Year One … Oh, Sh*t … Alexander Hamilton … Dreamers … You Don’t NSAy … Ups & Downs … 2018 Watch … Issa Nother Retirement … House Wave Coming? Dems Senate Chances Overrated? … Bedtime Reading … Cell Phone Ban … and other news of the week.
The Winter Olympics begin one month from today in South Korea.
Republicans will be trying to keep government open, and squeeze through what will be a massively controversial immigration bill.
Legislative Update from our DC Team
– The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on water infrastructure as a “kick-off” for the Water Resourced Development Act Reauthorization effort for 2018
– Negotiations for federal funding beyond January 19th continued as Republicans and Democrats continued to press for policy issues to be included in the vehicle – in particular immigration (DACA fix) and funding for a border wall
-There are innumerable other issues that remain incomplete including lifting the debt ceiling – which is slated to be hit by early March – and a tax extenders package
INFRASTRUCTURE At the request of Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, Trump Administration officials, including Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, met with a bipartisan group of Senators on Monday. Following the meeting, Chairman Barrasso said that we might expect an infrastructure release “around the State of the Union.” The basic tenets for an infrastructure package remain, which include: 1) incentive-based/outcome driven funding and financing; 2) “transformative” projects; 3) rural projects and programs; and 4) regulatory “streamlining. There is no “pay for” expected from the Administration’s proposal.
APPROPRIATIONS By all accounts, an agreement over funding for appropriations bills is not an issue. The question remains, however, over immigration issues (more on that below). Most predict that cooler heads will prevail and an agreement will form before the end of the week; as discussed before there are few answers to many questions at this time.
FARM BILL House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway said on Tuesday that his panel aims to pass a farm bill in the first three months of this year. With that timeline, legislation should almost certainly be ready for release in the committee in the coming weeks. The current farm bill expires in September. It’s typically a five-year bill, but the latest version wasn’t enacted until 2014 after committee action that began in 2012. The emerging theme for this year’s renewal is to preserve voluntary conservation programs, protect crop insurance in a time of falling farm incomes, and fix aspects of the dairy and cotton programs that have left farmers vulnerable to downturns. There has been little debate over the status of the Rural Utility Service program which provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year in federal grants to rural water and waste utilities.
It is a cover as striking as a matchhead. For the newest cover of Time magazine, the sometime-viral artist Edel Rodriguez has rendered President Trump as the literal “fire and fury” that spawned Michael Wolff’s best-selling book of life inside the Trump White House.We used to live where the United States was a pretty steady country, and now you wake up every day and try to figure out where’s the next fire, where do we have to go, what do we have to try to contain,” the Cuban-born Rodriguez tells Time magazine. (WaPo)
On Sunday, Rodriguez shared on social media how he would have rendered the cover art for Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” He says it was his most retweeted image ever.”
WaPo “As of this morning, there is no pending nominee for 245 of the 626 jobs we’re tracking [according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service]. These represent about half of the roughly 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation. Among them: deputy secretary at Treasury and Commerce, director of the Census, director of the ATF, director of the Office on Violence Against Women at Justice and commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
At Veterans Affairs, no one has been tapped to be the undersecretary for health or benefits. At the Transportation Department, there is not a nominee to be administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. ALSO … Trump has not submitted nominees to direct the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the U.S. Geological Survey. He has also not picked someone to be assistant secretary of Interior for fish, wildlife and parks. … And no department has more unfilled slots that State, with 12 assistant secretary positions open.
theSkimm “Yesterday, President Trump reportedly asked lawmakers why the US accepts people from “sh*thole countries.”
What the Heck? This was during a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform. Lawmakers were briefing Trump on a potential deal to increase border security, and protect young immigrants brought to the US illegally as kids. As part of that deal, there’d reportedly be an end to the US’s visa lottery program – which accepts people from underrepresented countries. They also talked about restoring protections for people who come to the US after natural disasters and war. …and Trump reportedly asked lawmakers why “all these people from sh*thole countries” should be allowed into the US. He was referring to Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries. His suggestion: bring people in from Norway. We’ll let you make the connection.
This is the same man who on camera called Mexican immigrants “rapists.” And on camera said that “both sides” were to blame for violence following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. The White House isn’t denying these latest comments. … UNTIL TODAY Roll Call “Trump denied using the term “shithole countries.” And, in classic Trumpian form, he attempted to alter the day’s new coverage to focus on a bipartisan immigration overhaul proposal offered by Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Lindsey Graham — a plan he rejected during an Oval Office meeting that also featured immigration hawks from his White House and Congress…. Trump’s self defense of his reported description of Haiti and African countries came the morning after a senior White House spokesman released a statement that did not deny the president uttered the slur during the meeting; in fact, the spokesman also defended Trump’s underlying point.
DURBIN CONFIRMS Roll Call “Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) told reporters Friday that the widely reported vulgar comments by President Donald Trump on Thursday were said repeatedly. “I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” he said.
@JohnAvlon: “Worth noting that today is Alexander Hamilton’s Birthday – you know, the immigrant kid who came from the shithole of Nevis to create the USA”.
The Latest On Dreamers
Politico “Trump rebuffs Dreamers deal reached by senators,” “A bipartisan group of six senators has reached a deal that would shield Dreamers from deportation and make other changes to immigration laws and border security – but the framework has yet to win over the White House and other key players on Capitol Hill. The package negotiated by the senators includes $2.7 billion for border security, which includes Trump’s $1.6 billion request for wall planning and construction, as well as $1.1 billion for security infrastructure and technology. … “Lawmakers rushed to the White House for a hastily called meeting Thursday to present details of the Senate group’s plan to President Donald Trump, which he arranged after phone calls with Graham and Durbin earlier in the day. But White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said on Capitol Hill that the president has not yet signed off — and other influential Republicans said the negotiators had a long way to go.”
You Don’t NSAy
theSkimm “Yesterday, the House renewed a law that lets the NSA spy on foreigners without a warrant. Like eavesdrop on the texts or Facebook convos of suspected terrorists. Foreigners’ chats with Americans can also get swept up. Some lawmakers have been pushing for stricter privacy protections when dealing with the private convos of Americans. Yesterday before the vote, President Trump took to Twitter to bash the program. Which was confusing, since the White House had already said that its official position was that the law was fine as is. Then Trump said ‘nvm.’ (slang way to say ‘nevermind.’) The House renewed it without stricter privacy rules. The Senate still has to sign off.”
The Atlantic “A panel of judges struck down North Carolina’s map of congressional districts, ruling that the plan, which lawmakers acknowledge was designed to favor Republican candidates, violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court is considering whether Ohio’s procedure of removing people who haven’t voted in two years from the voter rolls violates federal law, with potentially far-reaching consequences. And the Department of Justice cited voting rights in a request that the Census Bureau collect data on citizenship—but census experts and civil-rights advocates say that adding such a question would obscure more than it would reveal.”
Ups And Downs
WALMART is upping wages and improving worker benefits. That’s the good news. The bad: it’s also closing dozens of stores. Walmart is the US’s largest private employer. Yesterday, it said it would bump employees up from a starting hourly wage of $9 to $11 – giving a nod to the new corporate tax cut. Hours later, the company said it’s shutting down more than 60 Sam’s Club stores. This could mean thousands of employees will be out of jobs.
MEDICAID The Trump administration gave states the go-ahead to put people on Medicaid to work. Medicaid provides health insurance to roughly 70 million low-income Americans. This new policy means states can now make able-bodied people on Medicare prove that they’re working or volunteering in order to keep it. The admin says this will improve their mental and physical health. Critics say it’ll take health insurance away from people who need it. (theSkimm)
“The White House is scrambling to avoid another special election disaster, this time in a Pennsylvania congressional district in the heart of Trump country. After a humiliating loss in the Alabama Senate race last month, the administration is drawing up ambitious plans that will kick off next Thursday when Trump travels to the conservative district to appear with Republican candidate Rick Saccone. It is unusual for a White House to expend so much political capital on a single House race, particularly in what’s typically seen as a safe Republican district. But the involvement underscores the high stakes confronting the administration as it approaches a midterm election where the party’s hold on the House majority is in grave danger. A loss in the working class Pennsylvania district, which the president won by 20 percentage points, would show that few GOP seats are safe.” (Politico)
ARIZONA Joe Arpaio, the polarizing 85-year-old immigration hard-liner pardoned by President Trump after a conviction for criminal contempt, announced on Tuesday that he is running in Arizona for the United States Senate.The contenders for the seat include Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat, and Kelli Ward, a conservative Republican and former state senator who aligns herself with Mr. Trump. Mr. Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, lost his own re-election bid for that post in 2016 to Paul Penzone, a Democrat and Phoenix police officer. (NYTs)
NORTH DAKOTA “Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) has decided against challenging North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp this November, rejecting pleas from President Donald Trump and leaving the GOP without a top-tier candidate against Heitkamp — a first-term Democratic senator seeking reelection in a state Trump won by 36 points in 2016.” (Politico)
Issa Nother Retirement
L.A. Times “Vista [CA] Republican Darrell Issa will not run for a 10th term in Congress, giving Democrats a much better chance of flipping a once reliable California Republican seat. Issa became the second California Republican to retire this week. On Monday, his fellow Southern California Republican Rep. Ed Royce announced he would not seek reelection.”
HOUSE WAVE COMING? NPR “There are now 31 Republicans who will not seek re-election in November: 19 who are retiring outright and another 12 who are running for higher office. … The last time a party had nearly that many members retire during a midterm year was in 1994 when 28 Democrats left, and the GOP subsequently took back control of Congress in the Republican Revolution.”
Dems Senate Chances in 2018 Overrated?
FiveThirtyEight “After Democrat Doug Jones won a stunning victory in Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate last month, lots of smart people … declared that the battle for Senate control in 2018 was a “toss-up.” Prediction markets largely concur; after Jones’s win, the betting odds of Democrats taking over the Senate shot up to about 45%.
I think this might be premature. Winning in Alabama certainly makes the Democrats’ path easier: They could now gain control of the Senate by retaining all of their own seats, plus picking up the Republican held-seats in purplish Nevada and Arizona. But they’re probably still the underdogs. DEMS FACE A TOUGH SENATE MAP “… I think most political observers had, until recently, been slow to recognize just how bad things had gotten for Republicans. But the Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18% points or more. Just how bad is this map for Democrats?
It’s bad enough that it may be the worst Senate map that any party has faced ever, or at least since direct election of senators began in 1913. It’s bad enough that Democrats could conceivably gain 35 or 40 seats in the House … and not pick up the two seats they need in the Senate. FOR DEEPER DIVE CLICK HERE.
Politico ‘138 Things Trump Did Last Year While You Weren’t Looking’ Politico “… Again and again, Trump has taken the stage to an adoring crowd and declared victory on some issue, or announced lavish new promises, without any real results or plans to back them up. Meanwhile, very steadily, and almost totally separately from Trump’s speeches and tweetstorms, his administration has been ushering in a new conservative era of government—taking specific aim at Obama-era rules, and broader aim at the big regulatory mission of government. At The Agenda, we’ve been tracking these policy changes weekly since June, ignoring the noise and explaining what the Trump administration actually accomplished each week. This week, we’re pulling them all into one mega-list—a portrait of a quiet but very serious Republican push against the scope and ambition of government. Welcome to the annual wrap-up of our weekly guide to what Trump did while you weren’t looking. Click Here. (WARNING…This is a long article!)
Cell Phone Ban
Politico “White House chief of staff John Kelly sent a memo to staff on Wednesday detailing the upcoming ban on personal cellphones in the West Wing – and cautioning that violators could be subject to ‘disciplinary action.’ The ban goes into effect on Jan. 16.”