Washington Weekly – August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014 

The House and Senate were in recess this week. The President signed into law legislation to improve veterans’ access to healthcare as well as a bill providing FY14 emergency supplemental appropriations for the Government of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

Supplemental Appropriations

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson notified Congress that his agency will transfer $405 million from other programs within the agency to deal with the immigration crisis on the southwestern border. A large portion of the funding, $207 million, will come from FEMA’s disaster relief fund, $70.5 million will come from other CBP activities, and $30 million will come from the Coast Guard. The funding transfer is expected to sustain border operations through the end of FY14. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also said that about $400 million to $500 million in fire prevention projects will have to be put on hold for FY14 as the funding set aside strictly for firefighting will run out by the end of August.

The Senate supplemental that stalled last week would provide $3.7 billion in emergency funding for the border, wildfire suppression and Israel’s anti-missile Iron Dome system. The House bill provided $694 million for the border crisis only as well as revisions to a 2008 anti-trafficking law (PL 110-457) and other policy changes. The funding and policy differences may be difficult for Congress to resolve when they return in September. With the agencies stretching out their funding to cover the rest of the fiscal year, an alternative would be for lawmakers to add more resources for FY15 in a continuing resolution rather than continue debate on a supplemental.

Political Updates

Former White House Press Secretary James Brady died on Monday. Brady was wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and then became a symbol of the fight for gun control through his organization, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Sen. John Walsh (D-MT) announced yesterday that he was ending his campaign. His withdrawal from the race comes two weeks after The New York Times reported that he had plagiarized large sections of his thesis in 2007 to earn his master’s degree at the Army War College. Walsh has served in the Senate for six months after being appointed by Governor Steve Bullock to replace former Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) who was named ambassador to China. Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT) is the heavily favored Republican in the race. Democrats have until August 21 to replace him. The convention to replace Walsh is expected to take lace on August 16. Democrats may consider Nancy Keenan, a former head of Naral Pro-Choice America, State Senator David Wanzenried, Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger,

Primaries were held this week in Kansas, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington.

Kansas

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) held off a challenge from former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who formerly held the seat before a failed Senate race in 2010. Pompeo was backed by Koch Industries, the Koch-connected Americans for Prosperity, and the Club for Growth, while Tiahrt struggled to raise money after jumping in the race in late May.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claimed a narrow victory against primary challenger Alan LaPolice. Huelskamp, a tea party conservative, had faced some criticism of his support for phasing out the Renewable Fuel Standard and other issues. Agriculture and ethanol groups backed LaPolice, but Huelskamp had much more cash on hand and the backing of conservative groups like Freedomworks.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) held off a challenge from Milton Wolf, a tea party backed candidate and second cousin of President Obama. Roberts took a hit earlier this year when he admitted that he rented out his residence in Dodge City, KS and stays with a supporter when he visits the state. Wolf was criticized for posting X-rays of deceased patients on a social-networking site, along with inappropriate comments.

Michigan

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) defeated businessman Brian Ellis, who received the endorsements of the US Chamber of Commerce and some members of Congress, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman and fellow Michigander Mike Rogers (R-MI). Amash had the support of the Club for Growth, which spent more than a half-million on the race.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) beat tea party challenger Jim Bussler, and will go on to face Democrat Paul Clements, a college professor, in November. Upton vastly outraised Bussler, a registered nurse.

Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) on Tuesday became the third GOP House member to lose renomination after he was defeated in the state’s 11th District Republican primary by attorney David Trott. Bentivolio, a reindeer rancher and Santa Claus impersonator, was elected in 2012 after then-Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was kicked off the ballot. Trott had the backing of the US Chamber of Commerce endorsed Trott, and Mitt Romney campaigned twice for him.

Tennessee

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) held off a challenge from tea party backed candidate, state Rep. Joe Carr as well as five other challengers. Alexander had faced some criticism for his vote for the immigration-reform bill that passed the Senate last year. Alexander is the top Republican on the Senate’s energy and water appropriations panel

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) also held off a strong GOP primary challenge from Weston Wamp in Tennessee’s 3rd District. Fleischmann won the 2010 nomination in an 11-way primary with under 30% of the vote, and in 2012, with three candidates (including Wamp) on the ballot, Fleischmann failed to crack the 40% mark.

In the 4th district, the results are unofficial, but it appears that Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) defeated primary challenger Jim Tracy. Tracy challenged DesJarlais after reports surfaced that DesJarlais, a doctor, had affairs with his patients and had encouraged his ex-wife to get two abortions.

Washington

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced earlier this year that he would retire at the end of this Congress. A number of Republicans threw their hat in the ring to replace him, as did a handful of Democrats and Independents. However, the state’s “top-two” system ensured that Hastings would be replaced by a Republican. Former Washington Redskins tight end Clint Didier and former state agriculture director Dan Newhouse led in the race by a comfortable margin.

Next Week

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

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