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Wake Up To Politics - October 23, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, October 23, 2017. 15 days until Election Day 2017. 379 days until Election Day 2018. 1,107 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!

Trump Urges House to Approve Senate Budget

President Donald Trump joined a conference call of House Republicans on Sunday, urging them to quickly approve the Senate-passed budget framework, which includes language that will fast-track the party's tax reform plan. "We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic," Trump told them, according to multiple news outlets.

Passage of the budget outline will allow congressional Republicans to turn to finishing negotiations on a tax reform plan, which they hope to then pass before the end of the year. Before the Senate passed its budget outline last Thursday, the chamber's GOP leaders added revisions requested by the House, in hopes that the lower chamber would accept the legislation without changes. However, many House conservatives are still wavering on the budget, which includes tax cuts that will add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit without spending reductions that aim to balance the budget. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that the party's tax plan would spur enough economic growth to pay for itself, insisting that "we're not" abandoning his longtime promise of a revenue-neutral tax overhaul.

Trump and House Republican leaders argued on the call that greenlighting the Senate budget represents their best chance of passing tax reform, warning of the consequences in the 2018 midterms if the GOP does not achieve their top priority. Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday" that it would be a "big deal" if the House approved the Senate budget, a move that "may save as many as 10 or 12 legislative days" as the clock ticks closer to December recess.

The President's urging on the conference call was just his latest move to encourage passage of tax reform. He has been calling and golfing with skeptical lawmakers in recent days, as well as sitting down for dinner with Democrats he is courting to add their support. In a USA Today op-ed on Sunday, Trump promised that his plan "will cut taxes for hardworking, middle-class families," calling it the "biggest [tax] cuts ever in the history of this country" in a Fox News interview the same day.

Republicans have yet to unveil their full tax reform bill as negotiations between factions of the party continue. The New York Times reported Friday that House Republicans are considering a provision to "sharply reduce the amount of income American workers can save" in 401(k) accounts, fro the current $18,000 (or $24,000 for workers over 50) a year to as low as $2,400 a year. President Trump denied the report in a tweet this morning. "There will be NO change to your 401(k)," he promised. "This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!"

McConnell Looks to Trump Before Advancing Alexander-Murray

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Sunday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the bipartisan health care deal struck by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to a vote. The deal would stabilize the health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, while also granting more flexibility to the states over health care regulation.

"This is a good compromise," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It took months to work out. It has a majority. It has 60 senators supporting it. We have all 48 Democrats, 12 Republicans. I would urge Senator McConnell to put it on the floor immediately. It will pass, and it will pass by a large number of votes."

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," McConnell said he is waiting for a green-light from President Trump, who has offered mixed signals on the Alexander-Murray legislation, before moving forward. "What I'm waiting is to hear from President Trump what kind of health-care bill he might sign," McConnell said Sunday. "I think he hasn't made a final decision. When he does, and I know that we're not just debating it, but actually passing something to be signed, I would be happy to bring it up."

According to the Washington Post, the White House is seeking a "rightward shift in the proposal," asking Senate Republicans "to include retroactive relief this year for individuals and employers subject to the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate" in the deal, which Democrats are unlikely to support.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that "Murray-Alexander in its current form probably isn't far enough yet," citing "associated health plans" as an area in which it would need to go further before the President lends his support. The Post also said that the White House was hoping to expand this kind of insurance, "in which small businesses of a similar type band together as a group to negotiate health benefits," under Alexander-Murray. President Trump signed an executive order earlier this month allowing customers to buy association health plans across state lines.

The Rundown

  • Party Divisions Tensions in the Democratic Party emerged at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Las Vegas late last week, as progressives opposed a slate of at-large members (Washington Post). Meanwhile, Trump lends support to Republican senators facing challenges from Steve Bannon (Wall Street Journal), although he has not lost touch with his controversial ex-strategist (Washington Post).
  • Russia Probe Democratic superlobbyist Tony Podesta is reportedly now a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; the Podesta Group worked on a campaign organized by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to support a Russian-backed Ukranian political party (NBC). Democrats and Republicans continue to clash as "hopes dim" for productive congressional probes into Russia interference in the 2016 election (New York Times). President Trump has promised to personally pay the legal bills of White House staffers investigated in the Russia inquiries (Axios).
  • North Korea According to a report, the United States is "preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991" (Defense One).
  • Presidents Club As George W. Bush and Barack Obama seemed to strike a similar tone in criticising President Trump, a lone former President offers support to 45 and defends him from media attacks: Jimmy Carter. (New York Times)

Photo of the Day: Presidents Club Plus One

Lady Gaga joins all five living ex-Presidents backstage at a concert for One America Appeal, their joint fundraising campaign for hurricane victims, on Saturday. (Photo via @ladygaga

The President's Day

President Donald Trump meets with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore at the White House today. The two leaders will also participate in a working luncheon and deliver joint statements to the press. According to a White House statement, Trump and Lee "will discuss ways to further strengthen our economic, political, security, and people-to-people ties, and work to advance United States engagement and mutual interests throughout the Indo-Pacific region."

Later in the day, Trump will present the Medal of Honor to retired Army Captain Gary Rose "for conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War." Read more on Rose's heroism via USA TODAY...

Today in Congress

The Senate: The upper chamber will hold a procedural vote on disaster aid today. The Senate is considering the $36.5 billion package passed by the House earlier this month, which boosts funding for the government's response to recent hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. Senators from the affected states are attempting to include additional funding in the bill, although the Trump Administration is urging support for the House-passed bill, with the promise of another disaster aid request next month. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who represent states hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively, have both placed holds on the nomination of Russell Vought to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget to demand extra hurricane relief.

Congress passed $15.25 billion legislation to address many of the same disasters in September.

The House: The lower chamber votes on six bills today: the DHS Accountability Enhancement Act, the Cuban Security Act, the C-TPAT Reauthorization Act, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act, the INTERDICT Act, and the Congressional Subpoena Compliance and Enforcement Act.