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Needing to Assuage Conservatives, Speaker Johnson Visits Trump
House Speaker Mike Johnson visited former president Donald Trump in Florida last night. The visit — or “pilgrimage,” as Annie Karni of The New York Times calls it — comes as Johnson faces increased pressure from lawmakers on the far right, who are angry that he passed a bill to avert a government shutdown by relying on Democratic votes.
Why it matters: The Times reported last week that Johnson had been wary of Trump in 2015 and warned in a Facebook post then that Trump “lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.” Johnson also wrote at the time that Trump “is a hot head by nature” and could be “dangerous” as Commander in Chief.
That was then, this is now: Johnson has been a staunch Trump supporter in recent years, defending the former president in two impeachment trials and offering key support for legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. “I endorsed him wholeheartedly for re-election in 2020, and traveled with his team as a campaign surrogate to help ensure his victory,” Johnson said in a statement to the Times. “I have fully endorsed him once again.”
Now that Trump dominates Republican politics and is the frontrunner in GOP presidential primary polling, the new speaker can ill afford to have Trump turn against him. As the Times’s Karni writes: “Mr. Trump’s influence over spending fights in Washington may be limited, but Mr. Johnson’s decision to meet with him within weeks of his election is a sign he knows he cannot afford to have Mr. Trump weighing in publicly against him and hardening right-wing opposition to his leadership.”
GOP Hardliners Have Little to Show for Their Budget Battles: Report
After their party took control of the House this year, hard-right Republicans have embroiled the House in turmoil and drama, threatened a costly default on U.S. debt, paralyzed action on the House floor and ousted their own speaker, all purportedly with the aim of slashing federal spending. Yet as The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein and Jacob Bogage note today: “Despite all the chaos in their own party and the turmoil they’ve brought to government, little in the federal budget has changed as a result of their actions.”
While Speaker Mike Johnson has pledged that the recent bipartisan vote to extend federal funding into 2024 without cuts will be the last short-term spending patch he accepts, Stein and Bogage add that the new House Republican leader will face the same challenges as a result of divided government and a deeply divided party: “Unable to pass bills through the House to cut funding due to resistance on the right, he may instead have to pass legislation that Democrats will support to keep the government open, lest voters blame the GOP for a shutdown — ultimately leading to bills that are far more bipartisan.”
House Republican divisions may leave the speaker little choice but to work with Democrats — and, lest we forget the obvious, Democrats control the Senate and White House, meaning that Democratic support is necessary for any funding bill to pass. “Complicating matters further for the new speaker is that he has also lost some votes from House GOP moderates who fear the cuts are too extreme. That creates a seemingly impossible situation for Johnson, who will lose votes for proposing cuts that are bigger while also losing votes for proposed cuts that are smaller,” Stein and Bogage point out.
Republicans have managed to trim spending a bit, given that the debt ceiling deal they negotiated with the White House in May caps discretionary spending for at least two years, resulting in about $250 billion in direct savings and potential spending reductions totaling as much as $2.1 trillion over 10 years, according to a June analysis by the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates for deficit reduction. Those additional savings depend on whether lawmakers keep to targets set as part of the debt limit deal.
“Keeping funding flat is a cut,” Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told the Post. And Biran Riedl of the right-leaning Manhattan Institute think tank told the Post that even doing nothing might actually count as an achievement for the GOP: “Gridlock is certainly an accomplishment relative to the last two years.”
Still, it’s not clear whether the hardliners can achieve any of their demands for steep spending cuts. “I think they’ve seriously painted themselves into a corner,” Grover Norquist, a conservative anti-tax activist told the Post. “What they’ve been doing is demanding that everyone adopt their imaginary bill that can’t pass because it has bigger cuts than everyone else’s imaginary bill that also can’t pass.”
Advocates Warn Food Aid Could Suffer in Funding Fight
The ongoing battle over government funding threatens to claim food aid for low-income women and children as a casualty.
As Politico’s Marcia Brown and Meredith Lee Hill report, the stopgap funding bill that runs into the new year failed to include any additional funds for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, and some Republicans in the House are pushing to cut funding for the program. As a result, officials are preparing to cut back, and may have to start using wait lists for people to gain access to baby formula and other nutritional aid.
“It’s like we’re on the train tracks and I see a train coming,” Washington state WIC Director Paul Throne told Politico. “We know that costs are continuing to rise and we’re not getting relief. And so the train has not hit us yet, but we can see it coming.”
Funding for WIC is part of the appropriations bill covering agriculture and food, which must be addressed by a January 19 deadline. That gives lawmakers just a few weeks to reach an agreement on spending levels for the program, among many other complex and contentious issues.
“Traditionally, WIC funding has enjoyed bipartisan support, more so than other federal nutrition programs,” Brown and Lee Hill write. “But House Republicans are pushing to pare back WIC spending this year, arguing tough cuts are needed across the government amid the nation’s mounting debt.”
Number of the Day: $61.17
The American Farm Bureau estimates that the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people will be $61.17 this year, down 4.5% from last year’s record-high cost of $64.05. The dinner includes a 16-pound turkey, 14 ounces of cube stuffing, 12 ounces of cranberries, 3 pounds of sweet potatoes, a half-pound of carrots and celery, 16 ounces of green peas, two pie shells, 30 ounces of pumpkin pie mix, a gallon of milk and a pint of cream.
The AFB, a non-profit lobbying group founded in 1919, said the decrease in the overall price is driven by a drop in the price of the meal’s expensive component. “Traditionally, the turkey is the most expensive item on the Thanksgiving dinner table,” said AFB Senior Economist Veronica Nigh. “Turkey prices have fallen thanks to a sharp reduction in cases of avian influenza, which have allowed production to increase in time for the holiday.”
Fiscal News Roundup
- The Far Right Toppled McCarthy Over Spending. What Has It Gotten Them? – Washington Post
- Food Aid for Low-Income Mothers, Babies Becomes Spending Flashpoint – Politico
- Fed Minutes Show Unity on Cautious Approach to Future Rate Hikes – Bloomberg
- The Fed Wants More Evidence Before Changing Rate Stance – Wall Street Journal
- IRS Postpones Rule Change on Digital Payment Reporting for Small Businesses and Side Hustles – CNN
- More Americans Could Get Dental Coverage Under Biden Proposal – Axios
- Two More House Lawmakers Announce Exits, Marking Retirement Record – Politico
- Out for Blood? For Routine Lab Work, the Hospital Billed Her $2,400 – KFF Health News
- Lost in the Mix of Medicaid ‘Unwinding’: Kentucky Cut Off Her Health Care Over a Clerical Error – KFF Health News
- A Cancer Patient’s Last Wish: To Pay Off the Medical Debt of Others – New York Times
- GOP Presidential Hopefuls Use Trump's COVID Record to Court Vaccine Skeptics – CBS News
- World’s Richest 1% Pollute More Than the Poorest Two-Thirds, Oxfam Says – Washington Post
Views and Analysis
- The U.S. Won’t Back Down From the Challenge of Putin and Hamas – President Joe Biden, Washington Post
- Why We’re Borrowing to Fund the Elderly While Neglecting Everyone Else – Catherine Rampell, Washington Post
- Why House Republicans Aren’t Going to Fund the Government – Tori Otten, New Republic
- Five Tax Loopholes for Mike Johnson’s Chopping Block – George Callas, Wall Street Journal
- Milton Friedman, the Last Conservative – Jennifer Burns, Washington Post
- Inflation Could Come Back When You Least Expect It – Allison Schrager, Bloomberg
- Is the US Headed for a Recession? Look at What Richer Americans Do on Black Friday – Leslie Patton and Laura Bejder Jensen, Bloomberg
- The GOP’s Hollow Presidential Primary Is Allergic to Ideas – E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post
- The Senate Is Getting Less Democratic by the Minute – Jamelle Bouie, New York Times
- Why the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Is Biden’s Other Climate Bill – Leslie Kaufman, Bloomberg
- The Commodification of Everything – Robert Kuttner, American Prospect