Wonkbook: Administration: No way we’re moving the March 31 deadline for getting insurance

March 13

Welcome to Wonkbook, Wonkblog’s morning policy news primer by Puneet Kollipara. To subscribe by e-mail, click here. Send comments, criticism or ideas to Wonkbook at Washpost dot com. To read more by the Wonkblog team, click here.


(Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Wonkbook’s Number of the Day: 5.4 million. That's how many people will pick a health insurance plan through the Obamacare exchanges by the end of March — short of initial projections, a new analysis projects.

Wonkbook’s Chart of the Day: Blame voters, not Congress, for our budgetary woes.

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: (1) No more delays for individual mandate; (2) the Fed's next moves; (3) clean energy versus fossil fuels; (4) the long-simmering CIA scandal; and (5) new NSA surveillance technique.

1. Top story: Individual mandate, Obamacare enrollments in focus

Obama administration won't delay individual mandate, Sebelius says. "Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the Obama administration would not extend the deadline for people to sign up for health insurance or delay the requirement for most Americans to have coverage. And she declined to say whether the administration was still committed to its original goal of enrolling seven million people in private coverage through federal and state exchanges by March 31. Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Ms. Sebelius said categorically that the administration would not delay the 'individual mandate,' under which most Americans must have insurance or pay a tax penalty. In addition, she said that officials would not extend the six-month open enrollment period, scheduled to end on March 31." Robert Pear in The New York Times.

The administration did recently, and quietly, delay mandate for some who lost plans. "The Obama administration is allowing some people with canceled health plans to avoid penalties under the individual mandate for an additional two years. The little noticed change, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, came as part of the administration's decision last week to extend its 'keep your plan' fix through 2016." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Premiums likely to rise in 2015, but slower, Sebelius says. "'I think premiums are likely to go up, but at a smaller pace than what we've seen since 2010,' Mrs. Sebelius said, adding that she thought the likely increases would be less significant than they had been in the years before the federal health-care law was enacted. The range of premiums people will see in 2015 is expected to be an important measure of the health-care law's success. Supporters have staked its success on providing coverage that people consider to be 'affordable,' though they have generally stopped short of claiming that its provisions will directly lead to premium decreases." Jennifer Corbett Dooren and Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.

On the employer-provided insurance side, firms are raising employees' deductibles. "Four of five U.S. companies have raised deductibles or are considering doing so as health costs increase, according to a survey of more than 700 employers. About one-third of the companies have already increased deductibles or other cost-sharing provisions like copays, and 48 percent are considering similar moves, the survey by New York-based consulting firm Mercer LLC found. Employers are looking for ways to trim expenses as health-care costs continue to rise and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act increases required benefits and imposes new taxes." Caroline Chen in Bloomberg.

Long read: Ignore the hype. Health care's "cost disease" hasn't been cured. Dan Diamond in California Healthline.

What if GOP gets its way on individual mandate? Deficits would fall, but so would coverage, and premiums would rise. "The Republican plan to delay Obamacare's individual mandate in order to pay for a fix to a broken Medicare payment system would save the government $31 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The delay would also result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance by 2018, CBO said. Further, health insurance premiums would be 10 percent to 20 percent higher in 2018, CBO projects....The Republican bill is a political marker, but it has no chance of becoming law so long as Democrats control the Senate and President Obama remains in the White House....The GOP proposal has also pushed back substantive negotiations on the permanent doc fix. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have been trying to hammer out a deal to repeal and replace what is known as the SGR formula for over a year." Clara Ritger in National Journal.

White House won't hit Obamacare enrollment projections, analysis suggests. "Avalere predicted that 1.2 million will sign up this month, bringing the total to 5.4 million enrollees for 2014. The figure would fail to meet projections by the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that 6 million people would enroll in coverage by the end of March." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Democrats fire back: Hey, at least it's not Medicare Part D.

What does the analysis mean, though? "A couple of things about the Avalere analysis: It's based on signups and not official enrollment. News reports and insurers have said about 80 percent of those signing up for exchange plans have paid their first month's premium. So, the final enrollment numbers could be smaller. Also, the top-line number doesn't say much about who's actually enrolling. The administration has downplayed the importance of how many people actually sign up. It's much more important, officials say, that each state have a good mix of healthy enrollees in their individual markets." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Map: Obamacare enrollment progress by state, with an eye to the upcoming Senate elections. Talking Points Memo.

Could Obama's 'Between Two Ferns' appearance at least boost young enrollees? "A White House spokeswoman says the web video President Obama did for FunnyOrDie.com that was released Tuesday led to a 40 percent increase in visits to HealthCare.gov, compared to the previous day....The spokeswoman previously said that FunnyOrDie.com, which hosted Obama's appearance on the faux-interview show 'Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,' was the top referrer to HealthCare.gov on Tuesday." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

@HealthCareTara: Funnyordie video has 11 million views. http://Healthcare.gov traffic for yesterday was up almost 40% from Monday.

This other celebrity Obamacare booster had a bit of a slip-up: Lance Bass visits W.H., flubs site address. Tal Kopan in Politico.

Obamacare is causing seniors to reconsider which Medicare plans they choose. "One reason Medicare Advantage plans have attracted a growing number of Americans — 29 percent of the 52 million Medicare recipients have chosen them, according to Avalere Health, a research firm — is that they have been, in effect, subsidized by the federal government. Now the government is reducing, over time, what it pays the private plans, bringing payments in line with those for traditional Medicare. 'It only makes sense for the government to pay the same amount to private insurers as they do to Medicare providers,' said Judith A. Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. 'Insurers should be able to operate profitably with those payments without cutting back dramatically on service.' Some insurers have responded by dropping policies, or reducing services and network providers on existing policies." Walecia Konrad in The New York Times.

KURTZ: Obamacare narrative still up for grabs? "President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act four years ago this month and yet here we sit going into the third national election since then with the political impact of the law still unresolved. A few new data points today that show just how up for grabs the Obamacare narrative remains." David Kurtz in Talking Points Memo.

FEYMAN: Obamacare isn't failing, but it's not succeeding. "The most recent enrollment numbers should crush conservatives’ fantasies of seeing Obamacare fall apart. But they should also encourage conservatives who recognize that the health insurance market before Obamacare was a disaster, and was in dire need of reform. There are serious reforms that need to be made to the law — they’ll either happen now or later. It’s up to Republicans whether they will be at the table negotiating, or booing on the sidelines." Yevgeniy Feyman in Forbes.

COHN: Hold your horses — Obamacare enrollment didn't fall in February. "The months HHS has been using for tabulation don’t correspond precisely to the calendar, because of state reporting methods and where weekends fall. As it turns out, 'February' is actually February 2 through March 1. That’s 28 days. 'January' is actually December 29 through February 1. That’s 35 days. Plug in the numbers, and you’ll see the average daily enrollment for January was 32,744 and for February it was 33,673. As you can see in the graph, the pace actually increased a bit. Among the very few who noticed were Charles Gaba of ACASingups.net and Sy Mukherjee of ThinkProgress. The more important question, of course, is what the numbers look like after March 31, when open enrollment ends." Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.

CASSIDY: It's time for Democrats to embrace Obamacare. "Trying to pussyfoot around Obamacare was an awkward strategy, and, evidently, it didn’t work. If other Democrats are to avoid meeting Sink’s fate in November, they need something more convincing to say about the Affordable Care Act than 'mend it, don’t end it,' which is now their default position. But what could that be? Here’s a heretical idea. Rather than parsing the individual elements of the law, and trying to persuade voters on an à la carte basis, what about raising the stakes and defending the reform in its entirety as a historic effort to provide affordable health-care coverage to tens of millions of hard-working Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford it? Instead of shying away from the populist and redistributionist essence of the reform, which the White House and many Democrats in Congress have been doing since the start, it’s time to embrace it." John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

Top opinion

TIM WEINER: Feinstein is right — the CIA is out of control. "Almost no one has read the Senate report on the CIA’s secret prisons. But a few aspects within it are clear, if you’ve been following the few-and-far-between hearings of the committee since 2009. Intelligence on counterterrorism has been doctored to deceive. The report says torture provided little or no useful intelligence. Our intellocrats insist it did. If so, should we keep the implements of inhumanity in the toolbox of intelligence? The CIA says it wants to turn the page on this unpublished chapter. You can’t turn the page if you haven’t read it. The fact that torture is an indelible stain on the honor of the United States cannot remain an issue for another day. Print the report, take the testimony and let some light dispel this darkness." Tim Weiner in POLITICO Magazine.

ARGUELLES: SAT changes will widen gap between haves and have-nots. "Defenders of the new SAT will point out that, in addition to the fee waiver for the test, Khan Academy, the free online tutoring service, has been contracted by the College Board to offer free prep for SAT test-takers. Khan Academy has done great work, but free online and in-person tutoring for underperforming students has been around for a long time, most notably as part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind program. I think it's safe to say that free tutoring has not managed to level the playing field between students from disadvantaged and affluent schools. Democratizing access to higher education in the U.S. is a noble goal, but the new SAT will further highlight the disparities between the haves and have-nots." Randolf Arguelles in The Wall Street Journal.

BARTLETT: How to help the working poor. "Congress is currently addressing two major proposals to help the working poor: an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 an hour, where it has been set since July 24, 2009, and an increase in the earned income tax credit, proposed by the White House, that sends cash payments to those with low earnings. Supporters of a higher minimum wage point out that it has fallen 32 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 1968. One problem with proceeding simultaneously with two very different programs designed to aid the same population is calculating their interactions. It may be possible to minimize budgetary costs one way, maximize worker well-being another way. There may also be unintended, even perverse, implications for those whom both programs are designed to help unless one is fully aware of how they interact." Bruce Bartlett in The New York Times.

BLOOMBERG VIEW: There's only one way for the GOP to stop illegal immigration. "Although the Senate last year approved comprehensive immigration legislation by a margin of more than 2 to 1, Speaker John Boehner has been unable to convince House Republicans that a path to citizenship — or even legal status — for undocumented immigrants is essential to resolving the issue. But there is something the House can do. It can begin to lay a basis for the kind of legislative deal that could pass in a year, maybe two, when Republicans face up to the fact that their future depends on it. Such a deal would achieve what many of the House's most vocal opponents of reform have long demanded: a crackdown on illegal immigration. The catch is that this crackdown will have little to do with the U.S.-Mexico border....The House has stalled progress on immigration reform. If it is going to make the nation wait for a solution, it should recognize that the place to stop the inflow is not at the point of entry, but at the point of hire." The Editors.

FIRESTONE: Bill to help sick kids is a farce. "What makes the measure particularly contemptible is that it doesn’t really give the convention money to pediatric research at all. As several Democrats pointed out when it passed the House in December, the bill says the money will be available to the N.I.H., but does not raise the cap on research spending, imposed by Republicans in 2011, which is the real reason why N.I.H. funding has declined. If lawmakers really want to spend more on cancer research — and they should — they can just vote to spend it, or to raise the caps. The deficit has fallen dramatically in the last five years, and the extra spending would have no significant effect on it. There’s no need to offset it by cutting the convention money." David Firestone in The New York Times.

NATIONAL REVIEW: Unleash American energy — but do it for the U.S., not Ukraine. "Allowing exports of oil and natural gas and otherwise trying to boost American energy production won’t change the landscape dramatically. Much of Europe will still be dependent on Russian natural gas no matter what we do. A lot of our increased natural-gas production and exports will not go to Europe but to Asia, where countries buy liquefied U.S. gas because they don’t have the cheaper option of overland pipelines. So a lot of Europe will still be skittish about its energy supplies from Russia. Ukraine will still be teetering. But export permits and more U.S. energy production, which President Obama has done little to encourage, would help push down global prices. We can’t start guaranteeing gas supplies to Ukraine tomorrow, or even anytime soon, but expectations of a freer market in natural gas will reduce the exceptional political power Russia holds over Europe." The Editors.

Drunk dog interlude: Don't try this at home, folks.

2. As Fed makeup changes, what will it do next?

Fischer, Obama pick for No. 2 spot at Fed, calls for continued expansionary monetary policy. "The US economy needs to continue with expansionary monetary policy because unemployment is too high and inflation is below target, said incoming Federal Reserve vice-chairman Stanley Fischer....Mr Fischer’s testimony puts him squarely behind current Fed policy and suggests he will not push for either an early interest rate rise or any slowdown in its gradual tapering of asset purchases." Robin Harding in The Financial Times.

Explainer: A few points on slack. The Economist.

But the Fed's makeup is changing. "The Senate has confirmed Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin as deputy secretary at the Treasury Department, making her the highest-ranking woman in the agency’s history. Raskin cleared the Senate on a voice vote nearly eight months after she was nominated for the position. Raskin joined the Fed in 2010 and was known for her focus on consumer protection....Her confirmation creates another vacant seat on the seven-member board of governors. The White House has yet to name a replacement. The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday will hear testimony from three nominees for other open seats: former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer, former Treasury official Lael Brainard and Fed board member Jay Powell, whose term is up for renewal." Ylan Mui in The Washington Post.

Explainer: What you need to know about the Federal Reserve's new cast members. Ylan Mui in The Washington Post.

All this comes as economists say 4th-quarter growth may be revised upward. "The government last month slashed its gross domestic product estimate for the October-December quarter to a 2.4 percent annual pace from a previously reported 3.2 percent rate. JPMorgan and forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers said the quarterly services survey, from which the government's estimates for services consumption is derived, showed a much more robust pace of consumer spending in the fourth quarter than the government's estimated 2.6 percent rate." Reuters.

Meanwhile, White House keeping up focus on pay inequities. "The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year's midterm election. Obama is hosting at least 10 Democratic female lawmakers at the White House Wednesday as his Council of Economic Advisers issues a report decrying a gender wage gap. The report, provided to The Associated Press in advance of its release, says full-time working women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workforce, despite surpassing men in obtaining college degrees and making inroads into traditionally male-dominated occupations." Nedra Pickler in The Associated Press.

Mixed messages from poll on unemployment benefits, minimum wage hike: "Most Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage, a top priority of President Obama, but not if it would cost the economy jobs, according to a new national poll." Jim Puzzanghera in the Los Angeles Times.

Read: The full poll. Bloomberg.

No unemployment insurance vote expected yet. "With the Senate rushing to pass a complicated package on Ukrainian aid, confirm nominees and complete a bipartisan child care bill, Democrats and Republicans are no closer to a resolution on how to pay for a five- or six-month retroactive restoration of long-term benefits that were cut off in December. There’s no agreement on which, if any, structural reforms need to be made to the UI program." Burgess Everett in Politico.

Also no timeline on Obama's overtime-pay rule, Labor secretary Perez says. "After appearing before a Senate panel Wednesday morning, Perez said the Labor Department would conduct a 'complete' and 'thorough' rulemaking process before final regulations are issued. He would not say if that could happen this year." Benjamin Goad in The Hill.

Long read: What comes after rich baby boomers? Kids with a big inheritance. Annie Lowrey in The New York Times Magazine.

Astronomy pictures interlude: Wow.

3. Is clean energy losing to fossil fuels?

Clean energy job growth drops in 2013. "Clean energy investments had it rough in 2013, and US job growth in that sector is having a bit of trouble too. That’s at least according to evidence in a new report out today from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), an environmental advocacy organization for businesses. While the clean energy industry made plans to add an additional 78,000 new jobs at 260 projects in 2013, that’s a 30% dip from the 110,000 job announcements in the previous year....The biggest reason for the 30% drop in job growth over last year is due to ongoing regulatory uncertainty around federal tax credits and state renewable energy mandates, says E2 communications director Bob Keefe....It’s also hard to ignore the continued natural gas boom in the US with its cheap, plentiful energy. 2014 may not look much better for clean energy job growth." Aaron Tilley in Forbes.

For EPA's carbon-emissions standards, will 'next year' mean 'never'? "EPA's new budget plan says...the agency hopes to determine whether it should craft carbon-emissions standards for several big industrial pollution sources—notably refineries, but also pulp and paper facilities, iron and steel production, and few other categories. But if the pledges about expanding climate rules sounds familiar to EPA-watchers, they should: The fiscal 2014 plan said the same thing about a decision on the rules, and the fact that the agency has now moved these decisions to its 2015 budget suggests that determinations in 2014 are probably not in the cards. Now, with the clock winding down on the Obama administration, experts say it's unclear whether EPA will craft carbon-emissions standards for any big stationary pollution sources beyond power plants—or even if it has enough time or resources left to do so....If President Obama is succeeded by a Republican, that could very well shut the door for years on carbon-emissions standards for industrial sources besides power plants." Ben Geman in National Journal.

Republicans are ramping up investigations of the power plant rules. "Leaders of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee have written to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting documents they will use to determine whether the agency complied with the law when it developed its proposals for new power plants, announced in September 2013." Valerie Volcovici in Reuters.

Who's protesting Keystone XL? A lot of them are foreigners, it turns out. "When public comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline ended Friday, opponents of the project could declare victory, since they gathered a little more than 2 million comments on their side compared to the roughly 1 million in support of the proposal. But there's a wrinkle to the slew of comments that the State Department received as it solicited public input on whether the pipeline — which would ship heavy crude from Canada to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast — would serve the national interest: close to half of the comments in opposition came from people outside the United States." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

Poll: Climate change not a huge worry for many Americans. Gallup.

Cupcake interlude: 3-year-old's compelling argument.

4. Long-simmering CIA scandal reviving old, long-simmering policy debates

Public feud between CIA, Senate panel follows years of tension over interrogation report. "The dispute, which spilled into public view this week, centers on whether the committee broke laws in obtaining a set of documents the agency never intended to share, or whether the CIA broke laws in its searches of committee computers to see how those files ended up in the panel’s possession. The documents themselves would seem to be of little significance. Created at the direction of then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta, they were meant to take inventory of the records being turned over to Congress and, in some cases, anticipate in written asides how damaging some of that material might be in the committee’s hands. Nevertheless, control of those 'Panetta review' documents could be critical to whether that report comes to be seen as an exhaustive and accurate accounting of the CIA’s interrogation operations or, as many agency officials contend, a flawed document that reaches deeply misguided judgments about the program and whether it worked....The rupture has revealed aspects of the agency’s relationship with one of its main external watchdogs that rarely surface in public view. Feinstein’s decision to launch a public attack on the CIA also exposed new details about the course of a politically charged investigation that has been shrouded in secrecy for nearly five years." Greg Miller and Adam Goldman in The Washington Post.

Timeline: How the CIA scandal unfolded. Connie Cass in Talking Points Memo.

White House more involved in CIA-Senate committee spat than it may seem. "The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege. In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found. The significance of the materials couldn’t be learned. But the administration’s refusal to turn them over or to agree to any compromise raises questions about what they would reveal about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons. The dispute indicates that the White House is more involved than it has acknowledged in the unprecedented power struggle between the committee and the CIA." Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor in McClatchy.

FRIEDERSDORF: Why all this matters. "Once again we're seeing the consequences not only of the Bush Administration's illegal torture, but also President Obama's decision to 'look forward,' an approach that has caused him to default on his legal obligation to enforce an important-to-civilization anti-torture treaty, and to leave in place an alarming number of CIA staffers who, a few short years ago, were complicit in torturing humans. They haven't merely escaped legal consequences. They've kept their CIA jobs! In fact, they haven't just kept their jobs. They've risen to leadership positions!" Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

Feinstein being hypocritical? "While Feinstein is up in arms about the intelligence agency's search of her staff's computer system and network, she has been an avid defender of National Security Agency surveillance programs. 'It’s called protecting America,' she said shortly after the news broke that the NSA was collecting domestic phone records in bulk. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Feinstein further suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attack likely would have been prevented if the phone metadata program was in place. And when it came to reform, many privacy advocates and journalists have suggested that her proposal for changes to the spy agency's programs amounted to codifying certain powers and expanding others. Given her very public stance in the surveillance debate over the past nine months, many were quick to notice the apparent disconnect." Andrea Peterson in The Washington Post.

@normative: But DiFi... if CIA logged which documents Senate staff accessed & when, that's "just metadata" & not "surveillance" at all.

Science interlude: Video explains why we yawn.

5. Another NSA surveillance technique comes to light

NSA has ability to infect millions with malware, documents show. "Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process. The classified files — provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden — contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware 'implants.' The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks...."

"In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites....In an email statement to The Intercept, Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said the company had 'no evidence of this alleged activity.' He added that Facebook implemented HTTPS encryption for users last year, making browsing sessions less vulnerable to malware attacks. Nancarrow also pointed out that other services besides Facebook could have been compromised by the NSA." Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept.

Meanwhile, Google is encrypting searches worldwide. That's bad for the NSA and China's censors. "The company says the move is part of a global expansion of privacy technology designed to thwart surveillance by government intelligence agencies, police and hackers who, with widely available tools, can view e-mails, search queries and video chats when that content is unprotected....Google began offering encrypted search as an option for some users in 2010 and made the protection automatic for many users in the United States in 2012. The company began encrypting traffic between its data centers after The Washington Post and the Guardian, relying on documents provided by Snowden, reported last year on the massive extent of Internet spying by the National Security Agency and its allies. Microsoft and Yahoo soon followed with similar initiatives. Encrypted search has come more slowly in other parts of the world, and especially to those using older browsers." Craig Timberg and Jia Lynn Yang in The Washington Post.

NSA targeted surveillance looks less targeted. "The ability to automate and increase the number of targets is good news for spy agencies, because it maximizes the usefulness of the security flaws they use to penetrate machines. Such exploits all come with expiration dates, and the more often and carelessly they're used, the less time it takes until they are detected and patched....With the automated system, however, those exploits become much more agile. TURBINE and QUANTUM can scan for certain selectors—like ad-targeting IDs or people visiting certain websites—select a suitable exploit, and automatically 'shoot' it to intended targets. This revelation suggests that the NSA's tailored-access platform is becoming a bit more like the un-targeted dragnets everyone has been so upset about: stuff like the mass-collection of phone metadata, and the tapping of undersea Internet cables, which allows the agency to filter through raw communications for keywords. Of course, the question is whether having the capability to 'target' people en-masse means that the NSA and GCHQ will necessarily do so. But based on what we know so far from the Snowden files, it's hard to imagine what would stop them." Joshua Kopstein in Slate.

Aside: Top Democrat wants end to NSA bulk collection of phone data. Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post.

Ping pong interlude: Human faces off against robot in dramatic showdown.

Wonkblog roundup

We now know more about the economics of prostitution than ever. Emily Badger.

1.7 reasons to quit your job now. Max Ehrenfreund.

Your parents determine your allergies, not the air around you. Lenny Bernstein.

HHS will push back against state restrictions on Obamacare ground troops. Jason Millman.

What you need to know about the Federal Reserve’s new cast members. Ylan Mui.

Senate confirms Fed governor for No. 2 post at Treasury. Ylan Mui.

Puerto Rico may have $70 billion in debt. But it didn’t have a problem getting a loan. Michael Fletcher.

Analysis: Obamacare enrollment to miss target that HHS wishes you’d ignore. Jason Millman.

Blame voters, not Congress, for our budgetary woes. Christopher Ingraham.

Et Cetera

Holder will call for reduced sentences for low-level drug offenders. Sari Horwitz in The Washington Post.

Congress to continue military sexual assault debate. Richard Lardner in The Associated Press.

Ukraine aid bill faces filibuster threat in Senate. Niels Lesniewski in Roll Call.

The proportion of young Americans who drive has plummeted, and no one knows why. Jeffrey Ball in The New Republic.

Power grid preparedness falls short, report says. Matthew L. Wald in The New York Times.

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

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
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