Friday, October 21, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Work Stoppage

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today In Washington

David Hawkings is off today.

THE SENATE: Not in session. Senators are on their way out of town today for a weeklong recess after a late-night session of votes on amendments to the $128 billion “minibus” appropriations package. A final-passage vote on that legislation — which includes fiscal 2012 funding for the Agriculture, Judiciary and Transportation departments as well as many other federal accounts — is now planned for the week of Oct. 31. It’s also possible that a stopgap spending measure to keep the government running briefly after Nov. 18 could be added to the bill.

THE WHITE HOUSE: This morning Obama signed into law the trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia and later met with business and labor leaders at a reception in the Rose Garden. At 2:30 he’ll meet in the East Room with recipients of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology.

THE HOUSE: Not in session. The chamber is expected to reconvene on Monday.

THE OFFSET GAME: Once again, significant legislation has bottomed out in one chamber of Congress not necessarily because of what it would do, but because of how it would be paid for. With the Senate gone until Halloween, the next action on any job-creation proposal will come next week in the House, which will vote on a repeal of a controversial law requiring the withholding of 3 percent of payments to government contractors.

McConnell’s version of that bill stalled yesterday in the Senate after it fell short of the 60 votes needed to proceed. The bill is part of Obama’s job-creation package, but he threatened a veto of it yesterday because of the way Republicans would offset the cost: with a $30 billion rescission from fiscal 2012 spending. Ten Democrats joined all 47 Republicans in supporting the bill, however.

Offsets also effectively doomed another portion of the job-creation package that Reid pushed to a procedural vote yesterday: a bill that would send $35 billion to states and localities to keep teachers and first responders from being laid off. It would’ve been covered by a 0.5 percent tax on those making more than $1 million a year, an idea that’s a non-starter with Republicans.

States indeed need the money: The Labor Department said Friday that 34,000 local government workers lost their jobs in September, including 24,000 teachers.

The national unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent for the third straight month, but employers did add a net total of 103,000 jobs.

CRUCIAL CLEANUP: Lawmakers’ concerns about post-Qaddafi Libya include aiding the new government, getting the wounded out and keeping the weapons in. Whatever the U.S. involvement amounts to, the general idea is that NATO would continue to take the lead. If there’s any immediate national security concern, it’s about Libyan military hardware — Qaddafi’s stockpile of chemical weapons, in particular — getting into the hands of anti-American groups. Israel’s allies on Capitol Hill also have taken note of reports that shoulder-launched missiles are making their way into the Palestinian territories.

UNCHAINED: With most of the deficit reduction supercommittee’s action happening behind closed doors, there has been only a trickle of information about what the panel is specifically considering as it tries to find $1.2 trillion in savings. One way to gauge the committee’s activity is to keep an eye on the intensity of the public relations and lobbying campaign for any particular issue. Judging from a recent push by advocates for seniors and Social Security recipients, there’s deep concern that the supers might recommend a change to how the federal government calculates cost-of-living adjustments.

The current Consumer Price Index measures the prices paid for consumer goods and services. Changing the CPI to a “chained” model — which would take into account the substitutions that consumers make when prices increase — would make the measurement more accurate, economists say. But it also would lead to cost-of-living increases that are slightly lower than they are currently. Social Security recipients, in particular, would feel the crunch, and so the AARP and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare are among the groups fighting the idea of using the chained CPI as part of any deficit-cutting legislation.

REFEREE, PLEASE: The latest installment of “Darrell Issa vs. The Democrats” involves the House Oversight chairman’s decision to deny travel reimbursement for a federal drug control policy forum in Illinois arranged by Rep. Danny Davis, who’s the ranking Democrat of a subcommittee that oversees those issues. Issa says the trip might’ve run afoul of House ethics rules; Democrats say he would not have denied the funding if a Republican had joined Davis for the event. Now the Committee on House Administration — which oversees how other panels use their funds — is involved.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jerry Lewis of California (77) and Pat Tiberi of Ohio (49) today; fellow House Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina (36) tomorrow.

— Joe Warminsky and the CQ Roll Call staff

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: An Exciting New Rewards Program

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today In Washington

David Hawkings is off today.

THE SENATE: Convened at 10, with votes scheduled for noon on the nomination of Heather Higginbottom to be deputy OMB director, as well as two amendments to the $128 billion “minibus” appropriations bill. Four more votes on amendments will be held at 2. Action on other amendments is possible, as Reid tries to wrap up work on the legislation.

There’s also an outside shot that senators will hold procedural votes on two portions of Obama’s job-creation package: a bill sponsored by Reid that would provide $35 billion to state and local governments for hiring and retaining public servants, and a bill offered by McConnell that would repeal a requirement that federal, state and local governments begin withholding 3 percent of certain payments to contractors. Those two cloture votes are more likely to happen Friday morning, however.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama meets at 2 with the 13 recipients of this year’s Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. At 4:10 he’ll discuss security issues with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, one of the NATO nations that participated in operations in Libya, where fallen dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed today.

THE HOUSE: Not in session.

GETTING IT TOGETHER: While the Senate continues to sort out the minibus and the jobs-related legislation, House Republican leaders are spending that chamber’s recess planning for action on whatever the deficit reduction supercommittee might produce later this fall. Their chief task is ensuring that the GOP rank and file doesn’t get rambunctious the way it did in July, on a leadership-approved debt-and-deficit bill, or in September, on spending legislation.

Boehner and his lieutenants aren’t just concerned about moving the deficit reduction legislation; they’d prefer to tighten up the Republican Conference in general, and they’re figuring out ways to keep the backbenchers in line. Punishment is no longer an option, insiders say, because strong-arm tactics create martyrs, and martyrs tend to divide any caucus.

So look for Boehner and Cantor to bring loyal lower-ranking lawmakers into news conferences or other events with leadership, or allow them to more of a lead on messaging efforts. And also look for committee chairmen and GOP leaders to make more appearances in the districts of members who have stuck with the party line.

HE'S GONE: The initial response to Qaddafi’s death was muted in Washington, as the Obama administration and lawmakers tried to verify the events in Sirte, the deposed Libyan leader’s hometown. (NATO also was cautious in declaring Qaddafi’s end.) After Libyan officials had trumpeted the news, at least one Republican chalked it up as a success for the Obama administration. “The administration, especially Secretary Clinton, deserve our congratulations,” said Mark Kirk of Illinois, one of the Senate’s defense hawks. John McCain said it marks “an end to the first phase of the Libyan revolution.”

Today Clinton is in Pakistan — with CIA Director David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey — to push the government to step up its efforts against insurgents on the Afghanistan border.

MIXED SIGNALS: One closely watched market indicator, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s regional manufacturing index, today showed the biggest one-month increase in 31 years, suggesting that factories are humming a bit louder than earlier in the year. At the same time, new claims for unemployment benefits declined, while sales of existing houses declined and home resale prices also fell. All together, there's no sign that the economy is strengthening sufficiently to pull the jobless rate lower. But it’s not getting any worse, either.

PAUL’S PLAY: It looked as though Rand Paul would continue to cause trouble today for the No Child Left Behind bill, but the leaders of the Senate’s education committee cut a deal that ended the Kentucky Republican freshman’s attempts to slow down the legislation. It’s now possible the panel will finish the bill today.

Paul was again going to invoke an often-waived Senate rule that would have halted today’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions meeting at noon, but Chairman Tom Harkin and ranking Republican Mike Enzi persuaded Paul to end his dilatory tactic in exchange for a November hearing on the bill — once it’s out of committee but before it can come to the Senate floor. (His intentions are easily summed up: He doesn’t like the bill, the law that it would rewrite, or the Education Department itself.)

For Paul, the dustup signaled that he’s grown comfortable enough in the Senate to pull hard on the various power levers available to individual members. Although he has taken care to learn the chamber’s rules and traditions, he obviously plans to follow the tea party mandate of trying to change the government as much as he can, as soon as possible. The most telling quote yesterday, however, came from Harkin, who noted that the Senate is a “continuing body” — meaning that, unlike the House, work on major legislation essentially carries over from Congress to Congress, and that whatever work he and Enzi did on the bill, pre-Paul, still matters.

BUDDIES: Presidential elections occasionally put some members of Congress in an awkward position: When the other party’s candidate is a longtime friend, whom do you campaign for? For Henry Cuellar of Texas — a member of the House Democratic leadership — the decision is this: If Rick Perry wins the GOP nomination, Cuellar won’t campaign against him. Their relationship goes back to their days in the Texas Legislature, when Perry was still a Democrat. Cuellar later was Gov. Perry’s first secretary of state.

HE’S BACK: Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s communications director, wrote on Twitter today that the president will appear Oct. 25 on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” his fourth appearance on Jay Leno’s show.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and freshman Republican Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania are both turning 56.

— Joe Warminsky and the CQ Roll Call staff

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Copyright 2011 CQ Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Clearing the Decks

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Today In Washington

David Hawkings is off today.

THE SENATE: Convened at 9:30 and will spend the day considering the $128 billion “minibus” spending bill. Senators will detour briefly at about noon to vote on the nomination of Robert D. Mariani to a U.S. District Court seat in Pennsylvania. After that, they’ll vote on an amendment by McCain that would block transportation funds from going to beautification projects and historic preservation. Other roll call votes are expected as Reid, who said yesterday that Republicans were essentially filibustering the bill by offering many amendments, pushes to finish the legislation by the weekend.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Obama and the first lady spoke this morning at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, an Air Force and Army facility in Hampton, Va. The event included an announcement that the military’s major suppliers of packaged goods (companies such as Tysons, Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra) will hire a total of 25,000 more veterans or their spouses over the next two years. At 2:40 the president will speak at a fire station in North Chesterfield, Va., about why Congress should get moving on pieces of his job-creation legislation. Afterward, he’ll head to Richmond for a short flight back to Washington, ending his multi-day tour of North Carolina and Virginia.

Biden will appear at 2:30 on Capitol Hill with Senate Democrats, police officers, firefighters and teachers to push for action on jobs legislation.

THE HOUSE: Not in session.

ONE BEGETS ANOTHER? Today will be crucial for Reid’s efforts to finish the “minibus” appropriations bill by the weekend. In the short term, senators would prefer to get out of town and not spoil next week’s recess. But wrapping up the bill by Friday also has implications for the broader appropriations process. If the Senate can finish this minibus, it probably can do others before the current stopgap spending bill runs out on Nov. 18.

This one won’t be easy, though. Republicans have offered more amendments than Reid would like (he said they were violating their “gentlemen’s agreement” from earlier this year), but the list does appear relatively manageable at face value. About a dozen proposals are officially pending — an amount that the Senate probably could dispatch by the weekend — but dozens more have been filed, and the GOP could try to force action on many of them.

Reid has the option of filing for cloture on the bill, but winning that tally would require the cooperation of a few Republicans to get to the required 60 votes. Without cloture, consideration of the minibus — which would fund the Agriculture, Justice and Transporation departments and a handful of other agencies — could spill into next week.

OK, BUT NOT RIGHT NOW: Obama has spent much of this week poking Congress for not getting to work on his jobs legislation, and the White House probably won’t give up on that message anytime soon. The main subtext, of course, is that congressional Republicans are thwarting the process, but the Senate Democratic majority hasn’t completely gotten its act together, either.

Assuming the Senate spends the rest of this week on the grunt work of completing the minibus, Reid will try to spend the week of Oct. 24 on a bill that would give $35 billion to states and municipalities for hiring and retaining teachers, police officers and firefighters. The majority leader’s big challenge will be winning over Mary Landrieu, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman and other Democratic Caucus members who have specific issues with the bill.

NOT EVERYTHING IS BOGGED DOWN: Reid appears to be relenting on a demand by Republicans that the defense policy bill — one of the few pieces of annual legislation that Congress still manages to clear under a relatively normal process — contain a provision that would require certain alleged terrorists to be kept in military, and not civilian, custody. Reid said yesterday that if he can’t resolve the issue with Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, he’ll put it to a vote on the floor. (Although the Senate's defense bill now has a little momentum, foreign policy debates have completely taken a back seat, however.)

SIX PLUS TWELVE: The deficit reduction supercommittee has solicited written advice from all corners of Capitol Hill, but it hasn’t invited an outside group of lawmakers for in-person testimony until today. All members of the Senate’s “Gang of Six” — which outlined its own $4 trillion plan this summer and thus affirmed just how hard it would be to please everybody (or anybody) — were called to make short presentations at the supers’ hearing that began at 9.

There were some rumblings that the six — Republicans Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo, and Democrats Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin  and Mark Warner — would appear at an open hearing, but the joint committee stuck to its habit of closing the meeting.

WAIT FOR THE BELL: In three weeks, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain will have ample opportunity to reprise their testy exchanges in last night’s debate on CNN. The next group appearance by the GOP’s presidential candidates will be at 8 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Oakland University in Rochester Mich., with CNBC handling the coverage and emphasizing jobs, taxes, the deficit and the economy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon (60).

— Joe Warminsky and the CQ Roll Call staff

Become a fan of the Daily Briefing at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow David Hawkings on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: One Uneasy Piece

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today In Washington

THE SENATE: Convened at 10 and will spend a second day on the $128 billion domestic spending “minibus,” but there’s no deal yet on which amendments will get votes, or when. (One proposal near the top of the queue would deny funds for anything resembling the Fast and Furious guns-for-drug-dealers operation; others would bar federal approval of genetically modified salmon and prevent school lunches from serving fewer potatoes.) The weekly caucus lunches are from 12:30 to 2:15.

THE HOUSE: Convened at 11 for a three-minute pro forma meeting. (Members aren’t due back from this week’s recess until next Monday.)

THE WHITE HOUSE: After a 35-minute workout at a Greensboro health club, Obama boarded Ground Force One at 9:25 to start the second leg of a three-day bus trip orchestrated to boost his re-election prospects in a pair of swing states — and, officially, to sell an 8 percent slice of his original jobs package: $30 billion in teacher payroll subsidies and $5 billion for hiring police and firefighters. He spent the morning at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., and has a speech planned for 5 at Greensville County High School in Emporia, Va. The cavalcade will pull in for the night in Hampton, Va.

SLICING AND DICING: There is no timetable today for the Senate test vote on that $35 billion in grants for teachers and first responders. There’s really no rush, because the measure isn’t going to do much better, if it does any better at all, than the entire Obama jobs package. And Reid has no incentive to call the vote while the president is out on the road promoting his new piecemeal approach.

Even though Reid is selling this as the most politically appealing slice of the Obama package — and he’s preparing three other slices to serve up in the coming weeks — no Republicans have shown any inclination to vote “yes,” and the same in-tough-races Democrats who opposed the entire package, Ben Nelson and Jon Tester, haven’t signed on yet. The opposition is mainly because the money to pay for rehiring the teachers and police would come from a tiny tax increase — a half a percentage point boost in the tax rate on income above $1 million — although McConnell says what the GOP really dislikes is a return to “the same temporary stimulus spending that’s failed to solve our jobs crisis.”

As in the past, Obama and the Democrats would rather have the money and the new jobs more than anything else. But it’s also true they’re not unhappy with the consolation prize from another defeat (and at least three more after that). They will get to campaign for the next year on just the sort of declaration that they hope will get the Occupy Wall Street types to the polls: That the GOP had a choice between creating jobs and protecting millionaires — and chose the metaphorical 1 percent.

What may not help the president and his party are the atmospherics of this bus tour. Republicans are getting plenty or air time deriding it as nothing more than a taxpayer-financed campaign swing — and on an evil-looking, Canadian-made maxibus, to boot.  (To be fair, the Secret Service spent $2.2 million for a pair of the armor-plated, high-tech-packed behemoths, so that each nominee could make use of one next fall.)

More problematic in the long run may be the way Obama is sounding so eager at every turn to make all members of Congress, from both parties, into his rhetorical punching bag. “Maybe they couldn’t understand the whole thing, all at once,” he said of his original $447 billion plan at one rally yesterday, “so we’re going to break it up for them into little bite sized pieces so they can digest it.” It’s an obvious line, and lawmakers are an easy mark given their collectively record-low approval rating. But the president is also facing deepening and bipartisan annoyance from the Capitol, where Democratic leaders and the rank-and-file alike view the president as unnecessarily disdainful and dismissive — especially coming from someone who is (at least officially) a product of Congress.

EYE ON CAIN: Only seven candidates will be on stage in the Venetian from 8 to 10 tonight for the fifth Republican presidential debate since Labor Day — and the one that’s likely to determine how long the Herman Cain boomlet will last. Only seven are coming because Jon Huntsman is boycotting the debate because the Jan. 14 Nevada caucus date is crating big-time complications for New Hampshire’s has-to-be-first-primary scheduling. (The Iowa caucuses are now locked down for Jan. 3, the first business day of the new year, a record early start to the presidential nominating process.)

THE BEGINNINGS OF SOME ENDS: The wave of House campaign finance reports that has washed into the FEC in recent days offers some terrific clues about which lawmakers are likeliest to add themselves to the retirement list — and which should be seen as front-runners in the dozen or more member-vs.-member primaries that have already resulted from redistricting.

In most of those pending matchups, the two lawmakers began the month with more or less comparable amounts in their campaign accounts. (The biggest combined amount is in Los Angeles, where Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman have banked $6 million for their grudge match.) But in these five, one lawmaker had twice as much money (or more) at the ready: Ed Royce had $3 million, to $1 million for fellow California Republican Gary Miller; Charles Boustany had more than $1.1 million in the bank at the same time fellow Louisiana Republican Jeff Landry had $402,000; Joe Walsh had $466,000 to $276,000 for fellow GOP freshman Randy Hultgren in Illinois; Marcy Kaptur had $605,000 while fellow Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich had just $90,000; and Gary Peters had an $839,000 to $129,000 cash advantage over freshman fellow Democrat Hansen Clarke in Michigan.

Moving to the head of the retirement watch list, meanwhile, is Republican Roscoe Bartlett, who raised a tough-to-get-much-less $1,000 over the summer even as Maryland Democrats were starting the process of redrawing his district to make him an underdog for winning an 11th term. (The state Senate advanced just such a map yesterday.)

Among the others whose paltry third quarter fundraising totals are sending an unmistakable signal that they are getting ready to pack it in: ethically embattled freshman Republican David Rivera of Florida, drawn-out-of-a-district Democrat Dennis Cardoza of California, New York Democrats Maurice Hinchey (who is gravely ill) and Ed Towns and a trio of Southern California Republicans whose political lives were severely complicated by the state’s new map: Jerry Lewis, David Dreier and Elton Gallegly

A ‘CHILD’ AWAITS: There’s still a chance, if only a small one, that Congress will start moving a rewrite of the decade-old No Child Left Behind law before Thanksgiving. The opening would come in the Senate, where in the next few weeks all the high-profile, politically charged jobs bill maneuvering may have been exhausted, and where the ambitious collection of spending bill “minibuses” may have crashed and burned.

If that happens, Reid may allow the education bill some time on the floor — especially if the bill maintains or even expands its bipartisan coating at the committee markup planned for tomorrow. Democratic Chairman Tom Harkin’s 860-page draft was put together with the help of top Republican Mike Enzi and has already won another important GOP endorsement from committee member (and former Education Secretary) Lamar Alexander.

QUOTE OF NOTE: “This may seem impolitic for members of Congress to weigh in on this particular debate, but Cardinal fans are our constituents too. We care about what they care about. They want Albert back, and so do we,” Rep. Tim Johnson said in a letter to team management that his aides forwarded yesterday to the St. Louis Post-Disptach. Then, a couple of hours later, the same aides called and pleaded with the paper not to publish it, on the grounds that it might somehow interfere with Pujols' performance in the World Series. (The Cards take on the Texas Rangers in Game 1 tonight.) Illinois redistricting has pushed the Republican’s territory into the paper’s circulation area for the first time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Freshman Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida (52).

— David Hawkings, editor

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Monday, October 17, 2011

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: Road Trip

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today In Washington

THE WHITE HOUSE: “So 63 percent of Americans support the jobs bill that I put forward; 100 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against it. That doesn't make any sense, does it?” Obama said a few minutes ago after Air Force One deposited him in Asheville for the start of a three-day bus tour across North Carolina and Virginia. The giant motorcade’s first scheduled stop is 106 miles east, for a speech at 5 at West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek (population 2,100 or so). He’s spending the night in Greensboro.

THE SENATE: Convenes at 2 to open an all-week debate on the “minibus” $128 billion spending package for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development as well as the FDA, NASA and the National Science Foundation. Republicans will try to cut money for nutrition regulations, the new NASA telescope, high-speed rail and community development grants. There’s no agreement on a timetable for their amendments, though, so the day’s only vote will be at 5:30, to confirm federal Magistrate Cathy Bissoon as the first African-American U.S. District Court judge ever in Pittsburgh.

THE HOUSE: In recess for the week (except for pro forma sessions tomorrow and Friday).

WHEELS DOWN: Obama’s bus-tour pitch today is focused on the $35 billion he wants to spend helping cities and counties rehire as many as 400,000 teachers, firefighters and police. Now that his jobs agenda has been shot down in Congress as a comprehensive package, the president says that’s the first piece of his plan that deserves a chance to pass on its own.

“We are confident that Sen. Reid will be able to say something about the scheduling of a vote in the relatively near future,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said this morning, and there were reports at the Capitol that the Senate might set aside the minibus and arrange a quick vote on that plan.

Behind the scenes, though, the talk between the White House and congressional leaders is just as much focused on reaching an agreement on a more expensive (and more-job-creating) plan for public works spending. The fact that the House GOP is now positioning a comprehensive surface transportation bill (highlighted with provisions to speed up projects and refocus spending on “core” programs) as a centerpiece of its own jobs agenda is a clear sign that Republicans want to get to “yes” with Obama on a roads-and-bridges package almost as much as they are willing to embrace his plans for extending and expanding the payroll tax holiday.

The biggest threat to a quick deal would be if the president gets to Virginia tomorrow and renews his habit of poking as often as possible at Cantor — or if the state’s most powerful member of Congress uses the occasion to practice his habit of poking at the president whenever he can. (Obama’s bus tour route was not planned to create a backdrop for such squabbling, but to lay some groundwork for the president to at least have a chance to once again carry North Carolina’s 15 and Virginia’s 13 electoral votes — two of his biggest 2008 coups. And in response, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has bought TV ad time in both states today through Wednesday.)

DEAL OR NO DEAL: With 38 days to go until the supercommitee’s deadline, there’s a bit of growing optimism that the panel will come up with bipartisan agreement on a plan for reducing the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. (Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s declaration over the weekend that he and the panel’s Democratic co-chairman, Sen. Patty Murray, are really and genuinely getting along, is the latest sign that the panel’s efforts may come to something.)

And the contours of how the rank-and file might react to the panel’s proposals continue to shift. Republicans are starting to sell their members on the notion that whatever the supers come up with, it will be better than the alternative — the so-called sequestration trigger that would mean hundreds of billions in Pentagon cuts that so many in the GOP ranks find abhorrent. And the Democrats are starting to sell their people on the opposite notion, that those very across-the-board cuts might be a lesser evil (in terms of protecting party priorities and core constituencies) than a deal that would carve deeply into entitlements.

Below the surface, there are signs that the supercommittee will embrace several items that were bandied about this summer before the Obama-Boehner grand bargain fell apart:  At least $23 billion in cuts to farm programs over the next decade, the current civilian federal employee pay freeze continuing for several more years, new limits to their retirement benefits and curbs on military health care programs.

ON THE LINES: Factory output rose 0.4 percent in September, the Federal Reserve reported this morning. It was the third straight monthly gain and a glimmer of a sign that the economy is growing slowly. Production of business equipment rose 1 percent, the third straight increase of at least that much. Auto output increased for a third straight month, and home electronics production for a fifth. Overall industrial production edged up 0.2 percent.

TRAIL TIPS: (1) Jim DeMint is getting ready to endorse Mitt Romney, perhaps this week, which would be an important coup for the Republican presidential front-runner on two fronts: DeMint has worked hard in the past two years to cement his standing as the tea party movement’s favorite senator, and he’s a major statewide figure in one of the earliest primary states. (South Carolina’s vote is planned for Jan. 21.) DeMint also endorsed Romney in 2008, though, and the former Massachusetts governor nonetheless finished a distant third in that year’s primary. More than two dozen members of Congress already have endorsed Romney, far more than any other candidate. The big get over the weekend was Oregon’s Greg Walden, who’s important because he’s the deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee — and on course to run the House campaign organization for 2014.

(2) Herman Cain may be surging in the GOP presidential polls — at least until the full wave of national media scrutiny crests over him — but his fundraising is still lagging behind both of the House members in the race. Ron Paul raised $8.3 million in the third quarter and started the month with $3.7 million in cash on hand, while Michele Bachmann reported raising $3.9 million and having $1.3 million in the bank. (The third House member who was officially in the race this summer, Thaddeus McCotter, told the FEC last week that he raised only $513,000, has spent all but $1,500 of it and has unpaid campaign bills of $105,000. Meanwhile, Cain brought in $2.8 million during July, August and September — just as he was moving into position as the favorite super-conservative alternative to Mitt Romney — and also has $1.3 million in the bank.

(3) The overwhelmingly Republican Utah legislature is meeting this week to draw a congressional district map with four districts (one more than currently), and it’s likely they’ll come up with a plan designed to color all four seats GOP red in 2012. If that happens, conservative Democrat Jim Matheson plans to leave the House after six terms and run for statewide office — most likely for the Senate. (The governor’s seat isn’t up until 2014.) The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee conducted a poll last month that found Matheson with 42 percent support and Republican Orrin Hatch at just 48 percent, a far-from-comfortable number for an incumbent senator in office for 35 years. Still, the state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970, and Hatch has already put $4 million in his campaign bank account to get ready for his no-longer-happening primary against Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: House Democrats Gene Green of Texas (64), Mike Quigley of Illinois (53) and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico (40).

— David Hawkings, editor

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This Week: CQ Roll Call's Grad Fair

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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