Senate Republicans Hold Up Defense Bill

Time is running short for the Senate to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, but The Hill reports that Senate Republicans are holding up debate without guarantees of additional votes on amendments.

“Reid said he offered Republicans a deal to have 13 amendment votes, but Coburn wanted guarantees that there would be more. Reid has been trying to complete work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the Senate adjourns Friday for a Thanksgiving recess.”

“Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said if the Senate doesn’t pass the defense bill by Friday, a conference committee might not have time to finish the legislation by the end of the year.”

Possible Breakthrough in Budget Talks

According to the Financial Times, the budget conference committee currently working to avoid another government shutdown in mid-January “experienced a breakthrough in recent days.”

“According to people close to the talks, the contours of a deal are coming together to replace some sequestration cuts with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues derived from higher government fees. The deal would set spending levels for one or two years.”

“On the chopping block are items such as farm subsidies and federal employee pensions on the spending side, and increases in transportation security fees, which would anger airlines, and money from wireless spectrum auctions.”

Why Filibuster Reform Now? Why Not?

Ezra Klein gives three reasons why Senate Democrats suddenly appear on the verge of eliminating the filibuster for all executive and judicial nominees.

“Democrats are faced with a choice: keep the filibuster and get nothing done. Change the filibuster and get nothing done aside from staffing the federal government and filling a huge number of judicial vacancies with lifetime appointments.”

“The main reason filibuster reform typically fails is that the majority party is scared of what will happen when the minority party gets into power. But Senate Democrats just watched Republicans mount a suicide mission to shut down the government. Their confidence that Republicans will treat the upper chamber’s rules with reverence is low, to say the least.”

“It’s hard to overstate the pride senior Senate Democrats took in cutting their January deal with Senate Republicans… But then Republicans filibustered more judges and executive-branch nominees. And the pride top Democrats took in their deal to avert filibuster reform has turned to anger that Republicans made them look like trusting fools.”

Chart of the Day

— The Council of Economic Advisers has a new report finding that health care spending is growing at the slowest pace on record. This chart shows the average annual growth rate of health spending on private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid from 2000-2007 (in blue), 2007-2010 (in red), and 2010-2013 (in green).

“The fact that the health cost slowdown has persisted so long even as the economy is recovering, the fact that it is reflected in health care prices – not just utilization or coverage, and the fact that it has also shown up in Medicare – which is more insulated from economic trends, all imply that the current slowdown is the result of more than just the recession and its aftermath.  Rather, the slowdown appears to reflect ‘structural’ changes in the United States health care system.”

What Americans Now Think About Obamacare

Digging into the results from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll about Americans’ reactions to the Obamacare rollout, Scott Clement outlines his top six findings:

  1. Obamacare opposition is rising. It’s now at a record high of 57 percent.
  2. Americans hate the individual insurance mandate. Almost two-thirds oppose this requirement with 53% ‘strongly’ opposing.
  3. Even more say the mandate should be delayed due to Web site problems. 71% say the government should delay health insurance requirements.
  4. But people like the employer insurance mandate. The employer mandate garners 85% from Democrats; 56% from Independents; 29% from Republicans
  5. Obama’s a bad manager, but not a liar. In general, most (56%) say Obama is not a good manager, don’t detect intentional deception (52%).
  6. Can the law be salvaged? Americans are split down the middle at 49% on whether the government can recover from early problems or whether it’s doomed to fail.

Millennials Struggling With Debt

“Total debt among young adults actually dropped in the last decade to the lowest level in 15 years,” according to the Wall Street Journal, “And yet, Millennials appear to be running into more trouble when paying their bills — whether on credit cards, auto loans, or student loans.”

“What Experian’s data suggest is that the Millennials who are in fact borrowing are struggling to do so responsibly, at least partly because of the nation’s 7.3% jobless rate, sub-3% growth and $1 trillion student-loan tab.”

Treasury Borrowing Authority Exhausted by March

Should the White House and Congress not reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling, “the federal government will exhaust its authority to borrow money as early as March according to projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, ” reports the Washington Post.

Suspension of the nation’s debt limit was extended through February 7 as part of an agreement among lawmakers to end the October government shutdown.

According to The Washington Post, “the Treasury can resort to what it describes as ‘extraordinary measures’ to continue borrowing after Feb. 7 if lawmakers do not extend the suspension or raise the debt limit by then [but] the CBO said those moves would ‘probably be exhausted in March.'”

NSA Memo Reveals US and UK Agreed to Spy on Citizens

The New York Times reports that “the National Security Agency is authorized to spy on the citizens of America’s closest allies, including Britain, even though those English-speaking countries have long had an official non-spying pact, according to a newly disclosed memorandum.

“The classified N.S.A. document, which appears to be a draft and is dated January 2005, states that under specific circumstances, the American intelligence agency may spy on citizens of Britain without that country’s consent or knowledge. The memo, provided by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, is labeled secret and “NOFORN,” indicating that it may not be shared with any foreign country.”

Although in draft form, “portions of the document appear to indicate that, whether by formal agreement or simply longstanding practice, both Britain and the United States believed that in extraordinary circumstances, one country might feel compelled to spy on citizens of the other.”