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 Icarus of the House
Just two summers ago, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa “straw poll” to vault into early contention for the GOP presidential nomination. A tea-party star was born.
That was then. The House Ethics Committee announced today that it’s investigating the Minnesota lawmaker after receiving a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent investigative body.
A lawyer for Bachmann had previously acknowledged the investigation by OCE and said that Bachmann was cooperating, according to the Associated Press. The inquiry is focused in part on her short-lived presidential bid.
Bachmann, a leader in the tea-party movement, announced earlier this year she would not seek reelection. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, OCE focused its inquiry on Bachmann’s 2011 book tour. There are also questions about her use of PAC funds. The FBI is reportedly looking into allegations of financial impropriety in her presidential campaign.
While Bachmann said her decision not to run had nothing to do with the ethical issues, her liberal critics are not buying it.
“Michele Bachmann is our modern Icarus,” @LOLGOP wrote on Twitter. “She flew too close to the television.”
MORSI DETAINED ON SUSPICION OF ESPIONAGE, AS CROWDS CLASH IN STREETS. Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ordered detained for 15 days on suspicion of espionage, The New York Times reports. The announcement by Egyptian state media, likely to further anger the Muslim Brotherhood, came as pro- and anti-Morsi crowds began holding massive demonstrations around the country. Two protesters have been killed thus far in Alexandria during rallies, which army chief Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi publicly requested earlier in the week in an effort to show the world Egypt’s people supported the army’s crackdown on what el-Sisi called “violence and terrorism.” Read more
- Hundreds of thousands of rival protesters were already clashing in the streets by this afternoon, stoking fears that bloodier encounters awaited the country after nightfall, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more
OBAMA, HOUSE GOP ON COLLISION COURSE OVER FEDERAL SPENDING. President Obama and House Republicans are speeding toward another fight over spending this fall, The Wall Street Journal reports. Congress votes annually to fund about one-third of domestic and defense spending, a portion of the budget already shrinking due to sequestration. Barring repeal of the Budget Control Act, additional cuts will take effect for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The gap between the president and House Republicans remains too wide for compromise, though, despite recent estimates that waiving the sequester cuts would result in 900,000 more jobs by September 2014. More than 60 Republicans are asking House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to defund the Affordable Care Act when Congress votes to fund the government in September. Read more
- Don’t expect Boehner’s hands-off approach to last into the fall debates over spending and the debt limit, National Journal‘s Chris Frates writes. Read more
HOLDER TO RUSSIA: SNOWDEN WON’T BE EXECUTED OR TORTURED. Attorney General Eric Holder promised in a letter to the Russian government released today that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, a wanted fugitive, will not be tortured or executed if brought home to face charges, Reuters reports. “The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes,” Holder wrote. Russia thus far has refused U.S. requests to extradite Snowden, who leaked information about secret U.S. government surveillance programs and is seeking temporary asylum in Russia while waiting in a Moscow airport transit zone. Read more
GILLIBRAND NEARS 51 VOTES FOR MILITARY SEXUAL-ASSAULT BILL. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is close to winning a majority of senators to support legislation that would remove military sexual-assault cases from being handled through the chain of command, The Hill reports. So far Gillibrand appears to have shored up support from 44 senators, adding Sens. Mark Kirk, R.-Ill., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., this week. Gillibrand is still facing stiff opposition from some, however, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who have written an alternative proposal. “It’s important that the other side of this story be made, and that the facts be known,” Levin said. Read more
- The two competing proposals are causing headaches for Democratic leaders in a fight that does not cleanly split down party or gender lines, Roll Call reports. Read more
U.S. SPY AGENCIES FACE GREATEST SCRUTINY IN DECADES. U.S. spy agencies such as the NSA are battling the strongest headwinds of public and congressional scrutiny in nearly four decades, The New York Times reports. On matters of interrogation, drone strikes, and electronic surveillance, critics are charging the intelligence community with overreaching and betraying public trust, a paradigm shift in stark contrast to the bullish support for such measures found during the decade that followed Sept. 11, 2001. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has played a key role in reshaping the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by selecting conservative judges more likely to defer to government claims that such surveillance measures are necessary. Read more
- America’s top tech companies have helped create the surveillance state by working with government to spy on people, National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh writes. The cozy relationships go back decades. Read more
HOUSE FOOD-STAMP BILL PUSHED BACK UNTIL AFTER RECESS. The House, which passed a stripped-down, farm-only bill this month after failing to pass a farm bill in June that included food stamps, will not write up a food-stamp measure before the August recess, The Hill reports. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has been soliciting members’ input on the potential legislation, and has participated in a small working group organized by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. The delay makes it unlikely that legislation will be passed before current program authorizations expire at the end of September. Read more
AMERICANS AGAIN DIVIDED ALONG RACIAL LINES. Even as America experiences its most profound demographic change in more than a century, our society is increasingly fracturing along overlapping racial, generational, and partisan lines, National Journal‘s Ronald Brownstein writes. The diversity remaking America could be a source of rejuvenation and innovation, but today it is reinforcing our ferocious partisan polarization. The Trayvon Martin case and the Washington stalemate both capture the escalating collision of perspectives and priorities between a growing, mostly younger minority community and our aging white population—what I’ve called the brown and the gray. Read more
LIBERAL DEMS PUSH FOR OBAMA TO PICK YELLEN AS NEXT FED CHIEF. A letter signed by about a third of Senate Democrats is urging Obama to select Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the central bank, The Wall Street Journal reports. The letter has purportedly been signed by the liberal wing of the party’s caucus and makes no mention of former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who onlookers view as Yellen’s top competition to run the Fed. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said there was “a lot of concern” about a possible Summers appointment, adding, “I can’t find any support for Larry Summers on the Democratic side of the aisle.” Read more
- The growing chatter about whether Obama should appoint Yellen or Summers is also reviving a gender debate in Washington, and underscores the lack of women in top economic-policy positions, The New York Times reports. Read more
CHRISTIE SPEAKS OUT AGAINST LIBERTARIAN STANCE ON NATIONAL SECURITY. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, had harsh words Thursday for members of his party who favor a more libertarian view of foreign policy, The Washington Post reports. Asked if Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was one of the policymakers leading the GOP down a more libertarian road on national security, Christie replied, “You can name any number of people and he’s one of them.” Christie went on to defend the nation’s surveillance programs by invoking families impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and claiming that surveillance programs are essential to defending the nation. Paul shot back with a strongly worded statement soon after Christie’s remarks. Both Paul and Christie are considered potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Read more
“Where have you been? Hiking?” — Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who arrived for a vote wearing athletic clothes (Roll Call)
JUST DON’T CALL IT A CURE. A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania hospital is slowly changing the way cancer is treated, using engineered T cells, Philadelphia magazine’s Jason Fagone reports. Walter Keller, a baseball coach and businessman from California, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996. Before he started the trial, 90 percent of his bone-marrow cells were cancerous. By October 2012, about five months after he received an infusion of T cells, Walter was back in California and cancer-free. But the treatment has side effects: Nine of the first 12 trial participants experienced tumor lysis syndrome, a complication associated with the death of cancer cells. Keller was one of those patients, at one point telling his family, who thought he was about to die, “I need to go. I see the white wedding.” Read more
BLIMPS TO PATROL SKIES ABOVE D.C. Within a year, a pair of souped-up $2.7 billion blimps (price includes research and development) will be floated 10,000 feet above the District of Columbia and act as a 340-mile-wide eye in the sky, detecting incoming missiles and the like, National Journal‘s Brian Resnick reports. The design and testing phase for JLENS—the (deep breath) Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, produced by Raytheon, a major weapons manufacturer—is over, relays Program Director Doug Burgess to Popular Mechanics. Now, it is time for implementation. The blimps, or aerostats as they are technically called, are 77 yards long, and have a range of 340 miles. They fly at 10,000 feet for 30 days at time. Read more
IF IT MAKES YOU HAPPY… A bevy of recent studies measuring happiness across a variety of factors, including age and political affiliation, have been compiled by The Atlantic Wire‘s Alexander Abad-Santos in a not-so-scientific manner to pinpoint just who might be America’s happiest person. The winner? A 23-year-old coffee-drinking Republican living in San Jose, Calif. Not many people fit this description, however: Only 2 percent of San Jose’s 967,487 residents fall within the 20-24 age demographic and are coffee drinkers, and that’s not even accounting for political affiliation. “Indeed, the happiest person in America is a unicorn,” Abad-Santos writes. Read more