New York Times: "The Obama administration told Congress on Thursday that it would allow the federal government to continue paying a large share of the cost of health insurance for members of Congress and their aides, averting a problem for many who work on Capitol Hill. However, under the arrangement, lawmakers and many of their aides will have to get coverage through new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, being set up in every state."
President Obama "named a new, full-time commissioner of the IRS on Thursday, giving the besieged agency a permanent leader. Obama nominated John Koskinen, a veteran of government service who helped oversee the restructuring of mortgage giant Freddie Mac in the aftermath of the 2008-09 recession, to lead the IRS."
The Hill notes that "key members from both parties also said that Obama made a positive step in moving to put a full-time, Senate-confirmed commissioner at the head of an agency that has had temporary leaders for close to nine months. But while Republicans said they hoped Koskinen could help rebuild taxpayer trust in the IRS, they also expressed concern about the timing of Obama’s announcement and Koskinen’s history of political contributions."
And Samantha Power was confirmed as the next UN Ambassador on Thursday by a vote of 87-10.
Washington Post: "Lost in all the rancor among Republicans over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs has been this: A similar ideological divide has been exposed in the Democratic Party that could pose even more political difficulties for President Obama. Several Democrats from the party’s civil liberties wing — the mirror image of the Republicans’ rising libertarian strain — met with Obama and Republican lawmakers Thursday at the White House to discuss concerns about the NSA’s phone data collection program and elements of the administration’s broader surveillance effort."
New York Times: "President Obama is even less likely to go through with a visit to Moscow this fall after Russia’s decision on Thursday to grant Edward J. Snowden temporary asylum. For Mr. Obama, though, the Snowden affair is only one of myriad reasons to beg off the scheduled meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin...The White House, which began debating last month whether to cancel the September trip, said Mr. Obama still had not made a final decision. “
The Washington Post also notes Organizing for Action launched a "Truth Team "that will enlist its supporters in efforts to counter criticism of the Affordable Act Act and other White House policies."
"Hours before leaving on summer recess, Congress on Thursday hit a seemingly intractable impasse on government spending, increasing the prospects of a government shutdown in the fall and adding new urgency to fiscal negotiations between the White House and a bloc of Senate Republicans," the New York Times writes. "The group of eight lawmakers headed to the White House to find a way forward after Senate Republicans filibustered a housing and transportation spending measure, saying it violated a spending deal struck two years ago. The blockade of the Senate bill came after House Republican leaders on Wednesday gave up on a more austere version of the bill when moderate Republicans balked and said the cuts in the House measure were too deep."
House Speaker John Boehner threw his support behind a short-term continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown on Thursday. Boehner: "I believe a continuing resolution for some short period of time would probably be in the nation's interest...But having said that, the idea of operating for an entire year under a CR is not a good way to do business."
The Wall Street Journal looks at how the "defiant posture" of some House GOP conservatives "has changed the agenda in Washington. In a capital where partisan power is nearly evenly balanced," members like Rep.Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) "and a small but committed group of new House activists have discovered that they have the ability to block not just Democrats but their own party's leaders—and they are willing to use it." Massie: "I'm going to hang in here like a hair in a biscuit,...I'm digging in for the long haul. This place is worse than I thought."
OFF TO THE RACES
Charlie Cook takes a look at the Senate math for the GOP: "The bottom line: While Republicans have a narrow path to the majority, the seats they must win are in friendly states, and turnout will work in their favor because this is a midterm election. It’s going to be a heck of a fight."
Politico: "The head of the House Democratic campaign arm is rallying his members ahead of the August recess, touting what he called Democrats’ strong fundraising and candidate recruitment as well as constituents’ frustration with Republican obstructionism. 'We are well-positioned to make 2014 a referendum on Republicans’ broken Congress,' Steve Israel wrote in a memo to be delivered to Democratic members Friday. 'Republicans will have spent August confronting anger over their obstruction, blind party orthodoxy, wrong priorities and stances on the issues,' said the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."
KENTUCKY: The Lexington Herald Leader previews this weekend's unofficial kickoff of the battle to unseat the Senate Minority Leader: "Mitch McConnell and his major Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, will take the same stage Saturday for the first time as rivals in next year's U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. The occasion will be the political speaking program Saturday afternoon at the 133rd annual Fancy Farm picnic in the far Western Kentucky county of Graves, where candidates often unleash old-school stemwinders laced with political raw meat. McConnell and Grimes have urged their supporters to trek to the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church in the tiny community of Fancy Farm, where the population is expected to swell from 458 to more than 10,000 this weekend."
With an internal poll from The Mellman Group showing her leading McConnell by two points, Grimes told Politico she was “not going to be bullied" by McConnell. Grimes: “It seems as if Sen. McConnell wants to run against anyone but me, including the president, the Senate majority leader, leader [Nancy] Pelosi. And, unfortunately, I’m the one who filed my paperwork.”
SOUTH CAROLINA: "Nancy Mace, one of The Citadel’s first two female graduates, is expected to announce Saturday that she will challenge U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in next June’s GOP primary," the Charleston Post & Courier reports. "Mace has indicated she may run and said Thursday she will make her decision known Saturday morning at the Berkeley County GOP breakfast meeting in Goose Creek."
NEW JERSEY: Roll Call: "Steve Lonegan, the underdog and likely Republican nominee in New Jersey’s Senate special election, is making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week. The goal of the meetings: to prove there is a path to victory in the solidly Democratic Garden State and encourage financial assistance in the Oct. 16 special....With less than two weeks to go before the Aug. 13 primaries, Lonegan met with the Club for Growth and is scheduled to sit down Friday with the National Republican Senatorial Committee."
The Newark Star Ledger notes that frontrunner Cory Booker skipped a NCAAP candidate forum for the Democratic candidates ahead of the special election to fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey. Booker's campaign said the fundraiser was scheduled before the event was scheduled, "but the absence was felt as a snub in Newark, and the event’s organizers made no secret of it."
And Booker told Politico he "absolutely...unequivocally" wouldn't run for president in 2016 and would serve a full six-year term if he wins the special election and subsequent 2014 contest.
MICHIGAN: NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran "has yet to discuss a Senate bid with Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, but he said the Ways and Means chairman would be a 'viable candidate' and he plans to reach out to him soon," per Roll Call. Moran: “I know Dave Camp very well. We served together in the House...I’m very interested in having that conversation to see what his interest and issues are.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: WMUR: "A new poll shows that U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., remains popular, while the state's two U.S. representatives could be vulnerable. The WMUR Granite State Poll shows that Shaheen has a 53 percent favorability rating, and 50 percent of those surveyed said she should be re-elected, compared to 34 percent who want someone else....In the 1st District, 36 percent said they want U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., to get re-elected, while 42 percent said they want someone else. But among the three potential Republican choices, the poll finds only former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta is known, and more people don't like him than like him. The situation is worse for U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., in the 2nd District. Just 26 percent said they want to see her go back to Washington, and 39 percent want to see someone else."