Wonkbook: Ryan-Murray dodges the bullet

December 12, 2013

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(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 77. That's how many pages are in the budget deal sealed between Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. You can read them here.

Wonkbook's Quotation of the Day: “Paul Ryan is the Jesus of our conference. If Paul gives something his blessing, it brings the votes,” a Republican leadership aide told BuzzFeed on Tuesday.

Wonkbook's Graph of the Day: This is an amazing graphic on all of the changes to state gun laws since the Newtown shooting.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) this budget deal looks like it will survive; (2) Obamacare accelerates; (3) Stanley Fischer, the likely next Fed vice chairman; (4) gun control, shot to pieces; and (5) who the Senate just confirmed.

1. Top story: Ryan-Murray dodges the bullet

The biggest potential obstacle to the Ryan-Murray budget deal won't be. "House Republicans appeared Wednesday to be rallying around an $85 billion deal to avert another government shutdown, brushing off complaints from their right wing that the effort would trade immediate spending cuts for less-certain long-term savings. After conducting a series of closed-door briefings and polling members during a late-afternoon vote, GOP leadership aides confidently predicted that the deal struck between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would sail through the House when it comes to a vote Thursday." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

@jeffzeleny: "We've got to find a way to make divided gov't work," Ryan says. "We understand ... we're not going to get everything we want."

Inside the budget agreement. "The House-Senate budget bill is 77-pages of largely modest savings but also salted with a variety of “good government” reforms that could help win votes for passage. For example, all states would be required to use a Treasury program to crack down on fraud and over-payments in jobless benefits. And the agreement puts a first-time $487,000 cap on what the government will compensate contractors for the top salaries of their executives...Among structural savings, the bill takes a first crack at trimming future cost-of-living increases in military pensions for retirees still in the work force. But on the civilian side, negotiators were forced to again fall back on the timeworn solution of putting the overwhelming burden on new hires...Most simply, about $63 billion in savings would be used to build a bridge over the worst of sequestration in 2014 and establish a two-to-three year path in which annual discretionary spending will be held between $1.012 trillion and $1.016 trillion." David Rogers in Politico.

Primary source: The legislative text of the deal.

The deficit continues to shrink rapidly. "The U.S. government's deficit for October and November totaled $226.82 billion, down 22% from the $292.11 billion shortfall during the same period a year earlier, the Treasury Department said Wednesday in its monthly report. The 2014 fiscal year started on Oct. 1. Federal finances have been improving for months. The 2013 deficit fell below $1 trillion for the first time in five years as a slowly recovering economy and higher tax rates boosted receipts to a record level for a full fiscal year. The $680.28 billion shortfall was down by more than one-third from the previous year." Jeffrey Sparshott in The Wall Street Journal.

Republicans are winning the broader battle over discretionary spending. "Back in 2011, Paul Ryan, the House budget committee chairman, put out a budget envisioning that Congress would be spending roughly $1.039 trillion on discretionary programs in 2014. Democrats attacked that proposal for being overly austere. But here we are nearly three years later, and total discretionary spending for 2014 is on pace to be below even that amount." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

@costareports: From Ryan's public push for a deal to the RSC's parting w/ conservative staffer Paul Teller, you're seeing a new, post-defund consensus

The budget deal isn’t good for the economy. It’s less bad for the economy. "What matters is that under the deal, fiscal policy still be a drag. It just will be less of a drag than it would be otherwise. Economists at Barclays, for example, now think that tighter federal spending will reduce the overall growth rate in 2014 by 0.25 percent, not the 0.5 percent they estimated previously. In other words, at a time of high unemployment, falling deficits and low interest rates, budget-cutting is still making the economy worse than it otherwise would be. But with this deal, Washington policy will be less counterproductive than it otherwise would be." Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

The jobless get nothing. "Many economists believe such aid boosts the unemployment rate, perhaps by as much as 1 percentage point. But they differ on the reasons and on the size of the effect. Some of the unemployed might drop out of the labor force altogether without the aid; others might be spurred to search harder for a job. Now the debate is about whether current economic circumstances warrant a longer extension." Josh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal.

Paul Ryan is under attack from his right flank. "With a modest, bipartisan blueprint on taxes and spending, Mr. Ryan is taking a risk he has previously shied away from, putting what party leaders see as a crucial need — ending the debilitating budget wars in Washington that have crippled the Republican brand — over his own self-interests with the conservative activists that dominate the early Republican presidential primaries. For the first time, the conservative wunderkind and former vice-presidential nominee is taking withering fire from movement conservatives who see the deal as a betrayal by a former ally. Potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 immediately went on the attack, blasting the deal and challenging Mr. Ryan’s status as the thinking man’s conservative." Jonathan Weisman in The New York Times.

@JohnJHarwood: remember on reax to Ryan-Murray budget deal: in politicians, silliness increases sharply w/distance from responsibility for doing anything

...Part of that is because this stealthy restriction. "The bill includes language from the Senate Democrats’ budget that voids senators’ ability to raise a budget “point of order” against replacing the sequester cuts with tax increases. The process is quite complicated, but in practice it grants Harry Reid the authority to send tax increases to the House with a bare majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold that would be required under a point of order. The provision has angered key Republican senators." Jonathan Strong in National Review Online.

@bdomenech: There's no way Ryan intended for this change to happen. Only Senate side folks pay attention to such things. Had to be an oversight.

How sequester cuts divided the winners from the losers — including Head Start children. "The cuts were supposed to cause equal pain across a broad spectrum of Washington programs. They didn’t. Lawmakers had declined to choose austerity’s winners and losers. But they were chosen anyway by a long national scramble in which programs from Head Start to the Pentagon sought to wriggle out of their share of the cuts. The winners — those with stored-up cash to spend or powerful friends to help — avoided painful reductions in the sequester’s first year. The losers did not." David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

RYAN: A step forward. "The Bipartisan Budget Act will provide $63 billion in sequester relief — split evenly between defense programs and other domestic priorities — in exchange for $85 billion in savings elsewhere in the budget. In other words, this bill will reduce the deficit by an additional $23 billion, without raising taxes. And most important, it will cut spending in a smarter way...We haven’t squandered the gains from the Budget Control Act. We build on them. Our agreement preserves 92 percent of the sequester cuts — even though Democrats wanted none of them." Paul Ryan in National Review Online.

@jonlovett: A theory ought to have predictive power. Whose theory of the shutdown predicts a surprisingly fair deal between Paul Ryan and Patty Murray?

YGLESIAS: Taxation without penetration. "Some years ago, I recall reading a series of trend pieces about how teens these days are engaging in rampant oral and anal sex in an effort to preserve their status as “technical” virgins. This turns out to not be the case. Nobody is really that dumb—kids just experiment with a wide range of sexual activities all at once. They don’t base major decisions on a set of meaningless distinctions. One can only wish that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his allies in the GOP caucus had that much sense...Rigid opposition to raising revenue has failed as a governing ideology. That’s what Ryan is tacitly admitting with this deal." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

BARRO: This is a bad way to cut federal-employee pay. "On average, according to CBO, federal workers made $52.50 per hour in wages and benefits as of 2010. If the private sector workforce were reweighted to have similar characteristics to the federal workforce (e.g., it would become much more educated and somewhat older) it would have average hourly compensation of $45.40. It makes sense to react to that gap by restraining federal pay over time. But the austerity should fall across existing and new federal workers, not just on new hires." Josh Barro in Business Insider.

CHAIT: The end, not the beginning, of cooperation. "The Ryan-Murray deal will likely pass, despite opposition from the professional conservative movement, because it’s tiny enough to be uncontroversial while helping Republican leaders avert serious internal problems with the budget process. Ryan has given it his blessing, and as one Republican leadership aide puts it, “Paul Ryan is the Jesus of our conference."...So the deal will probably pass. But conservative opposition signals that deal-making of any kind is painful enough that Republicans shouldn’t dare try it again. The Ryan-Murray deal is not is the beginning of anything. It’s the end." Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

@ShaiAkabas: If Ryan-Murray doesn't pass & full sequester remains, we expect GDP to be 1% smaller & 1M fewer jobs in 2015 than world w/o sequester

LEVIN: Thoughts on the deal. "It seems to me that the details look a fair bit better than the general outline that had been reported in the press over the past week or so, particularly on the question of whether the entitlement cuts that would replace some discretionary sequester cuts could be expected to actually materialize. As it stands, this strikes me as more or less a very small-scale version of the sort of thing that Republicans hoped might be made possible by the sequester but Democrats insisted could not be: a trade of discretionary savings for mandatory savings without real tax increases." Yuval Levin in National Review Online.

COHN: Reasons to like this deal. "There are at least two reasons to feel good about this. One is that sanity is creeping back into Washington, ever so slowly and ever so modestly. Budget brinkmanship has been terrible for the economy and, perhaps, even worse for faith in the ability of lawmakers to do their jobs...The deal also represents sound economic thinking. The immediate goal of economic policy should be to boost employment." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

DIONNE: Inadequate but necessary. "The White House figured that conservatives would never buy into the sequester’s deep defense cuts and that saner budgeting would eventually prevail. The latest pact is, at best, a very modest step toward sanity, which is why many Democrats will have no choice but to vote for it. But it does not come close to creating the sort of budget Congress would pass if it were serious about investing in our future and lifting up Americans being left behind." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

Music recommendations interlude: The Stills-Young Band, "Long May You Run," 1976.

Top opinion

VOLCKER AND REED: A safer financial system is now within our grasp. "The door to a safer, less leveraged financial system is half-open. We can open it wide by uniting standardised risk-based capital rules with leverage constraints, and common balance- sheet measures through convergence on global accounting standards." Paul Volcker and John Reed in The Financial Times.

KLEIN: Obama needs to fire some people. "Obama clearly decided that the people nominally in charge of his signature legislative achievement weren’t up to their jobs...If these people aren’t up to the most important tasks of Obama’s second term, why haven’t they been fired and replaced by people who are?...Somewhere in this chain of colossal, consequential screwups, there are surely a few people who deserve to be fired. The White House tends to dismiss such criticism. Indeed, Obama aides pride themselves on rising above it, viewing it as politically motivated or, when proffered by administration allies, derived from a crude desire for retribution. There might, at times, be truth to that. But firing and replacing underperforming staff is also a key element of effective management." Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

STRAIN: More than the minimum wage. "Just as society should not erect barriers in the paths of young and low-skill workers, so too should it be helping to support the working poor — the stated goal of minimum-wage advocates — and to bring more people into the workforce. Households headed by a full-time worker should not live in poverty. Conservatives, who champion work and earned success, should be the first to agree that more can be done to encourage these goals. They have a very simple option: Expand the Earned-Income Tax Credit." Michael R. Strain in National Review Online.

BERNSTEIN: A bit of nuance on the minimum wage. "Over decades of research, here’s what I’ve concluded from what I believe is a balanced look at the issue.  Though it reaches a lot of people and families who need it, the minimum wage is not nearly as well-targeted to those with low-incomes as the EITC.  Still, it remains an important complement to that venerable policy, and helping low-wage workers requires both.  It is wrong to aver that moderate minimum wage increases do not lead to any losses of jobs or hours by affected workers.  But the benefits of the wage increase leave them better off, on net.  Going beyond “moderate” may generate less favorable results.  But neither theory nor available evidence can determine that outcome." Jared Bernstein on his blog.

CROOK: Raising the minimum wage is a bad way to help people. "Enthusiasm for a big increase in the federal minimum wage is building in the U.S. It’s a shame to see so much energy devoted to a policy that’s not only dubious but also sidelines better ideas...What I find harder to understand, especially coming from liberals, is the idea that subsidizing low-wage labor is wrong in principle. The idea here seems to be that offering “poverty wages” is morally bad and that the real purpose of the minimum wage is to forbid it -- a question of ethics more than economics." Clive Crook in Bloomberg.

LIND: The Right's vouchermania. "In the second decade of the 21st century, the American right has only two economic ideas. When it comes to revenues, conservatives want further tax cuts for the rich. When it comes to spending, conservatives want to replace public programs with vouchers...Right-wing vouchermania, I would argue, has more to do with politics than with serious economics or policy analysis. Today’s American right is an uneasy coalition among libertarian plutocrats and working-class and middle-class whites who depend on Social Security and Medicare and can’t afford to send their children to expensive private schools." Michael Lind in Salon.

WESSEL: The evolution of economic sanctions. "Blockades and import bans are (largely) passé. Methodically choking off access to the global banking system, essentially forcing a country to barter with any other that is willing to trade, is often a better substitute. It's also cheaper because it relies more on computers and less on battleships." David Wessel in The Wall Street Journal.

CAPRETTA: The enduring myth of the individual mandate. "[T]he mandate’s penalties are very low, especially relative to the premiums charged by insurers in the exchanges, and especially in the first two years. In 2014, the penalty, or tax, is the greater of (a) a per-person tax of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, up to a maximum of $285, or (b) 1 percent of total household income. The tax rises to 2 percent of household income in 2015. A typical household of four people with an income of $40,000 will face a mandate tax of $400 in 2014. That compares with premium payments of $1,500 to $3,000 for the typical low-cost insurance offerings." James C. Capretta in National Review Online.

YGLESIAS: What the Volcker rule really does. "It’s not a major component of the Obama administration’s core objective of making a giant banking blowup less likely. But it is a step down a road Obama’s largely shied away from—a road where you don’t just try to improve the stability of the financial system but actually try to cut it down to size...If advocates of a larger transformation of the financial sector are to get their way in years to come, it will be through a series of Volcker-like measures—somewhat arbitrary, somewhat opportunistic efforts to exploit internal divisions within the banking world to hinder the growth of one sort of firm or another." Matthew Yglesias in Slate.

Longread opinion: On smarmTom Scocca in Gawker.

PHILIP KLEIN: Oregon's Obamacare epic fail. "Oregon, once touted as a model for President Obama's health care law, signed up just 44 people for insurance through November, despite spending more than $300 million on its state-based exchange. The state’s exchange had the fewest sign-ups in the nation, according to a new report today by the Department of Health and Human Services." Philip Klein in The Washington Examiner.

REINHARDT: Healthcare prices move to center stage. "Lost in the rhetorical war over the rollout of that law has been the fact that even if it had gone smoothly and everyone seeking health insurance for the basic package of benefits specified in the law had obtained it by now, the silver option on which the federal subsidies are based still leaves the insured open to hefty cost-sharing that, on average, is 30 percent of the actuarial full cost of that option." Uwe Reinhardt in The New York Times.

Wintry interlude: How to hang a left in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

2. The question: Is Obamacare accelerating enough?

Since October, 1.2 million have gained Obamacare coverage. "Just about 1.2 million people have gained health coverage through Obamacare, according to new federal data released Wednesday morning. Approximately 365,000 of those people have purchased private insurance and 803,000 have been determined to be eligible for the public Medicaid program. These numbers count data from both October and November, and show an especially quick growth in HealthCare.gov enrollment. Enrollment through the federal exchange grew from about 27,000 people in October to 137,000 through the end of November." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Sebelius: Enrollment up with improving HealthCare.gov; review of problems launched. "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the ailing health insurance Web site was improving thanks to “relentless” efforts to work out the bugs, and she cited an uptick in enrollment as evidence that the program is back on track after a false start. But she told a congressional panel she has launched an investigation into what policies and management failures may have contributed to the initial failures of HealthCare.gov, the main portal for people in 36 states to buy private insurance plans under the health-care law." Sandhya Somashekhar and Amy Goldstein in The Washington Post.

The Department of Health and Human Services is matching parts of Obamacare applications by hand. "The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is manually fixing thousands of flawed enrollment transmissions sent from HealthCare.gov to insurance companies in October and November, Congress was told Wednesday...30,000 applications might need to be re-evaluated before the end of the year. The problem creates the need for federal health officials to reconcile individual enrollment records with a long list of insurers in a process one official described as "very intensive."" Jonathan Easley in The Hill.

HealthCare.gov cost $677 million to build. "The HHS has only spent $319 million of that amount so far, Sebelius testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but commitments to contractors and government officials could reach $677 million if the agency makes good on all of its obligations. Sebelius has hinted that the Health agency could seek to withhold some payments to contractors due to the poor performance of the website." Jonathan Easley in The Hill.

Obamacare's biggest losers. "These are Obamacare's biggest losers: People whose current plans have been canceled but who are having trouble getting through HealthCare.Gov to purchase coverage by Dec. 23 -- the deadline for buying insurance that begins Jan. 1. The concern is particularly acute for patients with expensive medical conditions, who rely on their coverage for doctor visits and drug refills that would otherwise break the bank. Even with HealthCare.gov improving and enrollment numbers rising -- approximately 1.2 million people have gained coverage since October -- there's still concern about what happens if this particular population falls through the cracks." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

CBO: 'Doc fix' patch to cost about $8.7 billion. "A proposed patch sparing Medicare physicians a 24 percent pay cut next year would cost about $8.7 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The House measure would provide doctors with a 0.5 percent payment update through March 2014 while allowing Congress several months to overhaul Medicare's flawed physician payment system. To partially fund the three-month fix, the House bill would prolong a series of cuts set to hit hospitals that serve primarily uninsured and low-income patients under Medicaid." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

The White House is making sure that the young enroll in Obamacare. "Nonetheless, insurers and others fear that the initial group of enrollees will skew toward older people with medical ailments, who are motivated to overcome website problems because they need health insurance, while younger, healthy people may decide to stay on the sidelines...[Sebelius] added that she believed more young "tech-savvy" consumers will begin enrolling now that the federal website is working better...The federal government hasn't released demographic data on enrollees, but early numbers from some states running their own websites suggest older people were disproportionately applying for coverage in October." Amy Schatz in The Wall Street Journal.

Under Obamacare, nearly three times as many women are getting free birth control pills. "A new study from the Guttmacher Institute shows a big increase in privately-insured women obtaining contraceptives without any co-payment over the past year...Their research, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Contraception, suggests that they are: Privately-insured women using common forms of birth control reported a significant increase in accessing their prescriptions without co-payment." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

And you thought you had seen it all interlude: Extreme 'Barbie Jeep' racing.

3. Fischer to the Fed!

Stanley Fischer is almost certainly headed to the Fed. "Stanley Fischer, widely seen as a dean among the world's top central bankers, is President Barack Obama's choice to become second-in-command at the Federal Reserve, according to people familiar with the matter. A White House nomination isn't far off, said one person familiar with the matter. Another said talks with Mr. Fischer were well advanced, but an announcement could take as long as a couple of weeks...As a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Fischer taught a number of the world's top policy makers in international economics, including current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, who earned his Ph.D. in 1979. Other former students of Mr. Fischer include European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Lawrence Summers, a former Clinton Treasury secretary and the former head of Mr. Obama's National Economic Council." Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

The Fed's new monetary policy tool: reverse repo. "An experimental bond-trading program being run at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York could fundamentally change the way the central bank sets interest rates. Fed officials see the program, known as a "reverse repo" facility, as a potentially critical tool when they want to raise short-term rates in the future to fend off broader threats to the economy. Of particular concern for the Fed is finding a way to contain inflation once the trillions of dollars it has sent into the financial system get put to use as loans...Under this system, the Fed would raise short-term interest rates by borrowing in the future against its large and growing securities portfolio." Victoria McGrane and Jon Hilsenrath in The Wall Street Journal.

Interview: Nobel-winner Edmund Phelps on his plan to help low-wage workers — without raising the minimum wageDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

How a $15-an-hour minimum wage hurts. "Han Kim, a partner in the 171-room Holiday Inn Express franchise in SeaTac, as well as two other SeaTac hotels, estimates that for all three, the city's wage hike to $15 hourly will result in about $400,000 in additional labor expenses. We are running pretty thin as it is so we cannot eliminate positions," he says. Increasing the price of a room is too risky, he adds. "I cannot go around changing prices without my competition [also] changing them. . . . We'll have to make less money I guess." Mr. Kim says he is putting plans to build a fourth hotel property in SeaTec on hold. "We are waiting to see how things are going to pan out," he says...Mike Condon says his SeaTac coffee shop won't be required to comply with the city's new $15-an-hour minimum, which applies only to hospitality and transportation workers and excludes airlines and small businesses with fewer than 25 employees. But he expects the higher rate to make it harder for him to recruit and retain entry-level workers." Sarah E. Needleman and Mike Lippman in The Wall Street Journal.

Interview: Here’s why conservatives should worry more about long-term unemploymentBrad Plumer in The Washington Post.

The war over the Volcker rule. "Just a day after the final rule was approved by U.S. regulators, banks and their law firms were busy figuring out how to comply with strict new guidelines on Wall Street firms' trading activities and how to mitigate any hit to profits. Meanwhile, regulators were on a collision course over who gets supremacy in enforcing the rule." Ryan Tracy, James Sterngold and Stephanie Armour in The Wall Street Journal.

...The biggest problem with the Volcker rule. "I asked Merkley whether he was happy with the rule. "By and large yes," he said. "But the real proof will be how regulators enforce them. There's a lot of wiggle room for regulators." That's a giant, red flashing light. Almost by definition, a financial bubble can only occur during a period when regulators are inclined to give banks a lot of leeway. If the Volcker rule doesn't work in periods of bubble psychology, it's not going to be much of a defense against bubbles." Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

...It's not even clear already-underfunded financial regulators have the resources to implement it, either. "[R]egulators need enough personnel to examine banks, swaps dealers and other market participants, analyse the large amount of information that will be reported to them and set up technology to assess data to catch unusual or non-compliant activity. The Volcker rule requires the largest banks to report reams of data related to their market making, hedging and investing activities to ensure those moves are not violating the measure. But some agencies, such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, are already overwhelmed by the amount of new data they are receiving." Gina Chon in The Financial Times.

We won't have a Pacific-Rim trade deal this year. "Parrticipants in the latest talks, held in Singapore, expressed optimism about the prospects for the trade deal, one of the largest ever negotiated. The 12 ministers working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership said they had found potential “landing zones” for many of the remaining disagreements, which involve intellectual property and agricultural products, among other issues." Annie Lowrey in The New York Times.

Explainer: Everything you need to know about the Trans Pacific PartnershipLydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

Look, Americans care about inequality. "By almost two to one -- 64 percent to 33 percent -- Americans say the U.S. no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. And some say the government isn’t doing much to help...Still, respondents are almost evenly split on the need for government action to narrow the income gap: 45 percent say new policies are needed, while 46 percent say it would be better to allow the market to operate freely even if the gap gets wider." David J. Lynch in Bloomberg.

Big business wants to keep these four things secret. "Important information about America's biggest and most powerful companies that investors, journalist, and activists would really like to know remains under wraps, despite the thousands of pages of documents a publicly traded company files for public consumption in a given year...Given the amount of fighting and lobbying over the tax code, it’s a strange fact that no one can tell what any given company is actually paying in taxes. Publicly traded firms list a U.S. federal “current tax provision” number in their annual reports, but that’s an accountant’s estimate used to calculate earnings, not the actual sum of the company’s U.S. federal tax bill." Jia Lynn Yang in The Washington Post.

Mother Earth interlude: What happens to Google Maps when tectonic plates move?

4. Gun control, shot to pieces

Gun-control groups are shifting efforts and resources to handful of states. "Gun-control activists have largely given up on Congress, which did not pass background-check legislation after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December that killed 20 children and six adults. The groups are shifting their resources to a handful of states such as Colorado, where they have hired political operatives to try to build permanent gun-control movements." Philip Rucker in The Washington Post.

Graphic: All of the changes to state gun laws since the Newtown shootingKaren Yourish, Wilson Andrews, Larry Buchanan and Alan McLean in The New York Times.

Explainer: How gun control is losing, badly (in charts)Niraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

In Ohio, momentum favors gun rights movement. "By the end of October, 11 states had exceeded the number of background checks for gun purchases conducted in all of 2012, according to data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. More states are on track to meet or exceed last year’s numbers by the end of this month. The surge is one indication of the strength of the gun rights movement, which has helped block major gun-control legislation in Congress and elsewhere in the country since the school massacre in Newtown, Conn." Rhonda Colvin in The Washington Post.

News you can use interlude: An introvert's guide to giving better presentations.

5. Who the Senate just confirmed

The Senate is working on some late-night confirmations. Update: Pillard was confirmed 51-44. "Around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to confirm Cornelia "Nina" Pillard to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia...Following the Pillard vote overnight, senators are scheduled to proceed to final debate on one of Obama's picks to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If Republicans decline to yield back their debate time, a vote to confirm Chai Rachel Feldblum will occur at approximately 5:30 a.m. Thursday, Senate Democratic aides said. From there the process will continue Thursday into Friday, with procedural and final confirmation votes on four nominees to serve on U.S. district courts in Montana, New Hampshire and New York; on Deborah Lee James to serve as secretary of the Air Force; Heather Higginbottom to serve as the deputy secretary of state for management; and Anne Patterson, to serve as an assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Controversial nomination at Department of Homeland Security goes to Senate floor. "President Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 spot at the Department of Homeland Security advanced to the full Senate for consideration after winning a vote Wednesday from a deeply divided Senate panel. The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee made a party-line decision after a Republican senator unsuccessfully sought a delay, in part by revealing previously undisclosed official findings of problems with a visa program the nominee administers. “These reviews raise major concerns about whether this program is facilitating crime and creating threats to national security,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) in seeking to delay the consideration of Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of the department." Tom Hamburger in The Washington Post.

Republicans plan long Senate speeches to protest nuclear option. "Senate Republicans made plans Wednesday to stage a more than 30-hour talkathon on the chamber floor to protest Democrats’ triggering of the “nuclear option” last month. The GOP protest, which could extend into the weekend, will throw a wrench in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) hopes of wrapping up legislative business for 2013 as soon as possible." Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Republicans are winning the broader battle over discretionary spendingBrad Plumer.

Obamacare’s biggest losersSarah Kliff.

Nobel-winner Edmund Phelps on his plan to help low-wage workers — without raising the minimum wageDylan Matthews.

The Volcker rule cites the Occupy Movement 284 timesLydia DePillis.

Big business wants to keep these four things secretJia Lynn Yang.

The biggest problem with the Volcker rule. Ezra Klein.

Under Obamacare, nearly three times as many women are getting free birth control pillsSarah Kliff.

Everything you need to know about the Trans Pacific PartnershipLydia DePillis.

The budget deal isn’t good for the economy. It’s less bad for the economyNeil Irwin.

Here’s why conservatives should worry more about long-term unemploymentBrad Plumer.

Since October, 1.2 million have gained Obamacare coverageSarah Kliff.

Et Cetera

Pete Rouse is finally leavingJackie Calmes in The New York Times.

House conservative caucus staffer fired for undermining lawmakersPaul Kane in The Washington Post.

Exxon thinks natural gas will replace coal as the number-two energy sourceEd Crooks in The Financial Times.

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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Comments
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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

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Sarah Kliff · December 11, 2013