Why Trump Might Want Another Government Shutdown

Why Trump Might Want Another Government Shutdown

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why Trump Might Want Another Government Shutdown

President Trump has been known to raise the stakes in political battles, especially when he’s holding a weak hand. Now, political insiders in both parties worry that he might do it again, Jonathan Allen of NBC News reports, by opting for a government shutdown next month in an effort to turn public opinion against Democrats pursuing his impeachment.

Federal funding runs out on November 21, and with annual spending bills for the fiscal year that started October 1 still mired in contentious congressional negotiations, a second stopgap spending bill will be needed to prevent a shutdown after the deadline. The fear is that Trump might not sign off on another short-term extension, even though a senior administration official told NBC News that “the president is unlikely to oppose a clean temporary funding bill.”

After all, as The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted recently, “the president has increasingly demonstrated the past few weeks that he regularly sees issues as one large negotiation, linking together seemingly disconnected threads into one massive ball of legislative wax. … All that leaves congressional leaders fearful that any of these must-pass bills could turn into a hostage situation if Trump sees it as possible leverage against impeachment.”

A shutdown wouldn’t necessarily put a halt to impeachment proceedings, as Congress would keep working and Democrats could choose to push ahead, even though it might be politically perilous. In theory, though, a shutdown fight might help Trump hammer Democrats on issues popular with his base and could push impeachment out of headlines, at least briefly.

"The administration could use a spending showdown to put the focus back on the issues and the fact that Democrats don't want to pay for national security, border security or restrain wasteful spending," one unnamed former senior administration told NBC, adding that the longer “this impeachment circus” drags on, the less reason Trump has to cooperate on getting spending bills passed.

Democrats say prompting a shutdown would again backfire on Trump as it would be seen as another example of the president putting his personal political interests above the good of the country.

"If some Republicans want to shut down the government because the House is upholding our oath of office and holding President Trump accountable, they'll have to defend that to the American people," Rep. Nita Lowey, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement to NBC.

Read the full story at NBC News.

Trump and Pelosi Still Working on Drug Prices: Report

Despite the drama unfolding daily in the House impeachment inquiry — and the rising animosity between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the two sides are still trying to reach a deal on legislation to lower the cost of prescription drug prices, The Washington Post’s Paige Winfield Cunningham writes:

“Pelosi’s office and the White House confirmed that the speaker's top health aide, Wendell Primus, spoke on the phone last week with Joe Grogan, director of the Trump's Domestic Policy Council. … If the two were to strike a deal, it would probably be within the next few weeks, before Congress leaves town for the Thanksgiving holiday.”

But Pelosi still faces some pushback from the left wing of her own caucus. Multiple Democrats warned in a “tense” private meeting Tuesday that the legislation does not go far enough in authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, Politico reported. Some progressives worry that the bill does not explicitly lift the current ban on such negotiations and instead only creates a narrow exception to the law, allowing the government to push for lower prices on at least 35 — and no more than 250 — of the most expensive medicines.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who has been vocal in questioning the effectiveness of Pelosi’s bill, voted “present” and reportedly made clear he still wants changes to the measure as the House Ways and Means Committee advanced it after a lengthy markup session. Republicans on the committee all voted against the bill. Other progressives are reportedly planning to push for votes on amendments to the bill when it comes up for a vote on the House floor, potentially as soon as next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that his chamber won’t consider Pelosi’s plan, and Democrats face an internal rift over whether to tailor the legislation to please their progressive base or try to craft a bill that might stand a better chance of winning Republican votes, according to Politico. The intraparty split, some Democrats warned, could threaten their ability to pass the legislation in the House let alone get it through the Senate.

The bottom line: Progressives argue that it’s unrealistic to think that Trump will back a Pelosi bill and so Democrats might as well make the legislation as bold as possible, both as a way to appeal to the liberal base and to establish a framework to be used in the future. But Pelosi and Trump both have reason to want to reach a deal ahead of the 2020 elections. Stay tuned.

Fighting Corruption in Ukraine? Trump’s Budgets Suggest Otherwise

President Trump has insisted that the controversial delay in the disbursement of military aid to Ukraine earlier this year was driven by his deep concerns about corruption in the Eastern European nation. But his most recent budget requests suggest that anti-corruption has not been a major focus for his administration, says Erica Werner of The Washington Post.

Werner reports:

“[T]he administration sought to cut a program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement. Among the goals of the program, as described in White House budget documents, is ‘helping U.S. partners address threats to U.S. interests by building resilience and promoting reform in the justice and law enforcement sectors through support to new institutions and specialized offices, such as Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.’
“The program directs specific sums of money to individual countries. In 2019, $30 million was directed to Ukraine, after Congress rejected an administration request to cut the sum to $13 million. In its 2020 budget request, released in March, the administration again sought to cut the program’s spending on Ukraine to $13 million. Congress seems likely to once again reject the proposed cut, although lawmakers have yet to agree on any spending bills for the 2020 budget year that began Oct. 1.”

In other words, the Trump White House sought to reduce funding to fight corruption in Ukraine by more than half in 2019, and then tried to do so again in 2020. And that’s just one example, Werner says. In another, the administration wanted to cut spending in the Economic Support and Development Fund dedicated to fighting corruption in Ukraine from $250 million to $145 million.

Senate Upholds State and Local Tax Deduction Rule

The Senate on Wednesday rejected an attempt by Democrats to repeal a Treasury Department rule that prevents states from creating workarounds to the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. The vote on the measure was 43-52, largely along party lines.

Roll Call’s Doug Sword reports that Republicans appeared to enjoy the role reversal involved in the fight, with Democrats attempting to change the rules in ways that would largely benefit wealthy homeowners. “It’s bad enough that my Democratic colleagues want to unwind tax reform, but it’s downright comical that their top priority, their top priority is helping wealthy people in blue states find loopholes to pay even less,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Trump Official Won’t Say What the Plan Is if Obamacare Gets Struck Down

Seema Verma, who leads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, tried to assure a House panel Wednesday that the Trump administration’s effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in court won’t cause any harm to the roughly 20 million people who stand to lose their health coverage.

Testifying before the Energy & Commerce subcommittee on oversight, Verma said that if the courts act to invalidate the law, an outcome the administration actively supports, the “president has made clear we will have a plan in action” to protect those affected. Asked for details, Verma said, "I'm not going to get into any specifics” while offering reassurance that the administration has “planned for a number of different scenarios."

Democrats at the hearing, titled "Sabotage: The Trump Administration's Attack on Health Care," expressed their doubts. “It sounds like there is some sort of secret plan [Trump] doesn’t want to reveal,” said New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the Energy & Commerce chair. “I just think it’s so deceptive to say we’re going to cover everybody and not give us anything.”

In several hours of tense testimony, Verma refused to answer a question about how many people would lose their insurance if the law is struck down. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) accused Verma of failing to confront the issue head on, saying, “you have no plan, you can't produce a document, you can't give us a detail, you're skirting the issues and all we are getting are talking points."

Verma defended the administration’s management of the existing ACA system, citing the recently announced drop in premiums for 2020 and the "flexibility" provided to consumers by the expansion of low-cost, short-term insurance plans that provide limited benefits.

Verma also defended new rules allowing work requirements for Medicaid recipients in some states, saying it was too early to conclude that the changes resulted in more people going uninsured. Noting that about 18,000 people have already lost coverage in two states that have enacted work rules, Arkansas and New Hampshire, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) asked, "How many more people have to lose their health care before you can make a determination?"

Why it matters: The hearing is unlikely to lead to substantial changes at the level of policy, but it does give us a glimpse at the messaging battle over health care that’s ahead in the 2020 elections.


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