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On the roster: Trump gets the business - Former A.G. says Trump trying to keep her quiet - Obama carbon regs unraveling - Dems join bid to block Gorsuch raising nuclear threat - The Harambe clause
TRUMP GETS THE BUSINESS
The difference between business and politics is a lot, but perhaps in no way more so than this: the deal never ends.
Having placed the blame for the defeat of his health insurance law at the feet of conservatives, President Trump now suggests that he will be advancing his still-agenda with the help of Democrats instead.
This may be a bargaining tactic for Trump, who wants to instill some fear into Republican lawmakers who just scored a victory in defeating Trump’s health insurance bill, which they thought too liberal.
But if the president really believes that the time is right for a bipartisan coalition on issues as large and complicated as tax reform and a trillion dollar infrastructure spending package, his education is only just beginning.
When Trump was negotiating financing for casinos or licensing for golf courses, walking away from the table was easier because there was always another bank, always another bidder and always another deal.
In government, though, the negotiation never ends. The room you walk out of today is the one you will have to reenter tomorrow.
Trump may be able to fashion a new centrist coalition, but it will be with this same group of human beings. With incumbent retention rates in the high 90s even in wave election years, almost all of the people Trump is dealing with now will be there for the duration of his term.
There’s also the part about the perverse incentives in a duopoly. We’ve talked before about how Republicans and Democrats alike have electoral incentives for failure. It’s not just that it is easier to be in the minority, raising money and complaining. But also there is an incentive for seeing your own policy provisions die.
Republicans agreed with much of what former President Barack Obama wanted to do on corporate taxes: lower, fairer and flatter. Similarly, Democrats agreed with much of what some Republicans were once pushing on immigration reform.
But in both cases, it was to the short-term advantage of one party or the other to see their preferred policy outcomes fail rather than hand their opponents a success. There’s an additional incentive for failure, too: wanting to preserve the issue for the next election.
There’s a lot of silly talk going on in Washington right now about what comes next for Congress and the administration.
House Republicans claim health care is back on the table after Friday’s ignominy. Ha! It will be a long time before anyone is ready to pick up that rock.
Republicans know that they can’t pass a plan that truly removes ObamaCare given the opposition from the White House and Hill moderates. And Trump, for his part, argues that as ObamaCare fails, Democrats will be forced to the table to negotiate.
We are told even that the administration will accelerate through regulatory means the demise of key components of the law in order to pump up the pressure on Democrats.
Again, remember the part about perverse incentives for failure. The Midterm Elections are already underway and Democrats are more than happy to run as the party that tried to save your health insurance when Trump and the GOP wanted to take it away.
More likely, Republicans will end up patching fiscal holes in ObamaCare this fall to keep enough insurers on board to prevent a catastrophe for Americans in the individual market. You can hear the bailout train coming…
So, health care is out. What about taxes?
There’s little chance in this political environment for what could credibly be called “tax reform.” The last real dose of that took Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Dick Gephardt and a cast of thousands five years to produce and consumed an entire legislative year before final passage.
Now, there is the chance of a tax cut. Republicans love a tax cut and Democrats can often be induced to join if it also includes welfare payments through the tax code for poorer workers.
As long as you don’t care about the deficit, taxes are easy. So it is possible that Trump could convince nervous Republicans to lower taxes, even over the objections of fiscal hawks. It’s a natural.
But now we hear that the administration wants to roll out tax reform of a fundamental nature concurrently with the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus package. Rather than narrowing their focus after the TrumpCare flub, the White House seems to be broadening its horizons.
The thinking is that by bundling the two, Trump can entice Democrats into the tax deal with the sweetener of massive public works spending. But ask yourself this, which Democrats are likely to fear Trump at this moment?
A guy whose party is in revolt and who is rocking a 36-percent job approval rating doesn’t make a very credible threat. The fact that Trump’s health proposal was so unpopular so quickly is a reflection of the fact that the political capital he does have is not easily transferable to policy provisions.
Until Trump has a win, his threats don’t wash. He said as much as he was trying to batter down resistance to the health plan.
And also don’t forget that it is none other than Speaker Paul Ryan who gets to decide what comes up in the House. If he decides that now is not the time for borrowing and spending $1 trillion, it would be pretty hard to get it on the floor.
Sure, Trump could then try to oust Ryan, but with whom would he replace him? And what if Congress gets its back up over the chief executive trying to control the legislative branch. Sounds like treacherous territory.
The truth is that the agenda is already set for at least the 33 days of Trump’s first 100.
There is a Supreme Court nomination hanging in the balance with the possibility that Republicans will have to blow up Senate rules to get it done.
More ominously, the clock is ticking on a potential government shutdown next month and no apparent consensus among lawmakers over how much to spend and how long it should go.
You might ordinarily think that one-party control of Washington precludes the possibility of a government shutdown, but these days you can’t be so sure.
Two-thirds of the way through his opening act, Trump has had a couple of serious stumbles with the botched refugee ban and his health bill. If he blows either the Gorsuch or the spending challenges, we will know for sure that this is a presidency in trouble.
Conversely, if Trump and his team can deliver success on both of those compulsory tasks, the narrative will start to turn around. Remember always that for all of the bias in the press, the greatest affinity is for lazy conventional wisdom.
Two wins for Trump and you will see “comeback kid” articles left and right. The question for Trump is whether he understands that.
THE RULEBOOK: PRESENT ARMS
“The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8
TIME OUT: DEEP DIVE
Atlantic: “Ground-based sensors help warn of quakes, but they have their limits. Now, a group of researchers at Columbia University are taking measurement somewhere new: underwater. They’re designing a system that could lead to faster warnings for people living near areas affected by underwater earthquakes and tsunamis. If they succeed, they could help reduce the damage caused by these natural disasters and save many lives…Underwater sensors could more accurately locate underwater earthquakes than ground-based networks, says Spahr Webb, the Lamont-Doherty researcher leading the project, because ‘the system is designed to be deployed over the top of a large earthquake and faithfully record the size and location of both the earthquake and the tsunami. … By installing pressure and seismic sensors offshore you get a much more accurate determination of location and depth of a nearby earthquake.’”
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FORMER A.G. SAYS TRUMP TRYING TO KEEP HER QUIET
USA Today: “The turmoil surrounding the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election deepened Tuesday, with the disclosure that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was warned last week that her testimony could contain privileged communications involving the White House that might be barred, an official familiar with matter said. Ultimately, Yates’ scheduled Tuesday appearance was canceled by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., But before that hearing was called off, the caution was delivered to Yates in a flurry of letters involving her attorney, the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office…Letters from the Justice Department indicated that much of Yates’ possible testimony could be covered by presidential privilege, said a government official speaking on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly. Yates’ attorney was then referred to White House counsel Donald McGahn. On the day that McGahn was notified of Yates’ intention to testify, Nunes canceled the hearing.”
House Intel Committee in meltdown - The Hill: “The House Intelligence Committee has canceled its meetings for the week as Democrats push Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to recuse himself from the panel’s probe into Russian meddling in the election, CNN is reporting. Nunes reportedly canceled a public hearing about Russia that was set to take place on Tuesday. Lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), called on Nunes to step aside from the investigation after the chairman said he visited White House grounds to view classified intelligence one day before briefing President Trump last week.”
Russian bank discloses Kushner meeting - Reuters: “A Russian bank under Western economic sanctions over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine disclosed on Monday that its executives had met Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, in December…Kushner previously acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador to Washington last December and only on Monday did it emerge that executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank roadshow last year.”
OBAMA CARBON REGS UNRAVELING
Fox News: “Moving forward with a campaign pledge to unravel former President Obama’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, President Trump on Tuesday is set to sign an executive order that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels…As part of the new roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.
DEMS JOIN BID TO BLOCK GORSUCH RAISING NUCLEAR THREAT
Politico: “Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s path to 60 votes is rapidly closing — setting the stage for a nuclear showdown in the Senate as soon as next week. Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s. In the latest ominous sign for the federal judge from Colorado, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Monday he’ll oppose Gorsuch on the cloture vote, which is expected late next week…If Democrats successfully filibuster Gorsuch, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has heavily telegraphed that he will invoke the so-called nuclear option to unilaterally change Senate rules with a simple majority vote.”
But Heitkamp will vote for cloture - The Hill: “Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), a centrist Democrat up for reelection in a state that strongly supported President Trump, said Tuesday that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch should get an up-or-down vote. ‘As I said last year when Judge Garland was nominated — and reiterated again when Judge Gorsuch was nominated — the U.S. Senate should have an up or down vote on any Supreme Court nominee as part of fulfilling our constitutional duty of providing advice and consent on nominees to the Supreme Court,’ Heitkamp said in a statement”
[Fox News’ Chad Pergram explains how a nuclear strike would work in the Gorsuch confirmation.]
Trump’s approval rating hits another new low at 36 percent - Gallup
Sessions threatens funding for ‘sanctuary cities’ - Fox News
Price now faces task of administering ObamaCare - The Hill
Trump Organization holds trademark for casino in Jordan, will need to reapply during Trump presidency - AP
AUDIBLE: START BRAINSTORMING NAMES…
“There’s a storm that’s going to hit Republicans in 2018. The only question is if it is going to be Category 2 or Category 5.” – Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, quoted by the NYT.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Meanwhile, in other news, the Wisconsin Badgers collapsed vs. Florida this weekend!” – Tim Tessier, Columbia, S.C.
[Ed. note: I assume you’re talking about the badgers responsible for the road collapse in Britain that was Monday’s kicker. I do think the badgers in Devon would be more than a little disappointed with their Wisconsin cousins.]
“In what might be the first act of true statesmanship, following the defeat of ‘TrumpCare,’ Trump did not lay the blame for the defeat at the feet of either the Speaker or the Freedom Caucus. Instead, he kinda, sorta, took blame himself. But Republicans need to be aware, Trump will now feel free to seek support from Democrats for future health care legislation (and therewith their ideas).” – Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.
[Ed. note: As we discussed above, Mr. Bartlett, that is a very open question. Even since your note arrived, the president has gone further in his attacks on conservatives and certainly seems to be blaming them for the defeat of his first initiative. So it’s certainly conceivable that Trump will try to forge a new coalition including Democrats from Rust Belt states. What isn’t clear is whether they will be at all receptive…]
“Chris, what are the objections to allowing health insurers to compete across any state borders? Wouldn’t this be a start to reducing healthcare costs?” – Ernie Weaver, North Port, Fla.
[Ed. note: Strictly speaking, Mr. Weaver, there’s nothing stopping health insurance companies from selling policies around state lines…except for states themselves. ObamaCare created the first set of broad federal insurance regulations, but state rules still exist. A policy that meets the requirements of a restrictive state like Connecticut might still run afoul of the rules in California. Policies from permissive states, conversely, can find no purchase in highlight regulated ones. Rather like car emission standards, there are federal rules and then state rules, like the famous “California emissions” they always talked about on the “Price is Right” when they gave away a car. When conservatives talk about “selling across state lines,” they’re really talking about setting a uniform national standard for what constitutes health insurance.]
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THE HARAMBE CLAUSE
Alaska Dispatch News: “On terminals in Anchorage’s public library system, adults explore all the corners of the internet — including pornographic websites. But in the middle of a rewrite of internet-use policies, library officials say they’re wrestling with ways to balance the intellectual freedom of porn-searching adults with making the city’s public libraries safe and welcoming for everyone. Until recently, the Anchorage Public Library had a mostly ‘hands-off’ policy when it came to complaints about internet users, said Annie Reeves, the library’s community relations coordinator…That may mean asking the person watching graphic content to check out a laptop and face a wall…It’s a new direction being formalized in the library’s internet use policies. The Anchorage Library Advisory Board reviewed a draft of the new policy at its monthly meeting this week.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I think it’s ruinous. It’s not just a promise betrayed. It is a complete inability to govern.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
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.