6 Things You Need To Know Right Now: Beyond Syria

iStock_000004352641XSmallOne of the many consequences of the mess that is Syria is that much of the President’s fall agenda, and Congress’ first homework assignments upon return from summer break, are being pushed to the side. As our attention is once again diverted to foreign policy rabbit holes, we are siphoning off any focus on domestic matters.

For this week’s “6 Things You Need to Know Right Now,” here are six stories that are falling through the cracks:

1. Legislation on NSA Surveillance. On Wednesday, President Obama participated in a news conference with the Prime Minister of Sweden on a stop-over on his way to the G20 summit in Russia. The international community remains curious about how much we’re spying on them, so the questions inevitably started flying about how the United States will limit the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), if at all. During the press conference, the President for the first time acknowledged the possibility of legislation to rein the agency back in. Proving he knew his audience, the President said the NSA’s activities were particularly invasive where they were directed at surveilling other governments. It is highly doubtful, though, that the administration will dedicate serious resources to redirection of the NSA as we try to figure out exactly what Syria is doing in Syria.

2. Bye-Bye Ben, Hello ???. Ben Bernanke’s days of being chairman of the Federal Reserve are numbered, and President Obama needs to nominate his replacement. The President’s first choice is his former adviser, Lawrence Summers. Trouble is, Summers isn’t too popular, especially since he’s been an advocate of the deregulation of Wall Street, and he could have a hard time winning confirmation. The other top contender is Janet Yellen, who has been the Fed’s vice chair since 2010. Now, with limited time for a major battle over a nomination, President Obama has been forced to delay even his announcement of who he has picked.

3. No Room For Immigration. Congress has 39 – THIRTY-NINE!! – “working days” between now and the end of 2013. That means there has never been much time for a policy debate over immigration, and whatever time there was has shrunk even further thanks to the crisis in Syria. None of the legislative proposals coming out of the House have so far dealt with a “path to citizenship,” and it is difficult to see how pen will get put to paper on that topic; between considering President Obama’s request to use force in Syria and the looming debt ceiling fiasco in October, recrafting the nation’s position on citizenship doesn’t seem feasible for a window that’s shorter than the one required to get a provisional driver’s license.

4. Speaking of Budget Fights…. Authorized use of force in Syria might actually delay a budget fight. ACG Analytics, an investment research firm, predicts that Congress will grant a “temporary” extension of the debt ceiling, largely because “[w]ith the House only scheduled to be in session for nine days in September and a  debate on military action in Syria scheduled as the first order of business,  there is no time for political theatrics over the FY14 budget.” Don’t worry, though. ACG still foresees Congress waiting until the 11th hour to issue the extension, so we’ll enjoy plenty of volatility.

5. No Energy for Energy. President Obama announced a climate action plan in June. At the end of August, the Energy Department announced two new energy efficiency rules for commercial refrigeration. Those rules had been under consideration since well before the President’s plan announcement. In fact, those rules had been under consideration for nearly two years. At that pace, Syria has probably set us back on further energy initiatives by 10 to 15 years.

6. BEN AFFLECK WAS CAST AS BATMAN!!! So, yeah. We’ve got a buffet of issues to contend with, from national security to the economy to immigration. But first thing’s first, and the first thing that rang our collective alarm bell was the news that BEN AFFLECK HAD BEEN CAST AS BATMAN FOR THE 6,345TH INSTALLMENT OF THAT FILM FRANCHISE. Twitter erupted in outrage, Facebook was just a collection of mopey frowns, and everyone who has ever had an opinion agreed the proper one for this news was righteous indignation. The man has won Oscars, but that doesn’t mean he knows what to do in Lycra and an eye-mask, am I right?!? Despite the grave implications of this Hollywood “decision-making,” everyone is focusing on flesh-and-bone bad guys and ignoring imaginary caped crusaders. It’s disgusting.

Don’t forget to check in next week for the “6 Things” you’ll need to know. Unless, of course, you’re writing the next great American tweet about how Ben Affleck is so incredibly miscast. In that case, keep drafting, my friend.

Associate Editor Abby Diaz is a mother, wife and lawyer who shares her opinions and her sarcasm while blogging about current events at What’s Left Over. Hailed by readers as “hilarious,” “insightful” and “related to me,” she is sure to cover a subject that resonates with you. Assuming you care about things like life, entertainment, and/or family. If reading full paragraphs is too much for you, enjoy Abby over at Facebook or Twitter.

Image via iStockphoto

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