For the week ending January 19, 2018
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As this week rolls to a complicated end both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) find themselves at a clear disadvantage because they say they have no clear direction from Trump and are not in the business of passing legislation that won’t be signed. It is a real lament since Trump has given clear signals on passage of an immigration bill without his demands and the next day made demands on the bill. Democrats are not willing to go along with Trumps changes and diatribes but will not support a continuing resolution in the Senate if it does not address DACA. McConnell (who needs Democrat votes to pass a continuing resolution) and Ryan (who does not want a government shutdown on his watch) must find a way. Despite Trump’s insistence that a shutdown would be on the Democrats shoulders it is more likely that the Republicans who control legislation and the White House will take the hit. An unwilling place to be during an election year.
Those Investigations –
The interview with White House advisor Hope Hicks was scheduled this week for the House Intelligence Committee investigation but has been postponed. The big story is the two subpoenas; one compelling former Trump advisor Steven Bannon to appear before a grand jury as determined by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The other subpoena is another story; Bannon showed up at the House Intelligence Committee meeting this week, voluntarily, but continued to respond to questions with, essentially, no response. It has been reported that Bannon was advised by the White House to invoke Executive Privilege, a position that allows for information to be protected and not disclosed for reasons the president might have. Most don’t believe Bannon has that privilege. WH Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly told reporters that the White House did not claim executive privilege regarding Bannon’s testimony but Bannon’s attorney called the White House several time during his time with the Intel Committee.
In a surprising action Bannon was served a subpoena to appear before the House Intelligence Committee again and under oath while he was attending that committee’s interview this week. Two actually; one for testimony another for documents.
It was also reported that interim Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Conaway (R-TX-112) and Rep. Try Gowdy (R-SC-4) insisted on the subpoenas which were executed by Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA-6). They were infuriated by Bannon’s refusal to answer questions about his time during the transition and as a White House advisor to Trump.
It’s anyone’s guess what that subpoena is all about be it Bannon’s proximity to Trump and the wealth of information he can provide regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election or because his testimony could be so damning that the Committee under Nunes would possibly want to know what that information is before Mueller begins to conclude who did what re Russia. There are reasons to believe that the Intel Committee under Nunes is positioning itself to run interference for Trump as Mueller closes in on his inner circle. It may then be apparent that what Bannon has to say is information Nunes wants to have. It is just not clear why. Yet.
It is reasonable to conclude that Bannon’s testimony is in demand since his comments in the Michael Wolff book, ‘Fire and Fury’ in which he was quoted stating disparaging remarks about Trump, his actions, and those of his family. Bannon said in the book that Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr’s attendance with several Russians last year at Trump tower was treasonous and unpatriotic and even if it wasn’t the FBI should have been told about the meeting but were not. The meeting was intended to provide Russian-gathered information damning to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.
Mueller subpoenaing Bannon to appear before a grand jury is significant because he would be under oath and without legal counsel. Bannon reportedly said he will tell all to Mueller but not the House Intel Committee. Mueller does not have to depose Bannon before a grand jury and it appears he will not but has agreed to take Bannon on voluntarily without jury and without sworn testimony. Bannon would still be subject to criminal charges if he lies to the FBI under oath or not.
Finally, the House Intel Committee release the transcript of it interview with Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS that was hired to look into Trump dealings in and with Russian ad elsewhere around the globe. We have not yet received those transcripts but understand that a good bit of information about Russian money laundering and Trump properties. It is that information that lead former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele, who was hired by Fusion GPS to o the investigation to inform the FBI that due to the laundering activity the Russians or others may have something on Trump he doesn’t want made public.
The Delayed Action regarding Child Arrivals immigrants is a curiously shifting priority due mainly to it having become a negotiating chip to accompany either any budget work, immigration reform and / or passage of DACA in which the soon to expire program will be renewed.
DACA was created by Obama and required those childhood arrivals to register, have a job or be in school, no criminal record in order to receive a work permit. It was a two-year program Obama started the program in 2012 and intended to expand it but was stopped by the courts settling with several states that objected to the expansion.
Trump ended the program in 2017 giving it a six month reprieve while Congress came up with a decision to continue or deport those under DACA protection. The deadline is March or the program folds.
Trump was showing some generosity with the 6 month deal but now says he will not accept continuing the program if he doesn’t get funding for the proposed wall or wall expansion on the southern border.
Democrats are holding strong on not compromising DACA raising the possibility of a government shutdown that would occur if the government isn’t funded this week into the future. Thus a continuing Resolution is the only reasonable step forward since a full-fledged budget for FY 2018 is a task too large to get done in this short week.
Immigration Reform –
Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) discussed a bipartisan bill with Trump who said he would sign it even before he saw it. The bill does provide some funds for the southern border wall among other immigration issues. Two hours after the discussion with Trump the two Senators went to meet Trump about the bill and found themselves in a room of deficit hawks from Congress and Trumps staff. The matter got heated when Trump heard the bill allowed immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, and Africa. Trump’s comment that African countries are shitholes pretty much threw the wrench into the works. Basically buying time for anti-immigrant lawmakers to gather force.
Continuing Resolution –
Republicans need Democrat votes to pass a Continuing Resolution and Democrats are holding the DACA matter as leverage; ‘if you don’t recertify DACA we won’t help pass your Continuing Resolution’ is the message. Never-the-less the bill did pass the House and any negotiating must be done in the Senate where the bill needs 60 votes to pass. Republicans only have 51 votes and some Republican Senators have signaled resistance to the bill. Vote in the Senate is likely Friday, January 19. The action will be updated on our front page then.
DACA’s new role as a leverage point and because anti-immigrant Members such as Senators Tom Cotton (R- AR) and Sonny Perdue (R- GA) has for the time blocked the reasonable opportunity to pass a clean DACA bill and then move on to the budget resolution, fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other pressing matters. DACA then has become an orphan subject to political posturing and anti-immigration hardliners.
Monthly Budget Review –
The US budget deficit continues to increase monthly although December showed an $18 billion increase as opposed to the monthly increases averaging around $50 billion since April of 2017 including an increase of $120 billion for June 2017.
CBO reports; “In fiscal year 2017, which ended on September 30, the federal budget deficit totaled $666 billion— $80 billion more than the shortfall recorded in 2016. The deficit increased to 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, up from 3.2 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2015—but far lower than it was in 2009, when the deficit reached 9.8 percent of GDP.
In 2017, the government’s revenues amounted to $3.3 trillion—$48 billion (or 1 percent) more than receipts recorded in 2016. Revenues fell from 17.7 percent of GDP in 2016 to 17.3 percent in 2017, dropping just below the average (17.4 percent) of the past 50 years.”
The House and Senate are adjourning until Monday, January 29th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening February 1st.
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