The Government Is Darn Close To Shutting Down … No Crystal Ball, But … Happy One-Year Anniversary … Et Tu, Kelly? … Religious Freedom or Discrimination? … China … Electric Shock Election … The Avengers … Facepalm (an expression of disbelief, shame, or exasperation). … and other news of the week.
Axios “A federal shutdown [at midnight tonight] moved closer to a certainty after Senate Democrats rallied against [a] GOP proposal [passed by the House], announcing they would not [vote for] a bill that did not reflect their priorities on immigration … and other issues,” per the WashPost lead story:
By last evening, “nine Senate Democrats who had voted for a prior spending measure in December said they would not support the latest proposed four-week extension, joining 30 other Democrats and at least two Senate Republicans — and leaving the bill short of the 60 votes needed to advance.”
“Republican leaders — long on the defensive against claims that they were failing to govern — appeared emboldened as they sought to cast the Democrats as the obstacle to a compromise to keep critical government functions operating.”
WHY IT MATTERS “[A] government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House.” BE SMART Top Democrats [say] they believe a shutdown will ultimately be low cost for them, and high cost for the party that controls the White House, the House and the Senate. So there’s a furious battle to brand the shutdown: which party is at fault. OUR FORECAST Republicans will feel the immediate pain. So a shutdown will be brief — ending shortly after the weekend.”
TOP GOP MINDS … involved in these talks on the Hill tell [Politico] that they will not, under any circumstance, consider DACA or a budget deal if the government is closed. THEY SAY a deal must be reached to fund the government, then they can talk about immigration and budget caps. McConnell plans to keep the Senate in session over the weekend and stage votes meant to embarrass vulnerable Democrats if needed. SENIOR REPUBLICANS say they will force Democrats to vote against reopening the government over and over until they relent. But remember: Senate Democrats have re-elections in Trump states like West Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana. So Senate Republicans have the political imperative to press a bit here.
BUT THE HOUSE BILL HAS GOP OPPONENTS IN THE SENATE … GOP Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) have all expressed differing levels of opposition to the House bill. Some would like a short-term measure to keep government open for a few days.
DEMOCRATS, meanwhile, have more resolve than we’ve seen in a while. For many of them, the DACA issue is a core value — not a political position. They say they are tired of not being consulted on legislation where Republicans need their support. Dems hope that today — after Republicans fail to move forward on the bill — cooler heads will prevail, and they’ll come to the table to negotiate.
OF COURSE, as I write this, we’re talking about the Senate, so this can all change.”
And this just in … Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer left the Capitol for the White House for a meeting with the President, in hopes of averting a government shutdown.
No Crystal Ball But …
Interesting, from our DC TEAM … Re: the CR vote (to shutdown or not) in the Senate … Right now two GOP Senators — Cochran (R-MS) and McCain (R-AZ) are not present to vote, thus giving Dems parity at 49-49. Yes, VP Pence can break a tie, but he left for Egypt this morning. BUT, with at least four GOP senators already saying they would vote ‘no’ and all it takes is one to swing any vote, why should he stay? McCain could still show up if truly needed, but Cochran is unlikely given the reports on his deteriorating health. REMEMBER, 60 votes is needed for final passage, so if I’m John McCain, I’m not jumping on a plane anytime soon.
Happy One Year Anniversary, President Trump.
Politico “The president of the U.S. is expected to take off for Mar-a-Lago at 4:30 p.m. — seven and a half hours ahead of a government shutdown. [He] will mark the first anniversary of his inauguration on Saturday with a celebration at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, with tickets starting at $100,000 a pair. That amount, according to the invitation, will pay for dinner and a photograph with the president. For $250,000, a couple can also take part in a roundtable.”
THE POLITICAL OPTICS of this are absolutely terrible, according to Republicans and Democrats alike. The president is taking Air Force One to his glitzy resort in Palm Beach with the government slated to shut down? We got a whole lot of “what-is-he-thinking” emails from both sides of the aisle.
JURY OUT ON WINNERS AND LOSERS WaPo “Public and private polling is giving each side something to hang their hat on if the federal government partially shuts down this weekend — an increasingly likely scenario. For Democrats, there is hope in surveys showing that more Americans would blame Trump and the GOP. For Republicans, the numbers offer this glimmer: In conservative states, the blame would shift to Democrats if the public perceives the immigration issue as the reason for the impasse… The reality that public opinion would probably fall somewhere in between means the public could lose, too, because neither side will have an incentive to surrender — raising the possibility of a prolonged shutdown of government services.” THE REAL LOSER The Whilte House is already blaming Congress — not Republicans or Democrats — which will tarnish the institution, controlled by his party, adding fuel to the fire that this will be an anti-incumbent year.”
SITUATIONAL AWARENESS An NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll out this morning finds President Trump with 39% approval, “the lowest mark in the poll’s history for any modern president ending his first year.” AND According to a Gallup Poll this week … other nations’ approval of U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump hit a historical low of 30% in 2017 … signals an 18-point drop from a year earlier, when 48% approved of the national influence under former President Barack Obama. It is the single largest year-to-year drop in approval of U.S. leadership — or of any country examined — to date.”
Chaos is Just … Exhausting
The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency is coming to a close with administration officials exhausted and uncertain after two weeks of chaos that have been extraordinary even by the standards of this White House. The drama underlines a fundamental truth about Trump’s presidency: the faces may change, but it seems the storyline never does.” (Politico)
Et Tu, Kelly?
NYTs ‘The Chaos President vs. His Iron-Fisted Chief-of-Staff’ NYTs “The one thing sure to make President Trump angry, as anyone who has ever worked closely with him knows, is any suggestion that his staff is managing him. Yet early Wednesday evening, after learning from a White House aide that his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had described his views about his signature, base-pleasing campaign pledge to build a wall on the Mexico border as ‘not informed,’ and his thinking as ‘evolving,’ the president was initially calm. It did not last. By Wednesday night, Mr. Trump had become convinced by a string of allies and friends he had talked to on the phone that Mr. Kelly had undermined him, according to people familiar with the conversations. “And by Thursday morning, after digesting accounts of Mr. Kelly’s comments on cable news, the president was riled up [and took to Twitter to rebut Mr. Kelly, without naming him].
Religious Freedom or Discrimination?
Politico “The Trump administration is planning new protections for health workers who don’t want to perform abortions, refuse to treat transgender patients based on their gender identity or provide other services for which they have moral objections. Under a proposed rule – which has been closely guarded at HHS and is now under review by the White House – the HHS office in charge of civil rights would be empowered to further shield these workers and punish organizations that don’t allow them to express their moral objections, according to sources on and off the Hill.”
theSkimm “Earlier this week, the Justice Dept arrested and charged an ex-CIA officer for illegally holding onto classified info. Back in 2010, China reportedly started arresting or killing a spy network of more than a dozen CIA informants. The US gov suspected a mole tipped China off to their real identities. A couple years later, they found out that this former CIA officer – who lives in Hong Kong – had kept books with info like the real names and phone numbers of both informants and agents. It’s unclear why the feds waited so long to arrest him, but now officials suspect that he’s the mole. The collapse of this spy network is considered one of the US gov’s worst intelligence failures in decades.”
Politico “The Senate on Thursday gave the Trump administration and national security hawks a significant victory, approving a long-term extension of controversial surveillance programs over bipartisan opposition. Lawmakers voted, 65-34, to renew a set of powerful digital spying tools that intercept the digital chatter of foreign targets but also incidentally collect personal information on an unknown number of Americans. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it shortly.”
“President Xi Jinping is selling his country on his plan to reshape the global order, in ways that legitimize the Chinese political system and create more strategic advantages for the China, Sincocism’s Bill Bishop writes for Axios. An article this week, “Tightly grasping the very promising period of historical opportunity” and signed by the pseudonym “Xuanyan 宣言,” which means manifesto — called for the nation to grasp this historic opportunity, per state-run media.” Under the headline “Make China Great Again,” the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) quoted the manifesto calling out “drawbacks” of the the capitalist economic system: “[A] new international order is taking shape.” Why it matters: Xi and the Communist Party’s Marxist theoreticians believe in “historical determinism,” a phrase that appears repeatedly in the manifesto, and see America’s retreat as a moment to increase China’s influence in the world.”
Electric Shock Defeat
Politico “Gov. Scott Walker called the results a ‘wake-up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.’ But the alarm has been sounding for the past year — long before a state Senate special election delivered a solidly Republican seat to Wisconsin Democrats on Tuesday. Since 2016, Democrats have outperformed Hillary Clinton’s performance in more than two-thirds of state legislative special elections across the nation. And in the six congressional special elections held in 2017, Democrats overperformed in five of them – and that list doesn’t even include the December pickup of a Senate seat in ruby-red Alabama. “Democrats also made gains in off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia — coming within a single vote in one district, or a random drawing of lots, from erasing the GOP majority in the Virginia state House of Delegates. All of it, together with the party’s latest victory in a rural and suburban seat in western Wisconsin that backed Trump by 17 points, is unnerving Republicans from Madison to Washington. ‘This special election hit the Wisconsin GOP like an electric shock,’ said Charlie Sykes, a former conservative radio host in Wisconsin. ‘In particular, they’re very worried about women. They are losing women, suburban women, and if you extrapolate across the country, you have a real problem.'”
“Call it payback, call it a revolution, call it the Pink Wave, inspired by marchers in their magenta hats, and the activism that followed. There is an unprecedented surge of first-time female candidates, overwhelmingly Democratic, running for offices big and small, from the U.S. Senate and state legislatures to local school boards,” TIME’s Charlotte Alter writes:
“At least 79 women are exploring runs for governor in 2018, potentially doubling a record for female candidates set in 1994. The number of Democratic women likely challenging incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives is up nearly 350% from 41 women in 2016.”
WHY IT MATTERS: “[P]rogressive women described undergoing a metamorphosis. In 2016, they were ordinary voters. In 2017, they became activists, spurred by the bitter defeat of the first major female presidential candidate. Now, in 2018, these doctors and mothers and teachers and executives are jumping into the arena and bringing new energy to a Democratic Party sorely in need of fresh faces.” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake: “Women candidates help energize women voters. And in close races, you win with women voters.”
A new study shows that repeated head injuries can cause CTE – the degenerative brain disease that’s been found in a lot of former football players. People used to think that concussions were the main thing causing CTE, but more and more evidence shows that even hitting your head hard without getting a concussion could cause it. This study is the most definitive find so far that, yes, it’s super effing dangerous to get smacked repeatedly in the noggin. Facepalm. Click for video.