With Congress, the Safe Bet Is Failure

IN THE NEWS: Deal struck in Senate on border security … Farm bill fails in House … Senators want cameras in SCOTUS … Howard Kurtz leaving CNN … Can fast food lead to a healthier U.S.? … House hopeful gets Wu-Tang Clan endorsement


With Congress, the Safe Bet Is Failure

If you think it's a good-news day in the Capitol, just wait a minute.

Progress was in the air today on comprehensive immigration reform. Republican Sens. John Hoeven and Bob Corker, offering a "border surge" that Democrat Chuck Schumer described as "a breathtaking show of force," seemed to have figured out how to attract more Republicans without losing any Democrats. More hope came in the form of a compromise to prevent a spike in student-loan interest rates, crafted by a Democrat (Joe Manchin), a Republican (Tom Coburn), and an independent (Angus King).

But before anyone could bask in things working more or less the way they should, at least in the Senate, the House stunned the city—and House Speaker John Boehner—by rejecting a $939 billion farm bill. Democrats were down on its cuts in nutrition programs, while Republicans said it didn't cut enough. Who had the worst week in Washington? Our pick so far is Boehner.

Jill Lawrence


GOP SENATORS, 'GANG OF EIGHT' REACH DEAL ON BORDER SECURITY. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., reached agreement with the "Gang of Eight" senators today on a plan to strengthen border-security provisions in the comprehensive immigration-reform bill pending in the Senate. The Republicans' measure would increase from 21,000 to 40,000 the number of border-patrol agents and add 700 miles of fencing along the nation's southern border. Corker told MSNBC's Daily Rundown this morning, "For people who are concerned about border security, once they see what is in this bill, it's almost overkill." The Corker-Hoeven measure is expected to gain some GOP backing. "We've got to see how many people this brings to the table," Corker said. "We'd like for it to go over to the House with momentum." Read more

  • "I don't know what the hell is going to happen," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., "but we're on the verge of doing something dramatic on the border, and if it happens it will be due to Hoeven and Corker and a lot of our colleagues."

AMERICANS WANT IMMIGRANTS WITH SKILLS, JUST NOT HIGH-TECH SKILLS. Immigration-reform proponents already are navigating conflicting interests in the Senate. Now they must also contend with conflicting messages from the American people. A sizable plurality of Americans want the U.S. immigration system to favor immigrants with needed job skills, but they do not support increasing the number of guest workers for some of the industries most hungry for new employees, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. See the full topline results. Read more

HOUSE REJECTS FARM BILL. The House defeated the five-year farm bill on a 195-234 vote, with 62 Republicans opposing the measure, Roll Call reports. The rejection followed the House's approval of an amendment backed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, which would have eliminated subsidies for dairy producers. Read more

PAKISTAN'S MILITARY CRUCIAL IN HELPING BRING TALIBAN TO PEACE TALKS. Pakistan's strong military has been vital in convincing Afghanistan's Taliban rebels to come to the table in the on-again, off-again peace negotiations with the U.S., Reuters reports. Pakistan, though a U.S. ally, has a long history of supporting the Taliban insurgency, but Western officials believe the country may now view Afghan peace as most likely to serve their regional interests. Meanwhile, the Taliban has offered to release a captive U.S. soldier held since 2009 in exchange for five senior operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. Read more

  • Al-Qaida's forces in Mosul—Iraq's third-largest city and one of the country's main gateways to Syria—are gaining strength and bolstering their coffers, the Associated Press reports. Read more

DURBIN, GRASSLEY WANT CAMERAS IN SCOTUS CHAMBER. Calling for greater transparency and accountability ahead of major Supreme Court rulings, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced legislation today that would put cameras in the nation's highest court and televise its proceedings, Talking Points Memo reports. "Decisions made by the Supreme Court impact the lives of Americans in every corner of the country, but their proceedings often don't reach beyond the four walls of the courtroom," Durbin said. Grassley called the bill necessary because the Supreme Court is a "symbol of justice and fairness" that "considers some of the most important issues of our time." Read more

  • CBS News outlines the four high-profile cases remaining on the Supreme Court docket, which address affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and the Voting Rights Act.

FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN STAFFERS URGE HIM TO REJECT KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE. Almost 150 people who worked on President Obama's 2012 campaign are urging their reelected commander in chief to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, National Journal's Amy Harder reports. In a letter unveiled at an event in Washington today, 145 former campaign staff members use Obama's own words to convince the president he should not approve the project, which would send 35 million gallons of carbon-heavy oil sands every day 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The letter signers stress that young people throughout the country voted for Obama because he would support strong action on climate change, which—the staff writes—includes rejecting the pipeline. Read more

TECH COMPANIES FACE BATTLE IN PUSH FOR GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY. One after another, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all shifted from playing defense—disavowing any knowledge of PRISM—to playing offense. While none are legally able to talk about PRISM's specifics, the tech companies are not afraid to take aim at the culture of secrecy that created it. Their call for more government transparency, however, is at odds with the nation's intelligence apparatus, a bureaucracy so big nobody knows how much it costs or how many people are in its employ, National Journal's Brian Fung reports. Against that, what chance does Silicon Valley have? Read more

KURTZ, CNN 'RELIABLE SOURCES' HOST, MOVES TO FOX. Media reporter Howard Kurtz, who hosted CNN's "Reliable Sources" for the past 15 years, is leaving his job and will become a contributor to the Fox News Channel, CNN reports. Kurtz was a longtime Washington Post reporter and for the last several years had reported for the Daily Beast. Kurtz's tenure at the Daily Beast ended earlier this year following a post Kurtz wrote that mistakenly accused the NBA's Jason Collins, who had come out as gay, of failing to disclose that he had once been engaged to a woman. Kurtz said his departure had been in the works prior to the erroneous piece. Read more


McCONNELL TO SPEAK ON STIFLING SPEECH. The American Enterprise Institute will host a talk on the use of government power to stifle speech at 10 a.m. Friday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will participate. Read more


"I told him I was glad an Italian played me — swear words and all. We laughed together at the fact that tough guys can have a heart of gold. He did, and we will miss him." — Leon Panetta, on the sudden death of James Gandolfini, who played then-CIA Director Panetta in Zero Dark Thirty. (Washington Post)


COULD FAST FOOD HELP LEAD TO A HEALTHIER COUNTRY? Despite popular opinion, fast-food companies can potentially do more to improve the country's health than a strict push toward wholesome or non-processed foods, The Atlantic's David Freedman reports, noting that "when it comes to food and obesity, technology—or at least food-processing technology—is widely treated as if it is the problem." On average, Americans get 11 percent of their total calories from fast food -- and it's probably higher in some neighborhoods -- giving the industry, which has taken small steps toward introducing healthier items, a role in changing the way people eat for the better. Read more



HOUSE HOPEFUL GETS COVETED WU-TANG ENDORSEMENT. Roy Cho, a Democrat who is taking on Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., got a shout out on Twitter from Wu-Tang Clan cofounder Ghostface Killah, Roll Call reports, giving him instant "mad street cred." Cho, a corporate attorney, said his sister works in the entertainment industry and spoke to the artist about his bid. Read more

CORRECTION: An item in Wednesday's Edge incorrectly reported that a Senate committee would on Thursday mark-up legislation regarding helium. That mark-up occurred on Tuesday.

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