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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CQ Weekly: An Earmark by Any Other Name

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Contact The Editor

David Hawkings
dailybriefing@cqrollcall.com

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Monday, November 22, 2010

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Monday, Nov. 22, 2010

 Today In Washington

Congress. Not in session this week. Both the House and Senate next convene at 2 on Monday, Nov. 29.

The White House. Obama is back in Washington but has no public events on his calendar. Michelle Obama is in Miami promoting her child nutrition agenda.

Knight of the Roundtable. Look for Judd Gregg to become the next head of the Business Roundtable, one of the powerhouse corporate lobbying forces in Washington. The 63-year-old New Hampshire Republican is retiring from elected life this fall after 18 years as senator, four years as governor, eight years as congressman — and one very awkward week in 2009 as Obama’s choice for Commerce secretary, which ended when Gregg concluded he shared almost no fiscal or domestic policy views with the president and thus couldn’t represent himself as a loyal Cabinet member.

But Gregg does have enough bipartisan bona fides, especially on budget matters, that he’s probably the most sought-after lawmaker spinning through the Capitol’s revolving door this year — especially for groups that want to have an ear in both the White House and the newly split Capitol. (The Roundtable, which represents the CEOs of some of the biggest corporations, is as close to the White House as any business group on K Street.) And Gregg is remembered by Obama’s team as a straight-shooter who gets points for backing out of the Commerce job gracefully. That’s why, if he wants it, he’ll almost certainly get the Roundtable job instead of retiring Blue Dog Democrat John Tanner or über-Republican lobbyist Nick Calio.

At the same time Gregg would be the sort of super-lobbyist that incoming tea party freshmen could relate to as they try to learn the ways of the Washington influence game without becoming totally beholden to it.

Travel Trouble. The break in the lame duck that started over the weekend gave members of Congress a head start on the  Thanksgiving travel rush — and has given many of them some firsthand, early insight into the new era of full body scans or intimate pat-downs at the airport. Their early reaction is a bipartisan displeasure that mimics that of their constituents. But there’s no chance that their annoyance will be translated into any legislation that would relax the procedures. There’s very little political benefit to members of Congress, in either party, pushing too hard for the view that traveler privacy should trump vigorous security.

Overlooked in the debate is the continuing tug of war over the screening of air cargo, both domestically and especially on international flights.

Now There are 62. North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers has secured the 62nd midterm election pickup for the Republicans, who will now have at least 241 House seats come January — closer and closer to the party’s postwar high-water mark of 246 seats in early 1949.

The GOP’s best chance for adding to that total rests with another candidate who’d been viewed as a total longshot — Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Texas. After several days of a recount he remains ahead by about 800 votes (his same margin on election night) in the Gulf Coast district that’s been represented for 28 years by Solomon Ortiz. But the final 15,000 absentee and early ballots, to be counted today, are in the Democratic stronghold of Brownsville.

In four other races, Democrats probably have the upper hand. On Long Island, Tim Bishop is now ahead by a handful of votes, but Randy Altschuler is contesting several hundred ballots and another 5,000 absentee votes won’t be tallied before Wednesday. In upstate New York, Dan Maffei’s margin against Ann Marie Buerkle has grown to 567 votes. But both Democratic incumbents in too-close-to-call races in California, Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa, are on course to survive. 

Against Ellmers, Bob Etheridge quietly conceded at the end of last week that he’d lost his bid for an eighth term representing a pinwheel-shaped district that connects parts of Raleigh and Fayetteville. (A recount found the two separated by 1,489 votes.) Ellmers, a nurse and tea party activist who was in Washington last week for freshman orientation, had been given almost no chance of winning — although she’d been endorsed by Sarah Palin and gained plenty of national attention with a TV ad describing the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero as a “victory mosque” for terrorists.

               — David Hawkings, editor

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Roll Call: Ohio Blowout Raises Red Flag for Democrats

This month's Republican sweep in one presidential bellwether raises all sorts of challenges for the Democrats. » View full article
-----

Contact The Editor

David Hawkings
dailybriefing@cqrollcall.com

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» CQ Weekly   » CQ Amendment Text   » CQ LawTrack
» CQ Today   » CQ HealthBeat   » See all CQ Roll Call
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