Wonkbook: Three reasons filibuster reform might actually happen today

November 21, 2013

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(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Filibuster reform might actually happen this time. In fact, it might happen today.

Harry Reid is poised to end the filibuster against executive-branch appointments and judicial nominations. Could Democrats back out at the last minute, as they have so many times before? Absolutely. But there've been three big changes in Senate Democrats' outlook since the last time filibuster reform failed.

1. Filibuster reform is just another word for nothing left to lose. Back in January, the best arguments against filibuster reform had nothing to do with filibuster reform. They had to do with the rest of the Democrats' agenda.

"Speaker John Boehner said the House wouldn't consider legislation from a post-filibuster reform Senate. It's very likely that a real filibuster reform fight would've destroyed the Democrats' agenda in the coming months -- think immigration and gun control."

But gun control died in the Senate. And it turned out that Boehner refused to consider the Senate's immigration legislation regardless of the filibuster's status. Now, with President Obama's political capital at a nadir, it's clear that there's no second-term agenda to protect in the near future, and there may not even be a Democratic Senate majority after 2014.

So in pure "getting-things-done" terms, Democrats are faced with a choice: keep the filibuster and get nothing done. Change the filibuster and get nothing done aside from staffing the federal government and filling a huge number of judicial vacancies with lifetime appointments.

2. Democrats believe Republicans will shred the filibuster as soon as they get a chance. The main reason filibuster reform typically fails is that the majority party is scared of what will happen when the minority party gets into power. But Senate Democrats just watched Republicans mount a suicide mission to shut down the government. Their confidence that Republicans will treat the upper chamber's rules with reverence is low, to say the least.

This has led to some fatalistic thinking about filibuster reform: If Republicans are going to blow the filibuster up anyway, Democrats might as well take the first step and get some judges out of the deal.

3. Senate Democrats feel betrayed by Republicans. It's hard to overstate the pride senior Senate Democrats took in cutting their January deal with Senate Republicans. That kind of good-faith deal-making, they said, was exactly how the Senate is supposed to work. Some even argued it was a sign that immigration reform, gun control, and other top Democratic initiatives might pass.

But then Republicans filibustered more judges and executive-branch nominees. And the pride top Democrats took in their deal to avert filibuster reform has turned to anger that Republicans made them look like trusting fools. "Just talked to at least 10 Senate Dems about filibuster reform, including some who previously opposed it," tweets the Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery. "Just one opposes now."

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 1.3 percent. That's the annual growth rate of health-care spending between 2010 and 2013. It's the lowest since 1965. 

Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: “Jeh, I think, is a good guy," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, explaining why he is holding up the nomination of Jeh Johnson to run the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s nothing about him. I would support him.”

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: This chart is amazing news for our health cost problem.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) nuclear-option DEFCON stays at 1; (2) health cost growth slows; (3) Fedwatch; (4) a fiscal deal may be nigh; and (5) Obama figures out how to do gun control without Congress.

1. Top story: Harry Reid has the launch codes and is ready to strike

Senators are poised to block filibusters of some presidential nominations. "Senate Democrats are on the verge of moving to eliminate the use of the filibuster against most presidential nominees, aides and senior party leaders said Wednesday, a move that would deprive Republicans of their ability to block President Obama’s picks for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary and further erode what little bipartisanship still exists in the Senate...Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, is poised to move forward on Thursday with a vote on what is known on Capitol Hill as the “nuclear option,” several Democrats said." Jeremy W. Peters in The New York Times.

Things are getting ugly in the Senate. "Both sides know a rule change would be full of risks. For Reid, if he is successful, any change would likely leave a bitter aftertaste politically and cause the Senate to be even more dysfunctional. Republicans run the risk of further embedding their obstructionist image with voters and taking attention away from the problems with Obamacare. Thus the Senate Democratic leader is still moving cautiously ahead. Yesterday, according to a Democratic Senator and other Capitol Hill sources, Republicans put out private feelers about a deal...If there is an accord, it probably would be more of a compromise than last time when Obama got all the nominations he wanted, permitting some, though not all, of the blocked nominees to receive a vote." Albert R. Hunt in Bloomberg.

Reid will meet with filibuster-reform advocates. "[T]hose around the majority leader insist that his determination is sincere this time. By way of evidence, one progressive activist sent The Huffington Post an invitation addressed by Reid's office to "supporters of filibuster reform." The invitation is for a Thursday event, where attendees can hear from Reid directly about "his thinking on changing the rules." Such scheming usually doesn't happen unless political action is afoot. It appears that it is." Sam Stein in The Huffington Post.

Why the fight over the D.C. circuit matters. "The court at the center of a power struggle between the president and Senate Republicans holds a special place in the judicial hierarchy, serving as a crucible for the regulatory state and a proving ground for judges aspiring to the Supreme Court...The appeals court has shaped enforcement of environmental, consumer-protection and antitrust law, and is likely to hear major cases in the next few years on greenhouse-gas restrictions and post-2008 financial regulation. The D.C. Circuit has also served as a farm team for the Supreme Court." Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal.

@TheStalwart: Is "going nuclear" a phrase invented by political reporters to make stories about filibuster reform more interesting?

Department of Homeland Security nominee Jeh Johnson moves to Senate floor. "President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security cleared a key milestone Wednesday after the Senate Homeland Security Committee endorsed him on a voice vote...While Johnson cleared the committee easily, two key senators are still holding up his confirmation. There could still be another ugly confirmation battle, particularly as Republicans this week filibuster a third consecutive vote on a D.C. Circuit court nominee." Juana Summers in Politico.

YEOMANS: Nuke 'em, Harry. "Democrats, it’s time to bid farewell to the filibuster as we’ve known it. Your restraint has gone beyond admirable to foolish. The institution for which you have shown extraordinary respect over the past four years, as Republicans flouted its best traditions, is no more. Republicans have overplayed their hand by disregarding prior agreements and turning the Senate into a graveyard — or at least a critical care unit — for obviously qualified presidential nominees." William Yeomans in Politico.

BEUTLER: Why Republicans are escalating a nuclear option crisis. "Republicans fully understand what they’re doing, and are provoking a nuclear option crisis intentionally as a gamble on their own political fortunes...Republicans know they’ve given Reid practically no choice. And if he goes nuclear it might prove to be an even better outcome for them. It will provide them a plausible rationale for taking things a step further if they win back the Senate in 2014. Getting Democratic fingerprints on the nuclear rule-change precedent, will provide Republicans the cover they’ll need to eliminate the filibuster altogether in January 2015. They aren’t just testing the limits of Constitutional norms for fun. They’re testing Reid’s faith in the durability of his majority." Brian Beutler in Salon.

Music recommendations interlude: Ryan Adams, "Nuclear."

Top opinion

KLEIN: Obamacare is Obama’s Obamacare. (Not his Katrina.) "The reason comparisons between Obamacare and Hurricane Katrina don't make sense is that they are fundamentally different kinds of crises. Katrina was a fast-moving catastrophe. Obamacare is an ongoing program. The failure to effectively respond to Katrina was irreversible: The men, women and children relying on that response were dead. The failure to launch Obamacare with a working Web site is eminently reversible: The Web site can be fixed." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

BERKOWITZ: Obamacare's slow learning curve. "It’s a cliché that democracy is messy and difficult; it’s a truism that politics demands the cutting of deals and the hammering out of trade-offs; it’s common knowledge that implementing public policy and conducting diplomacy involve unforeseen obstacles and intricate maneuvering that are hard to grasp from the outside. Yet all this keeps catching Obama and his aides by surprise. Team Obama’s surprise, however, is really not all that surprising." Peter Berkowitz in RealClearPolitics.

SKIDELSKY: Four fallacies of the second Great Depression. "The national debt is deferred taxation. According to this oft-repeated fallacy, governments can raise money by issuing bonds, but, because bonds are loans, they will eventually have to be repaid, which can be done only by raising taxes. And, because taxpayers expect this, they will save now to pay their future tax bills. The more the government borrows to pay for its spending today, the more the public saves to pay future taxes, canceling out any stimulatory effect of the extra borrowing. The problem with this argument is that governments are rarely faced with having to “pay off” their debts. They might choose to do so, but mostly they just roll them over by issuing new bonds." Robert Skidelsky in Project Syndicate.

YGLESIAS: We need more $88 billion apartments. "[B]ecoming a billionaire hot spot is an enormous opportunity — in theory. But in practice, it’s often squandered by bad policy.... [T]he right response isn’t to freak out; it’s to take advantage of the potential bonanza. America’s greatest export product is America itself. Whether it’s apartments in Manhattan or beachfront condos in Miami and San Diego, the rich people of the world want to buy dwellings on our shores. If we allow for more building permits and denser construction, there’ll be a jobs boom exporting those homes just as Switzerland exports fancy watches or Gulfstream exports private jets. The houses will have to be filled with furniture and appliances and other manufactured goods, and when their owners come to visit, they’ll also visit our stores and restaurants. And, yes, as Bloomberg said, they’ll pay property taxes. A natural swap would be more building permits in exchange for eliminating the tax subsidies that finance so much of today’s development." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

DOUTHAT: How to read Republicans' opportunity. "[Sen. Mike] Lee is clearly offering a sketch, an outline, of a conservatism that reaches for the middle, it’s a different middle, with different priorities, than the one Fournier and so many others have chided the G.O.P. for failing to embrace. And this, as I’ve tried to argue before, is the real political opportunity available to Republicans in the last three years of the Obama presidency. Precisely because the party has swung away so sharply from the conventional, Beltway-approved center in the Tea Party era, it now has an opportunity to swing back into a different space than the one that centrist politicians of both parties have tended to occupy in the last two decades — and in the process, either create a genuinely new right-of-center majority, or at the very least offer Americans the kind of alternative to current elite fixations that the country lacks, needs, and deserves." Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

Barnyard friends interlude: Pig Drumming 101.

2. Why an insurer might refuse to extend a plan

Extending health plans will be a tall order. "[E]ven in states that have given the green-light, insurers face logistical challenges. Insurers say problems range from identifying and contacting canceled enrollees to working out what to charge, since rules vary from state to state. In some cases, insurers already had begun the process of reassigning or laying off underwriters because the health law bars insurers from taking medical history into account when setting prices. Now carriers are bringing underwriters back and are trying to work out how much reinstated policies would cost under the new rules." Timothy W. Martin, Leslie Scism and Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.

Explainer: This chart is amazing news for our health cost problemSarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

President Obama to insurers: No bailout. "The 2010 health law had several tools aimed at helping insurers through some of the fiscal bumps in the new markets. To address the industry concerns about additional costs if they revive the canceled plans, administration officials said last week they would tweak one of those tools — called “risk corridors” — to give them more help. But Obama made clear that the financial support has a limit, according to the two health executives and several other industry sources who were briefed on the meeting...Obama and insurers also had in-depth conversation about ways to bypass the balky HealthCare.gov enrollment system. People can enroll directly with insurers, but they can’t easily check on eligibility for subsidies." Kyle Cheney and Jennifer Haberkorn in Politico.

Poll: CBS finds sinking approval for Obama (37 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove) and Obamacare (31 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove). Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus in CBS News.

Report: Healthcare spending growing at slowest pace on record. "The White House on Wednesday released a report that shows healthcare spending has grown at the slowest rate on record under the Affordable Care Act. The report, produced by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), comes as the administration tries to emphasize positive news about the new law amid stories about its troubled website and the cancellation of millions of individual health plans. The report said healthcare spending between 2010 and 2013 grew at an annual rate of only 1.3 percent. That’s the lowest rate dating back to 1965, when the metric was first calculated." Jonathan Easley in The Hill.

Read: The CEA report.

Applicants find Healthcare.gov is improving, but not fast enough. "Despite weeks of work by a small army of software experts to salvage HealthCare.gov, navigators in states that depend on the federal insurance exchange say they still cannot get most of their clients through the online enrollment process. Those navigators said they had seen improvements in the system since its disastrous rollout on Oct. 1, particularly in the initial steps of the application process. But the closer people come to signing up for a plan, the more the system seems to freeze or fail, many navigators said." Abby Goodnough in The New York Times.

Watch: The three Obamacare cancellation ‘fixes,’ explained in two minutesSarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

It's up to states whether they choose to go along with Obama's extension. "In a conference call with reporters and in a statement issued after the meeting, they said they told the president they would not reach any consensus on what states should do. They said they warned the president that his proposal would amount to “different rules for different policies and might result in higher premiums for consumers without addressing underlying concern of gaps in coverage.”...The meeting, which lasted 50 minutes, had a conciliatory tone, the regulators said, even as they declined to recommend a course of action to their counterparts across the country. The regulators said policy recommendations were not part of their mission." Reed Abelson and Susanne Craig in The New York Times.

Obama’s meeting with insurance regulators is going to be a bit awkward. "One big concern of insurance regulators is that allowing consumers to extend these insurance plans could mess up the configuration of the group of people buying coverage through the new exchange. The people in the pre-Obamacare plans are kept in a separate "risk pool," with their own health care costs used to calculate premiums for that specific group of people. People who already have individual market coverage tend to be a bit healthier than those who will likely gain coverage under Obamacare. So the worry is, if you segregate the non-Obamacare people into a separate risk pool, premiums will go up in 2015." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Obama: Republicans bear some blame for Obamacare's problems. "Seven weeks after HealthCare.gov’s troubled launch, President Obama has turned his emphasis from apologizing for the problems to criticizing Republicans for attempting to undermine his signature health-care law." Juliet Eilperin and Scott Wilson in The Washington Post.

New health-care law could mean more voters. "Twenty years ago, Congress passed a controversial law requiring states to allow people to register to vote when they applied for driver’s licenses or social services. Now, that same law is bringing voter registration to the health insurance marketplaces, a move that some anticipate will result in legal fights and inspire even more partisan debate over the new health-care law." Anna Gorman in The Washington Post.

And you thought you had seen it all interlude: Teaching your dog to play piano for treats.

3. Everything you need to know about a very important Fed meeting

The Fed says QE is wrapping up. "Minutes of the Oct. 29-30 policy meeting, released Wednesday, showed officials continued to look toward ending the bond-buying program "in coming months." But they spent hours game-planning how to handle unexpected developments and tailoring a message to the public to soften the impact of the program's end...Fed officials are hoping their policies will play out like this: The economy will improve enough in the months ahead to justify pulling back on the program, which has been in place since last year and has boosted the central bank's bondholdings to more than $3.5 trillion. After the program ends, they will continue to hold short-term interest rates near zero as the unemployment rate—which was 7.3% last month—slowly declines over the next few years." Jon Hilsenrath and Victoria McGrane in The Wall Street Journal.

But the Fed is also looking for other ways to keep monetary policy accommodative. "[T]he Fed is seeking ways of emphasizing that it remains determined to keep borrowing costs for businesses and consumers as low as possible well into the future. The leading candidate, according to the account, is a proposal to include in the Fed’s policy statement, released after each meeting, a formal declaration that the Fed is likely to keep short-term rates relatively low even after it eventually decides to end the long period, dating back to 2008, that it has held those rates near zero." Binyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times.

How the bond market is responding. "The message is getting through as the bond market has pushed out its expectations of the first Fed rate hike by 12 months to the beginning of late 2015. Back in September, Federal funds futures for June 2015 reflected expectations that the central bank would have increased borrowing costs towards 1 per cent by that time. Now the market expects the Fed funds will be relatively little changed from its near zero level." Michael MacKenzie in The Financial Times.

What Bernanke said in one of his last speeches. "Quantitative easing maybe isn’t all that great, after all. But sending signals about our future interest rate policy is. So, just because QE may end soon, doesn't mean you should doubt the Fed's resolve to get the economy back on track...The central bank is trying to pivot away from buying bonds and toward using guidance about its future plans as a policy tool. Now Bernanke, and soon Yellen, just need to persuade Wall Street that winding down QE doesn’t mean they are any less committed to returning the economy to its pre-crisis growth path." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Here's some insight into the Fed's thinking. "There has been a great deal of speculation that the Fed will reduce the unemployment threshold to 5.5%. I have thought they will need to change the threshold because, at a minimum, the 6.5% number has already lost any operational meaning. But reading Bernanke's speech makes me think that they are very hesitant to change the threshold, and will instead continue to reinforce their existing forward guidance by emphasizing the likelihood that rates will remain low long after the threshold is breached." Tim Duy on his blog.

Obama’s pick for Fed garners GOP support. "President Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve appears likely to be confirmed, as several Republicans indicated Wednesday that they are open to the nomination. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he plans to support Janet Yellen...In addition to Corker, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said this week that they have yet to make a final decision, leaving the door open for a favorable vote." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Hatch to also support Raskin for Treasury post. "The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Wednesday he would support President Barack Obama's nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin as the No. 2 official at the Treasury Department. The backing by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah suggests that Ms. Bloom Raskin, 52 years old, may not encounter strong GOP opposition in the Senate." Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.

Shakeup at the Minneapolis Fed, one of freshwater macro's most important outposts. "Two high-profile economists who differed philosophically with President Narayana Kocherlakota have been shown the door in recent weeks, while the research director was moved to a different position. The changes have raised eyebrows in the small, interconnected world of academic economics, with some suggesting they could hamper the local Fed’s ability to retain top-flight talent...The departing economists are Patrick Kehoe and Ellen McGrattan, both highly regarded researchers with long tenures in Minneapolis." Adam Belz in The Star Tribune.

Inflation keeps dropping. "U.S. consumer prices rose last month at the slowest annual pace in four years, the latest sign of weak inflation that could influence Federal Reserve officials as they consider scaling back their bond-buying program. The consumer-price index, which measures how much Americans pay for everything from furniture to medical care to housing, rose only 1% in October from the same month last year, the smallest 12-month increase since October 2009, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, rose 1.7% from a year ago, similar to the modest gains seen in recent months. The Fed targets an annual inflation rate of 2%." Sarah Portlock in The Wall Street Journal.

Consumer spending climbed more than expected in October. "Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and building materials increased 0.5 percent last month after advancing 0.3 percent in September, the Commerce Department said. Overall retail sales rose 0.4 percent after being flat in September. Economists polled by Reuters expected core retail sales, which correspond closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, to rise 0.3 percent on average." Reuters.

This is why you shouldn’t pay attention to consumer confidence indicators. "The Conference Board's consumer confidence index plummeted from 71.2 from 80.2, battering the fragile psyche of American households. Now we have some more solid data on what exactly consumers did in October. And it turns out that, well, the effect was something approaching zero...On one level, this is a reminder that consumer confidence surveys have a quite poor track record of predicting actual economic activity...In other words, it seems to be the case that these debt standoffs affect actual consumer behavior -- and thus economic growth -- only through financial-market channels, rather than directly." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

Existing home sales fall 3.2 percent. "Sales of previously owned homes slipped for the second straight month in October, the latest sign that higher interest rates are cooling the housing recovery. Existing-home sales declined 3.2% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.12 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The results marked the slowest sales pace since June." Eric Morath in The Wall Street Journal.

Justice Department taking larger role on SEC’s turf. "The Justice Department has aggressively tackled financial misconduct in two recent high-profile cases, the type typically handled by the Securities and Exchange Commission...Both were civil cases that the Justice Department pursued using a powerful 1980s-era law called the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). That law has a low burden of proof, strong subpoena power, and a 10-year statute of limitations, twice as long as the usual limit for financial fraud cases. The SEC has no authority to use that law, which the Justice Department has begun wielding in creative ways in civil securities matters." Dina ElBoghdady in The Washington Post.

Liberals are lining up for a much stronger Volcker rule than what's in the works now. "The Volcker rule that U.S. regulators are trying to complete this year doesn’t do enough to limits banks’ ability to make speculative bets, said Bart Chilton, a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission...“If we voted on it today, I’d oppose it,” he said. “It opens the door for proprietary speculative bets under the guise of hedging, exactly what Congress told us to avoid.” His comments raise questions about whether five U.S. financial regulators, including the Federal Reserve and Securities and Exchange Commission, can meet a White House-imposed year-end deadline for completing the Dodd-Frank Act regulation." Silla Brush in Bloomberg.

CEO Jamie Dimon to FDIC: JPMorgan Chase’s fight over Washington Mutual is far from over. "The question of who bears responsibility for WaMu’s legal liabilities has been a point of contention since JPMorgan scooped the bank out of receivership in 2008. JPMorgan argues that the FDIC agreed to take on some of those liabilities, a claim the agency denies. Tensions flared up during negotiations between the Justice Department and JPMorgan as the bank wanted the FDIC to handle the costs of the defective WaMu securities involved in the government’s complaint. The disagreement almost scuttled the landmark pact before JPMorgan backed off. But in a call with analysts Tuesday, JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon made clear that the battle with the FDIC is not over." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

CFPB simplifies mortgage disclosure forms. "People purchasing homes and refinancing mortgages will have the details of their loans spelled out in simple terms as the government moves to streamline cumbersome disclosure forms. On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a final rule requiring lenders to use its new mortgage forms, which are designed to make it easier for borrowers to locate crucial information such as interest rate, monthly payments and costs to close the loan." Danielle Douglas in The Washington Post.

White House rejects plans to recapitalize Fannie and Freddie. "Gene Sperling, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, said the administration views a sale or recapitalization of the mortgage companies as a nonstarter because it wouldn't address their central role in mortgage finance. Mr. Sperling's remarks follow a proposal last week by investor Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital Management LLC to restore value to the companies' shares." Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

Oh my god this is so great interlude: Find the invisible cow.

4. Is it time to get bullish about a fiscal minideal?

Apparently, there is a good chance we get a fiscal deal. "A 29-member budget conference committee including both Democrats and Republicans has been in negotiations since late October, and appears to have experienced a breakthrough in recent days. According to people close to the talks, the contours of a deal are coming together to replace some sequestration cuts with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues derived from higher government fees. The deal would set spending levels for one or two years, but ensure that the US government would not be shut down on January 15." James Politi in The Financial Times.

CBO: Debt-ceiling doomsday won’t come again until March. (Or maybe June.) "CBO projects that those measures would probably be exhausted in March. However, the timing and magnitude of tax refunds and receipts in February, March, and April could shift that date of exhaustion into May or June...A March deadline seems more likely at this point. A Treasury official tells me that there's "no indication right now that extraordinary measures would last longer than a month." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Adorable interlude:  Toddler naps with his 2-month-old puppy every day.

5. This is how the Obama administration will do gun control without Congress

The federal government is working on gun regulations. "The Obama administration is working on new gun control regulations that would target stolen and missing weapons...It is unclear precisely what the draft regulations, drawn up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and under review at the White House’s regulations office, would do. The ATF would not comment on the draft rule, since it has not yet been released to the public, but a description provided by the White House asserts that it would target cases where guns go missing “in transit.” Currently, gun dealers with a federal license are required to tell federal agents after they discover a firearm has gone missing, but they aren’t required to do routine checks." Julian Hattem in The Hill.

New Jersey's bizarre gun-control trigger. "A law that injects technology into the gun debate has lain dormant for more than 10 years. Now it may be about to wake up. In 2002, New Jersey passed a law saying that once technology is available to prevent a gun from being used by an unauthorized person, only that type of handgun may be sold in the state...The New Jersey law, the only one of its kind in the U.S., mandates that within three years from the date such a gun becomes available in any state, all handguns sold in New Jersey must include technology to limit their use to specific people." Ashby Jones in The Wall Street Journal.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Why the U.N. climate talks keep breaking down, in five simple charts. Brad Plumer.

Obamacare is Obama’s Obamacare. (Not his Katrina.) Ezra Klein.

This chart is amazing news for our health cost problemSarah Kliff.

The three Obamacare cancellation ‘fixes,’ explained in two minutesSarah Kliff.

Ben Bernanke is trying to make Janet Yellen’s job easier. Here’s howNeil Irwin.

This is why you shouldn’t pay attention to consumer confidence indicatorsNeil Irwin.

Is America over soupLydia DePillis.

Obama’s meeting with insurance regulators is going to be a bit awkwardSarah Kliff.

CBO: Debt-ceiling doomsday won’t come again until March. (Or maybe June.) Brad Plumer.

Et Cetera

How do you get poor kids to apply to great colleges? Caroline Hoxby is working on thatNancy Hass in Smithsonian.com.

Senate Dems introduce NSA amendmentRamsey Cox in The Hill.

The second person is told that he was warrantlessly wiretappedCharlie Savage in The New York Times.

Should illegal immigrants demand citizenship? Or is a more piecemeal approach acceptableJulia Preston in The New York Times.

States press EPA for flexibility in power plant climate rulesBen German in The Hill.

More than 100 lawmakers push Obama on energy efficiency extensionLaura Barron-Lopez in The Hill.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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Brad Plumer · November 20, 2013