Main Street Week in Review: July 25, 2014

TOP ISSUES FROM THIS WEEK:

House Republicans Look to Move Immigration Crisis Response Bill

A House Republican working group, headed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), laid out a series of recommendations for legislation to deal with the current crisis on our southern border. These recommendations include:

  • Deploy the National Guard to the border to assist Border Patrol agents. Granger did not say exactly what the number of troops might be.
  • Require the Homeland Security Department to craft and implement a plan to “gain operational control” of the southwest border.
  • Address border-security issues in Central America and Mexico.
  • Create repatriation centers to help families and unaccompanied minors once they return to their home country.
  • Implement aggressive messaging campaigns—which are already underway in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These are aimed at exposing the dangers of the journey to the U.S. and dispelling the myth that children will be permitted to enter the country.
  • Process family units within five to seven days. Children should have a fast-tracked immigration-court hearing within seven days after a child welfare official’s screening. More judge teams and temporary judges would be added.
  • Establish an independent commission to craft metrics to show if initiatives to secure the border are working.
  • Create tough penalties for smugglers and disassemble transnational criminal organizations.

The most contentious recommendation would be a change to the 2008 anti-trafficking law prohibiting Central American children from voluntary removal.

Before even thinking about the future of this approach in the Senate, House Republican leaders must get through their own caucus and the GOP outline may not have the full backing of House Republicans. The scope of conservative opposition to the Granger plan isn’t yet fully known, but it is rooted in a narrative that has dictated GOP hostility to everything immigration-related that has been discussed during this Congress.

Financially speaking, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said $1.5 billion was the best estimate for emergency supplemental funding in the House, although the GOP conference hasn’t come to a consensus on this number.

But outside the GOP Conference, there’s a major financial discrepancy between the administration, the Senate, and the House on the amount of funding that should be appropriated. The White House called for $3.7 billion. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) unveiled legislation Wednesday calling for more than $2 billion, including $1.2 billion—the largest allocation in the request—for Health and Human Services so the agency can in part provide shelter for the children, according to a summary of the legislation released by the committee.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has sent multiple desperate warnings to lawmakers that, come mid-August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will run out of money.

Without emergency supplemental funding, ICE will lack the resources to expand detention and removal capabilities for adults with children. HHS will lack the resources to create stable, more cost-effective arrangements for kids crossing the border. And children will wait longer to see an immigration judge.

Affordable Care Act May Be Headed to the Supreme Court (Again)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears on a crash course for the Supreme Court, again, after a pair of conflicting court rulings. Two federal Appeals Courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday in lawsuits that challenge the subsidies that the ACA provides to help people cover the cost of their premiums. One Appeals Court said the subsidies should be available only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges and ruled that the IRS broke the law by providing them nationwide. Hours later, another Appellate Court said the IRS did nothing wrong and the subsidies are legal everywhere.

The Justice Department lost the first of Tuesday’s cases, Halbig v. Burwell, in which a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals limited Obamacare’s subsidies to state-run exchanges.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it will appeal the panel’s ruling to the full D.C. Circuit Court. The full D.C. Circuit is dominated by Democratic appointees, so the Justice Department has a good chance of winning this appeal.

The administration won the day’s second case, King v. Sebelius, which was decided by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The challengers who lost in King could also seek a review before the full 4th Circuit, but they would probably lose. (That court is also mostly made up of Democrats.) So they’ll probably skip that step and appeal straight to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is more likely to take a case when there’s a split between circuit courts, the situation the two conflicting rulings created Tuesday. That’s why the challengers are likely to appeal directly to the high court—the landscape right now is favorable to them.

But if the Justice Department wins its appeal in the Halbig case—which, again, is likely—there will no longer be a split between Appeals Courts, and the case could become less attractive to the Supreme Court justices. So it’s in the challengers’ interests to move quickly, before the full D.C. Circuit Court rules.

House Republicans Rush to Finish Work Before Recess

House Republicans are rushing to finish a number of legislative initiatives before the month-long August recess begins

At the very top of House Republicans to do list is a short-term spending bill aimed at keeping the government open and avoiding another politically damaging shut down. The current funding expires on October 1st and House GOP leaders are hoping to pass a short-term bill that will keep the government funded and operating at current levels beyond Election Day in November.

To date, the House has passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Democratic-led Senate has passed none. And despite all of the talk about a return to “regular order” earlier this year, there is little expectation that the two chambers will complete passage of the bills on time.

In addition to a short-term spending bill, House Republican leadership is hoping to hold a vote on their plan for dealing with the current immigration crisis on our southern border. This week, the House formally rolled out the “Granger Plan” that includes $1.5 billion in supplemental spending – far short of the $3.7 billion the President requested.

The House also hopes that negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Veterans Affairs Department reform legislation can be completed and that a vote on the final bill can be held next week.

Finally, the House plans on voting to formally authorize House Speaker John Bohener’s (R-OH) lawsuit against President Obama regarding his use of executive power.

President Obama Signs Non-Discrimination Executive Order

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT individuals by companies that contract with the federal government.

The federal government already prohibits discrimination against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in its own work force, but the President had been under pressure from LGBT rights activists to extend that protection to include companies that do work for the federal government. Mr. Obama’s executive order also explicitly included gender identity – in addition to sexual orientation – specifically guaranteeing that transgender employees would also be protected from job discrimination.

In light of the controversial Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case there has been a renewed debate over the question of whether religious groups should be exempt from certain legislation that may be considered counter to their religious beliefs. President Obama declined to include any religious exemption in his executive order, but advocates for religious groups have promised to bring the action to court.

Obama’s executive order adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected among federal contractors that was first approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

Senate to Vote Next Week on Highway Patch

The Senate is poised to take up the issue of the patch to the Highway Trust Fund next week – possibly as early as Tuesday. The Senate is expected to vote on the House passed bill and the Wyden-Hatch bill (which largely mirrors the House passed bill), as well as the Boxer-Carper bill (which would only extend funding to December of this year), in addition, the Senate is likely to consider the Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) proposal to cut the gas tax to 3.7 cents per gallon coupled with giving states enhanced authority over transportation projects. Finally, the Senate is expected to also consider a proposal from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would waive the environmental review process for projects that are replacing infrastructure damaged in disasters.

POLITICAL BITS

House

 

Georgia 1st Congressional District: State Senator Buddy Carter (R-GA) defeated surgeon Bob Johnson (R-GA) 54-46%.

Georgia 10th Congressional District: Baptist Preacher Jody Hice (R-GA) defeated businessman Mike Collins (R-GA) 54-46%.

Georgia 11th Congressional District: Former Rep. Bob Barr’s (R-GA) comeback bid fell far short on Tuesday when he was defeated by former State Senator Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) by a margin of 66% to 34%.

Senate

Georgia: In something of a surprise to poll watchers and pundits, businessman David Perdue (R-GA) defeated Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) in the Senate GOP runoff. Perdue beat Kingston 51-49% despite polls showing Kingston with a 5-8 point lead.

Georgia: This week, Hall of Fame great Hank Aaron endorsed Michelle Nunn (D-GA).

Virginia: A new Roanoke College poll shows Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) with a wide lead over former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R-VA). Warner leads 47-22%.

Governor

Florida: A new Quinnipiac poll shows former Governor Charlie Crist (D-FL) leading Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) 45% to 40%.

Maine: Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) raised $355,000 in the 2nd quarter and ended with just over $1 million cash on hand. Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) raised $234,000 and has $917,000 cash on hand, while Eliot Cutler (I-ME) raised $181,000 from individual donors, loaned himself another $581,000 and has roughly $527,000 cash on hand.

South Carolina: A new Palmetto Politics polls shows Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) in a tight race with State Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-SC). Haley leads 46% to 42% when respondents are asked about all candidates on the ballot. However, in a head to head with Sheheen, Haley leads by a comfortable 53-40%.

D.C. Appeals court strikes Obamacare subsidies

A federal appeals court dealt a major blow to Obamacare on Tuesday, saying that millions of Americans cannot get subsidies to help pay for their health insurance through HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange serving most of the country. The court said those subsidies can only be given through the state-run exchanges.

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that the IRS had incorrectly allowed people to get subsidized through the federal exchange. It did not order the subsidies stopped immediately, recognizing that the Obama administration will appeal.

The Halbig v. Burwell decision is the second recent legal setback for Obamacare, following the Hobby Lobby ruling on birth control coverage. But the contraception rule is a controversial but small piece of the health law; the subsidies go to the heart of coverage expansion in the Affordable Care Act.

Read more: POLITICO

IRS official: Lois Lerner email trail may not be cold

A top IRS official is now uncertain about whether backup tapes of the lost Lois Lerner emails may exist, according to testimony released by Republicans — a potentially significant plot twist in the controversy that has shaken the IRS in recent weeks.

IRS deputy associate chief counsel Thomas Kane, who oversees the tax-collecting agency’s document production to Congress, told the House Oversight Committee in private testimony that he’s now unsure if the correspondence is backed up somewhere else.

“I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” he told investigators Thursday, according to a partial transcript released by Oversight Republicans on Monday.

The IRS official suggested new information has come to light since the IRS revealed in a June 13 letter to Congress that two year’s worth of Lerner’s emails were lost in a 2011 computer crash. Lerner was the head of the tax exempt division that singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny and has since become a lightning rod for Republicans probing the matter.

Read more: POLITICO

US Chamber of Commece: When Ex-Im Is Required (Small Business Edition)

READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE

As the fight over the fate of U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) continues, the rhetoric in Washington has grown heated. But across the nation, business owners are perplexed by the inside-the-beltway campaign against Ex-Im.

In particular, the thousands of small businesses that depend on Ex-Im to be able to access foreign markets are stunned at the threat that Washington could let the Bank’s charter lapse.

What the critics don’t grasp is that access to Ex-Im isn’t just something that’s nice for small exporters to have—it’s often indispensable.

Bridge to Life Solutions in Columbia, South Carolina, uses the most widely utilized Ex-Im product for small businesses: credit insurance. Bridge to Life insures orders for state-of-the-art cold storage organ transplant solutions. Thanks to Ex-Im credit insurance, Bridge to Life was able to begin exporting.

John Bruens, Chief Commercial and Business Development Officer for Bridge to Life, explains why Ex-Im is vital to his company: “Without Ex-Im, I would have to tell my customers, ‘prepay everything up front, or we can’t do business.’” By purchasing credit insurance from Ex-Im for the firm’s foreign receivables, Bridge to Life was able to extend credit terms to its international customers — and sales soared. “Ex-Im allowed us to build an international presence,” says Bruens.

Similarly, Eagle Labs in Rancho Cucamonga, California, uses Ex-Im’s credit insurance to insure orders for surgical equipment for cataract surgery.

Michael De Camp, Vice President of International Sales for Eagle Labs, explains that despite receiving consistent payment from foreign customers, local banks wouldn’t extend credit to Eagle Labs based on uninsured accounts. Once Eagle Labs secured Ex-Im credit insurance, everything changed. The firm got a line of credit from a private bank, bought the capital equipment it needed, doubled its sales, and doubled its workforce.

ProGauge Technologies in Bakersfield, California, makes machinery that injects steam into heavy oil wells to make it easier to pump. President Don Nelson lays out how he uses Ex-Im’s working capital guarantees: “The way our business works, we get money from our customers up front, and they get a bank guarantee from Wells Fargo.”

“In order to get a guarantee,” Nelson explains, “Wells Fargo requires us to get an Ex-Im guarantee and put up 10% collateral. Without Ex-Im, Wells Fargo would require us to put up 100% collateral, and we would have no money available for operations.”

The challenge is that U.S. commercial banks do not allow American companies to use foreign receivables or inventory as collateral. Far from crowding out the private sector, Ex-Im working capital guarantees let private banks extend loans and guarantees that they wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.

If Ex-Im shuts down, Nelson is worried about his company’s future. He says: “Our revenues would go down by about 75%, and I’d have to lay off between 50 and 60 people.”

Davenport Aviation in Columbus, Ohio, uses Ex-Im’s line of credit service. Davenport was founded in 2009 by João and Leah Simoes and got its start selling aircraft parts to African countries. The business boomed, and soon it was selling to Asia, South America, and the Middle East.

Simoes explains why Ex-Im is vital: “Cash lifecycles can be long — up to 120 days — when dealing with developing countries. Private banks just do not offer large enough line of credits to small companies like ours with large backorders.”

When determining the borrowing base for a line of a credit, U.S. commercial banks do not take into account foreign receivables. Without Ex-Im’s line of credit, small businesses exporting expensive capital goods would have to slow down and wait out the unusually long payment cycles of international business — which just isn’t feasible. As Simoes says, “Ex-Im is necessary for small business.”

In short, Ex-Im is indispensable for small exporters. It provides them with credit insurance, lines of credit, and working capital guarantees without which many of them just couldn’t export. Due to regulatory constraints, commercial banks would be unable to fill the void.

As members of Congress consider legislation to reauthorize Ex-Im, America’s small businesses are watching. In many instances, it isn’t just jobs hanging in the balance— the future of many small businesses is on the line. 

Roll Call: Border Funding Request Takes Shape in House

House Republicans could by the week’s end unveil their legislative response to the president’s $3.7 billion request to bolster resources at the southwest border — a response that’s likely to cost less and incorporate policy riders sure to rile up Democrats on the left.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of a special GOP working group convened by Speaker John A. Boehner to make policy recommendations on the child migrant border surge, told reporters Tuesday morning the group is pushing for increased border security funding, the use of National Guard troops on the border and the installation of more immigration judges to preside over deportation hearings and asylum requests.

With a formal report expected to be filed late Tuesday or early Wednesday, Granger also said the group supported tweaking a 2008 trafficking law to allow all unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to choose to return to their home countries rather than await trial to be deported, a right currently afforded only to children from countries contiguous to the United States.

“Tweak it, not change it, not repeal it,” Granger stressed, “but to treat all children the same.”

Such revisions to the law known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 are being touted in a pair of bills sponsored by Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and Republican Sen. John Cornyn, both of Texas.

 

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

POLITICO: Understanding the Export-Import Bank

What does the Export-Import Bank do?

The institution helps U.S. companies sell products to foreign customers, mostly by providing or guaranteeing loans to those buyers. It steps in when private banks decide certain sales are too risky to finance.

Who benefits from the bank?

The top customers are Boeing, which said it relied on the bank’s financing to support 18 percent of its aircraft sales last year, and other major exporters like General Electric and Caterpillar. But more than 90 percent of the bank’s customers are small businesses. Overall, the bank said it supported 205,000 U.S. jobs last year and sent a profit of $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

Do other countries have their own versions?

Yes, 59 do, including China, Japan and South Korea and most European countries, which is why bank supporters say eliminating it would be “unilateral disarmament.” For example, Airbus, a main competitor of Boeing, finances its sales through European export credit agencies.

Why do conservatives want to close it?

The Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups say the agency is a prime example of “crony capitalism” and distorts the free market to benefit a few connected corporations. The U.S. government should play no role in financing sales to foreign companies that compete with American businesses, they say.

Has the bank always been under fire?

The 80-year-old institution’s reauthorization has drawn occasional rumbles from both liberals and conservatives, but historically reauthorization has been a painless process, involving near-unanimous support in the House and Senate. The first time the bank’s reauthorization was truly in doubt was in 2012, when 93 House Republicans opposed it. The question this time is whether it will be backed by the majority of the House GOP.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

 

Main Street Week in Review: July 11, 2014

TOP ISSUES FROM THIS WEEK:

RNC Selects Cleveland as Host for 2016 Convention

No Republican Presidential nominee has won the White House without carrying the state of Ohio since 1860, something not lost on Republicans today who announced this week that they had selected Cleveland, Ohio to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Cleveland beat out several cities along the way, in the end besting Dallas in the final decision.

The GOP plans to hold its 2016 convention earlier than usual, with possible dates of June 28th or July 18th being considered for the start.

“This is great news for Cleveland and our entire state,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “It’s a unique opportunity to showcase the new Cleveland as one of America’s great cities, and to bring dollars and jobs to Ohio.”

For the RNC, the top consideration was the budget presentations from each of the competing cities. Current RNC Chair Reince Preibus insisted that city proposals outline how they would pay for the convention – rather than sticking the bill with the party.

In proposals and presentations to the party, city officials outlined how each would raise the tens of millions of dollars required to pay for the weeklong rally for the party faithful. A successful convention is a boon not just to the political party, but also to the local economy.

In a post-convention report, organizers of Tampa, Fla.’s 2012 GOP convention said its $58 million in fundraising resulted in a $214 million direct economic impact. Some 50,000 activists, officials and reporters descended on the Tampa area for the convention, officials said. More journalists visited Tampa for the GOP convention in 2012 than visited in 2009 when Tampa hosted the Super Bowl.

That economic impact is one reason cities have been competing for months to host the convention.

Organizers earlier eliminated bids from Denver; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Obama Calls for Almost $4 Billion for Border

In response to a growing humanitarian crisis on the border with Mexico, President Obama is calling on Congress to appropriate $3.7 billion to stem families and unaccompanied minors illegally crossing into the U.S.

Here’s a by-the-numbers breakdown of the emergency supplemental request to curb the crisis.

$1.1 BILLION FOR IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: This would help pay for transportation costs associated with apprehending unaccompanied children, to the tune of $116 million. It would also help detain and and remove undocumented adults with children; expand alternatives to detention programs, such as ankle bracelets; and provide additional immigration and customs-enforcement efforts and expand ICE’s investigatory programs.

$433 MILLION FOR CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Crews could log 16,526 more flight hours for aerial surveillance of the border—an expansion that has a $39.4 million price tag. A large portion of the $433 million would pay for costs associated with apprehending more children and families at the border, such as overtime and temporary pay for Border Patrol agents and the care of children placed in CBP protection.

$64 MILLION FOR DOJ: About 40 more immigration judge teams would be hired. Additionally, the number of immigration litigation attorneys and legal representatives for children would increase.

$300 MILLION FOR STATE DEPARTMENT AND INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS: The administration hopes to counteract smugglers’ misinformation that migrants will be allowed to stay in the United States. About $5 million would support media campaigns in Central America emphasizing the dangers of the journey to cross the border. The other $295 million will go toward reintegrating migrants into their home country and addressing the economic and social disparities causing families and children to cross the border.

$1.8 BILLION FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Central American children are placed in HHS hands after they cross the border, and these funds will go toward providing appropriate care for the kids.

Senate Intel Committee Passes Cybersecurity Bill

On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 12 to 3. The legislation would make it easier for businesses and the government to share information with each other about cyber-attacks. Despite the vote, the bill continues to face opposition from privacy groups, who warn that it could give the National Security Agency access to even more personal information of Americans.

The legislation includes provisions aimed at protecting privacy, such as requiring that companies that share information first strip out personally identifiable data (such as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers) of known Americans.

But the privacy groups are still worried that the legislation could encourage a company such as Google to turn over vast batches of emails or other private data to the government. The information would go first to the Homeland Security Department, but could then be shared with the NSA or other intelligence agencies.

Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall voted against the legislation, saying in a statement that it “lacks adequate protections for the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, and that it will not materially improve cybersecurity.”

The legislation is a counterpart to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which passed the House last year.

That legislation prompted a major backlash from Internet activists, who fear it would undermine Internet privacy. More than 100,000 people signed a White House petition opposing the bill, and “CISPA” became a dirty word on many blogs, discussion forums, and news sites.

The White House issued a veto threat on CISPA, saying it lacked adequate privacy safeguards.

Senate Confirms Castro at HUD

On Wednesday, the Senate easily confirmed President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development – San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro – by a vote of 71 to 26.

The 39-year old Castro, who delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is seen as a rising star in Democratic circles and is frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 Vice Presidential contender

All 26 votes against Castro came from Republicans, including one of his home-state senators, Ted Cruz.

Highway Trust Fund Update

There was movement this week on both the House and Senate side with regards to efforts to avoid the looming bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

House Republicans have introduced their proposal for a temporary patch and in the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are pursuing a different approach.

In the Senate, their proposal is $8-9 billion. In the House, the proposal is $10.8 billion. The House plans on paying for the bill via pension smoothing, a customs duty extension, and a Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST) account transfer. Senators are still working on their funding mechanism but the general consensus is that they will utilize a LUST transfer and possibly pension smoothing.

The biggest obvious had been the difference in the length of both proposals. The Senate was proposing a three-month extension, while the House was proposing an eight-month extension. However, on Thursday afternoon, the Senate tweaked their proposal to mirror the eight-month extension in the House.

The House Ways and Means Committee marked up their version on Thursday morning. Approximately $6.4 billion is raised from pension smoothing, which is an accounting practice that allows companies with defined benefit retirement plans assume higher interest rates when calculating how much money they need to contribute for their employees’ retirement. This reduces their required contributions into the plans and therefore raises the amount taxes they owe which brings new revenue to the federal government. The customs fees extension through 2024 will raise an additional $3.5 billion. The LUST transfer of $1 billion is from a separate trust fund designed to clean up underground oil leaks.

The pay-fors in the House bill have previously received broad bi-partisan support. Nevertheless, Democrats in the House will be under pressure to oppose the patch because it would mean that a long-term bill wouldn’t be worked out until next year (presumably with a Republican controlled Senate). Under the Senate’s patch timeline, a long-term bill could be negotiated during this year’s lame duck session.

Some outside groups, including Heritage Action, have already criticized the House plan for being “irresponsible”. Additionally, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) who has called for a gas tax increase in order to permanently stabilize the HTF, did not mince words on his opinion of the House plan, calling it “disgraceful” and “generational theft”.

The House bill could be on the floor as early as next week.

POLITICAL BITS

House

Alabama 6th Congressional District: Gary Palmer (R-AL) leads runoff opponent Paul DeMarco (R-AL) 59 percent to 29 percent, according to a Cygnal poll.

California 52nd Congressional District: Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) raised more than $700,000 in the second quarter and has $1.9 million cash on hand. Carl DeMaio (R-CA) raised $613,000 in the second quarter and has $1.4 million cash on hand.

Michigan 3rd Congressional District: Club for Growth is spending another $180,000 on TV and radio ads opposing Brian Ellis (R-MI), who is challenging Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) in the GOP primary in Michigan’s 3rd District, according to reports filed with the FEC Tuesday. The group has spent a total of about $375,000 so far on the race.

Senate

Michigan: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R-MI) raised $3.35 million, including a $1.2 million personal contribution, in the second quarter and had $5.25 million cash on hand, while Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) raised $1.96 million in the second quarter, but did not disclose his cash-on-hand totals.

New Hampshire: A new WMUR-TV/Granite State poll of likely voters, conducted June 19-July 1, shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) leading former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R-NH) 50-38%. In the previous poll, conducted in early April, Shaheen led 45-39%.

North Carolina: Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) raised over $3.6 million in the second quarter and had over $8.7 million cash on hand.

Tennessee: The Tea Party Patriots endorsed Joe Carr (R-TN) the primary challenger to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) this week.

West Virginia: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) raised more than $1.3 million in the second quarter and had nearly $5 million cash on hand. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D-WV) raised $777,000, but did not disclose her cash-on-hand totals.

Governor

Georgia: Jason Carter (D-GA) raised $2 million in the second quarter, besting Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), who raised $1.2 million. Deal has $2.6 million on hand to Carter’s $1.8 million.

A LOOK AHEAD

House

Tuesday, July 15 – The House Judiciary Committee’s Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty, and Copyright Term,” at 1 p.m. in 2141 Rayburn.

Friday, July 11 – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Energy Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Fusion Energy: The World’s Most Complex Energy Project,” at 9 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Friday, July 11 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “21st Century Cures: Incorporating the Patient Perspective,” at 9 a.m. in 2322 Rayburn.

Senate

Tuesday, July 15 – The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing, during which Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will present “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” at 10 a.m. in 106 Dirksen.

Thursday, July 10 – The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing, “Review of the President’s Emergency Supplemental Request for Unaccompanied Children and Related Matters,” at 2:30 p.m. in 106 Dirksen.

House Committee on Ways & Means: Far More Adults Have Left the Workforce Than Found New Jobs

FROM: The House Committee on Ways & Means

Far More Adults Have Left the Workforce Than Found New Jobs. Under the Obama Administration, the ratio of adults in their early and prime working years that have left the workforce for every one that found new employment is more than 3:1.

 

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Upton Releases Mid-Year Report Highlighting Energy & Commerce Accomplishments for 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today released a report on the accomplishments of the committee in the first six months of 2014. The mid-year review continues the tradition of status reports issued throughout the tenure of Chairman Upton on the committee’s legislative and oversight work under the current Republican majority. The updates are part of the committee’s effort to increase transparency and ensure the public has easy and ready access to the panel’s work.

Upon releasing the report, Chairman Upton commented, “We have a proud record of bipartisan results thus far in 2014. But our work continues as we advance our three primary goals of promoting job creation and economic growth, transforming Washington to create a smaller, modernized government for the innovation era, and protecting families, communities, and civic initiatives.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Main Street Week in Review: June 20, 2014

TOP ISSUES FROM THIS WEEK:

Republicans Elect New Leadership in House

Late Thursday afternoon, House Republicans gathered to elect a new Majority Leader and a new Majority Whip.  The election came as the result of Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) shocking primary loss and his subsequent decision to resign as Majority Leader.  When the smoke cleared and the Republicans emerged from the members only vote, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was announced as the new Majority Leader and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as the new Majority Whip.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the odds-on favorite, defeated the more conservative Rep. Raul Labrador. Each employed a popular conservative to deliver a nominating address—Rep. Tom Graves was in McCarthy’s corner while Rep. Jim Jordan sided with Labrador.

McCarthy won—and likely by a large margin. Though some members pushed for the tally to be released, the proposal was dismissed, and Labrador in an act of sportsmanship asked that the record reflect a unanimous win for McCarthy.

In the race for Majority Whip, three candidates—Reps. Scalise of Louisiana, Peter Roskam of Illinois, and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana—would compete for the post, but all eyes were on Scalise. He had been the favorite throughout, amassing an enormous team of supporters and running a well-oiled whipping machine that saw lawmakers making midnight calls and aides with clipboards counting heads at Thursday’s meeting.

No one doubted Scalise was the front-runner coming in. The only question was whether he could win a majority—116 of the 231 votes being cast—to claim an outright victory and avoid a second ballot. Roskam and Stutzman knew they couldn’t beat him initially; their only hope was to force a head-to-head runoff, and then hope to steal a huge bloc of supporters from the eliminated last-place candidate.

They were nominated in alphabetical order. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who’s leading a select committee investigation on the events in Benghazi, praised his panelist, Roskam, as a collaborator who brings members together. Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, a soft-spoken conservative who commands respect throughout the conference, vouched for the personal decency of his roommate, Scalise. Finally, Rep. Tom Reed, an alumni of Stutzman’s class of 2010, touted the Hoosier’s commitment to an open policy-making process—and drew the loudest cheers of the afternoon by saluting Cantor, their outgoing leader.

But the strength of Scalise’s coalition was too much to overcome and the Louisiana Congressman was elected on the first ballot.

Conservatives Tried to Delay Leadership Elections

House conservatives failed Wednesday morning with a last-ditch effort to delay Thursday’s leadership elections by one week.  Conservatives have quietly been talking for several days about attempting to move back Thursday’s election, saying the short turnaround—it will be held just eight days after Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced his forthcoming resignation—was not fair to candidates who are not as well-known throughout the conference.

Rep. Ted Yoho, a conservative second-term lawmaker, tackled the issue head-on Wednesday morning following a scheduled “candidates forum,” proposing a resolution to push back the election by one week. Such a delay would have benefited Reps. Raul Labrador and Marlin Stutzman, who were underdogs in their respective contests for majority leader and majority whip—in part because they have had little time to organize and communicate with colleagues across the House GOP.

Leadership put it up for a voice vote, and the resolution failed—but not by a wide margin, according to its proponents.

The candidates’ forum offered the five candidates for the two leadership jobs a chance to make their first and only pitch to the entire GOP Conference before Thursday afternoon’s vote. But there were no fireworks; indeed, according to people in the room, the contenders were telling their colleagues behind closed doors almost exactly what they’ve been saying in public.

That said, attendance at the forum was conspicuously sparse. Many members were seen filing into the meeting room, located in the House basement, at least an hour into the scheduled event. Sources in the room said the first period of the meeting, dedicated to a question-and-answer session with McCarthy and Labrador, was attended by only 50 or 60 lawmakers—the vast majority of whom were Labrador supporters there to voice frustrations with the current leadership team.

Dr. Oz Comes Under Fire in the Senate

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)—the chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection—went after Dr. Mehmet Oz—the enormously popular talk-show host—for endorsing some questionable nutrition supplements.

While his day-time health show reaches millions, Dr. Oz has come under fire for endorsing some nutrition supplements with dubious efficacy. One of those products was green coffee bean extract, a substance derived from coffee that is marketed as a weight-loss supplement.

In a 2012 broadcast Dr. Oz claimed, “This little bean has scientists saying they have found a magic weight-loss cure for every body type. It’s green coffee beans, and, when turned into a supplement—this miracle pill can burn fat fast.”

Never mind the only scientists saying that were ones paid by a company that produces green-coffee extract. After the broadcast, Oz’s likeness has appeared on countless Web advertisements for products that included the ingredient.

In a business sense, Oz doesn’t endorse these products, and has fought back against companies using his image and words on advertising. But still, they proliferate. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission brought suit against a green-coffee extract company for bogus weight-loss claims, which included Oz’s “miracle” endorsement. A 2013 New Yorker profile was particularly scathing in its criticism of Oz’s scientific scrutiny. “By freely mixing alternatives with proven therapies, Oz makes it nearly impossible for the viewer of his show to assess the impact of either; the process just diminishes the value of science.”

On Tuesday, Oz was on Capitol Hill to testify on a Senate hearing about such weight loss scams, and to address his role in providing fodder for false advertisements.

During the hearing, Oz was adamant that he is not involved in the sale of any nutritional supplement, and said he has stopped using overblown words like “miracle” on his program. But Oz demurred in answering McCaskill’s questions, which included the equally sharp “why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?” and the assertion that “the scientific community is almost monolithic against you.”

Democrats Introduce Net Neutrality Bill

The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-HI).  Democrats, however, acknowledge the bill isn’t going to become law but say they are introducing the legislation to send a message to the Federal Communications Commission.

“We put forth the bill to put increased pressure on the FCC to ban paid-prioritization agreements,” an aide to a bill supporter explained.

Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. The FCC first enacted net-neutrality rules in 2010 that barred Internet service providers from blocking any websites or from “unreasonably” discriminating against any traffic.

A federal court struck those rules down earlier this year, and now FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is trying to rewrite them in a way that can survive future court challenges. His proposal would still bar Internet providers from blocking websites but would allow providers to charge sites for faster service as long as the agreements are “commercially reasonable.”

Internet activists, major Web companies such as Google, and many Democrats on Capitol Hill fear that change could create a two-tiered Internet that benefits the richest corporations and limits free speech.

Wheeler expected to take criticism from Republicans, who are skeptical of the government telling broadband providers how to manage their networks. But the growing opposition to his proposal from Democrats could leave the FCC chief in a tenuous political position. Even the White House has offered little support, noting that the FCC is an “independent agency.”

Wheeler needs the votes of both Democrats on the five-member commission to enact his proposed regulations. But those commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, might not be eager to help the chairman if he’s all alone on the issue.

The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, would instruct the FCC to enact rules banning paid prioritization within 90 days of the bill becoming law. The bill would also call for rules banning Internet providers from favoring content they own or are affiliated with.

The bill avoids the contentious debate over the FCC’s authority. Many net-neutrality supporters argue that the only way to enact rules that can survive in court is to reclassify Internet providers as “common carrier” utilities under Title II of the Communications Act. But Republicans and Internet providers argue that utility-style regulation of the Internet would discourage investment and stifle economic growth.

Senate Committee Passes Keystone Legislation

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is facing a tough reelection battle for her Senate seat, successfully steered pro-Keystone legislation through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.  Republicans – who voted for the legislation – questioned the motives.

“I do question the purpose of today’s vote,” said Sen. John Barrasso, who heads the Senate Republican Policy Committee, ahead of the vote in the committee that Landrieu chairs. “With all due respect this vote seems more like a cheerleading exercise than a meaningful effort to get Keystone built.”

“The obstacle of getting Keystone built is Senator Reid and members of the Senate who continue to elect him majority leader,” Barrasso said.

Barrasso voted for the bill, which would approve the project that has long been stalled under White House review. He was joined by other Republicans as well as Landrieu and fellow Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, while other Democrats opposed it.

Landrieu said she’ll work to get a vote in the full Senate, although Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was noncommittal at best about the idea on Tuesday.

Senators Propose Gas Tax Increase

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) are proposing a 12 cent a gallon increase in the gas tax to shore up the soon-to-be bankrupt Highway Trust Fund.

While increasing the gas tax, particularly before the November elections, is a tough sell on the Hill, Corker said he came forward to propose this measure because he was fed up with the short-term fixes and gimmicks that were being bandied about by lawmakers.

“I finally got to a point that I realized that this cannot go on,” Corker told reporters at a news conference. “It’s time for us to finally deal with this issue.”

“We are sick and tired of Congress talking about fixing our transportation funding shortfall and avoiding specifics simply because the solutions are politically uncomfortable,” added Murphy – Corker’s Democratic co-sponsor. “Money is not going to fall off trees or sprout out of the ground to fill the funding gap that exists today.”

The Murphy-Corker plan would hike gasoline and diesel taxes by six cents in each of the next two years, for a total increase of 12 cents. That would raise roughly $164 billion over the next decade, filling the highway fund’s revenue shortfall. The plan also would tie the gas tax to inflation, using the Consumer Price Index, to keep the fund in the black.

The taxes now stand at 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel. Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1993.

POLITICAL BITS

House

New York 13th Congressional District:  Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) leads his primary opponent – Adriano Espaillat – by 13 points according to a NY1/Siena College poll.  Espaillat won the endorsement of the New York Times this week.

Senate

North Carolina:  Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) leads former Senator Scott Brown (R-NH) 49-39% according to a new Suffolk poll.

Mississippi:  State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-MS) leads incumbent Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) by 12 points according to a poll this week.  Since neither candidate reached 50% in the primary, the two will face off in a June 24th runoff.

South Dakota:  Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler (I-SD), running as an independent for Senate this cycle, signed onto a brief in a federal court case in South Dakota supporting same-sex marriage.

Governor

Connecticut:  Liberal blogger Jonathan Pelto is collecting signatures for a 3rd party run for Governor.  Pelto’s appearance on the ballot could siphon off votes from Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) and throw the race to Republican Tom Foley (R-CT).

Pennsylvania:  A new poll shows incumbent Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) trailing his Democratic opponent businessman Tom Wolf (D-PA) by 20 points.  Wolf leads 53% to 33%.

A LOOK AHEAD

House

Tuesday, June 24 – The House Judiciary Committee’s Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Proposed Merger of AT&T and DirecTV,” at 10:30 a.m. in 2141 Rayburn.

Senate

Tuesday, June 24 – The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The AT&T/DIRECTV Merger: The Impact on Competition and Consumers in the Video Market and Beyond,” at 2:30 p.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Wednesday, June 25 – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, “The Voting Rights Amendment Act, S.1945: Updating the Voting Rights Act in Response to Shelby County v. Holder,” at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Wednesday, June 25 – The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will hold a hearing, “Election Administration: Examining How Early and Absentee Voting Can Benefit Citizens and Administrators,” at 2 p.m. in 301 Russell.

Thursday, June 19 – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing, “How to harness a game-changing resource for export, domestic consumption, and transportation fuel,” at 2:30 p.m. in 366 Dirksen.