After the Pomp and Circumstance

January 6, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

After yesterday’s opening ceremonies of the 112th Congress, talk now turns to the work ahead. Tomorrow it is expected that Appropriations Subcommittee chairmen will be named in the House.  Yesterday, the House adopted, by a vote of 240-191, a rules package for the 112th Congress that gives GOP members significant control over federal spending and cutting the deficit.  One of the rules allows incoming Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to unilaterally establish spending caps for the remainder of FY2011.  In an effort to promote cooperation across party lines, the Bipartisan Policy Center is hosting an event for freshmen Members at the National Archives, where they will have a chance to view the U.S. Constitution and hear from former Members who have been through the fire. Among the speakers are USGLC Chairman Dan Glickman and Advisory Council member Tom Daschle.

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Countryman for ISN Assistant Secretary (Josh Rogin, The Cable blog)

Tom Countryman, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has been selected to fill the vacant post of assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), multiple administration sources confirmed to The Cable.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Analysis: New Congress to hone in on Afghan aid (Missy Ryan, Reuters)

The new U.S. Congress will examine cutting civilian assistance to Afghanistan as budget-minded lawmakers seek to curb costs without undercutting military operations at a key moment in a long, unpopular war. Republicans, who plan to slash spending across the budget when they take control of the House this week, are unlikely to withhold funding for the nine-year-old war, which now costs over $110 billion a year. But “you’ll see a Republican party focused on funding the military effort while trying to cut back on civilian assistance,” said one Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Gates hopes to preempt Congress (Jen DiMascio, Politico)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will get a jump on the annual budget rollout Thursday by unveiling a series of proposed Pentagon spending decisions, including a call to kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. Like a past preemptive budget strike, Gates’s new announcement will help him control the message — providing him a platform to sell controversial decisions to Congress, the defense industry and opponents in his own department — all notorious for hanging on to their vested interests.

U.S.-funded infrastructure deteriorates once under Afghan control, report says (Josh Boak, Washington Post) Roads, canals and schools built in Afghanistan as part of a special U.S. military program are crumbling under Afghan stewardship, despite steps imposed over the past year to ensure that reconstruction money is not being wasted, according to government reports and interviews with military and civilian personnel.

Opinion: Ladders for the Poor (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times)

Nearly a year after the earthquake in Haiti, more than one million people are still living in tents and reconstruction has barely begun — and that’s a useful reminder of the limitations of charity and foreign aid.

The Tyranny of Defense Inc. (Andrew Bacevich, the Atlantic)

In 1961, Dwight Eisenhower famously identified the military-industrial complex, warning that the growing fusion between corporations and the armed forces posed a threat to democracy. Judged 50 years later, Ike’s frightening prophecy actually understates the scope of our modern system—and the dangers of the perpetual march to war it has put us on.

Microlenders, Honored With Nobel, Are Struggling (Vikas Bajaj, New York Times)

Microcredit is losing its halo in many developing countries. Microcredit was once extolled by world leaders like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as a powerful tool that could help eliminate poverty, through loans as small as $50 to cowherds, basket weavers and other poor people for starting or expanding businesses. But now microloans have prompted political hostility in Bangladesh, India, Nicaragua and other developing countries.