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Washington Report April 21, 2017
21 Apr 2017

Washington Report April 21, 2017

Four Workdays To-Go …”There’s No Education In The Second Kick Of The Mule” … The 100-Day Meh Metric … That Island In The Pacific Is The 50th State … Thiiiiisss Close … Across the Pond … How Did the Trump Administration Lose An Aircraft Carrier … and other news of the week.

Have a great weekend.

Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


THE FUNDING FIGHT Politico “The deadline to keep the federal government open is just about here, but a deal is far from done. With just four workdays left until government funding expires, lawmakers return next week to all the same sticking points that have made full-year funding so elusive and now threaten a government shutdown. Working down to the wire on a spending package is nothing new for the modern Congress. And the odds are against a funding lapse. But both parties see the must-pass funding bill as leverage to secure their priorities, making the situation dicey. Appropriators from both parties have made progress in negotiations, but aides say legislation to fund the government through September is unlikely to be unveiled before the recess is up. In fact, a one-week extension to give Congress more time to work is increasingly likely, as a slew of thorny political issues remain. Here are the five biggest obstacles to a deal:

1. Border Wall Securing the $1.4 billion down payment would help Trump fulfill a top campaign promise but it’s facing stiff Democratic resistance. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said adding wall funding would be “a loser” — finding few Democratic votes while even losing some Republicans.

2. Sanctuary Cities One of the latest threats to a bipartisan accord comes directly from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney. The former conservative GOP lawmaker has been privately urging Republicans to include a provision blocking federal grants for any city that doesn’t enforce federal immigration law. The proposal — which could affect more than 300 cities nationwide — has been received coolly, even among some Republicans who fear it could backfire. Senior GOP lawmakers want to keep Mulvaney’s proposal out of the legislation, knowing an attempt to strip funding from so-called sanctuary cities would spur Democrats to abandon talks and put Washington on a path to a shutdown.

3. Pentagon Boost While most Democratic lawmakers aren’t completely opposed to the inclusion of extra defense spending, many are wary of the president’s $30 billion supplemental request — especially as long as the White House also seeks $18 billion in cuts to domestic agencies for this fiscal year. That the request is included in the same package as funding for border wall construction has only further complicated prospects for the extra Pentagon cash.

4. Obamacare Subsidies The 2010 health care law is again in the middle of a funding fight, but this time, it’s Democrats who are making an issue of it. Democratic leaders declared that any spending bill must provide money for a key Obamacare subsidy program after Trump threatened to defund the cost-sharing subsidies; the president sees the program as a way to force Democrats to the negotiating table. In the wake of last month’s Obamacare repeal meltdown by the House GOP, Republicans are in no mood to further prop up the law. But key health and business lobbies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say GOP leaders may have no choice if they want to prevent an imminent collapse of the individual insurance marketplace. Another option is simply for the Trump administration to continue making the payments and avoid any final decision in the spending bill.

5. Coal Miners’ Benefits Congress was hours away from a government shutdown last fall over a disputed miners’ health care program. Now, the benefits of 16,000 retired workers and federal funding are again on the line. Democrats and some coal country Republicans have insisted on a long-term solution for the workers’ health care as well as a separate pension fund, but a 10-year fix could cost about $3 billion and is running into opposition among conservative groups like The Heritage Foundation along with House GOP budget hawks. With coal-friendly Trump in the White House and a handful of key senators up for reelection, aides from both parties say they expect at least a temporary extension of health benefits in any final deal.”

Politico “The White House, under internal pressure to show legislative achievements ahead of the 100-day mark, is gearing up for a government-shutdown fight. … It is a risky gambit. With almost uniform Democratic opposition to nearly all of the Trump administration’s spending proposals, the fight could lead to a government shutdown next Friday … right before the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. Officials could also strike a one-week compromise, giving them more time for a broader agreement.”


THIS IS GETTING SILLY Politico “Republicans are putting the “finishing touches” on a new health-care proposal. The following things are true: leaders of the House Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group have been talking and have produced a series of changes to the GOP health-care bill. No one — ESPECIALLY the White House — has any idea if this will pass. The new legislation hasn’t been whipped by GOP leaders. And there isn’t a single person in the senior leadership of the White House who has passed a bill in Congress … The GOP leadership in the House is skeptical of a vote next week. … Don’t expect Speaker Paul Ryan to put a health care bill on the floor unless he knows it will pass.”

NOTE: For those interested, the new Healthcare proposal retains Essential Health Benefits – standards imposed by the ACA, which requires insurance policies to cover eventualities such as hospitalization, maternity and emergency care — basically, all the things you’d ever need health insurance for. [It] also appears to maintain the ACA’s guarantees that anyone could buy health insurance, including those with preexisting conditions, and that parents could keep adult children on their policies until age 26. THE CATCH “… the proposal gives states the right to obtain waivers exempting them from the Essential Health Benefits standards. They would also be able to obtain waivers from the preexisting conditions requirement by creating a “high-risk pool” to provide coverage for those who are unwell. There would no longer be a prohibition, however, against charging “high-risk” individuals more — so much more, in fact, that they would potentially be priced out of the market. … Unchanged from last month’s failed bill are provisions that would strip massive amounts of money out of Medicaid, by far the nation’s biggest source of payments for nursing-home care. (WashPo)

“There’ no education in the second kick of the mule.”
– Legendary Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn


THE ‘100-DAY’ MEH METRIC The Fix “It’s somewhat of an arbitrary deadline, yes. There’s no rule that presidents have to have signed X number of bills into law by the first 100 days of their presidency or else. Nonetheless, it’s a deadline that presidents since FDR have been measured up against. And no modern president who has struggled in the first 100 days has suddenly revved up in the next 100, nor in the next couple of years. Presidents who failed to sign any major piece of legislation in the first 100 days — especially presidents whose parties also controlled Congress — have sputtered in their first couple of years, too, said Brooklyn College history professor and presidential scholar Robert David Johnson. And that should be a major warning sign to President Trump, who on Friday tacitly acknowledged he has had a lackluster start. JIMMY A comparable parallel, Johnson said, was President Jimmy Carter, who struggled to whip up excitement within a Democratic-controlled Congress for pretty much anything, his first 100 days and beyond. He signed an energy bill a year and a half in, but it wasn’t what he wanted, and that “pretty much sucked the oxygen out of his presidency.” With regard to failure, a meh 100 days has historically been a pretty good measure of a meh first few years. Stay tuned.

(Define ‘meh’ – expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.)

“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.
President Trump, remarks in Kenosha, WI. April 18, 2017

THE NUMBERS The Fix “… the 100 day mark … a milestone, by which all presidents have been measured since FDR’s whirlwind of action when he took office in the midst of the Great Depression. President Trump appears especially conscious of this marker. During the presidential campaign, he even issued a list of 60 promises that he said he would fulfill in his first 100 days. … We’ve been tracking Trump’s promises, and so far he has not taken action on 60% of the promises — and he’s broken five of them, such as his pledge to label China as a currency manipulator. Yet here’s the president declaring that he has accomplished more in his first 90 days than any previous president. So how does he stack up? EXECUTIVE ACTIONS … as of April 19 Trump had issued 24 executive orders, 22 presidential memorandums and 20 proclamations. One of his executive orders, imposing a travel ban from certain Muslim-majority countries, was a redo of an earlier executive order that had been blocked in the courts. But the new one has also been stymied by court challenges and thus has not been implemented. To some extent, it’s difficult to compare executive orders and memorandums among presidents, because only executive orders are numbered, but it’s somewhat arbitrary how something is labeled. In any case, Trump’s first 90 days of executive actions do not stand out as especially unusual. Meanwhile, Trump is woefully behind in presidential appointments, especially in naming people for Senate-confirmed posts. LEGISLATION … 28 bills signed … 13 disapprove of major regulations put in place by Obama, which signifies a reversal of action, not new action. Other bills include ‘minor or housekeeping’ bills – naming a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic or creating a waiver to allow Def Sec Mattis to be appointed. No major pieces of legislation signed (there were 76 bills singed into law by FDR). Excellent read on all this ….


THE REVOLVING DOOR Politico “Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz — shocked the political establishment when he announced his retirement earlier this week. Chaffetz, 50, is leaving a high-profile perch. He is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — the top investigatory body in the chamber.


MISSING CYBER PLAN Politico “Thursday, Trump hit his 90-day mark. He pledged in January to ‘appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office’ to develop a program for countering hackers, but no one seems to know who’s in charge of developing it or where it is.”


ATTACK ON A FEDERAL JUDGE The Fix “President Trump’s AG, Jeff Sessions, is suggesting that a judge from Hawaii — which he dismissively labels “an island in the Pacific” — should not be able to strike down Trump’s travel ban.There are a few problems with this. 1.Hawaii is a state and has been since 1959. Dismissing it as “an island in the Pacific” is the kind of thing that will earn you the pleasure of apologizing to an entire state. We’ll start the countdown clock. 2. The judge isn’t a Hawaiian judge, per se. Derrick Watson is actually a federal judge who happens to serve on a district court in Hawaii. And in case you were wondering, he has some of that all-important mainland experience and perspective, having worked as a lawyer in San Francisco.3. Hawaii does have major ports of entry, with international travelers arriving regularly. (We hear the beaches are nice or something?) Hence, it is affected by Trump’s travel ban.

@brianschatz .. Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.
– Dem Senator from Hawaii


ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER EXECUTIVE ORDER Politico “President Trump on Friday plans to order a review of key financial rules – less than three months after he directed an even broader examination of Wall Street regulations, according to a White House official. Trump will send a signal that two important regulatory powers adopted in the wake of the financial crisis are in the crosshairs, along with tax rules put out by the Obama administration last year. … “Trump will sign two presidential memos, one of which will direct Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to examine the government’s so-called orderly liquidation authority to wind down failing megabanks outside of bankruptcy court. … Another memo will examine the risks of placing ‘systemically important’ nonbank financial firms under the oversight of the Federal Reserve, which subjects them to stricter regulation, according to the official.” FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK Commerce Sec.Ross has also been tasked with coming up with a report on Trump’s executive order to “Buy American, Hire American” and potential abuse of H-1B visas. He is also supposed to be taking the lead on re-negotiating trade deals.”


THIIISSS CLOSE theSkimm “Georgia held a special election for its empty House seat and came thiiiss close to handing it to a Democrat. For the first time in decades. Everyone and their pundit mother has been watching this race, since Georgia is a deep-red state – and it looked like 30-year-old newbie Dem Jon Ossoff was going to pull off a W. He needed at least 50% of the vote to win outright and avoid a runoff in June. He didn’t get the votes, but only by a tiny bit. So, a runoff it is. This comes a week after a special election in Kansas went to the GOP candidate by just a few points, in what was supposed to be an easy win. Both races are seen as an early test for how the GOP is doing in the Trump era. And whether progressives have any real momentum. Political fighting gloves, on.”


HOW TRUMP BLEW UP THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA Politico Magazine “The right-wing media won the presidency-but lost control of their audience. Inside the new power dynamics roiling Fox, Breitbart and the Wall Street Journal” Click Here.

FORCED OUT AT FOX theSkimm Wednesday, Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” shortened its name to “The Factor.” WAIT…BACK UP Yesterday, it came out that ousted Fox News star Bill O’Reilly is reportedly leaving his job with some pretty heavy pockets…filled with up to $25 million. Earlier this month it came out that O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company have paid $13 million over the years to settle several sexual harassment allegations against him. This went back 15 years. It didn’t help that several other women have also come forward with allegations in recent days. O’Reilly says ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’ But dozens of advertisers started saying ‘we’ll take our money elsewhere.’ So earlier this week, Fox showed O’Reilly the door. His $25 million payout is equal to his annual salary. This comes months after former Fox News head Roger Ailes was also ousted due to multiple sexual harassment allegations. And left with more than $40 million. Translation: Fox has spent about $65 million in the last year on two men accused of sexual harassment by multiple women at the company. So there’s that.”


CAN I GET A WAIVER, PLEASE? theSkimm “Exxon Mobilt, the oil company, wants permission to sidestep US sanctions against Russia in order to do biz there. And it’s looking like that request could get denied. Reminder: back in 2014, the US slapped Russia with some sanctions over its meddling in Ukraine. These sanctions aren’t so convenient for Exxon. That’s because in 2012, former Exxon CEO and now Sec. of State Rex Tillerson signed a major deal with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Exxon has said it could lose $1 billion if that relationship goes south. So every year since the sanctions were announced, Exxon has reportedly gotten a waiver — aka a ‘get out of sanction rules free card’ — from the Treasury Dept. Now, it’s asking for another one. But this comes as US-Russia relations are at a low point thanks to things like Russia’s interference with the US presidential election. So it’s unclear if the US gov will give Exxon the green light this time. Slicky situation.”

— @SenJohnMcCain at 4:09 p.m.: “Are they crazy? @WSJ: ‘Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume #Russia Oil Venture'”


ACROSS THE POND theSkimm “British Prime Minister Theresa May said she’s moving the country’s parliamentary election up. By three years. CAN SHE DO THAT? Yup. The prime minister has the power to call for a ‘snap election,’ meaning earlier than planned. May’s moving the calendar invite up from 2020 to this June. WHY’S THAT? Because Brexit Divorce talks with the EU are due to start in June. So May would like this locked up before then. Also, British parliament gets the final ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on whatever deal she cuts. Right now, May’s party is in charge, but just barely. The opposition parties might not make the final vote easy on her. So she’s crossing her fingers that this new election timeline will give her a more comfy majority. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Parliament will probably give her the thumbs up to make this snap election official. Then candidates will go on a campaign sprint. Right now, May’s party is leading in the polls – by a lot. When May stepped into power last year, she inherited a divided parliament and a Brexit-shaped problem to solve. If her party wins more seats in this election, she can ride into Brexit talks knowing she’s got solid support back home.

HOW DID THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION LOSE AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER? Remember that U.S. aircraft carrier that was headed to the Korean Peninsula as both the Trump administration and North Korea began to talk tough with one another? It turns out it wasn’t — at least, not when we were led to think it was. Just over a week ago, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal to North Korea and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. “We’re sending an armada,” Mr. Trump said to Fox News last Tuesday afternoon.The Trump administration is again facing questions about why it [said] that the USS Carl Vinson was headed to North Korea starting 10 days ago. Newly discovered photos show that it was actually traveling in the other direction — into the Indian Ocean — as recently as four days ago.

The boat blunder is only the latest example of how failure to communicate between units is undermining the Trump administration’s ability to articulate and execute a policy. In this case, the White House blames the Pentagon for providing misleading information and a premature press release.

On Monday, it was the White House and the State Department that were odds. Even as State was expressing concerns about the apparently tainted referendum process that handed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, Trump was calling Erdogan and offering what appeared, from the White House’s official statement, to be full-throated congratulations on the result, devoid of any concern for electoral legitimacy or worries about Erdogan’s increasingly repressive governance.

Last week, the administration was also making a hash of its messaging on another hotspot, Syria. In the wake of missile strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the world wanted to know what Trump’s strategy in Syria would be. Answers were hard to come by. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, on the one hand, that “any and all” crimes against innocents would be subject to U.S. punishment and yet that the U.S. expected the political process in Syria to decide Assad’s fate. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was saying elsewhere, at the same time, that there was no political solution in sight, and suggesting that the U.S. would pursue a strategy of regime change.”

WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE? NYTs “When Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the military’s top commander in the Pacific, ordered the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson “to sail north” from Singapore this month, he was oblivious to the larger – and incorrect – impression that he was rushing a naval strike force to confront an increasingly belligerent North Korea. Four days later, when Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. dropped the most powerful conventional weapon in the American arsenal on Islamic State fighters in a tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan, he not only seized headlines around the world but also unintentionally signaled to dictators in Syria and North Korea that they might be the next target of what the Pentagon called the ‘mother of all bombs.’ Instead of simply achieving tactical objectives, the timing of their actions surprised their bosses at the Pentagon, upset edgy allies and caught the White House flat-footed. Taken together, the episodes illustrate how even the military’s most seasoned four-star field commanders can fail to consider the broader political or strategic ramifications of their operational decisions, and some current and former senior officials suggested that President Trump’s decision to unshackle the military from Obama-era constraints to intensify the fight against terrorists risked even more miscues.”

SWAPPING PRIVATE NUDE PHOTOS IS NOW A CRIME Navy Times “Posting nude pictures of service members without consent is now, for all intents and purposes, a crime in the Navy and Marine Corps — a response to the nude photo-sharing scandal that surfaced when a reporter outed a private Facebook group of Marines and sailors that was used at times to swap nudes’


TRUMP AND RUSSIA, THE BEGINNING NYTs “Ever since F.B.I. investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Mr. Page. So when he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention. That trip last July was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.”


YOU ARE NOT PARANOID theSkimm “Your headphones might be creeping on you. Earlier this week, Bose was hit with a class-action lawsuit that says the company spies on people who use its app to connect their wireless headphones with smartphones. As in Bose allegedly knows you’ve been bingeing on S-Town and listening to Drake on repeat. And then allegedly passes that info along to third-party data companies without telling you. All of which would be violating a little thing called privacy rights. Bose is radio silent on the whole thing.”

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