Posts tagged with "Congress"

Never mind: Trump reverses himself on Obamacare replacement vote

April 4, 2019

President Donald Trump now claims he never wanted Congress to “repeal and replace” Obamacare ahead of the 2020 elections, even though he unexpectedly revived the issue and pushed for swift action over the course of the past week, The Hill reports.

“I was never planning a vote prior to the 2020 Election on the wonderful HealthCare package that some very talented people are now developing for me & the Republican Party. It will be on full display during the Election as a much better & less expensive alternative to ObamaCare,” he tweeted.

The president denied that pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) led him to change his plans, even though he announced his decision after speaking with the top GOP senator on Monday.

“I never asked Mitch McConnell for a vote before the Election as has been incorrectly reported (as usual) in the @nytimes, but only after the Election when we take back the House etc. Republicans will always support pre-existing conditions!” Trump wrote.

However, The Hill reported that, on Monday, April 1, McConnell told the president that he would not bow to White House demands to revisit healthcare so soon, and that the Senate will not be moving comprehensive health care legislation before the 2020 election, despite the president asking Senate Republicans to do that in a meeting last week.

McConnell said he made clear to the president that Senate Republicans will work on bills to keep down the cost of health care, but that they will not work on a comprehensive package to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Following that conversation—and his own about-face in tweets on the issue—President Trump predicted that healthcare “will be a great campaign issue” for Republicans.

I wanted to delay it myself. I want to put it after the election because we don’t have the House,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office.

Research contact: @thehill

House chairs to AG Barr: Trump is ‘not above the law’ and Mueller report should be public

February 24, 2019

On February 22, the chairs of six House committees wrote to newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General William Barr to inform him of their expectation that he will make Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.” The letter follows news reports that suggest the Special Counsel investigation is nearing an end.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Committee on Financial Services Chairperson Maxine Waters, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

“As you know,” they said, “Department of Justice regulations require that, ‘[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.’”

The American people, they said, have a right to see the findings—noting, “After nearly two years of investigation—accompanied by two years of direct attacks on the integrity of the investigation by the President—the public is entitled to know what the Special Counsel has found.  We write to you to express, in the strongest possible terms, our expectation that the Department of Justice will release to the public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you—without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

In addition, they said, there is “significant public interest” in the full disclosure of information learned by the Special Counsel about the nature and scope of the Russian government’s efforts to undermine our democracy.

Therefore, “…[if] the Department believes that certain aspects of the report are not suitable for immediate public release, we ask that you provide that information to Congress, along with your reasoning for withholding the information from the public, in order for us to judge the appropriateness of any redactions for ourselves.”

Specifically addressing comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concerning the agency’s reluctance to release materials on individuals who are not under indictment, the committee chairpersons wrote, “Finally, although we recognize the policy of the Department to remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of individuals who will not face criminal charges, we feel that it is necessary to address the particular danger of withholding evidence of misconduct by President Trump from the relevant committees.”

They concluded with a strong demand—stating that, “If the Special Counsel has reason to believe that the President has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the President must be subject to accountability either in a court or to the Congress.

“But because the Department has taken the position that a sitting President is immune from indictment and prosecution,” the chairpersons said, “Congress could be the only institution currently situated to act on evidence of the President’s misconduct.  To maintain that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and then to withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because the President will not be charged, is to convert Department policy into the means for a cover-up.  The President is not above the law.”

Research contact: @HouseIntel

Who do you trust? Trump claims a wall made El Paso safe; Mayor Margo disagrees

February 12, 2019

As President Donald Trump confirmed plans for a Monday night rally in El Paso, Texas, the city’s mayor, Dee Margo, asserted that the lower incidence of crime that the area has enjoyed in recent years has not been the direct result of fencing at the southern border.

The president is expected to exhort his base for a wall at what amounts to a major campaign event—being held just days ahead of the deadline for Congress to hammer out a deal on the budget and border security, NBC News reported on February 11.

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime—one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities,” Trump said in his State of the Union Address on February 6 “Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.”

But the statistics don’t back him up. Mayor Margo notes. According to law enforcement data, the city had low crime rates well before a border barrier was constructed between 2008 and mid-2009.

Indeed, NBC News reports, violent crime has been dropping in El Paso since its modern-day peak in 1993 and was at historic lows before a fence was authorized by Congress in 2006. Violent crime actually ticked up during the border fence’s construction and after its completion, according to police data collected by the FBI.

Democratic officials immediately took issue with the picture Trump painted, saying the president was using their city to justify a pointless and unnecessary wall.

“The facts are clear. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been ‘…considered one of our Nation’s most dangerous cities,'” the city’s sheriff, Richard Wiles, a Democrat, said in a statement after Trump concluded his address. “And, El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built.”

“I believe he was given some misinformation,” Mayor Margo told CNN in an interview, adding the idea that El Paso was a lawless and dangerous place before fencing was built is “not factually correct.”

Margo said he’d correct the president if he reiterated falsehoods about El Paso on Monday. “The geography of Texas won’t allow a fence from El Paso to Brownsville even if you wanted to do it,” Margo said.

When pressed on the inaccuracy of the president’s claims, the White House said the high rate of crime in the city directly across the border—Juarez—proved that the barrier was responsible for the low crime rate in El Paso.

Research contact: @janestreet

Budgetary bluster: Trump threatens government shutdown, if Congress rejects $5B for wall

November 29, 2018

President Donald Trump is throwing his considerable weight around again: He is calling for no less than $5 billion in funding to build the border wall. He refuses to negotiate—and has gone on record saying that he is willing to instigate a partial government shutdown—as the clock ticks down to Congress’s December 7 deadline for the FY2019 budget bill.

What’s more, the president repeatedly has threatened to close the entire southern border, if he is not satisfied, tweeting on November 26, “…We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!”

The House and the Senate still have to pass seven spending bills to fund multiple government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the State Department, Vox reported on November 28. But Trump has renewed a push for border wall funding, throwing a major wrench into these negotiations. What’s more, the president has said, if he does not get the money, the Democrats are to blame.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had previously been optimistic about closing the year with no drama, but a veto threat over wall funding could make that tougher to do. Because these are spending bills that require 60 votes to pass, Democrats have a fair amount of leverage.

And they don’t appear to be backing down easily, Vox said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) signaled Tuesday, the news outlet said, that he would support no more than the already allocated $1.6 billion for funding the wall in the Senate version of spending legislation.

They haven’t spent a penny of the $1.3 billion they requested in last year’s budget .… We’re not negotiating in the press,” Schumer told reporters.

According to the Vox report, Democrats also are standing firm over issues related to protecting the Mueller investigation and addressing the citizenship question on the 2020 Census questionnaire—matters they would much prefer to see tackled in the bill.

Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) has characterized wall funding as the “linchpin” of current talks, telling reporters the $5 billion figure is a “red line” for Trump.

If Congress is unable to reach an agreement that gets closer to this figure, Trump said that he could—and would—veto whatever bill comes across his desk.

Research contact: Li Zhouli@vox.com

Out of the blue: Republicans look toward a litigious future

August 28, 2018

The end is near–or at least that’s what Congressional Republicans are expecting, as the midterm “Blue Wave” approaches. Axios’s National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan has obtained a spreadsheet that, he says, has “circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill” and that scrupulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.

Publicly, Axios reports, House Republicans are “putting on a brave face” about the midterms. But behind closed doors, they are preparing for the worst. The document, which catalogs the requests that Democrats already have made, is part of that effort.

According to Swan, the following list enumerates some of the probes that the GOP predicts will be launched by mid-November:

  • President Trump’s tax returns;
  • Trump’s family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization;
  • Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin;
  • The hush money paid to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels;
  • Former FBI Director James Comey’s firing;
  • Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys;
  • Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military;
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings;
  • White House staff’s personal email use;
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks;
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago;
  • Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance
  • Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors;
  • The travel ban;
  • Family separation policy;
  • Hurricane response (or lack therof) in Puerto Rico;
  • Election security and hacking attempts; and
  • White House security clearances.

The spreadsheet in question, says Swan, originated in a senior House Republican office —and catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee.

The bottom line, the Axios political pundit reports: Thanks to their control of Congress, Republicans have blocked most of the Democrats’ investigative requests. But if the House flips, the GOP loses that advantage.

Swan says that lawyers close to the White House have told him that the Trump administration “is nowhere near prepared for the investigatory onslaught that awaits them, and they consider it among the greatest threats to his presidency.”

Research contact: @jonathanvswan

Democrats in Congress rain on—and want to rein in—Trump’s parade

February 9, 2018

Congressional Democrats are largely opposed to President Donald Trump’s request to hold a military-style parade, while Republicans appeared to have mixed feelings on the subject, CNN reported on February 7, following an informal poll of the federal legislators.

The Washington Post first reported that Trump told top Pentagon brass last month he wanted a military parade similar to the one he had viewed as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron on Bastille Day last July 14. At that time, he called the procession “one of the greatest parades” he had ever seen.

“I think a parade showcasing our military and the sacrifices they make to our country would be appropriate as a way to say thank you,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN. “But I am not interested in a military hardware display that would be cheesy and project weakness.”

Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi was not on-board with the idea at all: “It hadn’t been a priority at all,” he told CNN. “If it would save money not to do it, we probably ought to look at that.”

Meanwhile, Democrats told the news network that they were skeptical about the proposal, arguing it was a waste of money and a vanity exercise for Trump.

“I was stunned by it, to be quite honest. I mean, we have a Napoleon in the making here,” Representative Jackie Speier of California told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on February 6.

The Senate Democratic Whip, Dick Durbin of Illinois, said he wouldn’t attend such a parade. “I believe that spending millions, maybe more, on the President’s amusement is a colossal waste of funds that should be spent to make sure our troops are ready for battle and come home safely, their families receive all the support they deserve and that the waiting lines at V.A. facilities be reduced,” Durbin told CNN. “That’s how we can honor our veterans. Not with a parade for the president.”

Predictably enough, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont, said that “what [Trump] should have learned from France is about their healthcare system—not about their military parades.”

“We have the mightiest military on the planet and we don’t need a parade to prove that,” tweeted Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

The Pentagon is exploring the idea of holding the parade in November, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11, 1918, a spokesperson said. There also has been some consideration of staging a parade on July 4.

The Post said shipping tanks and military  hardware into Washington could cost millions of dollars and that military officials said they were unsure how to pay for it.

And the Washingtonian magazine reported that, “if history is any guide, the costs could quickly pile up”—noting, “The last big military parade, in June 1991, featured 8,000 troops and lineups of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 72-ton M1 Abrams tanks crawling along 200,000 spectators on Constitution Avenue. While organizers originally estimated the day would cost $8 million, with $5 million coming from private donors, the final tab climbed to $12 million, with taxpayers footing the balance.”

Like the wall on the southern border, this may be a project that the president must find funding for, himself.

Research contact: @KilloughCNN

Americans reject ‘fake news’ on energy from all sources but federal agencies

January 3, 2018

Americans across the political spectrum believe that U.S. federal agencies are the most credible source for energy information—somewhat more so than the news media and significantly more so than the White House or Congress—based on the findings of a poll of 1,000 adults released on December 28 by integrated communications firm Makovsky.

The report, entitled Trust, Credibility and America’s Energy Future, offers a look into what U.S. consumers thought about energy issues at the end of a year that saw the Trump administration withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, the repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and ongoing issues (including earthquakes) surrounding hydraulic fracking and the approval of the controversial Keystone pipeline.

On the credibility issue, respondents were given a variety of choices, and U.S. government agencies and TV news channels and/or their websites were seen as the most credible information sources (22% and 20%, respectively); while the White House came in at 13% and Congress at 8%.

Millennials gave the highest credibility scores to federal agencies and TV news channels (33% and 24%, respectively). In fact, Millennials appear to be more trusting of information sources in genera— giving notably higher credibility scores compared to other generations surveyed.

Despite social media ranking among the top information sources, it was considered the least credible of the sources listed (7%). High use combined with low credibility may be driven by the passive nature of social media—as opposed to consumers actively seeking it out.

“These new results illustrate that Americans want reliable sources of information about energy issues, and the uncertainty of the past year has led them to put the most faith in federal agency policy makers and the news media,” said Makovsky Executive Vice President of Energy, Manufacturing and Sustainability Andy Beck.

Americans also viewed energy company communications with skepticism and distrust. When asked to identify the most informative energy company communications method, the top response (36%) was “none of the above” followed by websites (29%), Facebook (15%) and advertisements (7%).

Research contact: abeck@makovsky.com