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Washington Report March 31, 2017
31 Mar 2017

Washington Report March 31, 2017

The Senate’s Big Week That Wasn’t … Start the Shutdown Clock … Trump Blinked, Bigly … Civics Crash Course … Say Good-bye to your Online Privacy … I’ll Take Immunity For 600, Alex … Take Your Daughter To Work Everyday … It’s Not About Bathrooms. Just Like It Was Never About Water Fountains … Robot Apocalypse … Fearless Girl Reprieve … and other news of the week.


Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


THE SENATE’S BIG WEEK THAT WASN’T CQ/Roll Call “Senators were gearing up for a marathon week of debate on a House-passed health care measure [this week], including the peculiar ritual of voting on an unlimited number of amendments known as the vote-a-rama, but political reality has laid that plan to waste. The House’s failure to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law has left senators burning time until the Judiciary Committee sends to the floor the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be the Supreme Court.”


START THE SHUTDOWN CLOCK The government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution (CR), passed in December 2016, through April 28, 2017. Politico “Congress is in session for just seven more legislative days before the April 28 deadline. House Speaker Paul Ryan still says, “We’re not going to have a government shutdown,” he told CBS. But timing-wise, it’s likely to be close: The Senate isn’t expected to start debate until returning from a two-week recess on April 24, which leaves floor time for just one vote.” 25 problems per day: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that House appropriators have about “200 unresolved issues” left, which would require solving 25 per day before the deadline. She stressed that anything that clears the House will need to be bipartisan. “They’ve never been able to pass one without Democratic votes,” Pelosi said. AND THEN Ryan shook things up by saying the House isn’t done with fiscal 2017 appropriations bills after all. The speaker told reporters to expect more action on the remaining 11 measures, bucking previous conventional wisdom that the Senate would be taking the lead. Ryan reminded reporters that the House already sent the Senate its defense bill, “and I anticipate we’ll send them the rest.” ‘MINI-BUS’ RESURRECTION? Don’t expect all those 11 bills to come to the floor separately (again, just seven days left.) But with a largely open schedule in the House ahead of the Easter recess, and virtually the opposite in the Senate, maybe we’ll see those spending packages rise again. Still, a Democratic House source tells us the most likely option is still a Senate package that starts with the defense legislation and adds as many of the other negotiated bills as possible. DIMINISHED EXPECTATIONS Whatever course Trump, Ryan and McConnell agree on … the internal GOP ideological schisms, and the unilateral Democratic opposition, make it fruitless to pursue what the president said he wanted from the midyear bill: $33 billion in extra funding for the military and border security, offset with $18 billion in unspecified cuts to nondefense programs. All Democrats, but plenty of Republicans as well, object to raising the statutory cap on military spending without doing the same for nondefense spending. …In the end, the best hope for Trump may be to rely on the Republicans who assembled the current CR, a relatively straightforward extension of existing policies that sailed through Congress with relatively little fuss — and with a remarkable degree of bipartisan support. Three-quarters of Republicans backed it in the House and Senate, but so did two-thirds of the House Democrats and half the Senate Democrats.

WHY WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR? Politico “The White House’s FY18 budget proposal is already deeply controversial – what is less appreciated is the administration’s plans for the current fiscal year, which runs through September. For example, Trump “doesn’t want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs”; he wants to cut billions of dollars in spending right away. The White House’s latest plan includes deep cuts to the State Department and the National Institutes of Health – which is why you’ve probably seen headlines about Trump wanting to “cut $1.2 billion from medical research.” Military spending, meanwhile, would get a boost, while $2 billion would go towards Trump’s border wall. All of this, according to the White House, should be approved by Congress in the coming weeks – before current federal funding is exhausted on April 28. As the New York Times reported, no one seriously expects Trump’s requests to pass. Democrats said such a plan would arrive dead at the doorstep of the Senate, and Republicans on Tuesday sounded no more enthusiastic. … As said, the current hodgepodge stopgap spending law expires at midnight April 28. April 29 is a Saturday, so the doors to most federal agencies will be closed anyway, but if national parks are padlocked and passport services suspended then it will be lost on nobody who’s inconvenienced that it’s also the 100th day of Trump’s presidency.”

ALL ABOARD THE OMNIBUS Senators from both sides of the aisle are brokering a deal on a fiscal 2017 omnibus funding package that will “most likely” be attached to the defense spending measure the House passed this month, Blunt said. NO KICKING THE CAN “There’s no desire for a CR,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Stay Tuned.


FY2018 … PUSHING BACK Politico “The Republican chair of a House Appropriations subcommittee is warning he won’t accept the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to two federal health agencies for 2018. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the Labor-HHS subcommittee, said this week reducing funding to the NIH and CDC would leave the nation less secure, and that he will push for major revisions to the budget plan. “Maintaining the ability to respond to terrorist attacks and respond to unexpected things like Ebola and Zika are extraordinarily important,” Cole told HHS Secretary Tom Price during a hearing. The Trump administration’s so-called skinny budget outlines deep cuts to the HHS budget and other agencies to pay for boosted defense spending. Trump’s budget calls for a $5.8 billion cut from NIH, about a 20% decrease. It doesn’t detail spending at CDC, but public health groups expect major cuts.


TRUMP BLINKED. BIGLY. The Fix “President Trump was elected in large part on one, loud promise: I know how to make deals these normal politicians don’t. Part of that mystique — as outlined in his best-selling book “The Art of the Deal” — is the willingness to call his rival’s bluff, to put his cards on the table and ask everyone else to do the same. That’s what Trump did a week ago (feels like a year) Thursday night after a postponement of the planned vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans needed to put up or shut up, Trump insisted. Despite being told the votes simply weren’t there, Trump pushed forward — arguing that it was now or never. It was vintage Trump, taking a gamble no other typical politician would take: Force a vote on a massive part of your legislative agenda without knowing the outcome. Then Trump blinked.

UNCHARACTERISTICALLY QUIET CQ/Roll Call “The White House on Monday continued licking the wounds of its first legislative defeat, even as President Trump and his lieutenants gear up for a Supreme Court battle, a government funding fight and a tax overhaul push that will likely be bruising. Apart from now-familiar contentious moments during the daily press briefing, Monday was eerily quiet at the executive mansion — a departure from the previous two frenetic weeks. With the House pulling its repeal and replacement of the 2010 health care law last week, the president and senior White House aides contend they have put that debacle behind them and are preparing for tax overhaul which will be driven by the White House (according to White House Press Secretary), not Speaker Ryan and other top Republicans. EASIER SAID THEN DONE A tax code overhaul has long been a legislative priority for Ryan, who chaired the Ways and Means Committee before ascending to the speakership. Ryan [has] acknowledged that Republicans’ failure on health care legislation makes tax overhaul more difficult, in large part because the baseline is about a trillion dollars higher absent the GOP’s health care plan. … CIVICS CRASH COURSE The businessman-turned-politician has gotten a civics crash course since being sworn in on Jan. 20. First he ran afoul of the courts with his executive order banning some Muslims from entering the country. Then members of his own party declared his first budget dead on arrival and reminded Trump the “power of the purse” is owned by Congress. Last week’s health care failure provided another checks-and-balances reminder about the fractures in his own party. The president himself acknowledged as much. Administration officials appear rocked that the president was unable in his first legislative battle to keep House Republicans together. That might explain his interest in working with the minority party. WHAT? Trump suddenly is “absolutely” willing to work with Democrats, said Spicer.”

TRUMP DECLARES WAR ON FREEDOM CAUCUS Politico “For years, the House Freedom Caucus has pushed around House Republican leaders, even driving a speaker out of office. But now they’ve messed with the president of the United States, and Donald Trump is coming at them in full force. Trump on Thursday evening turned his Twitter firepower on the ringleaders of the conservative group that helped tank the House GOP Obamacare replacement – a direct assault that could undermine the group’s influence going forward … Trump’s Thursday tweetstorm against the group marks an escalation in the face-off between the White House and conservative purists. Trump previously tried to offer the Freedom Caucus concessions on health care, but the group rejected his carrot approach. Now, he’s reached for the stick.”


IMPARTIAL INVESTIGATION? The Fix “From the perspective of impartiality, one of the problems with Congress investigating Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election and whether President Trump’s circle had anything to do with it is Congress itself. The New York Times reported Thursday that Nunes had two sources, and both worked for the White House. In recent days, Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is making it very hard for his committee to meet those standards of impartiality.

On Monday …Nunes, a Trump ally was at the White House the day before he released information that appeared to somewhat defend the president on his defenseless wiretapping claims.What’s more, the congressman released this secret information to the president — whose circle is under investigation by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia — before sharing it with his own committee members. From there, it’s not a stretch for a reasonable person to consider whether Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, wants to protect the president. And from there, it’s not a stretch to question the impartiality of the investigation Nunes is leading in the House on Russia meddling in the U.S. election.”

“GOBSMACKED” said Norm Ornstein, a nonpartisan ethics scholar with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “The integrity of the system is built on the independence of Congress from any investigation involving the executive branch. I just think this is so far over the line you can’t even see the line anymore,” he said. (Define ‘gobsmacked’ – utterly astonished)

DEVIN NUNES WIRETAPPING SAGA, EXPLAINED The Fix “As in any good spy story, the twists and turns in the real-life spy drama gripping Washington right now can be hard to follow. There are three questions that the House and Senate intelligence committees and the FBI are trying to answer with their own investigations:

1. What is the extent of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election to help Trump win, as intelligence agencies have concluded, and what can be done to prevent it from happening again?

2. Did Trump campaign associates collude with Russia on said meddling?

3. Were Trump campaign associates caught up in unrelated spying of foreign nationals, and, if so, who leaked that fact to the public? (The identity of any U.S. national caught up in surveillance is kept secret from all but a handful of people.)

But in the eyes of national security experts, Democrats and even some Republicans, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has jeopardized the impartiality of his committee’s investigation into the above questions by appearing to work with the White House to uncover information. Now, Democrats are publicly calling for Nunes to step down from the House investigation.

Click Here for a timeline of everything you need to know about what led to this point.


LET’S TALK ABOUT 2047: CBO is out with its latest long-term budget forecast, offering another grim reminder that the nation’s debt is approaching record levels with scant congressional interest in doing something about it. Here’s your headline: Federal debt is expected to reach 150% of GDP within 30 years, the highest rate in history. … CBO is lowering its long-term economic outlook after looking at recent trends in productivity and the labor force, projecting now that real GDP will grow by 1.9% through 2047, a slight decline compared to the 2.1% projected growth last year. (President Donald Trump promised ” better than” 4% growth on the campaign trail.)


SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR ONLINE PRIVACY Wired “The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to reverse Obama-era regulations preventing internet service providers from selling your web browsing history on the open market. A few Republicans broke rank to vote against the resolution, while Democrats stayed unified in opposing it. (The Senate’s approval last week stuck strictly to party lines.) WashPo “The Senate has already voted to nullify those measures, which were set to take effect at the end of this year. If Trump signs the legislation as expected, providers will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads – making them rivals to Google and Facebook in the $83 billion online advertising market. … In addition, the [FCC], which initially drafted the protections, will be forbidden from issuing similar rules in the future.” … All of which means you’ll need to take your online privacy into your own hands. Several technical workarounds—especially virtual private networks, or VPNs—will return some semblance of control to you, the internet user. But even these solutions are far from perfect. When it comes to privacy, tech can help. But it doesn’t take the place of having the law on your side.”


TO BAN … OR NOT TO BAN … AN INSECTICIDE THAT CAUSES SEVERE BIRTH DEFECTS, BRAIN DAMAGE AND MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS. NYT “Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, moved late on Wednesday to reject the scientific conclusion of the agency’s own chemical safety experts who under the Obama administration recommended that one of the nation’s most widely used insecticides — CHLORPYRIFOS — be permanently banned at farms nationwide because of the harm it potentially causes children and farm workers. The ruling by Mr. Pruitt, in one of his first formal actions as the nation’s top environmental official, rejected a petition filed a decade ago by two environmental groups that had asked that the agency ban all uses of chlorpyrifos. The chemical was banned in 2000 for use in most household settings, but still today is used at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples. As the NYTs’ report explained, EPA scientists concluded last year that there are significant health consequences associated with exposure to the chemical. As of late last year, the agency had reviewed its research and “still concluded that the chemical should be banned.” Chlorpyrifos’ maker, however, Dow Chemical, insisted the science is inconclusive – and Donald Trump’s EPA chief, as his wont, sided with the manufacturer.”


I’LL TAKE IMMUNITY FOR 600, ALEX WSJ “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has told the FBI and congressional committees (who are investigating possible collusion between Trump aides and Moscow) he is willing to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution.”

“When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime.”
– Michael Flynn, then a top campaign aide to Donald Trump, said on “Meet the Press.”

“The reason they get immunity is because they did something wrong. If they didn’t do anything wrong, they don’t think in terms of immunity. If you are not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for? Right.”
– Candidate Donald Trump, at a rally in Wisconsin around the same time as Flynn statement

Just saying…


NATO COMMITMENT AN “ABSOLUTE DEADLOCK” Politico “Def Sec Jim Mattis doubled down on the U.S. commitment to defending its NATO allies, calling it an “absolute deadlock” during a joint press conference today in London with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.”


SECRETARY OF STATE IN ISOLATION WashPo “Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below. … Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly – or even make eye contact. On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state. Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State … and it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department.”


GASP … TOM PRICE’S SEAT UP FOR GRABS In suburban Atlanta, GA’s 6th CD … a seat held by Republicans since Jimmy Carter was president, Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are beginning to distance themselves from the crowded field in Georgia’s special election, according to a Fox 5 Atlanta poll. The poll showed Ossoff leading the 18-candidate field with 40% of the vote and Handel at 20%. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters in the April 18 special election are headed to a likely June 20 runoff. Club for Growth is poised to air a TV ad against Handel. This is a special election after former Rep. Tom Price vacated the seat to serve as President Donald Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.” … Democrats are downplaying recent Republican efforts to recast the special election to fill HHS Secretary Tom Price’s congressional seat. “The GOP is moving the goal post to make it seem like a victory if they stop Jon Ossoff from winning outright on April 18th, but honestly, it’s a big deal that Dems are in a position to even get through the primary at all,” according to one Democratic operative involved in the race.”


BRING YOUR DAUGHTER TO WORK Politico “Ivanka Trump, the elder daughter of President Trump, is becoming an official government employee, joining her husband in serving as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House. Ms. Trump already has an office in the West Wing, and she said last week that she would serve as an informal adviser to her father. But that plan prompted criticism from ethics experts, who said it would allow her to avoid some rules and disclosures. Ms. Trump’s title will be assistant to the president. Her husband, Jared Kushner, has the title of senior adviser.”


IT WAS NEVER ABOUT BATHROOMS theSkimm “Yesterday, North Carolina repealed its bathroom bill. Kind of. Last year, NC passed what came to be known as ‘the bathroom bill.’ It requires people to use the public bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate. Supporters said this is to protect women’s privacy and safety. Critics said ‘hi there, bigotry,’ pointing out that this discriminates against transgender people. Businesses like PayPal and the NCAA cashed out of the state in response. NC’s governor lost his re-election campaign in big part because of the backlash. Earlier this week, an AP report found that the law could cost the state almost $4 billion in lost business over the coming years. NC would very much like to keep that money. So yesterday, NC officially got rid of the bathroom bill. And replaced it with a law that says local lawmakers across the state can’t pass any new protections for the LGBTQ community until 2020. Supporters say this a compromise. Critics say ‘hi there again, bigotry.”


THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE Wonkblog “Economists have long argued that automation, not trade, is responsible for the bulk of the six million jobs shed by the manufacturing sector over the last 25 years. Now, they have a put a precise figure on some of the losses. Industrial robots alone have eliminated up to 670,000 American jobs between 1990 and 2007, according to new research from MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo. The number is stunning on the face of it, and many have interpreted the study as an indictment of technological change — a sign that “robots are winning the race for American jobs.” But the bigger takeaway is that the nation has been ill-equipped to deal with the upheaval caused by automation. Full Article.


WHAT’S REALLY WARMING THE WORLD Bloomberg … Great Interactive. Click Here.



Update From Last Week (Daily News) It’s official: The spunky little “Fearless Girl” will keep staring down the massive “Charging Bull” of Bowling Green. Hats off to Mayor de Blasio for answering a surge of affection with a reprieve with a stay through early next year under a Department of Transportation program for hosting temporary public art.

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