Pelosi & McConnell: Time to cut a deal?

Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., attend a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring the Office of Strategic Services in Emancipation Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, Washington’s odd couple, have a limited set of mutual legislative interests in a capital beset by dysfunction and awash in presidential politics.

But automatic spending cuts, the legacy of a budget breakdown eight years ago, are bringing the power duo together to see if a deal can be made.

At stake are tens of billions of dollars for military and domestic programs, money that brings together a broad spectrum of lawmakers, including pragmatists hoping to see the Capitol function.

There is plenty of time to reach agreement, but failure could usher in spending cuts of $125 billion next year, a 10 percent drop from current levels. Looming over it all is the record 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year, still a fresh memory and a disruption no one wants to repeat.

McConnell, R-Ky., and Pelosi, D-Calif., have been players in numerous bipartisan budget deals, and their mutual support is an essential ingredient if any new one is to succeed. Early signs seem iffy at best.

President Donald Trump is not a fan of the effort. Trump’s budget proposes an increase in defense spending to $750 billion but would keep the cuts to domestic agencies and foreign aid in place, though that was an impossible formula to sustain even before Democrats took back the House.

Forces inside Trump’s White House appear opposed as well, at least to the kind of everybody-gets-something bipartisan deals that can make it through the system. Three previous agreements have denied Trump the money he demanded to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and he has signed them reluctantly.

The White House seems more interested in speedy action on legislation to increase the government’s borrowing limit, which must be passed to avoid defaulting on its obligations. Trump’s team worries that marrying the two issues might prove too toxic for GOP allies on Capitol Hill.

On the spending picture, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, architect of Trump’s annual budget from his former post as budget director, is seen as an obstacle, along with current budget chief Russ Vought, a hard-line conservative.

The White House has made it plain in private that it could live with a fallback deal of a freeze at current levels, even though that would deny the Pentagon its requested increase.

Trump tweeted this month: “House Democrats want to negotiate a $2 TRILLION spending increase but can’t even pass their own plan. We can’t afford it anyway, and it’s not happening!” Trump’s $2 trillion figure reflects what a deal could cost over 10 years.

Pelosi does have some problems on her left flank, which this month blocked a leadership-backed measure to set new budget limits reflecting Democratic domestic priorities. Liberals such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state and Ro Khanna of California stifled the plan, saying it shortchanged domestic programs.

“It’s obvious they can’t agree among themselves how much they want to spend,” McConnell recently told reporters. He said the only possibility he sees is a bipartisan agreement that “the most liberal members of her party don’t vote for and the most conservative members of my party don’t vote for.”

McConnell insists he and Pelosi can deliver as they have in the past, and both have long histories on the powerful House and Senate Appropriations committees, for years as the top negotiators over the annual foreign aid bill. But Washington’s partisanship and the battles over Democratic investigations of Trump aren’t helping now, and Trump’s unpredictability could unravel things at any time.

What’s more, there isn’t pressure to reach a deal quickly. At immediate stake is the setting of upper boundaries, or “caps,” on about $1.3 trillion in annual appropriations passed by Congress for agency operations. Actually divvying up the money comes during lengthy consideration of 12 individual spending bills.

Both the House and Senate routinely bust the Sept. 30 deadline for the spending legislation, and both the House and Senate Appropriations committees plan to begin work on their 12 bills regardless. Washington’s rules dictate that the spending cuts wouldn’t actually strike until next year.

Past deals, including the 2011 budget pact between President Barack Obama and GOP leaders, have typically hitched a ride on must-do legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap, though the need to raise that limit doesn’t come into play until late this summer or early fall.

Also, McConnell may be more eager for a deal than Pelosi. Senate rules and traditions mandate that the process in that chamber be bipartisan if it is to succeed.

But in the House, majority Democrats don’t need GOP help at the outset to pass the bills.

The leader of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is kicking off action this week, starting with health and education programs.

For now, the two sides plan to plug along in hopes of forestalling the prospect of across-the-board cuts and minimizing the chaos.

“Pelosi and McConnell do not want to go through another government shutdown,” said Bill Hoagland, a longtime Senate budget aide and an analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center.


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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

#DerangedDonald: Perfect name for Trump

George Conway (left) and his favorite target: #DerangedDonald.

Prominent conservative attorney George Conway turned the tables on his favorite target this week, giving America’s brain-damaged, name-calling president a dose of his own medicine.

Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, gave Donald Trump a name that went viral on Twitter when he tweeted:

Deranged Donald is at back at it again. Deranged Donald can do things like this and it’s not even the top of the news, because it gets lost beneath all of the other deranged things Deranged Donald does.

Trump often applies names like “Crooked” (as in “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, “Lyin” (as in “Lying Ted” Cruz or “Little” (as in “Little Marco” Rubio).

The #DerangedDonald hashtag took off on a Twitter tsunami, hitting No. 2 worldwide in a matter of hours.

“#DerangedDonald is still tending.  Looks like Conway created a keeper,” said Amy Siskind in a tweet with more than 7,600 loves.

Conway added more:

Deranged Donald is at back at it again. Deranged Donald can do things like this and it’s not even the top of the news, because it gets lost beneath all of the other deranged things Deranged Donald does.

Some 5,168 Twitter users retweeted his comments and brought more than 26,448 “likes.”

Trump, who normally fires back at Conway, remains strangely quiet,

Perhaps, in his own twisted way, Trump likes his new hashtag.


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Political winds continue to drive dark clouds over Trump

Big questions haunt America in coming months:  Can someone like Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?  Will the Democratic party turn to a moderate who could win or will it lose because it insist on a liberal?  Should Congress impeach Trump?  If so, will it?

Famed journalist Elizabeth Drew says Congress should, and must, impeach Trump:

But the Democrats would also run enormous risks if they didn’t hold to account a president who has clearly abused power and the Constitution, who has not honored the oath of office and who has had a wave of campaign and White House aides plead guilty to or be convicted of crimes.

The argument that the Democratic House wouldn’t be able to focus on substantive legislation is the flimsiest rationale. It did so in 1974 while the House Judiciary Committee was considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. It seems clear that what the Democratic leaders are actually worried about is public relations. The press no doubt would focus on that sexier subject.

Several Democrats are trying to have it both ways. They want to avoid giving the impression that they’re chasing impeachment — heaven forfend! — while at the same time various committees are attempting to expose Mr. Trump’s tax returns, his business dealings and whether his financial interests guided some of his foreign policies — any of which could make impeachment more likely, perhaps inevitable.

Some could say Trump wins many public relations wars against the Democrats who control the House.  Is that reality or just paranoia.

I know a thing or two about public relations in government.  I served as press secretary to two members of Congress:  Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois and Rep. Manual Lujan of New Mexico — both Republicans — and I served as Senior Communications Associate with The Edddie Mahe Company — a political and business consulting firm.

Perception drives too much of government.  Trump understands that.

But perception can also change and recent revelations suggest that even a growing number of even the most ardent supporter of former reality TV-host and often-failed developer Trump now have questions about his many lies, misdeeds, corruption and ethics.

Trump has changed his lies too many times, failed to deliver on too many promises and screwed too many people.

Trump carried Pennsylvania in 2016, a win that put him over the top in the electoral vote (although he lost the popular vote nationwide by the largest proportion in presidential history).

Writes Michael Tackett in The New York Times:

Most of his supporters say they will stick with him, citing his blunt style, which some of them see as a form of entertainment, as well as a strong economy. But not all of them.

That same economy has yielded uneven results in Altoona, a city of about 45,000 where the low unemployment rate of 4.2 percent masks some uglier economic facts: Most of the new jobs are in lower-paying service industries, with scaled-down benefits. The poverty rate is 23.2 percent. And there are few signs of the renaissance in manufacturing that the president said he would create.

“There is not a lot of disposable income at $11 an hour,” said Jim Foreman, the county Republican chairman, who operates several physical therapy clinics.

Robert K. Kutz, the president of a local labor council, put it more bluntly. He said some union members who voted for Mr. Trump were starting “to realize that the promises came up empty” and will vote against him in 2020.

“As far as the manufacturing goes,” he added, “none of that has come back.”

Union political activists say they have strong support among their members for a candidate like Biden.  A growing number of Republican and independent voters say they have had it with Trump.

Reports NBC news:

For all of the attention on polls showing President Trump retaining clear support from Republican voters, there’s maybe a more important set of numbers to watch heading in November’s midterm elections – Trump and the GOP’s standing with independents.

And according to a trio of state polls released by NBC News and Marist College, these independent voters are breaking away from the president and the Republican Party.

Changes coming?  We saw it in the midterm elections.  That could, and should, continue as 2020 — as long as the Democrats don’t blow it.


© 2019 Capitol Hill Blue


Suddenly, White House trumpets Mueller report

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

After denouncing the special counsel’s Russia investigation throughout its nearly two-year history, President Donald Trump greeted its conclusion with choice words: “the Crazy Mueller Report,” ″written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters,” containing “total bullshit.”

Now, suddenly, the “witch hunt” is golden, in the pivoting rhetoric of the White House.

Bristling at Democratic attempts to dig deeper into episodes of possible obstruction of justice laid out in Robert Mueller’s report, Trump’s team is pointing to the fact that Mueller stopped short of accusing Trump of a crime (and glossing over the idea that it left Congress to pursue that path as it sees fit.)

This has given rise to fulsome praise for an inquiry Trump has routinely condemned.

“It was the most thorough investigation probably in the history of our country,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “I say it’s enough.”

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway offered this: “The president is saying that the Mueller report is the definitive, conclusive non-partisan investigation.”

This, after Trump assailed the inquiry as a partisan, polluted exercise since its inception and, according to the Mueller report, pressed aides to stop it.

Said Conway: “You want to see the nonpartisan, definitive, conclusive taxpayer-funded, lengthy, unobstructed, unimpeded, uninterfered with investigation? You just saw it and it’s called the Mueller report.”

The switch came as House Democrats stepped up their scrutiny of Trump’s behavior and finances and the White House pushed back. A former White House official defied a House subpoena, the Treasury Department ignored a deadline for providing Trump’s tax returns and the president vowed “we’re fighting all the subpoenas” from Democratic lawmakers on these subjects.

Despite crediting Mueller with unparalleled thoroughness — and after countless false claims that the report exonerated him — Trump did not abandon his characterization of the inquiry as a witch hunt, something he’s repeated on Twitter alone nearly 200 times in less than a year .

“We just went through the Mueller witch hunt, where you had, really, 18 angry Democrats that hate President Trump,” he said. “They hate him with a passion.”


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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Donald Trump: Stupid is as stupid does

The toxic swamp that envelopes the corrupt and scandal-scarred administration of Donald John Trump stinks at putrid level never before seen or smelled in the halls of power in Washington, DC.

Trump added more stink with a claim that he may have the Supreme Court intervene in any attempt by Congress to impeach him.

Too bad Trump hasn’t read the Constitution, the document considered the rule of the land, that delegates impeachment proceedings to Congress, not any court — including the “Supreme One.”

“I did nothing wrong,” Trump said in his way to talking to most people, in a tweet on Twitter.  “If the partisan Democs ever tried to impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Not only are there no ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,” there are no crimes by me at all.”

One could argue, without even a hint of irony, that Trump’s very existence is itself a high crime against humanity.  He has destroyed the presidency, disgraced the nation and replaced “land of the free” with “haven for racism” and “home of the brave” with “house of ill repute.”

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, an acknowledged expert on Constitutional law, calls Trump’s claims “idiocy.”

Tribe writes on Twitter: ““Not even a SCOTUS filled with Trump appointees would get in the way of the House or Senate.”

There’s no “get out of jail free” care for Trump.

John Wagner, writing in The Washington Post, quotes another constitutional law professor (from Georgetown), Joshua Matz, who says Trump, as usual, “reflects a profound misunderstanding.”

Adds Matz in an email:

If the President were to seek judicial intervention in that fashion, the courts would almost certainly refuse to hear the case on the ground that it is a ‘political question’ textually entrusted to Congress by the Constitution.

In an interview with the Post’s Greg Sargent, Matz adds:

In our constitutional structure, the impeachment power is mightier and more fundamental than virtually any interest that the President might raise against it.

Trump constantly claims that he knows more about everything than anybody else.  In reality, he knows little about anything.  He’s an uninformed, ignorant fool.

Ignoramus comes to mind. So does idiot.

Sadly, so are most of those who make up his “base.”  Paranoia feeds their stupidity while bigotry drives their hatred.

“Stupid is as stupid does,” says an old English proverb that dates back to at least 1862.

Stupid is Donald Trump.

Stupid does are what happens just about every time he opens his mouth or pounds out a tweet on his phone.


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Is Trump scared? He should be

Some close to beleaguered president Donald Trump (at least the ones willing to talk off the record) say the liar-in-chief is lying again when he claims he is not worried or bothered by what a fuller review of the Mueller report reveals about his corrupt administration.

“Not even a little bit,” Trump answered Monday to a question on whether or not he is concerned.

“He’s lying,” says a former White House aide.  “He’s sweating the details and they keep getting worse.”

Mueller’s report reveals White House aides who feel let down by Trump.

“He ignores loyalty with criticism and blame,” says another former aide.

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen found that out when Trump dumped him after years of protection by the attorney called “his fixer” and who said he would “take a bullet” for “the Donald.”

Some have jumped ship.  Other are talking and providing vital information to ongoing investigations of Trump and his misdeeds.

“Sooner or later, tyrants are always abandoned by their followers,” writes Eliot A. Cohen (no relation to the former Trump attorney), professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, in The Atlantic.

He adds:

To be sure, Trump could hang on until the 2020 election. It is even possible, if considerably less likely, that he could be reelected and march off into a glitzy retirement at Trump properties in Florida and New Jersey, his retreat from public life punctuated only by bursts of increasingly senile bombast. But it does seem more likely than it once was that he will go down in disgrace.

Disgrace has long been a constant companion to Trump, the thrice married adulterer who squandered much of his inheritance on casinos that went bankrupt while he cheated investors, stiffed vendors and defrauded those who could not afford his schemes like the phony Trump University shut down after investigators found it was nothing but a con.

Cohen notes:

A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well.

The question, however, is whether or not American survives from what many have called the treasonous acts of his failed “leader.”

Presidential historian Joh Meacham says Trump’s actions represent “the definition of treason” by knowing of Russia’s attempts to interfere with the tainted 2016 election that made him president.

“There is a live question about whether he has been giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which is the definition of treason in the Constitution,” Meacham told former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough on the “Morning Joe” cable-TV program. “”This is an existential constitutional crisis, because it’s quite possible that the president of the United States right now is a witting or at least partially witting agent of a foreign power, and I say that with great care, but that’s a possibility.”

Meacham says that all Trump had to do was “know” about the Russian efforts and his failure to take action is, in itself, “aid and comfort” to the enemy.

Complacent Republicans in Congress, who sat on their hands, may be equally guilty of treason to the nation.

The ultimate punishment for treason against America?

It’s no longer death by firing squad.  The Criminal Justice Act of 1990 set the maximum punishment for treason as life imprisonment with no parole for at least 40 years.

No wonder Trump is worried.

Instead of running for re-election, maybe Trump should be running for the border of the nearest country that does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.

There’s always Russia.  Trump has often made it clear that he prefers to company of a murdering dictator than any ally of America.


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