READ IN: Monday, July 21, 2014: Bloody day in Gaza, Perry sending National Guard to border, Christie’s top economist quits, food stamp use drops, and no Senate amendments for 3 whole months

July 21, 2014

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

-- More than 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in intense street battles in Gaza on Sunday. Israel attacked a neighborhood in east Gaza it said was littered with Hamas rocket sites and tunnels. Hamas claimed to have captured an Israeli soldier, though Israel denied the claims. President Obama raised serious concerns about the casualties in a phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Washington Post)

-- Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday accused Russia of providing SA-11 anti-aircraft missiles to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, and that U.S. intelligence agencies "saw the launch" of a missile from rebel-held territory as the Malaysia Airlines 777 vanished from radar. Rebels have moved more than 200 bodies to refrigerated railcars, and they maintain control of the plane's black boxes. Ukrainian security services released audio recordings on Sunday of rebel leaders discussing the importance of keeping black boxes out of the hands of international investigators. (Washington Post)

-- The Ukrainian military renewed its assault on Donetsk on Monday, just 40 miles from the crash site. The military is trying to push rebels away from the city's airport. Ukrainian authorities are working to establish a safe corridor to get 31 international aircraft experts, including two from the U.S., from the city of Kharkiv to the crash site. (Washington Post)

-- The Obama administration was warned repeatedly about the growing number of young immigrants streaming across the border over the last two years, though they did little to respond because they viewed it as a "local problem." Top officials from Customs and Border Protection and ICE, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and even the First Ladies of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala raised concerns about what turned into a humanitarian crisis. (Washington Post)

-- Gov. Rick Perry (R) will announce Monday he's sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley to help manage the border crisis. Perry has already ordered an increase in Texas Department of Public Safety officers in the Rio Grande, to combat human smuggling. The deployment will cost Texas a total of about $5 million per week. (McAllen Monitor)

-- The Obama administration on Friday said it would reopen the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration by approving seismic surveys using sonic cannons. Those cannons can find oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor, but they also disturb whales, dolphins and turtles, environmentalists warned. Industry lobbyists say oil and gas drilling could generate $195 billion in economic activity in the next two decades. (Associated Press)

-- Front Pages: WaPo, LA Times, NYT and WSJ all lead with violence in Gaza after a bloody Sunday that killed more than 100 Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers. USA Today leads with growing calls for new sanctions against Russia, with a four-column story from Gaza above the fold.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Hillary Clinton has earned at least $12 million in the 16 months since she left the State Department, mostly from speeches, paid appearances and sales of her memoir. Clinton has received payment for at least 27 speeches, and her fee is at least $200,000. (Bloomberg)

-- Florida: The federal judge who invalidated Florida's congressional district maps has ordered a July 24 hearing for arguments on whether to force new districts before this year's elections. State officials told Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis it's almost impossible to draw new districts in time; overseas absentee ballots have already been mailed ahead of the Aug. 26 primary. But voting rights groups that filed the initial suit said there's still time. (Miami Herald)

-- North Carolina: Lawmakers are still in session debating next year's budget, nearly three weeks after they hoped to adjourn, thanks to a feud between Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory (R). McCrory has threatened to veto a Senate budget, which he said would force layoffs and Medicaid cuts, while Senate President Phil Berger has accused McCrory of "staging media stunts." (Charlotte Observer) Why this matters: The legislature is not popular, and that could weigh on state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Democrats have been working to make the Senate race all about Tillis's time in Raleigh. McCrory and Berger are not each other's biggest fans, to put it gently.

-- Minnesota: Sleeper race to watch: The DCCC has added Rep. Rick Nolan (D) to its Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents. Republicans are high on businessman Stewart Mills (R), who has outraised Nolan in three of the last four quarters. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) Nolan has already laid down $375,000 in late ad time, but the NRCC is coming on strong: They've reserved more than $500,000 in October air time. Nolan will cost Democrats money, too: The DCCC and House Majority PAC have reserved their own time this fall.

-- New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie's (R) top economist, Charles Steindel, is resigning after three years in which his rosy revenue projections proved too optimistic. Thanks in part to missing those projections, ratings agencies have cut New Jersey's credit rating six times since Christie took office. Ratings agencies see the state as a riskier investment than California, for the first time since 1977. (Bloomberg)

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

-- President Obama signs an executive order protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from workplace discrimination at an event this morning in the East Room. Obama will visit an education center in Washington to promote his My Brother's Keeper initiative. This afternoon, he awards Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in Afghanistan.

-- Vice President Biden heads to St. Louis this morning to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention. This afternoon, he's back in D.C. for meetings at the White House.

-- The House returns tomorrow at noon. First votes will take place at 6:30 p.m.

-- The Senate returns at 2:00 p.m., with votes expected on three nominations -- a nominee to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, an ambassador to the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and an ambassador to the Republic of Niger.

-- Questions still unanswered before August recess, from Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe: Will the Senate give in and approve the House highway bill? When will House and Senate negotiators meet to hammer out differences between their Veterans Administration bills? When will the House give up and pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act reauthorization?

-- House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is beginning to take over public responsibilities of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who steps down next week. McCarthy's team is handling floor schedules, while Cantor's staff is still handling member requests. (Roll Call)

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

-- RGA: The Republican Governors Association is out with two new ads attacking Democratic candidates in Michigan and Arkansas. The RGA is taking shots at former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) over tax increases, and at former Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) over his association with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- The Senate went three months earlier this year without voting on a legislative amendment. Rank and file senators increasingly feel like pawns in a paralyzing game of chess between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A small group of Democrats and Republicans have been meeting secretly to try to break the logjam, but they haven't reached any deals. (Washington Post)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- The number of Americans using food stamps has dropped from a peak of 47.6 million last June to 46.6 million at the end of last month. The 2.1 percent decline is the first drop since the beginning of the recession. Program participation dropped in 47 out of 50 states over the last year. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

-- Stock futures are down a fraction this morning after the Dow closed higher on Friday. World markets are trading lower on heightened international anxiety. (CNN)

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

-- The New Republic takes a deep dive into Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mahmoud Abbas didn't have the support of his chief negotiator, who believed Benjamin Netanyahu would drive the conversation to his own advantage. Israeli security wouldn't let the negotiator, Saeb Erekat, drive himself to negotiations taking place in Jerusalem. And distrust among Israeli negotiators held up some of the early talks last year. Lots to unpack in this big piece.

-- As the Koch brothers are or Tom Steyer is to national politics, Art Pope is to North Carolina. The wealthy businessman has showered donations on Republican candidates and conservative think tanks (to the tune of more than $55 million). But there's a twist: Now he's playing a role inside government, as Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) budget director. A fascinating look at one of the drivers of politics in an increasingly dynamic state. (Washington Post)

-- Former Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh (R), who helped the state weather a difficult recession in the 1980s, died Sunday at age 91. Atiyeh, the first Arab American governor in U.S. history, turned down an offer to play football for the Green Bay Packers in order to take over his family's rug business. (Salem Statesman Journal, Associated Press)

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

-- Vermont has bats in its belfry. Well, sort of: State officials haven't bothered to seal up an attic in the statehouse in Montpelier, and it's not uncommon to see bats swooping through the building. State officials don't mind, and some say giving the mammals a home is a good thing, given how many bats are dying from white nose disease. (Burlington Free Press)

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

-- FEMA is desperately searching for vacant shopping malls, big box stores, event venues and even airport hangers available for lease to house some of the tens of thousands of young immigrants who have streamed across the border in recent months. Emergency officials have reached out to advocacy groups looking for sites within 50 miles of cities with an airport and a population of more than 200,000. (The New Republic)

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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