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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider
Updated: 9 hours 52 min ago

Trump move to end health insurer payments may cost feds billions more

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 00:40

Even as President Donald Trump urged Senators on Monday to find a bipartisan deal on short-term fixes to the Obama health law, the consensus among health insurance experts is that Mr. Trump’s decision last week to no longer make payments to insurance companies to cover the health-related costs of some Americans might actually cost the federal government billions more in the years ahead.

At issue is the “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments that had been made by the Obama and Trump Administrations – that money helps subsidize insurance costs of some consumers in the Obamacare exchanges.

Those payments were never expressly approved by the Congress, leading many Republicans to charge that the spending had been illegal, and spurring the President to block the payments.

And that’s where the subject gets a bit complicated.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that not funding CSR would lead to a net increase of $194 billion in more spending over the next decade,” said health care researcher David Anderson of Duke University.

Repealing CSR could increase federal deficit. No CSR = Higher Premiums = Higher APTC = increased federal deficit. https://t.co/NPWFjAKGUw

— Thomas Tsai (@Thomasctsai) October 13, 2017

But wait – how would halting an expected $10 billion in payments in 2018, a move that would save Uncle Sam money – how would that lead to such a big cost for the feds over the next decade?

The answer is simple – health insurers are expected to increase premiums to make up for the lost federal dollars, and that would trigger an increase in another consumer subsidy that is part of the Obama health law.

“While the federal government would save money by not making CSR payments, it would face increased costs for tax credits that subsidize premiums for marketplace enrollees with incomes 100-400% of the poverty level,” wrote officials of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health care policy matters.

Those subsidies are known as “Advance Premium Tax Credits,” and can go to families of four with a yearly income of up to $97,000.

Who Bears the Brunt With the End of ACA Cost-Sharing Subsidy Payments? https://t.co/pMhUQwvpeC by @larry_levitt

— Kaiser Family Found (@KaiserFamFound) October 16, 2017

“The biggest effect from the termination of cost-sharing subsidy payments is that premiums are going up to offset the loss,” said Larry Levitt of Kaiser, who labeled the impact of the Trump CSR decision, “confusing and complicated.”

One example of that started to appear on Monday in in Pennsylvania, as state officials said health coverage “rates will increase by an average 30.6 percent in the individual market,” instead of by 7.6 percent.

One recent story from the Miami Herald found that the Trump move on CSR payments would mean a big increase for Florida in the amount of federal dollars spent to subsidize those who get their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges in that state.

Some experts argue that Mr. Trump’s decision will have the biggest negative impact on insurance rates in states that are normally in the Republican column – especially if those states did not move to expand the Medicaid program during the Obama Administration.

In recent months, a bipartisan group of Senators had been working to figure out a way to tinker with the Obama health law, and make sure the CSR payments were made by Congress, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who told reporters on Monday evening that he had already spoken with the President about his CSR decision.

Alexander on his call with TRUMP: "He said 'I don't want people to suffer.' Those are his words."

— Peter Sullivan (@PeterSullivan4) October 16, 2017

Some GOP Senators have grumbled in recent weeks about the talks between Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), worried that it will contain little in the way of concessions by Democrats on the operations of the Obama health law.

That’s a concern for Republicans in the House as well, and could lead to a stalemate in Congress on any short-term effort to deal with the Obama health law.

“At this time, in my opinion, doing nothing is an acceptable outcome for liberal policy preferences while doing nothing moves policy further away from stated conservative policy preferences,” said Anderson of Duke University.

“I want to get healthcare that’s much more affordable and much better healthcare, and that’s what we’re doing,” the President said on Monday when asked about the CSR payments decision.

What that exactly means for the President is still not clear – but inaction seems like it will cost the feds extra money.

For example, officials in California found that if the CSR payments were eliminated, the cost of subsidies for people buying insurance in that state would go from $750 million a year, to over $975 million, an over 30 percent increase.

VIDEO: Trump and McConnell take questions after White House meeting

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:02

With a lot of work still needed in Congress on key items of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, Mr. Trump met for lunch on Monday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, giving off no signs of any ill will despite some sparring in the past, as both men vowed to push ahead on plans for major tax cuts and reform, emphasizing the need to get that done by the end of 2017.

“We’re fighting for the same thing – we’re fight for lower taxes, big tax cuts – the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation,” the President said at a hastily assembled meeting with reporters in the White House Rose Garden.

“I want to underscore what the President said – we have the same agenda,” McConnell said, standing next to the President the entire time, as reporters verbally jostled to get his attention during a somewhat raucous Q&A that had not been on the original schedule for Mr. Trump.

“My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding,” Mr. Trump said of McConnell, not mentioning some of his tough statements and tough tweets about the Senate GOP leader in the past.

Here is the full Trump news conference, with McConnell:

Trump turns up pressure on GOP Congress to act on health care, tax reform

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:59

President Donald Trump on Monday declared Obamacare dead, as he urged Republicans in Congress to lead the way on solutions to overhaul the Obama health law, and to find a way to deliver a major tax reform package as well, making clear that he should not be blamed for any of the legislative miscues by GOP leaders in the House and Senate.

“I’m not going to blame myself – I’ll be honest,” the President told reporters, as he pointed the finger of blame directly at the Congress. “They are not getting the job done.”

“I’m not happy about it,” Mr. Trump said, reminding Republicans of what hasn’t been done in the Congress this year.

“We need tax cuts, we need health care,” the President said.

Trump on Congress: "We're not getting the job done. And I'm not going to blame myself, I'll be honest. They are not getting the job done." pic.twitter.com/DbdQRyhJTm

— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 16, 2017

At the start of a Cabinet meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump said he thought his moves last week on health care would force Democrats to the bargaining table to come up with some kind of short-term deal on health care.

“I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess,” the President said. “This is an Obamacare mess.”

Mr. Trump also optimistically said he thought there would be an agreement early next year on a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, something that has so far eluded Republicans in the Congress.

“Obamacare is finished, it’s dead, it’s gone,” the President declared. “There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.

President Trump: “Obamacare is finished. It's dead. It’s gone …. There is no such thing as Obamacare any more” https://t.co/CLbWiYUkSp

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 16, 2017

In a nearly twenty minute statement to reporters, the President touched on more than just health care and taxes:

+ Mr. Trump said that welfare reform would now be a big issue; “some people are really taking advantage of the system,” the President said.

+ The President denounced high prescription drug prices, saying the United States consumer is being taken advantage of by the drug companies. “The drug companies are frankly getting away with murder,” he said.

+ The President again demanded action by the Congress on broader measures to tackle illegal immigration, specifically calling for an end to ‘chain migration.’

+ Mr. Trump commented briefly on the Las Vegas massacre, saying the shooter was ‘demented.’

Trump on Las Vegas shooter: "He was a demented, sick individual, the wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain." https://t.co/FEpyEsZyyw

— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 16, 2017

+ The President again urged Congress to act on new safeguards for the Iran nuclear deal, again threatening to terminate the multilateral agreement.

+ Mr. Trump said he was asking his cabinet chiefs to see how they could save money on government spending. The President said the review was occurring, “as we head into next year’s budget season” – but the U.S. Government is already into the 2018 Fiscal Year; that started on October 1.

Trump: "I’m not going to blame myself I’ll be honest they are not getting the job done…I can understand where Steve Bannon’s coming from"

— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) October 16, 2017

Here are the full remarks of the President, as transcribed and provided by the White House:

11:42 A.M. EDT

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, thank you very much.  And today, we’re here to discuss at the Cabinet meeting critical domestic policy issues.  I’d like to basically provide you with an update as to how we’re doing for the American people, and we’re doing a lot of great things.

 

     The unemployment rate is at a almost 17-year low.  The stock market is soaring to record levels.  We just hit a new high on Friday, and I think we’re hitting another new high today because there’s tremendous optimism having do with business in our country.

 

     The GDP growth has reached more 3 percent last quarter, and other than the hurricanes, it would have done phenomenally on this.  And I think we’ll still do very well, but something will have to be taken off because of the tremendous problems of the massive hurricanes that we’ve had to endure.  And now, I guess, you can probably add the wildfires in California.

 

     But the economy cannot take off like it really has the potential to do unless we reduce the tax burden on the families, businesses, and workers of our country.  And we’ll be able to do that.  I think we’re getting tremendous receptivity from the people.  I hope we get the same receptivity from Congress.  But we are getting tremendous accolades for what we’re doing having to do with both reform and with the massive tax cuts; it will be the largest tax cuts in the history of our country.

 

     We’re one of the highest-taxed nations in the world right now, costing us millions of jobs and trillions and trillions of dollars.  It’s time to restore America’s competitive edge and pass historic tax cuts for the American people.  One point in GDP would be $2.5 trillion.  Think of that — revenues.  One point — if we go up from three to four.  And when I began, we were in the ones, and now the last quarter we were at 3.2 percent.  And we’re going up higher.

 

     But if we went, as an example, from two to three or from three to four — talking about $2.5 trillion.  And we’re also talking about many millions of jobs.

 

     So we want to also reduce excessive government spending, and that’s what we’re working on at our Cabinet meeting today.  As we head into next year’s budget season, I’ve asked Director Mulvaney to come up and find various savings in all of the departments that are gathered around the table, which is everybody.  I need my Cabinet to work with Director Mulvaney to fight these spending cuts — fight for them — and make sure that they happen.  And we want to make the departments as lean and efficient as possible, but at the same time, we’re going to need departments with lots of heart, lots of heart.

 

     One thing we’re going to be looking at very strongly is welfare reform.  That’s becoming a very, very big subject, and people are taking advantage of the system.  And then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live, and we think it’s very unfair to them.  But some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint, and we are going to be looking very, very strongly there for welfare reform.  It’s going to be a very big topic under this administration, and it started already.  And we have a lot of recommendations that we’re going to be making, and you’ll be hearing about them very shortly.

 

     The other thing we’re doing that relates to people’s lives is the prescription drug prices are out of control.  The drug prices have gone through the roof.  And if you look at the same exact drug by the same exact company, made in the same exact box and sold someplace else, sometimes it’s a fraction of what we pay in this country — meaning, as usual, the world is taking advantage of the United States.  They’re setting prices in other countries and we’re not.

 

The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder, and we want to bring our prices down to what other countries are paying, or at least close and let the other countries pay more.  Because they’re setting such low prices that we’re actually subsidizing other countries, and that’s just not going to happen anymore. 

 

This has been going on for years where our people are paying so much more for it.  And I don’t mean they’re paying 2 percent more; I mean they’re paying double, triple, quadruple.  They’re paying so much more that it’s very unfair to the United States, as usual.

 

Last week, I also sent a letter to Congress outlining my administration’s top priorities for immigration reform.  This was a bottom-up effort driven by dedicated law enforcement professionals, and they took a big oath to protect our nation. 

 

The Justice Department is doing a fantastic job on the border and with regard to immigration — more than anyone has ever seen before from a Justice Department.  Thank you very much, Jeff.  It’s really had an impact and a very positive impact, and now we’re going to take it to five steps further. 

 

Our proposal closes dangerous loopholes and vulnerabilities that enable illegal immigration, asylum fraud, and visa overstays.  The visa overstays are just — you’re talking about numbers that nobody even knows what they are, they’re so out of control.  And we’re going to take care of that.

 

When you look at what’s going on in Mexico — Mexico is having a tough time right now in terms of crime.  More than ever, we need the wall.  We have drugs pouring through on the southern border; they’re literally pouring through.  And we have to have the wall, and we’re going to have the wall.  But if you look at just what’s happening on the other side of the border with the tremendous crime and the tremendous problems going on — we have a very good relationship with Mexico but there are a lot of problems, and we don’t want the drugs and we don’t want the crime, but we need the wall.

 

Recently, we’ve asked Congress to ensure that any proposed immigration reform ends chain migration; one person comes in and then brings everybody in his family in with him or her.  And we have to end chain migration, which — it’s critical for creating a system that puts American workers and the American taxpayer first. 

 

Last Thursday, I proudly nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  I urge the Senate to quickly confirm this really tremendously qualified nominee, and I also ask for my other nominees.

 

We have approximately half the number of nominees confirmed by the Senate because, frankly, the Democrats have terrible policy — terrible — and they’re very good at, really, obstruction, the one thing they do well.  Their policy is no good, and I’m not even sure they’re very good politicians because they don’t seem to be doing too well.  That could be because of their bad policy.  But they’re great at obstruction, and we have half the nominees that President Obama had at this time. 

 

It’s very unfair.  They’re taking everybody right after the final moment, in many cases confirming them with tremendous majorities.  But they’re bringing them out purposefully.  They’re bringing them right down to the final.  We have people that are totally qualified, they’re going to pass, but they’re going to have to wait a long time because it’s total obstruction. 

 

I can say the same thing with our judicial nominees, our judges.  We have some of the most qualified people.  The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about it the other day, that this is some of the most qualified people ever, and they’re waiting forever on line.  And it shouldn’t happen that way.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair. 

 

     I want to thank Acting Secretary Elaine Duke for her leadership in responding to the catastrophic storms that have struck our nation and our territories. 

 

     We’ve also issued a disaster declaration in California in response to the devastating wildfires like we’ve never seen.  And we mourn the terrible loss of life.  We have FEMA and first responders there.  We have our military helping.  It’s very sad to watch how fast — how rapidly they move and how people are caught in their houses.  It’s an incredible thing — caught in their houses. 

 

So we have a lot of people helping — the government in California — and we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of days.  But we’re a little subject to winds and what happens with nature, but it’s been a — it’s a very sad thing to watch. 

 

     We also continue to pray for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  We cannot erase the pain of those who lost their loved ones but we pledge to never leave their side.  We’re working with them very much so, with the FBI and law enforcement, Department of Justice.  And it’s — I guess a lot of people think they understand what happened, but he was a demented, sick individual.  The wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain — extremely badly in his brain — and it’s a very sad event. 

 

     In each of these tragedies, we’ve witnessed, however, a tremendous strength and heroism of our people.  Each one of these tragedies that we’ve had, we have witnessed such strength and such heroism.  When Americans are unified, no destructive force on Earth can even come close to breaking us apart.  We have a lot of work to do on behalf of our magnificent country and our extraordinary citizens.

 

A great trust has been placed upon each member of our Cabinet.  We have a Cabinet that — there are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a candidate — as a Cabinet.  And I happen to agree with that.  Of course, I should agree with that.  But I think we have an extraordinary group of people around this table. 

 

This is a tremendous amount of talent, and I wouldn’t say I was necessarily looking to be politically correct, although I ended up being politically correct because that was the right thing to do, in every sense of the word.  However, we have just gotten really, really great people.  I’m very proud of them. 

 

So we’re going to work with all of those things I just outlined and many more.  You know we have the Iran Deal that right now is being studied, and I think a lot of people agreed with what I did.  I feel strongly about what I did.  I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation.  This nation has been taken advantage of for many, many years — for many decades, frankly — and I’m tired of watching it. 

 

But the Iran Deal was something that I felt had to be done, and we’ll see what phase two is.  Phase two might be positive, and it might be very negative.  It might be a total termination.  That’s a very real possibility; some would say that’s a greater possibility.  But it could also could turn out to be very positive.  We’ll see what happens. 

 

I thought the tone of the Iranian leaders was very modified, and I was happy to see that, but I don’t know if that means anything.  They’re great negotiators.  They negotiated a phenomenal deal for themselves but a horrible deal for the United States, and we’re going to see what happens.

 

The healthcare, as you know, is moving along.  I knocked out the CSRs; that was a subsidy to the insurance companies.  That was a gift that was, frankly, what they gave the insurance companies.  Just take a look at their stocks.  Take a look at where their stock was when Obamacare was originally approved and what it is today.  You’ll see numbers that anybody — if you invested in those stocks, you’d be extremely happy. 

 

And they have given them, you could almost call it, a payoff.  And it’s a disgrace.  And that money goes to the insurance companies.  We want to take care of poor people, we want to take care of people that need help with healthcare.  And that’s what I’m here to do.  And I’m never going to get campaign contributions, I guarantee you that, from the insurance companies.  But a lot of other people got them.  If you look at the Democrats, take a look at that.  Take a look at how much money has been spent by the Democrats and by the health companies on politicians generally.  But take a look at the coffers of the Democrats.

 

So the CSR payments has actually brought Republicans and Democrats together, because we got calls — emergency calls from the Democrats, and I think probably the Republicans were also calling them, saying, let’s come up with at least a short-term fix of healthcare in this country.  And the gravy train ended the day I knocked out the insurance companies’ money, which was last week.  Hundreds of millions of dollars a month handed to the insurance companies for very little reason, believe me.  I want the money to go to the people.  I want the money to go to poor people that need it.  I want the money to go to people that need proper healthcare, not to insurance companies, which is where it’s going as of last week.  I ended that.

 

So we have a lot of interesting things to do.  I’m meeting with Mitch McConnell in a little while for lunch.  I think we’re going to say a few words on the steps after that.  I know you won’t have any questions.  And pretty much that’s it.  Enjoy yourselves, folks, and I’ll see you out there with Mitch McConnell.

 

Thank you very much.

 

     Q    Mr. President, do you approve of Steve Bannon’s war on Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment?

    

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Steve is very committed.  He’s a friend of mine, and he’s very committed to getting things passed.

 

     I mean, look, I have — despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators.  But we’re not getting the job done.

 

     And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest.  They are not getting the job done.  We’ve had healthcare approved, and then you had the surprise vote by John McCain.  We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done.  And I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from.  And I can understand — to be honest with you, Jon, I can understand where a lot of people are coming from because I’m not happy about it and a lot of people aren’t happy about it.

 

     We need tax cuts.  We need healthcare.  Now, we’re going to get the healthcare done.  In my opinion, what’s happening is, as we meet — Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSR, because I cut off the gravy train.  If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting.  They’d be having lunch and enjoying themselves, all right? 

 

     They’re right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of healthcare where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare.  Because Obamacare is finished.  It’s dead.  It’s gone.  It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention.  It’s gone.  There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.  It is — and I said this years ago:  It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked.  In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

 

     But we’re working on some kind of a short-term fix prior to the Republicans getting together, maybe with some Democrats — again, it’s obstruction — but maybe with some Democrats, to fix healthcare permanently. 

 

     So I think we’ll have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting together.  And after that, we’re going to have a successful vote because, as you know, we were one vote short, and I think we have the votes right now.  Whether it’s through block grants or something else — block-granting the money back to the states, which does seem to make sense where the states run it because it’s a smaller form of government that can be more individually sensitive.  So that will happen fairly shortly.  As soon as we have the next reconciliation, I think we’ll get the vote for healthcare.  I feel very confident about that.  I think we already have the vote for healthcare.

 

     Sadly, the Democrats can’t join us on that, which will be the long-term fix.  But I do believe we’ll have a short-term fix because I think the Democrats will be blamed for the mess.  This is an Obamacare mess. 

 

     When the premiums go up, that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that we had poor healthcare — delivered poorly, written poorly, approved by the Democrats.  It was called Obamacare. 

 

     But I think we’ll have a short-term fix and then we’ll have a long-term fix, and that will take place probably in March or April.  We will have a very solid vote.  It will be probably 100 percent Republican — no Democrats.  But most people know that that’s going to be a very form of health insurance. 

 

     So that will be it.  Okay?  Any other questions?  No?  Thank you I’ll see you in a little while.

 

     Q    (Inaudible) Bannon campaigning against Republicans running for reelection?

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  I know how he feels.  Depends on who you’re talking about.  There are some Republicans, frankly, that should be ashamed of themselves.  But most of them — I tell you what, I know the Republican senators; most of them are really, really great people that want to work hard, and they want to do a great thing for the American public.

 

     But you had a few people that really disappointed us.  They really, really disappointed us.  So I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels.  Okay?  Thank you very much.

 

     Q    Thank you.

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

 

                                       END                      12:00 P.M. EDT

Trump ready to press Senate to act on budget outline, tax reform

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 08:00

As the U.S. Senate returns to work in Washington, D.C. from a ten day break, President Donald Trump is ready to again publicly press the Congress for action on a sweeping package of tax cuts, meeting on Monday to talk strategy with the top Republican in the Senate, as the GOP continues to quietly put together the details of a tax reform package behind closed doors.

“I really think that we’ve gotta do the most we can,” on tax reform, said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who played golf with Mr. Trump on Sunday at the President’s golf course in Virginia.

“We really, you know, need to do it,” Paul said – though the Kentucky Republican is one of several GOP Senators who have raised questions about the details of the plan, which still have not been released by the White House and GOP Congress.

“The people of this country want tax cuts, they want lower taxes,” the President told reporters last week.

Pres. Trump says he hopes Congress will pass "massive tax cuts for the American people" as a Christmas gift to hard working families. pic.twitter.com/xnkYHZ0qsv

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 13, 2017

But while the President and GOP leaders talk a lot in public about approving a tax reform package, no vote can be taken on that until the Congress first passes a budget outline for 2018, that also authorizes a tax cutting plan under the expedited rules of ‘budget reconciliation,’ which prevents a filibuster in the Senate.

“This country must not miss this opportunity,” McConnell said last week about tax reform – but this week, he must take the first step on the ‘budget resolution,’ which sets an outline for spending in 2018.

The plan approved earlier this month by the Senate Budget Committee would balance the budget within ten years – but, it would also allow the tax plan to create $1.5 trillion in new debt, meaning there would not be a balanced budget during that time.

That has left some Republicans voicing their concerns – and as we saw with health care, it doesn’t take too many GOP Senators going against the President to derail any Trump plan.

Interesting: Senator Todd Young (R-IN) says he’s not willing to “blow a hole in the budget” to pass a tax bill.https://t.co/gGmbJhC8jG

— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 12, 2017

It’s also the first time that Senators have been back at the Capitol since the Twitter spat between the President and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who has decided not to run for re-election in 2018.

Corker has also said while he backs tax reform, he doesn’t want to see any tax plan create even a penny of new debt.

Meanwhile, we wait for the details of the GOP tax reform plan – not expected until November.

On Capitol Hill, the search for elusive details of the Republican tax reform bill https://t.co/xaiiIcTefq pic.twitter.com/Jzlntw9jWm

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 14, 2017

Searching for details of the Trump/GOP tax reform plan

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 22:03

While President Donald Trump and Republicans in the Congress continue to call for approval of the first major tax reforms since 1986, the GOP still has not released a piece of legislation with all of the many details of what would actually be changed in the tax code, leading Capitol Hill reporters on a daily trek to see what they can squeeze out of Republican lawmakers about the plan.

Often, it isn’t much.

“Congressman, how much is the child tax credit going to be increased by?” asked one reporter in a scrum just off the House floor.

“Why would I tell you that?” said a smiling Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), a key member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, where the tax plan will be forged in coming weeks, as Tiberi found himself repeatedly peppered with questions from reporters looking for clues on the final details of the GOP bill.

After noticing a tweet by a Wall Street Journal reporter about what had just happened in the Speaker’s Lobby, the veteran Ohio Republican had some fun with reporters in return.

Live footage of tax reporters near the House floor. pic.twitter.com/MRDs5RpUPH

— Rep. Pat Tiberi (@PatTiberi) October 11, 2017

A few feet away from Tiberi, other reporters were pumping another Ohio Republican on the Ways and Means Committee for answers as well – but like with Tiberi, not getting very far.

“Still talking about it,” Renacci said when asked a very detailed question about a certain part of the possible tax bill. “Still talking about it,” he said several times.

Every time there is a vote on the House floor, or a meeting of Republicans, the same group of key lawmakers gets chased around – and the questions fly.

What about the state and local tax deduction?

Will there be a fourth tax bracket for the wealthy?

Will the corporate rate really drop to 25 percent?

Where will tax brackets be set?

And the questions go on and on, as everyone waits for an actual bill to be released to the public.

Ways/Means Chair Brady tells Fox Business he won't "plot out timing" 4 tax reform" but says Nov "would be the perfect timing going forward"

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 11, 2017

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have bristled at some evaluations of the outline of the Trump tax plan done by outside groups, saying they are partisan and incomplete.

“Those are all false, because they aren’t based on any real data,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), who made clear to reporters that the tax bill isn’t complete.

By that same reasoning, then one can’t give estimates of how much the tax plan would save taxpayers – because the details aren’t final, and won’t be for weeks.

“We’re looking at sometime in November,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), when asked when the details might be revealed.

Collins is often cornered by reporters looking for insight into the battle over the state and local tax deduction, which top Republicans would like to abolish in this tax reform plan.

“It’s kind of gone dark,” Collins said of what information he was getting back from GOP tax writers on a possible compromise related to state and local taxes.

And that’s why reporters keep trying to find someone who will spill some of the beans about the GOP tax reform details.

Blasting Iran deal, Trump adds even more to a crowded Congressional agenda

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 20:18

Already asking Congress to approve landmark tax reforms, a controversial package of health care changes, and a series of hot button immigration actions, President Donald Trump on Friday added yet another major item to the Congressional to-do list in 2017, urging lawmakers to pass new legislation in coming weeks adding conditions to the Iran nuclear deal.

“The flaws in the deal also include insufficient enforcement and near total silence on Iran’s missile programs,” the President declared, bluntly warning that if Congress did not act, he might tear up the Iran agreement on his own.

If there was one theme this week across the varied landscape of issues addressed by the White House and Mr. Trump, it was President Trump asking for action now by the House and Senate.

“We’re going to also pressure Congress very strongly to finish the repeal and the replace of Obamacare once and for all,” the President said on Thursday, as he rolled out a new executive order on health insurance changes, and then announced an end to payments to health insurance companies which pay subsidies for some consumers who buy coverage through the Obama health law exchanges.

A pattern: on health care, DACA, JCPOA: Trump admin undermines policy & kicks it to Congress-but does not repeal the policy or replace it

— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) October 13, 2017

But the record of Congress so far on Mr. Trump’s agenda has been spotty, and the White House publicly noted this week that on the failed effort on health care.

“They all promised and campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare; they haven’t done that,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said flatly.

“Time and time again, Congress has made promises and failed to deliver,” Sanders added.

SH Sanders says White House not worried about Trump alienating GOP lawmakers, says Congress has failed to do their job

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) October 10, 2017

After the Senate failed to approve a health care bill by a September 30 deadline, GOP leaders in the Congress were ready to switch their focus mainly to tax reform.

But the President has had other ideas.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump rolled out a series of demands for any immigration legislation, tying a series of measures to crack down on illegal immigration to the approval of any plan on immigrant “Dreamers.”

The President has said he wants Congress to act by March on the DACA/Dreamers issue, but Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) suggested Thursday that deadline could slip.

“As President, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, which makes clear that all legislative powers are vested in the Congress, not the President,” Mr. Trump wrote in a letter, making it clear he wants lawmakers to act on immigration, which is not something that will happen with the snap of someone’s fingers.

In a speech on Wednesday to a group of truckers on tax reform, the President had a clear message for lawmakers in attendance.

“And our great Congressmen, Congresswomen, and all of the people that we’re working with, all I can say is: You better get it passed,” Mr. Trump said.

Ryan claims he will keep House in session over Christmas if necessary to pass tax reform

— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) October 12, 2017

If tax reform were the only major issue on the docket, that alone would be difficult to complete by the end of the year. In fact, on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was already threatening to keep lawmakers at work over the holiday break.

“We’re going to keep people here for Christmas if we have to,” the Speaker said.

One other item that must be addressed is the funding bills for Uncle Sam, as a December 8 government shutdown deadline already looms – and without a deal yet on how much money would be spent in 2018, you can’t negotiate that bill.

“If we wait until December 8, it gets pretty hard to get it done,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Trump moves to end insurance subsidies for low income Americans under Obama health law

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 03:36

Hours after President Donald Trump unveiled a series of executive actions that could force changes in the Obama health law, the White House announced late Thursday night that it would end the practice of making government “cost-sharing reduction” payments to health insurance companies, which help pay the insurance premiums of low income Americans who get health coverage through the Obamacare exchanges.

“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” the White House said in a statement, pressing for broader action on health care by the House and Senate.

“Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people,” the White House Press Secretary said, labeling the subsidy payments, a “bailout.”

BREAKING: White House says it cannot lawfully pay subsidies to health insurance companies under President Obama's health care law.

— The Associated Press (@AP) October 13, 2017

The decision to end the CSR payments – which had been threatened by the White House for months – was quickly condemned by members of both parties in Congress.

“This decision will spike health care costs that are already way too high,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who labeled the move by the President, “deliberate sabotage.”

“President Trump has apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system,” said the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, in a joint statement.

“Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

There is no justification for putting healthcare out of the reach of some of our most vulnerable populations. We must #ProtectOurCare.

— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) October 13, 2017

The money for the CSR payments had been a thorny political – and legal – matter for several years, because the Congress never voted to spend that money; instead the Obama Administration simply made the payments to insurance companies.

Critics of the idea say it will do two things – result in higher insurance premiums, and actually cost the federal government more in subsidy payments.

But others cheered the President’s move, and said this should force a re-opening of the health care overhaul debate in the House and Senate.

“Under our Constitution, the power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the executive branch,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“President Trump made the right call in deeming these payments unlawful,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House.

“Congress must fulfill the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with high-quality, patient-centered health care,” Walker added.

It’s not clear what the response will be in Congress, though bipartisan talks have been underway in the Senate in recent weeks – which include a plan to fund the CSR payments that were ended by the Trump Administration.

Some Republicans grumble as House approves $36.5 billion hurricane aid bill

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 02:49

As the U.S. House voted Thursday in favor of a package of disaster relief to help those hit by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, a number of GOP lawmakers voiced their budgetary displeasure, with over five dozen Republicans voting against the bill, as they called for budget cuts, changes in the federal flood insurance program, and other measures to avoid increasing the deficit.

One item that drew a sharp rebuke was a plan to funnel $16 billion into the National Flood Insurance Program – which is already saddled with billions in debt.

“I am disappointed that Congress chose to bail out the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on the backs of the American taxpayers,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), one of six Texas Republicans who voted against the hurricane aid package, even though it would deliver needed resources to the Lone Star State.

“I am greatly disappointed that the NFIP bailout would come before the House with NO reforms,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said in his own statement, as he labeled the move “unacceptable.”

That $16 billion would insure that claims are paid out for damage from this year’s hurricanes. Back in 2013, a similar move to insure the payment of claims from Hurricane Sandy drew the opposition of 67 Republicans. This time it was 69 GOP lawmakers voting against a hurricane aid plan.

The House had included a series of flood insurance reforms in an earlier bill that provided extra tax relief to hurricane victims – but those provisions were stripped out by the Senate.

While flood insurance provisions got the back of the hand from some Republicans, others were frustrated by a lack of budget cuts to offset billions in new disaster relief spending, as the relief tab is only expected to grow – and grow – in coming months.

“I believe Congress can help those affected by natural disasters in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN).

“Unfortunately, this legislation contains no cuts to offset the new spending on disaster relief,” he added in a statement.

The hurricane relief bill now goes to the U.S. Senate, where it could get even larger, as lawmakers from Texas have asked for almost $19 billion in aid just for that state, and lawmakers from Florida have requested $27 billion.

Trump executive actions on health care unlikely to have immediate impact

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:50

With Republicans in Congress unable to pass a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, President Donald Trump on Thursday took a first step to force change, approving a series of executive actions which he says will allow Americans to buy less expensive health insurance policies in the future, though the exact details of the new plans from the Trump Administration must still be developed, and won’t go into effect immediately.

“I just keep hearing repeal, replace, repeal, replace, and that’s what we’re starting,” the President said in a White House ceremony, emphasizing that this announcement takes the “first steps to providing millions of Americans with Obamacare relief.

“Today is only the beginning,” the President declared, as he vowed to finish the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, “once and for all.”

“This order takes first steps to make it easier for businesses to help their workers afford high quality and more flexible health care,” the President added, though the details of how all of this would develop still must be worked out by the feds.

POTUS says his executive order is taking "first steps to providing millions of Americans with Obamacare relief" https://t.co/JwJazxmkn2 pic.twitter.com/9gknLGw3nm

— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 12, 2017

White House officials though stressed that any reforms would be months away, and might not change insurance coverage rules until 2019.

The reason for the delay – the changes offered up by the President would have to go through a regular government rule-making process, which takes time.

In a release, the White House said the moves by the President would “take the first steps to expand choices and alternatives to Obamacare plans and increase competition to bring down costs for consumers.”

But the details of the executive actions did not indicate immediate change:

+ The order “directs the Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans”

+ The order directs three different cabinet departments “to consider expanding coverage through low cost short-term limited duration insurance” policies. Those short-term plans would not be subject to coverage rules under the Obama health law, and would likely not cover people with pre-existing conditions.

+ The Trump order directs three different cabinet departments “to consider changes to Health Reimbursement Arrangements.”

“It’s a promise to make changes,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, who added on Twitter, “it doesn’t itself change anything.”

“It’s a chance for Trump to look like he’s doing “something.” But he’s not, or at least not yet,” Bagley added.

Adm officials on letting self-employed people buy into assoc plans:

“That is a question that will be considered in the rulemaking process."

— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) October 12, 2017

In documents released by the White House, there were no specifics offered on buying health insurance across state lines – something touted often by the President and GOP lawmakers – other than saying these moves by Mr. Trump would “potentially allow some employers to join together across State lines to offer coverage.”

Sales of health insurance across state lines is already legal under the Obama health law, but few states and companies have engaged in that practice; many state insurance commissioners are not fans of that, either.

Reaction from Republicans and the business community was positive to the President’s actions.

“This is what real free market replacement looks like,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

“Millions of Americans will be eligible to band together to demand less-expensive insurance. The 28 million individuals left behind by Obamacare will now be eligible for inexpensive insurance,” Paul said.

Pres. Trump says new executive order will direct gov't to take action to increase competition, choice and access to lower priced options. pic.twitter.com/MQgBlYUrMM

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 12, 2017

“In the wake of the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, we are grateful to President Trump for addressing regulations that make it harder and costlier for small business owners to provide healthcare for themselves and their employees,” said Juanita Duggan, the head of the National Federation of Independent Business.

As for Democrats and groups that support the Obama health law, while they were waiting to see the details of what will actually change, their view was simple – that this is an effort to sabotage Obamacare.

“This will sabotage health insurance markets and will be catastrophic for millions of Americans, whose coverage will become more expensive,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

After failing to convince the American people & the majority of Senators, Trump is now forcing Trumpcare via executive order. It's sabotage.

— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) October 12, 2017

“The executive order envisions loosely regulated plans that offer cheaper and skinnier insurance to those who are healthy,” said Larry Levitt, a top executive at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Insurers will raise premiums and leave markets,” said Andy Slavitt, who oversaw the health law during part of the Obama Administration. “New entrants will be the junk insurance companies that had gone away.”

Here is the full Executive Order signed by the President, as released by the White House:

 

PROMOTING HEALTHCARE CHOICE AND COMPETITION ACROSS THE UNITED STATES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1Policy.  (a)  It shall be the policy of the executive branch, to the extent consistent with law, to facilitate the purchase of insurance across State lines and the development and operation of a healthcare system that provides high-quality care at affordable prices for the American people.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), however, has severely limited the choice of healthcare options available to many Americans and has produced large premium increases in many State individual markets for health insurance.  The average exchange premium in the 39 States that are using www.healthcare.gov in 2017 is more than double the average overall individual market premium recorded in 2013.  The PPACA has also largely failed to provide meaningful choice or competition between insurers, resulting in one-third of America’s counties having only one insurer offering coverage on their applicable government-run exchange in 2017.

(b)  Among the myriad areas where current regulations limit choice and competition, my Administration will prioritize three areas for improvement in the near term:  association health plans (AHPs), short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

 

(i)    Large employers often are able to obtain better terms on health insurance for their employees than small employers because of their larger pools of insurable individuals across which they can spread risk and administrative costs.  Expanding access to AHPs can help small businesses overcome this competitive disadvantage by allowing them to group together to self-insure or purchase large group health insurance.  Expanding access to AHPs will also allow more small businesses to avoid many of the PPACA’s costly requirements.  Expanding access to AHPs would provide more affordable health insurance options to many Americans, including hourly wage earners, farmers, and the employees of small businesses and entrepreneurs that fuel economic growth.

 

(ii)   STLDI is exempt from the onerous and expensive insurance mandates and regulations included in title I of the PPACA.  This can make it an appealing and affordable alternative to government-run exchanges for many people without coverage available to them through their workplaces.  The previous administration took steps to restrict access to this market by reducing the allowable coverage period from less than 12 months to less than 3 months and by preventing any extensions selected by the policyholder beyond 3 months of total coverage.

 

(iii)  HRAs are tax-advantaged, account-based arrangements that employers can establish for employees to give employees more flexibility and choices regarding their healthcare.  Expanding the flexibility and use of HRAs would provide many Americans, including employees who work at small businesses, with more options for financing their healthcare.

 

(c)  My Administration will also continue to focus on promoting competition in healthcare markets and limiting excessive consolidation throughout the healthcare system.  To the extent consistent with law, government rules and guidelines affecting the United States healthcare system should:

 

(i)    expand the availability of and access to alternatives to expensive, mandate-laden PPACA insurance, including AHPs, STLDI, and HRAs;

 

(ii)   re-inject competition into healthcare markets by lowering barriers to entry, limiting excessive consolidation, and preventing abuses of market power; and

 

(iii)  improve access to and the quality of information that Americans need to make informed healthcare decisions, including data about healthcare prices and outcomes, while minimizing reporting burdens on affected plans, providers, or payers.

 

Sec. 2Expanded Access to Association Health Plans.  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Labor shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand access to health coverage by allowing more employers to form AHPs.  To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, the Secretary should consider expanding the conditions that satisfy the commonality‑of-interest requirements under current Department of Labor advisory opinions interpreting the definition of an “employer” under section 3(5) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.  The Secretary of Labor should also consider ways to promote AHP formation on the basis of common geography or industry.

 

Sec. 3Expanded Availability of Short-Term, Limited‑Duration Insurance.  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand the availability of STLDI.  To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, the Secretaries should consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer.

Sec. 4Expanded Availability and Permitted Use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements.  Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.

 

Sec. 5Public Comment.  The Secretaries shall consider and evaluate public comments on any regulations proposed under sections 2 through 4 of this order.

 

Sec. 6Reports.  Within 180 days of the date of this order, and every 2 years thereafter, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor and the Federal Trade Commission, shall provide a report to the President that:

 

(a)  details the extent to which existing State and Federal laws, regulations, guidance, requirements, and policies fail to conform to the policies set forth in section 1 of this order; and

 

(b)  identifies actions that States or the Federal Government could take in furtherance of the policies set forth in section 1 of this order.

 

Sec. 7General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

 

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

 

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

 

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

 

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

 

 

 

 

DONALD J. TRUMP

President Trump ready to issue executive actions on health care

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 00:57

Unable to get a bill through the Congress to overhaul the Obama health law, the White House announced that President Donald Trump would sign an order on Thursday to “promote healthcare choice and competition,” as Mr. Trump is expected to approve plans that would relax rules under Obamacare, allowing for the sale of health insurance policies that don’t cost as much, but cover fewer medical items.

“With Congress the way it is, I decided to take it upon myself,” the President told reporters on Tuesday in the Oval Office, saying his new plan would “go a long way to take care of many of the people who have been so badly hurt on health care.”

“It will be great, great health care, for many, many people,” Mr. Trump added, as he has made clear he was ready to act.

Since Congress can't get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017

“It will not cost our country anything, but they will have great, great health insurance again,” the President said.

As for the details of what will be proposed, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says he has been working with Mr. Trump for some time on a proposal that could be done by executive action, as Paul wants to loosen rules on “association” health plans, allowing people to buy policies that don’t have to follow all the coverage requirements under the Obama health law.

Under a bill proposed by Paul several months ago, groups could set up “Independent Health Pools” for the purpose or purchasing insurance – “including churches, alumni associations, trade associations, other civic groups, or entities formed strictly for establishing an IHP.”

Experts also believe the President will look to change rules dealing with short-term health insurance plans, which can also skirt the coverage rules of the Obama health law, allowing for the sale of policies that would not meet the coverage requirements under Obamacare.

An expansion in short-term plans that exclude pre-existing conditions is the part of the order that could most undermine the ACA. https://t.co/XTbRlquOiV

— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) October 12, 2017

“Short-term plans can now only be used for 3 months and you have to pay the individual mandate penalty,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“An executive order might change that,” Levitt wrote on Twitter.

There is also the possibility that the feds could use some of the provisions of the Obama health law to make changes from within as well, as there are 1,442 different places where the Secretary of Health and Human Services is given the discretion to spell out certain details.

Mr. Trump this week also said he would allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines – that is already allowed under the Obama health law. It wasn’t immediately clear how this plan would make that easier, or what would be changed.

Trump complains it is “disgusting” the press is “able to write whatever it wants”

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 18:56

Still steamed at a series of recent stories about his White House from NBC News, President Donald Trump on Wednesday took aim at the TV network, wondering aloud about an investigation of the press, denouncing “Fake News,” and complaining about the media’s work on his administration in general.

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” the President said during a photo op in the Oval Office, as Mr. Trump said there should be questions asked of the news media – “and people should look into it.”

“The press should speak more honestly,” the President added. “I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press – it’s not even a question of distortion.”

President Trump: "It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it." pic.twitter.com/gT9FhI94tJ

— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 11, 2017

Earlier in the day, the President issued a tweet, but also threatened the possibility of retaliation against NBC, asking “at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”

But as experts correctly pointed out, the NBC network does not need a license to operate – though, any TV stations owned directly by the network would need government licensing approval.

That tweet earned a swift rebuke from one media advocate, the National Association of Broadcasters, who invoked the First Amendment.

“It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist,” said NAB President Gordon Smith, a former Republican U.S. Senator.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has issued a string of negative tweets at the news media, clearly angered by details about him in a series of stories.

With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

It would be really nice if the Fake News Media would report the virtually unprecedented Stock Market growth since the election.Need tax cuts

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

The Fake News is at it again, this time trying to hurt one of the finest people I know, General John Kelly, by saying he will soon be…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

…fired. This story is totally made up by the dishonest media.The Chief is doing a FANTASTIC job for me and, more importantly, for the USA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017

.@NBCNews is so knowingly inaccurate with their reporting. The good news is that the PEOPLE get it, which is really all that matters! Not #1

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

Late Night host are dealing with the Democrats for their very "unfunny" & repetitive material, always anti-Trump! Should we get Equal Time?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

While Democrats criticized the President’s comments, even some Republicans joined in to question him – this from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE):

Mr. President:
Are you recanting of the Oath you took on Jan. 20 to preserve, protect, and defend the 1st Amendment? pic.twitter.com/XLB7QXM3bQ

— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) October 12, 2017

Speaker Ryan suggests administrative fix to stop sales of ‘bump stocks’

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 15:16

While members of both parties push a new bill in the Congress to ban ‘bump stocks,’ an accessory used in the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled on Wednesday that he is more interested in just having the feds declare those items illegal for sale in the future, questioning why a government agency cleared ‘bump stocks’ in the first place.

“The regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix,” Ryan told reporters, pointing out that the sale of bump stocks had been allowed to proceed during the Obama Administration by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

“We are still trying to assess why the ATF let this go through in the first place,” the Speaker added.

“It makes sense that this is a regulation that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” the Speaker said, giving no indication that he thought the Congress should act on legislation related to the matter.

Ryan on bump stocks: We are still trying to assess why ATF let this go through..this is a regulation that probably shouldn't have gone thru

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 11, 2017

In the House, lawmakers from both parties have come together on a bill that would ban ‘bump stocks’ from sale in the United States – but there’s no sign at this point that GOP leaders would schedule such a plan for a vote.

“For the first time in decades, there is growing bipartisan consensus for sensible gun policy, a polarizing issue that has deeply divided Republicans and Democrats,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who introduced the bill along with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).

“It is time for Democrats and Republicans alike to find the courage to act,” Moulton added in a joint statement.

For some, the idea of a law is much better than a regulatory change as suggested today by the Speaker.

“We need to codify into law a ban on bump stocks<" said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA). "These are killing machines."

White House tries to turn lack of action on agenda back on Congress

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 02:21

Not backing away from the President’s latest spat with a GOP Senator, the White House on Tuesday took square aim at the Congress, criticizing lawmakers for not passing legislation to overhaul the Obama health law, and urging fast action on a major tax reform bill, which Mr. Trump will press during a visit to Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

“The people of this country want tax cuts,” the President said during a photo op with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as Mr. Trump rejected the idea that his tussle with Corker would hurt his drive for tax legislation.

“People want to see massive tax cuts. I’m giving the largest tax cuts in the history of this country,” the President added.

The Failing @nytimes set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017

Corker was yet another Senate Republican to get a less than affectionate nickname from the President – back in the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump routinely referred to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “Lyin’ Ted,” and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as “Little Marco.”

“I don’t think he’s alienating anyone,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the President’s jabs at Corker.

“I think that Congress has alienated themselves by not actually getting the job done that the people of this country elected them to do,” Sanders told reporters.

“They all promised and campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare; they haven’t done that,” Sanders said. “But time and time again, Congress has made promises and failed to deliver. If anyone is being alienated, it’s people that are promising things and not delivering on them.”

In Congress, Republicans keep talking optimistically about tax reform, but they have not yet revealed the exact details of their tax reform plan, while promising it will deliver major changes to the tax code.

RT if you’d rather file your taxes on something as simple as a postcard. pic.twitter.com/1O6jjCBJ7I

— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) October 9, 2017

Republicans say they will not unveil the fine print of the tax bill until the House and Senate have agreed on a budget outline for 2018.

The House approved its ‘budget resolution’ last week – the Senate is expected to vote on a different version next week. Negotiations may be needed to hash out the differences, moving the timeline for the release of the tax reform plan close to, if not into November.

Like the recent effort on a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, this tax plan would only need a simple majority of votes in the Senate, as the expedited “budget reconciliation” process does not allow for a Senate filibuster.

Trump vows health care changes through executive actions

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 12:30

Stymied by Congress in his drive to overhaul the Obama health law, President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed to use his administrative powers as head of the Executive Branch to open up new avenues for people to buy less comprehensive health insurance plans – presumably at lower prices for consumers – as a way to change the dynamic involving Obamacare.

“With Congress the way it is, I decided to take it upon myself, so we’ll be announcing that soon,” the President told reporters at the White House, saying his move will “go along way to take care of many of the people who have been so badly hurt” by the Obama health law.

“They will be able to buy, they will be able to cross state lines, and they will get great, competitive health care, and it will cost the United States nothing,” Mr. Trump added.

It wasn’t clear exactly what the President would be approving by executive fiat this week, but with no prospects for action in the House and Senate anytime soon on health care, Mr. Trump has decided to act with his pen instead. The White House said the new executive actions would be released by Friday.

President Trump discusses his plan for health care: “With Congress the way it is, I decided to take it upon myself" https://t.co/zT1Bp3w1eu

— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 10, 2017

Since Congress can't get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017

That morning tweet by the President quickly caught the eye of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has pressed Mr. Trump to allow consumers to buy health insurance through associations, which presumably could mean new insurance options.

“This will be a great plan & a big deal for millions of Americans,” Paul wrote on Twitter, saying he has been working with the President “for months on this.”

“Details soon!” Paul added.

Paul’s plan would allow individuals to band together and form “Independent Health Pools” in order to purchase insurance.

“These can include nonprofit organizations (including churches, alumni associations, trade associations, other civic groups, or entities formed strictly for establishing an IHP) so long as the organization does not
condition membership on any health status-related factor,” Paul wrote about his own association health bill filed earlier this year.

One option under such a plan is that associations might not be required to follow the “Essential Health Benefits” set out in the Obama health law, allowing the sale of skimpier – and less expensive – health insurance plans.

As I wrote back in March, there are over 1,400 different provisions – including changes in the Essential Health Benefits – where the President could tinker with the Obama health law already, and then through an executive action, he could presumably do even more.

One irony about such a move is that Republicans often fumed about administrative changes made in the law by President Obama – now Mr. Trump will be doing much the same, unable to get legislative changes through the House and Senate.

Trump-Corker spat only adds to GOP concerns about tax reform

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 01:47

As lawmakers in Congress from both parties anxiously await the fine print of a major tax reform plan from Republicans, President Trump’s Sunday social media spat with a key GOP Senator was a reminder that the White House may be in a more precarious political situation when it comes to getting the votes for tax reform, than the recently failed effort on changes to the Obama health law.

“Count me out if it adds a penny to the deficit,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week about the outlines of a GOP tax reform bill, as the Tennessee Republican has made clear he will vote to start the tax reform process – but not necessarily back the final product.

Those words – and other criticisms – made the President boil over on Sunday, when he sent out a string of highly critical tweets aimed at the Senator.

“I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that's about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017

While those tweets might make the President and his allies feel good, Republicans simply can’t lose votes like Corker – especially in the Senate, where like on health care, if three GOP Senators go against Mr. Trump, tax reform legislation won’t be approved.

Along with Corker’s shot across the bow on the deficit, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has repeatedly made clear that he doesn’t like the details made public so far on tax reform, saying the GOP plan looks like it will end up raising taxes on many middle class voters.

“We must speak up and fix this plan,” Paul wrote in an op-ed piece for Forbes Magazine.

“What I will not accept is a tax hike on the middle and upper middle class, sacrificing their paychecks on the altar of “reform,” Paul wrote.

This is a GOP tax plan? Possibly 30% of middle class gets a tax hike? I hope the final details are better than this. https://t.co/lcjkI4YRz8

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) October 2, 2017

Those type of red flags – before the details are even out – have some Republicans concerned.

“I wish we had 62 Republicans instead of 52,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). “But we don’t.”

Even before we know all the details of the tax reform plan, one item is getting a lot of attention, and that is the stated goal of the White House and GOP leaders in Congress to end the deduction for state and local taxes.

“To lose deductibility of state and local taxes is unfair, and I’m going to continue to fight it,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ).

“I am going to do what I can to rally states like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Connecticut,” MacArthur told reporters off the House floor. “It’s not fair to give the entire country a tax break on the back of the citizens of these six or seven states.”

“I don’t believe we’re going to get tax reform if there is the elimination of deductibility of state and local taxes,” Buffet said.

— Fumihiro Tohko (@fumihiro_tohko) October 4, 2017

It’s not just more moderate Republicans from East Coast states with higher taxes who have raised questions about the possibility of doing away with the state and local tax deduction.

“It is not” just Blue States, said Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), who says that local property taxes in Texas can certainly be a big write-off for itemizers in the Lone Star State as well.

“I’m from a high property tax state,” Marchant told reporters, acknowledging that a number of GOP colleagues have made it clear to the tax writing Ways and Means Committee that they don’t want the state and local tax deduction phased out.

“There are some people who say, it isn’t a big issue back home,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA). “Well, in some places, it is the issue back home.

Paul Ryan: House Ways and Means Committee will release a tax bill within three weeks #TaxReform

— Shaun Hunley (@ShaunHunley) October 4, 2017

The state and local tax deduction isn’t the only possible pitfall for Republicans – more will likely emerge once the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate produce an actual draft tax reform bill, chock full of all sorts of details.

The goal is to do that in October – but it could still slip.

And if you are going to do a full tax reform bill, there will be a never-ending source of stories about whatever is in those details.

“Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!” the President tweeted last month.

But if Mr. Trump battles more with individual GOP lawmakers in the Congress, it could make that drive for tax reform even more difficult.

Trump White House wants series of immigration enforcement steps in any DACA deal

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:52

The White House has put forward a series of markers for what President Donald Trump wants in any Congressional deal that involves legislative protections for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” as Trump Administration officials made clear on Sunday night, that if the President is going to agree to shield those immigrants from deportation, then Mr. Trump wants some tougher anti-immigration measures in return from lawmakers.

“Now is the time for Congress to adopt these immigration priorities,” White House Legislative Affairs chief Marc Short told reporters on a conference call about the administration’s immigration plans.

“We’re asking that these reforms be included in any legislation concerning the status of DACA recipients,” Short added, leaving no doubts that the White House wants something in return for any DACA legislation.

Democrats swiftly labeled the requests, “deeply flawed.”

What exactly is the President proposing?

Here is the full list of requests – quoted from his Sunday letter, which was sent to Congressional leaders:

  1. Border Wall.  Our porous southern border presents a clear threat to our national security and public safety, and is exploited by drug traffickers and criminal cartels.  The Administration therefore proposes completing construction of a wall along the southern border of the United States.

    1. Ensure funding for the southern border wall and associated infrastructure.
    2. Authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise, collect, and use certain processing fees from immigration benefit applications and border crossings for functions related to border security, physical infrastructure, and law enforcement.
    3. Improve infrastructure and security on the northern border.

 

  1. Unaccompanied Alien Children.  Loopholes in current law prevent “Unaccompanied Alien Children” (UACs) that arrive in the country illegally from being removed.  Rather than being deported, they are instead sheltered by the Department of Health and Human Services at taxpayer expense, and subsequently released to the custody of a parent or family member—who often lack lawful status in the United States themselves.  These loopholes in current law create a dramatic pull factor for additional illegal immigration and in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the apprehensions of UACs at our southern border.  Therefore, the Administration proposes amending current law to ensure the expeditious return of UACs and family units.

 

    1. Amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVRPA) to treat all UACs the same regardless of their country of origin, so long as they are not victims of human trafficking and can be safely returned home or removed to safe third countries.
    2. Clarify that alien minors who are not UACs (accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or have a parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody) are not entitled to the presumptions or protections granted to UACs.
    3. Terminate the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) by passing legislation stipulating care standards for minors in custody and clarify corresponding provisions of the TVPRA that supersede the FSA.
    4. Amend the definition of “special immigrant,” as it pertains to juveniles, to require that the applicant prove that reunification with both parents are not viable due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that the applicant is a victim of trafficking.  The current legal definition is abused, and provides another avenue for illicit entry.
    5. Repeal the requirement that an asylum officer have initial jurisdiction over UAC asylum applications to expedite processing.

 

  1. Asylum Reform.  The massive asylum backlog has allowed illegal immigrants to enter and stay in the United States by exploiting asylum loopholes.  There are more than 270,000 pending cases in the asylum backlog before USCIS, and approximately 250,000 asylum cases before EOIR.  Therefore, the Administration proposes correcting the systemic deficiencies that created that backlog.

 

    1. Significantly tighten standards and eliminate loopholes in our asylum system.
    2. Elevate the threshold standard of proof in credible fear interviews.
    3. Impose and enforce penalties for the filing of frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum applications, and expand the use of expedited removal as appropriate.
    4. Close loopholes in the law to bar terrorist aliens from entering the country and receiving any immigration benefits.
    5. Clarify and enhance the legal definition of “aggravated felony” to ensure that criminal aliens do not receive certain immigration benefits.
    6. Expand the ability to return asylum seekers to safe third countries.
    7. Ensure only appropriate use of parole authority for aliens with credible fear or asylum claims, to deter meritless claims and ensure the swift removal of those whose claims are denied.
    8. Prevent aliens who have been granted asylum or who entered as refugees from obtaining lawful permanent resident status if they are convicted of an aggravated felony.
    9. Require review of the asylee or refugee status of an alien who returns to their home country absent a material change in circumstances or country conditions.

 

  1. Ensure Swift Border Returns.  Immigration judges and supporting personnel face an enormous case backlog, which cripples our ability to remove illegal immigrants in a timely manner.  The Administration therefore proposes providing additional resources to reduce the immigration court backlog and ensure swift return of illegal border crossers.

 

    1. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 370 immigration judges.
    2. Establish performance metrics for immigration judges.
    3. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 1,000 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys, with sufficient support personnel.
    4. Ensure sufficient resources for detention.

 

  1. Inadmissible Aliens.  The current statutory grounds for inadmissibility are too narrow, and allow for the admission of individuals who threaten our public safety.  Therefore, the Administration proposes expanding the criteria that render aliens inadmissible and ensure that such aliens are maintained in continuous custody until removal.

 

  1. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include gang membership.
  2. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include those who have been convicted of an aggravated felony; identity theft; fraud related to Social Security benefits; domestic violence; child abuse; drunk driving offenses; failure to register as a sex offender; or certain firearm offenses, including the unlawful purchase, sale, possession, or carrying of a firearm.
  3. Expand the grounds of inadmissibility to include former spouses and children of individuals engaged in drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, if the official determines the divorce was a sham or the family members continue to receive benefits from the illicit activity.

 

  1. Discourage Illegal Re-entry.  Many Americans are victims of crime committed by individuals who have repeatedly entered the United States illegally, which also undermines the integrity of the entire immigration system.  Therefore, the Administration proposes increasing penalties for repeat illegal border crossers and those with prior deportations.

 

  1. Facilitate the Removal of Illegal Aliens from Partner Nations. Current barriers prevent the Federal Government from providing assistance to partner nations for the purpose of removing aliens from third countries whose ultimate intent is entering the United States.  Therefore, the Administration proposes authorizing DHS to provide foreign assistance to partner nations to support migration management efforts conducted by those nations.  This will allow DHS to improve the ability of Central and South American countries to curb northbound migration flows and to interrupt ongoing human smuggling, which will also substantially reduce pressures on U.S. taxpayers.

 

 

  1. Expedited Removal.  Limited categories of aliens are currently subject to expedited removal, which erodes border integrity and control by impeding the ability of the Federal Government to efficiently and quickly remove inadmissible and deportable aliens from the United States.  The Administration seeks to expand the grounds of removability and the categories of aliens subject to expedited removal and by ensuring that only aliens with meritorious valid claims of persecution can circumvent expedited removal.

 

 

  1. Interior Enforcement

 

  1. Sanctuary Cities.  Hundreds of sanctuary jurisdictions release dangerous criminals and empower violent cartels like MS-13 by refusing to turn over incarcerated criminal aliens to Federal authorities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes blocking sanctuary cities from receiving certain grants or cooperative agreements administered or awarded by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security

 

    1. Restrict such grants from being issued to:
  1. Any state or local jurisdiction that fails to cooperate with any United States government entity regarding enforcement of federal immigration laws;
  2. Any entity that provides services or benefits to aliens not entitled to receive them under existing Federal law; and
  3. Any state or local jurisdiction that provides more favorable plea agreements or sentencing for alien criminal defendants for the purpose of immigration consequences of convictions. 
    1. Clarify ICE’s detainer authority, and States’ and localities’ ability to honor that authority, so that States will continue to detain an individual pursuant to civil immigration law for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody.
    2. Provide indemnification for State and local governments to protect them from civil liability based solely on compliance with immigration detainers and transportation of alien detainees.
    3. Require State and local jurisdictions to provide all information requested by ICE relating to aliens in their custody and the circumstances surrounding their detention.
    4. Clarify the definition of a criminal conviction for immigration purposes, to prevent jurisdictions from vacating or modifying criminal convictions to protect illegal immigrants, and roll back erosion of the criminal grounds of removal by courts under the “categorical approach.”

 

  1. Immigration Authority for States and Localities.  The prior Administration suppressed cooperative partnerships between the Federal Government and State or local governments that wanted to help with immigration enforcement, undermining the security of our communities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes enhancing State and local cooperation with Federal immigration law enforcement in order to ensure national security and public safety.

 

  1. Clarify the authority of State and local governments to investigate, arrest, detain, or transfer to Federal custody aliens for purposes of enforcing Federal immigration laws when done in cooperation with DHS.
  2. Authorize State and local governments to pass legislation that will support Federal law enforcement efforts.
  3. Incentivize State and local governments to enter into agreements with the Federal Government regarding immigration enforcement efforts. 
  4. Provide the same extent of immunity to State and local law enforcement agencies performing immigration enforcement duties within the scope of their official role as is provided to Federal law enforcement agencies.

 

  1. Visa Overstays.  Visa overstays account for roughly 40 percent of illegal immigration.  The Administration therefore proposes strengthening the removal processes for those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas, and implementing measures to prevent future visa overstays which may account for a growing percentage of illegal immigration.

 

  1. Discourage visa overstays by classifying such conduct as a misdemeanor.
  2. Require that all nonimmigrant visas held by an alien be cancelled when any one nonimmigrant visa held by that alien is cancelled, to ensure that if an alien abuses one type of visa, he cannot circumvent the immigration system by then relying on another type of visa to enter the United States.
  3. Bar all visa overstays from immigration benefits for a certain period of time with no waiver.
  4. Clarify that the government does not bear any expense for legal counsel for any visa overstay in removal or related proceedings.
  5. Require DHS to provide all available data relating to any deportable alien to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Information Center for purposes of that alien’s inclusion in the Immigration Violators File, with the exception of aliens who cooperate with DHS on criminal investigations.
  6. Enhance the vetting of bond sponsors for those aliens who enter without inspection, to ensure that bond sponsors undergo thorough background checks prior to being eligible to post or receive a bond.
  7. Permit the Department of State to release certain visa records to foreign governments on a case-by-case basis when sharing is in the U.S. national interest.
  8. Permit the Department of State to review the criminal background of foreign diplomats or government officials contained in the National Crime Information Center database before visa adjudication, regardless of whether the applicant’s fingerprints are in the database.

 

  1. Necessary Resources.  The relatively small number of ICE officers is grossly inadequate to serve a nation of 320 million people with tens of millions of tourists and visitors crossing U.S. ports of entry every year.  Therefore, the Administration proposes providing more resources that are vitally needed to enforce visa laws, restore immigration enforcement, and dismantle criminal gangs, networks and cartels.

 

  1. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 10,000 ICE officers.
  2. Seek appropriations to hire an additional 300 Federal prosecutors to support Federal immigration prosecution efforts.
  3. Reforms to help expedite the responsible addition of new ICE personnel.

 

  1. Detention Authority.  Various laws and judicial rulings have eroded ICE’s ability to detain illegal immigrants (including criminal aliens), such that criminal aliens are released from ICE custody into our communities.  Therefore, the Administration proposes terminating outdated catch-and-release laws that make it difficult to remove illegal immigrants.

 

    1. Ensure public safety and national security by providing a legislative fix for the Zadvydas loophole, and authorizing ICE, consistent with the Constitution, to retain custody of illegal aliens whose home countries will not accept their repatriation.
    2. Require the detention of an alien: (1) who was not inspected and admitted into the United States, who holds a revoked nonimmigrant visa (or other nonimmigrant admission document), or who is deportable for failing to maintain nonimmigrant status; and (2) who has been charged in the United States with a crime that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

 

  1. Legal Workforce.  Immigrants who come here illegally and enter the workforce undermine job opportunities and reduce wages for American workers, as does the abuse of visa programs.  Therefore, the Administration increasing employment verification and other protections for U.S. workers.
    1. Require the use of the electronic status-verification system (“E-Verify”) to ensure the maintenance of a legal workforce in the United States.
    2. Preempt any State or local law relating to employment of unauthorized aliens.
    3. Impose strong penalties, including debarment of Federal contractors, for failure to comply with E-Verify.
    4. Increase penalties for any person or entity engaging in a pattern or practice of violations.
    5. Require the Social Security Administration to disclose information to DHS to be used in the enforcement of immigration laws.
    6. Expand the definition of unlawful employment discrimination to include replacement of U.S. citizen workers by nonimmigrant workers or the preferential hiring of such foreign workers over U.S. citizen workers.
    7. Strengthen laws prohibiting document fraud related to employment or to any other immigration benefit.

 

  1. Deportable Aliens.  The categories of aliens that currently qualify for deportation are insufficiently broad to remove aliens who pose a threat to the security of the American public.  Therefore, the Administration proposes expanding and clarifying the type of aliens who present a danger to Americans and should therefore be removable on an expedited basis.

 

  1. Expand grounds of deportability to explicitly include gang members.
  2. Expand the grounds of deportability to include those convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses or a single offense involving death or serious injury.
  3. Expand the grounds of deportability to include those who fail to register as a sex offender.
  4. Clarify the technical definition of “aggravated felony” by referring to “an offense relating to” each of the categories of crimes, rather than specifying the crimes themselves.  This will ensure certain kinds of homicide, sex offenses, and trafficking offenses are encompassed within the statutory definition.

 

  1. Gang Members.  Today, known gang members are still able to win immigration benefits despite the dangers they pose to American society.  As such, the Administration proposes implementing measures that would deny gang members and those associated with criminal gangs from receiving immigration benefits.

 

  1. Visa Security Improvements.  Without sufficient resources, the State Department is hindered from adequately vetting visa applicants.  As such, the Administration proposes enhancing State Department visa and traveler security resources and authorities.

 

    1. Expand the Department of State’s authority to use fraud prevention and detection fees for programs and activities to combat all classes of visa fraud within the United States and abroad.
    2. Ensure funding for the Visa Security Program and facilitate its expansion to all high-risk posts.
    3. Increase the border crossing card fee.
    4. Grant the Department of State authority to apply the Passport Security Surcharge to the costs of protecting U.S. citizens and their interests overseas, and to include those costs when adjusting the surcharge.
    5. Strengthen laws prohibiting civil and criminal immigration fraud and encourage the use of advanced analytics to proactively detect fraud in immigration benefit applications. 

 

  1. Merit-Based Immigration System

 

  1. Merit-Based Immigration.  The current immigration system prioritizes extended family-based chain migration over skills-based immigration and does not serve the national interest.  Decades of low-skilled immigration has suppressed wages, fueled unemployment and strained federal resources.  Therefore, the Administration proposes establishing a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers, and ending chain migration, to promote financial success and assimilation for newcomers.

 

    1. End extended-family chain migration by limiting family-based green cards to spouses and minor children and replace it with a merit-based system that prioritizes skills and economic contributions over family connections.

    2. Establish a new, points-based system for the awarding of Green Cards (lawful permanent residents) based on factors that allow individuals to successfully assimilate and support themselves financially.

    3. Eliminate the “Diversity Visa Lottery.”

    4. Limit the number of refugees to prevent abuse of the generous U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and allow for effective assimilation of admitted refugees into the fabric of our society.

 

 

Trump tangles with GOP Senator on Twitter, raising more questions on GOP agenda

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 15:52

President Donald Trump on Sunday used Twitter to attack a Republican Senator who has raised the possibility of not supporting a GOP tax reform bill, saying Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) didn’t “have the guts” to run for re-election, prompting Corker to respond with a flame throwing social media jab of his own, further inflaming tensions within the Republican Party over the President’s agenda.

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center,” Corker fired back in his own response to the President on Twitter.

“Someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Corker tweeted.

The unprecedented social media tiff between members of the same party only further highlighted the simmering divisions within the Republican Party, as the President alternately admonishes – and then demands the support of GOP lawmakers for his top agenda items.

It wasn’t exactly clear what provoked the President to slam Corker on Sunday morning, but the Tennessee Republican has made very clear that while he supports tax reform, he doesn’t want to vote for any GOP plan that increases the federal deficit as well.

Senator Bob Corker "begged" me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said "NO" and he dropped out (said he could not win without…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017

..my endorsement). He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said "NO THANKS." He is also largely responsible for the horrendous Iran Deal!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017

…Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn't have the guts to run!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017

It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.

— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 8, 2017

Since announcing his decision not to run for re-election, Corker has made clear that he was not going to be a rubber stamp vote for whatever the details turn out to be of a GOP tax reform plan in Congress.

I just want to put a marker down that I’m not interested in increasing our deficits,” Corker told reporters last week off the Senate floor.

In repeated hallway interviews this year with reporters at the U.S. Capitol, Corker has detailed his struggles to help guide the President, and to make sense of what the President wants to do on major policy issues, as Corker has made clear his displeasure on several occasions.

After Mr. Trump’s remarks following violence surrounding a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, Corker did not mince words to reporters during a stop in his home state.

“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful,” Corker said at the time.

That infuriated Mr. Trump in August, and it boiled over again on this Sunday morning, before the President left for a second straight day of golf at his Virginia golf course.

Even some Democrats were surprised by Corker’s tweet in response to the President.

“Damn,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) on Twitter, who has been a stern critic of the President from the Democratic side. “I wouldn’t even go this far.”

Florida asks Congress for $27 billion in initial hurricane disaster aid

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 07:00

A day after elected officials from Texas asked Congress for almost $19 billion in direct aid to help with recovery from Hurricane Harvey, lawmakers from the state of Florida dropped off their own request for $27 billion in relief related to damage from Hurricane Irma, joining Texas in making clear that’s just a ‘down payment.’

In a letter to key lawmakers in Congress, Florida’s Congressional delegation made clear that $27 billion for the Sunshine State “will likely cover only part of the state’s overall recovery costs and that additional funding will likely be needed once a more thorough damage assessment is complete.”

“Almost a month later, Floridians are still recovering, and much work remains to be done,” the letter stated.

The request from Florida is like that from Texas – an effort to get Congress to add more money to a $29 billion disaster aid supplemental spending plan submitted to lawmakers earlier this week by the White House.

The Florida request includes:

+ $10 billion to deal with water projects impacted by Hurricane Irma.

+ $7 billion for Community Development Block Grants to help repair damage from the storm.

+ $5 billion in agricultural aid, both for citrus growers and livestock interests.

The U.S. House is scheduled to vote next week on that extra funding from the Trump Administration, but it isn’t clear how much more lawmakers might add, as the requests from Texas and Florida are an extra $46 billion above this White House request – and both states have made clear they need much more than that figure.

A Senate vote on a new round of hurricane disaster relief is not expected until later in the month. The Senate is not in session for legislative work next week. Senators return to Washington on October 16.

Unlike in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which struck New Jersey in October of 2012, Republicans in Congress have made no effort to push for offsetting budget cuts to pay for disaster aid in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

That means all of the money approved for hurricane disaster relief will simply be added to the federal deficit.

Looking behind the numbers of the September jobs report

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 15:48

As the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in the month of the September – possibly due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma – the numbers behind that new jobs report did not seem to indicate a broader negative outlook for the U.S. economy, but it’s clear that economic growth still hasn’t moved into a higher gear as yet in the Trump Administration.

Here is some of what we learned:

1. This was the first monthly job loss since September 2010. Seven years. That’s how long it had been since the monthly jobs report went the wrong way, back during the second year of the Obama Administration. The loss of 33,000 jobs means the average monthly job growth so far in 2017 is just over 148,000 jobs. At this point in 2016, the average monthly job growth was just under 200,000 jobs. At this point in 2015, the average monthly job growth was 209,000 jobs. So, it’s clear that job growth so far during the Trump Administration has slowed from past years.

Unemployment rate falls to 4.2% in September; payroll employment changes little (-33,000) https://t.co/NsuHovcqn0 #JobsReport #BLSdata

— BLS-Labor Statistics (@BLS_gov) October 6, 2017

2. The unemployment rate headline was good. The national jobless rate dropped to 4.2 percent in September, which is the lowest since February of 2001, at the start of President George W. Bush’s Administration. The jobless rate did not go down because people were leaving the labor force – instead, the size of the labor force swelled by 575,000 people, which means many more people were actively looking for a job. The Labor Force Participation rate increased to 63.1 percent, the highest since March of 2014. So, those are strong numbers, despite the 33,000 job loss. But economists have long said that the economy needs monthly job growth of over 300,000 to help restore employment to many who suffered during the 2008-2009 downturn. And we haven’t been close to that.

Nice to see Americans come back to work:

US Labor Force Participation Rate up at 63.1%, highest since March 2014

— Lawrence McDonald (@Convertbond) October 6, 2017

3. The U6 rate lowest since June 2007. The broadest measure of unemployment is known as the U6 rate, which includes all unemployed, those who are working part time while looking for a full time job, and those who aren’t looking currently for a job – but still want one, and have worked in the last year. That rate dropped to 8.3 percent in September, the lowest U6 rate in over 10 years. That’s another good indicator about the psyche of the economy, and workers as well.

Sept jobs report: U6 unemployment at 8.3%…lowest since 2007.

— Greg (@gwhinton) October 6, 2017

4. Where were the job losses and job gains? This is where we get into the impact of the hurricanes, according to the Labor Department. “Employment in food services and drinking places dropped sharply in September (-105,000), as many workers were off payrolls due to the recent hurricanes,” the report stated. One of the strongest areas of the U.S. economy continues to be in health care, which added 23,000 jobs in September. Manufacturing was flat, which was a change from the last year.

BLS: "In September, a steep employment decline in food services and drinking places and below-trend growth in some other industries likely reflected the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey."

— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) October 6, 2017

5. GOP calls for tax reform. As D.C. digested the first negative growth jobs report in seven years, Republicans in Congress reinforced their call for tax reform legislation, arguing a cut in rates will spur new economic growth, and help the economy create more jobs. “In the weeks ahead, the Ways and Means Committee will move forward with pro-growth, pro-middle-class tax reform legislation that Congress will ultimately send to the President’s desk this year, for the first time in 31 years,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). Democrats meanwhile saw something different. “The U.S. economy is not working as it should for middle-class America,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY). One thing is for sure, this September jobs report was a curve ball for the markets.

#StockAlert: U.S. markets since the election pic.twitter.com/1kwamJuizO

— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) October 5, 2017

As Nate looms, cost of federal hurricane disaster relief grows

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 01:03

While President Donald Trump said this week that disaster aid efforts in Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria were “throwing our budget a little of whack,” the reality is that the relief numbers are quickly growing overall as the feds help deliver aid to those hit hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, with Tropical Storm Nate now possibly ready to take aim at the Gulf Coast in coming days as well.

The White House on Wednesday sent Congress a $29 billion request for extra disaster relief funds, which GOP leaders say will be voted on in the House next week, as the Trump Administration acknowledged the cost is not small change.

“The Federal Government alone is obligating close to $200 million per day for recovery activities,” White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders, as he asked for almost $13 billion to go into FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.

But even as that was landing in the lap of lawmakers, leading elected officials in Texas asked the Congress to add in another $18.7 billion – just to deal with the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Lone Star State.

“Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds,” the Governor, both Senators and most lawmakers from the Texas Congressional delegation wrote in a joint letter.

“However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy,” they added.

The Texas-specific disaster aid request is for:

+ $10 billion to repair and rehab U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects, and damage to ports in the Lone Star State.

+ $7 billion for Community Development Block Grants, though the letter noted that Texas really needs “over $40 billion” in those funds.

+ $800 million in emergency aid to educational institutions.

+ $450 million in small business disaster loans.

+ $300 million in Economic Development Administration grants.

+ $150 million in money to help repair damaged infrastructure.

While the almost $19 billion request from the state of Texas might seem to be a lot of money, Governor Greg Abbott said a month ago that he felt his state would need more than $100 billion in aid from Uncle Sam.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: The federal government will need to give over $100 billion towards Harvey relief #CNNSOTU https://t.co/UjwM6sXH59

— DEX MONEY (@DJ_Dexmoney) September 4, 2017

While Republicans pressed the need for offsetting budget cuts to pay for disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, no such plans have been put forward this year by either the Trump Administration or GOP lawmakers in Congress.

That means – and this has been standard procedure for disaster aid – that the final tab is simply added to the federal deficit.

White House officials have made clear that the $29 billion request – which could be changed by the Congress – probably won’t be the last in 2017.

“It can take up to 90 days after a major hurricane to finalize recovery cost estimates, and the Administration is committed to properly quantifying the costs of the necessary permanent repair work as quickly as possible,” the White House budget chief wrote.

As for the aftermath of Maria, Vice President Mike Pence will be in Puerto Rico on Friday to review disaster relief efforts there.

Pence told an audience in Florida on Thursday evening that the Trump Administration will do all it can to help those hit by Hurricane Maria.

VP Pence promised Kissimmee audience PR and USVI would be rebuilt and assistance would not end until job was done. Applause. @news965wdbo pic.twitter.com/84NyCWGgoT

— Joe Ruble (@JoeRubleWDBO) October 5, 2017

“Our message will be simple, we are with you, we stand with you and we will be with you every step of the way,” Pence said.

“This will be a long process, and this next round of funds certainly won’t be all that is needed,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

And that will cost billions as well.

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