Posts tagged with "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell"

Stimulus bill prohibits Trump family, lawmakers from benefiting from loan programs

March 26, 2020

The $2 trillion stimulus bill that the White House and Senate leaders were expected to sign off on this Wednesday prohibits either Congressional lawmakers or President Donald Trump’s family business from benefiting from loans or investments through its corporate liquidity program, The Hill reports.

“We wrote a provision, not just the president, but any major figure in government, Cabinet, Senate, congressmen — if they have majority, they have majority control, they can’t get grants or loans and that makes sense,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a CNN interview. “Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law.”

Trump acknowledged on March 21 that the coronavirus pandemic is hurting his family business, The Hill said. Since the start of the U.S. outbreak, dozens of state and local governments have ordered nonessential businesses—such as hotels and resorts —to close.

“I wouldn’t say you’re thriving when you decide to close down your hotels and your businesses,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about reports that Trump Organization properties are being adversely affected by COVID-19.

“But is it hurting me? Yeah, it’s hurting me, and it’s hurting Hilton, and it’s hurting all of the great hotel chains all over the world,” he added.

At a Saturday morning White House press briefing, Trump was asked if he would accept stimulus money from the stimulus package meant to counter some of the damage the pandemic has done to the economy.

“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I just don’t know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels. Everybody knew I had hotels when I got elected. They knew I was a successful person when I got elected, so it’s one of those things.”

However, before the 2016 election, Trump had promised that his children, Don Jr. and Eric, would run the Trump Organization and that he would keep his distance from the company. However, that has not happened.

The provision to ban lawmakers from benefiting from Treasury Department programs in the stimulus bill was among 19 items highlighted by Schumer in his letter to colleagues describing the contents of the bill.

“Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has secured a provision in the agreement that will prohibit businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs,” his office said in an email to reporters. “The children, spouses and in-laws of the aforementioned principals are also included in this prohibition.”

Research contact: @thehill

Democrats block Senate coronavirus bill, calling it a bailout for corporations and Trump’s family

March 24, 2020

Who will benefit from the bills that the U.S. Congress is churning out to deal with COVID-19? Will it be everyday Americans and the healthcare heroes who are struggling to stem the pandemic; or big business—including what Senator Elizabeth Warren has characterized as a “slush fund for Donald Trump and his family”—and Wall Street?

According to a report by The Huffington Post, Democrats are raising serious concerns about the Senate’s massive emergency legislation aimed at propping up the economy and giving relief to workers hit hard by the growing coronavirus pandemic—saying it’s tilted too far in favor of Wall Street and big corporations.

The bill—said to offer at least $1 trillion to prop up an economy paralyzed by the virus—would represent the largest government response thus far to the crisis.

On Wednesday, March 18, lawmakers passed and President Donald Trump signed into law Democratic legislation that makes coronavirus testing free, expands unemployment insurance benefits and provides paid leave to some displaced workers.

Now, the HuffPost says, Democrats have leverage over the final shape of the bill because it will require 60 votes for passage and Republicans number 53 in the 100-seat Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) attempted to advance the bill on Sunday evening, emphasizing the need to move quickly to help those who have been laid off during the crisis. He said both sides had ample time to reach a deal on outstanding issues before a final vote on Monday.

But Democrats unanimously blocked the measure over its provisions allowing the Trump administration to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to major industries like hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and oil and gas.

“We’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care,” a visibly frustrated McConnell said in a floor speech—followed by a press release—after the vote, accusing Democrats of partisan obstruction that threatened the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), meanwhile, said his party opposed moving forward with the bill “because among other problems it includes huge bailouts without protections for people and workers and without accountability, and because it shortchanges our hospitals and health care workers who need our help.”

Schumer said he was hopeful changes could be made in ongoing discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin but added that “we are not yet at that point.”

The high-stakes negotiations, which have been taking place all weekend, gained even more urgency on Sunday after Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He is the first member of the Senate to contract the virus. Four other Republican senators, some of whom were in close proximity to Paul on Capitol Hill earlier this week, also were self-isolating and did not vote Sunday.

“Wall Street’s going to do just fine. They’ve always rebounded real well … let’s take care of the people we’re asking to take care of us if we need them,” Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, said in a floor speech.

Democrats are also unhappy with the portion of the bill aimed at helping distressed industries with at least $450 billion in loans. The massive fund would be controlled by the Treasury Department and could include bailouts to hotels, casinos, cruise lines, and the oil and gas industry. It includes virtually no restrictions on how the money would be distributed, allowing properties owned directly by President Donald Trump to receive a bailout, for example, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.

Another provision in the bill Democrats oppose would allow Mnuchin to delay publicly releasing the names of businesses that receive a bailout, as well as the amounts of those loans, for six months.

“We’re not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family, or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts.) told reporters. “We’re here to help workers, we’re here to help hospitals. And right now what the Republicans proposed does neither of those.” 

Research contact: @HuffPost

Murkowski folds under pressure, quashing testimony at Senate impeachment inquiry

February 3, 2020

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has been brought to heel by Senate Republicans. She now has agreed to vote against a motion that would have enabled the impeachment managers to subpoena both new witnesses and documents blocked by the White House. And in doing so, she has given the GOP the 51 votes that party leaders need to shut the trial down, The Hill reports.

Murkowski said she had worked to produce a fair process modeled after the Clinton impeachment trial, but blamed the House for rushing “flawed” impeachment articles.

“I worked for a fair, honest and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more,” she said. “The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.”

Murkowski also said the trial had not been fair and that Congress had failed as an institution.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” she commented in an official statement on her website. 

She added, “It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the chief justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.”

Murkowski had been the last undecided Republican senator, giving Democrats hope of a 50-50 tie on the crucial procedural question of subpoenaing witnesses (such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton.), The Hill noted.

Murkowski made it clear to colleagues that she wanted to hear from Bolton but also expressed concern about letting the trial turn into an extended partisan procedural battle, with the prospect of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) forcing vulnerable GOP incumbents to take a slew of tough votes.

Research contact: @TheHill

Carl Bernstein calls out Mitch McConnell with scathing new nickname—now trending on Twitter

January 22, 2020

Move over “Moscow Mitch” and “Grim Reaper.” There’s a new nickname inside the Beltway for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–conferred by none other than Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein—and it has sent social media users into overdrive, according to The Huffington Post.

The famed reporter called McConnell “Midnight Mitch” during a panel discussion on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° on Monday, January 20, based on the tightly compressed schedule that the Majority Leader had set for the imminent Senate impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal.

Indeed, the HuffPost reports, McConnell has been so obsessed with keeping the facts of the scandal under wraps that he has insisted on just two days of 12-hour testimony on both sides—starting at 1 p.m. each afternoon, when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is available to preside.

That would run the trial into the early hours of the morning on four consecutive days. Hence, the moniker, “Midnight Mitch.”

Said Bernstein “[This is],,,the most important moment for the Republican Party since the censure of Joe McCarthy and the impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon, in which Republicans became great heroes and patriots. Now, we’re looking at ‘Midnight Mitch’ and the so-called world’s greatest deliberative body really embracing a cover-up that is there for all to see. That’s what this is about. It’s about preventing information from becoming known and seen by the American public.

Bernstein noted how in the impeachments of former Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton there had been “no problem about knowing the truth of the facts.”

But in the impeachment trial of Trump, he said, “we still have a factual problem here because the president and those who work for him and Mitch McConnell have impeded the facts from the beginning.”

Harvard Law School professor and legal scholar Laurence Tribe agreed with Bernstein, chiming in on Twitter, “These aren’t rules for a real trial at all, much less a fair one. They’re rules for a rigged outcome, with #MidnightMitch making sure that as much of the so-called trial as possible takes place in the dark of night.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Republicans abandon outright dismissal of impeachment charges

January 15, 2020

Despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to attain an immediate dismissal of both articles of impeachment, the stage has been set in the U.S. Capitol for a tribunal—and the leading players for the House and the Senate will be chosen this week.

Indeed, according to a report by The New York Times , rank-and-file senators and party leaders made clear on Monday, January 13, that even if they wanted to pursue dismissal of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the votes simply were not there to succeed—at least not at the outset of the trial.

Senate Republicans indicated that they would not seek to summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump, proceeding instead to a trial with arguments and the possibility of calling witnesses that could begin as soon as Wednesday, the Times said.

Dismissal was always a long shot given Republicans’ narrow control of the Senate, but it was the subject of renewed discussion after Trump said on Sunday that he liked the idea put forward by some conservatives as a way to deny the House’s case the legitimacy of a trial.

 “Our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss,” Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a top Republican leader, told the Times. “They think both sides need to be heard. They believe the president needs to be heard for the first time in a fair setting.”

In the House on Monday, Democrats leaving meetings with Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that the chamber was most likely to vote on Wednesday to name lawmakers to prosecute the case and to send its two impeachment charges to the Senate.

Behind the scenes, aides in the House and Senate were carefully choreographing the next steps, and some Democrats in the House cautioned that a vote could still slip to Thursday, as the Senate seeks to deal with a pending War Powers Resolution and President Trump’s new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

In any case, a trial would not be expected to start in earnest, with opening oral arguments, until next week.

As the trial has approached, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has seemed increasingly keen to keep it as tightly controlled and speedy as possible. According to the Times, “He is wary of what could happen if Democrats succeed in picking off moderate Republican senators to form a majority able to call witnesses and prolong the proceeding.”

But he also wants to ensure that those same moderate senators—several of whom are up this fall for re-election in swing states—can credibly claim to voters that they took their constitutional duties seriously.

However, on Twitter, the president warned that holding a full trial “gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Pelosi puts impeachment trial on hold until McConnell reveals his plans

December 23, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken steps to prevent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from riding roughshod over the Democrats’ requests for a fair impeachment trial—complete with witnesses close to the president, Politico reports.

She refused to commit last Wednesday—the day on which impeachment passed the House—to deliver the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an rigged, partisan process that would protect President Donald Trump from being embarrassed; let alone, ousted from office.

Indeed, according to Politico, senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer.

Pelosi told reporters at a news conference that, until she was informed by McConnell of the plans for the trial, the House would not name impeachment managers and the articles would not be handed over.  “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

Although the House adopted two articles of impeachment– charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations— it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate.

By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider to be bipartisan, Politico said.

McConnell has boasted that he has closely coordinated the planning of the trial with the White House and has repeatedly predicted Trump would be acquitted. He’s also suggested Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to call new witnesses as they attempt to present their case.

“I’m not an impartial juror,” he said flatly. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.”

In response to those words, several members of Congress have said that McConnell should recuse himself from the impeachment process–advice he is unlikely to follow.

The White House lashed out at the move. “House Democrats have run a fatally flawed process with fake facts, and now they want to deny the President his day in court with another procedural maneuver that proves anew they have no case,” said Eric Ueland, Trump’s top congressional liaison to Congress.

Research contact: @politico

McConnell tells Hannity he’ll let Trump’s lawyers call the shots in impeachment trial

December 16, 2019

President Donald Trump won’t get a “fair or “impartial” trial in the Senate, after impeachment passes the House this coming week. He’ll get the trial that his lawyers and White House advisers tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) say he wants and needs–unburdening him of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice before the 2020 campaign gains steam.

When the trial commences in the Republican-controlled Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will presidebut the GOP will be able to control much of the length and substance of the process, The Washington Post has reported.

And appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on December 12, McConnell made no bones about saying he’ll endeavor to give the White House whatever kind of trial it wants.

Indeed, according to a report by the Post, McConnell made a point of saying that he would be coordinating with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone every step of the way.

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” McConnell said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

He added later that “exactly how we go forward I’m going to coordinate with the president’s lawyers, so there won’t be any difference between us on how to do this.”

And then he said that “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”

McConnell also, notably, said there is “no chance” Trump will be removed from office. This, he indicated, is why he’s not treating the trial with much regard.

The repetition of the first talking point made pretty clear that McConnell very much intended to say all of this. But it’s worth taking stock of how remarkable a statement it is, The Washington Post opined —noting that “giving the White House any say over how the trial would be handled would be something, but McConnell says he’ll coordinate everything ( and how discordant it is relative to many of his fellow GOP senators).”

The newspaper went on to point out, “Those senators have, in many cases, declined to comment on impeachment and the Ukraine scandal because they will serve as jurors in the Senate trial. For some, it was certainly a cop-out to avoid having to comment on the substance of the Ukraine scandal, which, however you slice it, doesn’t look good for Trump. But now that McConnell is effectively saying he’ll let the defendant’s lawyers dictate how the trial will be handled, those professions of respect for the process ring pretty hollow.”

“I’m a juror, and I’m comfortable not speaking,” Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) told The Washington Post in late October. Pressed again, he said, “I said I’m comfortable not speaking.”

“I don’t need a strategy for impeachment, because I may be a juror someday,” Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) commented to the news outlet

“I’d be a juror, so I have no comment,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) added.

Earlier on Thursday, McConnell met with Cipollone and the administration’s Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. And McConnell said in his Thursday news conference he had not yet sat down with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) to negotiate on the process.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

‘Let’s just get the goods’: Pelosi rallies dispirited Democrats

March 27, 2019

As spirits flagged following the completion of the Mueller report—and the announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would block a resolution to release the full document to Congress—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) sought to rally her caucus behind closed doors Tuesday morning.

Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don’t become like them. We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically,” Pelosi said during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats, referring to Republicans.

“Let’s just get the goods,” she said of Mueller’s report, according to an account released by Politico.

Pelosi’s comments came after the chairs of six key House committees  sent a letter on March 25 to Attorney General William Barr—who had provided them only with a four-page letter that outlined the “highlights” of the report and ruled out any consideration of charges of obstruction of justice.

It is vital for national security purposes that Congress be able to evaluate the full body of facts and evidence collected and evaluated by the Special Counsel,” the chairs said in the letter, advising Barr that, “We look forward to receiving the report in full no later than April 2, and to begin receiving the underlying evidence and documents the same day.”

The signatories of the letter included Representatives Jerrold Nadler (Judiciary Committee), Adam Schiff (Intelligence), Richard Neal (Ways and Means), Elijah Cumming (Oversight), Maxine Waters (Financial Services) and Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs).

According to Barr, Mueller was unable to establish that Trump associates conspired with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he left unresolved the key issue of whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

“The president was not exonerated,” Pelosi told Democrats, according to Politico, referring to Trump’s claim on Sunday, March 24, that Mueller’s report amounted to a “total exoneration.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have suggested that the panel would move to issue a subpoena for the Mueller report if Barr refuses to turn it over by next Tuesday. Lawmakers said that they expect Barr to send Congress a heavily redacted version of the highly anticipated report.

They also highlighted the fact that Barr declined to recommend a criminal prosecution against Trump for obstruction of justice, noting his previously held view that a president could not obstruct justice.

“We have not seen the report. We’ve only gotten a summary that was created by a man who was appointed by the president, who clearly said before his appointment that he didn’t believe a sitting president could be charged, if you will, with obstruction of justice,” said Representative Val Demings (D-Florida), a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Research contact: @heathscope

Trump must “VETO!” as Congress votes against him

March 18, 2019

Just say no.” While that slogan is most-often associated with former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign, it also represents what Congressional Democrats have been articulating for the past two years to the G.O.P.

And indeed, the Republicans long have warned the president—when he stood by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; when he separated migrant children from their parents at the border; when he supported Putin in Helsinki; and when he declared a national emergency to pay for his border wall—that he should not push them too far.

And it finally has come to pass: This week, despite the best efforts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to keep them in line, Republicans broke ranks—delivering a series of “remarkable … bipartisan rebukes to the president,” The New York Times reported.

On March 13, with seven Republicans crossing the aisle, the Senate joined the Democrat-led House in voting to end American military aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in protest over the killing of Khashoggi.

On March 14, the Times reported, the House voted unanimously on a nonbinding resolution to make public the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.

And hours later on that same day, 12 Republican senators abandoned the president to pass legislation, already adopted by the House, that would block Mr. Trump from declaring a national emergency to build his border wall—an act of defiance that he has vowed to overturn with the first veto of his presidency. (“VETO!” the president tweeted at 3:16 p.m. on March 14.)

“We’re saying today, ‘No, we do not acquiesce to this,’” Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said after voting to block the emergency declaration, the Times reported. “We do not agree that the president should be able to come in and go against the express intention of the Congress when it comes to these appropriated funds” for his wall.

Murkowski added in a statement on her website, “”I take very seriously my oath to uphold the Constitution, and my respect for the balance within the separation of powers. Article 1 provides that the power to appropriate lies with the legislative branch. When the executive branch goes around the express intention of Congress on matters within its jurisdiction, we must speak up or legislative acquiescence will erode our constitutional authority. We can and must address the President’s very legitimate concerns over border security, but we must not do it at the expense of ceding Congress’ power of the purse.”

According to the news outlet, “The series of votes vividly demonstrated a newfound willingness to stand up to the president among some of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill. And they underscored a deep frustration in Congress about the president’s supposed scorn for a coequal branch of government.”

“We have an issue that has been litigated and adjudicated through Congress. I mean, what was more litigated than this very question? We had a government shutdown for crying out loud,” said Senator Patrick Toomey ( R-Pennsylvania) referring to funding for the border wall, which Mr. Trump is trying to secure with an emergency declaration that would circumvent Congress.

“It’s about separation of powers,” Toomey said. “It’s about respecting the principles of the Constitution.”

But for those who continue in lockstep with the president, the votes were merely a challenge to his authority that he would easily overcome. “He feels good,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a close ally of Mr. Trump who, the Times said, talked to the president shortly after the vote. “He said, ‘My veto will be sustained?’ I said, ‘Yeah, overwhelmingly.’ He feels like his commitment to build the wall is moving forward.”

Research contact: @nytimes

McConnell: Move to make Election Day a federal holiday is a ‘partisan power grab’ by Dems

February 1, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on December 30 that a Democratic bill (HR.1) that would make Election Day a federal holiday is a “partisan power grab.”

In an online statement, McConnell said he would fight the bill because, “…when Washington politicians suddenly decide their top priority is grabbing unprecedented control over how they get elected and sent to Washington in the first place, alarm bells should start ringing all over the place. After all, Article I, Section IV of the Constitution clearly gives state legislatures primary responsibility for—quote—the ‘Times, Places, and Manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.’

However, the Majority Leader failed to add that the same section of the Constitution grants that “Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing [sic] Senators.”

In his remarks, McConnell asserted that, with the highest turnouts ever in recent elections, this is not the time “in American history when it has come to that,”  adding, “…There is no objective basis for the sweeping federal takeover of elections that House Democrats have dreamed up. No emergency. It’s just a Washington D.C. power grab for its very own sake.”

According to a report by The Washington Post, the far-reaching legislation also would:

  • Prohibit the purging of voter rolls,
  • Require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns,
  • Compel states to adopt independent redistricting commissions, and
  • Create a matching system for small-dollar donations to congressional campaigns, among other changes.

In his Wednesday remarks, as well as in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this month, McConnell mocked the legislation as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

“H.R. 1 would victimize every American taxpayer by pouring their money into expensive new subsidies that don’t even pass the laugh test,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

His remarks prompted a wave of criticism by Democrats, some of whom argued that McConnell was acknowledging that Republicans want to make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

Voting is a power grab. By citizens,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) posted in a tweet on Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) shared a link to a story about McConnell’s comments and tweeted, “Why are Republicans always afraid of making it easier for Americans to vote?”

Research contact: felicia.sonmez@washpost.comR.