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Trump Throws Johnson a Lifeline: ‘He’s Doing a Very Good Job’

Trump said he and Johnson have 'a very good relationship.'
Reuters
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Friday, April 12, 2024

Happy Friday! Speaker Mike Johnson certainly had a good day, at least on the face of things. We’ve got details.

Trump Throws Johnson a Lifeline: ‘He’s Doing a Very Good Job’

Still facing a threat from his own party to oust him from his job, House Speaker Johnson scored some MAGA cred Friday by appearing with former President Donald Trump at a Mar-a-Lago news conference. Trump gave Johnson a vote of confidence, telling reporters that the speaker is “doing a really good job under very tough circumstances” and that the two men have “a very good relationship.”

Trump also called Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a very good friend of his, but he notably did not endorse her push to oust the speaker. “I think he’s doing a very good job,” Trump said of Johnson. “He’s doing about as good as you’re going to do and I’m sure that Marjorie understands that. She’s a very good friend of mine and I know she has a lot of respect for the speaker.”

In a string of blustery, braggadocious comments, Trump again raised the idea of structuring aid to Ukraine as a loan, and he called on Europe to provide more funding for the war effort before circling back to reiterate his support for Johnson.

Finally passing a FISA bill: The joint appearance by the Republican leaders came after the House earlier in the day passed a bill reauthorizing a controversial part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a modified version of the legislation that 19 Republicans had revolted against on Wednesday. The bill cleared the House Friday in a bipartisan 273-147 vote, delivering the speaker a win after months of struggles to pass the national security legislation. To get it done, Johnson cut back the reauthorization from five years to two, giving hard-right conservatives and the former president — who had urged Republicans to “KILL FISA” — hope that they can revisit the issue and have their objections addressed under a second Trump presidency.

Still, some far-right members of Johnson’s conference were reportedly grumbling about how he had handled the reauthorization. Before the final vote, lawmakers rejected an amendment favored by conservatives that would have required law enforcement to get a warrant to see information on Americans obtained through foreign surveillance programs.

Why it matters: Johnson, who has been speaker for less than six months, is facing his biggest challenge yet as he looks for a path to deliver aid to Ukraine and other allies without losing his job or throwing the House into another period of chaos. While Johnson had indicated he’s preparing to bring up a Ukraine aid bill, it’s not clear yet what that might look like — and House Republican leaders have reportedly made little progress in coming up with an alternative to the Senate’s $95 billion national security package.

Biden Administration Forgives Another $7.4 Billion in Student Debt

President Joe Biden on Friday announced another round of student loan forgiveness, part of a piecemeal effort that has seen $153 billion in debt erased for 4.3 million borrowers.

The latest round of forgiveness involves about 277,000 debtors who have $7.4 billion in outstanding loans, the White House said.

About 200,000 of the debtors have loans of less than $12,000 and are currently enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education Plan, known as SAVE, an income-driven repayment plan that was rolled out last August. Others receiving loan forgiveness include teachers, librarians and public safety workers who qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, as well as a group of borrowers who have benefited from administrative adjustments made to their income-driven repayment accounts.

The Biden administration said loan forgiveness is intended to provide relief to people saddled with burdensome payments, especially those who were eligible for forgiveness but have not received it due to the poor design and execution of various repayment programs. “Today we are helping 277,000 borrowers who have been making payments on their student loans for at least a decade,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal. “They have paid what they can afford, and they have earned loan forgiveness for the balance of their loan.”

Comments by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona pointed to a broader theme of general relief from burdensome educational debt — a message the White House hopes will help with younger voters in the fall election. “Today’s announcement shows—once again—that the Biden-Harris Administration is not letting up its efforts to give hardworking Americans some breathing room,” Cardona said. “As long as there are people with overwhelming student loan debt competing with basic needs such as food and healthcare, we will remain relentless in our pursuit to bring relief to millions across the country.”

The White House noted that today’s loan forgiveness comes days after the announcement of a proposal that would reduce student debt for about 30 million people — a second attempt at large-scale forgiveness following a failed effort that would have benefited upwards of 40 million borrowers but was rejected by the Supreme Court last June.

Administration officials say their new plan is less susceptible to legal challenges, but that doesn’t mean that opponents of student loan forgiveness, who argue that it is unfair and costly, won’t try to stop it. On Tuesday, seven Republican-led states joined an existing lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the SAVE plan, and the Biden administration’s broad loan forgiveness proposal announced earlier this week is also expected to draw lawsuits in the coming months.

Former Biden Administration Economists Launch New Budget Lab

A huge tax fight is looming as a slew of 2017 Republican tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025 — and, as Natasha Sarin writes at The Washington Post, the government’s budgetary scorekeepers will play a key role in determining how that fight plays out.

“Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Tax Committee and other groups ‘score’ the cost of — and savings from — different policy options. How much money would a tax on the rich bring in? How much would eliminating the mortgage interest deduction save? The answers to these questions will impact tax policy for years to come,” Sarin writes.

Sarin, a Post columnist and Yale Law professor who served in the Biden administration as deputy assistant secretary for economic policy and a counselor to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, notes that she saw firsthand how those scores can shape — or sink — legislation. But, she adds, while the official analyses projecting the costs of government policies are important, they don’t fully factor in the long-term effects of the programs:

“Take the case of the child tax credit. Scorekeeping merely sees this as a cost because the IRS pays out billions of dollars in benefits to families with children. But it turns out that much of this cost will be recouped by the government in the future. Researchers have found that children whose parents receive cash assistance are more likely to report higher earnings as adults — and pay higher taxes on those earnings. The problem is Congress focuses solely on a 10-year budget window, so the benefits aren’t taken into account. …
To be clear, I’m not saying scorekeepers provide faulty numbers. They don’t. But they are assigned a very particular task to produce revenue estimates over a 10-year horizon. But policies that ‘score’ well today are not necessarily the best policies for America’s future.”

To help address that need, Sarin and economists Danny Yagan and Martha Gimbel, her former Biden administration colleagues, are launching a Budget Lab at Yale. Their new nonpartisan policy research center has issued an initial analysis of policy options surrounding the more than $3 trillion in expiring tax cuts. It concludes that extending the cuts with deficit financing would lead to higher interest rates, greater inequality and a smaller economy in the long run.

Instead, Sarin proposes a tax reform package that raises revenues and reduces deficits. Among its provisions, it allows the 2017 individual rate cuts to expire, raises the corporate rate from 21% to 28%, and expands the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit while simplifying the tax-filing process for many.

“The dollar costs of policies will always be a critical consideration,” Sarin writes. “But long-term gains — for children, emissions reduction and tax simplicity, to name a few — have to be a bigger part of the debate.”


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