8 min read

Wake Up To Politics - January 22, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, January 22, 2018. 288 days until Election Day 2018. 1,016 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

In today's newsletter: An update on the status of shutdown negotiations + another lawmaker faces sexual harassment allegations + Pence in Israel + more...

Shutdown: Day Three

Senate to hold procedural vote on three-week CR as negotiations continues

As the government shutdown extends into its third day, the Senate will hold a cloture vote at 12pm today on a continuing resolution (CR) reopening the government through February 8.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the vote in a floor speech Sunday night, offering a compromise: if the CR passed, he would commit to holding a vote on legislation protecting "Dreamers." Democrats voted against the House-passed CR, which would have funded the government through February 16, because no deal had been reached to pass a legislative version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields "Dreamers" from deportation and is set to end in March.

"Should these issues not be resolved by the time the funding bill before us expires on February 8, 2018, assuming that the government remains open, it would be my intention to proceed to legislation that would address DACA, border security, and related issues," McConnell promised on Sunday. "It is also my intention to take up legislation regarding increased defense funding, disaster relief, and other important matters."

Would that be enough of an assurance for Democrats to vote to end the shutdown today? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in remarks following McConnell's, signaled that his caucus would consider the proposal — but wouldn't agree to it yet. "Talks will continue, but we have yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable for both sides," he said. Schumer objected when McConnell attempted to hold a vote on the three-week CR on Sunday night, but agreed to voting at noon today, setting a new deadline for the bipartisan negotiations that continued unsuccessfully throughout the weekend to produce a compromise at least 60 senators could agree to.

60 "yeas" would be needed for the CR to advance after today's vote; the shutdown began at midnight Friday, after the four-week CR failed in a 50-49 cloture vote. Most Senate Democrats, joined by five Republicans — Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mike Lee (UT), and Rand Paul (KY), as well as McConnell, for procedural reasons that allow him to hold another vote on the measure — opposed the stopgap fix. Five Democrats, all vulnerable senators representing deep-red states, broke with their party to support the CR: Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WV), and Claire McCaskill (MO).

In addition to extending government funding, the continuing resolution would reauthorize the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delay the enforcement of three Obamacare taxes.

The proposal for a three-week CR, in exchange for a commitment to vote on a DACA bill, emerged after a flurry of negotiations on Sunday between a large group of centrist senators from both parties. The group included more than 20 senators who met for 90 minutes in Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)'s office. The group then presented their plan to McConnell and Schumer, who continued to negotiate Sunday night before agreeing to a 12pm vote.

The deal, as outlined by McConnell on the floor, has already received support from Flake and Graham, who voted against the CR on Friday night due to the lack of action on DACA. Flake announced that he would vote for the spending measure with the commitments McConnell offered, while Graham called the outline a "more than reasonable proposal." If Flake and Graham vote for the CR, Democrats would lose what little bipartisan support they had for their stance, giving Republicans even more ammunition to pin them with the shutdown. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has yet to offer a commitment to hold a DACA vote, which Democrats would likely need before accepting McConnell's promise.

As negotiations played out behind closed doors, both parties continued a public blame game, with Republicans referring to the "Schumer Shutdown" and Democrats to the "Trump Shutdown." Democrats have accused the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans of shifting their position on immigration, and made the argument that blame for the shutdown falls on the shoulders of the party in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Republicans, meanwhile, point to Democrats' support of everything in the CR, accusing them of holding government funding hostage for an unrelated issue, letting the military go unpaid to support illegal immigrants. Publicly, the shutdown seemed only to push both parties further into their corners, with Democrats and Republicans alike stubbornly digging in.  

One voice has been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the shutdown debate: President Trump's. He is reportedly "itching" to join the negotiations, but has not spoken to Schumer since a Friday meeting where they seemed to have struck the outline of an agreement. White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is known to harbor hardline views on immigration, called Schumer later Friday to tell him that the deal was off, and that he should negotiate instead with McConnell. The talks this weekend took place solely among senators, with little White House involvement.

It remains unclear whether enough Democrats will vote to support the CR in today's vote, which would provide a quick path to ending the current stalemate. Negotiations will only become more frantic today, as the effects of the shutdown become more searing now that the workweek has begun, with hundreds of thousands of "furloughed" government employees deemed "non-essential" prevented from reporting for duty.

Other developments that took place on Sunday, since the special Saturday Shutdown edition of Wake Up To Politics was sent...

  • Graham vs. Miller: As Schumer blamed McConnell and vice versa, Graham found his own target on Sunday: White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. On Twitter, Graham said that President Trump "has expressed a desire to have border security with compassion on immigration," which he called a "#winningcombination," but "some other staff in the White House hold extreme and unrealistic views" and "hold us back from getting a solution."
  • Later, he blasted Miller directly: "As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we're going nowhere," Graham told reporters. "He's been an outlier for years."  Graham blamed Miller, who he says has "yanked back" any bipartisan compromise that has reached the Oval Office. Miller, a former aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is known for his conservative stance on immigration. "The White House staff has been pretty unreliable," Graham, a off-and-on Trump ally and frequent golf partner of the President's, added.
  • The White House returned the fire, with spokesperson Hogan Gidley offering a statement in response: "As long as Sen. Graham chooses to support legislation that sides with people in this country illegally and unlawfully instead of our own American citizens, we’re going nowhere. He’s been an outlier for years."
  • Nuclear option: President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday morning that "if stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option)": again endorsing that McConnell move to end the legislative filibuster so a simple majority is needed to advance bills, instead of the current three-fifths. "The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation," a McConnell spokesperson responded, shooting down the President's idea.
  • The Wall: As Democrats push for protections for the nearly 800,000 "Dreamers," their rhetoric on President Trump's proposed border wall began to shift. "I think it's a monumental waste of money and monumental stupidity, but if that's what it's going to take, if I have to put bricks in to save lives," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a leading member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told CNN. Early Saturday morning, as the shutdown began, Schumer revealed that he put the wall "on the table" in his Friday meeting with Trump, a change from previously refusing to consider the proposal. "Even that," he said, "was not enough to entice the President to finish the deal." However, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Schumer promised to "authorize" funding for the wall but not "appropriate" it; the latter would be needed for the wall to be actually constructed.
  • Trump ad: The Trump campaign on Saturday issued a new 30-second ad on immigration, calling Democrats "complicit" in "every murder committed by illegal immigrants." On NBC's "Meet the Press," White House legislative director Marc Short attempted to distance the Administration from the ad, which he said was produced by an "outside group," despite the President's voice being heard at the end saying he approves the message.

The Rundown

Congressman settled misconduct complaint, report says: Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) "used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money" to settle a "misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her," the New York Times reported. A spokesperson for the lawmaker said he "denies these allegations" and "has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism."

Meehan was the second-highest ranking Republican on the House Ethics Committee (which has investigated numerous lawmakers for sexual misconduct in recent months) and vocal in combatting harassment in Congress. In a statement, a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Meehan had been removed from the Ethics panel, which would open an investigation into its former member, and said that Ryan called on the Pennsylvanian to repay the taxpayer-funded settlement.

Meehan's district, which was narrowly won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, had already been seen as a top pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Government to re-try Menendez: The Justice Department announced plans on Friday to re-try Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who was previously charged with bribery and corruption. Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who allegedly gave Menendez perks and contributions in exchange for favors from the senator, pleaded not guilty to all charges; a trial in the fall lasted 11 weeks, but ended in a hung jury.

DOJ asked for "the earliest possible date" for a new a trial, which could complicate Menendez's 2018 re-election bid.

Travel ban: The Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear a case on the third version of President Trump's travel ban, which bars travel from eight countries (six of which are majority-Muslim). Previous versions of the ban were stopped by lower courts; a Supreme Court ruling would be the definitive answer on whether the travel ban is within Trump's powers as President. The court is set to hear the case in April and decide by June.

The President's Schedule: No public events

At 11am, President Donald Trump receives the presidential daily briefing. He has no other events on his public schedule.

Vice President's Schedule: Israel

Vice President Mike Pence is in Israel today, the last leg of a Middle Eastern tour that took him to Egypt and Jordan over the weekend. While in Israel, Pence will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, address the Knesset (Israel's legislature), and visit Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust museum) and the Western Wall.

Pence's Knesset address took place early this morning; in the speech, he announced an expedited schedule for the U.S. Embassy in Israel's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is now set for 2019.

Today in the Senate

The Senate convenes at 10am today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the House-passed continuing resolution. At 12pm, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the CR with an amendment extending funding through February 8.

Today in the House

The House convenes at 12pm today. No votes have been announced, but members have been told to stick around so the chamber can hold a vote on the amended CR if it passes the Senate.