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A shutdown deal with extras: light bulbs, campaign finance and fishing tackle

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • A breakdown of what’s in the lengthy government funding bill
  • Late, major campaign finance changes.
  • CIA interrogations: what’s right vs what’s legal

The 1,600-page shutdown deal in a few sentences: Negotiators in the House and Senate unveiled a $1.012 trillion spending bill Tuesday night that would fund most of the government through September 2015, NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman reports. Today: the House Rules Committee will meet. Tomorrow: the full House plans to vote. That means Congress will not make the funding deadline (which is also tomorrow). To avoid a shutdown, leaders plan to pass a very short-term one- or two-day funding bill so the Senate can have time to pass the larger full-year measure.

Back to the House, vote counting is underway. Republican Speaker John Boehner, with a likely assist from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, plans to cobble together enough votes to pass it. Pelosi said in a statement last night that she was “hopeful.”

What’s in the deal? A quick breakdown:

– Funding for Department of Homeland Security through the end of February.
– Funding for the rest of government through September.
– $5.4 billion to fight Ebola.
– $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, to pay for the military campaign against Islamic State and support European allies, in particular those “facing Russian aggression.”
– A ban on the use of federal money to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia.
– A $345.6 million cut from the IRS budget.
– A $60 million cut for the EPA.
– A pay freeze for the vice president.

– A significant change in federal campaign finance law. More on that below.
– An elimination of the efficient light bulb standard.
– The EPA will be prohibited from using funding to regulate lead in ammunition or fishing tackle.
– The option for multi-employer benefit plans to cut benefits, the Washington Post reports.

The Post has another great summary of what’s in the bill here.

In the spending bill: the end of McCain-Feingold? Led by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, negotiators added a major change in campaign-finance laws deep in this budget deal (on page 1,599 of 1,603 pages). Currently, House and Senate candidates have a firm $5,200 limit on individual contributions per year. The bill opens a wide door for bigger dollars by allowing the candidates more access to money from their political parties, which have a higher, $64,800, limit per donor. The language also is a boon to the parties, which now can establish three separate accounts with three separate limits for fundraising. The Washington Post reports that overall this increases the fundraising limit by as much as 10 times per donor. In all, the change undermines much of the remaining congressional limits from McCain-Feingold.

Right vs. legal: In many ways, the two sides were talking past each other Tuesday with the release of the CIA interrogation report. Democrats, and those like Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who don’t support the harsh tactics of the Bush administration CIA, made moral arguments. Conservatives who support them or were involved continued to come back to a legal defense. McCain, a victim of torture while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, repeatedly came back to the idea of American “values.” He accused the purveyors of the policy and agents who carried them out of “compromising our values.” “[T]hey stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good,” McCain said in a powerful speech from the Senate floor Tuesday. But calling the Senate report “hooey” yesterday, former Vice President Dick Cheney came back to this in an interview with the New York Times: “The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”

Some want criminal charges pursued: On the NewsHour last night, the moral vs. legal difference was highlighted, as well, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Robert Grenier, the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 2004 to 2006. With the release of this report, Feinstein said, “We say to the world this is not what we stand for.” Grenier, on the other hand: “I can assure you that we didn’t do anything unless we had full assurances that everything that we were doing was fully legal. … So let’s just — let’s table that.” The Obama administration has discontinued the harsh interrogation practices, what many are calling torture, and the Obama Justice Department has declined to pursue charges against the agents or policy makers for carrying out torture. That’s something some on the legal left want the administration to reconsider. Amnesty International pushed for prosecution Tuesday: “Torture is a crime and those responsible for crimes must be brought to justice.” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School, makes a similar argument: “Torture is a federal crime, and those who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted.”

Prosecution not likely: But that is not likely to happen. Senior administration officials were asked about it again Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. They deferred to the Justice Department, but acknowledged problems with the program. “[T]he key point here is whether or not individuals were acting consistent with the guidance, including the legal analysis that had been done, related to the program,” said one official. “That’s why it was ended as a matter of policy by President Obama so that our policy would change, and we would resolve to be not utilizing these specific enhanced interrogation techniques, to be treating detainees humanely in accordance with a variety of international conventions. So that’s what’s guided our approach to how we deal with personnel.” In another answer, an official said, “There were serious mistakes that were made, and — in the implementation of the program. And where those occurred, those are things that there should be accountability for. And that’s something that we have a number of processes — short of the criminal piece — but there have been referrals to the [Inspector General] and so on. And I think that is something that systemically, we’ve seen some issues that we’ve been essentially in the process of correcting.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1832, President Andrew Jackson drew a sharp line between state and federal governments, issuing his “Nullification Proclamation”, ordering that no state could nullify a federal law. Jackson’s vice president stridently disagreed, highlighting a divide that would grow until the Civil War. Can you name that vice president and his home state? The first correct answer tweeted with #PoliticsTrivia gets a shout-out here. Congratulations to James (@schnozx) for correctly answering yesterday’s question. Aaron Burr was the last vice president to attain that office before the 12th Amendment took effect.



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