What We’re Reading

GAI | May 9, 2017

We are living in interesting times.  In order to bring you more insight on the issues of the day, we thought we’d send out a sampling of what we’re reading in the office.  There’s a lot going on in addition to the recent budget developments that Josh Huder ably covers in his piece for this newsletter.  We’re monitoring the ongoing health care policy developments, potential upcoming tax policy legislation, foreign policy, and more.

Health care is heating up again after a brief, aborted effort that ended on the seventh anniversary of the ACA’s passage.  GAI’s Director Kristin Nicholson is reading a good run-down of the AHCA bill that just passed in the House.   Assistant Director Worth Hester recommends Axios’ look forward to the politics on the Senate side.  Senior Fellow Josh Huder recommends a piece by Dirksen award-winner Matt Fuller on the political effects after passing the AHCA for House Republicans.  For my part, I find that the details of the ACA itself get lost in a lot of the commentary I’ve seen—if you want a more detailed primer on what this legislation does, Vox’s Sarah Kliff has a good explainer.  If you want a simpler primer, Vox also has a link to (former Obama health care adviser) Bob Kocher’s cartoon version of what the ACA was designed to do.

Tax policy also is primed for legislative action.  There have been a series of different tax policy proposals in a relatively short time from the Trump campaign and now the Trump administration, as well as the House Republican A Better Way plan.  NPR has a good initial take on what the President’s latest proposal means in terms of policy and politics going forward.   RealClearPolitics reporter (and frequent GAI speaker) Alexis Simendinger co-authored a piece on tax policy strategy in a wider legislative context—including the possible inclusion of savings from health care reform.  I’d recommend a few pieces on related tax policy issues of interest as well.  Mainstream Republican economist Greg Mankiw has a good piece discussing different pieces in corporate tax reform.  The mainstream, Democratic-learning CBPP (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) has an article on how revenue raising needs to be part of tax reform.   In conversations about tax reform, I find myself regularly pointing out that people often assume there are many more tax expenditures to easily cut than there actually are—this CRS report has good background on this.

There are a few foreign affairs issues we’re monitoring as well.  These articles come from Fellow Katina Slavkova.  She notes that a new piece, the “Perils of a Congressional Authorization to Fight ISIS“, by Ryan Goodman at Just Security, takes aim at Washington conventional wisdom on AUMF.  Goodman notes that rather than revising the old AUMF or creating one specific to ISIS, that “no new AUMF would be far better than a bad one”.  You can read a nice comprehensive look on the AUMF here, by another Dirksen award winner, Gregory Johnsen.

Katina has eyes on OCO, too.  Congress has a love-hate relationship with the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which has been called everything from a slush fund to a critical safety valve for the military.  There’s another way of looking at OCO: as Mark Cancian from the Center on Strategic and International Studies wrote  “OCO is the grease for budget wheels.”  Last week’s congressional testimonies by SOCOM commander Gen. Raymond Thomas emphasized how his command is heavily leveraged against OCO “to the tune of about 30 percent of our total obligation authority.” Apparently, this is “triple the rate of OCO reliance among the Services.”  This concern is unlikely to abate anytime soon—FY18 appropriations, unlike the FY17, are not the beneficiaries of raised sequestration caps—OCO may play a role in negotiations once again.  Given this, it is worth reviewing this excellent primer on OCO from CRS.

Finally, we’d like to leave you with a few articles that give you a feel for DC and the people and places that make it tick.  Director Nicholson suggests two engaging reads along these lines.   Politico reporter (and frequent GAI speaker) Tim Alberta has a wonderful piece out on Rep. Will Hurd (R, TX).  And Bloomberg has a colorful look inside the Trump International Hotel.

Read widely and well, and have a great week.


Laura Blessing

Senior Fellow and “On the Hill” Editor

Categories: Congressional Policy Issues, Congressional Update, Director's Desk, Revise & Extend, Updates