A House Republican blocked the passage of a $19.1 billion disaster relief package that lawmakers hoped to send to President Trump’s desk after months of partisan fighting had stalled the money.
Final passage will now have to wait until the week of June 3, when House lawmakers return from a recess.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, opposed passing the measure by unanimous consent, delaying consideration until the House returns.
Democrats hoped to approve the spending measure by unanimous consent, which does not require a roll-call vote. Republicans are in the minority, so Democrats will be able to pass the measure with a roll-call vote when lawmakers return.
The measures stalled despite a bipartisan accord struck between leaders in the House and Senate, and after Trump agreed to lift some demands that had been holding up the bill. Other lawmakers also agreed to drop some of their funding requests that were stalling talks.
[Related: Senate approves $19.B disaster aid package]
Roy cited the high price tag for the measure, arguing it deserved floor debate. He also pointed to the lack of funding needed to deal with a humanitarian crisis on the border that the president had been seeking.
The House could attempt to pass the measure once again in the next pro forma session on Thursday, but it would again invite a possible GOP objection.
Democrats denounced the move.
“House Republicans’ last-minute sabotage of an overwhelmingly bipartisan disaster relief bill is an act of staggering political cynicism,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “Countless American families hit by devastating natural disasters across the country will now be denied the relief they urgently need.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey offered similar sentiments.
“After President Trump and Senate Republicans delayed disaster relief for more than four months, it is deeply disappointing that House Republicans are now making disaster victims wait even longer to get the help they need,” Lowey, D-N.Y., said.
“We must pass this bicameral, bipartisan bill, and we will keep working to get it through the House and onto the president’s desk.”
Trump agreed to sign the bill without $4.5 billion in emergency funding to help deal with the recent surge in illegal immigration along the southern border. Removing the border funding eased the agreement. Democrats were opposed to its inclusion, and Trump agreed to leave it out after talks with Republicans Thursday. Senate Republican leaders said Thursday they’ll attempt to move the border security funding separately.
The Senate passed the measure yesterday with overwhelming bipartisan support, but with criticism from GOP leaders.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., criticized Democrats for blocking the money Trump was seeking, arguing the funds are needed for humanitarian aid in response to thousands of migrant families crossing into the United States from Mexico.
“This wasn’t money for the wall, or even for law enforcement. It was money so that the federal government could continue to house, feed, and care for the men, women, and children showing up on our southern border,” McConnell said. “Money for agencies that are currently running on fumes.”
The measure also includes millions of dollars more for Puerto Rico despite Trump’s argument that the island has already received enough disaster aid.
Democrats blamed Trump and the GOP for the delay in passing the package and called the humanitarian funding “extraneous.”
“It’s good that Republicans finally came to their senses and realized that Puerto Rico and other disaster-impacted areas deserve to be treated fairly and that extraneous provisions shouldn’t be added to the disaster relief package,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
It would provide more than $3 billion for farm crop damage due to storms and nearly $1 billion for the Marine Corps and Air Force to repair bases and restore equipment damaged by recent hurricanes.
The measure would also provide $600 million to the Economic Development Administration to provide grants to areas damaged by storms in 2018 and 2019.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., sparked a firestorm of opposition among his fellow Republicans this week when he called publicly for impeaching President Trump. The president responded by calling Amash a “loser,” and the rest of the party apparatus quickly fell in line behind Trump. The head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, criticized Amash for “parroting” the Democrats’ talking points, and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza parroted McDaniel by referring to the congressman as the Left’s “useful idiot.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., denounced Amash for being disloyal to the president and suggested that he may no longer belong in the Republican Party. Even the Club for Growth, one of the Right’s most venerable anti-establishment groups, has criticized Amash for failing to toe the party line on impeachment.
On one level, this is not surprising. The team mentality that characterizes partisan politics has always been a prominent feature of life in the nation’s capital. Still, the swift and nearly unanimous outcry that greeted Amash’s comments suggests that our party politics has entered a new phase.
This shift is reflected in the fact that Amash’s colleagues on the House Freedom Caucus voted this week to condemn his comments. While the Freedom Caucus stopped short of kicking Amash out, a number of its members were nevertheless calling for just that.
Instead of taking formal action to condemn Amash for his policy position on what constitutes an impeachable offense, his fellow Freedom Caucus members could have simply disagreed with him. That a band of former rebels and party outcasts saw that as insufficient is much more revealing of the dysfunction in American politics at present than whether or not the House of Representatives votes to impeach the president.
A group of conservative Republicans formed the Freedom Caucus in 2015 because they were frustrated with being marginalized continuously by their party leaders. They wanted to increase their leverage in intra-party disputes over policy. According to Raúl Labrador, one of the group’s founding members, the caucus was established to give members who were out of step with their colleagues a place to be heard. “That’s the whole purpose of the organization. We have a lot of people here who feel like they are not being heard.”
In response to the Freedom Caucus’ subsequent efforts to push the Republicans to the Right, party leaders removed three conservatives from the whip team and then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stripped one prominent caucus member of his subcommittee chairmanship. When asked about the retribution, then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded, “I expect our team to act like a team.” An anonymous Republican aide described the sentiment among party officials in less diplomatic terms. “They’re not legislators, they’re just assholes.”
In the past, reactions such as these prompted conservatives to criticize their fellow Republicans for putting party ahead of principle in a naked bid to retain power at any cost. Yet how the Freedom Caucus reacted to Amash’s comments suggests that today even conservatives accept party as the measure of all things. In voting to condemn Amash, members of the Freedom Caucus downplayed the fact that their group was established to prevent its members from being intimidated into remaining silent. In a remarkable turn of events, the Freedom Caucus ostracized one of its own for not toeing the party line four years after the Republican Party tried to ostracize it.
This is a worrisome development because a latent hostility to the freedom of the party’s rank and file is inherent in all party bureaucracies. Of course, politics is a team sport. Our two-party system offers most voters a choice between Democratic and Republican candidates in most elections. In that way, party labels help to make politics work, at least in theory, by helping voters to compare and contrast the candidates who are asking for their vote.
But party labels can only do so if there is a party line against which the loyalty of candidates can be measured. And therein lies the problem.
Today, the Republican Party line is ambiguous at best. No one can say precisely what it means to be a Republican because the definition is continually shifting. The only thing of which Republicans appear to be sure is that there is a party line to which they must adhere.
More troubling, the president gets to set the party line at any given moment, not the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Trump captured this well when he called Amash “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there.” In the eyes of the party apparatchiks, Amash’s apostasy is not that he crossed some clear policy line regarding what constitutes an impeachable offense. Instead, it is that he dared to suggest that Trump, as the very personification of the Republican Party, committed an impeachable offense. In that way, Amash threatened the one thing that defines what it means to be a Republican. He crossed the line.
This explains Republicans’ swift reaction to Amash. The party faithful quickly condemned him instead of letting his constituents decide whether he should be punished because they wanted to affirm their own partisan bona fides. Viewed from this perspective, members of the Freedom Caucus affirmed their loyalty to the Republican Party when they dubbed Amash an apostate merely for expressing support for a policy position with which they disagreed.
Republicans of all stripes would do well to remember the words of one of their party’s founding members and leading lights. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln succinctly captured the essence of what it meant to be a Republican and an American. Back then, the party line was to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” did not perish from the Earth.
The firestorm sparked by Amash suggests that things have changed.
The new party line to which Republicans appear to give their “last full measure of devotion” is that government of the party, by the party, and for the party shall be protected at all costs.
James Wallner (@jiwallner) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. Previously he was a Senate aide and a former group vice president for research at the Heritage Foundation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., betrays conservatism by working to avoid existing budget caps rather than embracing them.
McConnell is rightly concerned that the caps will require a $71 billion reduction in planned defense spending if no broader budget deal is reached. The Pentagon does need the money. But it’s not worth the extra $55 billion (or more) per year in utterly unnecessary domestic spending that busting the caps will entail.
If no deal is reached, that’s how much money will be “sequestered,” or saved via blunt, across-the-board spending reductions, from each part of the discretionary budget. Federal agencies should be told now to start planning for those cuts. With a federal debt above $22 trillion, which is more than 100% of gross domestic product, and with unfunded future liabilities exceeding $120 trillion, the United States just cannot afford to keep spending exorbitant amounts for discretionary programs.
Everyone can agree President Bill Clinton was no heartless skinflint. I can testify to that, having worked for the House Appropriations Committee for a few years during his presidency. For a good example of reasonable discretionary spending in a time of economic growth, take the final non-election year of his presidency — 1999, when Congress produced the fiscal 2000 budget, after Clinton had regained clout by routing congressional Republicans in post-impeachment polling.
Domestic discretionary spending in 2000 was $284 billion. In inflation adjusted dollars, that would be the same as $414 billion in 2018. Even also adding 16% for population growth would still raise that spending category only to $480 billion. Instead, our profligate federal government spent $722 billion domestically, not even counting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In other words, it spent, comparing apples to apples, a gobsmacking $242 billion more on domestic discretionary spending than the levels thought adequate, and signed into law, by Clinton. (See table 5.6, here.)
Sure, costs related to “homeland security” rose after the 2001 terrorist attacks, but hardly by that amount. Most of the functions at the since-created Department of Homeland Security were already in the budget before 9/11, just in other parts of the federal government. Still, if the entire $98 billion for homeland security — a one-year anomaly, because the DHS budget both before and after 2019 is some $40 billion less — were removed, domestic discretionary spending would remain nearly $150 billion higher, in inflation-and-population-adjusted dollars, than it was in 2000. (Table 5.4, here.)
The feds could sequester the full $55 billion at issue today, and remove all costs for homeland security, and still be overspending the Clinton baseline by $90 billion.
Note, too, that in times of a strong economy, such as today’s lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, domestic spending should go down, not up, because the need for social spending should diminish.
Rather than buckle to demands for higher domestic spending now, congressional Republicans should be willing to let the existing budget caps kick in via sequestration, if need be. Then, beginning from the lower baseline, make the case for added military spending, which the public largely supports.
Meanwhile, for each additional Democratic demand for “new” domestic spending, Republicans should highlight the average per-family tax cost required to pay for it.
In sum, with just a modicum of strategic public-relations competence, Republicans could and should build the case for more defense spending without much additional domestic spending. To do so would be reasonably good politics and much, much more responsible public policy.
As the 2020 election grows near, voters in Central Pennsylvania, the 12th Congressional District, voted for new representation in a special election. The district elected former Rep. Tom Marino in the November 2018 midterm elections, but Marino quickly resigned for health reasons, triggering yet another special election in the Commonwealth. The district is solidly red and was not of large concern to the Pennsylvania or National GOP, but the overwhelming margin of victory for Congressman-Elect Fred Keller can be seen as a foreshadowing for the future electorate in Pennsylvania, which will be a huge player in 2020.
After a long process of candidate selection by the party, former State Rep. Fred Keller emerged as the victor among a field of 14 candidates. Keller is in good standing in Harrisburg and holds a pristine Conservative voting record, earning a 90 percent approval from the American Conservative Union. He is solid, mainstream Republican who will be an excellent ally for President Trump in the polarized House of Representatives, as the President said himself on Monday night.
Keller’s opponent, Penn State assistant professor Marc Friedenberg, could not be more staunchly different from the district’s new Congressman-Elect. Friedenberg, who ran against former Rep. Tom Marino in November and lost by over 30 points, aligns himself with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the growing wing of radical leftists within the Democratic Party. He endorsed Medicare-for-All, the Green New Deal, debt-free college, repeal of President Trump’s tax cuts and abortion on demand in his first Congressional bid; even after his landslide defeat by Marino, Friedenberg
hardly altered his platform.
Source: The Washington Pundit
Republican leaders warned Thursday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may have hobbled chances of critical bipartisan legislative agreements after she accused President Trump of criminal behavior before a bank of television cameras Wednesday morning.
Pelosi’s accusation prompted Trump to tell Democratic leaders he won’t work with them on infrastructure or other bipartisan legislation. Trump angrily walked out of a White House meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Pelosi, earlier in the morning, had accused Trump of engaging in “a cover-up,” after she emerged from a meeting with rank-and-file lawmakers to discuss impeaching the president.
Republicans denounced the impeachment talk but said Pelosi’s cover-up accusation could imperil key bipartisan cooperation needed to keep the government funded or to accomplish wish-list items like infrastructure.
“That is major,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said in response to Pelosi’s cover-up claim. “That’s blowing things up around here. That’s kind of like dropping the nuclear bomb to come out and accuse somebody of committing a crime, and not having anything to back it up.”
The breakdown between House Democrats and the president comes at a critical time in the negotiations to secure a spending deal for the upcoming fiscal year.
Leaders in both parties were close to a deal with the Trump administration on Tuesday but talks broke down later in the afternoon and negotiators will have to hold another meeting, this time knowing Trump is now opposed to working with Democrats.
Both parties are also very eager to work out a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico. The accord must first be taken up in the House, where Pelosi controls the floor.
“It’s not a good atmosphere in which to do anything that requires bipartisan cooperation,” Thune said.
Pelosi and Schumer told reporters after the meeting they believe Trump never had any plans to work with them on infrastructure and was simply using the House investigations into his administration and personal business as an excuse to back out of an infrastructure deal.
Three weeks ago, Pelosi, Schumer, and Trump had informally agreed on developing a $2 trillion infrastructure plan but Trump would have to come up with the nearly impossible task of finding a way to pay for it.
Trump was expected to provide his financing ideas in Wednesday’s meeting. Schumer said he had prepared a 35-page outline on infrastructure. Trump, he said, appeared to stage the walkout, even affixing signs in the Rose Garden to accompany his address after he left the meeting.
“Now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away,” Schumer said after the White House meeting. “And he came up with this pre-planned excuse . It’s clear this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned.”
Democrats said Trump had no legitimate reason to suddenly end bipartisan talks with Democrats when the many House investigations of his business and administration have been plodding on for weeks and were active when Trump first agreed to the infrastructure deal with Democrats.
But Republicans believe Pelosi’s cover-up accusation pushed the president over the edge.
She accused Trump of a cover-up after leaving a closed-door meeting in the House basement with rank-and-file Democrats.
“We do believe it’s important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up — in a cover-up,” Pelosi said. “And that was the nature of the meeting.”
Democrats held the meeting to discuss their many investigations into the president and the possibility of opening an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi has steered the caucus away from impeachment but that has not stopped her from accusing the president of wrongdoing.
“Ms. Pelosi continues to slander him and I can understand why he’s not happy,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the GOP leadership, said. “Sometimes tempers flare around here and emotions get pretty high, but in the end we’ve got work to do and I think the best thing we can do for the people we work for is to make progress where we can. But that was fairly dramatic this morning.”
House Democrats are angry that Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns, financial records, and other documents to Democrats and has not allowed top administration officials to be grilled before House Oversight panels run by Democrats. Many believe his refusal to cooperate justifies opening an impeachment inquiry.
Thune said the pro-impeachment faction in the caucus in the meeting pushed Pelosi to attack the president. “I think she came out of the meeting and felt like she had to say something … and maybe she did it intentionally to be provocative, I don’t know.”
The cover-up accusation isn’t new. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., accused Trump on Tuesday of “conducting one of the biggest cover-ups of any administration in the history of the United States.”
But Pelosi’s status as speaker and chief negotiator elevates the claim, which she made on her way to the White House.
“I think it was unfortunate that Pelosi dropped that nuclear bomb before she went down to have a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure,” Thune said. “Hopefully when the smoke clears and the dust settles, people will be able to get back together and figure things out.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., laid out the Senate Democrats’ plan in response to the number of anti-abortion laws that have passed at the state level across the country on Wednesday.
“First, [Sen.] Patty Murray has put together a resolution that says we support Roe; we support a woman’s right to have her own healthcare and control her own body. Just about every Democrat has already signed on to it, and we are asking — every day we will be be asking our Republican colleagues, ‘Are you with Roe or against Roe? You have to state a position,'” Schumer said in an MSNBC interview.
Schumer said while Republicans may say they do not support the recent anti-abortion bill that passed in Alabama, they do support federal judges who have stated their opposition to the landmark case that made abortion legal across the country.
“So we are putting the heat on them. Hypocrites,” he said.
Alabama’s new anti-abortion law, the Human Life Protection Act, means doctors who perform an abortion could go to prison for up to 99 years. Women who get an abortion would not receive jail time.
Rep. Mark Meadows said on Wednesday that Democrats are in a panic because “there is information coming that will curl your hair,” referring to the expected declassification of key documents related to the Russia investigation.
During an interview on Fox News, the North Carolina Republican said Democrats, and in particular House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, know that when these documents come out it will be trouble for them.
“There is information coming that will curl your hair. I can tell you that the reason why it is so visceral — the response from the Democrats is so visceral right now — is because they know, they’ve seen documents. Adam Schiff has seen documents that he knows what actually put the finger pointing back at him and his Democratic colleagues, not the president of the United States,” he told host Sean Hannity.
Democrats in the House are engaged in a multi-pronged effort to investigate President Trump, his inner circle, and his finances. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News on Tuesday that this is all a “coordinated effort to take down the president.”
Meanwhile Meadows and his GOP colleagues are hotly anticipating Trump to declassify documents any day now that they believe will include transcripts between FBI informants and former Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy said over the weekend this has “the potential to be a game changer.”
At least three federal investigations into alleged FISA abuse and other matters related to the way the FBI and the Justice Department conducted the Trump-Russia investigation and several top ex-officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey, are under increasing scrutiny.
Asked by Hannity if he knows if Comey spied, Meadows said the former director was without a doubt privy to misconduct.
“He actually he was aware of it. — he was aware of improper things that were being done, certainly,” Meadows said.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., says a few of his GOP peers have privately expressed sympathy for his view that there’s a case for the impeachment of President Donald Trump based on obstruction of justice.
“There are people who are still reviewing [the Mueller report],” he told CNN. “I’ve had people who, after I made my tweets said, ‘Boy, they’d better review it more carefully now and they hadn’t really gone through it before.'”
“I mean, volume two speaks for itself,” he added. “So people who are baffled by it, I wonder how carefully they read volume two because it’s there. There’s a difference between skimming the pages and actually reading it and understanding it.”
Amash said, however, he’s got no plans to sign onto any Democratic impeachment resolutions.
“I’d want to make sure that whatever I do legislatively is based on the positions I have and not based on some positions someone else has,” he said.
President Donald Trump and other GOP lawmakers have accused Amash of leveling the impeachment charge in an attempt to gain publicity.
But Amash told CNN his “job is to defend the Constitution.”
“I’m laying out the information I want to lay out and it’s not about getting on TV or anything like that,” he said. “I want to make sure that I’m presenting it in the most clear-cut, sober way possible.”
Source: NewsMax Politics
Ahead of a House Intelligence Committee vote on Monday to release Michael Cohen’s closed-door testimony from earlier this year, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., warned they may contain classified information.
The release of a transcript of that meeting explains his disappointment.
Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., opened the meeting by defending the vote. “The release of Mr. Cohen’s transcripts is an important step toward promoting the committee’s goal of transparency, where appropriate, and will assist the public’s understanding of the interplay between the President’s business interests and political aspirations and actions, both during the campaign and during the Trump Presidency,” he said.
Schiff also noted the transcripts of 53 interviews that the House Intelligence Committee voted last fall to release from its Russia investigation are still under review by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for classification. He said committee staff have been in negotiations to speed up that process and hopes they will be ready for public release soon.
Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, said he also wants those 53 transcripts out but noted that in their slow review, the ODNI identified classified information in several transcripts.
“The majority is suddenly rushing to publish these transcripts — without an ODNI classification review — after having done nothing with them for approximately 3 months,” he said. “Although the ODNI review process has been unbearably slow, its preliminary review of the committee’s 53 transcripts has identified classified information in nine transcripts that were previously marked unclassified, including Mr. Cohen’s October 2017 transcript.”
“The committee is not an original classification authority and is in no position to determine whether certain redactions made to these transcripts will properly protect sources and methods,” he added. “Therefore, the only reason I see for not sending these transcripts to the ODNI would be for the majority to advance a partisan agenda. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting no today.”
Schiff shot down GOP concerns, as well as a motion to delay the Cohen transcripts release for an ODNI classification review, saying such a review was unnecessary.
Schiff said Cohen never had access to classified information or government clearances. The Cohen transcripts and exhibits were “carefully reviewed by the committee’s security director and staff, and all sensitive information has been redacted,” he said. Schiff also noted that a certain section in the October 2017 transcript that has tentative redactions from the intelligence community was similarly redacted in the latest transcripts “in an abundance of caution.”
The transcripts released on Monday show Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, told the committee that Trump attorney Jay Sekulow instructed him to lie to lawmakers in 2017 about when negotiations to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended.