Well, That’s That For Now … Takeaways on ‘Skinny Repeal’ … Maverick McCain and Two Courageous Women … Boy Scouts … LGBT Community Gobsmacked … Where Pride Goes To Die … and other news of the week.
THE SENATE and HOUSE are now scheduled to be out of session until Sept 4th.
To all my readers, just want to let you know that the Washington Report will be back after Labor Day, when Congress returns from recess. That said, there may be times when I’m in touch with something you may find interesting or relevant. Enjoy the rest of summer!
Capstone National Partners
WELCOME TO AUGUST
Politico “Washington hasn’t accomplished anything on health care, infrastructure, government spending, the debt ceiling or taxes. We’re about two months away from a government shutdown, and not that far out from defaulting on the nation’s debt.” But there was some progress on Approps …
FY18 Appropriations Update
Before leaving, the House finished a minibus to authorize spending for four federal agencies. Stand by on whether the remaining bills will be part of another minibus when the House returns or stand alone. The Senate is behind the curve (they’ve been busy, see below).
WELL, THAT’S THAT FOR NOW
theSkimm “The Senate GOP has been desperately trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. But having a hard time agreeing on a plan. Earlier this week, they voted to open debate up on the issue. Then they voted ‘no’ to their repeal and replace plan, and to their repeal and replace in two years plan. Plan C aka ‘Skinny Repeal’ was their last option. So what was in it? It would’ve gotten rid of some of the most unpopular parts of Obamacare. Including the ‘individual mandate’ – that requires everyone have insurance – and the ’employer mandate’ – that requires companies with at least 50 employees to offer coverage. It would’ve nixed some of the taxes that help pay for Obamacare, and temporarily cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood. It was estimated to leave 16 million people without insurance, millions fewer than previous plans. Now what? It’s not happening. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – who recently found out he has brain cancer and came back to DC this week specifically for the healthcare debate – cast the decisive ‘no’ vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said “it is time to move on.” President Trump, who’s been pushing his party to hash out a healthcare overhaul, said lawmakers should “let Obamacare implode” on its own at this point.”
NYTs “The Republican Party’s seven-year dream of dismantling the Affordable Care Act came to what seemed like a climactic end early Friday, punctured by the Senate’s vote to reject a last-ditch proposal to repeal a few parts of the health law. With the vote on a “skinny” repeal bill, Republican leaders were trying what amounted to a legislative Hail Mary pass. But they could afford to lose only two party members, and three Republicans voted no: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.
PROCESS MATTERS Republicans grumbled about the secretive manner in which majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, put together his repeal bill. There were no public hearings or formal bill-drafting sessions, and Republicans used a fast-track procedure meant for budget matters as they tried to enact complex health policy and avoid a filibuster.The final hours of the repeal effort seemed worse than ever: Republican leaders unveiled their bill and then expected their members to vote for it hours later, and in the middle of the night, no less.
“IT’S BETTER TO BE FEARED THAN LOVED.” (Machiavelli) TRUMP IS NEITHER. In public, he did not show much fluency in the basics of health policy, let alone the ability to persuade Republicans on complicated issues like the growth rate of Medicaid payments.
BULLYING ISN’T EFFECTIVE AND POLITICAL BLACKMAIL DOESN’T WORK After Ms. Murkowski voted against beginning debate on health care, Mr. Trump went after her on Twitter. It was not a fair fight: He has more than 34 million followers, and she has about 99,000. Mr. Trump also directed the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to call Ms. Murkowski and remind her of the Alaska issues controlled by his department .It wasn’t a subtle move. But this time, Ms. Murkowski held the whip hand: She is chairwoman not only of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Interior Department, but also of the appropriations subcommittee that funds it. Ms. Murkowski voted no.
* Note to Zinke … Do you know how the Senate works? Only an amateur would threaten the person who has oversight over his agency.
THE ABORTION DEBATE DIDN”T MAKE THINGS EASIER The slimmed-down bill, like the comprehensive Senate legislation before it, would have cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year, a major demand of conservatives and of anti-abortion groups. Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski both opposed that provision. Just hours before the vote, Ms. Collins said the bill “unfairly singles out Planned Parenthood.”
A SLIM MAJORITY HAS IT’S LIMITS Senate leaders ultimately could not overcome a fundamental problem: Ms. Collins has a very different view of health policy than, say, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Such divergent views might not be a problem if Republicans held a big majority in the Senate. But as Republicans hold only 52 seats, their leaders have had to worry about pleasing both the most conservative and the most moderate members. In an otherwise disappointing year for the party, Democrats won Senate seats in Illinois and New Hampshire in 2016, and their freshman senators, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, made all the difference.
“It’s time to move on.”
– Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
MAVERICK McCAIN VOTES ‘NO’
WashPo “Battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, the maverick was willing to vote “no” on the “skinny repeal” amendment so that other GOP colleagues who were also opposed to the measure could vote “yes” to save face with the conservative base. To this day, Trump has never apologized for saying that the former fighter pilot was not a war hero because he got captured in Vietnam. It gets less attention, but the president also besmirched the Arizona senator’s character by repeatedly accusing him of not taking care of other veterans. McCain has never forgotten.
McCain explained his vote in a statement:
“From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. … We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”
TWO COURAGEOUS WOMEN
When McCain voted against “skinny repeal,” it immediately overshadowed the two women Republican senators who did far more to halt Republicans’ … efforts to repeal Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) repeatedly stood their ground against the three health bills their colleagues tried to ram through the Senate. Murkowski and Collins were the only Republicans to vote against a motion to proceed with the health care bill debate. Both women cast votes against the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which could have led to 22 million more uninsured Americans. They both also voted against the Obamacare Reconciliation Act — repeal and delay — which could have led to 32 million more uninsured Americans. Both senators said they could not support bills that would leave millions of people without health insurance. They also opposed provisions to defund planned parenthood. When skinny repeal — seemingly the last shot for the GOP — came down, they stood their ground and voted no again. McCain’s vote was crucial in ending the latest health care repeal effort — but no more so than the votes of Murkowski and Collins, which were consistently courageous in the face of threats and suggestions of retaliation.
The events last night played out 52 years after Congress approved legislation creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law on July 30, 1965. A bust of Mr. Johnson, who had served earlier as Senate majority leader and as vice president, is on display in the Capitol.
WashPo “Republican lawmakers have openly defied President Trump in meaningful ways this week amid growing frustration on Capitol Hill with his surprise tweets, erratic behavior and willingness to trample on governing norms. They passed legislation to stop him from lifting sanctions on Russia. They recoiled at his snap decision to ban transgender Americans from the military. And they warned him in no uncertain terms not to fire the attorney general or the special counsel investigating the president and his aides.”
The Senate voted 98 to 2 yesterday to pass a bill increasing sanctions against Russia, despite a veto threat. Only Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul opposed it. White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said yesterday morning that Trump “may veto the sanctions” so that he can “negotiate” with Russia, and incoming White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later in the day that the president is still reviewing the final legislation. Many leading conservatives said publicly they are prepared to override Trump.
There’s also been escalating backlash from Senate Republicans to Trump’s treatment of Jeff Sessions. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would not hold any hearings on a replacement if Trump dismissed the attorney general. Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced plans yesterday to introduce legislation that would prevent Trump from being able to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.” … “Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.”
– Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
“If you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it,” added Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), also a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The presidency isn’t a bull, and this country isn’t a china shop.”
PERSONA NON GRATA Politico Magazine “Jeff Sessions thought he was on the Trump team, but he was sadly mistaken. For Trump, the world breaks down into three neat categories — there’s family, who are part of the charmed Trump circle by blood or marriage; there are “winners,” who have earned Trump’s regard by making lots of money (often at Goldman Sachs); and then there’s everyone else, who are adornments to be cast aside as Trump finds convenient. Sessions is emphatically in the latter category. Click for Article
OBAMACARE REPEAL REVEALS POLITICAL SYSTEM WHERE WORDS HAVE NO MEANING …
Vox “The health care debate has revealed a political system unmoored and in crisis. Putting all policy arguments aside, no one — including congressional Republicans — believes these bills to be carefully drafted. House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act before seeing a final Congressional Budget Office score — they didn’t want to know what it did, and they didn’t want anyone else to know either. Senate Republicans moved to debate their bill on the floor before they knew what their bill was.
Republicans are making life-or-death policy for millions of Americans with less care, consideration, and planning than most households put into purchasing a dishwasher. But the deeper problem– the one that will continue to corrode the system long after this debate resolves — is the role that deception has played through the process. This has been a policymaking process built, from the beginning, atop lies. Lies about what the bills do and don’t do. Lies about what is wrong with Obamacare and lies about what the GOP’s legislation would do to fix it. … This … is a profound challenge to the policymaking process. Our political system is built on the assumption that words have some meaning, that the statements policymakers make have some rough correlation to the actions they will take. A functional policymaking process cannot survive in this environment for long.” Just saying.
TRUMP AND THE BOY SCOUTS
For more than a century, members of the Boy Scouts of America have sworn to uphold the values of Scout Law—the code of scouting chivalry that requires its adherents to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” to all they encounter. On Monday evening, however, Trump used the backdrop of more than 35,000 Scouts celebrating the organizations quadrennial Jamboree to fixate on just one value: LOYALTY. Specifically, loyalty to him. “As the Scout Law says, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal,” Trump said. “We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”Over the course of a freewheeling 40-minute speech, the president complained numerous times about “fake news,” bragged about his Electoral College victory nine months ago, threatened to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and encouraged the assembled teens and pre-teens to boo President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.” Proof that Trump’s impulse control effectively does not exist.
LATimes “Michael Surbaugh, the Boy Scouts chief executive, in a statement extended his “sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree … we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
EPA MOVES WATER RULE REPEAL FORWARD
The Hill “The Trump administration’s proposed repeal of the EPA’s Clean Water Rule hits the Federal Register Thursday. The publication of the proposal, which was unveiled last month, will kick off a 30-day period when the EPA will gather public comments on the matter. The 2015 rule never took effect because it was put on hold by a federal court. Environmentalists and Obama supporters charged that the rollback would threaten drinking water for 117 million people. After the EPA gathers and analyzes the comments, it can make any necessary changes and then make the rollback final. States, environmentalists and others at that point could sue to stop the repeal.”
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
theSkimm “The military’s top officer said President Trump’s new ban on transgender people serving in the military will not take effect until there are more details on how it would be implemented. Pretty much everyone – including the Pentagon – was in the dark on this policy shift. So the military’s saying ‘keep calm and carry on…for now.’ This … comes a day after Trump tweeted that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military.
LGBT COMMUNITY GOBSMACKED
Also last week, the Justice Department weighed in on a court case about LGBT discrimination in the workplace. Fortune “The dept argued that existing law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) allows workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not explicitly listed in Title VII, which protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in July 2015 that discrimination based on sexual orientation is, in essence, discrimination based on sex. Trump’s DOJ challenged that stance.”
HOUSE BLOCKS BRAC
MorningD “The House [last night] quietly agreed to block a new round of military base realignments and closures for at least another year. Lawmakers adopted by voice vote an amendment from Reps. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) to prohibit funding for a new BRAC as part of a massive national security appropriations bill. The amendment was adopted for the annual military construction and veterans affairs funding measure included in the bill.”
WHERE PRIDE GOES TO DIE
WashPost “Getting close to President Trump, it seems, means checking your pride at the door and taking some very public abuse. Trump’s first big-name supporters in 2016 were Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions. He spent the bulk of the rest of the campaign embarrassing Christie before firing him as head of the Trump transition effort. And now he’s spent the bulk of the last week haranguing Sessions, his own attorney general, apparently in hopes Sessions will resign.The two men who agreed to become Trump’s top White House advisers have also found themselves in the woodshed. Trump publicly questioned Stephen K. Bannon’s importance to his campaign back in April. And Thursday, Reince Priebus was subjected to an apparently Trump-sanctioned series of attacks from new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on live TV.” (See More On This Below)
In each and every one of these situations, his aides and supporters are seeing their own personal brands and integrity attacked and undermined in very public ways. … It’s been said many times before that loyalty is a one-way street with Trump, and it’s 100 percent true. But this is more than that. Those who have served Trump at the highest levels have almost universally come in for ritual humiliation and embarrassment, often in pretty personal terms. If it was just about getting fired, that would be one thing. Trump almost seems to revel in degrading his aides; it’s all a reality TV show to him. We’ll see how long the contestants want to play the game.
WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT Ryan Lizza on NewYorker.com Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon”: “‘What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,’ he said. … ‘They’ll all be fired by me,’ he said. ‘I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus-if you want to leak something-he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.’ The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner [with Sean Hannity and Bill Shine] because he hadn’t been invited. ‘Reince is a f***ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,’ Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the f***ing thing and see if I can c***-block these people the way I c***-blocked Scaramucci for six months.” “Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. ‘I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c**k,’ he said … ‘I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f***ing strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.’
In Response @Scaramucci: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda. #MAGA … I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again.”(‘the mistake was trusting a reporter to … wait for it … reporting what he said?!!!)
The Hill “A long-simmering feud between two of President Trump’s top advisers reached a boiling point [understatement] Thursday, when White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci publicly insinuated that chief of staff Reince Priebus is a leaker. But the episode that triggered Scaramucci’s outburst — a media report on his financial disclosure forms — was not the result of a leak (the docs were publicly accessible). A rather cryptic tweet late Wednesday night from new White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci: “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45”
Oh, and by the way, the White House’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, needs a new communications strategy.
REINCE WATCH BuzzFeed “The White House used to sternly push back on reports that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was losing the president’s favor and would soon be fired. … Those days appear to be over. … Privately, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, has told people that Priebus is ‘gone’ and that he is trying to figure out his next steps, a source with knowledge said. Her message is that White House staffers who came from the [RNC], which Priebus ran before being named chief of staff, are out, and that the administration is ‘going back to Trump loyalists.’