Morning Action: Obama’s Political Arm Selling White House Access

CRONYISM. The Senate Finance Committee scheduled a vote for Tuesday on the nomination of Jacob J. Lew, outgoing White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama and former budget director for President Bill Clinton, to succeed Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary.  There has been opposition, but at the end of the day, cronyism may dictate the outcome:

Lew is expected to easily win the panel’s backing despite questions about his investments and criticism from some Republicans about his role in budget negotiations, clearing the way for confirmation by the full Senate in the following days.

Lew endured sharp criticism from GOP senators over… a generous compensation package he took as a senior official at Citigroup, which received a $45 billion federal bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.

Some suggest he did well during his hearings and his Democrat supporters disavow the accusations against him:

A committee news release from Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the vote follows “a thorough review of Lew by the committee, in which he answered extensive questions in a thorough and fully transparent manner.”

Nevertheless, Republican opposition is not overblown but rather legitimate (sub. req’d):

As for the Citi paycheck, the story is how Wall Street has become a get-rich-turnstile for Democratic political operatives. The terms of Mr. Lew’s original employment contract with Citi included a bonus guarantee if he left the bank for a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body.”

Most companies include incentives for top employees not to leave, but in this case the contract was written to reward Mr. Lew for treating the bank like a revolving door…

Citi has been an especially nice landing spot for big-shot Democrats.

BIPARTISAN.  Many lawmakers and the media mistakenly view the forthcoming sequester as a problem:

Believe it or not, there is some bipartisan agreement in Washington, D.C. The problem is Republicans and Democrats agree those automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” will probably start on Friday, the deadline for a budget agreement.

From Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri: “Unless the Republicans are willing to compromise and do a balanced approach, I think it will kick in.”

And from Republican Sen. Coburn of Oklahoma: “It will kick in…but you’re not going to see $85 billion all of a sudden shrink from the federal government.”

HAGEL & BRENNAN. Even though Hagel’s problem is Hagel, Republicans pledged to hold up his nomination until they had answers on Benghazi.  Hagel looks poised to be confirmed, and now Republicans are taking the Benghazi approach with John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism advisor nominated by Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

McCain was evasive when asked by host Candy Crowley if he would use Senate rules to block Brennan’s nomination.

“Well, you know, I think you examine your options when you decide on the information. But he needs to answer these questions. And they say, why now? It’s the only time we have the maximum leverage. That’s just a fact of life around Washington,” he said. “The American people deserve answers about Benghazi. There are so many questions that are still out there, including what was the president doing the night Benghazi happened.”

A close McCain ally, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has already threatened to block Brennan’s confirmation until the administration provides more information about the Libya incident.

VAWA. House Republicans unveiled their version of the Violence Against Women Act, which differed from the Senate VAWA bill in terms of LGBT “protections.”  It also addressed questions differently regarding how individuals could be tried on Native American tribal lands and in tribal courts.

The GOP proposal was posted on the House Rules Committee website… along with an announcement that the committee will begin moving the bill forward in a Tuesday hearing. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will sponsor the bill and the House is expected to bring it to a full vote later [this] week, a House Republican leadership aide confirmed.

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