Posts Tagged ‘Charles Schumer’

Lawmakers to President Trump: End Putin Summit Mystery

July 21, 2018

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use his one-on-one meeting with President Trump in Helsinki to drive a wedge between NATO allies by claiming secret side deals with the United States.

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Congressional Republicans are urging the White House to get ahead of the Kremlin by defining what was and wasn’t agreed to. What was said between the two leaders, they admit, remains a disconcerting mystery.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) says he has “no idea” what Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov meant when he said Wednesday that Trump and Putin had entered into “important verbal agreements.”

Corker expressed concern about talk that the White House and Kremlin are “setting up a second meeting so they can begin implementation” of these mystery agreements.

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Bob Corker

Other Republicans pointed to the lack of transparency as problematic.

“I don’t know what happened privately, nobody does,” said Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), adding that Trump needs to publicize whatever efforts he made to push back against Putin in their private meeting.

“It’s not enough just to raise it privately because everyone is watching, including our allies, including the people of Russia, including our intelligence agencies,” he said of any grievances Trump may have aired with Putin.

Members of Congress worry that Russia will use the Helsinki summit to undermine U.S. relations with NATO allies, especially with former Eastern Bloc and Soviet states that Putin views as within his country’s traditional sphere of influence.

Antonov said this week that Trump and Putin reached verbal agreements on two charged issues: Syria and arms control.

“The White House better get out in front of this before the Russians start characterizing this,” warned Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and frequent Trump critic. “The Russians will use this.”

“There’s so little trust of this president, our president, among our allies,” he added.

U.S. security officials recognize that undermining NATO is one of Putin’s top foreign policy goals.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford warned Congress last year that Russia “every day is undermining the credibility of our alliance commitment to NATO and our ability to respond to NATO.”

Republican lawmakers worry that Trump may be unwittingly advancing that strategy by criticizing allies sharply at a NATO summit in Brussels and then embracing Putin in Helsinki.

Flake noted that in a recent trip to Latvia he and his colleagues witnessed a concerted Russian propaganda campaign to convince Baltic states that “NATO is weak” and “America is an unreliable ally.”

Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank said that while Russia’s remarks about the outcome of an international summit wouldn’t normally be viewed as credible, Trump’s unorthodox style creates an atmosphere of uncertainty.

“In normal circumstances I would say that statements by Russia about their inferences about particular meetings are not especially credible or important or right or destabilizing,” she said. “The problem is because our president is himself so loosey-goosey about his leadership, about these meetings, about fundamentally everything that we can begin to worry.”

But agreements entered into solely by the president don’t carry a lot of weight, she said, pointing to former President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran that largely circumvented congressional approval.

“If the president has verbal discussions with anybody and no one else is there, no one can reasonably be expected to act on them,” she said.

Even so, congressional Republicans aren’t taking any chances about how the optics of the situation may affect bedrock international security arrangements.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took the unusual step of telling European Union allies Tuesday that Republicans in Congress value NATO and view Russia as a hostile adversary.

“We believe the European Union counties are our friends and the Russians are not,” McConnell told reporters. “We understand the Russian threat.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) warned on the Senate floor Thursday that the president and senior U.S. officials should be careful not to undermine Western alliances.

“Words matter. And what Americans say can bolster or shake confidence in the United States,” Moran said, adding that a recent trip to Moscow, Norway and Finland left him “unconvinced that that Russia is prepared to change its behavior.”

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, said concern that fallout from the summit could weaken U.S.-NATO relations “is warranted.”

But he said “it shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.”

NATO alliances don’t depend on the president alone, he noted.

“If, for example, Trump promised somehow to abandon an ally, first of all he really couldn’t if a treaty binds us to them, and second of all, the ally would presumably raise this issue with us the minute the Russians whispered some threat in their ear,” O’Hanlon said. “At that point, Trump would have the chance to deny or correct or repudiate whatever the Russians were saying.”

Nevertheless, longtime U.S. allies have been unsettled by Trump’s foreign policy stances, even before he met with Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in May that Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement “damages trust in the international order,” and that Europe could no longer rely on the United States to provide for its security.

“It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands,” she said.

Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), a Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, said “we shouldn’t be just guessing on the statements of the Russian ambassador” about what was agreed to at the summit.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has demanded the U.S. government translator who attended the private Trump-Putin meeting be made available to testify before Congress.

He and other Democrats also want the White House to turn over contemporaneous notes from the summit.

 

In a letter to Trump this week, Democrats asked what “suggestions” Putin made to the president, whether the two leaders agreed to any changes in international security agreements and whether they made any commitments about the future presence of U.S. military forces in Syria, among other questions.

They also asked if the president discussed sanctions relief for Russia, NATO military exercises in the fall, U.S. security assistance to Ukraine or made any other commitments to Putin.

Republicans say they hope to learn details about what Trump discussed and may have agreed to when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifiesbefore the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

If questions remain after his appearance, Corker said he would consider asking for notes or testimony from the American translator who was present at the meeting with Putin.

But he cautioned it would be a last resort.

“It feels a little out of bounds,” Corker said. “I’m open to listening. I’d rather address it after the Pompeo hearing on Wednesday and see how transparent that ends up being.”

“I’m not going to say no, no, no,” he added. “If there’s no transparency, maybe we’ll revisit it.”

So far, Flake is the only Senate Republican to back Schumer’s call for the White House to turn over notes from the summit.

“I would hope that those notes — all interpreters take notes — would be turned over,” he said Thursday. “We need to know.

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Trump says Russia doesn’t pose threat, contradicting intelligence director

July 18, 2018

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Russia does not pose a threat to the United States, contradicting his director of national intelligence on a critical security issue and deepening a political controversy that began at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump, besieged with criticism over his handling of Putin at the summit, for a second day sought to do damage control on the crisis, stating that no one had been tougher than he on Russia.

“There has never been a president as tough on Russia has I have been,” Trump told reporters before a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

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The president said his administration is “doing very well” in countering Russia, citing U.S. sanctions on Moscow and the explosion of Russian nationals accused of being spies.

“I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, certainly a lot better than the media. He understands it, and he’s not happy about it,” Trump said.

But seconds later, Trump said “no” when asked if Russia still poses a threat to the U.S.

That comment undercut his own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who said after Trump’s Helsinki press conference that Russia’s hostile activities against the U.S. and its allies are “ongoing.”Coats also underscored the intelligence agencies’ worry that Russia is prepared to interfere with this fall’s midterm elections.

“We have been clear in our assessment of Russian meddling in our 2016 elections and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” Coats said in a statement.

Trump’s latest comments raised doubts about his commitment to combating Moscow’s efforts to do so, a top concern of U.S. officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Those fears were inflamed on Monday when Trump, standing beside Putin after their meetings, suggested he gave equal weight to the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling to the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence agencies.

“My people came to me …they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.

The president’s comments set off an international furor, which Trump sought to clean up on Tuesday by claiming he misspoke and meant to say, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

The president also said he accepts the intelligence agencies’ assertion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but raised doubts about his sincerity by adding that it “could be other people.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill pounced on Trump’s latest comments, claiming they provide even more evidence that the president is too close to Putin.

“Mr. President. Walk this back too,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response to Trump’s claim that Russia is no longer targeting the U.S.

It was clear Wednesday that the negative media coverage Trump’s meeting with Putin has bothered him.

Trump sat with his arms folded when speaking about the issue during the Cabinet meeting. When asked whether Russia is still targeting the U.S., the president indicated he did not want to answer by telling reporters “thank you” before quietly saying the word “no.”

The president also argued that his “very historic” trip to Europe, which included contentious meetings with NATO allies and British Prime Minister Theresa May, had been a “tremendous success.”

“We made tremendous progress toward achieving greater peace, prosperity and security for allies, in fact, for the entire world,” he said.

He also sought to shift the focus onto different topics, saying the U.S. economy is “thriving and booming like never before” and previewing an administration announcement on a workforce development initiative with his daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump.

Several GOP lawmakers and Trump allies have indicated the president’s clean-up efforts satisfied their concerns, but many others have indicated they are not ready to move on.

A bipartisan group of senators are readying legislation that would slap new sanctions on Moscow if they interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said he is calling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify before his panel next week to discuss Trump’s meeting with Putin.

This story was updated at 1:47 p.m. 

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Lindsey Graham

@LindseyGrahamSC

A BIG discrepancy between President Trump’s statement and DNI Coates’ warning.

It’s imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on so we can be prepared to protect ourselves in advance of the 2018 elections.

My personal view: the Russians are at it again.

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AFP
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Trump says no president has been as ‘tough’ on Russia

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US President Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that no president has been as “tough” on Russia as him but appeared to contradict his intelligence agencies when asked if Russia was still targeting the United States.

Trump, facing criticism that he failed to hold Russian leader Vladimir Putin to account at their Helsinki summit, said “we’re doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia.

“Look at what we’ve done. Look at sanctions,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting at the White House.

“And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody,” he said. “Certainly a lot better than the media.

“He understands it, and he’s not happy about it,” Trump said. “And he shouldn’t be happy about it because there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”

Trump replied “no” when asked if Russia, accused by US intelligence agencies of interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign and continuing to do so, was still targeting the United States.

Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick

July 14, 2018

Democrats are fighting among themselves over how far to go to oppose Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and tempers are starting to flare ahead of a decision that could weigh heavily on the midterm elections.

Liberal activists, who are closely aligned with the party’s base, are losing patience with centrist Democrats who are on the fence over Kavanaugh, a judge with impressive credentials and the approval of the conservative Federalist Society.

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But Senate Democratic leaders don’t want to twist the arms of vulnerable colleagues up for reelection in pro-Trump states, adding to the disappointment of activists.

“There’s a great deal of frustration,” said Neil Sroka, spokesman for Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy group that is pressing Senate Democrats to unify immediately against Kavanaugh.

“We need to be training all of our firepower on Murkowski and Collins and we don’t need to be wasting one shred of energy trying to push a Democrat in the right direction on this extremist nominee,” he added, referring to moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who are viewed as potential swing votes.

“There’s great deal of impatience amongst the grass roots for senators to get off the fence on Kavanaugh,” Sroka added.

Liberal activists argue that if Democrats unify early against Kavanaugh, it will put more pressure on Collins and Murkowski to oppose him, just as they opposed efforts to repeal ObamaCare in 2017 after Democrats unified against that effort.

“We’re looking for more clean statements of opposition from more senators,” said Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director at Indivisible Project, a liberal advocacy group dedicated to defeating President Trump‘s agenda.

“We already know plenty about Kavanaugh,” she said. “In order to get on Trump’s shortlist, these people had to show willingness to gut reproductive rights and show hostility to the Affordable Care Act.”

Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a group that plans to spend $5 million on ads pressuring senators to oppose Kavanaugh, this week made a splash when he called out Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) for taking a cautious approach to the nominee.

In a tweet, Kaine said he was “wondering” whether Kavanaugh would rule to uphold the Affordable Care Act, protect women’s right to an abortion and safeguard civil liberties.

Fallon pushed back with a sharply-worded tweet of his own: “We already know the answers to these questions, Tim Kaine. Stop playing political games and help us #StopKavanaugh.”

It was unusual public spat between two Democrats who had prominent roles on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — Kaine was her running mate and Fallon her spokesman.

Kaine on Thursday defended himself, comparing Democrats who want a snap judgment on Kavanaugh to Republicans who refused to give a hearing to Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court in 2016.

“That’s just not the way I take the Supreme Court,” Kaine told The Hill. “I tried cases for 17 years, I’ve appointed [state] Supreme Court justices as governor. I certainly have opinions but I do feel like I’m supposed to read opinions, I’m supposed to read articles, I’m supposed to have an in-office interview [of] any Supreme Court nominee.”

Kaine said that if he comes out immediately against Kavanaugh, he might not get a chance to meet the nominee and ask him about his views.

He argued that Fallon also “criticized the Republicans for not being willing to meet with Merrick Garland.”

“I want to extend that courtesy that they wouldn’t extend to Garland,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to meet with Obama’s nominee in 2016 and Garland never received a confirmation vote.

Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, said that Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is going to feel pressure from the base to crack the whip on centrists.

“He’s answerable to the base,” he said.

But Baker doesn’t think there’s much Schumer can do to pressure centrist Democrats.

“They’re going to have their votes conform to what their reading is of the voters in North Dakota or West Virginia.”

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are two red-state Democrats up for reelection this year.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) told reporters this week that there would not be an effort to whip red-state Democrats.

“They just don’t get it,” he said of liberal activists. “That’s counterproductive. Chuck Schumer gets tough with senators. You know how that plays back home?”

Another head-turning moment came Thursday when Adam Jentleson, the former deputy chief of staff to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats should use the year-end government funding bill as leverage to press Republicans to turn over sensitive documents from Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary under George W. Bush.

He argued in a Washington Post op-ed that Kavanaugh’s internal communications during the Bush administration “could shed light on his views on executive power and other critical issues that will probably come before the court.”

If Republicans refuse to make those documents available, “Democrats should force the issue by using the substantial power of the minority to grind the Senate to a halt,” including funding of the government beyond Sept. 30.

That bold suggestion was immediately rejected by Senate Democratic strategists.

“What a genius,” said one Democratic aide derisively.

A Democratic strategist close to a red-state senator called the idea “crazy.”

“Here’s the brutal reality: Unless that there’s new polling that I’m not aware of, this does not rank as one of the top five issues for the voters that end up deciding the red-state races,” the source said.

The strategist warned that it could backfire on Democrats if they “come out right off the bat and say ‘we’re going to oppose him at all costs’ irrespective of what they find.”

“I don’t think that’s going to play well at the Senate level,” the source said. “It ain’t California and New York that’s electing a senator from Montana.”

Democrats facing tough reelections this year in states that Trump won by big margins also don’t want to get mixed up in a potential government shutdown a month before Election Day.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) earlier this year panned Democratic threats to hold up a government funding measure over immigration as “stupid talk.”

But other Democrats think the year-end funding bill is fair game after McConnell triggered the nuclear option last year to strip the minority party’s power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

“The nuclear option was dropped on the process,” noted former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who represented a Republican-leaning state when he served in Congress and who played a prominent role in negotiating a compromise over appellate-level judicial nominees in 2005.

“I understand why they would use everything they possibly could because they’re not in the position they once were with 60 votes,” he said.

McConnell used a party-line vote last year to change Senate precedent and lower the threshold for confirming Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to a simple majority.

Changing procedural rules with a party-line vote is so controversial that it’s likened in the Senate to using a nuclear weapon in warfare.

Nelson said Republicans should expect a bitter fight over the Bush-era documents because they are central to judging Kavanaugh’s record.

“When you nominate someone with a partisan background, it’s going to be very difficult not to disclose their partisan activities,” he said.

“I’m sure that some people will think these are extraordinary circumstances because they’re worried about what’s in those emails.”

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http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/396987-dem-infighting-erupts-over-supreme-court-pick

Dems in terrible bind on Kavanaugh nomination

July 12, 2018

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Senate Democrats are in a terrible bind as they search for a strategy to block Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is expected to determine the ideological balance of the court for decades.

Leadership is faced with the challenge of catering to two factions in the party. On one side, red-state Democrats who are worried that opposing Kavanaugh could imperil their reelection chances in November, and with it the party’s hope of winning the majority in the Senate.

On the other, a progressive base that is demanding Democrats engage in a full-on attack since they see President Trump’s pick as a serious threat to liberal values.

The balancing act will soon play out when Democrats decide what strategy and tactics to employ.

Senate Democratic leaders this week appeared to try to tamp down expectations of the party’s progressive base, with Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) saying the procedural options for Democrats “are not that large.”

“There is no way we can prevent the Senate from meeting. There’s been some discussion about that, but it just wouldn’t happen,” Schumer told reporters during a weekly press conference when asked about the possibility of actions like boycotting a confirmation hearing.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, added that he has been approached by constituents who have unrealistic expectations about what Democrats can do.

“Some of the things that have been in blogs and suggested do not even understand the basics of the Senate,” he said. “Some of the people who have come up to me at parades and said, ‘Shut ‘em down, do this, do that,’ it reflects a limited understanding of how the Senate operations.”

Democrats have largely stayed mum on how far they would be willing to go to slow walk Kavanaugh as he moves through the confirmation process. Instead, they’ve focused this week on requesting sufficient time to review Kavanaugh’s long paper trail.

Democrats can’t block the nomination on their own; Republicans nixed the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court nominations last year.

But the Senate’s rulebook allows them to temporarily delay Kavanaugh’s nomination in committee or limit the ability for committees to meet, a move that would gridlock the Senate’s work and appease some on the left.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, expects Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing to begin after Labor Day, with Republicans hoping to get him on the bench before the Supreme Court’s next term begins in early October.

Democrats are under enormous pressure to try to block Kavanaugh by all available means, with outside group saying Schumer must keep the caucus united.

Durbin on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out that Democrats could ultimately use the chamber’s rulebook to try to slow things down.

“We’re taking a careful look at every suggestion and we’re going to use what we consider the appropriate procedures,” he said.

While there is a pressure from the left to play hardball to try to gum up the Senate, and even punish Democratic senators who support Kavanaugh, such tactics could backfire for the 10 red-state Democrats facing reelection in states Trump won in 2016.

GOP Senate candidates are eager to make the Supreme Court fight, which they expect to fire up their base, a focal point in the battle for the chamber, and in doing so paint Democrats as obstructionists.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is seeking reelection, declined to discuss using procedural tactics, saying he was focused on vetting Kavanaugh.

“At this moment in time we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, which is gathering information and going from there,” he said.

Other red-state Democrats have also shown little interest in slowing down Kavanaugh’s nomination, noting that they disagreed with how Republicans in 2016 blocked consideration of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

“I thought how it’s been handled previously, with no decorum and no civility, was wrong,” Manchin recently told reporters, when asked about the possibility of delaying Kavanaugh’s nomination until after the November elections.

Democratic challengers in red states also seem unwilling to back the use of stalling tactics. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic Senate candidate in Tennessee, called for Kavanaugh to be given a “fair and timely confirmation hearing.”

Leadership is facing additional pressure from liberal groups that want party leaders to “whip the vote” and make sure the 49 members in the caucus remain united, to increase their odds of success.

In addition to Manchin, Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) voted for Neil Gorsuch — Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee — and have said they are keeping an open mind about Kavanaugh.

Elizabeth Beavers, policy director for the liberal Indivisible Project, said if there was a “meaningful way” for Democrats to “slow things” for Kavanaugh “they should always do that.”

But, she added, the group was more focused on Schumer and trying to get all Democrats to come out quickly in opposition to Kavanaugh.

“It’s literally the minority leader’s job to try to keep party members in line,” Beavers said.

Heidi Hess, co-director of the progressive group CREDO Action, suggested Schumer should punish senators who vote for Kavanaugh by removing them for leadership posts. Manchin is a member of Schumer’s leadership team.

“It doesn’t make sense that he would have somebody in his leadership team that would vote for Kavanaugh,” Hess said

Democrats have long argued that it’s unrealistic to think leadership can pressure members into voting a certain way, and it isn’t Schumer’s leadership style to twist the arms of his vulnerable incumbents.

But Hess said, “If he’s a leader who’s not going to do that then we need a different leader.”

Senate Democrats acknowledged that voters in their party are frustrated, but Democrats are trying to keep the focus on Kavanaugh and Republicans.

In this week’s first wave of press conferences, the focus was on the potential impact Kavanaugh could have on healthcare, an issue they think could unite the party and maybe even win over GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who both voted against an effort by Republicans last year to repeal ObamaCare.

But getting support from other GOP senators is unlikely, despite the aspirations of some Democratic voters. Every GOP senator voted for Gorsuch last year.

When asked about what kind of feedback he’s gotten from party constituents on Kavanaugh’s nomination, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, “I think they want us to mount a national campaign to try to convince Republicans to vote against this guy.”

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http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/396604-dems-in-terrible-bind-on-kavanaugh-nomination

Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump

June 21, 2018

Senate Republicans on Wednesday said legislation is still needed to address the overflow of detained immigrants at the border, but they are unlikely to pick up enough Democrats to get a bill to President Trump’s desk.

Republicans unveiled a bill that merged a variety of ideas put forth by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as they seek one package that can win the support of the entire GOP conference.

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A large group of senators, Democrats and Republicans, met Wednesday afternoon in centrist Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) office to find shared principles that could serve as the basis for a compromise bill.

“The idea is to make sure we are bringing people from both sides of the aisle together,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who heads the Senate GOP campaign arm and attended the meeting. “Family separation, that’s what we want to stop. How do we come together as two parties to do that?”

Trump diffused the growing political crisis on Wednesday by signing an executive order that authorizes border agents to keep children with their detained parents indefinitely, which will likely end the spectacle of kids being forcibly removed from their families.

Regardless, GOP lawmakers say legislation must move forward.

“It would be helpful to codify some of that stuff. I think it eliminates the uncertainty and potential legal challenges,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.).

Cornyn, who met with Trump about a trade issue along with other members Wednesday, said the president approved of Congress moving forward with legislation during the White House meeting.

Republicans say a 1997 legal settlement known as the Flores settlement agreement, which does not allow children to be detained at the border beyond 20 days, must be reversed by an act of Congress.

“I think the Flores decision has to be dealt with legislatively,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Without legislation, Republicans warned that Trump’s executive order could get bogged down or potentially overturned in court, prolonging a political fight that has plagued the administration’s actions on immigration.

“Ultimately it would be ideal if we could back that up by passing a law that does it so there wouldn’t be a court uncertainty,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “You’re a court ruling away from being back to the same thing, potentially.”

Trump’s decision came after his “zero tolerance” policies that resulted in the separation of migrant families along the U.S.-Mexico border sparked intense, days-long backlash from GOP leadership and high-profile figures in the party.

But Republicans were caught flat-footed by Trump’s controversial policy, and the administration dispatched Attorney General Jeff Sessions to a closed-door GOP lunch to try to explain the administration’s thinking.

Trump’s executive order would keep families detained along the border “together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

The order could lessen the chances the Senate ultimately passes legislation, where immigration is a political lightning rod and lawmakers were already running into partisan headwinds as senators lined up behind competing bills.

Underscoring the political tensions, Cruz questioned if Democrats would block legislation so they could use the issue as a political football for November’s midterm elections.

“I’m hopeful Democrats will work with us to end family separation,” Cruz said. “The question is, do congressional Democrats want to actually solve the problem or do they want an issue to campaign on in November?”

Democrats are deeply skeptical about passing a bill that would codify Trump’s order, arguing that it would support his zero tolerance policy of prosecuting illegal border crossers instead of deporting them.

They argue that it’s inhumane to detain children along with their parents indefinitely.

“To the extent that families can stay together that’s a good thing, but indefinite family detention is not a solution to the problem,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), a leading Democratic voice on immigration.

“It does not solve the problem,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said of Trump’s order. “Indefinite detainment of families is also inhumane. These children should be in school.”

Gillibrand, who is seen as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, said a narrow bill codifying Trump’s order is insufficient and Congress should instead pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But lawmakers in both parties have warned that broad immigration legislation would never be able to clear Congress. A February immigration fight in the Senate resulted in a stalemate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shut down holding another broad, freewheeling debate.

It remains to be seen if McConnell will want to tackle immigration again in the wake of Trump’s executive order. McConnell is co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Tillis and other Republicans on Wednesday. But if immigration fades from the headlines, McConnell could opt to move to other matters — such as voting on Trump’s pending nominees.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have struggled to get on the same page on immigration. Two immigration bills that call for major changes to immigration law — including allowing detained parents to be with their children — don’t appear to have the votes to pass the lower chamber.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has proposed a bill that has the backing of the entire Democratic caucus that would prohibit law enforcement from taking a child from a parent or legal guardian within 100 miles of the border. She said any Republican proposal to detain families together would be problematic.

Feinstein doesn’t think any sweeping immigration bill can pass Congress any time soon.

“That means to me that we have to gather certain very precise rallying principles,” she added.

A senior Democratic aide called Republican legislation to keep detained families together “a complete waste of time” and said it’s being used as a “shiny object” to detract attention from Trump’s unwillingness to reverse his zero tolerance policy.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Tuesday dismissed questions about Democrats backing a GOP bill to address the border crisis, arguing it’s the president’s responsibility.

Schumer didn’t address legislation in his immediate reaction to the executive order Wednesday afternoon, instead saying it was a “relief that the president has reversed himself.”

“I also hope this represents a turning point and that the president will stop blaming others for problems he creates and start fixing them himself,” Schumer said in a statement.

Some Republican senators think that Schumer is purposely dragging his feet because Trump is taking a beating in the media over the controversy.

“Schumer doesn’t want to cooperate because this is such a wonderful issue for them,” said one Republican senator. “I’m sure he’s loving the headlines every morning.”

TAGS KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND DIANNE FEINSTEIN MITCH MCCONNELL CHARLES SCHUMER JEFF SESSIONS SUSAN COLLINS BOB MENENDEZ DONALD TRUMP CORY GARDNER ROB PORTMAN THOM TILLIS JOHN CORNYN MARCO RUBIO JOHN THUNE TOM COTTON TED CRUZ IMMIGRATION REFORM COMPROMISE BILL FAMILY SEPARATION

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/393377-senate-moving-ahead-with-border-bill-despite-trump

Showdown Looms as Senate Democrats Prepare to Reject Spending Bill

January 19, 2018

House passed one-month bill, but it was expected to fall short of votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney arrived for meetings at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 18.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney arrived for meetings at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 18. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

WASHINGTON—A long-running fight over spending and immigration was headed for a showdown Friday, as Senate Democrats prepared to reject a short-term spending bill just hours before the government’s funding expires at midnight.

The House on Thursday evening passed, largely along party lines, a one-month spending bill by 230-197 votes that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16. But the bill was expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate Friday, given opposition from most Senate Democrats and some Republicans.

If that bill stalls, it isn’t clear yet whether lawmakers will then be able to pass an even briefer spending bill, perhaps lasting just a few days, to avoid shutting the government.

A government shutdown would mark the culmination of a struggle dating back to September, when President Donald Trump ended a program shielding the so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents, from deportation. He gave Congress until March 5 to hash out a replacement.

Both parties and the president have been seeking to direct blame across the aisle if the government begins to close down Saturday morning.

“Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate—but they want illegal immigration and weak borders,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday morning. “Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!”

Mr. Trump postponed a scheduled trip Friday to his South Florida resort until after the spending bill passes Congress, a White House spokeswoman said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) criticized Democrats for opposing the stopgap spending bill in their push to reach an agreement over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which covers the young immigrants.

“They’re prepared to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday evening. “Now, on that issue, there’s a bipartisan interest in solving the DACA problem, but the president has given us until March. The last time I looked, this was January.”

Democrats have been trying to use their leverage in the spending negotiations to secure legal protections for the Dreamers. But the immigration negotiations, rocked last week when Mr. Trump referred to some African countries with a vulgar turn of phrase in a meeting with lawmakers, have yet to produce a deal among both parties and the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) pressed late Thursday to hold the procedural vote that would derail the spending bill as quickly as possible, in the hopes that it would force both parties to reach a deal on immigration.

“I think we all know it will be defeated,” Mr. Schumer said. Democrats have objected to the spending bill, saying it was crafted by Republican leaders without addressing the fate of the Dreamers or funding their other priorities, including community health centers and combating the opioid epidemic.

Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives. Now Democrats are needed if it is to pass in the Senate – but they want illegal immigration and weak borders. Shutdown coming? We need more Republican victories in 2018!

“The Republican leader is now saying to us take it or leave it,” he said, referring to Mr. McConnell.

“Here’s why members from both sides of the aisle want to leave it: We have been skating by on continuing resolution after continuing resolution for almost six months,” Mr. Schumer said, referring to a series of short-term spending bills.

Congressional leaders are working on a two-year budget deal that would boost spending for both military and domestic programs, but are unlikely to reach an agreement until the immigration fight has been resolved. No deal on that issue is likely to emerge before the midnight deadline, Senate aides said.

Lawmakers are considering ways to avoid a shutdown. Mr. Schumer and some Republican senators have said they would support a spending bill that stretched for just a few days to provide for more time for negotiations.

“I can support anything that will get us to the table working, I don’t support anything that keeps us away from the table working,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.).

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com, Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com and Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/showdown-looms-as-senate-democrats-prepare-to-reject-spending-bill-1516364692

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House Passes Stopgap Budget Bill; Senate Resistance Remains as Shutdown Looms

January 19, 2018

Short-term spending bill would keep federal government funded through Feb. 16

WASHINGTON—The threat of a partial government shutdown intensified as senators signaled opposition to a short-term spending bill that the House passed Thursday evening.

Senate Democrats indicated on Thursday they had the votes to block the measure to keep the government funded through Feb. 16, according to multiple congressional aides. At least two Republican senators also opposed the bill. Republicans control 51 Senate seats but need at least 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles, a tall order if Democrats stay unified and…

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House approves spending bill, shifting shutdown drama to Senate

The Hill
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he House on Thursday night approved a stopgap measure to keep the government open less than 36 hours before a possible shutdown, shifting the drama to a Senate where Democrats are threatening to block the GOP bill.

The final vote was 230-197, with six Democrats voting for the measure and 11 Republicans voting against it.

The Senate is expected to vote on a procedural motion later Thursday to take up the House bill. The procedural vote is expected to be approved, but a follow-up procedural motion to move the bill to a final up-or-down vote is expected to fail and may not even clinch a simple majority as several Republicans have already voiced opposition.

That would require Senate negotiators to come up with a deal before 11:59 pm Friday to avoid a government shutdown

House GOP leaders found enough votes to pass their measure over Democratic opposition after a deal was reached with conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who had threatened to oppose the bill throughout Thursday.

The group’s chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), secured an agreement with GOP leaders to consider military spending within 10 legislative days.

Most GOP defense hawks said they would vote to avert a shutdown, despite their frustration with repeated short-term bills to fund the military.

Nearly all Democrats refused to support the legislation, which would extend funding through Feb. 16, in the absence of a solution to protect young immigrants known as “Dreamers.” They’re insisting that lawmakers find a way to protect the Dreamers sooner rather than later before agreeing to a budget deal that would pave the way for a long-term government spending plan.

The 11 Republicans who voted against the stopgap were mostly members of the Freedom Caucus, but included two Florida centrists — Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who, like Democrats, are demanding a solution for immigrants brought to country as children.

Six centrist Democrats defected to support the bill: Reps. Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Vicente González (Texas), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).

Many Senate Democrats also oppose the measure in part because of the immigration issue.
They are under enormous pressure from immigrant groups to toe a hard line after agreeing to short-term spending measures in the past that left the Dreamers issue to the side.

Yet they also are confronting the risk of setting up Democrats representing states won by President Trump to take some of the blame for a shutdown. Ten Democrats are running for reelection in this year’s midterm elections in states won by Trump, and their fates could determine the Senate’s balance of power next year.

The House measure includes a six-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired at the end of September. States are at risk of running out of money to cover health care for children in low-income families.

The inclusion of CHIP was thought to be a way of sweetening the pot for Democrats, but it did little to move the needle.
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Republicans on Thursday were continuing to warn Democrats they would be blamed for holding up the health-care funding and money for the military if they block the House bill.

“I think it’s unconscionable that Democrats would walk away from CHIP, from funding our military, for something that is not a deadline,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said.

The remarks about a deadline refer to the Dreamers issue. Republicans have argued Congress has time to help DACA recipients.

Democrats, for their part, argue it is Republicans who are taking a risk by not working with Democrats on the funding bill.

Because the GOP has control of the executive branch and Congress, they say Republicans will get the blame for a shutdown.

“I think the public knows that the Congress of the United States has a Republican majority in the Senate, and the House, and in the White House, a president to sign their legislation,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is hoping to pressure GOP leaders to negotiate and avert a shutdown exactly a year since Trump took office and just over a week before the State of the Union address.

Only one Senate Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), has publicly suggested support for a stopgap that doesn’t include language addressing the Dreamers, though several more are undecided or have not made their positions known.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also faces a divided conference. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) said they will vote against the House stopgap measure for various reasons.

If the bill ultimately becomes law, it would be the fourth temporary funding patch since the fiscal year began. Members of both sides are growing weary of repeated standoffs and question whether yet another stopgap will help lead to any progress.

Graham is pushing for long-term defense funding as well as a bipartisan fix for Dreamers, which he argued yet another short-term bill wouldn’t help.

“It’s time Congress stop the cycle of dysfunction, grow up and act consistent with the values of a great nation,” Graham said.

Lawmakers acknowledged that the risk of a shutdown is growing by the hour with no deal in sight.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.),who represents a Northern Virginia district with thousands of federal workers, said that a resolution “gets harder, not easier, with time.”

“I think every minute that goes by right now without a resolution, it’s dangerous. Because there are more and more reasons to vote ‘no,’ there are more and more demands put on it, factions start to really gel,” Connolly said.

TAGS: ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, COLLIN PETERSON, JOSH GOTTHEIMER, CHARLES SCHUMER, MITCH MCCONNELL, GERRY CONNOLLY, LINDSEY GRAHAM, SALUD CARBAJA, CARLOS CURBELO ,NANCY PELOSI ,MARK MEADOWS ,DONALD TRUMP ,JOE MANCHIN ,MIKE ROUNDS, JIM COSTA, RAND PAUL, PAUL RYAN, SHUTDOWN, BUDGET,

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/369660-house-approves-spending-bill-shifting-shutdown-drama-to-senate

Trump: ‘I don’t see a deal’ to avoid government shutdown

November 28, 2017

The Hill
November 28, 2017

By REBECCA SAVRANSKY AND JORDAN FABIAN

President Trump on Tuesday cast doubt on Washington’s ability to avoid a government shutdown, writing on Twitter that he didn’t believe a deal could be reached with Democrats.

The tweet came hours before Trump is to meet at the White House with GOP congressional leaders as well as Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working,” Trump tweeted.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people sitting and suit

“Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

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Democrats have demanded that a funding deal include language to protect young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” who are threatened with deportation next year because of Trump’s decision to end an Obama-era program.

The White House and Republicans in Congress have countered with heavy demands on border enforcement.

The current funding bill, brokered in a surprise deal between Trump and Democrats in September that caught Republicans off-guard, expires on Dec. 8. The deal also irritated congressional Republicans and conservatives, which could explain Trump’s tweet on Tuesday.

In the past, Trump has flirted with the idea of a government shutdown, saying that it might be necessary in order to win support for a wall on the Mexican border.

There has been some talk of a short-term deal, lasting a matter of weeks, that could provide time for the White House and lawmakers to negotiate a longer funding deal for the rest of the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.

Another complication is the fight over separate legislation to change the tax code. Democrats oppose the measure, which may receive a Senate vote this week.

Trump hopes to complete work on the tax bill before the end of the year, but that will require Senate passage and then another round of talks to work out differences between the House and Senate tax bills. Both chambers would also have to vote on the compromise bill.

All of that has the potential to raise tensions surrounding the funding bill, where Democrats and Republicans have differences that go well beyond the thorny immigration issue.

This report was updated at 9:55 a.m.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/362094-trump-i-dont-see-a-deal-to-avoid-government-shutdown

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Trump calls for repeal of ObamaCare mandate, cuts to top tax rate

November 14, 2017

By Naomi Jagoda
The Hill

 

 November 13, 2017
Trump calls for repeal of ObamaCare mandate, cuts to top tax rate
© Getty Images
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President Trump on Monday said the final GOP tax bill should include language repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate and cutting the top individual tax rate to 35 percent.
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“I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close!” Trump tweeted.
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“Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?”
Trump, who is currently in the Philippines for the last leg of his 12-day tour of Asia, has repeatedly called for the tax legislation to include a repeal of the individual mandate in recent weeks. Repeal of the mandate is not in either the House or Senate bills, but GOP lawmakers say the issue is still under discussion.
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President Trump on Monday at a summit meeting in Manila. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Trump’s comments in his own statement, saying that the president’s core blue-collar, middle class supporters were being sold out.“The President’s awful idea would take a plan that’s already heavily tilted towards the wealthy and make it even worse,” he wrote. “This proposal would send premiums for millions of Americans skyrocketing, all so that the wealthy can get an even bigger tax giveaway than they’d get under the original Republican plan.”

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Both the House and Senate bills have top individual tax rates above 35 percent. The House bill would keep the top individual rate at 39.6 percent, while the Senate bill lowers the top rate slightly to 38.5 percent.
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Achieving both of Trump’s requests could be a challenge for congressional Republicans. While repealing the individual mandate would produce savings, some lawmakers are weary of mixing health care and tax reform. And cutting the top individual rate could be expensive and help to further Democrats’ attacks that Republicans’ tax plans are aimed at helping the rich.
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The House is expected to vote on its bill this week, and the measure appears likely to pass. The Senate Finance Committee will start marking up legislation on Monday afternoon.
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Under the budget resolution lawmakers are using to prevent Democrats from blocking tax legislation, the bill can’t add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
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This story was updated at 12:49 p.m.
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Trump Again Wades Into Tax Debate, Suggesting Repeal of Obamacare Mandate

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/us/politics/trump-taxes-obamacare-individual-mandate.html

Ex-Labor Secretary Tom Perez elected DNC chairman

February 26, 2017