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On the roster: Is Schumer faking on filibuster? - Trump tries to save foundering health bill - Perez, Ellison to begin autopsy tour - I’ll Tell You What: Sunkist and health care - Dying for the win
IS SCHUMER FAKING ON FILIBUSTER?
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he is ready to rumble over the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
What we don’t know yet, is whether this is savvy posturing or a desperate act by insecurity. Schumer’s announcement today that he would vote against allowing a final vote on Gorsuch’s nomination accelerated an already perilous game of chicken for Senate Democrats. If they block a nominee as widely respected as Gorsuch, it will make it only too easy for Republicans to expand the so-called nuclear option within Senate rules.
A word here about otherwise unimportant Senate procedures.
Frustrated Democrats in 2013 lowered the threshold for ending debate on presidential appointments other than to the Supreme Court to a simple majority, but left the high court out because of the objections of some in their party who otherwise wouldn’t have voted for the change.
Republicans have been unambiguous about their threat to expand the appointment of justices, but many in Washington assumed that it would not be necessary because Gorsuch had such rave reviews and bipartisan support.
The last nominee to face a filibuster was Samuel Alito eleven years ago, but it was a symbolic affair. Just 25 senators, including Schumer, but also Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and, yes, Barack Obama voted against moving to the final vote, which Alito easily cleared.
Wonder if anybody was thinking about 2008…
The considerations for Democrats this time around are similar in that their party’s base demands absolute opposition to the sitting Republican president regardless of the issue.
For those senators considering presidential runs in 2020 as well as those from states where primary challenges from the left are real considerations, “no.” And the hatred for Donald Trump may exceed the Alito era venom directed toward alleged war criminal George W. Bush.
Now we get to learn a little bit more about Schumer in his new role as his party’s most powerful figure.
Is the cagey New Yorker saying that he will again vote to block final passage, a reflection of a new, hard-left lurch for the previously pragmatic Schumer; or is it a ploy?
That depends whether or not Schumer means for the filibuster to succeed.
Senate leaders sometimes choose to vote with doomed causes for the sake of placating hardliners and preserving future options. Imagine if Schumer knew that at least eight Democrats were going to allow Gorsuch to proceed to a final vote and decided he would take a hardline stance for the sake of appearances.
Surely, Schumer knows that a successful filibuster would make it only too easy for his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to go nuclear. Gorsuch is so free of controversy he makes Chief Justice John Roberts look like a roadie for Mötley Crüe.
Yes, Democrats can take advantage of the diminished standards for confirmation when next they hold the White House, but given the fact that Trump could have two or more additional appointments to make in his term, the hope of future gains would be slim solace.
If Schumer is really trying to provoke the filibuster fight right now, that means he is in an extraordinarily weak position within his party. Sacrificing the chance to block future Trump nominees less palatable than Gorsuch for a symbolic fight today is no the act of a leader in control of his conference.
But if Schumer is providing some belly scratches for upset liberals by voting for what he knows to be a doomed filibuster, he may be up to the moment that faces him and his party in the era of Trump.
THE RULEBOOK: SWEET SPOT
“No well-informed man will suppose that the affairs of such a confederacy can be properly regulated by a government less comprehensive in its organs or institutions than that which has been proposed by the convention.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 13
TIME OUT: ABS AS FLAT AS ‘LEAVES OF GRASS’
New Yorker: “In 1858, Walt Whitman, at the age of thirty-nine, was eking out a living as a journalist at the Brooklyn Daily Times, generating thousands of words a week at an unflagging pace…[C]ritics had variously shrugged and gawped at the first edition of his ‘Leaves of Grass,’ published three years before… Whitman cultivated a bohemian image and dreamed of reinventing himself as a travelling orator. Instead, that fall, he attached himself to a more mundane endeavor, as the author of a series of advice columns for the New York Atlas on the topic of men’s health. Given the rubric ‘Manly Health and Training,’ these were published under the pseudonym Mose Velsor, one of Whitman’s many aliases—but the pieces, thirteen in all, were never traced to Whitman until Zachary Turpin, a graduate student at the University of Houston, rediscovered them on microfilm last year. (Turpin also discovered a long lost novel, ‘Life and Adventures of Jack Engle.’)”
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TRUMP TRIES TO SAVE FOUNDERING HEALTH BILL
USA Today: “House Republicans continued to negotiate changes Thursday to their legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare even as leaders have promised a floor vote on the bill by the end of the day. The conservative House Freedom Caucus — led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows — announced Wednesday they had enough "no" votes to kill the bill, because members felt it did not go far enough in repealing the mandates established in the Affordable Care Act… Freedom Caucus members were scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House on Thursday, and the broader House Republicans delayed their planned morning meeting. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also postponed his planned 11:30 a.m. press conference until 3:30 p.m.”
Just 17 percent back plan - The Hill: “A majority of American voters oppose the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, while very few voters support it, a new poll finds. A poll published Thursday by Quinnipiac University found that 56 percent of voters disapprove of the GOP healthcare plan, while just 17 percent support it. Even among Republicans, only 41 percent support the American Health Care Act, while 24 percent oppose it. And 58 percent of Democratic voters disapprove of the plan.”
And it looks to be DOA in the Senate - Politico: “As currently constructed, conservative and moderate opposition would tank the bill in the Senate, where the GOP can afford to lose only two votes.”
Koch network promises to spend millions fighting new health care bill - AP: “The conservative Koch network is promising to spend millions of dollars to defeat the health care overhaul backed by President Donald Trump and top House Republicans. The network's leading groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, announced late Wednesday the creation of a special fund to support House members who vote against the bill.”
[Where House Republicans still need to get votes to pass their health care law.]
TRUMP CLAIMS VICTORY ON OBAMA WIRETAP CLAIM
Fox News: “The announcement by a top lawmaker Wednesday that intelligence agencies disseminated surveillance on the Trump transition team is fueling President Trump’s push to root out those who allegedly spread the classified information throughout government and to news organizations. House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Wednesday a source within the intelligence community had shown him ‘dozens’ of reports that were produced from ‘incidentally collected’ communications between members of the Trump transition team and foreign targets. Several individuals on the Trump team were eventually ‘unmasked’ and had their identities ‘widely disseminated,’ despite the information being of limited intelligence value, Nunes said. The bombshell news conference appeared to partially back up Trump’s assertion earlier this month that former President Barack Obama had ‘wiretapped’ him. ‘Wow … so that means I’m right,’ Trump told Time magazine while reading another outlet’s article about the Nunes news conference.”
Buuuuttt…the facts remain unclear - Atlantic: “Moreover, Nunes repeatedly said he did not have all the information he needed, raising the question of why he felt it was worthwhile to go public immediately. As Republicans including Nunes complain about unauthorized leaks of classified information to the press, he has come forward to publicize anonymously obtained intelligence community materials.”
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: SUNKIST AND HEALTH CARE
Pineapple Sunkist? Chris Stirewalt says possibly while Dana Perino says no way. You’re your favorite duo debate the best diet sodas as well as continue another debate – the polls! Plus, the health care bill fight continues to roil Capitol Hill and President Trump is pushing GOP members to support it, but should he? Stirewalt and Perino explain. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE.
PEREZ, ELLISON TO BEGIN AUTOPSY TOUR
The Hill: “Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez and Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison will hit the road Friday to kick off the reeling party’s ‘Democratic turnaround tour.’ The newly minted party chairman and the Minnesota congressman will first head to Michigan — a state Democrats lost in the 2016 presidential race for the first time in almost 30 years — before stopping in New Jersey, Texas and Virginia over the next two weeks. Embarking on the joint trip is as much about expanding the party’s appeal in the Trump era as it is about rebuilding party infrastructure and mending intraparty wounds after the two men’s contentious chairmanship race.”
Pelosi whiffs when asked about party leadership - The Federalist: “Anderson Cooper asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi … who the leader of the Democratic Party is. Despite the fact she has leader in her title and the party just elected a new Democratic National Committee chairman in Tom Perez, Pelosi dug deeper into the past. She picked two people who are retired from politics. Cooper: ‘Who is the leader of the Democratic Party right now?’ Pelosi: ‘Well, President Obama was president of the United States until just a matter of a weeks ago. I don’t think he can be dismissed as the leader of the Democratic Party.’ ‘Hillary Clinton did not win the election, but a respected leader.’”
Eliana Johnson reports that Hill Republicans are frustrated with Mattis choosing Obama veterans for posts at the Pentagon - Politico
State Dept. to approve Keystone XL oil pipeline - Politico
AUDIBLE: WHO’S THE MAN?
“Hey, look, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m President and you’re not.” – President Trump to Time.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“This may be a dim question but…if Democrats are seriously determined to filibuster the Gorsuch approval, and Republicans are committed to deploying the nuclear option to foil it (granted, two big ‘ifs’), would that not obviate the need to adhere to the restrictions of reconciliation to repeal and replace Obamacare? (While I'd rather not see them forced to deploy the nuclear option, once done doesn't it become an in for a penny, in for a pound situation?)” – Triche Osborne, Baton Rouge, La.
[Ed. note: Probably not. What’s being discussed for the Gorsuch nomination is an incremental advancement of nuclear tactics. Democrats change the rules so that lower court nominations and other presidential appointments could be advanced with just 51 votes, but exempted the Supreme Court. The proposal at hand is to bring the high court into that category, but not apply the new rule to regular legislation. Certainly, as discussed above, if a nuclear strike is being contemplated, there will be voices urging Republicans to go all the way. But I doubt there would be the 51 votes to change the rule so aggressively.]
“Thank you for clear and concise daily email (Fox News Halftime Report). Way out here on the banks of the Mississippi River in NE Missouri we appreciate that a ‘Mountaineer’ can untangle the political ‘stuff’ in Washington D.C. Wonder if you and Dana would wax eloquent on barbecue on a future segment of “I’ll Tell You What”? So much to discuss: Memphis style BBQ or Kansas City style or Texas style (especially brisket) or North Carolina BBQ? And I would be slightly interested in knowing if there are any excellent BBQ eateries in Washington D.C. And, I guess I am curious to know if Dana would even eat BBQ?” – Roger R. Ricketts, Palmyra, Mo.
[Ed. note: Regardless of what you saw in “House of Cards,” Washington is not the place for barbeque. There is much that is good to eat in and around the nation’s capital, but the fact that a city that once was considered Southern is a veritable dessert for the meat-smoking arts impoverishes us all. There are a couple of bright spots, but overall, it’s as bleak as an Appropriations Committee hearing. I do not know which delicious smoked meats fall onto Dana’s list of forbidden foods, but I am familiar with her crimes against brisket…]
“Chris, the FBI admission that their investigation started in July of 2016 CONFIRMS that Trump was under surveillance. What was the FBI reading? Smoke signals out of Trump Tower?!” – Susan Stasny, San Antonio
[Ed. note: I don’t think there’s any disagreement that Trump’s campaign was under investigation. The FBI director said as much, but even before that, lots of reporting had pointed to that fact. What Washington has been wasting an extraordinary amount of time on, is proving or disproving Trump’s allegation that Obama personally ordered electronic surveillance of Trump. Democrats have been in high dudgeon over Trump’s claims and devoted themselves to disproving them, while Republicans have been moving mountains to try to add some credibility to the apparently baseless initial allegation. This is where facts cease to matter and the issue becomes whether partisans can convince their core supporters of their preferred narrative. In that way, both sides seem to be succeeding, but none of that will achieve any meaningful advantage for the republic.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
DYING FOR THE WIN
Kansas City Star: “Team Puerto Rico had a fun bonding exercise for the World Baseball Classic. The players dyed their hair and/or their facial hair blond…But the Associated Press reports that this has had an unintended consequence back home. Puerto Rico, it seems, has a shortage of blond hair dye…The AP wrote that so many Puerto Ricans are dying their hair and facial hair different shades of blond that the stores can’t keep up with demand. ‘Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped,’ Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in San Juan told the Associated Press. ‘We have run out of the product in most of our stores.’ On social media, Team Puerto Rico has used the hashtag TeamRubio (Team Blond).”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“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.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” talking about the GOP’s need to pick up more votes to pass their health care bill.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.