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Washington Report February 9, 2018
09 Feb 2018

Washington Report February 9, 2018

Dumbest Shutdown Ever … Your Government: OPEN … Learning to Love Deficit Spending … Mitch & Chuck … Tens Of Billions Of Dollars Can Soothe Any Hard Feelings … Chaos in the West Wing … How Did Your First Day Go, Jay? … The PARADE Act …  and other news of the week.

Let the games (Olympic) begin!


Joyce Rubenstein


Dumbest Shutdown Ever

While You Were Sleeping Politico “IT WAS A VERY LATE NIGHT — or early morning — in the U.S. Capitol, where Republican Washington plunged into its second government shutdown of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. This time it was SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY.) who dragged out a filibuster until the wee hours of the morning because of what he termed profligate spending. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE between the House and the Senate is the Senate vote was never truly in doubt. The Senate voted 73-26 to end debate and advance the two-year budget bill. THE HOUSE gaveled into session at 3:21 a.m. with senior aides — and many members of GOP and Democratic leadership — unsure whether they would be able to pass the two-year budget deal.


Your Government:  Open.

Confused, stifled, frustrated — well, some of them. Many of them are quite happy with the outcome. Many of them pretend they’re unhappy, but are actually quite pleased. Washington, man. Whatta town.

HOUSE FINAL VOTE TALLY: 240-186. THE TWO-YEAR BUDGET — with hundreds of billions of dollars in fresh federal spending — passed the House and Senate. The President signed the bill this morning.

73 HOUSE DEMOCRATS voted for the budget, and 119 voted no.GOVERNMENT IS FUNDED until March 23 and the debt ceiling is lifted into 2019. RYAN says the House will now move to work on a DACA solution. 67 HOUSE REPUBLICANS voted against the bill. This might seem like a lot, but this was a big, pricey budget. We’re shocked 167 REPUBLICANS voted for the budget. That’s a big vote for GOP leadership, especially on a bill with nearly $400 billion in new spending, and a debt ceiling lift.

IF YOU TOLD US a few months ago that Republicans would pass a massive budget and debt limit and Paul Ryan would not be in mortal danger, we would’ve laughed.”


Highlights of Budget Deal

Politico “After months of negotiation … total cost of the package, including disaster aid and tax provisions, approaches $500 billion.


— Raises spending levels by $300 billion over two years. The Pentagon would see a $80 billion boost for fiscal 2018, and another $85 billion in fiscal 2019. Domestic funding would increase $63 billion in fiscal 2018, and $68 billion in fiscal 2019.

— Raises the debt limit through March 2019, through the midterm elections.

— Provides $89.3 billion in disaster recovery mostly targeted at Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The package also includes billions for other disasters, including wildfires and droughts, going back four years.

— Extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional four years. The program will now be funded through 2028.

— Revives a bloc of three-dozen tax “extenders,” largely related to energy. Most are retroactive for one year.

— Restores eight tax breaks known as “Medicare extenders,” including eliminating the Medicare funding cap on physical therapy, a long-sought health policy priority.

— Includes stopgap spending to avert a government shutdown before a midnight Thursday deadline.

Learning to Love Budget Deficits

Politico “This bill … is as major a spending bill as Washington has seen since the stimulus in 2009. If Barack Obama proposed this, he would’ve been laughed out of the room. REMEMBER: In 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which attempted to, well, control what many Republicans considered profligate spending. They’re undoing that with this bill. WaPo “Republicans are completely reversing themselves on the deficit.”


Mitch & Chuck

Politico “Two weeks ago, the Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer could barely look at each other on the floor as Congress careened into a government shutdown. Their relationship was considered so badly frayed that a bipartisan group of lawmakers intervened to help them save face and temporarily end the impasse. YET on Wednesday, the two happily linked arms and delivered a major budget deal containing eye-popping spending increases and clear political benefits for both sides as lawmakers head into a crucial midterm election season. It just shows how tens of billions of appropriately scattered dollars can soothe any hard feelings.”


Chaos In The West Wing

Axios “The Rob Porter crisis has become a John Kelly crisis, and it has now totally engulfed the West Wing. White House staff — especially Porter’s close friendship circle — are shell-shocked by the allegations of domestic abuse by the departing Staff Secretary. President Trump is enraged about the situation, though he still feels that it hasn’t touched him.

The bottom line: Trump’s affection for his chief of staff is gone, and Kelly has lost the goodwill of much of his staff.

IF YOU READ ONLY ONE SENTENCE: The president is mulling potential replacements, though aides doubt he has it in him to actually fire the retired general.

Where it stands: Kelly still has not adequately answered when he became aware of the horrific allegations against Porter. Nor have the other senior officials who should have had visibility. The official White House line — that Kelly only became “fully aware” of the domestic assault allegations when the Daily Mail story broke — doesn’t pass the smell test:

– Both of Porter’s ex-wives told the FBI about their claims.

– There was a police report.

– There was a restraining order.

– There are photos.


All of this was part of his background checks which never passed muster. The big picture: In any major corporation in America, Porter would have been escorted out the door the minute senior officials learned of these allegations. WHY IT MATTER: This White House, already short on high-powered, experienced talent, is bleeding manpower — and brainpower. At the same time, the chaos scares off reinforcements. Two top White House officials [said] this is the single greatest threat to American governance and security right now.”


Chaos In The Markets

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 entered correction territory for the first time in two years,” The Wall Street Journal reports: “The Dow hadn’t been in a correction — a decline of at least 10% from a recent high [Jan. 26 … 14 days ago!] — since February 2016.”

BUT, BUT, BUT … Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University, in NYTs, “For the vast majority of Americans, fluctuations in the stock market have relatively little effect on their wealth, or well-being, for that matter.”


How Did Your First Day Go, Jay?

Jerome “Jay” Powell, became Fed chair in a rocky week …

“Souped up growth … Fiscal policy is adding to demand even as the economy is running hot”: “Volatility is back. … [T]he team that is steering this experiment, both in the White House and the Federal Reserve, is the most inexperienced in recent memory. Whether the outcome is boom or bust, it is going to be a wild ride.”(The Economist)

Bloomberg Businessweek … “The new Fed chief will butt heads with the president if rate increases cool economic growth. … Investors have come to believe that the Fed, under new leadership, is serious about raising rates to prevent inflationary overheating of the economy.”


Building A Wall

CBS News “In a sign of increasing partisan hostilities, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee plan to construct a wall – a physical partition – separating Republican and Democratic staff members in the committee’s secure spaces, according to multiple committee sources. It’s expected to happen this spring. For now, some Republican committee members deny knowing anything about it, while strongly suggesting the division is the brainchild of the committee’s chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California.”



(Preventing the Allocation of Resources for Absurd Defense Expenditures)

USAToday “Lawmakers are … using acronyms to make their point even more obvious. House Dems on Thursday introduced the PARADE Act which aims to keep taxpayers from footing the bill if President Trump’s dreams of a military parade do, indeed, come to fruition. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, introduced the legislation “to prevent taxpayer funded resources to bring an authoritarian-inspired show-of-force to life,” a statement from his office reads.

  1. “Do you think a military parade is a good idea? (from NBC’s Frank Thorpe)
  2. “I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud. America is the most powerful country in all of human history, everybody knows it, and we don’t need to show it off.”

— Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), on President Trump’s desire to hold a military parade in Washington. (NYTs)



Roll Call “Legal experts dispute a claim from some senior Trump administration officials that President Donald Trump lacks the legal authority to extend his own deadline for ending an immigration program that protects nearly 700,00 people from deportation.

Senior White House and Cabinet officials in recent days have sent mixed messages about whether Trump could merely amend a September executive order that gave Congress until March 5 to legalize the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

EIGHT HOURS House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor … for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms,” per the WashPost:

“The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from ‘dreamers’ and citing Bible passages.” Why it matters: “Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.”

LET’S BE CLEAR — There was never going to be a vote on any immigration bills right now. Republicans stood firm that immigration action would begin after this budget process. Dems eventually relented.


Don’t Call It A Wave

Cook Political Report released its latest ratings for House races, and it shifted 21 RACES towards Democrats. Three races — CA-10, MN-03 and NY-22 moved from “lean R” to tossup and three open seats — NH-01, NJ-02 and PA-07 moved from toss-up to “lean D.”

— “Democrats expand battleground, target 101 GOP seats,” by NBC News’  “At House Democrats’ annual conference Thursday, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., the chairman of the [DCCC], is expected to tell colleagues the committee is expanding the battleground to include 101 Republicans – the largest in a decade, a Democratic source familiar with the matter told NBC News. The seven new targets push Democrats even deeper into Republican territory in South Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas. And they include the Ohio seat held by the man charged with defending the GOP’s majority, [NRCC] Chair Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio. (Republicans are also targeting Lujan.)”

Air Wars

VoteVets … is going up with a $1 million buy boosting Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The ad aims to counter a $1.5 million buy from the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America … The VoteVets ad will run for the next three weeks on television and digital.”

What Chuck Is Reading

Bloomberg “Senate Dems in this year’s toughest re-election races have raised millions more than their Republican opponents as the party looks to turn donor anger over President Donald Trump into success at the polls in November. The 10 incumbents facing re-election in states won by Trump raised $19.9 million during the last three months of 2017, while 24 Republicans competing in primaries to select their challengers raised $6.6 million … The Democrats had a combined $71.3 million in their campaign accounts as of the end of the year, nearly four times more than the Republican candidates, which had about $20 million and must still fund primary campaigns.



Axios “New York Times Co. subscription revenue passed $1 billion last year, the paper reports: …  Also, the company said it added 157,000 net digital-only subscriptions in the fourth quarter of the year.

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