Wake Up To Politics
This is your wake up call.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
600 Days until Election Day 2018
1,328 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
- Trump's First Budget Blueprint Released: Cuts Across the Board, Except for Pentagon President Donald Trump's first budget request was released this morning, a 62-page document titled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." The $1.15 trillion budget calls for spending increases for four agencies: the Department of Defense (+10%), the National Nuclear Security Administration (+11.3%), the Department of Homeland Security (+6.8%), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (+5.9%).
- If Trump's budget is enacted (which is very unlikely), every other agency would take drastic cuts to pave way for those boosts to national security spending. Programs long opposed by Republicans face the largest cuts, especially the Environmental Protection Agency (-31.4%) and State Department (-28.7%), whch includes funding for foreign aid and the United Nations.
- Dozens of independent agencies are entirely eliminated in the budget request, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, AmeriCorps, and the Community Development Block Grant program (which funds Meals on Wheels).
- "Our aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demand of our citizens—a Government that puts the needs of its own people first. When we do that, we will set free the dreams of every American, and we will begin a new chapter of American greatness," President Trump said in a message attached to the budget request. "A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority— because without safety, there can be no prosperity."
- The Pentagon will receive a $54 billion boost for military spending, which will finance "troop readiness, the fight against Islamic State militants and procurement of new ships, fighter jets and other weapons," according to the Associated Press.
- Meanwhile, the increase for the Department of Homeland Security would allow President Trump to enact his biggest campaign promise, allotting $2 billion for the construction of a Mexican border wall. Additional steps to strengthen border security would also be taken, including hiring of 500 new Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel.
- The blueprint unveiled today is known as the "skinny budget," a first draft of the full budget that will come later in the spring and include line-by-line appropriations, as well as requests for the non-discretionary portion (taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) that makes up the bulk of the federal budget.
- Congres has until April 28 to pass a new spending bill; huge changes would likely have to be made to the President's request before it could be passed, with Democrats outraged over cuts to climate change research, housing aid, and other programs. A number of prominent Republican senators will also oppose cuts to some programs; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, has already said he will not accept drastic cuts to foreign aid.
- Spending bills can be filibustered in the Senate, meaning President Trump would need the support of eight Democrats for this budget to pass, which is incredibly unlikely. But even if the budget does not pass, the "America First" message embedded in it will be heard around Washington, as the capital attempts to adapt to a very different President.
- The President's Schedule Continuing a tradition that stretches back to 1956, President Donald Trump will host the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland to mark St. Patrick's Day today.
- Trump will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, where the traditional presentation of a crystal bowl containing a shamrock will occur.
- Trump and Kenny will then head to the U.S. Capitol for the Friends of Ireland Luncheon, an annual event founded by President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill in 1983. Typically, the President, Vice President, Taoiseach, and congressional leaders participate.
- After returning to the White House, Trump will hold a photo-op with Taoiseach and Mrs. Kenny, before speaking at a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room.
- Travel Ban 2.0 Blocked by Judges in Hawaii, Maryland President Trump's revised executive order on immigration, stopping visas from going to citizens of six Muslim-majority nations, was set to take effect at 12:01 this morning. Instead, two District Court judges passed down orders in recent hours to temporarily block the main provisions of the order from being implemented, meaning the updated travel ban will meet the same fate as the original one (at least for now).
- U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson, an Obama appointee based in Honolulu, Hawaii, issued a 43-page opinion pointing to comments made by Trump and his advisers to determine that the order was "issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion." According to BuzzFeed, Watson handed down a "temporary restraining order, which applies nationwide" and "blocks the Trump administration from enforcing sections 2 and 6 of the new executive order," the portions that prohibit the issuance of visas to citizens of the six nations for 90 days and prohibit the acceptance of refugees from all foreign countries for 120 days.
- Early this morning, Watson was joined by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang, an Obama-appointed jurist based in Baltimore, Maryland. Chuang also found that the travel ban was discriminatory towards Muslims and blocked enforcement of its most important provisions.
- "The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scope," DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said after the Hawaii ruling. "The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts.”
- Meanwhile, President Trump was less measured in his response when he spoke at a rally in Nashville on Wednesday night, saying "the ruling makes us look weak" and calling the Hawaii ruling "terrible," labeling it "an unprecedented judicial overreach" that "was done by a judge for political reasons." He also promised to continue the legal battle despite another setback. "We're going to fight this terrible ruling," he said. "We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including the Supreme Court. We're going to win."
- In addition, despite both rulings using Trump's comments against him to prove the second executive was too much like the first one, the President echoed that sentiment. "This is a watered-down version" of the first order, he said, continuing: "I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place," potentially a reference to his campaign promise on this front, which was a shutdown of immigration by all Muslims to the U.S.
- As Trump criticized the ruling, Democrats cheered another victory. "The Trump Administration's repackaging did nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional and dangerous goals of their Muslim and refugee ban," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. "It was the same ban, driven by the same dangerous discrimination, and today, it met the same defeat in court." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) added in a tweet on Wednesday, "Muslim ban is now 0 for 2 vs the Constitution."
- GOP Health Care Plan Faces Next Hurdle After the two separate bills proposed by House Republican leaders to repeal and replace Obamacare were each advanced by a committee last week, the House Budget Committee will hold a markup today on the combined legislation, known as the American Health Care Act.
- The bill may have a difficult time passing the Budget Committee in today's vote, with three members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus (which opposes the AHCA, labeling it "Obamacare lite") sitting on the panel. Just one other Republican would have to join the committee's Democrats and Freedom Caucus members Dave Brat (R-VA), Gary Palmer (R-AL), and Mark Sanford (R-SC).
- Despite the challenges, Budget Committee chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN) said on Wednesday that she was "confident" the AHCA would advance. Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan spent the first half of this week whipping votes, attempting to pressure rank-and-file GOP members into supporting the replacement bill. A number of Republican lawmakers joined those opposed to the measure after Monday's Congressional Budget Office estimate that 24 million less Americans would be insured under the AHCA.
- House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) told CNN on Wednesday that he has the votes to block the AHCA if it reaches the floor. The network reported that 11 House Republicans have already announced their opposition to the legislation, and eight more have indicated as such. If 22 Republicans vote against the bill, it cannot pass the House.
- Accordingly, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Wednesday that changes would have to be made before the bill can pass his chamber. "Now that we have our [CBO] score we can make some necessary improvements and refinements to the bill,” he said. President Trump also signaled openness to changes, telling Fox News' Tucker Carlson: "I think we're going to have negotiation. The only way you're going to get it passed is with Republican votes."
- Today in the Senate The upper chamber is out until Tuesday, although a pro forma session (a brief convening with no business conducted) will take place today.
- Today in the House The lower chamber will consider three pieces of legislation today, all relating to veterans:
- the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, which changes the process for a veteran declared mentally incompetent to be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. Currently, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) can deem any veteran mentally incapacitated or incompetent and they will be added to the Justice Department (DOJ) list of those prohibited from buying firearms. Under this bill, a court would have to order that a veteran be added to the list, adding another step before the VA can report a veteran to the DOJ.
- the VA Accountability First Act, which allows the VA to discipline employees by taking back bonuses or awards.
- a bill improving the procedure used by the VA to hire medical staff, establishing a database for recruitment, a fellowship program, and other modifications.
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.