On this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi interviews President and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, Behshad Sheldon, about the New Jersey based company’s intention to proceed with plans to develop a manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, North Carolina, despite the enactment of HB2, the controversial law that overturns local ordinances to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.

Sheldon has met with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who shares the view that HB2 is unjust and needs to be overturned. However, the Attorney General argued that Braeburn could help more by advocating from within the state than by protesting through dropping plans to open the facility. The company states they have also been encouraged by the Department of Justice lawsuit filed on May 9, 2016 in NC Federal Court seeking a determination that HB2 violates federal non discrimination law, as well as the Obama administration’s guidelines issued to public schools on May 13, 2016.

19 May 2016 (Washington, DC): In this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi sat with Pierre Ghanem, an Arab journalist covering Washington and the United States, to discuss the Arab world’s reception of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just like many here in the US, Donald Trump’s rise has surprised the Arab world, but officials of Arab countries are unlikely to be caught off guard. Ghanem elaborates, “Trump may be different but government officials are professionals, we can make it work.” However, the Arab street may harbor some resentment after Trump’s numerous offensive remarks about Muslims.

Clinton, on the other hand, doesn’t elicit as many negative preconceived notions. As Secretary of State, she has not been associated with the worst aspects of the Obama administration in the eyes of Arabs; She hasn’t been tainted by the perceived pivot to Iran, as Kerry has. She was also one of the first US officials to focus on Palestine and its citizens, saying that they deserved a state. According to Ghanem, whether it’s Hillary or Trump, the new president will be a welcome relief after Obama whose empty promises and poor leadership in Syria disappointed most of the Arab and Muslim world.  Continue reading »

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Chuck Conconi welcomed Bob Cusack on this week’s episode of Focus Washington. Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of Washington-based publication The Hill, evaluated the irregular political climate of the 2016 presidential election.

According to Cusack, the ascension of Donald Trump has transformed the identity of the Republican Party. By confronting the potential loss of House and Senate seats, “Republicans are coming to grips with reality.” Cusack predicted that Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse Trump by the Republican Convention in July. Despite his limited appeal among Hispanic and women’s groups, Trump surprised pundits by attracting a loyal base of support.

Insecurity among Republicans parallels growing divisions within the Democratic Party. Cusack noted that a contested convention will require critical negotiations between Clinton and Sanders. He predicted that Clinton will triumph over Sanders to receive the Democratic nomination. The Convention will measure Clinton’s success as she attempts to unite her traditional supporters with Sanders voters.

Cusack concluded his remarks by urging caution in predicting Convention results. Thus far, wavering support for Clinton, combined with Trump’s unforeseen political rise, has defied voters’ expectations. This time last year, confidence in particular candidates was unshakeable. To Cusack, a fragmented Republican Party and mounting opposition to Clinton define “the year of the outsider” in which no candidate is guaranteed victory.

 

Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.

As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.

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Chuck and Stan in the Focus Washington studio

Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.                                                                       

Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”

Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.

After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.

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2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

2016 Election Odds: Clinton, Trump and Sanders

05 May, 2016; Washington, DC: For several months now, Donald Trump has been considered the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican side. On Tuesday, that assumption became a reality.

By winning the Indiana Primary, Trump padded his massive delegate lead and is now closer than ever to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination (Trump is now up to 1,056 delegates with 9 states remaining). He has such a commanding lead that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have bowed out of the race entirely, leaving Trump without a single Republican competitor moving forward.

Trump is now +220 to win the White House at BetOnline, his best odds overall since we started keeping track back in early 2015. This means that a $100 bet on Trump to win the White House would pay out $220 if he wins the election.

For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is over. It is no longer a question of “Can Trump win the nomination?” It is now a question of “Who will Trump’s Democratic opponent be in November?”

 

Things are much more interesting on the Democratic side

Hillary Clinton remains a solid favorite to win the nomination (she is currently -1500 at BetOnline, which means you would have to risk $1500 to win $100). However, while the former Secretary of State has won a majority of states and delegates, Clinton still hasn’t clinched the nomination.

After losing the New York Primary, Bernie Sanders was written off by the political and media establishment. He was counted out and left for dead. News pundits and party elites demanded that he drop out of the race and “unite” the party behind Clinton.

But a funny thing happened after New York.

Earlier this week, Sanders shocked the establishment by winning Indiana with nearly 53% of the vote, proving all the doubters wrong who told him to quit and exit the race.

While his path to victory remains narrow, Sanders is primed for a big 4th quarter comeback. Of the 13 remaining contests (9 states, 3 territories and Washington, DC), many favor Sanders.

According to the latest polling, the Vermont Senator leads Clinton in West Virginia and Oregon. He is gaining in Kentucky and New Mexico. He could sweep Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota as well.

If this happens, it will create a showdown for the ages in California, the largest state in the country (California doesn’t vote until June 7th). Sanders has vowed to run an “unprecedented grassroots campaign” in the Golden State and has already sent dozens of his top staffers to set up the campaign infrastructure.

Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 300 pledged delegates. If he can pull off a string of late victories he will close the gap substantially heading into California, where 475 delegates are up for grabs (more than enough to flip the race in his favor).

If this scenario holds true, neither candidate will have the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination, which means the Democrats are headed for a contested convention in July.

 

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

FDR at 1932 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Will There Be A Democratic Contested Convention?

Sanders can take some solace in the fact that the last Democrat to win a contested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the godfather of the Democratic Socialist movement that Sanders now champions.

Many have predicted that in the case of a contested convention, Sanders’ army of revolutionaries will flood the city of Philadelphia, exerting massive pressure on super-delegates (party elites who can change their vote) to switch from team Clinton to team Sanders.

Also aiding Sanders is the fact that super-delegates in states that Sanders won big will face enormous backlash if they side with Clinton and go against the will of their constituents. They will also be inundated with polls showing Sanders as the stronger general election candidate (nearly every national poll shows Sanders beating Trump by much larger margins than Clinton).

While Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are only slightly better than Trump, Sanders remains a massively popular figure nationwide. He is the only candidate left in the race with a net-positive favorability rating. He also appeals to a much wider audience than Clinton. Sanders has incredible support among young people and independents, two constituencies that are key to winning the general election in November.

Long story short, if you believe Sanders can shock the world and pull off the upset, you should place your bet on him now, as his numbers are sure to improve with a series of wins down the stretch. Simply put, Sanders’ value will never be higher than it is now.

We are already starting to see this trend take place. After winning Indiana, Sanders’ 2016 odds rose from +2000 to +1400 at BetOnline, while his nomination odds rose from +1400 to +1000. This means that a $100 bet on Sanders to win the nomination would pay out +1000, while a $100 bet on Sanders to win the White House would pay out $1400.

On the flip side, if you view the Sanders comeback as a progressive fantasy that has no shot of actually taking place, you shouldn’t place your bet on Hillary right now, as her odds are sky-high (she is currently -240 to win the White House at BetOnline. This means you would have to risk $240 in order to win $100). More closely, you would be better suited to wait for Sanders to win a few contests, which will deflate Clinton’s odds, giving Hillary backers a better price.

What do you think?

Is Clinton still a shoo-in? Can Trump win in November? Or will Sanders pull off the greatest upset in modern political history?

 

Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights

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