You are currently viewing all posts written by Kyung M. Song. Seattle Times Washington, D.C., bureau correspondent
November 25, 2013 at 1:12 PM
WASHINGTON — U.S Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on Sunday gave birth to her third child — all born during the Spokane Republican’s time in Congress.
McMorris Rodgers released an Instagram photo of her daughter, Brynn Catherine Rodgers, who was born at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md..
The congresswoman and her husband, retired Navy commander Brian Rodgers, also are parents to son Cole, 6, and Grace, who turns 3 next month.
Both Brynn Catherine and her mother are doing well. Her big brother, Cole, was born with Down syndrome, and McMorris Rodgers has been a big proponent for research and disability support.
McMorris Rodgers, 44, chairs the House Republican Conference, making her the No. 4 House GOP leader.
“Nothing compares to the miracle of bringing a new life into the world,” McMorris Rodgers said in her Instagram posting. “She’s beautiful and seems to be taking it all in stride. Our hearts are full.”
November 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM
WASHINGTON — Washington State University President Elson Floyd came to Capitol Hill Wednesday to lobby against a now-familiar target — the federal budget ax known as sequestration.
Floyd joined the heads of five other research universities to remind lawmakers of the ways that automatic spending cuts are hurting R&D and slowing the economy.
“You can never do that too much,” Floyd said.
Some $85 billion in cuts went into effect in March, split between discretionary spending on defense and non-defense programs. Further annual cuts are scheduled unless Republicans and Democrats can agree on alternatives.
Floyd spoke after a morning meeting with Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, whose 5th District includes WSU’s Pullman campus. McMorris Rodgers has strongly backed spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit and the debt.
Floyd said McMorris Rodgers “clearly understands the negative implications of the sequester.” He said he did not ask the Spokane congresswoman if she supports doing away with the sequester.
Floyd was also schedule to meet with Sen. Patty Murray. The Washington Democrat has been pushing to replace the sequester as co-chair of a budget conference committee that is hammering out a spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year. So far, the two parties have shown little public signs of accord.
Joining Floyd on the Hill were presidents of, among others, University of California, Los Angeles; Tulane University and University of Texas.
November 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Updated at 1:35 p.m. with DelBene’s comments:
WASHINGTON — Washington state’s U.S. House delegation voted along party lines — with one exception — on a bill that would allow insurers to keep selling canceled health plans that ran afoul of coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
The House voted 261-157 for the GOP-sponsored Keep Your Health Plan Act, which would allow insurers to maintain millions of policies that were canceled in advance of the Jan. 1 start of coverage under Obamacare.
All four Republicans from Washington voted in favor; five of six Democrats voted no. Rep. Suzan DelBene of Medina was the sole Democratic yes vote.
In all, four Republicans and 39 Democrats defected from their caucuses on the bill.
Republicans said the bill would prevent Americans from being forced to buy higher-priced policies that don’t fit their coverage needs. Democrats assailed it as the GOP’s latest attempt to derail President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, just six weeks before coverage is set to start Jan. 1.
Each year, millions of Americans with individual policies don’t renew their coverage, often because insurers raise premiums or decrease benefits. But Obamacare not only requires Americans to have health insurance, they’re required to have adequate coverage. Insurers can no longer sell skimpy policies or plans that do not cover maternity care, mental-health services and other mandated benefits.
On the House floor, Democrats repeatedly accused the GOP of a “mission of destruction” against Obamacare under the guise of protecting consumers. Allowing people to pick and choose among bare-bone plans, they argued, would expose them to financial ruin in case of a medical catastrophe as well as undermine the risk pool that helps keep premiums lower for everyone.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, said Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler were right to buck even President Obama’s decision Thursday to allow a one-year reprieve for the canceled policies.
Alluding to fretting over consumers’ anger by some Democrats facing tough re-elections, McDermott said, “I haven’t seen so much panic on this floor since 9/11.”
DelBene said she went against the votes of many of her Democratic colleagues to protect consumers from the Obama administration’s “broken promises.”
“While imperfect,” she said, “the bill before the House today allows many Americans in the individual market to keep their current plans for an additional year. This is why I voted ‘YES.’
“I understand that it’s ultimately up to state insurance commissioners and private insurance companies to determine whether to allow the extension of existing health plans. I respect the decision made yesterday by Washington’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler not to allow plans that lack ACA benefits to be renewed.”
But Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, said through a spokeswoman that he co-sponsored the bill and voted for it because people are upset.
“Many of my constituents don’t think their current coverage is inadequate, it’s exactly the coverage they like and want to keep,” he said.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said in a statement he took the opposite vote for the same reason as Reichert’s: to protect consumers. Extending the old policies, he said, would allow insurers to again impose annual caps on coverage, charge women higher premiums than for men and keep out people with preexisting conditions.
November 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM
WASHINGTON — It’s a picture he’s drawn many time before. But Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf painted it again Wednesday: The federal debt is growing at an unsustainable rate — but the paradoxical best short-term response is to cut taxes or boost spending.
That was the thrust of Elmendorf’s message to lawmakers at the second meeting of the budget conference committee. The 29-member bipartisan panel, co-chaired by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is attempting to hash out a compromise budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and beyond to avoid another government shutdown in January.
The nation’s long-term fiscal outlook, Elmendorf said, is dismal. The $12.2 trillion federal debt held by the public equals 73 percent of the country’s total economic output. In 25 years, the public debt will equal 100 percent of the gross domestic product, pushed up by higher interest rates and spending on Social Security, Medicare and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, among others.
In addition, the federal government holds $4.9 trillion in intergovernment debt, money borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund and other sources.
Prompted by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Elmendorf said there are about three workers today for every Medicare beneficiary. But thanks to a wave of retiring Baby Boomers, the ratio will fall to 2 to 1 in two decades.
Given that, Graham asked, “how can we avoid entitlement reforms?” such as reducing inflation-adjusted increases for Social Security benefits or raising Medicare premiums for higher-income retirees.
At the same time, Elmendorf warned lawmakers that spending cuts, including the automatic budget reductions known as sequestration, has acted as “head wind” against a fragile economy. The cuts curtailed short-term demand for goods and services. The CBO projects 800,000 jobs will be lost to sequestration by end of 2014.
That has taken a huge toll on Americans, some harder than others. Elmendorf said the unemployment rate overall is 7.3 percent. But 12.5 percent of workers aged 20 to 24 are jobless; for blacks, the unemployment rate is above 13 percent.
November 8, 2013 at 8:38 AM
WASHINGTON — The troubled culture inside the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that lead the U.S. Energy Department to impose new oversight should not be a prelude to a federal takeover of energy policies in the Northwest.
That’s the message in a letter sent Friday to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed by all 23 congressional lawmakers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
A scathing report released last month by Energy Department investigators found a culture of intimidation and nepotism inside the BPA, a federal agency that operates regional transmissions lines and sells hydropower from federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
BPA human resources managers, the report said, widely flouted federal rules for preferential hiring for veterans and stacked candidate screening in favor of hand-picked applicants.
But the lawmakers warned the Energy Department not to use the hiring discrimination as an excuse to take control of BPA. The agency is financed by ratepayers and thus independent of annual appropriations by Congress.
“BPA decisions must be made in the Northwest for the benefit of the Northwest. While DOE deserves credit for uncovering BPA’s violation of veterans’ preference and other federal hiring rules, on many BPA matters DOE simply has neither the expertise nor the resources to effectively manage the day-to-day operations,” the members wrote.
Signatories were led by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Others included Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as all 10 House members from Washington.
October 31, 2013 at 5:43 AM
WASHINGTON — The cable channel TVW will air Friday’s public memorial service in Spokane for former Speaker Tom Foley.
The event, set to begin at 11 a.m. will be held at St. Aloysius Church near Gonzaga University. TVW will carry it live on television and stream it on the web. Gov. Jay Inslee, and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are expected to attend.
Foley, a Democrat who served 30 years in Congress, died at 84 on Oct. 18. He was honored at an invitation-only service Tuesday at the Capitol. President Obama, former Pres. Bill Clinton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were among those attending.
TVW is on Comcast ch. 25 in Spokane and Comcast ch. 23 in most of Western Washington. Other channel locations can be found here.
The Foley service will be re-broadcast next week, including at 7 p.m. Monday.
October 29, 2013 at 4:26 PM
WASHINGTON – Pausing for a rare detente, President Obama and members of Congress gathered Tuesday for a memorial service for former House Speaker Tom Foley, praising the Spokane Democrat as an ideal embodiment of a public servant whose type of bipartisanship many said was lamentably lacking today.
The invitation-only event at Statuary Hall inside the Capitol was attended by 300 family, friends and former colleagues.
Newt Gingrich, the man who took Foley’s job as speaker after the Democrat’s ignominious defeat in the 1994 elections, sat in the front row. Former President Clinton lauded Foley as a tough-minded politico who understood difficult votes came with heavy price, and paid them anyway.
And Robert H. Michel, who served as Foley’s Republican foil for 14 years as House minority leader, said the two men shared a trust and the belief that their beloved House of Representatives was “one of the great creations of a free people.”
Foley died at 84 on Oct. 18 from complications from strokes. He had been in home hospice for months in Washington, D.C.
The service was organized by the office of Speaker John Boehner. Foley’s widow, Heather, was escorted into the room by Obama and Boehner.
October 29, 2013 at 9:22 AM
WASHINGTON — All U.S. flags are flying at half-staff Tuesday as the Capitol prepares for a memorial service for former House Speaker Tom Foley.
President Obama ordered the flags lowered Monday in honor of the Spokane Democrat, who died Oct. 18 at 84 from complications from strokes.
Obama is scheduled to headline a list of dignitaries who will attend the 3 p.m. service at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Former President Clinton will speak.
Others expected to speak include Foley’s close friends, former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Bremerton and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell plan to attend as well.
Also on the program for the invitation-only service are Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
October 24, 2013 at 8:10 AM
WASHINGTON — An invitation-only memorial service for former Speaker Tom Foley of Spokane will be held next Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.
Former President Bill Clinton is expected to attend, according to Foley’s widow, Heather Foley. She said President Obama has not replied to his invitation.
A second, public service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on Nov. 1 at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane near Gonzaga University.
Foley, a Democrat who represented Eastern Washington’s 5th District in Congress for 30 years, died last Friday at 84.
Foley rose higher in Congress than anyone from Washington state. A popular figure and a skilled parliamentarian, Foley nonetheless lost his speakership in the 1994 elections that ushered in Newt Gringrich’s Republican revolution.
October 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM
WASHINGTON — The two-week-old federal government shutdown is imperiling the livelihoods of Alaska crab catchers and threatening to erode American market shares in Japan, one of the stars of TV’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ testified before a Senate committee Friday.
Keith Colburn, captain of the Alaska crab-fishing vessel Wizard, said a prolonged shutdown could lead to pirated crab harvests as well Russia supplanting the United States as a major exporter of Bristol Bay red king crabs to Japan.
Colburn was one of five witnesses called by the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee for a hearing on the economic impact of the funding lapse that has shuttered most government operations since Oct. 1.
The 2013-14 season for Alaska crabs is to start Tuesday. But the crabbers are likely to miss that because fisheries managers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Juneau, who must issue the catch permits, have been furloughed.
Colburn said it was the first October in 28 years he wasn’t working Bering Sea.
“While I’m honored to be here, I’d rather be 4,000 miles away,” Colburn said.
He thanked Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, for their support of Alaska’s fisheries industry. Cantwell and Begich serve on the committee.
“It’s unbelievable to me that we’re sitting here, and you have to come to this instead of being able to do this job that is already dangerous and treacherous to begin with,” Cantwell said.
Just two of the committee’s 11 Republican members attended the hearing, which featured a parade of examples of the shutdown’s effects.
Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said since the shutdown began, 14 accidents have gone uninvestigated. Among them are a bus crash in Tennessee that left eight people dead.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the committee’s ranking Republican, pushed back against Democrats on the panel who laid the blame for the shutdown on House Republicans. Thune noted that the House had passed piecemeal spending bills that would reopen select parts of the government, including the Department of Defense. Senate Democrats have rejected that approach and are insisting on a single spending bill to end the shutdown.
“Wouldn’t some funding be better than no funding?” Thune asked.
“Not if you’re the person not getting the funding,” Colburn said.
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