Congress Battles To Avoid Government Shutdown

By Jake Smith

As Republicans in Congress and the President are licking their wounds from a defeat on repealing and replacing Obamacare, a government shutdown is looming over Congress.

April 28 is the day, non-essential federal government offices close their doors due to lack of funding for the upcoming fiscal year. Both parties in the House and Senate are negotiating a spending package that will prevent those offices from closing.

President Trump has asked Congress to cut $18 billion in domestic discretionary spending while requesting $30 billion in extra defense funding and $3 billion for border defense, $1.5 billion of that for the border wall. Although, Democrats have vowed to oppose any legislation that will fund the US-Mexico border wall.

President Trump is unlikely to get the funding for his border wall, because Republicans lack the Senate votes to silent a Democratic filibuster, meaning any government funding bill will have to be a bipartisan effort.

Funding the government will be the first major legislation the Republicans and Democrats are attempting after Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was forced to pull the American Health Care Act – the Republican Obamacare replacement plan – from the House floor on Friday.

Ryan told reporters Tuesday the Republican leadership will not use the government funding bill to defund Planned Parenthood. “We think reconciliation is the tool, because that gets it into law,” Ryan suggesting using a separate bill to defund the organization. This may come as a surprise to more conservative members of the Republican Party who would want to use government funding to defund Planned Parenthood.

 “It would put the lives of the men and women serving in the military in greater danger because they can't train, and, therefore, they are not ready to fight,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told Arizona Republicans over the prospects of a government shutdown, “And we are fighting, as you know.”

Any spending bill would only keep the doors open through September 30, the federal government’s end of fiscal year 2017.

House and Senate Appropriation Committee members anticipate they will have a bill ready the week of April 24, days before the shutdown.

 

Krauthammer on Obamacare Repeal and Replacement: “I don't think there's a reason why it has to be pronounced dead.”

Fox News Contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said Tuesday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that despite last week’s failure to get a vote on the American Health Care Act, the House Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act, a renewed Republican effort for health care legislation is still possible noting: “I don't think there's a reason why it has to be pronounced dead. The president had an ultimatum, he decided he was going to stick to it, he decided that as a result he would not be involved. That's fine. But, it's still, I think an open question whether the republicans in the house and the senate can negotiate among themselves.”

House Republicans held their first conference meeting since last Friday’s decision to pull the American Health Care Act after divisions among the conference – particularly lack of support within the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group- showed the legislation could not pass the House. After the meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “some of those that are within the "no" camp expressed the willingness to work to getting to yes and making this work" signaling that he hasn’t given up hope of undertaking new health care legislation.”

Ryan added “I don’t want us to become a factionalized majority. I want us to become a unified majority, and that means we're going to sit down and talk things out until we get there and that's exactly what we're doing. And we saw good overtures from those members from different parts of our conference to get there.”

Krauthammer noted that despite the divisions within the House Republican Conference over the AHCA, there are still methods to find a path forward on a unified GOP solution on health care: “They were not that far apart…I've been advocating this other alternative where you abandon the restrictions that are imposed by the reconciliation process. Meaning, you stuff the bill with all the kinds of stuff you were going to add later, stuff that would appeal to the Freedom Caucus, and you put that in the bill and you toss it over to the Senate.

 

“And if Senate Democrats want to filibuster, fine. So I think there are several options, I don't think they are that far apart, I think it's perfectly reasonable that they couldn't negotiate a deal among themselves, and I do think that in the fall when Obamacare's problems are going to really become, come to the surface again, spiking premiums and deductibles and it gets worse every year, there might be, there will be less nostalgia for Obamacare than you have found in the current debate."

Krauthammer: Another Republican opportunity for healthcare legislation is right around the corner

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer told "Special Report with Bret Baier" viewers that the Republican sponsored healthcare legislation may be dead right now, but another opportunity to revitalize it is just around the corner. 

Because Krauthammer explained that in the Fall, Americans will see the Affordable Health Care implode even more. 

He said, new premiums are "going to be much higher, they'll be fewer choices, far more insurers are going to be withdrawing  from exchanges and they are going to be in a state of collapse."  

The columnist pointed out that while those higher premiums might be good news for Republicans, the defeat of their legislation last week did do some damage to their party clout.  "It's not just a promise betrayed," Krauthammer said, "it's a complete inability to govern."

But Krauthammer showed viewers just how Republicans need to get back on track with any new healthcare legislation.  He said, "put everything in the bill including what's called the "phase three" stuff that was supposed to come later.  The stuff that the conservatives want that everybody really wants -including tort reform, including stripping out the coverage requirements which are largely irrational - put all that in the bill."

By doing that, Krauthammer said, the pressure will be on Democrats to explain why healthcare is failing.  "It'll be the Democrats that have to filibuster," Krauthammer explained, "and let the country watch them deny them a reform of a collapsing system."

Tax Reform Next On The Trump Agenda

By Jake Smith

After a bruising defeat on the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, the White House and Congressional Republicans set their sights on the first revitalization of tax reform in three decades.

"I would say that we will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That will be next," President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after the decision to pull the healthcare bill from the House floor.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan encouraged President Trump to address healthcare first, if passed it would make tax reform easier. "Yes, this does make tax reform more difficult. But it does not, in any way, make it impossible. We will proceed with tax reform," Ryan told reporters last Friday.

The administration’s plan is to “lower rates for Americans in every tax bracket, simplify the tax code, and reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate.”

Cutting the effective corporate tax rate to 20 percent, down from 35 percent, has been proposed by the White House to boost economic growth to four percent GDP growth per year.

President Trump has yet to commit to the border adjustment tax propelled by House Republicans, which would raise more than $1 trillion from taxing imports and exports.

Trump may not see the same fight from the House Freedom Caucus as he did during healthcare. “Does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no,” House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said on Sunday suggesting he is open to cut taxes even if it raises the deficit.

 “We’re driving the train on this,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday concerning the White House’s involvement in the tax cuts efforts. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has estimated a bill for tax reform will be ready around August. 

Comey calls impending terrorist diaspora from ISIS territory the "ghost of Christmas future"

By DOJ Producer Matt Dean

Speaking this morning at a national security summit at UT Austin, FBI Director Comey repeated his concerns over a "terrorist diaspora" that he believes will occur once ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria is "crushed" by coalition forces. 

He said that he expects these individuals to flow outward largely to Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and North Africa.

Labeling the impending phenomenon the "ghost of Christmas future," Comey used his remarks to urge government leaders and intelligence officials in Western Europe to "break down the barriers" in the EU and share intelligence and critical information in an effort to crack down on the terrorism threat. He did not make any references to Wednesday's attack in London. 

Comey compared Europe's need to unite on security issues to the United States' national security 180 that followed the 9/11 attacks. He described Western Europe as FBI's front lines in preventing those individuals from committing violence outside of the so-called caliphate.

In speaking to trend shifts the FBI has seen domestically with ISIS followers, Comey said that the foreign traveller issue that peaked during the summer of 2015 "hit the floor" in 2016 and has since stayed there. While ISIS's capacity to direct people to travel to the caliphate has dropped, the FBI chief called the ability of terrorists to use social media and the internet to inspire and enable individuals toward violence a "lingering phenomenon."

Comey said that the FBI currently has in the area of 1,000 open homegrown terrorism cases in the U.S. trying to determine where people are on the spectrum of "consuming poison and acting on that poison." 

Speaking to the difficult nature of the current threat environment, the Director said these consumers of ISIS propaganda are people "of all backgrounds." Comey said that FBI's terrorism-related cases have spanned the age range of roughly 15-60, adding that there is no one particular "hot spot" in the U.S. for extremist activity because a lot of the recruitment and inspiration continues to happen online. 

Notably, Comey acknowledged instances where individuals who had prior contact with the FBI went on to carry out attacks in the U.S. Specifically, he mentioned Orlando Pulse Nightclub attacker Omar Mateen and the fact that the Bureau had already done a months long investigation on him that "produced nothing to incapacitate him on." 

Comey said that he personally reviewed the case file and called the work a "quality investigation," adding that he believes Mateen radicalized closer to the actual attack. 

Asked during the Q&A portion of the event whether his public statements on the findings of the Clinton email investigation had any bearing on his decision Monday to publicly acknowledge the existence of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russian officials, Comey playfully said "I'm not gonna talk about it." 

American man and wife among victims of London terror attack

 

Melissa & Kurt Cochran were victims in the London terror attack on March 22, 2017.   They were among the first hit by the vehicle on the Westminster bridge.  Kurt was killed in the attack and his wife, Melissa, was seriously injured. She is currently being treated at a hospital in London. 

The couple was in Europe celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Wednesday was to be the last day of the trip following a visit to see Melissa's parents who are serving as missionaries in the London LDS temple.

Melissa's brother, Clint Payne, issued a family statement through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

"Our family is heartbroken to learn of the death of our brother- and son-in-law, Kurt W. Cochran, who was a victim of Wednesday's terrorist attack in London. Kurt was a good man and a loving husband to our sister and daughter, Melissa. They were in Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and were scheduled to return to the United States on Thursday. Melissa also received serious injuries in the attack, and is being cared for in the hospital. We express our gratitude to the emergency and medical personnel who have cared for them and ask for your prayers on behalf of Melissa and our family. Kurt will be greatly missed, and we ask for privacy as our family mourns and as Melissa recovers from her injuries."

Melissa & Kurt are self-employed, having built a recording studio business from the ground up over the last 10 years.  During that time they donated their recording and sound skills to the Summerfest celebration in Bountiful, Utah, to local school productions, and many other worthy causes. 



Melissa's family is seeing funds to help cover her regular monthly expenses and loss of income.  This fund is administered by her brother who is the family spokesman in this tragedy. He will deliver the funds to her.

For more on how you can help please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/melissaandkurt

 

NUNES/TRUMP: The search for a "smoking gun" at NSA

By James Rosen

Capitol Hill sources tell Fox News that the classified intelligence that Chairman Nunes has seen and only vaguely described in his public appearances over the past twenty-four hours came to him from multiple sources; corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that had been known to the chairman even before the president’s now-famous tweets of March 4; and leaves no doubt that the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on the president-elect.

The key to the last conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the documentary trails leaves no other conceivable purpose for the unmasking to have been done other than for its fruits to be used selectively against Mr. Trump.

The FBI has not been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by tomorrow (Friday). The NSA document production is expected to provide more than that which Chairman Nunes has been describing, including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying. The materials will take time to be assessed properly, with the result that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on their contents, and their implications, until early next week or mid-week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources over a span of weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his colleagues, he will be the only committee member in a position to know whether NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News is told that Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff has been briefed on the basic contents of Nunes’s intelligence, so he can no longer truthfully state that he has no idea what Nunes is talking about.

Fox News is further advised that CIA Director Mike Pompeo is sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of Obama administration spying on the Trump team, if any, in its final days.

 

Krauthammer: Healthcare repeal failure would "damage" Trump

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer told viewers on "Special Report with Bret Baier" that should the healthcare reform bill fail in the US House of Representatives tomorrow, "It would certainly really damage the Trump presidency."

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have been arm-twisting members of the Republican party for support of the The American Health Care Act, the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some conservative and moderate GOP members reject the bill citing its failure to lower premiums.

Twenty hours is a long time in politics for picking up five to seven votes for passage, Krauthammer remains optimistic that Trump's party will come through,   "When you have the fate of the presidency and the fate of the speakership hanging on the vote, it's hard to see that in the end that his own party is going to repudiate them." 

Krauthammer: “The storyline now is that the President was wrong”

Charles Krauthammer told viewers Monday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that when it comes to President Trump’s allegations via Twitter about wiretapping by President Obama, “the storyline now is that the President was wrong.”

His comments come after FBI Director James Comey and NSA Chief Michael Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee today regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Comey said he has “no information to support” Trump’s wiretapping allegations.

“His own FBI director is saying it and speaking on behalf of all the Department of Justice which is Trump’s own department of Justice which makes Spicer look ridiculous,” Krauthammer said. “Because it’s his own department saying the president is wrong. But that’s the price of doing this kind of tweeting.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

By Jake Ryan

President Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today to provide an open testimony on his long road to fill the vacant seat of the late Antonin Scalia.

Judge Neil Gorsuch – who is currently a Judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals – intently listened as all 11 Republicans and nine Democrats of the committee laid out the case for and against him becoming the next SCOTUS Justice.

Democrats claim Neil Gorsuch should never have been brought in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee because former President Obama’s replacement, Chief Justice Merrick Garland of the 13th Circuit, was denied the opportunity for a hearing.

Much of Monday’s opening statements by Democrats referenced the lack of consideration by Senate Republicans for Nominee Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch is set for a long week, Tuesday and Wednesday will be reserved for at least 50 minutes of questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee members and Thursday will conclude with a witness panel speaking for or against Gorsuch.

To be the next Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Neil Gorsuch will need all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats for a total of 60 votes. Although, Senate Republicans can perform the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to confirm a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority of 51.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck E. Grassley (R-Iowa), vows to refer Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate by April 3.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says the Senate will “confirm him before the April recess.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and obtained his Ph.D. in Law from University College, Oxford, and received the highest rating of “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. 

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We will have the latest on the investigations into the Trump-Russia connection, including the criticism of Devin Nunes' handling of intelligence reports on Trump team surveillance.

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