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The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.
The House Is Likely Off the Market
In recent weeks, several respectedcommentators suggested the House could be in play for 2014. Their sources: Republicans worried about the consequences of a government shutdown. But there are few signs that an anti-Republican wave is developing, one that would threaten the party's comfortable 17-seat majority.
Despite the GOP's damaged brand, both parties fare evenly on the generic ballot. July's NBC/WSJ poll found a 44-44 tie. Around the same time, Quinnipiac showed Dems with a 40-36 edge. Voters are gridlocked, viewing both parties unfavorably. And President Obama's declining ratings and the rising unpopularity of Obamacare suggest Republicans have their own weapons to use against Dems, despite their myriad vulnerabilities.
Could a government shutdown change the political calculus? Sure. But the structural advantages the GOP created, post-2010 redistricting, insulate the party from the environment. There are only 17 Obama Republicans left. Sweep them all, hold their own, and Democrats barely taste the majority.
Wave or no wave, the upper chamber is the one looking in play on Election Night. Dems need an awfully big landslide to entertain taking back the House.
AS OBAMA DELIBERATES, SOME SEE STRIKE ON SYRIA COMING WITHIN DAYS. As pressure for a U.S.-led military attack continued to mount today, representatives from the U.S. and its allies told Syrian rebels that such a strike against President Bashar al-Assad's forces could come within days, sources tell Reuters. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said U.S. forces in the region are "ready to go" against Assad in response to a poison-gas attack on civilians last week in a suburb of Damascus. U.S. stocks took a tumble Tuesday as fears of a military intervention in Syria grew. President Obama is believed to still be weighing the possibility of a military strike. Read more
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lambasted Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey today for giving a "green light" to Assad to use chemical weapons via earlier statements signaling to the Syrian leader that he could escalate the conflict without incurring serious international consequences, The Daily Beast reports. Read more
TREASURY SETS MID-OCTOBER DEADLINE FOR DEBT-CEILING FIGHT. The Treasury Department said Monday it anticipates defaulting on the government's obligations in mid-October—sooner than many had expected—if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, The New York Times reports. Congress will be forced to deal with two major budget deadlines, two weeks apart, because the continuing resolution will expire at the end of September. Republican lawmakers have made clear they only want to raise the debt limit—which currently stands at about $16.7 trillion—if such a measure coincides with others meant to decrease the deficit. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew beseeched Congress to act today, saying that "the president will not negotiate conditions on the debt limit." Read more
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is promising a "whale of a fight" over the debt ceiling and has said that he wants cuts to exceed any increase in the limit, Huffington Post reports. Read more
ON EVE OF ANNIVERSARY, OBAMA SAYS MLK WOULD APPROVE OF ACA. On the eve of his remarks at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, President Obama said in a radio interview airing today that the civil-rights champion would support the Affordable Care Act, The Hill reports. "Oh, he would like that," Obama said. "Because I think he understood that health care, health security is not a privilege; it's something that in a country as wealthy as ours, everybody should have access to." Obama's comments are being viewed as part of an increased effort by his administration to link the ACA to the weeklong celebration of the March on Washington. Read more
NAPOLITANO BIDS ADIEU TO DHS WITH WARNING OF CYBERATTACKS. Departing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano delivered a farewell address today at the National Press Club, urging her as-yet-unnamed successor to act quickly to strengthen the nation's cyberdefenses, and said a large-scale attack was more or less inevitable, The Hill reports. "Our country will, at some point, face a major cyberevent that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy, and the everyday functioning of our society," Napolitano said. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, announced in July she would step down to run the University of California system. Her last day is Sept. 6. Read more
IRAN NAMES NEW ENVOY TO U.N. NUCLEAR WATCHDOG. Iran named a disarmament expert today as its new ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Reuters reports. The selection of Reza Najafi is another move by new President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, which alters the ranks of the country's top atomic program officials in an effort to thaw relations with the U.S. and others. Last month, Rouhani appointed former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi to head Iran's atomic energy organization, opting for a relative pragmatist over a conservative hardliner. Still, some diplomats remain skeptical that Rouhani's changes are substantive and not merely tonal in nature, and many believe he appears uninterested in changing Iran's policy of enriching uranium without restriction. Read more
STUDENTS RETURN TO SCHOOL TO FIND MAJOR CURRICULUM CHANGES. Students across the country are returning to schools and discovering substantial changes have been made to both curriculum and teacher-evaluation methods as part of "the biggest revamps of U.S. public education in a decade," The Wall Street Journal reports. Among the changes are the Common Core standards—being rolled out in most states—which raise expectations on reading and math performance at a time when charter and private schools are creating more competition. But many detractors are already pushing back against the changes. "This is the huge fulcrum moment for many of the reforms," said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's a lot messier than some might have thought." Read more
SENS. ENZI, VITTER INTRODUCE BILL MAKING LAWMAKERS PAY FOR HEALTH CARE. Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced a bill today that aims to make lawmakers, the president, vice president and political appointees personally responsible for the entire cost of their health care through the exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, Roll Call reports. "If Obamacare is good enough for the American people, it should be good enough for Congress, the president and vice president, and other policy makers in Washington," Enzi said. The legislation is a rebuttal to a fix made by the Office of Personnel Management allowing lawmakers and their staffers to keep their health care subsidies, and would instead require all to enter an exchange. Read more
HOME PRICES RISE IN JUNE, BUT AT SLOWER PACE. Home prices continued to rise in June, but the pace of growth decelerated, Reuters reports. The numbers indicate that higher mortgage rates could slow housing momentum later in the year. Separate data out today reflected a consumer confidence for August that was more optimistic about the future. "There is definitely sentiment building that the economy is going to get better, but it's a bit puzzling to see confidence accelerate when current growth is rather weak," said Thomas Simons, money-market economist at Jefferies & Co. Together, the data is unlikely to push economists' predictions about the continuing housing recovery. Read more
PRESIDENTS JOIN COMMEMORATION OF MARCH ANNIVERSARY. The King Center and the National Park Service will hold events to celebrate the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Events include an interfaith service at the Shiloh Baptist Church at 9 a.m. at 1500 Ninth Street NW, and the "Let Freedom Ring Call to Action and Commemoration Ceremony" at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial. President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are among the scheduled speakers. At 3 p.m., churches including Washington National Cathedral will hold bell-ringing ceremonies to answer King's call to "Let Freedom Ring."
THE 1963 MARCH, IN PICTURES. The Library of Congress will hold the opening of the exhibition "A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington," a collection of 42 black-and-white images documenting the 1963 event, at 8:30 a.m. at 10 First Street SE. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., will deliver remarks in the Great Hall at 10 a.m.
"I've never ever been accused of inseminating a panda before tonight." – Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic nominee in the Senate election, during a stand-up routine in South Philadelphia last week (The Washington Post)
TEXAS TEA? Port Arthur, Texas, is almost surrounded by oil refineries. To its north and east is a 3,600-acre plant; to its west a 4,000-acre plant, OnEarth's Ted Genoways reports. Port Arthur residents are four times more likely than people in Galveston, Texas, approximately 100 miles away, to have a handful of health problems including heart or respiratory trouble, according to a study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a plan to relocate residents of Carver Terrace, a public-housing apartment complex that sits along the edge of a refinery, to the north side of town. But some residents are skeptical that the short move will ameliorate their health concerns. Genoways writes that Port Arthur is, after all, "the last in a chain of cities making up a Beaumont-Orange-Port Arthur metropolitan area so crowded with industry that, from the air, it appears to burn yellow." Read more
CHILDREN CAN HAVE IT ALL—FOR A PRICE. A study detailing the enormous cost of child-rearing made a big splash last week by showing that the cost of raising a baby born in 2012 is an estimated $241,080, and doubles when college enters the equation. The cost is a 23-percent increase from 1960, but the causes are not what one might expect, The Atlantic's Christopher Carr writes. Meeting a child's basic needs has actually become more affordable over time, in part because the middle class is better off now than in 1960. What, then, is the source of the added costs? "Services that were once the exclusive province of the rich, such as high-quality health care and education," Carr explains, citing an illustration of Maslow's hierarchy of needs to support his point. Read more
CROWDSOURCING ONLY-IN-D.C. OLYMPIC EVENTS. Washington might make another bid to host the Olympic Games. So, naturally, the good people on Twitter found a way to create a hashtag and have some fun with the news, National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros reports. Among the highlights: "News Dumping, to be held only on Friday afternoons," and "sequestrian dressage." See the rest here