Wonkbook: At CPAC, Republicans plot post-2012 path

March 15, 2013

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Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $2.1 trillion. That's the amount in additional stimulus the House Progressives would like to spend between 2013 and 2015 in their latest budget proposal, dubbed "Back to Work." That's more than double what was spent in the original stimulus package. More below. 

Wonkblog's Graph of the Day: Americans love talking on their cell phones while driving.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Maryland March 14. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on March 14. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) the Republican re-think brews at CPAC; 2) the Senate wants to keep bipartisan spirit alive on tax reform; 3) assault weapons ban passes committee; 4) JPMorgan and the problem of big banks; and 5) should we do two-year budgets?

1) Top story: From CPAC, a view of Republicans in philosophical disarray

At CPAC, Republicans plot a path in the shadow of 2012. "The future of the Republican Party took some shots at its recent past on Thursday, as two top potential 2016 White House hopefuls made a conspicuous effort to distance themselves from the past two GOP presidential nominees. Speaking to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Sens. Rand Paul (Ky) and Marco Rubio (Fla) offered sharp, and only slightly veiled, critiques of Mitt Romney and John McCain, the two most recent men to carry the party standard in presidential elections." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Liveblog: The Washington Post is covering the conference through SaturdayAaron Blake.

Republicans see two paths forward. "Down one path is Marco Rubio — the conservative-but-not-too-conservative Florida senator who came up as a tea party favorite but has morphed into the establishment’s preferred 2016 candidate...Down the other is Rand Paul — the 4th Amendment-citing Kentucky Republican senator who made a national name for himself with a 13-hour long filibuster of President Obama’s pick for the CIA and relishes his reputation as a man willing to swim against the political tides." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

Explainers: An FAQ for new CPAC watchers, and 5 things to watch for at CPACDavid Weigel in Slate, and Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post.

CPAC has laid bare all of the Republican divisions. "The largest annual gathering of Republican activists began here Thursday with appearances by rival presidential hopefuls offering their party starkly different paths back to prominence — and diagnoses of what ails it — after last fall’s demoralizing losses...Mr. Paul and Mr. Rubio, the most anticipated speakers on Thursday, displayed differences as bare as those within the party at large. Mr. Rubio called for a reassertion of the traditional, Reagan-era values of limited government at home while Mr. Paul called for a more libertarian approach that would shrink America’s role in the world." Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times.

@JimPethokoukis: Is this what the whole CPAC thing is like, Coolidge nostalgia and such?

Conservatives don't want any grand bargain, preferring no deal to one that includes taxes. "President Barack Obama's wooing of congressional Republicans in the past week has spurred the party's most conservative faction into girding to keep GOP lawmakers in line. Conservative activists and organizations have begun warning Republican legislators that if they agree to raise taxes in any broad budget deal with the president, they should expect to face challengers from the party's right wing in their next primary elections." Kristina Peterson and Peter Nicholas in The Wall Street Journal.

...Nor do they want a path to citizenship in immigration reform. "[T]he conservatives on CPAC’s immigration panel Thursday morning also made one thing very clear: They don’t think a path to full citizenship for illegal immigrants was a necessary part of an immigration overhaul, and think that it could be a politically toxic issue that could doom the chances for a bill." Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post.

@jbarro: Buried lede in that Byron York story: CPAC stage features a giant blown-up portrait of JESSE HELMS. I wonder why minorities vote Democrat...

...One of the biggest areas of internal division: foreign policy. "[Sen. Rand Paul] holds the potential to threaten two wings of a Republican national security establishment that have been warring for decades: the internationalists who held sway under the elder President George Bush and the neoconservatives who led the country to long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush...Some Republicans are so nervous about the positions championed by Mr. Paul and his supporters that they have begun talking about organizing to beat back primary challenges from what Dan Senor, a veteran of the younger Mr. Bush’s team of foreign policy advisers, described as a push to reorient the party toward a “neo-isolationist” foreign policy." Michael D. Shear in The New York Times.

@samsteinhp: ah, word association games at CPAC. Moderator says "Satan" several audience members reply "Obama"

Rand Paul Versus the Robotic Squirrel, Mike Lee Versus the Rancid Pudding. "Paul described a GOP that could win the 'Facebook generation,' the kids who instinctively know what's ridiculous and who have every reason to fear the state. 'Ask them whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use and you’ll hear a resounding no.' he said. 'Ask them if they want to bail out Too-Big-To-Fail banks with their tax dollars and you’ll hear a hell no!' Ever since Ron Paul's movement took off, six years ago, libertarian students have been able to dominate rooms at CPAC. Rand Paul wrapped, got a standing ovation, and sparked an exodus out of the room. The next panel, which most people would miss, was about Benghazi." Dave Weigel in Slate.

Meanwhile, Boehner says 2012 loss means nothing on budget issues for GOP. "Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that election losses last November would not deter his party from pressing its vision of reducing the size of government and turning government health care programs largely over to the private sector — with no more tax increases. In an interview, Mr. Boehner said that candidates and personalities — not Republican proposals on Medicare and spending cuts — accounted for the party’s defeats, taking a hard line on further budget talks even as Senate Republicans met with President Obama in a search for common ground." Jonathan Weisman and Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Music recommendations interlude: Stevie Wonder, "Living for the City," 1974.

Top op-eds

THE WASHINGTON POST: Democrats are too complacent on budget issues. "Partisan in tone and complacent in substance, it scores points against the Republicans and reassures the party’s liberal base — but deepens these senators’ commitment to an unsustainable policy agenda...It is on the issue of entitlements that the Democrats’ document really disappoints. There is literally nothing — not a word — suggestive of trimming Social Security, whether through greater means-testing, a more realistic inflation adjustment or reforming disability benefits...[T]his document gives voters no reason to believe that Democrats have a viable plan for — or even a responsible public assessment of — the country’s long-term fiscal predicament." The Washington Post Editorial Board.

KRUGMAN: After the flimflam. "The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome...This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves...So we could definitely do worse than the Senate Democratic plan, and we probably will. It is, however, an extremely cautious proposal, one that doesn’t follow through on its own analysis...But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, titled 'Back to Work.'" Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

BLOCK: College produces positive social externalities. "[F]aming higher education as a “return on investment” is wrongheaded — a result of states’ growing disinvestment in higher education. Diminishing support shows a lack of recognition for the ways higher education benefits society, sending a message that college is something people do just for themselves, not also for their communities...While it is hard to correlate the benefits of a college education to societal well-being, never in my 35 years in higher education have I seen a more pronounced and sustained effort by young people to choose careers that serve society." Gene D. Block in The Washington Post.

SOLTAS: Why grandpa hasn't retired. "[A] growing share of elderly Americans will carry on working past the normal retirement age...Since 1990, the aging of the population would have increased the number of workers older than 55 by 9.6 million if their participation rate hadn't changed. The increase in the participation rate added another 8.7 million. The rise in participation is almost as powerful as the underlying demographic change." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

GERSON: The gaps in the budgets. "Ryan’s budget proposal is similar to his previous two in both strengths and failures. It deserves everlasting fiduciary fame for proposing a plausible Medicare reform plan, essential to the future of the program and the long-term stability of the federal budget. And yet . . . the refusal to consider additional revenue and the delayed implementation of proposed Medicare reform result in impossible reductions in Medicaid and discretionary spending." Michael Gerson in The Washington Post.

GOTTLIEB: Why pushing physicians into hospitals is a bad idea. "ObamaCare shifts money to favor the delivery of outpatient care through hospital-owned networks. The irony is that in the name of lowering costs, ObamaCare will almost certainly make the practice of medicine more expensive. It turns out that when doctors become salaried hospital employees, their overall productivity falls." Scott Gottlieb in The Wall Street Journal.

Photolog interlude: An impressionistic view of the CPAC conference.

2) Obama's trips to Hill are done. Will they start a bipartisan conversation?

The Senate is beginning bipartisan meetings on tax reform. "On Thursday, the full membership of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee will hold the first of more than a dozen private meetings to review options for overhauling the code, with the hope of producing legislation later this year...First up: Tax-code simplification. Future meetings will focus on, among other items, the tax treatment of small businesses and corporate investment; tax breaks for families and children; tax incentives for education; international taxation; charitable giving and tax-exempt organizations; energy-related taxes; and tax incentives for retirement saving." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

On third and final trip to Capitol Hill, Obama lunches with Senate Republicans and House Democrats. "GOP senators emerged from their lunch in a buoyant mood, saying that Obama fielded nearly a dozen questions over 90 minutes regarding budget negotiations, immigration, entitlement programs, corporate taxes and federal regulations...According to Democrats in the room, Obama told the group that the nation no longer has a short-term deficit problem, but that long-term problems with Medicare and Social Security need to be addressed." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

...And he clarified his position on entitlement reform to Dems. "President Barack Obama on Thursday wrapped up his Capitol Hill goodwill tour, telling House Democrats he’s got their backs on entitlements. The president has been open to a number of reforms that irk liberals, such as raising the retirement age of Medicare, means-testing and adopting a more modest inflation calculation, known as chained CPI, for Social Security. Obama told the Democrats he won’t chase a bad deal and let Republicans entice him into trying for the field goal only to pull the ball away at the last minute time and again." Manu Raju, Kate Nocera, and Jonathan Allen in Politico.

Republicans want Obama to do this more often. "President Obama spent a highly unusual three days on Capitol Hill trying to generate some goodwill among rank-and-file lawmakers, but at the conclusion of the closed-door huddles it remained unclear whether face time over lobster salad and blueberry pie would do anything to repair Washington’s long-simmering rifts...Several Senate Republicans said they asked for more meetings and smaller group huddles like a dinner Obama hosted for a dozen GOP senators last week — but there was no guarantee of follow-up meetings." Ed O'Keefe and Rosalind S. Helderman in The Washington Post.

3.14159... interlude: Amazing pie charts in honor of National Pi Day.

3) Big movement on gun control in Senate

Assault weapons ban passes Senate Judiciary Cmte. hearing. "The Democratic-controlled panel approved the bill on a party-line vote of 10 to eight..In addition to the assault weapons ban, the committee approved a bill making the practice of illegally purchasing firearms for someone else a federal crime for the first time, and measures to expand the nation’s gun background check system and a Justice Department program that funds school security plans." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

President Obama supports the assault weapons ban, up to a point. "Now that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed legislation banning nearly 160 types of military-style assault weapons, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would love to have President Obama give it a major legislative push. Judging by White House spokesman Jay Carney‘s comments Thursday, Feinstein shouldn’t hold her breath." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Biking interlude: No motor vehicles allowed in this Michigan town since 1898.

4) It's tough being a big bank

JPMorgan is in hot water after Senate report. "Washington dealt a double blow Thursday to JPMorgan Chase as a Senate report accused its iconic chief executive of hiding information...The Senate report is the first to suggest that JPMorgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon was less than forthright with regulators as he learned of the mounting losses. To date, Dimon has acknowledged that the bank failed to manage its risks, which allowed the bad trades to persist. The report takes the bank to task for hiding losses for three months last year, overstating the value of its trading positions and ignoring red flags. When regulators grew concerned, JPMorgan withheld information about the nature of the portfolio, Senate investigators say." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

Read: The Senate report on JPMorgan.

New rules will take a fresh measure of banks' size. "It sounds like a simple question. How big is that bank? But it is not...Much of that will change when first-quarter financial statements start coming off the printing presses in a few weeks. For the first time, European and American banks are supposed to have comparable disclosures regarding assets. Their balance sheets will still be radically different, but for those who care, the comparison will be possible." Floyd Norris in The New York Times. 

Fed finds weak stress test results for Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan. "The results released Thursday take into account individual banks' plans for share buybacks and dividend payments and how an institution's capital buffers would shift during a recession or other market dislocation...Analysts said the Fed's action shows continuing unease with the risks posed by giant financial firms despite their capital raising in recent years, thanks in part to public uproar over the 2008 government bailouts of large firms." Michael R. Crittenden, Shayndi Raice, and Suzanne Kapner in The Wall Street Journal.

Why the big banks have a big problem. "The largest banks in the United States face a serious political problem. There has been an outbreak of clear thinking among officials and politicians who increasingly agree that too-big-to-fail is not a good arrangement for the financial sector. Six banks face the prospect of meaningful constraints on their size: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley." Simon Johnson in The New York Times.

The link you're going to send to everyone right now interlude: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is performing a massive public service by uploading 20,000 high-resolution images of its display art to the Internet.

5) It's budget season

Sen. Reid thinks we should do two-year budgets. "Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) earlier in the day introduced legislation to convert the annual spending process to a biennial budgeting program.Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the current budget process has become broken. The Senate has not passed a budget resolution since 2009 and stopgap spending measures often substitute for regular appropriations bills...Treasury Secretary Jack Lew endorsed biennial budgeting at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee." Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Read: The full House resolution for the Ryan budget, just released.

House Progressives have the best answer to Ryan. "The correct counterpart to the unbridled ambition of the Ryan budget isn’t the cautious plan released by the Senate Democrats. It’s the “Back to Work” budget released by the House Progressives...It begins with a stimulus program that makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act look tepid: $2.1 trillion in stimulus and investment from 2013-2015, including a $425 billion infrastructure program, a $340 billion middle-class tax cut, a $450 billion public-works initiative, and $179 billion in state and local aid." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Read: The House Progressives "Back to Work" budget.

There's more to the Murray budget, also. "On Wednesday, I criticized Murray’s budget because neither its spending cuts nor its tax increases are specified. But to evaluate it in terms of its spending cuts and tax increases, the aide argued, is to miss Murray’s point, which is that Ryan’s framework, in which deficit reduction stands above all, is the wrong framework...Murray’s budget is, in fact, much more specific about the spending it would expand than the spending it would cut. The Child Care Development and Block Grant gets a boost, as does the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, and the budget envisions the creation of an infrastructure bank." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Senate Budget Cmte. hearing gets angry. "Sparks flew at the Senate Budget Committee hearing Thursday, offering a preview of the fireworks that are likely to come as the Democrats’ budget proposal moves to the floor next week. But despite the loud pushback from Republicans, Democrats largely kept intact and approved on a partisan vote the proposal by Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)." Ginger Gibson in Politico.  

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Rob Rhinehart has a crazy plan to let you go without food forever. It just might workDylan Matthews.

How a Soviet spy outmaneuvered John Maynard Keynes to ensure U.S. financial dominance. Neil Irwin.

Could Republicans ever support a carbon tax? Bob Inglis thinks soBrad Plumer.

Want Obamacare? Here's the 21-page draft applicationSarah Kliff.

Wonktalk: Mourning the death of Google ReaderBrad Plumer and Dylan Matthews.

The dollar is soaring. What should that tell us about the economyNeil Irwin.

House progressives have the best answer to Paul RyanEzra Klein.

Graph: Americans love cell-phone chatting as they drive. Brad Plumer.

Pie charts in honor of National Pi DaySarah Kliff.

CPAC panel opposes path to citizenshipSuzy Khimm.

What I got wrong in the Senate Democrats' budgetEzra Klein.

Et Cetera

Welcome to the weekend. How about a longread? Try "Why Gun Makers Fear the NRA," Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek.

The White House is starting an audio series called "Being Biden." Rachel Weiner in The Washington Post.

Meet the press: the story of the first White House press conferenceJohn Dickerson in Slate.

Senate considers large reduction in number of family immigration visasDavid Nakamura in The Washington Post.

Medicare is revising its penalties for hospital readmissionJordan Rau in Kaiser Health News.

Report: Solar industry had record year in 2012Zack Colman in The Hill.

New jobless claims hit a 5-year lowReuters.

Dems press Sebelius to speed up implementation of Affordable Care ActSam Baker in The Hill.

Republicans struggle to define approach to health policy in an age of ObamacareAlexander Bolton in The Hill.

Younger generations lag parents in wealth buildingAnnie Lowrey in The New York Times.

Chief Justice John Roberts has a legacy-defining choice to make on gay rights. Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal.

Applications of young for "deferred action" tumbleMiriam Jordan in The Wall Street Journal.

Interior Dept. criticizes Shell's Arctic drilling plansSteven Mufson in The Washington Post.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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