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Washington Report February 8, 2019
08 Feb 2019

Washington Report February 8, 2019

SOTU Takeaways …

  1. Trump did not acknowledge the new political reality in Washington.
    Each of the past four presidents, including Trump, had lost the House at some point during their presidency. And every one of them that came before Trump — Bill Clinton in 1995, George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2011 — nodded to that change. Not Trump. Instead, he barreled ahead with pitching his agenda.
  2. The speech was like whiplash.
    The president had some bipartisan overtures … But the speech went from optimistic vagueries (“Our most thrilling achievements are still ahead”) to misleading fears (calling a new caravan of Central American immigrants a “tremendous onslaught” and describing the Southern U.S. border as “very dangerous” and “lawless.” NPR fact-checked the claims here.) And Trump even fired this warning shot at Democrats about whether anything will get done: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. In response:

We will not surrender our constitutional responsibility for oversight.”
– Speaker Nancy Pelosi

3. There was news on North Korea.
Trump announced he would be meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second summit Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.

4. There wasn’t any progress on avoiding another shutdown.
The president spent a good chunk of the speech on immigration. He argued in favor of a wall: “Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives.”

5. He’s running; Trump’s speech was aimed at creating a choice between himself and Democrats.

6. Democratic women were a show of force.

7. Stacey Abrams fared pretty well.”

Deal Or Border Deal

Politico “Democrats and Republicans have been trading offers all week, with any deal likely to provide more funding for technology and perhaps some new money for fencing on the southern border with Mexico, according to senators and aides. Republicans were preparing a counter-offer to the latest Democratic proposal on Wednesday night, according to one senator familiar with negotiations. BIG QUESTION “Whether Trump will sign off on an agreement that’s sure to give him less than the $5.7 billion he previously demanded for a border wall during the recent 35-day partial government shutdown is not yet clear on Capitol Hill. But he’s likely to be presented with few other options: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes a short-term funding bill to extend talks and there’s no desire for the president to declare a national emergency among GOP leaders.

“‘Everybody is feeling increasingly upbeat about the possibility of getting a deal. The question is whether it’s something the president can sign,’ Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the GOP whip, said in an interview Thursday. ‘I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that.'”

Deal Or Green Deal

Politico “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) release[d] a blueprint for a Green New Deal on Thursday urging a ’10-year national mobilization’ for a speedy shift away from fossil fuels and calling for national health care coverage and job guarantees in a sweeping bid to remake the U.S. economy. … The resolution advocates for eliminating fossil fuels pollution and greenhouse gas emissions ‘as much as technologically feasible’ in agriculture and transportation, two of the major sources of climate change gases.”

Supreme Block

NYTs “The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say could have left the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions.The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. That coalition underscored the pivotal position the chief justice has assumed after the departure last year of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who used to hold the crucial vote in many closely divided cases, including ones concerning abortion.

The court’s brief order gave no reasons, and its action — a temporary stay — did not end the case. The court is likely to hear a challenge to the law on the merits in its next term, which starts in October.”

MRI of Trump Money

Congressional Democrats’ war with President Trump is about to get personal, Jonathan Swan reports: House Democrats, led by Chairman Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee, are about to begin investigating Trump’s family business.The Democrats are hiring staff with deep expertise at tracing cash flowing through complicated property transactions.
Why it matters: Democrats are marching across the red line Trump drew for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Between the lines: Of particular interest to the committee is an extraordinary series of cash purchases Trump made in the decade before his presidential campaign.”

For now: this is a message to the president that while he may not like being investigated, they control the House now and the power to investigate that comes with it. For later: they’re setting up a major talking point for Dem candidates in 2020. Yep, that Green New Deal has very little chance of passing in the current divided Congress. But expect it to be a big campaign issue.”

DOD Spending Boost

Inside Defense reports that the Defense Department is considering asking for $174 billion for its overseas contingency operations account, $105 billion more than last year. The OCO account is not subject to Budget Control Act caps, and the move is sure to anger congressional critics who’ve labeled it a “slush fund.” DO THE MATH: The BCA cap for fiscal 2020 is $576 billion, so once you add $174 billion you reach $750 billion — the very figure that Trump reportedly agreed to in December.

Massive Oil Trove

Axios … “off Guyana, on the South American coast, could make the impoverished former British colony one of the world’s wealthiest nations — in the league of petrostates like Qatar.
What’s new: Since 2016, Exxon has made a dozen discoveries in Guyana that now total more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable reserves. Why it matters: Guyana seems wholly unprepared for the avalanche of cash coming its way. It’s in political turmoil, with no plan in place for how to marshal and distribute the money among a population of just 780,000 people.”

The Dean Died

Former U.S. Rep. John David Dingell Jr., who was one of the U.S. House’s most powerful chairmen and helped write and pass some of the most consequential legislation in the nation’s history,” died yesterday at 92, the Detroit Free Press’s Todd Spangler writes.
“Dingell, of Dearborn, served nearly 60 years in the House, making him the longest-serving member in Congress’ history. His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who now holds his seat, confirmed his death. Dingell “helped write or otherwise played a role in passing the most significant measures of the era, including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, the Endangered Species Act and more.”

The Trailblazer Died

Frank Robinson, a trailblazing figure who was Major League Baseball’s first African-American manager and one of its greatest players during a career that spanned 21 seasons,” died yesterday at 83,’s Richard Justice writes. Robinson hit 586 home runs and was a 14-time All-Star and the only player to win Most Valuable Player Awards in both leagues — 1961 for the Reds in the National League, ’66 for the Orioles in the American League.”

“Just as Jackie Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color barrier in 1947 … opened doors for Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and many others to play in the Major Leagues, it was Frank Robinson [as player-manager for the Cleveland Indians in 1975] who paved the way for every minority manager.”

Bobblehead Museum

“A new museum in Milwaukee may well hold the largest collection of bobbleheads anyone has ever seen, displaying more than 6,500 figures of athletes, mascots, celebrities, animals, cartoon characters, politicians and more,” the AP notes.
…even one of Donald Trump from The Apprentice that says ‘You’re fired’ upon the push of a button.

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