Wednesday, June 01, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Bracketology

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama’s first meeting with all the lawmakers in the House Republican majority started at 10. Since today is the start of Atlantic Hurricane Season, the president will get a briefing at 11:30 on the government’s long-range weather forecast and on disaster preparedness

THE HOUSE: Convened at 10 and at noon will begin debating its first appropriations bill for the budget year that starts in October — a $40.6 billion (3 percent cut) measure for the Department of Homeland Security. The wide-open amendment process that’s traditional for spending bills means it’s hard to predict timing of the vote on passage; it may be tomorrow, because lawmakers have promised the last roll call of the day will be by 7.
Kathy Hochul, the upset winner of last week’s special election in upstate New York, will be sworn in as the House’s newest Democrat.
THE SENATE: Nothing’s happening there this week.
IN THE BEGINNING: Years from now, yesterday’s House show vote against raising the debt ceiling without conditions will be remembered as the opening bracket for the period of time when Republicans and Democrats actually came together on a plan that gives projected deficits a visible but not too-visible haircut — and also avoids a government default, although only for perhaps the next 18 months, until the 2012 winners of the White House and Congress are at the controls.
And there will be some good clues from the rhetoric of this afternoon, once the East Room meeting is over, about whether the other side of that bracket will be closed in just a few weeks, or not until the calendar is right up against the Treasury’s Aug. 2 deadline for needing additional borrowing authority.
If both Boehner and Obama come out of the room describing the atmospherics as collegial — and declaring that their side is ready to give as much as it wants to get — then the summer could yet be smoother than its start is suggesting. But that also will mean the deal both sides envision is the most minimalist required to assuage the big players in the  financial markets, who have enough heartburn in their lives already and thus want Congress to play against type and finish this deal a week or more before Zero Hour.
But get ready to postpone vacation plans — and to envision a more historic bargain — if the president goes to the microphones and shakes his head about GOP intransigence against raising more revenue, and if the GOP rank-and file starts tut-tutting about what a shame it is that their first invitation to such a White House meeting was a waste of time because the words “entitlement reform” weren’t heard. A continued public standoff means both sides will want to use all their available bargaining time to push for the grandest deal possible.
GEEK CRED: Boehner went into the meeting with a manifesto, signed by 150 economists, that endorses the Speaker’s bargaining position: That whatever amount the borrowing authority is increased must be exceeded by the amount of projected deficit reduction. Doing otherwise, the economists say, "would harm private-sector job growth and represent a tremendous setback in the effort to deal with our national debt."
The 87 GOP freshmen are sure to pound on that theme when they have their own meeting tomorrow with Geithner, who in return is bound to emphasize the calamitous and long-lasting global economic consequences of not raising the debt ceiling in time — and thereby preventing the government from paying its bills punctually.
That session will come as Obama has the fourth and final budget listening session meeting with one of the congressional caucuses – the always-an-afterthought-this-year House Democrats.
NOMINATION SITUATION: Jim Inhofe is vowing an all-out effort to stop John Bryson from being confirmed as Commerce secretary.
The top Republican on Environment and Public Works, who’s become world-famous for calling man-made global warming a hoax, says he’s dead-set against Bryson because he helped to found the Natural Resources Defense Council, which the Oklahoma senator deems “a radical environmental organization,” and because the nominee also worked on a U.N. advisory group on climate change.
It’s hard to see how Inhofe might be mollified. But the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce quickly endorsed Bryson, so his filibuster would probably be broken with the help of most other Republicans — so long as they get what they want in return for their confirmation votes. McConnell reiterated yesterday that Republicans would block the confirmation of any new Commerce secretary until the administration formally submits its trade liberalization pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia for congressional approval. (Democrats want to use those bills as a vehicle for extending the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of overseas competition.)
Bryson, 67, would replace Gary Locke, who seems to be on course to win confirmation as ambassador to China. Bryson retired in 2008 after 17 years running Edison International, California’s largest electric utility, and is now running the solar-plant developer BrightSource Energy.

ILLINOIS SUIT? Disgruntled Illinois Republicans, who could see their delegation halved next year, and disgruntled Hispanics, who think a second Chicago seat should have been created for them, may yet team up on a lawsuit that tries to block the new state congressional map that Democrats muscled through the state legislature over the weekend.
But if that litigation comes to nothing, then Democrats may already be one-fifth of the way to gaining back control of the House in 2012. (They need to pick up 24 seats, and the Illinois map could yield five of those.) Not only that, but the Justice Department has now endorsed the implementation of a Florida referendum that was designed to limit the ability of the GOP legislature to gerrymander that state’s map, meaning the Democrats should have a reasonable shot at maybe another five gains there, as well — putting them within striking distance of making Steny Hoyer the Speaker (yes, that’s right) more than a year before the actual voting.
SHORT ON INFORMATION: Anthony Weiner is just a couple of tabloid-frenzy news cycles away from being toppled from his newly prominent perch as one of the most trenchant and vigorous voices in the new House Democratic minority — which would also mean his dream of becoming mayor of New York would probably be gone for good, too.
The bulging-briefs photograph that was sent from the congressman’s Twitter account to Gennette Nicole Cordova’s Seattle inbox was initially easy to dismiss as the work of a prankster/hacker — because how could it be humanly, politically possible for someone as smart as Weiner not to have learned from Chris Lee’s example.
But the congressman has refused every opportunity to deny that he sent the picture. He’s hired an attorney to help him handle the summer’s first Capitol sex scandal. He’s declined to have that lawyer call the Capitol Police to investigate. (A little bit of software sleuthing will prove where the picture came from). And he’s refused to answer why he was following the young woman on Twitter in the first place.
Instead, every time he’s asked about the matter he says it’s a distraction akin to having a pie thrown at him while he’s giving a big speech. But that rebuttal isn’t the refutation that the Daily News and the New York Post will insist on having before this story goes away.

TOUGH TEN: The first 10 House GOP incumbents who will be getting special organizational and fundraising attention from the NRCC were announced today. The list will be expanded significantly in the next several weeks, as the campaign organization meets with virtually every politically endangered member and pushes them to commit to a rigorous program of raising money a year before the election — and threatens to cut off their NRCC assistance if they don’t do their part.
Identified for the special incumbency protection program were seven freshmen, two back-for-a-second-time lawmakers and one incumbent — Iowa’s Tom Latham, who’s been forced by redistricting into a race against incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell. The other lawmakers are New Hampshire’s  Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, Florida’s Allen West, Wisconsin’s Sean Duffy, Texas’ Quico Canseco, Nevada’s Joe Heck and Pennsylvania’s Pat Meehan, Lou Barletta and Mike Fitzpatrick.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of New York (61) and Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi (55).

— David Hawkings, editor

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