Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

 Today In Washington

Congress. Not in session this week. The House and Senate both reconvene at 2 on Monday, Nov. 29.

The White House. Obama and Biden are touting the revival of the domestic auto industry with a field trip to a Chrysler transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind. (Republicans  picked up a Senate seat and two House seats in Indiana this month, but Kokomo’s congressman, Joe Donnelly, managed to win a third term by 4,000 votes with the help of ads deriding his Democratic leadership as the “Washington crowd.” Still, he’ll be by the president’s side this afternoon.)

Gibbs issued a statement condemning as a “belligerent action” North Korea’s artillery attack against the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, which resulted in the South Koreans firing back. The White House reaction came before dawn, but after the president was woken and informed of the incident.

Look But Don’t Touch. That phrase is emerging as the airport aphorism of the American people — as well as the preference of federal agents — as the Thanksgiving travel surge intensifies and fliers are faced with this choice at the biggest airports: Enter an X-ray scanning machine that can see you naked, or be subjected to a pat-down search by a TSA agent who’s going to touch your crotch and chest. A solid majority of travelers appears to be going for the first option without much complaint, which will further tamp down talk in Congress about some sort of legislative intervention before the end of the year.

The new procedures, though, are reviving all the post-9/11 talk about balancing privacy and security in our society. Those water-cooler deliberations frequently leads to a “where will it all end” discussion involving federal agents acting as amateur proctologists. But yesterday, the head of the Transportation Security Administration offered assurances that the government has no plans to make cavity checks part of the airport security process.

The GOP’s Favorite Number is 1099.  Congressional Democrats and the administration are working hard to promote one of the less-heralded but most popular parts of the health care overhaul: a requirement that insurance companies spend $4 out of every $5 they collect in premiums on actual medical care. But the rules put in place yesterday to carry out that requirement will not tamp down the Republican chorus for repealing the law — if not altogether, then one unpopular section at a time.

And one particularly unpopular piece looks like it could be discarded in the lame duck. Known as “the 1099 rule,” it requires businesses to tell the IRS about — which means issuing a Form 1099 for — every vendor that receives more than $600 in a year. That’s supposed to generate billions in tax revenue to help offset the health law’s cost, but small businesses especially are expressing outrage at all the added paperwork, and a bipartisan majority is willing to get rid of the requirement — so long as some offsetting revenue can be found.

All the Republicans and at least seven Democrats are going to vote for the repeal when it's put to a key test vote in the Senate on Monday, and business lobbyists are scrambling to persuade two more Democrats to go along to get the filibuster-proof majority of 60. If that happens, the House will likely go along.

The other big Senate vote on the first day back will be on a binding earmark moratorium — bringing to a climax a debate that’s exposed the fascinating bipartisan factions of lawmakers who are for, against or somewhere in between on the question of congressional micromanagement on federal spending. It will be particularly interesting to compare the yea-and-nay tally sheet against an extensive CQ.com database of earmarking, by lawmakers and by state, in the past two fiscal years.

Comeback Quest? George Allen is sounding more and more like he wants to return to the Senate, where his old seat will be on the Virginia ballot in two years. And he’s received three pieces of encouraging news in recent days. No. 1: Fellow Republican Dan Coats was able to stage a senatorial comeback in Indiana, even though he's been a K Street denizen in recent years and outsider insurgency was the dominating political force of the year. No. 2: Party leaders have decided on a primary (not a state convention) for picking Virginia’s GOP  candidates for 2012, which should help someone with his high name recognition triumph over the sort of tea party candidate who could win over a conservative majority of delegation delegates. No. 3: Democrat Jim Webb, who edged Allen last time, has done minimal fundraising and is being openly ambivalent about whether he wants a second term.

Well NOW It’s 62. Yesterday’s roundup of close congressional races was one day ahead of the truth. Technology consultant Blake Farenthold of Texas, not nurse Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, is the tea party favorite who should get credit for the 62nd Republican pickup in the midterm election. Last night Solomon Ortiz conceded he’d lost his bid for a 15th term in a House district that hugs the Gulf of Mexico. (It’s been a bad month in the Ortiz family business; the congressman’s namesake son was defeated for re-election to his state House seat in Corpus Christi.)

At the moment, a Republican is ahead in just one of the four races still officially unresolved: Ann Marie Buerkle, a former assistant state attorney general, has 567 more votes than one-term incumbent Dan Maffei in upstate New York. Lawyers for the two have a court date tomorrow to debate more than 200 challenged ballots, after which Maffei has the right to ask for a hand recount.

The Cardoza Footnote. Chandra Levy’s family says it has a measure of satisfaction, but no closure, from the conviction of Ingmar Guandique for the 2001 murder that looked back in those days like it would become the most lurid congressional scandal ever. The voters of California’s Central Valley ousted Gary Condit from the House the next year, even after police concluded he was telling the truth when he asserted he knew nothing about the disappearance of his girlfriend.

And the biggest beneficiary — at least in Washington — of the whole sordid affair? Dennis Cardoza, who counted Condit as his political mentor, got to Congress by defeating a scandal-scarred Condit in the 2002 Democratic primary and has just won his fifth term — although by the narrowest margin (15 points) since his initial election.

Scheduling Note. Because of Thanksgiving, the next Daily Briefing will be on Monday, Nov. 29.

— David Hawkings, editor


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David Hawkings

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