On Entitlements, Democrats Face a Test Case

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Injuries reported at Boston Marathon explosions … Dems bolt on gun bill … Drafters rushing to finish immigration bill … Kerry: U.S. open to North Korea dialogue … Five to watch in DCCC, NRCC … Lugar gets knighted … First photos of W’s granddaughter

THE TAKE

On Entitlements, Democrats Face a Test Case

Since losing the presidential election, Republicans have engaged in internal arguments over the ideological direction of the party. But among Democrats, there could be growing divisions within the party over budget math, as governors and mayors are being forced to balance the need to provide government services against the expensive entitlements owed to public employees.

As Hotline’s Kevin Brennan writes today, that dilemma is coming to a head in a potential Democratic clash in this year’s governor’s race in Rhode Island. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo is a darling of entitlement reformers, targeting unions to fix the bankrupt public-employee pension system that was straining the state’s budget. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, meanwhile, sought a more accommodating approach with labor as he guided the city from the brink of bankruptcy.

A primary between the two would test whether entitlement reform can garner support among Democrats, traditionally protective of government programs. A Raimondo victory would signal fiscal crises can make even liberal voters receptive to a “tough medicine” approach. But a Taveras victory would signal the continued influence of labor. It’s a race national Democrats should keep an eye on.

Josh Kraushaar
jkraushaar@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS 

MANY INJURED FOLLOWING EXPLOSIONS AT BOSTON MARATHON. Two explosions rocked the Boston Marathon on Monday, the Associated Press reported. Early reports indicate that several people were injured near the finish line in Copley Square, including spectators who were being treated on the scene and transported to Massachusetts General Hospital. The AP reports that “marathon workers were carrying one woman, who did not appear to be a runner, to the medical area as blood gushed from her leg. A Boston police officer was wheeled from the course with a leg injury that was bleeding.” Read more

BEGICH, HEITKAMP, TO OPPOSE GUN BILL. At least four Democratic senators from Republican-leaning states are expected to oppose new legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers, The New York Times reports, making a final vote on the bill a tough sled. Mark Begich of Alaska says he won’t vote on the bill and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is expected to come out against it. At the same time, seven of 16 Republicans who voted last week to allow consideration of the bill have already said they will oppose the final measure. Read more

  • What’s shaping up to be a crucial—and tight—series of votes on guns could get even tighter if Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is unable to make it back to Washington. The 89-year-old is dealing with complications from cancer treatment.

BUSINESS INTERESTS TO LOBBY FOR CHANGES TO IMMIGRATION BILL Businesses with a stake in the ongoing immigration-reform negotiations are preparing to lobby the members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” to alter the terms of the agreement in their favor, Politico reports. Technology companies are expected to push for a greater increase in the number of H-1B visas than is called for in the bipartisan proposal, while other large companies will take issue with restrictions on displacement of American workers. The changes sought by these interests could upset the delicate compromise. Read more

  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is not waiting on comprehensive immigration reform, but instead will begin considering single-issue immigration bills in his committee. Read more

KERRY: U.S. OPEN TO NEGOTIATIONS WITH NORTH KOREA Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States is prepared to engage in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “If he will meet the obligations that we've all set out that are necessary, we are prepared to negotiate on a full range of issues,” Kerry said on “CBS This Morning.” Amid speculation that Kim could use the 101st anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, as a pretext for a missile launch, Kerry told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “Everybody understands the negative side of what happens if there is a shoot. And my hope is that we can move in a different direction here.” Read more

  • National Journal’s Michael Hirsh writes, “The best conjecture is that young Kim is simply trying his best to ply the bread-and-butter trade of the Kim family business: nuclear blackmail. It’s just that, like most third-generation heirs, he’s not very good at it.”

JUSTICES APPEAR LOATH TO RULE BROADLY ON HUMAN-GENE PATENTS During oral arguments Monday in a human-gene patent case, Supreme Court justices “signaled reluctance to issue a broad ruling” on patents for human genetic material, appearing to lean toward a compromise such as that proffered by attorneys for the Obama administration, Reuters reports. Such a compromise relies on the contention that while “synthesized genetic material” may be patented, mere isolation of existing genetic material does not merit a patent. Several justices appeared to consider the possibility that synthetic molecules called cDNA could be patented. Read more

  • The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a gun case that the NRA argues would amount to a de facto ban on carrying a gun outside the home.

FIVE STAFFERS TO WATCH IN THE DCCC AND NRCC. The battle for the House majority will rage across the country next year. And few groups will wield more influence on those races than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here are five staffers from each who will play a critical role in those campaigns, courtesy of National Journal’s Alex Roarty. Read more

MILLER WEIGHING CHALLENGE TO BEGICH IN ALASKA 2010 Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller announced in a blog post Sunday that he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in 2014. Miller said that he will not launch a full campaign until he has secured the requisite financial and political backing. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell also has formed an exploratory committee for the race, potentially setting up a GOP primary battle. Read more

BLACKBURN, BACHMANN TO ATTEND THATCHER FUNERAL Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., will lead a congressional delegation to the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher this week, AP reports. Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and George Holding, R-N.C., also will attend, according to a Monday statement from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The funeral will be held at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday. In keeping with Boehner’s recent suspension of members’ use of military aircraft for House business, the delegation will fly commercial. Read more

  • Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., will be knighted Tuesday at the British Embassy in Washington, TPM reports. Because Lugar is not a royal subject, he may not employ the honorific “Sir.”

TOMORROW

DRAFTERS RUSHING TO FINISH IMMIGRATION-REFORM BILL. The bipartisan Senate group working on a comprehensive immigration-reform package will unveil the fruits of their labor Tuesday, and as NBC News reports, drafters are rushing to put the finishing touches on the legislation, while some members are urging a delay. In addition, a Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday has now been pushed back to Friday. Read more

OBAMA TO HOST UAE CROWN PRINCE, HONOR NASCAR DRIVER. On Tuesday, President Obama will hold a working lunch with Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates at the White House. Later, the president will welcome Brad Keselowski to the White House to honor his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

QUOTABLE

 “Of course, some people are surprised I can even read.” former President George W. Bush, commenting on reaction to news that he paints. (Dallas Morning News)

BEDTIME READING

IS A CONVICTED SOUTH KOREAN SPY IN THE U.S. ACTUALLY A NORTH KOREAN AGENT? In 2007, Il Woo Park pled guilty to spying on the United States for South Korea, writes Hunter Walker for Talking Points Memo. Park was running a company called Korea Pyongyang Trading U.S.A. out of his apartment in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood, helping North Korea bypass extensive economic sanctions to import booze into the U.S. But Park was using his business trips to North Korean capital Pyongyang to gather intel on North Korea that he then passed on to the South, he admitted in his espionage trial. But after his conviction—Park received only probation from the U.S.—Park’s business relationship with North Korea continued, even deepened, which was unprecedented, according to experts. Why, Walker wonders, did Park’s relationship with North Korea continue? Why was the United States so lenient in its punishment? What are Park’s connections to the North Korean government? The answers just shroud the cryptic country in another layer of mystery. Read more

PLAY OF THE DAY

THE GUN-CONTROL BILL IS ... DISAPPOINTING. Gun control was a big weekend topic. Saturday Night Live’s opening skit featured Jay Pharoah’s impression of Obama discussing the Manchin-Toomey plan with Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis playing the senators, respectively. Meanwhile, the military may have to cancel New York’s Fleet Week as a result of federal budget shortfalls and Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers both noted problems with losing the annual event. And North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, continues to be a go-to for late-night comedians. Watch it here

REALITY CHECK

DOES IT REALLY TAKE 13 HOURS TO PREPARE YOUR TAXES? Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, earns rare high praise from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker for his claim that it takes, on average, 13 hours for an individual to gather receipts, prepare and fill out the income tax forms and costs about $168 billion and 6 billion hours for taxpayers to comply. Turns out he’s basically right. Read more

TODAY’S PHOTO GALLERY

MEET GEORGE W. BUSH’S GRANDDAUGHTER. Over the weekend, George W. Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Margaret Laura “Mila” Hager. The Today show has a photo gallery of the first-time grandparents with daughter, father, and baby. Included in the collection is a shot of the two men checking out the Masters golf tournament while father Henry cradles the newborn. See the gallery here.


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