There is chaos today in Washington created by Donald Trump, whose early morning impulses have upended attempts to get the thing he reportedly values the most–a win.
The GOP hoped they had the makings for a short-term budget deal, kicking the can down the road for a few more weeks while trying to figure out a way to sort out the thorny political issues surrounding defense spending, children’s healthcare (CHIP), and some compromise on Dreamers.
Republican Congressional leaders thought they’d put Democrats between a rock and a hard place by including CHIP and excluding a DACA fix. They were wrong, as legislators from the left side of the aisle said “nope” and lawmakers from the right side of the aisle said, “enough already.”
Then the President, apparently misinformed or misunderstanding something he saw on Fox News tweeted that he did not want (CHIP) funded in the stopgap spending bill, contradicting the official position of his own White House and GOP leaders in Congress.
His facts were wrong: Trump said a 30-day extension to the children’s health program was in the bill, when, in fact, it was 6 years, something Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) tried to call to his attention on Twitter.
The government will shut down on Saturday unless Congress passes new legislation and but Republicans in both chambers are facing obstacles.
In the House, it’s not clear Rep. Paul Ryan can muster 218 votes from his own conference in the face of unified Democratic opposition. If the bill does get through the House, Republicans face a filibuster from Democrats in the Senate. Only one Democrat in the Senate has so far committed to vote for a measure that does not address DACA and 60 votes are required.
Congressional Republicans and the President are on the same page when it comes to ginning up the fear and blaming Democrats for a shutdown. It ain’t gonna work.
Trump told reporters outside the Pentagon on Thursday morning, “If the country shuts down, which could very well be … the worst thing is what happens to our military.” Rep. Paul Ryan made a similar claim.
This, of course, is bullshit. Active-duty military personnel typically work through shutdowns as do other Pentagon workers. In 2013, Congress passed a bill to pay the military during the shutdown. It passed 423-0 in the House. Other civilian workers can be furloughed if they are deemed nonessential to military operations.
During a shutdown–and there have been 18 since 1976–most government services are frozen, barring those that are deemed “essential”, such as the work of the Department of Homeland Security and FBI. Nearly 40% of the government workforce is placed on unpaid furlough and told not to work. Many, but not all, are non-defense federal employees.
Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the Executive Branch. The consensus among the chattering class is that voters are smart enough to know this, as Chris Cillizza pointed out at CNN:
People blame whoever they think is in charge. And although in the past two shutdowns that was somewhat up for debate, it isn’t this time around. Which is why tweets from President Donald Trump insisting that “Democrats want to shut down the Government over Amnesty for all and Border Security” won’t work. Sure, the base of the GOP will respond to that red-meat-throwing. But, there is no amount of Trump tweets that can overcome the fact that Republicans totally control Washington at the moment.
The overall political environment heading into this shutdown showdown also looks more toxic for Republicans than in the past two shutdowns. Democrats had an 18-point lead in the generic ballot in a December CNN/ORC poll. That same poll showed Democrats with a 17-point enthusiasm edge over Republicans about voting in 2018. And, results on the ground — from the state legislative level to the US Senate — suggest that Democrats already have the wind at their backs with less than 300 days left before the 2018 midterms.
Given all of that, a government shutdown would almost certainly have near-disastrous consequences for Republicans already on their back foot, politically speaking. Which, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Just that if it does, Republicans had better start bracing for a major political impact.
Not that anybody really cares at this point, but El Trumpo screwed up again during his early morning twitterfest, giving a shout out to a Republican candidate in a special election in Pennsylvania.
Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
The special election was called after Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, a strong advocate for the concerns of anti-abortion groups, got busted for an affair and suggesting his mistress seek an abortion.
There was a big problem with the President’s announcement, namely that the stated purpose of the trip was to conduct official business, not politics. As we’ve already seen on many other matters, ethics is not a priority for the current administration.
None-the-less, the White House tried to walk back Trump’s tweet, according to Politico:
“The president is enthusiastic about today’s trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to discuss the incredible successes his tax plan is already achieving for the American people,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “While the president has made clear his support fMcClatchycan candidates throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania, the purpose of today’s visit is to promote the president’s successful agenda, especially on taxes.”
Finally, there’s a new wrinkle in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential election. The National Rifle Association is suspected of serving as a conduit for monies used to support Trump’s campaign via Russian banker Alexander Torshin.
From McClatchy News:
The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.
However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine has more:
The banker, Alexsandr Torshin, has close ties to Vladimir Putin, and the sort of shady connections one expects from an oligarch in the Putin circle. (He has been charged with money laundering overseas and links to mobsters.) Torshin is also a lifetime member of the NRA, hosted NRA delegations visiting Russia, has attended several NRA conventions, and has spoken with gun enthusiast Donald Trump Jr….
…There is a genuine ideological connection between the right-wing ideology of the NRA and of many Russian nationalists, a strand of violence-obsessed authoritarian pan-European nationalism. Of course, if the support given Trump by Russians was not merely moral but also financial, it would violate the law.
It is also worth contemplating the effect any legal trouble for the NRA would have upon the Republican Congress. There is no more untouchable faction of the Republican Party than the NRA. Already, Trump’s allies have coalesced behind him and used their investigative power to support his wild claims that the FBI is part of a sinister deep-state conspiracy against him. If the NRA is swept up in Robert Mueller’s probe, the pressure on Republicans to fire or hamstring his investigation would ramp up to overwhelming levels.
If you’ve ever seen any of the NRA’s videos attacking their perceived enemies, you’ll know what’s likely coming next is an all-out campaign against the FBI.
What a strange world we live in: the law and order types now are hating on law enforcement and the GOP’s evangelical supporters are studiously ignoring the unfolding stories about Trump and an adult movie actress.
Here’s Stephen Colbert’s take on the Trump and Bump scandal. You know if the same story was circulating on just about any other recent president, the religious right would be completely losing it.
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