READ IN: Tuesday, May 13, 2014: DSCC buys first Alaska ads, Senate negotiators release transportation bill, how to get around earmark bans, Primary Day in Nebraska and West Virginia

May 13, 2014

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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- The Senate on Monday failed to reach cloture on the Shaheen-Portman energy bill on a mostly party-line vote that also ended chances for an up-or-down vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the bill fell apart because Republicans broke their word on a deal last month on amendments to the bill. Republicans said they never agreed to shut down the amendment process. (Washington Post)

-- Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), David Vitter (R-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Monday released their version of the transportation bill, which continues funding at current levels, plus inflation, for six years. The Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up the Senate version on Thursday. Bill summary here.

-- Transportation expert Jeff Davis gives us his take: The big news in the Senate version is $400 million in new freight spending that starts in 2016 and increases by $400 million a year after that. Another $400 million would fund TIGER-like discretionary grants that have recently been funded through appropriations bills.

-- The Senate will vote on cloture today on a package of tax cut extensions popular with members of both parties, but someone is likely to raise a budget point of order that will force a vote on raising the deficit. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he would either let Budget Committee Republicans raise the point of order, or do it himself. The point of order would require 60 votes to overcome. (Roll Call)

-- Iran, the U.S. and five other nations meet in Vienna this week to begin drafting language on a permanent agreement over Iran's nuclear program. Talks will center around the nuclear fuel production capability Iran will be allowed to maintain, a touchy subject both in Tehran and in Israel and the U.S. In a visit last week, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and chief U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman told Israelis that Iranians would almost certainly be allowed to retain at least some enrichment capability, though they didn't discuss specific numbers. (New York Times)

-- National Tea Party groups that once fostered local offshoots are increasingly taking up electoral causes on their own, angering some local activists who say the bigger groups are wasting money and backing the wrong candidates. "The pursuit of money was more important than the desire to work closely with the state activists," says former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who left FreedomWorks after a dispute over tactics. (New York Times)

-- Reid's Take: A lot of those outside groups weighed in on today's Nebraska Senate primary, on behalf of former Bush administration official Ben Sasse (R), in part because they're running out of primaries they can influence. Senate Conservatives Fund is even weighing in on today's primary in WV-02; it's essential to be able to show donors their money actually elected someone, no matter how low on the totem pole. Sasse's performance tonight will have 1,000 parents.

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with more strife in Ukraine, alongside a great photo from the top of the newly reopened Washington Monument. NYT highlights studies showing rising ocean levels. WSJ highlights a Justice Department push for settlements with big banks. USA Today dedicates five columns to Ukraine.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) met with a group of pastors from Iowa and South Carolina at Liberty University on Friday to share the story of his conversion from Hinduism to Catholicism. On Saturday, Jindal gave the commencement address at Liberty. Jindal has reached out to religious conservatives in an effort to build a foundation for a likely presidential bid. (Washington Post)

-- Alaska: The DSCC is making its first independent expenditures of the cycle on behalf of Sen. Mark Begich. The DSCC has reserved more than $3 million in TV time from Sept. 23 through Election Day, according to public records. That spending, coupled with the pro-Begich Put Alaska First and Begich's own campaign, means Democrats have locked down about 29,000 gross ratings points between Labor Day and Election Day.

-- Virginia: A federal appeals court will hear arguments today over whether Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions violates the Constitution. The three-judge panel will review a February decision by District Judge Arenda Wright Allen that overturned the ban. The 4th Circuit Court hearing is the second appeals court to consider state bans on same-sex marriage; the Denver-based 10th Circuit heard arguments on bans in Utah and Oklahoma earlier this year. (Washington Post)

-- Washington: When Boeing machinists voted on a new contract last year, Rep. Rick Larsen (D) urged them to vote in favor. Now, the Washington State Labor Council is registering its displeasure with Larsen by withholding their endorsement. (Seattle Times) Not the biggest deal in the world, Larsen will win re-election, but a sign of simmering tensions between labor unions and Democrats who were desperate to save the tens of thousands of jobs that came with the new contract. Background here.

-- North Carolina: Asheboro businessman and former city council member Keith Crisco (D) died suddenly on Monday after a fall at his home. Crisco had come just 400 votes short of former American Idol star Clay Aiken in last Tuesday's Democratic primary in NC-02 and was considering a recount that could have forced a runoff. (Asheboro Courier-Tribune)

-- Nebraska and West Virginia: It's primary day! The winner of Republican primaries for Senate and governor in Nebraska will be overwhelming favorites in November, so expect a number of Ben Sasse profiles when polls close at 9 p.m. ET. And three Republicans are fighting over Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's (R) seat in West Virginia; former International Trade Commissioner Charlotte Lane, former Maryland Republican Party chairman Alex Mooney and pharmacist Ken Reed are the leading contenders there; polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Roll Call)

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama will award a Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant Kyle White for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Afghanistan in 2007. Vice President Biden has breakfast with Secretary of State John Kerry, then travels to St. Louis with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to visit an urban park site. Biden will attend two fundraisers for the DSCC in the St. Louis area.

-- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for morning business. They will vote on cloture for the tax extenders bill at 11:10 a.m. before adjourning for caucus lunches.

-- The Senate has confirmed some 300 of President Obama's judicial nominees, 35 more than George W. Bush had confirmed at a similar point in his presidency. Twenty-two more nominations are pending, and another 18 are slated for hearings before the Judiciary Committee. Brookings judicial expert Russell Wheeler says 56 percent of courts of appeals judges are Democratic appointees, a sea-change from just a few years ago. (Time)

-- House Speaker John Boehner says he expects to be re-elected Speaker, but he wouldn't commit to serving a full two-year term. In an interview with Texas Tribune's Evan Smith in San Antonio, Boehner also said he has been privately pushing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to run for president. (Politico) Photo of Buck and some golfer.

-- Who says bipartisanship is dead? Democrats and Republicans showed up to celebrate Brendan Buck, who left Boehner's office on Monday and starts at AHIP on Wednesday. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney even stopped by to offer congratulations. (Washington Post)

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where

-- Patriot Majority: The Democratic 501(c)(4) is buying $700,000 in ads aimed at boosting five House incumbents, two of whom aren't terribly high up on the target list. The group will spend $235,000 on behalf of Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), $122,000 for Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) and $141,000 for Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), three members with tough re-elects. They'll also spend $153,000 on Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and $83,000 on Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), neither of whom is likely to face a serious challenge.

-- Remember, half the money a 501(c)(4) spends has to be on non-political activities (or at least it's supposed to be spent that way). TV ads for safe members like Smith and Kind count toward that mark.

-- Kentucky: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is following her first foray onto television with another buy. Her campaign has bought about $90,000 in broadcast ads on Louisville and Lexington TV this week, bringing her total ad spending to almost $150,000 so far.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- One way to get around an earmark ban: "Deep in the phone-book-size budget bill for the Pentagon, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, are two paragraphs, totaling 203 words, that tout the tactical ladders over the more 'cumbersome' ones now in use. And it directs the Army secretary to present a review of 'commercial ladder options that may reduce weight and provide additional flexibility to soldiers.'"

-- "It does not authorize funding for the ladders or mention a specific company that might sell the Pentagon such equipment. Such blatant transactional wording would be a clear violation of Congress’s ban on earmarks. … No lawmaker’s name is attached to the language in the defense spending bill, but [Rep. Dan] Maffei’s (D-N.Y.) office acknowledged that the congressman was behind it. And officials at Allred & Associates, a small company in Maffei’s Upstate New York district, said they were happy that their congressman inserted in the bill a product a division of their company manufactures and sells for $1,900 apiece. They hope it translates into a boost in business." (Washington Post)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- More people are getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but almost no matter which health plans they choose, they have fewer doctors and hospitals to choose from. So-called narrow networks are becoming more common as insurance companies struggle to control costs and manage care. (New York Times)

-- Federal Reserve Gov. Jeremy Stein will leave office May 28, the latest in a string of departures at the Fed that threatens to leave just three governors in office for the first time in a the board's history. Three nominees are awaiting Senate action, but they're unlikely to come up for a vote before the end of the month. The Fed has had a full slate of governors less than 40 percent of the time over the last two decades. (New York Times)

-- Markets are up slightly in pre-open trading a day after the Dow closed at another record high, adding 112 points. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were both up big Monday. Most Asian and European markets are trading higher this morning. (CNN)

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- Data from NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys this year finds President Obama's approval rating far worse in states with key Senate races, while more voters in those states prefer a Republican member of Congress. Republican pollster Glen Bolger sees a "riptide of the change-oriented political environment" developing. Read his take on reasons Republicans should be optimistic at POS.org.

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- A new survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for Bankrate.com finds half of us carry less than $20 in cash every day, and 9 percent of us are completely cashless. Women are less likely to carry cash than men are, the survey found. (CNBC)

-- What your internet usage says about your politics: If you're reading this on a mobile phone, you're much less likely to turn out to vote than if you're reading this at your desktop. Check out our awesome chart here. (And who are we kidding, if you've made it this far, you're voting)

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday Republicans "shouldn't bother to run a candidate in 2016" if they can't pass immigration reform legislation. The Chamber backs the Senate-passed version of a bill that passed last year. (TPM)

-- About 25,000 New Jersey residents are caught in a technological backlog preventing them from enrolling in the state's Medicaid program. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised back in February that backlog would be fixed in a matter of days. It's been more than two months. (Newark Star-Ledger)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) laid out their proposals to reduce poverty Monday at an award ceremony in New York, where the crowd of about 750 big Wall Street donors mingled in tuxedos and ball gowns. Because nothing says reduce poverty like raising $1.8 million for the Manhattan Institute. (Associated Press)

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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