Nel's New Day

November 27, 2017

December – GOP Breaking Point

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:23 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With 15 days of work left before their holiday hiatus at the end of December, Congress may face a far more difficult task than in September unless they shuffle everything down the pike, as they did two months ago. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the Republicans have more than a full plate for its few working days.

Government shutdown: The lights in the government go off on December 8 without further action on the spending bill. Spending caps cause trouble for this bill, so House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) may float another short-term bill, something that the Republicans lambasted Democrats for doing before the GOP was in power. The 2011 Budget Control Act set 2018 caps which will automatically go into effect in January without a deal to raise them. No legislation has been written, and the Senate needs at least 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats.

Without a change in the law, defense programs get only $549 billion, and nondefense programs are limited to $516. DDT and the GOP haws want over $600 billion for defense, and Democrats want the same increase in nondefense spending.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program for nine million children and 370,000 pregnant women in poverty expired at the end of September, and funding may end up in the December spending bill. The program is running out of money for the first time since it was created two decades ago.  The expenditure of $15 billion for CHIP is vital for preventative health care, but families are already receiving notice that their children can no longer have this coverage.

DACA: The deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and attend school without fear of deportation, isn’t until March, but Democrats may force the issue as part of the spending bill.

Tax cuts: At least 50 GOP senators must sign off on a bill that increasingly gouges people the poorer they are. Then the bill has to go to the House which either signs off on it or creates its own version and then sends it back to the Senate for approval. At least eight GOP senators don’t like the bill, each for his own reason, but they may end up caving in because donors are insisting that the GOP Congress do SOMETHING! Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal with healthcare individual mandate, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) oppose that part of it because the loss of the mandate may destabilize health care markets. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) refuses to vote in favor of the bill unless he gets more perks for his personal small business. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are leading the charge in opposing the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit.

To keep the vote for tax cuts to a simple majority, the increase in deficit can be no more than $1.5 billion. As senators consider tweaks to keep some of the reluctant GOP senators in line, the deficit goes up, requiring that other cuts be made. One suggestion is to just eliminate all the cuts for individuals—not businesses—in the bill’s final year.

The popularity of the tax cut bill is going down and may shrink even more with the Congressional Budget Office report that poor people are hurt even worse than previously thought. People making less than $30,000 a year could be worse off by 2019, and those earning $40,000 will be losers by 2021. By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 are worse off. In addition, the increase in health insurance premiums will take four million people off any plans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The rest of the people, 38 percent of the population, will keep getting tax cuts. The chart below indicates the amount that the government will reap from different salary groups—for example, the group of people making under $10,000 will pay an additional $1,540,000,000 whereas those making over $1 million a year will gain $34,100,000,000. The negative sign before the amount means less revenue for the government and shows that the poor pay for the rich.

FISA: Without a bill, this surveillance program expires at the end of the year, but bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of warrantless spying comes from those who believe in privacy. At this time, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to collect emails and texts from foreign spies, terrorists, and other overseas foreign targets without warrants. Proposals have been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, but neither has gone to a floor vote. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has pledged opposition because it violates the Fourth Amendment.

Flood Insurance: The House has passed its version of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, renewing it for five years, updating federal flood mapping requirements, and bolstering a new private flood insurance market. The Senate, however, has made no plans to address the House bill. The NFIP is $25 billion in debt.

Emergency disaster aid: The $44 billion package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is too small, according to some Republicans from Texas, although it’s added to another $50 billion. Conservatives will demand that cuts elsewhere pay for the $44 billion. The budget from DDT goes only to these places for hurricane relief; DDT has offered not one cent to the Western states ravaged by wildfires.

Iran: The 60-day deadline after DDT’s October statement that the nation is not in compliance with the agreement comes in December. Leading Republican senators want to keep the deal but pass legislation to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons after the deal expires. DDT will need to waive sanctions to keep the nuclear pact intact.

All these decisions are set against the background of ethics proceedings for continuing sexual assault and harassment accusations and a December 12 election to determine whether Roy Moore joins the Senate. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) has promised to force a vote to impeach DDT before the end of 2017.

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza writes that December is the make or break time for DDT:

“Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

What’s missing from this list of must-dos? Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

September 13, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-three – Natural Disasters Mixed with GOP Disappointment

Disaster—that is the word for 33rd week that Dictator Donald Trump spent as the White House resident. Houston suffered from Hurricane Harvey as Hurricane Irma, considered five times worse than Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago, ploughed through islands south of Florida and moved across the mainline to devastate large parts of southern states. Hackers into Equifax, one of the principal credit score providers in the nation, collected records, including Social Security numbers and birthdates allowing identity theft, from 143 million people. They also got credit card numbers from over 200,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for another 182,000 customers.

Between Harvey and Irma came the 8.1 earthquake on the southern coast of Mexico, the worst in 100 years, that killed at least 95 people. The death rate was much lower than the estimated 2,000 to 40,000 deaths with the 8.0 earthquake in Mexico because of better building codes and less populated areas for the earthquake’s site. A similar earthquake possible for southwestern California could kill thousands of people and be worsened if the proposed 2018 budget cuts funds for a seismic warning system as proposed. DDT ignored both the earthquake and the loss of at least three people after Hurricane Katia hit Mexico. Three weeks ago, DDT also refused to send any fire-fighting aid to Oregon although its 500,000 burning acres comprise one-third of the fires in the nation.

Congressional GOP members were devastated when (DDT) turned on them and made “Chuck and Nancy”—Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (left) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), his new friends. DDT’s old friends “Paul” Ryan (R-WI), House Speaker, and “Mitch” McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader, got left in the dust at a meeting where DDT gave Democrats three-month extensions on the budget and the debt ceiling as well as the $15 billion disaster aid with no cuts in other areas. An hour earlier, Ryan had called the three-month debt-ceiling extension “ridiculous,” “disgraceful,” and “unworkable, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also disliked the deal. The GOP will face another fight for the budget and debt ceiling before the December 8, 2017 deadline.

Pundits’ theories on why DDT agreed to the deal: he got bored, he thought conservatives wanted it, he thought it would clear the way for progress as in tax “cuts,” or he’s just hostile toward congressional GOP leadership. DDT’s support of North Dakota’s Democratic senators up for re-election this year at his rally last week supports the last idea. A question is how much longer the GOP will protect DDT.

DDT’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi moved so fast that he signed the bill into law within three days. Seventeen GOP senators and 90 GOP representative Republicans voted against it, including four House members from storm-ravaged Texas. Another 17 GOP representatives refused to vote. With GOP support, however, hurricane aid passed 88 days faster than it did for Superstorm Sandy.

Billionaire Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney were booed when they advocated for the bill; Mulvaney had led opposition to raising the debt ceiling when he was in the House. The booing continued after he wouldn’t promise Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) that DDT would not commit to reducing the debt ceiling in the December negotiations. Mnuchin left early after he said that people should support the bill for him personally and not for the policy. Ryan forgot he hated the bill and supported the legislation.

DDT rescinded DACA (the executive order allowing people illegally brought into the country involuntarily as children to get job permits) but made AG Jeff Sessions make the announcement. Sessions claimed that his job is to “enforce the law” and then defended DDT’s pardon of Arizona’s past sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt after he willfully violating a federal judge’s order to stop racial profiling. Unable to cope with his unpopularity after his anti-DACA ruling, DDT blamed Congress and said that he was just waiting for them to fix his own firing of 800,000 people so that they will take the hit from conservative voters.

Congress is willing to use millions of lives as extortion. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wants to trade legal permanent dreamers’ residence for cutting immigration levels in half. Others want to trade the dreamers’ rights for DDT’s wall. Over 400 executives, many of them from the biggest companies such as AT&T and Microsoft, have signed a petition to protect the “dreamers.”  These CEOs know that purchases from Dreamers create more jobs and more profits for these companies that are the strongest base for GOP donations. Even members of DDT’s evangelical advisory board, who supported his racism, think that DDT’s DACA decision is wrong. Sixty-four percent of people in the U.S. back this program, including 41 percent of Republicans. And workers are needed to rebuild after massive losses from the nation’s disasters. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are suing DDT for his DACA decision. An earlier lawsuit supporting DACA has a court hearing tomorrow. DDT has one fewer DACA recipient to throw out of the country: Alonso Guillen, 31, died rescuing people from Hurricane Harvey.

Special investigator Robert Mueller’s juggernaut about Russian involvement keeps moving forward as six current and former DDT aides, including Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, may be interviewed. DDT tortured Spicer as much as, or more than, Saturday Night Live, as the press secretary was constantly forced to lie—beginning with the size of the inauguration crowd on DDT’s first day. The firing of former FBI director James Comey was a huge fiasco as Spicer passed along the party line of a DOJ recommendation for the act just before DDT told Lester Holt that he had long planned to fire Comey with “Russia” on his mind. DDT also tormented Priebus up to the time that he resigned. Both can use the Fifth Amendment not to testify, but there are always memos. Even the White House lawyer needs a lawyer.

DDT’s statement that he will give $1 million to relief aid for Hurricane Harvey as brought back the question of the donations to his inauguration fund that he said would be given to charities. The committee raised $107 million with no caps on individual contributions and selling “exclusive access” for over $1 million, but low attendance kept costs down. Charities were supposed to know who gets the money in April, but now Tom Barrack, head of the committee said that he will release details in November. Maybe the $1 million of DDT’s “personal money” will come from that source—or maybe it will go for Donald Trump, Jr.’s legal fees like DDT’s campaign funds. [$1 million sounds generous, but if DDT is worth $9 billion, it’s like a person with $1 million in net assets giving $90. Millionaires comprise less than ten percent of people in the U.S.]

Donald Jr. needs the legal assistance he’s getting from DDT’s campaign funds. This past week, he was interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee about his meeting over a year ago with Russians to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton before the presidential election. He said that he was just checking into her “fitness” for the office. This was after a number of various excuses earlier.

Another DDT problem is the NAFTA negotiations. DDT has said that Canada and Mexico are being “difficult”; Canada is demanding that the U.S. eliminate anti-union “right-to-work” laws and pressuring both Mexico and the U.S. “to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does.” In the U.S., 29 states have passed laws eliminating rights of unions, and congressional Republicans have sponsored bills to make “right to work” in all states that will suppress wages, employment, and economic growth. DDT has already cut pay increases for federal employees, overturned overtime pay and worker safety rules, and put union-busters on the National Labor Relations Board which is supposed to protect workers. Trade agreements typically favor corporations over workers; Canada is trying to change that dynamic.

Pushed to the bottom of immediate concerns from the media is North Korea’s claim that it has a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile. Experts think that the bomb is actually a “boosted” atomic bomb with less power than a hydrogen bomb, but the U.S. is still goading North Korea with its summer “games.” The U.S. has joined Japan and South Korea in large-scale military drills with over 3,500 troops to simulate an invasion of North Korea and destroy the current regime. Last week’s North Korean missile tests were in response to South Korea’s three week-long military drills with over 75,000 combat troops accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers.

DDT expects help from South Korea to protect the U.S. from North Korea after he lied about sending military resources to help them, ignored history by saying that they were part of China, told them that they had to pay for the U.S. missile-defense system, threatened to eliminate the trade agreement with South Korea, and failed to nominate an ambassador to South Korea.  After alienating Europe, DDT is also going to them for help. DDT’s following through on his threat to stop trade with countries doing business with North Korea would be “an economic tsunami beyond description,” according to NPR’s Ron Elving, and former George W. Bush staffer Taylor Griffin called the economic impact “apocalyptic.” The value of trade between China and the U.S. alone is $663 billion—and DDT’s purchases are part of that amount.

Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to be quieting DDT for the past weeks, but he got his cellphone back tonight when he railed against “Crooked Clinton” about her new book. We’ll wait to see if it’s the recurring trend.

 

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