Wonkbook: A top-of-the-week briefing on Syria

September 3, 2013
(Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters)
(Photo by Mike Theiler/Reuters)

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In 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama told the Boston Globe, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

Six years later, President Obama believes he does have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. He's just not going to do it this time. Instead, he's going to Congress to ask for permission he does not need.

The ambivalence towards the president's war powers hasn't left anyone particularly happy. Advocates of a more restrained executive wish Obama had gone to Congress from the start, and gone to Congress for authorization to attack Libya, and they wish Obama would stop saying that he has the authority to strike even if Congress rejects his plans. As for those who want to see the president's war-making powers preserved and even stretched, they're furious for all the obvious reasons.

But part of the danger is that President Obama's ambivalence towards the process on Syria appears to come from an ambivalence towards the policy on Syria. There is little enthusiasm inside the Obama administration for this strike, which is being carried out almost entirely for reasons of "credibility" and serves no larger purpose in protecting civilians or ending the conflict (indeed, it might make matters on-the-ground worse).

Which isn't to say the White House isn't aggressively lobbying for Congress's imprimatur. Obama's been personally pushing key lawmakers, and on Monday, secured the (tentative, conditional) support of Sen. John McCain.

But the sum result of the president's approach has been to sow confusion on and off the Hill. It appears to many in Congress that Obama has come to them less to receive their blessing than to spread the blame for an intervention he doesn't feel comfortable being solely responsible for. In this, the act of going to Congress -- or at least the way Obama went to Congress -- has weakened the case for going to war in Congress's eyes.

The irony now is that just as the best reasons for striking Syria are abstract, so too are many of the best reasons for Congress to back the president.

"If the Congress does support the President, it will only be after we have openly faltered, and after having rushed forward before deciding on a course of delay," writes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The President will have set a uniquely dangerous precedent by turning to Congress only after he appeared weak."

But "if the Congress does not support the President, or should split openly in front of the world, the message will be far worse. A bad set of signals to the world will become a near disaster. Doubts about the U.S. and this President will reach dangerous levels among both friend and foe, and our failure to deal with Syria will spillover into Asia, the Afghan conflict, Iran, and any effort to bring an Arab-Israel peace."

This, however, piles abstraction upon abstraction. President Obama feels the need to enter Syria not to solve a terrible conflict but to protect America's credibility and enforce international norms against chemical weapons. Congress might vote to enter Syria not because they believe the strikes make strategic or moral sense but because they feel the need to protect the president's credibility and quiet international doubts about the role America intends to play in the world going forward.

Missing on all counts is a strong belief that striking Syria is, on its own merits, a good idea.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 23. That, according to a Washington Post tally, is the current number of U.S. senators who have stated publicly that they favor a strike on Syria. 20 have said they do not.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: These two maps are incredibly important to Obamacare.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) Syria resolution in the works; 2) how is Labor doing; 3) the NSA is outdone; 4) the price of carbon; and 5) what they say on the border about immigration reform.

1) Top story: Your full top-of-the-week briefing on Syria

New Syria plan in Senate limits Obama. "Aides to Reid and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have set aside a proposed Syria resolution submitted by the White House on Saturday night. That draft resolution — developed without congressional input — is seen as far too broad by lawmakers in both parties...Some of the options being considered for the revised Authorization for the Use of Military Force include a 60-day period for Obama to launch “narrow, limited” strikes against Assad’s regime with the potential for a 30-day extension of that deadline. Language barring the insertion of U.S. ground troops — but crafted to allow special forces operations or the rescue of a downed American flier, for instance — is also being considered, the sources said. And Obama would be prohibited from making the toppling of Assad’s government the goal of any U.S. military effort in Syria, as some some hawkish lawmakers have supported." John Bresnahan in Politico.

White House OK with changing language on Syria resolution. "As the Obama administration launched what it described as a “flood the zone” campaign to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Syria, officials said Monday that they are willing to rewrite the proposed resolution to clarify that any operation would be limited in scope and duration and would not include the use of ground troops. Their signal of flexibility came amid indications that Obama is picking up tentative, conditional support in what promises to be a difficult battle for approval of military strikes...The administration’s openness to negotiating new language for its proposed resolution is an attempt to address concerns, voiced on the left and the right, that the draft is too vague. Doing so would also put into writing some of the reassurances that Obama has offered in his statements." Karen Tumulty and Anne Gearan in The Washington Post.

@strobetalbott: While Congress debates Syria, US is already at war with North Waziristan a/k/a Talibanistan a/k/a AlQaedistan, #1 target zone for drones.

U.S. has not armed Syrian rebels. "In June, the White House authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to help arm moderate fighters battling the Assad regime, a signal to Syrian rebels that the cavalry was coming. Three months later, they are still waiting. The delay, in part, reflects a broader U.S. approach rarely discussed publicly but that underpins its decision-making, according to former and current U.S. officials: The Obama administration doesn't want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate." Adam Entous and Nour Malas in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: What to expect on Capitol Hill re: Syria this weekEd O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

An early test for Obama's Syria push will come at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel. "President Barack Obama’s political test over Syria begins Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the deep divides within that panel reflect the broader struggle on Capitol Hill over whether the U.S. should intervene militarily in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will appear before the panel to make Obama’s case for “limited, narrow” strikes by U.S. forces in retaliation for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians...When the Foreign Relations Committee will actually vote on the revised Syria resolution, and its exact wording, is still unclear. Senate Democratic aides said a panel vote may come later in the week with the resolution reaching the Senate floor by early next week." John Bresnahan in Politico.

@markknoller: Tomorrow's meeting part of the WH effort to win congressional support for bill authorizing use of force against Syria.

Whip count: Where the votes stand on Syria. "As the debate unfolds over the next week-plus, The Fix will be keeping a close eye on the vote count and whether Congress will sign off on the so-called “use of force” resolution. Below are our whip counts for both the House and Senate, based on public statements made by each member. The graphic includes all 100 senators and will include all House members once they all weigh in publicly. [Senate is so far 23-20-57, for-against-undecided. House is 16-98-90.]" Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

Sen. McCain meets with Obama on Syria. "“A rejection of this resolution would be catastrophic, not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States,” McCain said after meeting with President Barack Obama...“I’m already talking to a lot of my colleagues, but before I can persuade them to support this, I have to be persuaded,” McCain said. “I’m saying that I think the president made sense in a lot of things he had to say, but we are a long way from achieving what I think would be a most effective strategy.”" Reid J. Epstein in Politico.

Obama’s proposed Syria strikes are ‘largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people.’ "The ICG argues that the Obama administration’s proposed strikes are “largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people” and a real solution requires a much larger political component, including “reaching out to both Russia and Iran in a manner capable of eliciting their interest.”" Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Here's what Syria itself is saying. "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed evidence the United States and France said shows his regime used chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, warning that any planned military response could result in a "regional war." In excerpts from an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published Monday, Assad suggested it was illogical to think his army would have employed chemical weapons on Aug. 21 in Damascus, where its own soldiers were stationed. "Someone who makes accusations needs proof," Assad said, as translated by Al Jazeera. "We challenged the U.S. and France to show us proof. Mr. Obama and Hollande were incapable even when asked to do so by their own peoples."" Catherine Thompson in Talking Points Memo.

...And Syrians are confused by U.S. delay. "Two days after President Obama shocked Syrians by delaying expected American missile strikes, the country remains off balance, with the military still bracing, the rebels still hoping to capitalize on the confusion, civilians increasingly fleeing across the borders and everyone uncertain whether the attack has been called off for good. Businesses were open and shops busy in government-held areas around the country on Monday, residents said, but not all government troops had moved out of the schools and other civilian areas they had moved into ahead of the attacks that were expected Saturday. Anxiety and anticipation from that day lingered." Anne Barnard in The New York Times.

@ianbremmer: Ready, Aim, F...Not Ready #Syria

Russia may send delegation to U.S. to talk Syria. "The Russian news agency Interfax says President Vladimir Putin hopes to send a delegation of lawmakers to the U.S. to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress. Russian legislators Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin proposed that to Putin on Monday, saying polls have shown little support among Americans for armed intervention in Syria to punish its regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack." The Associated Press.

...And they rejected U.S. evidence for chemical-weapons use in Syria. "Russia’s foreign minister dismissed as unconvincing the evidence presented by Secretary of State John Kerry of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, saying on Monday that the United States had fallen far short of making a case for international cooperation on military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. “We were shown certain pieces of evidence that did not contain anything concrete, neither geographical locations, nor names, nor evidence that samples had been taken by professionals,” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said in a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations." David M. Herszenhorn in The New York Times.

Israel supports U.S. action in Syria. "President Shimon Peres of Israel offered strong support on Monday for President Obama’s decision to seek Congressional approval before taking military action in response to Syria’s apparent use of chemical weapons, saying he had “full faith” in his “moral and operational stance.”" Jodi Rudoren in The New York Times.

How a Syria war could matter for the economy. "In recent decades, potential U.S. military action in the Middle East has tended to spark heightened worries in markets—boosting oil prices, in particular—in advance of any operations. Those concerns often abated rapidly once action began, with the drop in oil costs and relief rally in stocks actually giving the economy a boost...Fears of conflict in the Middle East often lead oil traders to push up prices in futures markets, and expectations of U.S.-led strikes on Syria are no exception. Oil prices rose to a two-year high over the past week—trading above $110 a barrel in New York before retreating—and contributed to sharp swings in equity markets. U.S. retail gasoline prices have followed oil higher. A gallon of regular unleaded averaged $3.59 across the U.S. on Saturday...J.P. Morgan Chase economists, in their weekly note to clients Friday, said that, if sustained, the 10% increase in the price of oil over the past three months could shave as much as 0.3 percentage point off the annualized global growth rate in the second half of the year." Sudeep Reddy in The Wall Street Journal.

How do war powers work? "For the most part, presidents have sought congressional authorization when contemplating major military campaigns of potentially long duration. They rarely have requested Congress's permission before ordering shorter engagements...That makes President Obama's position on Syria somewhat of an anomaly. Administration officials have indicated they envision a limited set of airstrikes to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons—the type of attack presidents rarely have telegraphed in advance." Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal.

A big part of the Syria conversation: the limits on executive power. "The Syria debate in Congress is providing a new opportunity for a recent alliance of conservative and liberal lawmakers [i.e. libertarians] to cement their common interest in placing limits on executive authority. Already, House members from the political right and left have come together in an attempt to rein in the National Security Agency's surveillance of telephone-call data. They share other principles, such as a wariness, or in some cases opposition, to the use of drone strikes overseas, particularly to target U.S. citizens." Corey Boles in The Wall Street Journal.

@yeselson: If Dems and R's asked themselves how they would vote on Syria if the president was a Republican, they'd come to an honest position on merits

...That includes a clash within the GOP between neocons and libertarians. "Syria, an issue on which Mr. McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, and Mr. Paul, a possible contender in 2016, will almost certainly be the leading spokesmen for their party’s two wings...But even Republicans who are not active supporters of Mr. Paul recognize that the country and their party are susceptible to a come-home-America message at a moment of war weariness and, among conservatives, profound distrust toward Mr. Obama." Jonathan Martin in The New York Times.

POLK: A deep briefing on Syria. "My hunch is that Syria, like Afghanistan, would be torn apart not only into large chunks such as the Kurds in the northeast but even neighborhood by neighborhood as in the Iraqi cities...If we are worried about a haven for terrorists or drug traffickers, Syria would be hard to beat.  And if we are concerned about a sinkhole for American treasure, Syria would compete well with Iraq and Afghanistan. It would probably be difficult or even impossible to avoid “boots on the ground” there." William R. Polk in The Atlantic.

HAASS: America must pick a course of action on Syria. Now. "Foreign policy is often difficult, as the crisis in Syria all too regularly shows. But the Obama administration has made a difficult situation much worse by articulating a series of objectives ("Bashar al-Assad must go"; "Chemical weapons use crosses a red line") and policies ("we will arm the opposition") and then failing to follow them through. Requiring authority from Congress at the eleventh hour introduced further undesirable uncertainty. Improvisation and policy making on the fly can be disastrous...The real interests at stake in Syria include stopping a humanitarian nightmare that has claimed more than 100,000 lives; frustrating the designs of Iran and its partners; reinforcing the norm that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity; and demonstrating that what the US says is to be taken to the bank by friend and foe alike." Richard N. Haass in The Financial Times.

STAVRIDIS: Obama, call NATO. "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must be part of an international effort to respond to the crisis in Syria, beginning immediately with punitive strikes following the highly probable use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. The president, the secretaries of defense and state, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should all approach their counterparts to secure NATO action." James G. Stavridis in The New York Times.

SEIB: How Obama intends to get Congress's support. "The formula for legislative victory starts not with the opposition Republicans but with his own Democrats, runs through the still-powerful pro-Israel caucus and ends with a band of Republican hawks who have been far more eager for action in Syria than has the president now seeking their help...Ultimately, the president's ability to achieve this feat may well depend on whether there is any life remaining in a time-honored idea, not recently tested: that politics ends at water's edge. The cost of failure would be high, nothing less than a blow to the proposition that a war-weary and economically strained U.S. is still capable of, or even interested in, leading the world." Gerald F. Seib in The Wall Street Journal.

DRUM: Syria and virtue. "Inspiring, isn't it? Why, it's almost as if the only thing anyone really cares about is their own narrow parochial interest. Enforcing a century-old ban against the use of chemical weapons may sound high-minded in the abstract, but down on the ground there's virtually no one who (a) actually cares about that and (b) would view a U.S. strike through that lens. You're for it because you're a Democrat or a Sunni or an Israeli or a member of the rebel army. You're against it if you're a Republican or a Shiite or an Egyptian or Vladimir Putin. Hardly anyone truly cares about American credibility or international norms or foreign policy doctrines or any of the other usual talking points. They've just chosen sides, that's all." Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

CILLIZZA: Why Obama’s decision to ask Congress about Syria is a high-stakes gamble. "There is little certainty of the outcome of the vote, which is expected to come the week of Sept. 9 when both houses of Congress return to Washington after the August recess...First, consider that roughly 40 percent of House Democrats voted against the use of force resolution against Iraq in 2002." Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

NASR: Forcing Obama's hand on Syria. "Americans are justifiably weary of war, but the lesson of Syria is that shirking from our global responsibilities will only create bigger problems that will eventually raise both the cost and the likelihood of American intervention...It is in America’s strategic interest, then, to take decisive action to mortally wound the Assad regime. Ensuring that Syria does not become a haven for Al Qaeda — a legitimate fear — would have to immediately follow." Vali Nasr in The New York Times.

CORDESMAN: The 'Waiting for Godot' strategy. "The Administration doesn’t seem to have created contingency plans with its allies, prepared joint plans for military action it was ready to explain and defend, or to have laid the groundwork for releasing intelligence data. Instead, our British ally released one intelligence report talking about “at least 350 fatalities.” Secretary Kerry was sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number like 1429 dead (of which an equally precise 426 were children); number which seem to have been taken from an unreliable Syrian source called the Local Coordination Committees and which did not agree with other Syrian opposition sources like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights."" Anthony Cordesman at CSIS.

Music recommendations interlude: Andrew Bird, "Imitosis."

Top opinion

COWEN: Who will prosper in a new economy? "Self-driving vehicles threaten to send truck drivers to the unemployment office. Computer programs can now write journalistic accounts of sporting events and stock price movements. There are even computers that can grade essay exams with reasonable accuracy, which could revolutionize my own job, teaching. Increasingly, machines are providing not only the brawn but the brains, too, and that raises the question of where humans fit into this picture — who will prosper and who won’t in this new kind of machine economy?" Tyler Cowen in The New York Times.

CHARETTE: The STEM shortage is a myth. "Spot shortages for certain STEM specialists do crop up. For instance, the recent explosion in data analytics has sparked demand for data scientists in health care and retail...What’s perhaps most perplexing about the claim of a STEM worker shortage is that many studies have directly contradicted it, including reports from Duke University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Rand Corp. A 2004 Rand study, for example, stated that there was no evidence “that such shortages have existed at least since 1990, nor that they are on the horizon.” That report argued that the best indicator of a shortfall would be a widespread rise in salaries throughout the STEM community. But the price of labor has not risen, as you would expect it to do if STEM workers were scarce." Robert N. Charette in IEEE Spectrum.

DELONG: Whose central bank? "One camp, call it the Banking Camp, regards a central bank as a bank for bankers. Its clients are the banks; it is a place where banks can go to borrow money when they really need to; and its functions are to support the banking sector...The other camp, call it the Macroeconomic Camp, views central banks as stewards of the economy as a whole. A central bank’s job is to uphold in practice Say’s Law...In terms of the US public interest – and that of the world – it is very important that whoever President Barack Obama nominates to succeed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term expires at the beginning of 2014 is from the Macroeconomic Camp. The world does not need a bankers’ central banker any more today than it did five years ago." J. Bradford DeLong in Project Syndicate.

ROGOFF: Are emerging markets submerging? "The market has been particularly brutal to countries that need to finance significant ongoing current-account deficits, such as Brazil, India, South Africa, and Indonesia. Fortunately, a combination of flexible exchange rates, strong international reserves, better monetary regimes, and a shift away from foreign-currency debt provides some measure of protection...A narrowing of growth differentials has made emerging markets a bit less of a no-brainer for investors, and this is naturally producing sizable effects on these countries’ asset prices." Kenneth Rogoff in Project Syndicate.

KRUGMAN: Love for labor lost. "It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor...[W]hat’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans." Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

DIONNE: A comeback for labor? "The genius of the labor movement has always been its insistence that if the law genuinely empowered workers to defend their own interests, the result would be a more just society requiring fewer direct interventions by government. This Labor Day could be remembered as the moment when that idea rose again." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

FOLBRE: Not really Labor's Day. "In the classical terminology of Marx, a large reserve army of labor reduces both the individual and the collective bargaining power of workers, enabling capital to take a bigger piece of the economic pie. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that between 2007 and 2012, wages fell for the lowest 70 percent of all wage earners, despite productivity growth of 7.7 percent...Today is officially Labor Day. But all the days in the year are now, unofficially, Capital Days." Nancy Folbre in The New York Times.

RIP interlude: Ronald Coase. David Frost.

2) Labor, with a capital L

Long-term jobless locked out of the recovery. "More than four years after the recession officially ended, 11.5 million Americans are unemployed, many of them for years. Millions more have abandoned their job searches, hiding from the economic storm in school or turning to government programs for support. A growing body of economic research suggests that the longer they remain on the sidelines, the less likely they will be to work again; for many, it may already be too late...[M]ore worrisome to economists are signs of a bifurcation in the labor market: For those unemployed less than six months, the odds of finding a job have improved steadily over the past year; the long-term unemployed have made almost no progress at all." Ben Casselman in The Wall Street Journal.

Interview: Labor Secretary Perez sat down with The Washington Post.

Explainer: Happy Labor Day, in eight chartsSarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Summers, seen as the hawk. "The spreading expectation that President Obama will name Lawrence H. Summers to lead the Federal Reserve Board appears to be working against the central bank’s efforts to stimulate the economy. The jitters even have some analysts betting that a Summers nomination could lead to slower economic growth, less job creation and higher interest rates than if the president named Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairwoman." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

Explainer: Economic data coming your way this weekAmrita Jayakumar in The Washington Post.

FHA cuts waiting period to one year for buyers who lost homes in foreclosure. "A recent rule change lets certain borrowers who have gone through a foreclosure, bankruptcy or other adverse event—but who have repaired their credit—become eligible to receive a new mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration after waiting as little as one year. Previously, they had to wait at least three years before they could qualify for a new government-backed loan. To be eligible for the new FHA loans, borrowers must show that their foreclosure or bankruptcy was caused by a job loss or reduction in income that was beyond their control. Borrowers also must prove their incomes have had a "full recovery" and complete housing counseling before getting a new mortgage." Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

Documentaries worth seeing interlude: "Painters Painting" (1972).

3) They see you when you're sleeping, they know when you're awake...

Drug agents use vast phone trove, eclipsing NSA's. "For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs. The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant." Scott Shane and Colin Moynihan in The New York Times.

Top-secret U.S. intelligence files show new levels of distrust of Pakistan. "No other nation draws as much scrutiny across so many categories of national security concern. A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counter­terrorism sources recruited by the CIA. Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else." Greg Miller, Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman in The Washington Post.

U.S. intelligence agencies spend millions to hunt for insider threats, document shows. "The U.S. government suspects that individuals with connections to al-Qaeda and other hostile groups have repeatedly sought to obtain jobs in the intelligence community, and it reinvestigates thousands of employees a year to reduce the threat that one of its own may be trying to compromise closely held secrets, according to a classified budget document. The CIA found that among a subset of job seekers whose backgrounds raised questions, roughly one out of every five had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connection."" Carol D. Leonnig, Julie Tate and Barton Gellman in The Washington Post.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful photography interlude: Leaves changing color.

4) How much should carbon emissions cost?

A fight over a cost estimate for carbon used by regulators is escalating. "The number is important because the more costly carbon pollution is deemed to be, the greater the apparent economic benefits of new environmental regulations. The climate plan hinges on such regulations, including restrictions on new power plants that the Environmental Protection Agency is set to release in late September. House Republicans passed a bill in August that would bar the administration from using the new estimates." Keith Johnson in The Wall Street Journal.

Fire alarm interlude: Of course, the right thing to do at such a moment is hold a jam sesh. Right.

5) What do U.S.-Mexico border dwellers think about immigration reform?

Along border, preparing to live with the real-world consequences of immigration debate. "The district has about 800 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border, the longest stretch in any House district, making it the place where immigration reform would be most deeply felt. People here know that immigration has consumed considerable political capital in Washington and they are watching apprehensively, preparing to live with the real-world consequences of whatever decision Congress makes. They are not encouraged by what they’re hearing, particularly about securing the border...About 20 percent of the $500 billion traded annually between the United States and Mexico passes through ports of entry along this part of the border, and locals say the numbers would climb dramatically if trucks carrying goods could cross faster." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Can illegal immigrants practice law? "California's Supreme Court is set Wednesday to consider whether an illegal immigrant is eligible for a license to practice law in the state, in the latest case to pit the federal government against a state over immigration policy. The California attorney general has thrown her support behind Sergio C. Garcia, who moved from Mexico to Chico, Calif., when he was 17 years old and is seeking admission to the state bar. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, filed a brief last year arguing that federal law prohibits him from receiving a law license." Joe Palazzolo in The Wall Street Journal.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part VI — Why there’s no reason for big universities to rein in spendingDylan Matthews.

Obama’s proposed Syria strikes are ‘largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people.' Ezra Klein.

Happy Labor Day, in eight chartsSarah Kliff.

These two maps are incredibly important to ObamacareSarah Kliff.

Dear Dylan: How to run the best raffle everDylan Matthews.

Et Cetera

U.S. gays face challenges in serving abroadJosh Hicks in The Washington Post.

Interview: Jeffrey Bezos, Washington Post’s next owner, aims for a new ‘golden era’ at the newspaperPaul Farhi in The Washington Post.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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