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Washington Report March 10, 2017
10 Mar 2017

Washington Report March 10, 2017

Real Jobs Report … No TRUMP Act … The Great Lakes … Trumpcare, Ryancare, Obamacare .5, Obamacare 2.0 (pick one) … Deep Deep Dive on Reconciliation … Phone Taps … What It Means to be an American … ‘Echo Boomers’ – there are more 26 year olds than any other age group …. and other news of the week.


Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


STRONG JOB NUMBERS Roll Call ” The U.S. economy added a robust 235,000 jobs in February … while the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%. Politico “White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed without evidence Friday that the jobs figures “may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.” (You may remember that Trump once claimed that unemployment was really 42% when the government pegged it at 5.1%. Just sayin.)

Treasury calls on Congress to raise debt limit” WaPo “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday began taking “extraordinary measures” to delay the U.S. government from defaulting on its obligations, as he called on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to lift the debt ceiling ‘at its first opportunity.’


NO TRUMP ACT Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) [introduced] the ‘No Taxpayer Revenue Used to Monetize the Presidency (NO TRUMP) Act … which would prohibit the use of taxpayer money to pay for events, overnight stays, food or any other miscellaneous expenses at hotels owned or operated by a president or family members, OregonLive reported. “Presidents should not financially benefit from holding the office. No taxpayer money should be spent at Trump hotels. Period.”


WISCONSIN POLITICS Politico “Rep. Ron Kind decided against a run for Wisconsin governor. Kind’s decision to stay in Congress follows months of speculation that Kind could challenge incumbent Gov. Scott Walker in 2018. Kind has represented his rural western Wisconsin district since 1997 and has long been tipped for statewide office. Kind won reelection unopposed in 2016 as President Donald Trump carried his district.”


2018 BUDGET ON HOLD Roll Call ” Work on the fiscal 2018 budget resolution appears on hold until after Congress passes a repeal of the 2010 health care law. But Republicans on the Budget and Appropriations committees do not appear concerned about the delayed timeline or the upcoming budget request from the White House, which will ask lawmakers to increase defense discretionary spending by $54 billion and pay for it by an equal cut to domestic discretionary spending bills.That’s partly because the lawmakers in charge of spending decisions aren’t convinced the dramatic cuts to domestic spending being proposed by the Trump administration will actually make it into Congress’ budget resolution. OUR BUDGET IS NOT NECESSARILY THE PRESIDENT’S BUDGET said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) who sits on the Budget Committee and Chairs the Labor-HHS-Education Approps Subcomittee.

SLASHING GREAT LAKES FUNDING MLiveMichigan “The White House is proposing to slash EPA funding that pays for Great Lakes pollution cleanup by 97%, according to a budget document obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. The potential cuts are part of Trump’s initial 2018 budget proposal [which] would virtually eliminate annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, slashing it from $300 million to $10 million among other cuts that would altogether reduce the EPA’s total budget by a quarter. The Great Lakes funding cut is the largest total dollar reduction on a list that includes major cuts to climate change programs, restoration funding for Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay, research into chemicals that disrupt human reproductive and developmental systems, enforcement of pollution laws and funding for Brownfield cleanups. The plan also includes a $13 million cut in compliance monitoring, which the EPA uses to ensure the safety of drinking water systems. State grants for beach water quality testing would also be eliminated. Congress authorized the GLRI at $300 million a year through 2021 with standalone authorization, meaning Congress could choose to restore funding up to that level each year even if Trump holds to the proposed cut. Brian Patrick, spokesperson for U.S. House Great Lakes Task Force Chair Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said the White House could expect Republican pushback from the delegation if the proposed GLRI cuts remain.”


WHERE HEALTH CARE STANDS TODAY Politico “Top vote-counters in the House say they think the health-care replacement legislation will get through their chamber. It won’t be easy — and it won’t be pretty — but they believe they’ll squeeze it through. But there’s increasing skepticism that it can get through the Senate. During his newsy Playbook Interview Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reminded us that the legislation will be subject to unlimited amendments when it hits the Senate as part of the reconciliation process, practically ensuring it will be changed. If this bill blows up, Trump has signaled he’ll blame Democrats, who are expected to stand in unified opposition to the legislation. But that might not work. Republicans say it’s on Trump to make this thing work.” WHAT ABOUT HILL STAFFERS Roll Call As lawmakers delve into questions about the Republican health care plan, one big one will remain unanswered for the time being: What happens to health care for members of Congress and their staffs (approximately 11,000 people)? The 2010 health care law required members and their staff to enroll in health care programs created by the law. The GOP plan to undo the health care law does not make any mention of congressional staff.”

THE FATE OF OBAMACARE LIES IN THE HANDS OF … a number-crunching Republican appointee whose bottom line might single-handedly blow up the GOP quest to repeal and replace it. Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall was handpicked two years ago by top Republicans in Congress — including now Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price — to lead a nonpartisan office that will soon release its estimate of how many Americans the Republican health care bill will cover and whether it shrinks or balloons the federal deficit. With the House repeal bill under attack by Republican moderates worrying about coverage and conservatives fuming about entitlements and spending, the CBO assessment will matter. It’s widely expected early next week. EXPECT A CBO SCORE BY MONDAY Hall, in the post for two years, has already signaled that his office won’t soft-pedal the coverage assessments. If a health plan doesn’t have comprehensive benefits, it won’t count as coverage. Fearing a bad CBO ‘score,’ Republicans facing backlash in their drive to gut Obamacare are turning the budget agency and its team of professional economic analysts into a punching bag as they try to discredit it.”


WINNERS AND LOSERS Politico Two House committees approved the Healthcare Bill on Thursday after marathon hearings. While the bill will likely change a lot before it lands on President Trump’s desk, it’s already possible to identify some winners and losers in the individual market and Medicaid.

Medicaid beneficiaries (lower income, older)
Lottery Winners
The sick would get coverage, but it would be more limited

High-net worth individuals
The device industry
The tanning industry
Insurance companies would get a big tax break

BROKEN PROMISES The Fix “The WashPo report that the bill would cut a mental-health and addiction treatment mandate covering 1.3 million Americans — counter to a Trump promise to expand treatment: CNN, meanwhile, is reporting that the Trump White House is negotiating to possibly roll back the Medicaid expansion earlier (then the 2020 date set by the current bill) in order to appeal to conservatives — counter to Trump’s promise to leave Medicaid alone.”


“The fatal conceit of Obamacare is that “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people.” That’s why Obamacare is in a “death spiral.”
– Speaker Paul Ryan, at a press conference on March 9th.

INSURANCE 101 for PAUL RYAN Politico “Duh. That’s how insurance works ….Everyone pays into the pot and draws on it when they’re sick. … It’s the same with car insurance. Some people pay for decades and never get into an accident and never collect on their coverage (though the likelihood of anyone never using health insurance is unlikely).” Ryan has [clearly] forgotten how the concept works. He believes that’s only the way it works for the Affordable Care Act.

IN THE YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS UP DEPARTMENT WashPo “As a reminder, the Affordable Care Act ordered that all health plans cover certain essential health benefits, such as doctor visits, hospital care and prescription drugs. The law also required plans to cover pregnancy and childbirth. That’s where the fireworks started in the Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday.

In response to the question, “What mandate in the Obamacare bill does he take issue with (Rep. Doyle (D-PA) asked Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)? Shimkus responded, “What about men having to purchase prenatal care? I’m just . . . is that not correct? And should they?


THE BUDGET RULE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF … RECONCILIATION (deep dive) The Fix “Here’s something not in the health-care headlines that probably should be: The Obamacare replacement bill Republicans rolled out this week is only step one of their multipronged approach to changing the Affordable Care Act.

Sure, Republicans would like to do it all at once — peeling off this section of the Band-Aid has been painful enough. But they can’t. That’s because of a special budget rule called reconciliation, which forces them to make a decision: undo some of Obamacare with a simple majority vote in both chambers, or undo all of it and face a 60-vote majority threshold — a majority Republicans don’t have and won’t get — in the Senate. Here’s everything you need to know about reconciliation. WHY REPUBLICANS CARE SO MUCH The some-or-all approach required by reconciliation basically comes down to this reasoning: If a policy directly affects the nation’s economic bottom line, you can use reconciliation to pass said policy with a simple majority. If a policy doesn’t directly affect the nation’s budget, you have to follow the regular rules for passing legislation.

And these days,” regular rules” is synonymous with a 60-vote filibuster in the Senate by the minority party (especially on a bill as controversial as health care). In 2017, that means 52 Senate Republicans would need at least eight Democrats to join them — which, under this bill, is about as remote a possibility as President Trump giving up Twitter.

The alternative is to pass some Obamacare changes that affect the nation’s budget now using the simple majority vote afforded by reconciliation, and worry about the rest later. That’s actually how Democrats passed major parts of the ACA in 2010, and it’s how Republicans passed some of the Bush-era tax cuts a decade earlier. WHAT THAT MEANS FOR ACA Listen closely and you’ll notice that supporters of this bill — such as Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) — are championing it even while cautioning that many big changes to health care are yet to come. That’s code for reconciliation. BIT OF HISTORY Reconciliation got its start in the 1970s and 1980s, when Congress was reforming how it makes and passes its budget. In those days, Congress would pass a resolution to set targets for revenue and spending — a.k.a. a budget — and a second resolution later in the year that set firm limits on what the government could spend/take in. Once that second resolution was passed, Congress had to reconcile its choices about spending and revenue. And that’s where we get the term … the Senate is not permitted to filibuster the budget resolutions. A tool was born.

But! This is Congress we’re talking about, and crafty lawmakers quickly wielded this budgetary tool to sneak in totally unrelated budget items and avoid a Senate filibuster. In the ’80s, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) advocated — and passed — a rule (BYRD RULE) to prevent anything that doesn’t directly change the level of spending or revenue — or where the changes are “merely incidental” to the policy — from being passed under reconciliation. SO … any senator can raise a “point of order” under it to challenge a policy’s pertinence to the budget. Parliamentarians, the behind-the-scenes nonpartisan rule-keepers of Congress, decide what policies actually affect the budget under the Byrd Rule. The Byrd Rule is largely what keeps policymakers from just passing an entire Obamacare repeal/replace bill under reconciliation and calling it a day.

So, before Republicans even introduced their Obamacare replacement bill this week, reconciliation was shaping what they put in it — and what they left out. Republicans who support the bill seem to acknowledge that there’s quite a bit that they had to leave out because of reconciliation. And that suggests that this titanic battle over step one of their health-care plan is just, well, step one.”


“Uh, no,”
– Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when asked whether he believed that Mexico would, ultimately, foot the cost for the border wall President Trump wants built on our southern border. That’s the general feeling within the GOP political establishment when it comes to the prospect of Mexico paying the estimated $12 billion to $15 billion cost of the border wall. But it’s not something they usually say aloud because Trump continues to insist — and insist — that Mexico will, eventually, pay for the costs of the wall.

Also, from McConnell … Tax Reform Won’t be Done by August.


HOUSE APPROVES $584 BILLION 2017 DEFENSE SPENDING BILL MorningD “The House on Wednesday approved the final $584 billion defense spending bill for this fiscal year, kicking off an effort to fund all of the government for the rest of the year before the continuing spending resolution (CR) expires on April 28. The vote was 371-48. Forty-three Democrats and five Republicans opposed the measure.
Unlike an initial defense spending measure passed by the House in June, the revised bill doesn’t short fund the Pentagon’s war account to boost base spending. Instead, the new measure largely conforms to the NDAA passed in December.”


SAY HELLO TO THE NEW MICHAEL FLYNN CONTROVERSY It appears that Donald Trump’s National Security Policy Adviser was a foreign agent. USAToday “President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn earned $530,000 last fall for consulting work that may have helped benefit the government of Turkey, according to new federal filings. Flynn, fired last month from his White House post, formally registered as a foreign agent this week with the Justice Department and disclosed the details of his work for Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm owned by a Turkish businessman with ties to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” You can’t make this stuff up.


PHONE TAPPING Obama’s reaction to being accused by President Trump of tapping his phones: WSJ kicked it off by saying sources described him as: “livid.” Then CNN followed: “irked and exasperated” but “stopped short of outright fury.” … Obama and his aides responded with disbelief when they learned of President Donald Trump’s Saturday morning tweets laying out the charges. Finally, NBC News capped it off with a source telling them, “Mr. Obama believes the claims ‘undermine the integrity of the office of the president,’ but don’t undermine his own integrity, because “he didn’t do it.”

HIGH RISK Roll Call “In the long and storied history of congressional investigations, there’s no record of lawmakers acting at the president’s behest to get to the bottom of his own extraordinarily explosive but totally unsubstantiated allegations. But that is going to be the case in the already amply unprecedented era of President Donald Trump. The result could not only change the very nature of legislative branch oversight, but also alter the turbulent course of this nascent administration. Perhaps it was lip service, but maybe not. Either way, the Republican chairmen of the Intelligence committees in both the House and Senate have committed themselves to the same promise: They will honor the president’s request and investigate his claim that his predecessor Barack Obama overstepped his presidential authority and ordered the wiretapping of Trump’s telephones during last year’s campaign. BRING IT ON … say the top Dems on those panels — sounding confident they will be able to extract overwhelming evidence portraying Trump as the fabricator in chief, maybe as soon as a televised hearing a week from Monday.”


POLITICAL DIVIDE ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “AMERICAN” The Fix “President Trump’s second executive order banning visitors from six predominantly Muslim states from entering the country lands in an America deeply divided on what it means to be, well, American.That’s according to a new AP-NORC poll that suggests that there are really two Americas right now: a Republican one and a Democratic one.


* Nearly six in 10 Republicans (57%) think that “a culture grounded in Christian religious beliefs” is important to our American identity. Just 29% of Democrats say the same.

* Forty-six percent of Republicans say that “a culture established by the country’s early European immigrants” is an important part of what makes us Americans, while just 25% of Democrats agree.

* Two-thirds of Democrats cite the “mixing of cultures and values from around the world” as fundamentally American. Just a third of Republicans (35%) feel the same way.

“Democrats are more likely than Republicans to consider the nation’s diversity and the ability of people to immigrate to the United States as important, while Republicans are more inclined to cite the importance of the use of English and sharing a culture, preferably based on Christian beliefs and European customs,” read a memo on the poll’s results.

What the numbers suggest is that not only are Democrats and Republicans living in two different countries — socially, culturally and politically — but they also don’t even agree on what the country should, at its center, be. Partisanship now extends not just to whom you vote for and why but also what you think the United States is and should be. What’s both fascinating and deeply problematic — from a political perspective — is that neither side has enough people to declare victory over the other.

The 2016 election showed the standoff in stark relief. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes — 65,844,610 for her to 62,979,636 for Donald Trump. But Trump won the electoral college 306 to 232 over Clinton. The county-by-county map of the election results tells the story of just how divided we are. What that map [above] also shows is how little red and blue America interact with one another. Living near people who disagree with you politically is just something that no longer happens regularly in this country. Increasingly, Democratic America and Republican America don’t talk to each other. That makes it easier to demonize the other side. And to harden your own views of politics and what makes America great — or even America.

If we can’t agree on what being “American” really means, it’s going to be very hard to find common ground on anything else. Depressingly, that appears to be where we are.


ECHO BOOMERS ARE TAKING OVER Axios “Much is made of the economic effects of baby boomers retiring, but just as important is the coming-of-age of their children, the ‘echo boomers.’ There are more 26-year olds than any other age group,” Torsten Sløk, Chief International Economist with Deutsche Bank Securities writes in a research note. “This wave of echo-boomers will over the coming years get jobs and get married and increase their consumer spending.” WHY IT MATTERS The baby boomers came of age in the 1960s and 1970s—years that saw much faster economic growth than we have today. Millennials have been slow to acquire the trappings of adulthood like spouses, houses and children, but it’s only a matter of time before they lean in to the sort of large purchases that can power a consumer-led economy.”


WHY NOT ME FOR PRESIDENT? NYTs “Stu Loeser now runs his own strategic consulting firm, and told me he has clients who are business executives considering a run for high public office. … Boldface corporate names widely discussed as contenders for the next Democratic presidential nomination include chief executives like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Robert A. Iger of Disney and Marc Benioff of Salesforce along with Sheryl Sandberg … and Oprah Winfrey … All deny they’re running, or even seriously considering it. But everyone demurs so far ahead of the first primaries, as did Hillary Clinton four years ago, and it hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating.”

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