IN THE NEWS: Snowden claims U.S. hacked China … Rep. Franks draws criticism for 'rape' comment … Partisan tussle continues over IRS … Obama stumps for Markey in Mass. … Admin. delays environmental rules ... 'Sock man' George H.W. Bush celebrates 89th birthday
Border Security Brawl Clouds Immigration Bill's Future
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. John Cornyn said that he's been talking to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer about his amendment to increase border security reasoning that "if [Democrats] had 60 votes to pass the bill out of the Senate, they probably wouldn't be talking to me."
Today, Schumer's camp pushed back -- hard, essentially calling Cornyn a liar. In a Talking Points Memo story, a source in Schumer's camp said: "Cornyn's characterization is false."
Republicans have already begun conditioning their support of the bill on Cornyn's amendment being part of it. So if Schumer's not negotiating with the GOP flag bearer on a key Republican demand, it makes getting to 60 that much harder and almost certainly puts Schumer's predicted 70-vote passage out of reach.
Unless, that is, Schumer gets another dance partner.
SNOWDEN: U.S. TARGETS CHINA FOR HACKING. Edward Snowden, the self-confessed leaker of NSA secrets, told a Chinese newspaper that the U.S. has mounted massive hacking operations against China since 2009, The Washington Post reports."We hack network backbones — like huge Internet routers, basically — that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," he told the newspaper. Read more
- Despite efforts from NSA, FBI, and other intelligence bigwigs to assure lawmakers in closed-door sessions, many say they still have questions on the matter.
LAWMAKERS FOCUS ON SNOWDEN, NOT CLAPPER. In the wake of disclosures about the National Security Agency's domestic-surveillance programs, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper faces scrutiny over past congressional testimony in which he appeared to have denied the practice, The New York Times reports. However, congressional leaders have focused largely on the professed leaker, former CIA and Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden, maintaining that other lawmakers were aware of the agency's actions. Read more
- Snowden, apparently in hiding in Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post, "I am not here to hide from justice. I am here to reveal criminality," the Associated Press reports. Read more
LEAHY INTRODUCES SAME-SEX SPOUSE AMENDMENT TO IMMIGRATION BILL. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Tuesday filed an amendment to the "Gang of Eight's" comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would allow gay U.S. citizens to petition for permanent residency for their same-sex spouses. "Seeking equal protection under our laws for the LGBT community is the right thing to do," Leahy said in a statement. "I withheld my anti-discrimination amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup. As the entire Senate turns to debate the immigration bill, the fight for equality must go on." Read more
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will not allow the Gang of Eight immigration bill to require stricter border security measures "merely in order to attract Republican votes," Politico reports.
CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR RETIRES. The deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morell, has resigned, NPR reports. "As much as I would selfishly like to keep Michael right where he is for as long as possible, he has decided to retire to spend more time with his family and to pursue other professional opportunities," CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement. Read more
FRANKS DRAWS CRITICISM WITH COMMENT ON RAPE-INDUCED PREGNANCIES. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., whose legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks passed a House committee Wednesday, prompted comparisons to former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., while he challenged a Democratic amendment. "Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," said Franks. "But when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose for such an amendment." Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called the remarks "astonishing." Read more
- Liberal Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, argues that Franks' comment was fundamentally different from the one that dogged Akin. Read more
OBAMA STUMPS FOR MARKEY IN BOSTON. President Obama traveled to Massachusetts on Wednesday to show his support for the Senate candidacy of Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Reuters reports. The Boston Globereports that the president attended a private event described by the White House as "a photo line for donors." He also took part in a campaign rally in Roxbury. Markey's opponent, former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, penned an online open letter to Obama, inviting the president to join him at an event in Chelsea. Read more
- Former President Clinton will campaign for Markey in Worcester on Saturday. Read more
LEVIN, GILLIBRAND AT ODDS OVER MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULTS. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Tuesday that he would remove from the defense authorization bill an amendment introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would shift from military commanders to military prosecutors the authority to determine whether sexual assault cases proceed to trial, The New York Times reports. Levin would replace the Gillibrand amendment, which has 27 cosponsors—four of them Republicans—with one that preserves commanders' authority, but requires a senior military officer to review sexual assault cases which the commander declines to refer for prosecution. "They basically embrace the status quo here," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a cosponsor of Gillibrand's measure. "It's outrageous." Read more
CAMP: IRS TARGETING DID NOT BEGIN IN CINCINNATI OFFICE. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said Tuesday that interviews conducted by congressional investigators had shown that the IRS's targeting of conservative groups for additional scrutiny did not originate in the agency's Cincinnati field office, The Hill reports. "We know it didn't originate in Cincinnati," Camp said. "We still don't know who did originate this." The chairman noted that the investigation is ongoing, and said that he had no plans to release interview transcripts, as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., have done. "We have a lot of work to do," said Camp. "We're not anywhere near being able to jump to conclusions. And there are a lot more people we have to talk to." Read more
- Politico reports that efforts in the House to conduct a bipartisan investigation of the IRS scandal are falling apart.
MUELLER TO HILL. FBI Director Robert Mueller will appear Thursday before a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where he is sure to get questions on the various controversies engulfing Washington.
NEW DOE SECRETARY AT HEARING. Ernest Moniz will make his first appearance on Capitol Hill since being sworn in as Energy secretary. He will testify Thursday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on his department's budget proposal for fiscal 2014.
NEWTOWN FAMILIES VISIT CONGRESS. The Newtown Action Alliance contingency, which is pegging the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, will be making visits to lawmakers Thursday as part of a reenergized push for universal background checks for gun buyers.
"It's the Kim Kardashian of energy.... I don't know why we care." -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on the Keystone XL pipeline (The Hill)
PALLIATIVE CARE: TRYING TO PUT DYING PATIENTS FIRST. When Cleo was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor doctors told her she had three months to live, maybe a year with treatment. Seigan Glassing, part of the hospital's palliative care team, spoke with Cleo and asked, "What do you really want?" That question is at the center of the rise in palliative care which is "steadily refocusing end-of-life care," The Atlantic reports, including merging the spiritual with the medical. Palliative care has grown rapidly, in terms of size and acceptance by medical professionals, in the last six years. Teams are included in more than 60 percent of hospitals with more than 50 beds, according to a Center to Advance Palliative Care report. Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
HILLARY CLINTON JOINS TWITTER; IS THE NSA WATCHING? Hillary Clinton joined Twitter this week, prompting late-night hosts to joke about the former secretary of State. Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon both joked about her husband's Internet usage patterns. The National Security Agency's surveillance efforts continue to provide fodder for late-night TV. On Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert referenced the poor graphic design in the leaked PRISM PowerPoint and had an idea for those trying to get their communication off the grid. The Daily Show's John Oliver looked at the program philosophically, asking if convenience or privacy was more important. Jay Leno looked at the girlfriend and lifestyle that leaker Edward Snowden left and wondered if he made the correct decision. Watch it here
ADMINISTRATION DELAYS ENVIRONMENTAL RULES. During his Inaugural Address, when Obama vowed to take action on his own should Congress fail to act on environmental regulations, he caught the attention of everyone in Washington. "Yet even as he was making this pledge, the White House was blocking several Department of Energy regulations to require that appliances, lighting, and buildings use less energy and create less global-warming pollution," The New York Times reports. Indeed, despite the rhetoric, the Obama administration has frustrated Democrats and environmental advocates. For instance, regulatory reviews at OMB are now the longest in 20 years, and have spiked sharply since 2011, The Times reports. Read more
BUSH CELEBRATES 89TH BIRTHDAY. Former President George H.W. Bush, a self-described "sock man," celebrated his 89th birthday today by sporting Superman socks. The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation celebrated the day by encouraging others to wear "exuberant" socks. Bush's Facebook page has numerous boldfaced names sporting loud foot coverings, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
CORRECTION: An item in Tuesday's Edge misidentified the president of the AFL-CIO. His name is Richard Trumka.