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Wake Up To Politics - January 23, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 23, 2018. 287 days until Election Day 2018. 1,015 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!

Congress passes three-week CR, ending shutdown

The three-day government shutdown ended on Monday, after Senate Democrats accepted a promise from Republicans that immigration legislation would soon be voted on. The Senate voted 81-18 to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding through February 8, followed by a 266-150 vote in the House. President Donald Trump signed the measure Monday night, reopening the government about 69 hours after it shut down. The CR also reauthorized the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and delayed the enforcement of three Obamacare taxes.

And so the first government shutdown of the Trump era ended with Democrats in much the same position as when it began: without any deal or even a vote scheduled to consider a legislative version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects "Dreamers" (individuals who arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors), which they had demanded be passed along with another stopgap spending fix. Instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his caucus voted to end the shutdown after an assurance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the chamber would take up DACA legislation if the government remained open after the next deadline, February 8.

16 Democrats opposed the CR in the Senate, including many believed to harbor national ambitions, such as Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). Republican Sens. Mike Lee (UT) and Rand Paul (KY), who vote against most CRs, also opposed the measure. In the House, 144 Democrats voted against the CR, while only 45 voted for it. Many House Democrats were "fuming" that their Senate counterparts accepted McConnell's offer, according to Politico, angry that the party blinked in the shutdown battle without a tangible victory for the party. Their frustration mirrors frustration among progressive groups, who accused the Senate Democrats "of capitulating to protect senators up for re-election in November in Republican-leaning states," according to the New York Times.

In the end, Democrats got the worst of both worlds: angering their left flank for deciding to reopen the government, while potentially hurting their vulnerable members by shutting it down in the first place.

Schumer, however, insisted that they had made the right agreement. "I expect [Leader McConnell] to fulfill his commitment to the Senate & abide by this agreement," the top Senate Democrat tweeted. "If he does not honor our agreement, he will have breached the trust of not only the Democratic Senators but the members of his own party as well." Other Democrats said that being promised a vote on the DACA bill would be a victory in of itself, which they said would not have happened if not for the three-day shutdown. "This is the first time in history that under Republican control, that we’re gonna take up this issue on the floor," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said. "The only other time we’ve taken up immigration is under Democratic leadership. So there’s no way Leader McConnell would’ve done this had we not stood firm."

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who also voted to shut down the government late last week and has been a lead negotiator supporting immigration reform, also said it was significant that McConnell had promised to bring an immigration deal to the floor even if President Trump doesn't greenlight it, after previously saying the President's green light would be needed. "For the first time, we have the Majority Leader move off of we can only move something if the President agrees," Flake told reporters.

Schumer also said that he expected a bipartisan DACA agreement to "receive fair consideration and an up-or-down vote on the floor," meaning it would require only 51 votes for passage. A bipartisan agreement struck by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Flake, and other negotiators has already received support seven Senate Republicans, which would likely ensure it gained a simple majority.

Still, even if an immigration bill passes the Senate, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has offered no assurances like McConnell that he would bring it to the floor. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told Politico Playbook that House Republicans don't feel at all bound by McConnell's agreement with Democrats. "The House wasn't part of that deal," he said. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) echoed this message, telling the Daily Beast: "You can't reward bad behavior. This is really bad behavior, shutting down the government over policy...I don't think [Speaker Ryan] should commit to a single thing. We didn't shut down the government; they did."

Meanwhile, President Trump remains a wildcard in the immigration talks. Democrats had hoped that a government shutdown would force him to accept a deal providing DACA protections in exchange for a boost in border security (including funding for his border wall); instead, Trump remained on the sidelines throughout the 69 hours, which coincided with the first anniversary of his inauguration. The President "remained out of sight, suppressing his instincts to make himself part of the story by making a deal or picking a fight," according to the Associated Press. Trump told allies that "he hated" staying out of the negotiations, the AP reported. According to the Washington Post, as a shutdown neared, Trump asked McConnell if he should dial Schumer, hoping to strike a deal. McConnell urged him to stay quiet, a strategy he ultimately kept to. "The great deal-making President sat on the sidelines," Schumer said Monday.

The Post reported that Trump "was tempted" by Schumer's offer on Friday to "provide wall funding and increase defense spending while creating a legislative solution for young undocumented immigrants," but rejected it after concerns were raised by White House chief of staff John Kelly. A White House aide described to Politico the difficulty of keeping Trump away from the spotlight: "He's like Houdini. If you keep him in a cage, he's going to get out."

White House aides and Republican leaders were reportedly worried that if they allowed Trump out, he would strike a deal with Democrats, as he had been close to doing Friday night. However, the White House kept to their position that no immigration negotiations would be held until the government reopened. After the Senate voted to end the shutdown, Trump ended his silence. "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children," he said in a statement. "As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country."

Later on Monday night, Trump tweeted that Democrats had "cave[d]" and Republicans had notched a "big win," and that he now seeks a "big win for everyone, including Republicans, Democrats and DACA."  "See you at the negotiating table!" the "Art of the Deal" author added.

After the Senate vote, the President met with a group of Senate Republicans to strategize their next steps on immigration reform, including immigration hardliner Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), whose presence in negotiations has angered Democrats and moderate Republicans alike. He also sat down separately with Democratic Sens. Doug Jones (AL) and Joe Manchin (WV) on Monday, for a wide-ranging discussion on areas for bipartisan agreement.

--- How was the agreement struck? "With Talking Stick in Hand, Moderate Senators Broke the Shutdown," the New York Times declared. Collins hosted about 20 centrist senators in her office for talks that ultimately led to the agreement to reopen the government in exchange for assurances on DACA, ensuring that the discussions remained civil by only allowing the senator with her Native American "talking stick" to speak.

The Rundown

"FBI director threatened to resign amid Trump, Sessions pressure" (Axios): "Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge."

--- Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired earlier in the Trump Administration and replaced with Wray, tweeted last night: "Good to read reports of people standing up for what they believe in. 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy' — MLK"

--- This is just one of the many scoops Axios' Jonathan Swan has landed in the last two days. He's also obtained a draft of the White House's infrastructure plan on Monday and reported on Trump's anger with two Cabinet secretaries: Wilbur Ross (Commerce) and Ryan Zinke (Interior).

"Court orders new Pennsylvania congressional district map, says it favored GOP" (CNN): "The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state's congressional map Monday, ruling that Republican-drawn districts 'clearly, plainly and palpably' violate the state's constitution and ordering that the map be redrawn in the next three weeks. The ruling could have a major impact on the race for control of the US House in 2018, where Democrats are targeting several Philadelphia-area House seats. "

"Democrats solidify their lead in midterm elections matchup" (ABC News): "Democrats have solidified their position in the November midterm elections in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, maintaining a 12-point lead among registered voters while improving to a wide 14-point advantage among likely voters in congressional preference...This double-digit Democratic lead among likely voters compares with a dead heat in this group in early November. One factor: They’ve locked down their base, including party identifiers, women and minorities."

"Sessions acknowledges missing FBI texts" (USA TODAY): "Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged Monday that the FBI's information system failed to preserve five months of text messages between two bureau officials who had disparaged then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election. The discovery of the communications earlier this year prompted the removal of Peter Strzok, a senior counter-intelligence agent, from the staff of Russia special counsel Robert Mueller."
--- President Trump tweeted this morning: "In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time. Wow!"

"Up to 1,000 more U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring" (Washington Post): "The U.S. Army is readying plans that could increase the total force in Afghanistan by as many as 1,000 U.S. troops this spring beyond the 14,000 already in the country, senior military officials said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not signed off on the proposals for the new forces, which are part of a broader strategy to bolster Afghan forces so that they can pound the Taliban during the upcoming fighting season."

The President's Schedule: Solar panel tariff

At 11am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.

At 1:30pm, Trump signs two key trade actions: imposing tariffs of 30 percent on imported solar panels and tariffs starting at 20 percent on large residential washing machines. "The President’s action makes clear again that the Trump Administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement, adding the new tariffs were based on recommendations by the bipartisan International Trade Commission (ITC), which "found that U.S. producers had been seriously injured by imports." However, the move is opposed by many in the American solar industry, and would likely increase trade tensions with China, South Korea, and other countries.

According to the Washington Post, "The twin actions represent Trump’s first tariff orders and are his most consequential trade actions since the early days of his presidency when he withdrew from a Pacific trade deal and launched negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement." Trump's decision comes just days before he departs for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he is expected to champion his "American First" strategy.

Today in the Senate

The Senate convenes at 12pm today. Following the Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Jerome Powell to be Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. A roll call vote is possible.

Trump nominated Powell, a Fed governor since 2012, to lead the Federal Reserve in November. He was approved by the Senate Banking Committee last month in a 22-1 vote, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) casting the lone opposing vote.

--- "Jerome Powell’s Challenge at the Fed: Keep the Economy Humming" via the Wall Street Journal

Today in the House

The House is not in session today.


In Saturday's newsletter, I misstated the date that the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was extended for six years on Monday, expired. Funding for the program lapsed on September 30.