READ IN: Tuesday, July 29, 2014: VA bill to pass, Christie’s pension reform has tough road, Ark. DCCC makes big bucks off impeachment talk, and D.C.’s shutdown baby boom

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

-- A cease-fire is over as Israel began pounding the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, hitting a fuel tank at Gaza’s only electricity plant and the headquarters of Hamas’s television station. At least 40 people were killed overnight, Palestinian officials said. Five Israeli soldiers were killed when Hamas militants snuck through a tunnel into southern Israel and opened fire. In a televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the incursion into Gaza will be longer than initially expected. (Washington Post)

-- European Union ambassadors are expected to decide today on new sanctions against Russia, which could include limits on Russia’s access to E.U. capital markets and an end to arms and technology shipments. The leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy told President Obama in a conference call on Monday they were willing to adopt the harsh new sanctions. (Associated Press)

-- The U.S. says Russia violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, by testing a ground-launched cruise missile. In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Obama said the missile tests, which took place between 2008 and 2011, violated the treaty. Top Obama advisors decided over the last few months that the tests amounted to serious violations. (New York Times)

-- House and Senate negotiators who came to agreement on a bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs believe their bill will easily pass before lawmakers bolt for August recess. The deal includes $17 billion in spending for medical care and leases for at least 27 new facilities, and a provision that would allow administrators to immediately fire low-performing employees. Before they leave, the House is expected to pass a Republican measure authorizing a lawsuit against President Obama; it’s likely to be the final official action of Eric Cantor’s tenure as House Majority Leader. (Washington Post)

-- An Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst on record, is only a plane ride away from the U.S. The CDC on Monday issued an alert to health care providers to help them identify symptoms of the disease after an infected traveler was able to board a plane to Lagos, Nigeria. The family of an American doctor who has contracted the virus is monitoring themselves after returning to the U.S.; the doctor remains in Africa. (USA Today)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with Netanyahu’s warning of a long fight ahead in Gaza. NYT leads with new E.U. sanctions on Russia, expected to be announced today. WSJ reports on setbacks for Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine. USA Today leads with the Ebola outbreak story, while the LA Times reports on a judge’s ruling that former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer can buy the Clippers.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- Virginia: A three-judge panel on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision will go into effect in three weeks unless the defendants appeal to the Supreme Court, which is likely. The 4th Circuit decision also applies to marriage bans in North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Charleston Gazette, Washington Post)

-- New Jersey: Hey Gov. Chris Christie (R), good luck passing your pension reform plan. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) said Christie’s plan to cut public worker pensions has “zero” chance of passing the legislature. Sweeney accused Christie of using the plan as the foundation for a presidential run in 2016. Sweeney himself plans to run to replace Christie after the incumbent’s term runs out. (Newark Star-Ledger) Thinking ahead: Sweeney’s relationship with public employee unions isn’t great. He’ll need them -- or at least need them to stay on the sidelines -- in 2017.

-- Kansas: Gov. Sam Brownback (R) raised $1.2 million during the last reporting period, which ended July 24, barely outraising state House Majority Leader Paul Davis (D). But Brownback’s haul includes a $500,000 loan from Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), a wealthy plastic surgeon. Without the loan, Davis would have outraised Brownback by nearly $400,000. (Kansas City Star) Okay, this race is real.

-- Georgia: Businesswoman Michelle Nunn (D) must get 30 percent of the white vote to win in November, while simultaneously turning out big numbers of African American and Latino voters. She hopes to raise $250,000 from Jewish donors, and her campaign was worried about contributions a charity she ran gave to an Islamic charity. That's according to Nunn's 144-page campaign plan, leaked to a reporter this week. Fascinating look inside a modern Senate race. (National Review) More troubling for Democrats: 30 percent of the white vote would actually be an improvement over recent performances by statewide candidates.

-- Tennessee: An internal survey conducted for Sen. Lamar(!) Alexander (R) shows he’s beating up on his Tea Party rivals ahead of the Aug. 7 primary. The Whit Ayres poll shows Alexander leading state Sen. Joe Carr (R) 53 percent to 21 percent, with physician George Flinn (R) running a distant third. The poll was conducted before Sarah Palin backed Carr and Laura Ingraham held a rally for him, but Alexander has been pretty aggressive watching his back. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Massachusetts: The state legislature this month passed a bill to make volleyball the official recreational and team sport of the Bay State, and Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is considering signing it. Apparently volleyball was invented in Holyoke, Mass., home to the Volleyball Hall of Fame. (Boston Globe)

-- Editor’s Note: We love polls. Who doesn’t? But your author has a deep-seeded bias against robo polls and online surveys. That means we’re not going to include polls from firms like PPP, Rasmussen or SurveyUSA (Mitch McConnell trails by 1 among women, but he loses independents by 17?) or YouGov polls, which are conducted online.

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

-- President Obama meets House Democrats in the Roosevelt Room to discuss the economy this morning. This afternoon, he travels to Walter Reed to meet wounded service members. Later, he travels to Kansas City, Mo., where he will remain overnight.

-- Vice President Biden is in Rehoboth Beach with no public events on the calendar.

-- The House meets at 10:00 a.m., with first votes scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Votes under suspension on five uncontroversial measures are planned before the House takes up a measure to amend the Endangered Species Act sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.).

-- The Senate meets this morning at 10:00 a.m. before taking up Robert McDonald’s nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs at noon. They’ll take a roll call vote on his nomination at 2:45 p.m., along with voice votes on nominees to become ambassadors to Mauritania, Cameroon and Algeria. After dispensing with nominations, the Senate will take up the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, their fix to the Highway Trust Fund crisis. They plan to vote on four amendments before voting for final passage late today.

-- Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at the State Department this morning. Later, he meets with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice at the White House.

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

-- Iowa: State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) returned from her two-week Iowa National Guard duty on Monday, and Senate Majority PAC welcomed her with an attack ad. The group’s new ad ties Ernst to the Koch brothers. (Des Moines Register)

-- Arkansas: Former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays (D) is dropping big bucks into late airtime, a reminder that House Democrats are at least trying to make inroads in red districts. Hays, running for retiring Rep. Tim Griffin's (R) 2nd District seat, just reserved $750,000 in broadcast and cable ads in the Little Rock market, beginning Sept. 2. The DCCC has reserved $494,000 in Little Rock, though they could use that for another Arkansas district if need be. Banker French Hill (R) has yet to lay down ad buys.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- Insight from two smart people: We sat down with former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) at their offices at Squire Patton Boggs yesterday to chat about the midterms, the state of the Senate and what it'll take to fix politics. Breaux's take on the midterms: ”Mad people vote. And people are mad at Congress.”

-- Lott looked ahead to the possibility Republicans will take back the Senate. If the new majority leader decides to return to regular order and the appropriations process, they could hand Democrats the ability to force a bunch of unpopular votes. ”You've got to be prepared to eat a lot of amendments,” Lott said.

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- When the Republican National Committee virtually invented direct mail fundraising in the 1980s, it was revolutionary. But the money required to raise big direct mail dollars makes it less practical today. That doesn't mean some firms don't try -- even on behalf of candidates who won't necessarily run. Fox 2 Detroit took a look at one such company, D.C.-based Base Connect, which raises money in part from seniors. One group, Conservative Strikeforce, has raised $10 million since 2010 thanks to Base Connect. But they've paid the firm $9 million. (MyFoxDetroit)

-- What do Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R) and Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue (R) have in common? They both benefitted from an anonymous dark money group that attacked their rivals. And they both employ former RGA executive director Nick Ayers. Those two facts are related: Ayers' ad buying firm and his creative company are connected to the anonymous group, Jobs & Progress Fund Inc. (Center for Responsive Politics)

-- The DCCC raised $2.1 million over the weekend, which it said was its best four-day haul of the entire cycle, through fundraising pitches warning House Republicans were about to impeach President Obama. The DCCC sent out 9 email pitches focusing on the impeachment threat this weekend alone, after Republicans advanced a bill to authorize a lawsuit against Obama. (Washington Post)

-- Stock futures are slightly higher this morning after a mixed day on Wall Street on Monday. World markets were higher across the board today. (CNN)

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

-- More than one third of consumers with credit files have a debt in collections, meaning companies are trying to recover money from about 77 million people. The median debt they owe is $1,350, according to a new Urban Institute study. Nearly half of consumers with credit files in Nevada were subject to collections, and more than 40 percent of residents with a credit file in 12 states and the District of Columbia are in collections. (Washington Post)

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

-- Have you noticed a spike in the number of your friends having babies? Perhaps it’s because, nine months ago, those friends suddenly had a bunch of free time -- maybe thanks to the government shutdown. That’s right, there’s a spike in the number of kids being born in D.C., and doctors are crediting the shutdown. At Sibley Memorial Hospital, the number of births has risen by nearly a third. (Washington Post)

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

-- Money from the Highway Trust Fund has been used to build bicycle paths in Kenosha, Dane and Waukesha Counties in Wisconsin; to install historic markers for five shipwrecks in the Great Lakes; and to pay for a new museum dedicated to Wisconsin’s largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles. And that’s only in one state! (RedState)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said at a recent event at the Heritage Foundation that the EPA’s new rule regulating power plant emissions amounts to terrorism. “[Y]ou terrorize the people who supply everything this country needs to be great -- and you keep them on the sidelines -- my goodness, what have we become?” (ThinkProgress)

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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Jackie Kucinich · July 29