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Wake Up To Politics - October 5, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Thursday, October 5, 2017. 397 days until Election Day 2018. 1,125 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!

Tillerson Deny NBC Report on Potential Resignation

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed reporters on Wednesday to deny an NBC report alleging that he "was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House." According to the report, Tillerson had become increasingly frustrated with the President, calling him a "moron" after a July meeting. NBC also said that Vice President Mike Pence intervened to counsel Tillerson, and Administrations allies including future Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis convinced him to stay on at least through the end of the year.
  • For weeks, reports from a number of news outlets have detailed tension between the White House and Foggy Bottom, as the President and Secretary of State have disagreed publicly on policies including North Korea negotiations. Many outlets have said that Tillerson is unhappy in his position, and speculated that he is likely to leave in the coming months.
  • "There has never been a consideration in my mind to leave," Tillerson said on Wednesday, calling the report "erroneous" while praising Trump as "smart" and someone who "loves his country" and "puts Americans and America first." Still, the former Exxon Mobil CEO stopped short of denying the report that he called Trump a "moron."
  • "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that," he responded to questions on the alleged comment. "I mean, this is what I don’t understand about Washington. Again, I’m not from this place, but the places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert later issued a denial of the "moron" comment.
  • Vice President Mike Pence also disputed the NBC story on Wednesday, releasing a statement calling the report "categorically false" and denying that he and Tillerson ever discussed the "prospect of the Secretary's resignation from the Administration." President Donald Trump weighed in as well, telling reporters that he has "total confidence" in his Secretary of State. "The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence," he tweeted on Wednesday. "It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!”
  • Despite denials from the Administration, NBC continued to stand by its report.
  • BUZZ QUOTE: Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said Wednesday that Tillerson is in an "incredibly frustrating place" but voiced hope that he remained in office.
  • "I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos," Corker said, a stunning portrait of the Trump Administration from a top Republican once considered an ally of the President's.
  • Corker is retiring at the beginning of next year.

The Rundown

  • Republicans Open to "Bump Stock" Legislation: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and 24 Democratic co-sponsors introduced legislation on Wednesday prohibiting the sale of bump stocks, a device reportedly used by Las Vegas gunman that increases a semi-automatic rifle's rate of fire to the level of an automatic rifle.
  • A number of top Republican lawmakers have expressed openness towards a ban on bump stocks, a sign of a potential shift in the GOP's stance on gun control in light of the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night. "It seems like an obvious areas we ought to explore and see if it's something Congress needs to act on," Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said Wednesday.
  • Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) went even further, telling reporters that he had "no problem" with such a ban. Other Republicans senators, including Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD), and Rand Paul (R-KY), have also signaled willingness to consider the issue.
  • In the House, other Republicans have openly called for bump stock legislation, including Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX). "There's no reason for a typical gun owner to own anything that converts a semiautomatic to something that behaves like an automatic," he told The Hill. In the House, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has said that he is working to craft a bipartisan ban.
  • White House seeks $30 billion disaster aid package: The White House sent a $30 billion funding request to Congress on Wednesday, seeking to pay for recent natural disasters in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The Trump Administration requested $12.77 billion for the federal disaster relief fund, $577 million to combat wildfires, and a $16 billion increase to the borrowing limit of the National Flood Insurance Program.
  • House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said in a statement that his panel would consider the request as "soon as possible," although he said the request outlined by the White House "won't be all that is needed" to assist areas responding to disasters.
  • Murphy to Retire After Leaked Texts Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) announced plans to retire at the end of his current term on Wednesday, a day after a report that he urged a woman he had an extramarital affair with to get an abortion. Murphy, who is married and vocally pro-life, confirmed last month that he was having an affair with the woman. He has served in Congress since 2003.
  • "In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing," Murphy said in his announcement. "I ask you to respect our privacy during this time."

The President's Schedule

  • 10am: President Donald Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
  • 11:45am: The President meets with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Cotton was one of five GOP lawmakers who discussed immigration at a dinner with President Trump last week; according to attendees, details of a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remained up in the air. Cotton told Politico that Trump wanted to limit a deal to only applying to current recipients of DACA, not to a wider pool of immigrants. Other lawmakers said that Trump may demand funding for his proposed border wall, not just enhanced border security, as part of a DACA deal.
  • 3pm: The President meets with Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.
  • 6pm: The President participates in a briefing with senior military leaders.
  • 7:30pm: The President and First Lady have dinner with senior military leaders and their spouses.

Today in Congress

  • The Senate: The upper chamber is scheduled to hold four votes on three nominations today: a confirmation vote for Randal Quarles to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; cloture and confirmation votes for Lee Francis Cissna to be Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and a cloture vote advancing Callista Gingrich's nomination to be Ambassador to the Vatican.
  • The House: The lower chamber completes consideration of the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution today. Votes will be held on alternative proposals from the Republican Study Committee and House Budget Committee Democrats, before a final vote on the $1.1 trillion framework put forward by Republican leadership.
  • According to the Associated Press, the GOP budget "promises deep cuts to social programs and Cabinet agency budgets but its chief purpose is to set the stage for action later this year on a comprehensive Republican overhaul of the U.S. tax code."
  • The Senate Budget Committee also finishes markup of its companion framework today; both chambers' plans open the door for tax reform legislation, although House and Senate leaders still need to iron out differences on spending levels for some programs.