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In Congress, Get Ready for Summer Reruns
Lawmakers headed home for the July Fourth recess today after what was likely the most productive stretch of legislating we'll see this year. The Senate passed historic immigration reform, a sweeping farm bill, and water-resources legislation—all with resounding bipartisan majorities.
That cooperation will almost certainly come to a screeching halt when Senate Democrats come back in July and throw down with Republicans over President Obama's stalled nominees.
Meanwhile in the House, Republicans leaders still can't seem to do much of significance. The Republican majority couldn't even get a farm bill passed, let alone something as historic as immigration reform. Despite months of work in the Senate, House Republicans won't even have their first meeting on immigration until after the break.
And neither chamber is doing much of anything to prepare for this fall's looming fight over how to increase the country's credit limit.
In other words, Congress is about to begin airing summer reruns. Maybe the fall lineup will bring some fresh programming.
MANDELA SAID TO BE IMPROVING AS OBAMA ARRIVES IN SOUTH AFRICA. President Obama landed at Waterkloof Air Base between Pretoria and Johannesburg on Friday as Nelson Mandela's condition is reportedly improving. Mandela's ex-wife said the former South African president remains "clinically unwell" but is showing "great improvement," Reuters reports. While some South Africans protested the president's diplomatic visit just blocks from Mandela's hospital, Obama said he will defer to Mandela's family as to whether he will pay Mandela, 94, a visit. He added that he carries a message of "profound gratitude" for the anti-apartheid icon, who is suffering from a recurring lung infection. Obama's weekend itinerary in South Africa does include a stop at Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned. Read more
- Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday that "I don't need a photo-op" with Mandela and that "we'll see what the situation is when we land,"The Hill reports. Read more
OBAMA CALLS BOEHNER, PELOSI TO URGE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION. Obama called House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after the Senate passed its immigration bill to push them to act on immigration reform, the Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, The Hill reports, members of the House's "Gang of Seven" said their legislation, which has not yet been introduced and is currently undergoing a final review, could be used as building block for a House bill. But Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Boehner's promise to only bring up an immigration proposal if it has a majority support from House Republicans is "anti-Democratic," adding that it "could doom" the effort. Read more
- Who wants immigration reform to pass? Major Republican donors, according to The Washington Post'sChris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan. Read more
SNOWDEN'S FATHER ATTEMPTS BARGAIN FOR SON'S RETURN. Edward Snowden's father defended his fugitive son on Friday, and even suggested that the former National Security Agency contractor could return voluntarily to the United States if certain (highly unlikely) conditions are met, The Atlantic Wire's Dashiell Bennett reports. In an interview with NBC News today, Lonnie Snowden said he wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder proposing that if the Justice Department agreed to make some particular promises about how they handled his son's prosecution, Edward would "probably" return to the U.S. to face trial. Read more
HOUSE COMMITTEE SAYS LERNER WAIVED FIFTH AMENDMENT RIGHT. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee decided Friday that Lois Lerner gave up her ability to plead the Fifth when she read a statement in which she said she was innocent at a May 22 hearing, the Associated Press reports. The 22-17 vote along party lines starts the process for the committee to potentially bring Lerner back to testify about the controversy surrounding how the Internal Revenue Service treated groups applying for tax-exempt status. Lerner has been put on administrative leave. Read more
THE COAL LOBBY'S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL. Coal's dominant place in the American economy is slipping—and so, for the first time in a century, is its ability to get what it wants from Washington, National Journal's Coral Davenport reports. As President Obama prepares a push on climate change, coal is now reckoning with its role in global warming, whether it likes it or not. Privately, many people working for the coal lobby concede that the time has finally come to face up to climate change. Read more
- National Journal's Ronald Brownstein reports that 17 of the 20 most carbon-intensive states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, while 18 of the 20 least carbon-intensive states backed Obama. Read more
GOP CHANNELS 'STAR TREK' WITH BILL TARGETING IRS. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., on Thursday introduced to the House the SPOCC Act, which aims to stop the Internal Revenue Service from wasteful spending at conferences per Treasury Department recommendations, The Hill reports. The bill's title of SPOCC (which stands for Stop Playing on Citizen's Cash Act) was chosen in part as a response to a 2010 video the IRS made parodying Star Trek's Mr. Spock. Read more
"It's unsettling. Somehow, political consultants have taken a man who once ran into a burning building and convinced him to run away from policy debates." –Rep. Rush Holt's spokesman, Thomas Seay, on Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker's agreeing to two debates. (Newark Star-Ledger)
INSIDE 'MIDNIGHT MADNESS' AT GOLDMAN. When 180 Goldman Sachs employees participated in a scavenger hunt last fall, it was no ordinary game. For starters, it cost about $270,000 for a single night of fun. Participants were handed provisions like bubble-gum cards and a seating chart for Kevin Bacon's wedding. And before the night was over—the game lasted 15 hours—they had played laser mini-golf, changed the lighting on a skyscraper using an iPhone app, and raised about $1.4 million for charity. Quartz went along for the ride. Read more
ASSANGE TO APPEAR ON ABC'S THIS WEEK. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who claims to be offering Snowden legal counsel, is slated to appear Sunday morning on ABC's This Week, reports Talking Points Memo. Read more
FRESHMAN REPUBLICAN WANTS TO RID D.C. OF TRAFFIC CAMERAS. It's no secret that D.C. residents hate the city's traffic cameras that have collected millions of dollars from impatient, lead-footed motorists. But apparently, so does one freshman congressman who doesn't even have a car in Washington, National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros reports. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich., is in the process of introducing legislation that "would prohibit the District of Columbia, and no other jurisdiction, from using automated traffic-enforcement systems," according to a press release from Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. Norton cites statistics that say that hundreds of jurisdictions in 24 states use traffic cameras, and criticizes Bentivolio for targeting just the nation's capital. Read more
DOJ HAS ALMOST 100 UNPAID SPECIAL ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEYS. The Justice Department has listings for 13 unpaid positions for "experienced attorneys," ProPublica reports. The catch is that there is no salary involved. In total, 96 special assistant attorneys are currently working at Justice for free. A department spokesman said the unpaid positions were in reaction to the sequester, which cut $1.6 billion from its budget. Now, officials and advocates are arguing over whether the practice is legal. Read more