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Washington Report Dec 8, 2017
08 Dec 2017

Washington Report Dec 8, 2017

Hitting Snooze …It’s Not About Farmers … CHIP … NRA’s Reciprocity Rights … Next Year In Jerusalem … It’s 2017. In America. Really. … The Silence Breakers … Oh, The Irony … and other news of the week.


Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


Hitting Snooze On A Government Shutdown

theSkimm “Continuing Resolution (CR) passes … President Trump still has to sign off. Congress needs to agree on a budget to keep the federal trains running. The due date for that was today. But yesterday, the House and Senate voted to give themselves an extension. Now, they have two weeks (till Dec.22nd) to resolve a few key issues, including …

DACA. The program protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that came to the US as kids from getting deported. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she doesn’t want a shutdown, but that she and the Dems won’t leave the Hill “without a DACA fix.” Also, Health Insurance. Congress is expected to hammer out a deal to keep the Affordable Care Act from collapsing. And, the military. The GOP wants to give it more money. Also, Trump wants funding for a US-Mexico border wall. Trump is expected to sign on the dotted line to keep the gov running for the next two weeks. In the meantime, Dems and Republicans are going back to the negotiating table.There’s only a week left before Congress technically goes on holiday break. Meaning it looks like Congress is heading into overtime to reach decisions that affect millions of people.

INTERESTING AND IMPORTANT DYNAMIC Politico “While House Democrats have toiled away in the minority, when it comes to government funding fights they have always been relevant because House Republicans haven’t been able to secure enough votes to pass stop-gap funding bills. That changed yesterday. Republicans stood together and passed the two-week bill without the help of Democrats. WILL IT LAST? — Doubtful. Conservative Republicans aren’t eager to vote for whatever funding bill comes next — they’re already freaking out about the budget cap deal. They will put up more of a fight when it comes to a massive package to keep government funded through 2018.

REMINDER. SHUTDOWNS ARE EXPENSIVE. WaPo “On Wednesday, S&P Global analysts said a shutdown could cost the economy about $6.5 billion per week, or about 0.2% of gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter of 2017, as the impact of furloughing federal employees ripples across the country.


Infrastructure Update

(H/T Judson Greif) Infrastructure continues to take a back seat to tax legislation, however information was released this week that a “principles document” is likely to be released in January. Funding for an infrastructure package is greatly diminished if the tax bill passes. PABs are definitely on the table for the tax bill, however the administration remains very supportive of using private activity bonds and other tax preferred investment vehicles. (Define PAB – Tax-exempt bonds issued by or on behalf of local or state government for the purpose of providing special financing benefits for qualified projects. The financing is most often for projects of a private user, and the government generally does not pledge its credit.)


The House and the Senate have both passed a negotiated National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes a $700 billion defense policy bill that would exceed budget caps, approve more aircraft development, and give military personnel a raise. The final fiscal 2018 defense bill (H.R. 2810) also includes close to $66 billion in war funds that aren’t subject to statutory spending caps.


Hiding Behind Farmers

WaPo “If you didn’t know better, you might think some Republicans were trying to see how low they can drive public support for their tax plan. It’s already basement-dwelling, with lopsided majorities of voters consistently telling pollsters the GOP’s rewrite of the code will benefit the wealthy more than the middle class. On Thursday, 54 House Republicans banded together … to insist in conference negotiations on maintaining the House tax bill’s full repeal of the estate tax, rather than the Senate version, which doubles the current exemption to $22 million for couples.

TO BE CLEAR … since Congress’ succesive chipping away at the estate tax, the number of estates it captures has dwindled from 139,000 in 1977 to 52,000 in 2000 to just 5,500 this year. About half those subject to it would pay an average tax of roughly 9%. And while Trump’s campaign plan called for repealing the tax, the House-passed bill goes further by also protecting inherited assets from capital gains taxes they would otherwise face (Yes, Trump’s heirs would save an estimated $1.1 Billion in estate taxes. Hmmm.)

Proponents of full repeal, “hide behind farmers and small businesses, but estate tax revenues virtually all come from portfolio wealth. (Each year only around 80 — eight-zero — small businesses and farms pay any estate tax at all. And when you hear about family farms broken up to pay estate tax, remember: Nobody has ever come up with a modern example.) Once you’re up a $22 million exemption, the only people paying the estate tax are the hundred-millionaires and billionaires.”


CHIP Reauthorization

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is basically a piece of Medicaid targeted on young Americans. It was introduced in 1997, with bipartisan support. Last year it covered 8.9 million kids. But its funding expired more than two months ago. Republicans [in Congress] keep saying they’ll restore the money; state governments, which administer the program, will soon have to start cutting children off.

What’s the problem? The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.


NRA’s Highest Legislative Priority

Roll Call “… A week such as this one — already chockablock with headlines touching the Hill — seemed to the Republicans who run the place like an ideal time for making a bold hiding-in-plain-sight move. And so it was that the House [passed] legislation that has no chance whatsoever of becoming law and is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but nonetheless fulfills the GOP’s commitment to doing the bidding of an extremely potent force in its political base.

The bill would effectively permit gun owners to conceal and carry their weapons anywhere in the country — which is nothing less than the “highest legislative priority” of the NRA. Under the bill, for example, people from several states who have violent felony convictions would be free to board the New York City subway with a semiautomatic pistol hidden in their overcoats.

The vote was 231-198. Only 14 Republicans, half of them facing very competitive contests for new terms next fall, voted against the NRA’s wishes. Just six Democrats, two of them expecting a tough 2018 campaign, voted for the bill.

BUT, BUT, BUT … This gun bill was something different. That’s because the poison pill language creating “reciprocity rights for gun owners” — the euphemistic NRA term for nationalizing the rules for carrying concealed guns that are in effect in the most permissive states — was combined in the House with something of a legislative unicorn: the first, albeit quite modest, gun control legislation in almost two decades that has drawn genuine bipartisan support on the Hill as well as the backing of both gun control advocacy groups and the NRA. The bill would compel federal agencies, and give incentives to state governments, to better report offenses under their jurisdictions that would prohibit offenders from buying firearms.

The aim is to shore up the reliability of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS. Its limitations were laid bare last month after the massacre of more than two dozen worshipers inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when it came to light that the Air Force never reported to NICS the domestic violence court-martial that would have kept the assailant from buying his weapons.”


Reading The Tea Leaves

(H/T Will Stone) Looking at the recently release 2018 Congressional schedule … the scheduling of the lame duck session should tell you how things will proceed in the coming year. The Appropriation Bills will move through committee in May and June and likely nothing will happen. Predicting that most issues will get booted until after the 2018 election.

Also, worth watching in the weeks ahead — Member retirement announcements. There are usually many after Members return from the Christmas break but the attached spreadsheet shows you the filing deadlines by state and that will indicate when other retirements will likely be announced. (Click Here for Filing Deadlines.)


Next Year In Jerusalem?

Foreign Policy “the Trump administration announced the (eventual) move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, despite the pleas of virtually every ally not to do so.

… President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a severe blow to Palestinian hopes for a separate state. Although Mr. Trump said the U.S. still supported the idea, the chief Palestinian negotiator now favors a single state with equal civil rights. On Thursday, Hamas called for a new intifada, and protests erupted across the Middle East.

Axios “Pope Francis added his voice to Arab, Muslim and European objections to President Trump’s plan today to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “a move that could trigger violence in the region, derail a developing U.S. Mideast peace plan, and infuriate key allies in the Arab world and the West. The pope said he was “profoundly concerned,” and asked “that everyone respects the status quo of the city.” He called on the world for “wisdom and prudence” to avoid further conflict.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be an act of “madness” that would “plunge the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” (NBC)

The traditional problem with this decision: “No other countries have their embassies in Jerusalem, under a long-standing international consensus that the city’s status should be decided in a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the Washington Post reports.”


It’s 2017. In America. Really.

Axios “Nine women, on the record, have accused Alabama Republican Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, most when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. Moore’s spokesman says the women, who Mitch McConnell unambiguously believes, are criminals.

  • At a rally in September, one of the few African Americans in the audience asked Moore when America was last “great.” He responded: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”
  • President Trump has endorsed Moore, the Republican National Committee is helping elect him, and most Senate Republicans — while uncomfortable with him — have fallen silent on the allegations.
  • GOP sources tell us if Moore wins, senators are highly unlikely to fight to boot him.
  • A Washington Post poll found that nearly 6 in 10 white women in Alabama are likely to vote for Moore.

WaPo “For Democrats to win a Senate race in a state as red as Alabama, which President Trump carried by 28 points last year, everything needs to break their way. Doug Jones must persuade significant numbers of Republicans to back him in next week’s special election over Roy Moore, but victory also requires a level of black turnout not seen since Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Even with so much working in his favor, that remains a very tall order.”


There Is No End To What Trump Will Ask Of His Party

A must-read from conservative columnist David Brooks. “A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.

Now it’s clear that middle ground doesn’t exist. That’s because Donald Trump never stops asking. First, he asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.

Read More.


Person Of The Year

TIME magazine has announced its “Person of the Year.” It’s “The Silence Breakers: The voices that launched a movement.”

“It became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.”

“The #MeToo movement works only with men who can be shamed.” – Michelle Goldberg




Franken To Step Down

NYTs “Calling it the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, announced on Thursday that he would step down, even as he denied accusations of sexual misconduct.

“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”
– Al Franken


76 Years Ago

Pearl Harbor survivor Chuck Kohler, 94, salutes the audience after giving remarks during a remembrance ceremony aboard the USS Hornet Dec 7th, in Alameda, Calif. Kohler was 17 when he witnessed the first bomb dropped during the aerial attack as he manned a .50 caliber machine gun on Ford Island, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Kohler was injured by shrapnel, making him likely the first blood to have been shed at Pearl Harbor.

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