READ IN: Wednesday, July 30, 2014: Senate passes short-term highway fix, Paul hires political director, Kasich cruising in Ohio, FBI finalists named, and $6.3 million spent on TV this week

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

-- The European Union moved to impose harsh new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, including limiting access to capital markets for state-owned banks and a ban on exporting technology for use in deepwater and shale oil exploration. The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 changed Germany’s attitude toward the sanctions; Germany relies heavily on Russian energy. France will still sell two warships to Russia, and the sanctions don’t cover natural gas, Gazprom’s main product. (Washington Post)

-- Israeli shells hit a U.N.-run school acting as a shelter in northern Gaza early today, killing at least 15 Palestinians. The school is in Jabaliya, a densely populated area that Israeli artillery has been shelling since yesterday afternoon. At least 50 people have died in the last 24 hours. A U.N. official said about 3,300 people were at the site when the shells hit. An Israeli spokesman said the military was investigating. (New York Times) More than 200,000 people have fled their homes during the three-week campaign. Israel bombed 150 sites on Tuesday. (New York Times)

-- House Republicans laid out their solution to the border crisis on Tuesday, providing $659 million to help federal agencies stop the flood of immigrants across the southern border and changing a 2008 anti-trafficking law that would make it easier to deport minors from Central America. House Speaker John Boehner said he thinks the bill has enough support to pass before Congress leaves for recess. The proposal is significantly less than the House GOP’s initial proposal, which would have added up to $1.5 billion. Senate Democrats have proposed spending $2.7 billion, though whether a bill that size can win bipartisan support is questionable. (Washington Post)

-- The Senate unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald as the next head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, just a month after President Obama nominated him. McDonald will replace Sloan Gibson, who served as acting secretary since Eric Shinseki resigned in late May. (Washington Post, New York Times) Reupping Ed O’Keefe’s statistic from Monday: Not a single senator has ever voted against a nominee to head the VA.

-- The Senate voted Tuesday for a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund through December, a smaller extension than the House’s version, which would run through May. Congress has until Aug. 1 -- Friday -- to come up with a solution before Transportation Department officials have to start limiting payments to states. (CNN) Why go for the shorter extension? Democrats want leverage in the lame duck if they lose their Senate majority.

-- In opening statements Tuesday, attorneys for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and wife Maureen McDonnell said the former first lady had a “crush” on Jonnie Williams, the Star Scientific executive at the heart of the federal case against the McDonnells. Maureen McDonnell wasn’t plotting to get rich by abusing power, the attorneys said; she was seeking attention and refuge from a broken marriage. During their investigation, prosecutors even interviewed Mitt Romney. (Washington Post) This is going to be a gut-wrenching trial. Make sure to bookmark WaPo’s live blog.

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with big public support in Israel for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war in Gaza, with a four-column banner on the McDonnell trial up top. NYT looks at European countries paying ransoms to al Qaeda-affiliated groups, which helps fund terrorism. WSJ and USA Today lead with new U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Russia. LA Times leads with a Mike Memoli look at Democrats fundraising off impeachment talks.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is naming Michigan strategist John Yob the national political director of RANDPAC. Yob will work alongside top Iowa strategist Steve Grubbs and New Hampshire expert Mike Biundo. (Detroit News) Paul is also writing a book on national politics, scheduled to come out in early 2015. (Louisville Courier-Journal) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) puts on his RGA hat for trips to Maine, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma this month, campaigning for Republican governors and gubernatorial candidates. (Associated Press)

-- Ohio: Gov. John Kasich (R) leads Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) by a 48 percent to 36 percent margin, a new Quinnipiac poll finds. Kasich’s fav/unfav rating stands at 46 percent to 30 percent, and his job approval is at 55 percent. In May, Kasich led 50 to 35. (Quinnipiac) Fun with polling: FitzGerald’s fav/unfavs are just 23 percent to 12 percent. But 36 percent say he has strong leadership qualities, and 60 percent weigh in when asked whether he’s too liberal, too conservative or about right.

-- Wisconsin: The state Supreme Court will rule today on lawsuits over Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union bargaining law, signed in 2011; voter identification legislation; and a state registry for same-sex couples. Labor groups sued over the bargaining lawsuit, and a Dane County judge found parts of it unconstitutional in 2012. The NAACP and the League of Women Voters sued over the voter ID law, which another Dane County judge halted in 2012. And the court will rule on a 2009 law providing limited benefits to same-sex couples after a federal judge ruled the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Time for SCOTUSblog to open a Madison bureau.

-- Missouri: A constitutional amendment on the Aug. 5 primary ballot would declare gun rights “unalienable” to all Missouri residents. The amendment would allow residents to defend their families with firearms, rather than limiting defense to their homes, properties and themselves. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says he worries the measure will allow criminals more access to guns. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

-- Rhode Island: The chairman of the state Democratic Party has quit his post after a local NBC affiliate reported state police are looking into a contract he won to sell concessions at three state beaches. David Caprio won the five-year contract after another bidder, Rep. Peter Palumbo (D), pulled out of the running. (Providence Journal) Doesn’t this seem like the beginning of a mob movie?

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

-- President Obama wakes up in Kansas City this morning, where he’ll deliver remarks on the economy at the Uptown Theater. Obama plans to lash out at House Republicans over a lawsuit suing him for his use of executive authority. (Washington Post) Obama will head back to D.C. after his speech.

-- Vice President Biden is taking his summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach.

-- The House meets at 10:00 a.m., with votes expected to begin around 3:00 p.m. The House takes up a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against President Obama over executive authority, and a measure to cut regulations sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio). Last votes will come between 5:30 and 6:30.

-- The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to continue considering Sen. John Walsh’s (D-Mont.) bill to repatriate jobs. A cloture vote will come around 10:45 a.m. The Senate will also take up its border funding bill, and nominations for an ambassador to Gabon, an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

-- The new FBI headquarters will be located in Greenbelt, Landover or Springfield, the General Services Administration said Tuesday. The three finalists all have enough space to house a 2.1 million square foot campus within 2 1/2 miles of the Beltway and two miles of a Metro stop. The Greenbelt location would be on top of the parking lot at the Metro station itself. Far from being upset at losing a federal agency, D.C. officials are thrilled they’ll get to sell prime real estate on Pennsylvania Ave. (Washington Post)

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

-- Fifteen weeks to go until Election Day. Here's our weekly spotlight on who's spending, and where, in the five most expensive races of the week:

-- Colorado Senate: Both sides are spending a combined $1.1 million this week alone in advertising blitzes. Five groups on the Democratic side are spending $605,000, while two groups backing Rep. Cory Gardner (R) are dropping about $575,000. Gardner's campaign is spending $175,000 this week.

-- Iowa Senate: Democrats are dropping $540,000, compared with $305,000 spent by Republican groups this week. The DSCC is the biggest spender on the Democratic side, at $265,000. Concerned Veterans for America is dropping $210,000, the largest Republican spender.

-- North Carolina Senate: Democrats are spending $665,000 on ads this week, with Republicans at $350,000. Patriot Majority leads the Democratic charge for Sen. Kay Hagan (D), spending $590,000. Crossroads GPS makes up the bulk, $300,000, of the Republican spending.

-- Arkansas Senate: Republicans are spending $375,000 on ads this week, led by Koch-connected groups Americans for Prosperity ($180,000) and the Government Intengrity Fund Action Network ($133,000). Patriot Majority and the Arkansas Democratic Party are spending a combined $180,000 on behalf of Sen. Mark Pryor (D). Pryor and Rep. Tom Cotton (R) have smaller five-figure buys running.

-- Kentucky Senate: In advance of Fancy Farm, the pro-Mitch McConnell Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is spending $305,000 on ads this week. Senate Majority PAC is spending $83,000 for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).

-- All told, federal and gubernatorial candidates are dropping $6.3 million on television advertising this week. A whopping $1 million of that money is being spent in the Denver media market alone.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- President Obama has urged world leaders to spend more on nuclear nonproliferation, but the U.S. is headed the other direction. The administration’s 2015 budget would cut nonproliferation programs by $399 million while boosting spending on refurbishing and modernizing nukes themselves by $534 million. In 2013, the White House rejected an Energy Department plan to speed up a program to secure loose nuclear materials. (Center for Public Integrity)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- House Republican Conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will introduce a package of legislation aimed at rebuilding the GOP’s relationship with women voters. The legislation includes incentives for flexible work schedules, tax breaks for children and families and more freedom for charter schools. Some of those measures have already passed the House, but they’re dead in the Senate. (Time) Smart point from Jay Newton-Small: This is a pretty radical change for a party that has long scorned identity politics.

-- The Federal Reserve will give its first estimates of second quarter GDP today, with economists predicting an annual growth rate of 2.9 percent. That’s a marked turnaround from the first quarter, when lousy weather kept shoppers at home. Some economists think growth could rebound to as much as 4 percent by 2015. (Associated Press)

-- Markets are trading higher this morning ahead of the end of the quarterly Fed meeting today. The Dow lost 70 points on Tuesday, but most world markets are trading higher today. (CNN)

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

-- The federal government is on pace to receive a record amount of money in payouts from contractor-fraud lawsuits. The Justice Department expects to collect more than $5 billion this year under the False Claims Act, thanks in large part to whistleblowers who call out their own companies. Whistleblowers receive an average of 16 percent of settlement amounts. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

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

-- Random facts from Paul Kane: Vin Scully started calling Dodgers games in 1950. John Dingell joined Congress in 1955. Come January, Dingell will be retired -- and Scully will still be calling Dodger games.

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

-- Emails released by the House Oversight Committee show the White House coordinated talking points with insurance company CEOs during the Affordable Care Act’s faulty rollout last fall. Insurance executives also repeatedly raised concerns that so-called Risk Corridors would be fully funded, an expectation of a bailout if the ACA started costing them money. (Weekly Standard)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a 2012 Mississippi law requiring physicians to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital in order to perform abortions was unconstitutional, keeping the last remaining abortion clinic in the state open for business. (Associated Press)

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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Zachary A. Goldfarb · July 30