Washington Weekly – August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014

The House and Senate were in recess this week.

FY15 Appropriations

House and Senate Appropriators are preparing a continuing resolution (CR) that would likely fund the government through November/December. If Republicans take control of the Senate in the November elections, Appropriators may opt to punt their FY15 work until next year with another CR that could fund the government through April 2015.

Defense

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a Decisions and Opinions of the Comptroller General this week stating that the Department of Defense (DOD) violated section 8111 of the FY14 Department of Defense Appropriations Act when it transferred five individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the nation of Qatar without providing at least 30 days notice to certain congressional committees. Section 8111 prohibits DOD from using appropriated funds to transfer any individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay unless the Secretary of Defense notifies certain congressional committees at least 30 days before the transfer. GAO also found that as a consequence of using its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, DOD also violated the Antideficiency Act because $988,400 was spent to transfer the detainees.

Political Updates

Democrats in Montana on Saturday chose their replacement candidate for US Senate after Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) dropped out of the race amid plagiarism allegations from his time at the US Army War College. State Rep. Amanda Curtis was chosen to face Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) in the November election. Curtis is a first-time representative from Butte and a high school math teacher.

The special Democratic Senate primary was held in Hawaii on Aug 9 but two storm-ravaged precincts on the Big Island were not able to cast their ballots after a hurricane descended on Hawaii and the election was too close to call. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, challenged Sen. Brian Schatz for the nomination. Schatz was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie to replace the late US senator and president pro tempore Daniel Inouye after his passing in 2012. Schatz edged out Hanabusa in the primary and now faces Republican Cam Cavasso, who’s seeking the seat for the third time, in the general election this fall. Schatz holds seats on the Senate Commerce, Energy & Natural Resources, and Indian Affairs Committees.

Republicans in Alaska chose Dan Sullivan, the former state natural resources chief and attorney general, to be the Republican to challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) this November. Sullivan beat out tea party candidate Joe Miller and Lieutenant Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Former Vermont US Senator James Jeffords passed away on Monday. Jeffords was originally registered as a Republican, but frequently voted with Democrats on matters such as health care, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control and the environment. He declared himself an Independent in 2001 giving Democrats the majority in the US Senate.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel chose his former Senate aide, Rexon Ryu, to be his new chief of staff. Ryu, who was also a deputy to Susan Rice and Samantha Power, will replace Mark Lippert, nominated to be ambassador to South Korea.

Nicole Wong, Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has left her position to return to California. Wong played a large role in the administration’s recent big data initiatives. She was also in charge of leading privacy and internet policy initiatives at OSTP.

Bob Brese, the Energy Department’s chief information officer, announced this week that he is leaving government after almost 30 years. Brese’s last day will be Sept 5. While he plans to join the private sector, he did not mention where he was going next. Don Adcock will be the interim CIO when Brese leaves. Adcock came to Energy in April 2012 after spending more than two years as the executive director of the Army IT Agency.

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) left Congress earlier this week after announcing his resignation plans earlier this month.

Lauren Claffey, current spokesperson for Sen. Saxby Chambliss and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is taking over as communications director for the House Homeland Security Committee after Labor Day. Chambliss is retiring at the end of this year.

Next Week

The House and Senate are in recess until the week of September 8.

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