might Be On the Su­per Com­mit­tee)

That po­ten­tial ex­ists be­cause the su­per com­mit­tee rep­res­ents the one ray of light in the sor­did debt-ceil­ing struggle. The battle set an omin­ous pre­ced­ent. Since 1940, Con­gress has raised the debt ceil­ing al­most 100 times. It’s fair to say that at each of those mo­ments, a ma­jor­ity of sen­at­ors or House mem­bers had at least one im­port­ant beef with the pres­id­ent. But nev­er be­fore had that ma­jor­ity been as will­ing as House Re­pub­lic­ans were this year to risk the na­tion’s cred­it rat­ing to press their de­mands.

Al­though the cre­ation of the su­per com­mit­tee doesn’t jus­ti­fy this quantum leap in polit­ic­al com­bat, it does open a win­dow for pro­gress. Un­der the deal Pres­id­ent Obama signed on Tues­day, the top four Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic lead­ers in Con­gress will each ap­point three mem­bers to a spe­cial com­mit­tee that must re­com­mend by Novem­ber 23 at least $1.5 tril­lion in ad­di­tion­al de­fi­cit re­duc­tion through 2021. If a ma­jor­ity of com­mit­tee mem­bers en­dorse a pro­pos­al, that plan is guar­an­teed a floor vote in both cham­bers by Decem­ber 23 without amend­ment or Sen­ate fili­buster.

Those rules provide this group with vastly more lever­age to sta­bil­ize the na­tion’s fin­ances than any pre­vi­ous com­mis­sion has pos­sessed. The pro­ced­ures ef­fect­ively pree­mpt a minor­ity veto — either through the Sen­ate fili­buster or the in­form­al House rule that le­gis­la­tion reaches the floor only if a “ma­jor­ity of the ma­jor­ity” party sup­ports it. Be­cause a ma­jor­ity pro­pos­al from the com­mit­tee could be passed with any com­bin­a­tion of Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic votes, it provides a unique op­por­tun­ity for the cen­ter of both parties to im­pose a bal­anced solu­tion on the ideo­lo­gic­al van­guard of left and right.

The first in­dic­a­tions aren’t en­cour­aging that Con­gress will seize this op­por­tun­ity. House Speak­er John Boehner has ruled out ap­point­ing to the su­per com­mit­tee any­one who might con­sider rais­ing taxes; Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has been al­most as Sher­manesque. Demo­crat­ic lead­ers haven’t signaled as much ri­gid­ity, but un­less Re­pub­lic­ans on the pan­el are will­ing to raise rev­en­ue, the Demo­crat­ic ap­pointees won’t en­ter­tain en­ti­tle­ment re­form. That would pro­duce stale­mate — and a fall­back to the blun­der­buss $1.2 tril­lion in de­fense and do­mest­ic spend­ing cuts that the deal es­tab­lished as a back­stop.

The wager­ing in Wash­ing­ton is that each party will find stale­mate safer than rat­tling their base by ac­cept­ing more taxes or en­ti­tle­ment cuts. And that wager might be right. However, there are two good reas­ons for each party to re­con­sider that cal­cu­la­tion. One is policy. The oth­er is polit­ics.

The polit­ic­al in­cent­ive for bold ac­tion is self-pre­ser­va­tion. It turns out that Amer­ic­ans don’t care much for the spec­tacle of their lead­ers ne­go­ti­at­ing at gun­point. In the United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll re­leased this week, the share of adults who said their mem­ber of Con­gress de­served reelec­tion was lower than it was be­fore the 2006 and 2010 land­slides that flipped con­trol of the House. Con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al rat­ings also are well be­low their mea­ger levels in 2006 and 2010. Like­wise, Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ings in some sur­veys this week reached their nadir.

No one can pre­dict how such all-points dis­con­tent will af­fect 2012. But like Flor­ida home­own­ers board­ing up be­fore a hur­ricane, both parties may find it prudent to for­ti­fy their po­s­i­tion with a ser­i­ous ac­com­plish­ment such as a bal­anced long-term deal on the de­fi­cit.

The policy reas­on for avoid­ing stale­mate is that the out­lines of a plan that could win ma­jor­ity con­gres­sion­al sup­port are clear. Three bi­par­tis­an ef­forts — the Simpson-Bowles and Domen­ici-Rivlin com­mis­sions, and the “Gang of Six” Sen­ate pro­cess — all offered blue­prints that linked en­ti­tle­ment re­form with the clos­ing of enough tax loop­holes to lower tax rates and re­duce the de­fi­cit. Even the Boehner-Obama talks covered sim­il­ar ground. “Every ser­i­ous ef­fort has had the same frame,” says Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who helped launch the Gang of Six.

The biggest risk for the su­per com­mit­tee is that Boehner and Mc­Con­nell will en­sure dead­lock by ap­point­ing only mem­bers un­al­ter­ably op­posed to rais­ing taxes. Stale­mate on the su­per com­mit­tee, however, would deny Re­pub­lic­ans the heat shield of Obama sign­ing ser­i­ous en­ti­tle­ment re­form (such as rais­ing the Medi­care eli­gib­il­ity age) and ex­pose them to the danger that he will veto an ex­ten­sion of the Bush tax cuts when they ex­pire on Decem­ber 31, 2012, even if he loses the elec­tion. All of this may not be enough to per­suade con­gres­sion­al GOP lead­ers to ap­point com­mit­tee mem­bers open to a big com­prom­ise that last­ingly de­fangs the de­fi­cit threat. But it should be.

What We're Following See More »
Congress Heads Back to Work to End Shutdown
5 hours ago

"The Senate was expected to be back in session at noon, while House lawmakers were told to return to work for a 9 a.m. session. Mr. Trump on Friday had canceled plans to travel to his private resort on Palm Beach, Fla., where a celebration had been planned for Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office."

Government Shutdown Begins, as Senate Balks at Stopgap
7 hours ago

"A stopgap spending bill stalled in the Senate Friday night, leading to a government shutdown for the first time since 2013. The continuing resolution funding agencies expired at midnight, and lawmakers were unable to spell out any path forward to keep government open. The Senate on Friday night failed to reach cloture on a four-week spending bill the House had already approved."

Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
2 days ago
FBI Investigating Potential Russian Donations to NRA
2 days ago

"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.

Mueller Investigation Leads to Hundreds of New FARA Filings
2 days ago

"Hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms" have been submitted "since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries. The number of first-time filings ... rose 50 percent to 102 between 2016 and 2017, an NBC News analysis found. The number of supplemental filings, which include details about campaign donations, meetings and phone calls more than doubled from 618 to 1,244 last year as lobbyists scrambled to avoid the same fate as some of Trump's associates and their business partners."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.