Trump deal with Pelosi, Schumer dims hopes on tax cut

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Trump deal with Pelosi, Schumer dims hopes on tax cut - Hatch says he would step aside for Romney Senate run - Bannon calls Comey firing big blunder - California could jumpstart 2020 - As they say: ‘Pizza want you are, need be bear monster’ 

Rightly sensing that congressional Republicans were leading him into a snare, President Trump ducked them by making common cause with Democrats on a short-term debt and spending deal.

By moving the deadline from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31 for must-pass legislation on raising the federal debt limit and authorizing new spending to prevent a partial government shutdown, Trump certainly bought himself some time.

Those deadlines represent leverage against for Congress. Dire consequences helped get Trump’s predecessor to the negotiating table in the era of divided government, and it’s not so different in the era of one-party control, given the internal divisions of the GOP.

Trump had erred in drawing a red line around funding for his border wall, even hyping talk of a shutdown, presumably before he understood that he was on the weaker side of that pressure play. Same for efforts to keep the individual insurance market under ObamaCare afloat and other policy points over which the president has expressed displeasure.

There is evident relief at the White House and across official Washington as the immediate threat of the first-ever own-goal shutdown has been lifted, at least for the time being. But that does not mean that the September tsunami on Capitol Hill will be a non-event.

Indeed, there is much still to be done.

Not only does Congress have to figure out this month what to do about preventing a meltdown for millions of families who get their insurance through ObamaCare, but there is also a budget to pass, tax cuts to consider, defense funding to authorize and much more.

And on these things, the absence of the immediate threat of a shutdown or credit default makes building consensus that much harder.

Think of it this way, people preparing for a hurricane are not inclined to worry about which lumber yard provided the plywood to cover the windows or if the canned water came from Anheuser-Busch or Miller. But when the storm passes, folks tend to get more particular.

The obvious hope among Congressional leaders was that late September would turn into a logrolling jamboree. Once the shutdown clocks get rolling, that pre-hurricane attitude sets in quickly, allowing leaders to force unhappy compromises on restive members as well as to start dumping all manner of unrelated material into the shopping cart.

We had previously rated possibilities for a tax cut as fairly high for that very reason. It was long ago clear that a large-scale tax reform was not likely. But the chances for stapling a tax cut to the back page of a budget passed amid fire-and-brimstone threats about a shutdown sounded like something even a dysfunctional Congress could do.

The same went for ObamaCare funding for 2018 and potentially some other nettlesome provisions.

But just as Trump let himself out of the snare as it related to borrowing and spending, he also took the pressure off Congress for his own policy priorities, which, for the time being, have reduced down to an all-consuming quest for a tax cut.

Remember, Congress doesn’t have to pass a budget, and that’s why it has mostly abandoned the practice. The kind of stopgap spending plan to which Trump agreed with Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have been the norm for a decade.

But budgets mean budget reconciliation and the chance to advance legislation with 51 votes, provided it relates to spending and can be pushed and pulled to meet scoring rules that require it to be revenue neutral over the course of a decade.

Remember, that in doing his spending deal with the Democrats, Trump not only took pressure off Republicans to pass a budget but also undercut his credibility with rank-and-file GOP lawmakers.

The previous rap on House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was their resistance to blood-and-guts partisan attacks on Democrats. Trump had held himself out as the enthusiastic belligerent compared to his accommodating counterparts on Capitol Hill.

Having seen Trump make nice with Schumer and Pelosi certainly gives the president a more credible threat in telling GOP leaders that he will abandon them again. But that simultaneously helps Ryan and McConnell make their own cases to anxious members that Trump is an unreliable ally.

Add to this, the president’s former top political adviser and billionaire bankroller out hustling primary challengers for sitting members, and you get the sense that the administration is in for an even harder time pushing its priorities.

Trump certainly can look to punish Republicans for not delivering the tax cut he demands, but his enforcement mechanism remains, for now, much in doubt.

If Trump comes up empty with Republicans, it seems unlikely he will be able to repeat his feat of last week’s spending plan. There would be simply too much pressure on Democrats to resist Trump for him to build a new coalition, especially since every new overture to the left would mean more defections on the right.

The president may have gotten one over on the Republican establishment, but it may be his own agenda that suffers.

“The American militia, in the course of the late war, have, by their valor on numerous occasions, erected eternal monuments to their fame; but the bravest of them feel and know that the liberty of their country could not have been established by their efforts alone, however great and valuable they were.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 25

For most Americans, the time from today to another breezy, bluebird September morning 16 years ago compressed in an instant. For those about the age of 25 and older, the recollection understandably begins personally: “Where were you when the towers fell?” But now, some 35 percent of Americans can’t remember the event in those terms. We as far removed from the events of Sept. 11, 2001 as Americans at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union were from the end of the Vietnam War. How Americans see and understand 9/11from here on will depend not just on the vivid recounting of what happened, but on how those events shaped the world. The growing historical detachment will be hard to confront – sometimes painfully so – for many who remember the events. What 9/11 means to young people and to subsequent generations will depend on how it fits into the contours of history and the ongoing choices we make as a nation. The attacks will always be a pivot point in American history. Still not answered fully, though, is: Toward what?

Flag on the play? - Email us at
tips, comments or questions.

Trump net job-approval rating: -18.8 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.8 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

Deseret News: “Mitt Romney is preparing to run for the U.S. Senate if Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, decides not to seek an eighth term, according to a report Monday in … Hatch said Monday that he would ‘feel good’ about retiring if Romney ran. ‘As of right now, we're certainly saying we are’ running for re-election, the senator said. ‘But I have to say that I would be very pleased if Mitt Romney did run for Senate. I would feel good about retirement at that particular point.’ That's because Romney is ‘highly qualified, a very quality guy and he would represent Utah very, very well,’ Hatch told KSL Newsradio. ‘I’m not trying to appoint somebody. I’m just saying if that happened to come about I would be pleased.’”

GOP candidates: Watch out for big, bad Bannon - Politico: “President Donald Trump’s closest allies are planning a slate of primary challenges against Republican senators, potentially undermining the party’s prospects in 2018 and further inflaming tensions between GOP leaders and the White House. The effort is being led by Steve Bannon, Trump’s bomb-throwing former chief strategist, who is launching an all-out war against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment. Bannon has begun holding private meetings with insurgent challengers, vowing his support. He’s coordinating with conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer, who is prepared to pour millions of dollars into attacks on GOP incumbents. Bannon has also installed a confidant at an outside group that is expected to target Republican lawmakers and push the Trump agenda.”

Trott joins growing list of house GOP retirements - The Detroit News: “Republican Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham said Monday that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term. Trott, a 56-year-old attorney serving his second term, is the latest in a string of GOP House members to announce they won’t seek re-election in 2018, joining several other Republicans retiring from competitive districts, including Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dave Reichert of Washington and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. … ‘This was not an easy decision, but after careful consideration, I have decided that the best course for me is to spend more time with my family and return to the private sector.’ The news of Trott’s retirement comes as another GOP congressman, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, pushed back against rumors that he's leaving Congress.”

Corker weighing retirement in 2018 - 
Politico: “Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is undecided as to whether to seek reelection next year, according to the senator, a development that threatens to reshape the Senate’s power structure and Republican attempts to keep the majority. Corker, who chairs the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is still considering whether to run for a third term next year. His retirement would cause a reshuffling on top Senate committees and potentially tighten the race for control of the Senate, which heavily favors Republicans.”

CBS News: “Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon says President Trump's decision to fire James Comey as FBI director was the biggest mistake in ‘modern political history.’ In an interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose … Rose said that he had heard that Bannon had described Comey's termination at the biggest mistake in political history. ‘That probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history,’ replied Bannon… Bannon said that if Comey had not been fired in May, former FBI Director Robert Mueller wouldn't have been appointed as a special counsel and wouldn't be leading his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.”

Politico: “California is pushing forward with a plan to change the state’s primary date from June to March, a move that could scramble the 2020 presidential nominating contest and swing the early weight of the campaign to the West. If adopted by the legislature this week — as is widely expected — and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, the early primary would allocate California’s massive haul of delegates just after the nation’s first contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The earlier primary could benefit at least two potential presidential contenders from California — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — while jeopardizing the prospects of other candidates who will struggle to raise enough early money to compete in expensive media markets in the nation’s most populous state. ‘In all probability, the winner of the California primary would be the nominee,’ said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman from South Carolina.”

House cancels Monday votes due to Irma - WashEx

Netanyahu to meet with Trump in New York during U.N. confab next week - Reuters

Mueller takes focus on Trump’s financial ties to Russians - WashTimes

Sessions wants National Security Council staff to go through lie detector test - Axios 

Air traffic control privatization may be stuck - WashEx


“I know a lot about what it takes to move a president, and I thought I was going to win.” – Hillary Clinton talking to CBS news about the $1.16 million home she purchased next to her residence in Chappaqua, N.Y., for White House staff and security. 

“Whose idea is it to craft the tax reform bill behind closed doors? As you said, it didn’t work for Repeal and Replace ACA, why do the same thing again? Is it a quicker process?” – Jean Farrell, Fleming Island, Fla.

[Ed. note: First and foremost, I hope you and your neighbors are coming through Irma in safety and relative comfort. I pray that the St. Johns swiftly returns to its banks. As for your question, the answer is simple: Because people like to cut corners. The slide to the bottom for Congress began long ago, but the ratcheting abuses of norms and procedures by both parties looks only to intensify. As our political system focuses more and more on intense conflicts between activist, partisan base voters, the need to deliver spoils goes up, as do the consequences for those deemed soft on the opposition. Any bad act can be excused by either pointing to an opponent’s prior misconduct or failing that, predicting even greater corruption still to come. As a result, lawmakers feel empowered to use whatever means that will deliver the desired outcome. The irony, though, is that partisan, procedural gambits tend to produce the opposite effects.]

“So once again the Congress runs around pretending that the debt ceiling means something to be obeyed, but in fact is meaningless as the Congress just approves a higher debt limit and goes on its marry way spending until the debt ceiling gets in the way again. Meaningful debt control takes a back seat to additional increases in spending.” – David Kruss, Henderson, Nev.

[Ed. note: Right you are, Mr. Kruss. It is amazing to think that issues of debt and deficit loomed large even just five years ago. I suppose the reason the subject has fallen out of favor is that Democrats very much believe the logic of former President Barack Obama who argued that with low interest rates, it makes sense for Uncle Sam to stay on a borrowing bender rather than risk an economic downturn. The Republicans, meanwhile, have fallen prey to the old maladies of incumbency in which deficits don’t matter as long as they are funding the things you want. With the in party turning a blind eye to debt and the out party explicitly in favor of deficit spending, I suspect your concerns will go unheeded for a bit longer.]

“Bi-partisan senators ‘plan to formally roll out a Senate resolution later Wednesday that forcefully condemns the violence in Charlottesville while ‘rejecting white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.’ Why do they not specifically state Antifa and BLM as well - instead of stating ‘other hate groups’?  These hateful groups are just as violent and vicious in their actions as the others listed.” –Nan Irey, Simpsonville, S.C.

[Ed. note: One supposes, Ms. Irey, the purpose of limiting the scope of the resolution it to keep the focus on bigots. Human beings are fallen in nature and hatreds of many kinds abound. But it is meaningless to denounce “hate.” Specificity and context are required when we talk about the things we celebrate or the things we condemn. I don’t pay much attention to Senate resolutions since they carry no legal authority and are the legislative equivalent of a Hallmark card, but I do understand why senators would want to take their denunciations one at a time. In this case, they are dealing with the murder of a Virginia woman who police say was killed by an apparent white nationalist. There is much to condemn in the Antifa movement, as well. As we have discussed before, the only good guys who wear masks in America are generally running into burning buildings. The tyranny of mobs is very much an issue for Americans to examine, and certainly, the Senate and House ought to be looking at ongoing threats to free expression posed by Antifa and other groups. But when it comes to feel-good resolutions, I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with keeping them simple.]

Share your color commentary:
 Email us at
make sure to include your name and hometown.

Bradenton [Fla.] Herald: “A well-known certified deaf interpreter said the signing that one person did at a Manatee County Emergency Operations Center update was ‘horrible and embarrassing.’ … Jason Hurdich, a Clemson University professor … said the interpreter at the Friday [hurricane] update at noon was translating incoherent and incomplete information for the deaf audience. … Manatee County spokesman Nick Azzara told a Herald reporter that the interpreter, a Manatee County lifeguard, has a brother who is deaf and was asked to sign during the update rather than have no one signing. The county has requested an interpreter and public information assistance from the state, Azzara said. In a transcription of the signing provided by Hurdich, the interpreter said things like ‘Help you at that time too use bear big.’ A video that provided subtitles of the interpretation has been viewed more than 22,000 times, calling the interpreter ‘fake.’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.