Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Tomorrow, the Senate will convene in a rare weekend session to extend highway funding that would otherwise run out at the end of the month. Propping up that infrastructure spending is a key priority for big business groups. But the corporate lobby has another reason to tune in Sunday: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, has set up the measure to carry another item on their wish-list, the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The agency exists to provide credit financing for American exporters like Boeing, Caterpillar, and General Electric, and it’s enjoyed bipartisan support throughout its 80-year history. Or it did, until the Tea Party types elevated it into a poster child for “crony capitalism” and forced the expiration of its charter earlier this summer, freezing its ability to guarantee new loans.
In the scheme of things, Ex-Im is not a huge deal. And for small-government crusaders, that was precisely the point. After the movement’s efforts to take down major targets like the Affordable Care Act backfired spectacularly, they settled on the bank as a prize within their grasp. That they managed to seize it only to see it slipping back through their fingers weeks later is surely frustrating. It does not, however, entirely explain the Friday outburst by Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s styled himself a lonely warrior against the “Washington cartel” as he seeks traction for a lagging presidential bid. On the Senate floor, the junior Texan laced into McConnell for engineering Ex-Im’s revival, accusing his leader of telling him a “flat-out lie” in earlier pledging there would be no deal to bring the agency’s charter back up for a vote. The charge amounted to a stunning breach of Senate decorum — and possibly its rules.
But Cruz’s Senate-floor roar shrinks to a mousey peep considered against the intramural vitriol consuming the GOP presidential contest. For that, Republicans can thank Donald Trump, whose candidacy so far has consisted in the main of cartoonishly wild attacks on his competition. Trump will not be the Republican nominee. The extent to which his bid shapes the race will be measured in the lengths more viable anti-establishment candidates go to ape the primal scream that, for now, has him leading the pack.
• Hillary says capitalism needs a reset
The Democratic frontrunner called Friday for higher capital gains taxes as a means to combat what she’s calling the scourge of “quarterly capitalism.” In a speech she delivered at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Clinton continued laying out her program for remaking a capitalist system she says has lost its purpose over the last few decades and is no longer distributing its gains equitably to workers. Beyond the tax tweak, Clinton rolled out a slate of proposals designed to discourage short-term investments in favor of deeper commitments to research, innovation, capital spending, worker retraining and higher wages. The candidate measured her critique of corporate management with praise for standard-setting firms — a careful calibration designed to give voice to liberals angry at moneyed brass without alienating big business leadership. Fortune
• The U.S. Chamber is going to target uncooperative Republicans
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big Kahuna of the business lobby, is gearing up to challenge Congressional Republican incumbents it views as impediments to its agenda in the 2016 elections. Republican-aligned business groups engaged in a limited version of the tack in the 2014 midterms, after assessing that earlier attempts to contain or co-opt Tea Party-aligned pols had fallen short. That the Chamber is seeking to re-up and possibly broaden the strategy, after Republicans expanded their House majority and captured the Senate in 2014, signifies the frustration the establishment wing of the party continues to feel about its inability to steer pro-business measures through a GOP-led Congress. Politico
• Jeb Bush calls for ending tax preferences for the oil and gas industry
The former Florida governor wants to broaden the base and flatten rates. Oh. Most every candidate for federal office would say the same. The notion falls apart when political hopefuls actually have to name the loopholes they’d zero out to further the cause. So Bush added a potentially interesting wrinkle last week when he stated that he’d eliminate the tax-code benefits long enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry — one that’s traditionally been a key supporter of his family’s political fortunes. For good measure, Bush added that he’d include subsidies for renewable forms of energy like wind and solar in the bargain. National Journal
Around the Water Cooler
• Uber just proved it knows how to win a high-stakes lobbying fight
With its sweeping win in New York City, Uber just demonstrated its fast-gathering political sophistication. The ride-sharing service had squared off with Mayor Bill de Blasio over the rate of its expansion in the city. The administration of the stalwart liberal mayor had threatened to cap its growth, but Uber responded by overwhelming City Hall’s objections with a swarm of hired muscle. The company’s success provide a playbook for its ongoing fights with local governments across the map. Capital New York
• The 2016 election already has a winner: TV station owners
Election season means big spending on television advertising. But just how big, as far as 2016 goes? One new estimate places the haul at a whopping 4.4 billion. A sprawling Republican presidential field, competitive Congressional elections, and the further loosening of restrictions on outside groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision are all contributing to a new Wild West in broadcast spending. The Cook Political Report
• The genesis of our never-ending political shout-fest sounded a lot smarter
If you find yourself tuning in daily to the latest from the 2016 campaign trail, such as it is, and wagging your head at its vapidity, then a look back at the germ of our modern political acrimony might inspire some regret. The debates that ABC staged around the 1968 election between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, the leading conservative and liberal public intellectuals of the time, respectively, were reversed engineered to maximize acrimony in the interest of pumping up ratings. It worked, and how, arguably birthing an entire industry of pitched political bickering as televised bloodsport. Then again, the debates themselves also stand as something of a high-water mark. Not to mention they are tremendously fun to watch, which you can do, now, via YouTube. They are also the subject of a forthcoming documentary. New York Times