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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Obama to announce policy on use of Drones - President Barack Obama on Thursday will outline his administration's counterterrorism policy in a major speech to be given at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Obama will use the speech to announce new restrictions on unmanned drones, an announcement that comes on the heels of the U.S. government's admission that it has killed four American citizens with drone strikes.

According to the New York Times, the policy changes signed by Obama include a reduction of the "instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia." The new rules will also establish "the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists," the Times reported.

Obama will deliver the speech at 2:00 p.m. ET. has more here.


Obama to tour Oklahoma tornado damage Sunday - President Barack Obama will travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to visit families and inspect firsthand the damage left by devastating tornadoes that ravaged suburbs, wiped out neighborhoods and killed 24 people, press secretary Jay Carney announced Wednesday.


The Washington Post argues for disclosure of campaign donations - Today we publish a commentary by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), arguing against legislation to require expanded campaign finance disclosure. The senator points to the current furor over how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mishandled applications from tea party and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. We certainly agree with him that the IRS failed to meet basic standards of fairness in selectively pressing the groups for more information and in delaying their applications.

Meanwhile, the political process is sliding backward toward the practices of the years before the Watergate reforms. More than $300 million in secret contributions were spent by outside groups in the 2012 presidential and congressional races. In the last cycle, a large share of the hidden cash was channeled through 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations. And here’s a key fact that often gets overlooked: Under the rules, these organizations have to disclose their donors to the IRS. Only the public remains in the dark.

Secrecy denies vital information to voters about who is contributing to which candidates. Very often, these contributions are made in search of influence on policy. We think openness here is a more valuable public good than is providing a cloak for every fat cat who wants to remain hidden.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) reintroduced the Disclose Act in January, and a version is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). This legislation also has valuable provisions, such as requiring corporations and unions to disclose their campaign-related spending to shareholders and members.

The road to passage for any legislation this year is going to be uphill, but the push for greater openness deserves support. In a political system saturated with cash, transparency is the last, best hope for accountability.  Read the entire editorial here.


Senate Democrats consider using "nuclear option" on filibusters - With one of President Barack Obama’s key nominees on the verge of being confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared to edge away Wednesday from an idea that some Democrats are calling for: enacting a change in Senate rules to stop filibusters which delay votes on Obama appointees.

McConnell noted Wednesday that Republicans had agreed to an up-or-down vote on Obama’s nomination of Sri Srinivasan to serve on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with that vote to occur the Tuesday after the Senate returns from its one-week Memorial Day recess.

Srinivasan is crucial because so far in the four and a half years of his presidency, Obama has gotten no one confirmed to that court, which handles most legal challenges to regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory bodies and serves as a major stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

In March, Republicans blocked a confirmation vote on another Obama nominee to that court, Caitlin Halligan. has more here.


House votes to approve Keystone XL pipeline - The House passed a bill Wednesday that would approve the northern leg of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline by an act of law, and take the decision out of the hands of President Obama.
Members voted 241-175 in favor of H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act. Republican supporters were joined by 19 Democrats, much less than the level of Democratic support in the last Congress.

Earlier in the week, the White House said Obama would veto the bill, in large part because of the language eliminating the need for presidential approval of the pipeline. That veto, and Democratic opposition in the Senate, means the bill is unlikely to advance beyond the House. has more here.


DCCC hosts reception for top House candidates - The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will host a reception Wednesday night for its best recruits, according to an invitation obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Launched earlier this month, the Jumpstart program “provides early financial, communications, operational and strategic support to help top-tier candidates get a head start in these highly-targeted races,” according to a memo sent to donors and supporters upon the program’s launch. has a list of the invitees here.


Markets jittery after Bernanke statement and weak China economic forecast - Share markets fell sharply on Thursday as investors piled back into safer assets, unnerved by the twin setbacks of unexpected weakness in China's economy and signals that the U.S. central bank may soon scale back its stimulus program.

The yen bounced sharply off recent lows and German Bunds rose, gaining support from a shift in sentiment that followed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's comment that the bank may trim its bond purchases at one of its next policy meetings. has more here.


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