Posts tagged with "Democrats"

White House to reset messaging on spending bills

October 5, 2021

The White House is looking to reset the messaging this week around its multitrillion-dollar spending bills deadlocked in Congress, as President Joe Biden hits the road to pitch popular elements of the package. NBC News reports.

Officials are hoping to get the focus back on the content of the bills, like programs that would cut prescription drug prices and lower child care costs, and away from the process and debate over the price tag, which has been at the center of infighting among Democrats in Washington, said a White House official.

Biden will travel to the working-class town of Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday to “continue rallying public support” for the bills, the White House said on Sunday, October 3, in a statement. Biden said Saturday that he may make other stops this week, although the official said nothing has been finalized.

Biden said over the weekend that he believed the messaging around the bills had gotten muddled and that he hoped to improve the sales pitch. The bills—one for $550 billion on infrastructure and another for a proposed $3.5 trillion to fund a range of social programs—are part of a major campaign promise Biden made to rebuild the country’s physical and “human” infrastructure and have been the focus of his domestic policy agenda as president.

There’s an awful lot that’s in …  these bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, October 2, adding, “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them, not everyone, over 70% of the American people are for them.”

According to NBC News, both the infrastructure bill and the social spending measure have the support of Democrats—but moderates have pushed to reduce the size of the social safety net bill, while progressives insist the spending is needed especially following the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Progressive House Democrats refused on Friday to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill until they had more assurances that the larger social spending bill also would pass the Senate. Both bills only need Democratic support because they are being put forward through a legislative process known as reconciliation.

In Washington, much of the focus by the White House this week will be on trying to reach an agreement among Democratic senators on the larger social safety net bill.

Biden had numerous phone calls over the weekend from his Delaware home with members of Congress, said the official, who declined to say which members.

Research contact: @NBCNews

‘We’ll put them down very quickly’: Trump threatens to quash election night protests

September 14, 2020

President Donald Trump threatened Thursday to “put … down very quickly” riots on election night, should aggrieved Democrats take to the streets in the wake of his potential victory, Politico reports.

The remarks from the president came in an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that is set to air Saturday, in which he was asked how he would respond to incidents of rioting should he be declared the winner on November 3.

“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that. We have the right to do that. We have the power to do that, if we want,” Trump said.

“Look, it’s called insurrection,” he added. “We just send in, and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to, we’d do that and put it down within minutes.”

Trump drew bipartisan criticism in June after police officers and National Guard troops fired rubber bullets and deployed flash-bang grenades to force largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House.

The incursion against protesters by U.S. law enforcement officials allowed the president, top White House aides, and senior administration officials including Attorney General William Barr, to walk across the street to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church — where Trump posed with an upside down Bible for a political photo opportunity.

Just a few weeks later, in July, Trump deployed an ambiguous mix of militarized officers from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland, Oregon, where they were captured on video using apparently unnecessary force against a Navy veteran and loading BLM protesters into unmarked cars.

At the same time, Biden has forcefully condemned all violence in American cities. However, Trump has been reluctant to speak out against violence perpetrated by his supporters in the form of counterprotests.

It is unclear whether there will be rioting on election night or if the White House race will even be called in the hours after the polls close, due to the significant expansion of mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, Politico says.

Trump has expressed vocal opposition to voting by mail, asserting without evidence that the virtual ballot-casting practice would result in widespread voter fraud and yield unfavorable electoral results for Republicans.

In august, Trump threatened that he would order law enforcement officials to polling places in an effort to deter illegal activity on Election Day, although it is unclear what authority he has to issue such a directive.

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorneys general.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows insisted at that juncture that Trump was not advocating a form of voter suppression, and Attorney General William Barr argued that sending federal agents to voting sites would be legal if they were responding to a “particular criminal threat” or “specific investigative danger.”

Research contact: @politico

Trump admits that he’s ‘breaking’ the Postal Service to block mail-in voting, cast doubt on election results

August 14, 2020

President Donald Trump admitted during a TV interview on August 13 that he is attempting to undermine the U.S. Postal Service by blocking funding for the agency—which is expected to deal with a high volume of mail-in ballots during this election season.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said Thursday in an interview on Fox Business. “But if they don’t get [it], that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”

Specifically, The Huffington Post reported, during an exclusive interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, the president said negotiations over the fourth economic stimulus relief package were held up, in part, due to Democrats’ demands for billions of dollars in funding toward mail-in voting.

In another exercise in blame-shifting, Trump said, “It’s their fault,”  referring to the Democrats. “They want $3.5 billion for something that’s fraudulent … for the mail-in votes, universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion for the post office. They need that money so it can work and they can take these millions and millions of ballots.”

Indeed, according to HuffPost, Trump has repeatedly spread conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and has suggested he’ll cast doubt on the results of the November election. States are working to increase their capacity for mail-in voting, as many Americans are expected to vote by mail this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Election watchdog and voting rights groups are deeply concerned that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and the Postal Service will result in increased voter suppression.

At a press conference Wednesday, Trump gave similar reasons for why he would not approve emergency congressional funding for the cash-strapped and backlogged agency.

“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess, right?” Trump said. “Are they going to do it, even if they don’t have the money?”

He also claimed the election would “be the great rigged election in history” and “one of the greatest frauds in history.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Trump reneges on reopening federal health insurance exchanges during the COVID-19 crisis

April 2, 2020

Defying appeals from insurers and Democrats, the Trump Administration said on March 31 that it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, Slate reports.

The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual November 1 through December 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of U.S. states.

Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states, as well as Washington, D.C., have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in order to provide frontline workers with the chance to buy in during the coronavirus outbreak.

Democratic legislators had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and— after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims—“the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.

“Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March.

The insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options.

Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.

The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the ten-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.

Research contact: @Slate

Pelosi: Mail-in voting will protect free and fair elections—and American voters—amid coronavirus

April 1, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Congress—and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27—provides $400 million in election security grants, which are intended to help states to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But just how that $400 million will be put to use to protect the American values of fair and free elections is now the subject of debate among Washington lawmakers, Politico reports.

On Tuesday, March 31, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that vote-by-mail capabilities should be scaled up ahead of 2020’s remaining elections—a move that would shield voters from the threats that in-person voting could pose amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“In terms of the elections, I think that we’ll probably be moving to vote by mail,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that congressional Democrats had pushed to allocate more funding in the recent $2 trillion relief package “to get those resources to the states to facilitate the reality of life: that we are going to have to have more vote by mail.”

More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries, as the public health crisis sweeps the nation, however the pivot to mail voting has proved difficult for election officials to navigate in the run-up to general elections in November, Politico notes.

“The integrity of the election system is central to our democracy,” Pelosi said. “How anyone could oppose our enabling the states to have vote-by-mail raises so many other questions, but let’s just be hopeful and have public opinion weigh in on that.”

Almost immediately, it became clear that President Trump not only would balk at Pelosi’s idea, but would hinder any efforts to implement the vote-by-mail movement.

Indeed, Politico reported, Trump on Monday criticized Democrats’ push for expanded election provisions in the relief package, arguing that “the things they had in there were crazy” before the final text of the legislation was negotiated.

“They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he told Fox & Friends.

Responding to Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, Pelosi said she felt “sad that the president doesn’t have confidence that his party cannot convince the American people about a path to go forward,” and lamented his belief that “vote by mail would deter any future elections. No, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Trump offered his own appraisal of the speaker’s interview later Tuesday morning, tweeting that he tuned into a “portion of low rated (very) Morning Psycho (Joe) this Morning in order to see what Nancy Pelosi had to say, & what moves she was planning to further hurt our Country.”

“Actually, other than her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person, she wasn’t bad,” the president wrote. “Still praying!”

Research contact: @politico

MIA: President Trump departs for NATO meeting before first House Judiciary impeachment hearing

December 4, 2019

President Donald Trump will not be in the room—or even in the country—when the impeachment hearings continue this week, the White House communicated to the House Judiciary Committee in a December 2 letter.

He will be attending the NATO Summit, December 2-4 in Britain—and he has lambasted House Democrats for continuing the legal process without him, although he has so far refused to cooperate in every way possible.

As he and the first lady left the White House on December 3, the president commented, “This is one of the most important journeys that we make as President. And for them (Democrats) to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with,” Trump told a press gaggle before boarding Marine One aircraft.

“The Democrats, the radical-left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats, decided when I’m going to NATO—this was set up a year ago—that when I’m going to NATO, that was the exact time,” he said.

According to a report by Politico, “The decision indicates that President Donald Trump has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan.”

It also means that Trump will need to lean heavily on his closest GOP allies on the panel —including Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida —to mount an impeachment defense during the Judiciary panel’s first hearing on Wednesday featuring legal scholars.

“Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in the letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), adding that “an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”

He added, “It is too late to cure the profound procedural deficiencies that have tainted this entire inquiry …. We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings.”

Nadler had asked Trump to indicate by Sunday whether he or a White House attorney would attend Wednesday’s hearing, an offer that Democrats said was an attempt to afford due process to Trump as he faces a likely impeachment vote before the end of the month.

Nadler also has asked Trump to reveal by the end of the week whether he intends to participate in any aspect of the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, which are expected to continue into the following week, Politico said. Notably, Cipollone left open the possibility that the White House would participate in future hearings.

Research contact: @politico

Bolton resisted Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani ‘a hand grenade’

October 15, 2019

The effort to squeeze Ukraine for political help provoked a head-on battle inside the White House last summer, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, the under-the-radar strong-arm tactics being used by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, as well as administration officials, so alarmed John Bolton—who was at that time the national security adviser—that he told aide Fiona Hill to alert White House lawyers, House investigators learned on October 14.

Specifically, the Times notes, Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was working with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, to press Ukraine to provide dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified on Monday that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, according to the sources to the Times.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

It was not the first time Bolton expressed grave concerns to Hill about the campaign being run by Giuliani, the news outlet said. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill quoted Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

According to the Times, “The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive … Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. … Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that … Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.”

At one point, she confronted Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the Times’ sources

Hill was the first former White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. While she left her post shortly before the now-infamous July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats, she helped House investigators understand the early months of the pressure campaign.

Research contact: @nytimes

House Democrats file suit in federal court for President Trump’s tax returns

July 3, 2019

It has been nearly two months since Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts), evaded Democrats’ request for President Trump’s tax returns—facetiously saying that the financial information could not be released in light of “serious issues” about whether their demand was proper.

A May subpoena from the panel also was treated as inconsequential.

As of July 2, Neal said he had no choice but to file suit in federal court in order to compel the Internal Revenue Service to turn over the records.

“In refusing to comply with the statute, Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people,” the lawsuit (Case No. 1:19-cv-1974)—filed against the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, Steven T. Mnuchin, and IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia— says.

Neal is seeking the President’s tax returns using an arcane IRS provision known as 6103, which allows the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to request and obtain an individual’s tax information for a legitimate legislative purpose.

According to a report by Politico, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had a terse response to the suit.

“We will respond to this latest effort at presidential harassment in court,” he said.

And that may be sooner than he thinks: While the fight over Trump’s taxes could be lengthy, with the administration likely to try to drag out the proceedings beyond next year’s elections, Politico said that “some see signs the courts are trying to move quickly on the oversight challenges.”

“They’re not unaware the administration is throwing up roadblocks at every conceivable opportunity and I think they understand that the system itself is under stress,” Kerry Kircher, who was the House’s general counsel from 2011 to 2016 and deputy counsel from 1996 to 2010, told the political news outlet, adding, “The judiciary is aware of the need for some expedition here, and that we can’t go through the usual processes where it takes a couple years for these cases to work themselves out.”

Neal asked the court for a speedy decision, reminding it that sessions of Congress only run two years.

“If this Court does not redress Defendants’ noncompliance quickly, the Committee will be unable to fulfill its essential role of overseeing the Executive Branch or to carry out its constitutional obligation to legislate,” the suit says.

Research contact: @politico

‘Who’s gonna pay for the wall?’

December 13, 2018

The answer to the question above? Apparently, not Mexico—which was what President Donald Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 campaign. And probably not Congress either.

During a surreal meeting in the Oval Office on December 11, The New York Times reports, President Donald Trump engaged in an argument in front of reporters with two Democratic leaders, Representative Nancy Pelosi (12th District, California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (New York), over the his own threats to shut down the government unless he gets $5 billion to build a border wall.

During what the news outlet characterized as “an extraordinary public airing of hostilities that underscored a new, more confrontational dynamic in Washington,” the president vowed to block full funding for the government if Democrats refused to allocate money for the wall on the southwestern border, saying he was “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

He repeatedly told Pelosi that he “only need[ed] ten Democratic votes in the House” to pass the funding for the wall. In turn, she replied that he didn’t have the votes—and would not have them in the future.

According to the Times report, the two Democratic leaders took issue with the president’s position and his false assertions about the wall—which he claimed was already under construction—in front of a phalanx of news cameras, imploring him repeatedly to continue the tense conversation without reporters present.

However, the news outlet said, “Trump insisted on a conspicuous clash that undercut Republican congressional leaders and his own staff working to avoid a shutdown at all costs, or at least to ensure that Democrats would shoulder the blame for such a result.”

“If we don’t have border security, we’ll shut down the government — this country needs border security,” Mr. Trump declared as the diatribe unfolded, and Schumer reminded the president repeatedly that he had called several times for a shutdown, appearing to goad him into taking responsibility.

 “You want to know something?” an infuriated Trump  finally said. “I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck.”

“I will take the mantle,” Mr. Trump went on. “I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Ultimately, the discussion again raised doubts about whether Trump and the Congress could reach agreement by a December 21 deadline to keep much of the government open, appearing to harden diametrically opposed positions on the wall.

Research contact: @nytimes

In effort to intimidate voters, Trump and Sessions warn of fraud at polls

November 7, 2018

On the day before the midterm elections, November 5, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued strong warnings about the threat of voter fraud —echoing what the Washington Post characterized as “the president’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud marred his 2016 election and prompting accusations that his administration is trying to intimidate voters.

In a tweet early Monday, Trump said that law enforcement has been “strongly notified” to watch for “ILLEGAL VOTING.” He promised that anyone caught voting improperly would be subjected to “Maximum Criminal Penalties.”

Sessions, in a statement laying out the Justice Department’s plans to monitor ballot access on Election Day, said “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.

In remarks to reporters on his way to a campaign rally in Cleveland, Trump also falsely claimed that voter fraud is commonplace, the Washington Post said.

“Just take a look,” he said. “All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people—a lot of people—my opinion, and based on proof—that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, the Post reported, noting that the president had formed a commission to study the issue shortly after he took office that was disbanded without finding evidence of fraud after states refused to turn over voter data.

Voting rights advocates denounced Trump’s remarks as a blatant attempt to intimidate voters on the eve of Election Day—and part of a pattern among Republicans, they said, to curtail voting access with strict rules that disproportionately affect voters of color who tend to vote Democratic.

“I find this kind of conduct incredibly anti-patriotic,” Kristen Clarke, who leads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting rights group that has successfully challenged several new voting restrictions across the country this year, told the Post. “At a time when we need our White House and Justice Department speaking out against the relentless campaign of voter suppression in this election cycle, it defies reason.”

Research contact: amy.gardner@washpost.com