Wonkbook: Securing the border — and the votes

June 14, 2013

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's morning policy news primer. (Well, usually Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas's. But Ezra is on vacation this week, so it's just Evan.) To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 10 percent. That, depressingly, is the share of Americans who say they have confidence in Congress.

Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: "This is the lowest level of confidence Gallup has found, not only for Congress, but for any institution on record," the pollsters said.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: HUD finds housing discrimination.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas speaks with reporters about the immigration bill on June 11. An amendment announced by Cornyn would require 100 percent monitoring of the entire U.S.-Mexico border and 90 percent of would-be crossers to be stopped or turned back before anyone can get a permanent resident green card. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas speaks with reporters about the immigration bill on June 11.  (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) border security in focus; 2) NSA meets with Senate; 3) what the Fed is thinking; 4) gun control's quiet phase; and 5) Medicaid on the march.

1) Top story: Securing the border -- and the votes

Gang of 8 seeks alternative to Cornyn amendment. "The fear of some bill proponents: the longer the Cornyn plan hangs out there, the more likely it will become a magnet for Republicans — and accepting anything short of it will be considered a sacrifice. If that happens, then the Gang of Eight won’t be able to get the large bipartisan majority that its leaders, including McCain and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are seeking...[W]ith no Gang-sanctioned alternative yet, a number of Republicans — including some viewed as swing votes — are gravitating toward the Cornyn plan." Carrie Budoff Brown and Seung Min Kim in Politico.

...They're building a border-security plan to appease Republicans. "The legislation currently calls for the Department of Homeland Security to develop the plan but many GOP lawmakers want Congress to develop it instead. The end result could land somewhere in the middle: It would lay out certain border-security metrics without spelling out every detail of the plan, according to Senate aides...The bill, which focuses on interior enforcement, would allow states and localities to enforce federal immigration laws, give additional powers to immigration and customs officers and provide the border patrol more freedom to access federal land within 100 miles of the border." Kristina Peterson and Corey Boles in The Wall Street Journal.

@grossdm: Shouldn't someone tell mark Pryor, senator from Arkansas, that he's toast regardless of how he votes on immigration?

Jeb Bush pitches immigration reform to the GOP. "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made the economic argument for immigration reform Thursday, both in private at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans and at a Bipartisan Policy Center discussion. Bush said the growth of the country’s economy was tied to bringing in more workers and that Republicans in Congress needed to focus on the economic side of immigration reform in their messaging." Tarini Parti in Politico.

House GOP sets July meeting on immigration. "The House will have a “special GOP conference meeting” on July 10 at 3 p.m. in the Capitol to discuss how they’ll handle the debate. They’ll have a clearer idea of their options by then. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will have passed small-bore immigration bills through his panel by then, and the final Senate bill will likely be finalized." Jake Sherman in Politico.

...And Senate Dems met with Obama yesterday. "Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), all members of a bipartisan working group that drafted the legislation, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, are expected at the meeting." David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

@davidfrum: When subject is immigration, media cynicism turns into trusting childlike innocence. Touching, almost.

OECD report: Immigration helps economy. "Over the first decade of the century, immigration accounted for 40% of total population growth in the OECD. The number of asylum seekers increased by more than 20% in 2011, and about 7% in 2012." Katerina Sokou in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: The Hollies, "I'm Alive" 1965.

Top op-eds

SOLOVE: 5 myths about privacy. "Don’t worry, argue defenders of these surveillance programs: The government is gathering innocuous data, not intimate secrets...But “metadata” about phone calls can be quite revealing. Whom someone is talking to may be just as sensitive as what’s being said...[S]ecrecy at the level of an individual suspect is different from keeping the very existence of massive surveillance programs secret. The public must know about the general outlines of surveillance activities in order to evaluate whether the government is achieving the appropriate balance between privacy and security." Daniel J. Solove in The Washington Post.

BROOKS: Religion and inequality. "It wasn’t as if Americans renounced worldly success (this is America!), but there were rival status hierarchies: the biblical hierarchy, the working man’s hierarchy, the artist’s hierarchy, the intellectual’s hierarchy, all of which questioned success and denounced those who climbed and sold out. Over the years, religion has played a less dominant role in public culture. Meanwhile, the rival status hierarchies have fallen away. The meritocratic hierarchy of professional success is pretty much the only one left standing." David Brooks in The New York Times.

PORTER: How money affects morality. "Yet though we clearly understand money’s power to debase character, we have less certain a grasp on what it is about money that corrupts us so. Is it simply greed? Does the appetite for the more comfortable life that money can buy push us over the line? A new study by researchers in organizational behavior from Harvard University and the University of Utah suggests an entirely different dynamic: the simple idea of money changes the way we think – weakening every other social bond." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

DUENWALD: Lots of oil, nowhere for it to go. "The boom is bringing millions of jobs to the U.S. and helping to stabilize world oil prices. By increasing the global supply, it's also enabled countries such as Japan, China India and Turkey to reduce the amount of oil they buy from Iran. Along with these benefits, the U.S. oil boom creates new challenges for policy makers. The first of these is what to do with all the crude. U.S. refining capacity can handle only so much, and a 1979 law limits crude exports to Canada and Mexico." Mary Duenwald in Bloomberg.

KRUGMAN: Sympathy for the Luddites. "Today, however, a much darker picture of the effects of technology on labor is emerging. In this picture, highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued, and pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves... If the picture I’ve drawn is at all right, the only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too. And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

Twitter interlude: Fake profiles from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and others.

2) NSA briefs Senate

Senate receives closed-door briefing on NSA surveillance. "Forty-seven U.S. senators attended a closed-door briefing with top national security officials Thursday to learn more about how telephone and Internet-tracking programs used by the National Security Agency have thwarted multiple terrorist attacks — details that lawmakers said the general public will begin learning more about by Monday." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

...Sens. Wyden, Udall still calling for answers. "Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Thursday that they have yet to see “any evidence” that NSA’s data-mining of phone records thwarted so many attacks. NSA Director Keith Alexander told senators on Wednesday that “dozens of terrorist events” were averted by using NSA data to complement other intelligence methods...They maintain that the use of NSA programs will be justified only if precise evidence can be shown that bulk data collection of phone records and Internet communications returned information to the intelligence community that couldn’t have been obtained through other, less intrusive methods." Burgess Everett in Politico.

NSA working to declassify evidence. "The National Security Agency is getting closer to declassifying information about dozens of would-be terrorist attacks thwarted with the assistance of a telephone-tracking program, senior lawmakers said Thursday...Emerging from the meeting, Alexander gave a brief statement, saying that his agency is working with lawmakers to conduct a “damage assessment” of recent revelations regarding how the NSA can obtain phone and Internet records." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

...And private contractors will see access to secrets curtailed. "The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee emerged from a classified briefing on Thursday about the leak of top secret surveillance programs and declared that Congress would soon consider legislation to sharply limit the access that private contractors — who operate much of the national security infrastructure — have to the nation’s most sensitive intelligence programs." David E. Sanger and Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Is Snowden lying? "Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Edward Snowden simply wasn't in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he's claimed." Mike Lillis in The Hill.

FBI's Mueller: Surveillance programs are legal. "The director is due to leave the FBI in less than three months after running the agency for 12 years. He said he was limited in what he could say about the work done by the National Security Agency because those programs are classified, but insisted Congress has been repeatedly briefed over the years on the surveillance programs. In defending the surveillance, Mr. Mueller said the U.S. might have been able to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks if the phone data-gathering program had been in place at that time." Devlin Barrett in The Wall Street Journal.

Companies push back on government demands for data. "At least two major Silicon Valley companies [Facebook and Google] routinely push back on demands from federal security authorities for customer Internet data in an attempt to minimize the amount of information released, said people familiar with the process."Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Evelyn M. Rusli and Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal.

House votes to limit indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. "The House voted Thursday evening to put limits on President Obama's power to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens who are terrorist suspects, but rejected a proposal to eliminate the authority altogether. In a close 214-211 vote, members approved an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that says nothing in U.S. law can deny citizens the right to a court hearing. Twenty-one Republicans voted against the amendment, and only three Democrats voted for it." Pete Kasperowicz in The Hill.

Timelines interlude: Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' through the ages.

3) What the Fed is thinking

Fed likely to push back on market expectations of rate increase. "A wide range of indicators suggest that investors are starting to think the Fed might start raising short-term interest rates — now near zero — sooner than previously thought. Until recently many market indicators suggested investors expected the first rate increases in mid-2015, but now these indicators indicate investors think it could be sooner." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

Fed's bond-buying wild card: inflation expectations. "Many investors have lowered their expectations for future inflation, a shift that could get the attention of Federal Reserve officials as they consider the course of their bond-buying program at a policy meeting next week...One closely watched indicator of market inflation expectations shows how expectations are softening. The so-called breakeven rate—or the difference between yields of conventional Treasury securities and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities—widens when investors expect higher inflation and narrows when they believe inflation is headed lower." Victoria McGrane in The Wall Street Journal.

Consumers buck headwinds. "Overall retail sales increased 0.6% last month, putting them 4.3% higher over the past year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The strong gain after two sluggish months returned consumer spending to a pace that has helped power much of the four-year-old recovery." Eric Morath in The Wall Street Journal.

Jobless claims keep falling. "Initial jobless claims, a measure of layoffs across the U.S. economy, fell by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 334,000 in the week ended June 8, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 350,000. The level of new claims has bounced around in recent weeks but now appears to be trending lower. The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly volatility in the data, dropped 7,250 to 345,250." Jeffrey Sparshott in The Wall Street Journal.

Study: U.S. economic openness could use some work. "The U.S. may advertise itself as an economy that’s open to the world. But compared to Singapore and Hong Kong we’re practically behind a Berlin Wall of tariffs and trade barriers, according to a new study of economic openness from the International Chamber of Commerce. The ICC’s latest Open Market Index puts the U.S. 38th – just behind Romania – of the 75 countries it ranked on things like the level of imports as a percentage of gross domestic product, the quality of infrastructure and ease of logistics, and openness to foreign direct investment." Howard Schneider in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Is Abenomics failing? Here's what you need to know about JapanNeil Irwin in The Washington Post.

The industrial revival is uneven. "Instead of a broad revival, American industry is seeing pockets of strength. The most striking is a result of the shale revolution in energy. Surging oil and natural-gas output are an industrial activity in their own right, but they also provide a boost to certain other sectors, particularly chemicals. Another strong point is the auto industry." Spencer Jakab in The Wall Street Journal.

In memoriam interlude: Robert W. Fogel, 1993 Nobel laureate economist.

4) Gun control in quiet phase

Democrats quietly renew push for new gun measures. "Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House renewed their push for gun legislation on Thursday, just months after it was defeated in the Senate, amid delicate talks on a new background-check measure that advocates hope could change enough votes from no to yes...Quiet talks between Senators Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, and Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, officially do not exist...But other senators are openly acknowledging and encouraging the effort and say the talks are building momentum." Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

Nevada GOP governor vetoes gun background checks bill. "Nevada will not become the latest state to enact new gun-control regulations, after Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday vetoed the Democratic state legislature’s universal background checks bill. The legislation would have required a background check on any private gun sale. Sandoval said he approves of the bill’s aim and some of its provisions, but that it would infringe on Nevadans’ 2nd Amendment rights." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Hysterical interlude: Critics of Getty stock images.

5) Medicaid on the march

Arizona to expand Medicaid. "Arizona's state legislature approved ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion in two closely watched votes on Thursday, handing a victory to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and a defeat to conservative lawmakers. The policy will take effect next year and extend healthcare coverage to 300,000 low-income patients in Arizona." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

...And Mississippi risks getting rid of it. "The fight over expanding Medicaid has gotten ugly, and the latest state to grab the spotlight is Mississippi, where a standoff in the legislature is pushing the state toward a cliff. Without a last-minute agreement, Medicaid may cease altogether there on July 1...State law requires that the legislature reauthorize Medicaid annually, and because it has a tax component, it needs the support of three-fifths of both chambers." Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post.

Sen. Wyden calls for changes to Affordable Care Act. "Wyden said Congress should instead focus on how Medicare addresses chronic diseases...He proposed several changes to the structure of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are new, integrated healthcare networks created by the Affordable Care Act in an effort to lower costs by improving coordination among doctors and other providers...Wyden said the requirement is having the opposite effect: barring doctors from creating ACOs that focus primarily on chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes." Sam Baker in The Hill.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

How the World Bank could slash its carbon emissions: Start flying in coachHoward Schneider.

Everything you need to know about the student loan rate hike. Dylan Matthews.

Giant uvulas, a $34 million rug, and what Art Basel tells us about wealth and the economyKatherine Boyle.

Are unpaid internships illegalDylan Matthews.

Do private-sector unions still have a future in the U.S.? Brad Plumer.

Here’s what people are saying about the future of energy at the Wonkblog CrowdSourcedNeil Irwin.

Is Abenomics failing? Here’s what you need to know about JapanNeil Irwin.

How Mississippi could end up killing MedicaidSandhya Somashekhar.

Study: The United States has a less open economy than RomaniaHoward Schneider.

Et Cetera

How low can you go? More Americans losing confidence in CongressEmily Heil in The Washington Post.

Novel investment to boost pre-schoolsJoe Barrett in The Wall Street Journal.

Obama under pressure on gay rightsPeter Wallsten in The Washington Post.

Energy Sec. vows decisions on natural-gas export terminals this yearBen German in The Hill.

House leader proposes new postal service reform planLisa Rein in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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