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President Donald Trump in Cincy: Improve roads, waterways across U.S.

Published: Wednesday, June 07, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 08, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

Trump in Cincy

President Donald Trump on Tuesday outlined a plan to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridge, railways, dams and other infrastructure that would shift the largest portion of the cost to states, local governments and the private sector.

“At least $200 billion of the $1 trillion plan will come from direct federal investment,” Trump said in front of about 500 people at Rivertowne Marina along the Ohio River in Cincinnati. “Working with states, local government and private industry we will insure that these new federal funds are matched by significant additional dollars for maximum efficient and accountability.”

>>PHOTO GALLERY: The president visits Ohio

It is not clear where states like Ohio and many local governments would get the money to pay larger portions of the cost for infrastructure repair and construction. Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was in the audience and said Canada has had success with public-private partnerships. Even so, she said she would need to see more details of Trump’s plan.

“We do have to look at ways to fund it. The gasoline tax is not keeping up,” said Taylor, a Republican running for governor in 2018.

>>RELATED: Reaction to President Trump’s event in Cincinnati

Kevin W. Burch, president of Jet Express Inc. and chairman of the American Trucking Association, said the nation’s highways must be improved for the sake of commerce. He said $200 billion in federal funding is a starting point, but not enough. He advocates increasing the federal gasoline tax for the first time since 1993.

“The problem that we have is our government officials do not want any increase in taxes,” Burch said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement after the speech applauding Trump for focusing on rebuilding infrastructure.

Linda and Tom Jones of Loveland. Mr. Jones' brother, Don, owns the Rivertowne Marina in Cincinnati where President Donald Trump will speak today. Photo by Lynn Hulsey(Lynn Hulsey)

“The Chamber and the business community look forward to engaging with the White House and with Congress to develop and implement a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done,” said Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer.

Trump’s speech came after he landed at Cincinnati Lunken Airport and spoke to two families there about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which he opposes and wants to repeal and replace.

RELATED: Trump flying to Cincinnati on smaller Air Force One

Raya Mafazy Whalen, who with her husband Michael own Troy-based playground equipment company, PlayCare, said she told Trump about how she had to change doctors when she was pregnant because the OB-GYN she wanted to go to wasn’t covered under the insurance she had through the ACA. She said her husband had offered an insurance plan to employees but canceled it because it didn’t offer required coverage. As a result some employees left, she said.

“(Trump) was incredibly kind and warm,” said Whalen, who headed Women for Trump Montgomery County and founded Young Republican Women of Dayton.

RELATED: Trump visits with Oakwood family during his stop in Cincinnati

At the marina, Trump noted that Anthem had on Monday announced it was pulling out of the ACA marketplace in Ohio. The company said it was because of the uncertainty about what the federal government was doing with health insurance and a decline in the individual market.

“Bye bye,” said Trump. “What a mess.”

Trump called Democrats “obstructionists” who won’t help with the repeal and replacement of the ACA.

“That’s why they lost the House, they lost the Senate, the White House,” Trump said.

The Democratic National Committee responded by saying Republicans had sabotaged the ACA and were to blame for 70,000 Ohioans losing insurance through Anthem.

RELATED: Trump visit sparks debate over infrastructure needs, costs

“Republicans should abandon their spiteful, one-party health care repeal crusade and instead work with Democrats to make Obamacare work better,” said Erick Walker, DNC spokesman.

Terrence Clark, spokesman for the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund, said states are already facing big increased costs if Trump’s proposed budget is approved.

“While Trump is coming in to sell Ohioans and all Americans a bill of goods with his trillion-dollar infrastructure package, he’s skirting the fact that his budget directly undercuts millions of Americans – especially those in more rural areas - relying on other programs that will be cut, such as Medicaid and Social Security benefits,” Clark said.

Much of Trump’s speech was spent talking about what he said was the terrible state of American roads and bridges and touting progress he said he’s made cutting regulations.

Get up-to the-minute information on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics

“People are so impressed we have cut so many regulations,” Trump said, adding that his plan for infrastructure includes more cuts in regulations and speeding up the time it takes to get construction projects done.

He said the U.S. spends trillions of dollars overseas, including helping fight wars in the Middle East, but “we don’t ever seem to have the money ” to fix roads and bridges.

“It’s time finally to put America first and that’s what I’ve been doing if you hadn’t noticed,” Trump said.

RELATED: Trump infrastructure plan remains on the drawing board

RELATED: Trump to emphasize infrastructure plan during Cincy visit

President Trump coming to Cincinnati

He compared the initiative Americans showed by building the Panama Canal, the interstate highway system and the Golden Gate Bridge with what he said was a lack of will today.

“We don’t do that anymore. We don’t even fix the old highways anymore,” Trump said.

Trump also talked about problems with the nation’s 12,000-mile inland waterway system.

“These critical corridors depend on a dilapidated system of locks and dams that is more than half-a-century old, and their condition continues to decay,” he said. “Capital improvements of this system have been massively underfunded - and there is an $8.7 billion maintenance backlog that is only getting worse.”

The waterways are important to transportation and have “relied primarily on federal funding,” according to an infrastructure information sheet released by the White House. The document blames deferred maintenance and insufficient revenue to operate the current system and the 24 projects costing $7 billion that are authorized but not yet paid for.

RELATED: Ohio wants to fund smart highways, variable speed limits

It says the $8.7 billion cost of improving the inland waterways “could be financed through a modest fee on the beneficiaries of the system.”

RELATED: Trump to visit Cincinnati on Wednesday

Trump spoke with the Ohio River as his backdrop and with barges of what he said was West Virginia coal docked on the Kentucky shoreline. A large American flag was draped over the barge tugboat before he spoke. Trump said a new coal mine is opening next week and he also has a plan to stop the dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S.

“The steel folks are going to be very happy,” said Trump.

Trump said his plans will bring prosperity

“We too will see jobs and wealth flood into the heartland and see new products and new produce made and grown right here in the U.S.A. And you don’t hear that much anymore,” said Trump. “We will buy American and we will hire American.”

He said he is not content to let the country “become a museum of former glories.”

“We will construct incredible new monuments to American grit that inspire wonder for generations and generations to come,” Trump said. “We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

RELATED: Chao on infrastructure: Trump plan out in weeks 

President Donald Trump speaks about healthcare at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Shown are PlayCare co-owner Rays Whalen, left, and CSS Distribution Group President Dan Withrow and their families.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Senate approves budget outline, as GOP takes next step for tax reform

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:52 PM

The GOP push for a major tax reform bill in Congress took an important step forward on Thursday night, as the Senate approved a Republican budget outline for 2018, authorizing work on a tax reform bill that cannot be derailed by a filibuster, as President Donald Trump urged Congress to move quickly on a tax package.

“Tonight we completed the first step to replacing our broken tax code,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate vote was 51-49, with only Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) breaking ranks, as he voted against the plan, saying he was standing up for “fiscal responsibility.”

The vote was welcome news at the White House.

“I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said at the White House on Thursday afternoon, arguing tax relief would spur new economic growth in the United States on a large scale.

“If we get this done, it will be historic,” the President said. “It will be bigger than any plan ever approved or – ever. It will be the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country.”

That point was repeated on almost an endless loop by GOP Senators during Senate debate on the budget outline for 2018.

“This is the first step to getting us to pro-growth tax reform,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“It’s been more than 30 years since we reformed the tax code,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). “We have more preferences and loopholes and deductions than we know what to do with.”

“If we don’t get that done, then I don’t think we have another opportunity to pass a tax bill in the next four years,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“This budget allows us to cut taxes,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as few Senators dwelled on the fact that the GOP plan would allow their party’s tax plan to create $1.5 trillion in extra deficits over 10 years.

For some, that wasn’t enough.

“We should cut everyone’s taxes, to make sure we cut taxes for the middle class,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who offered an amendment to allow for deficits to go up by $2.5 trillion over ten years.

Paul’s change was soundly defeated on a vote of 93-7.

While Republicans rallied around the budget plan, critics of President Trump denounced it during Senate debate, in no uncertain terms.

“This is not a bad budget bill, this is a horrific budget bill,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

GOP Congressional leaders must still sort out the differences between the budget outlines approved in the House and Senate, before starting on their effort for the first major tax reform plan since 1986.

Some late changes made in the plan by Senate Republicans could pave the way for the House to simply accept the Senate version of the budget as early as next week, which would speed up the effort to begin debate on tax reform.

As of now, the fine print of the GOP tax reform package remain a secret. Republicans want that to change in the next few weeks.

George W. Bush warns 'bigotry seems emboldened' in America: Read his full remarks

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2:37 PM

George W. Bush Speaks In New York

Former President George W. Bush warned Americans to be wary of growing trends toward nativism and isolationism on Thursday during a speech at the Bush Institute’s national forum.

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“Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.”

The speech was widely interpreted as a veiled message aimed at the politics of President Donald Trump, who has often touted an “America first” view of world politics. However, Trump was not named in the speech.

Read Bush’s full remarks from the forum, “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World”:

Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here.

And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries.

I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny.

Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie (Tom Bernstein), I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.)

It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and applause) Thank you.

We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.

Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.

And free trade helped make America into a global economic power.

For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism.

We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy.

This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world.

That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change.

Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual.

These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union.

America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.

There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness.

We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.

This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper.

The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats.

America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets. 

Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed.

We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions.

And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country.

A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young.

Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.)

And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust.

For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation.

Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence.

Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections.

Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal.

Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another.

Thank you.

Pentagon still gathering details on Niger ambush as McCain suggests subpoena

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 3:56 PM

As a key U.S. Senator said again on Wednesday that the Trump Administration was not being forthcoming about an ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers in the African nation of Niger, the Secretary of Defense told reporters that an investigation is ongoing into the October 4 incident, which military officials believe was linked to a group that is backed by the Islamic State.

“We do not have all the accurate information yet,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at a Pentagon photo op. “We will release it as rapidly as we get it.”

Little has been said in public by either defense officials or the White House about the Niger incident, where a small group of U.S. Army soldiers were believed to have been ambushed by fighters who are linked to the Islamic State.

“The loss of our troops is under investigation,” Mattis said as he defended the lack of official details in public. “We in the Department of Defense like to know what we are talking about, before we talk.”

Monday was the first time that President Trump had commented about the attack in Niger; when asked about his silence, Mr. Trump instead talked about how he had written letters and called military families, seemingly raising questions about how his predecessors had handled similar situations.

The President did not say anything about the specifics of the attack; instead, the White House has become focused on a fight over what Mr. Trump said to the widow of one of the soldiers, and how it was interpreted by family members, and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who is close to the family.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, again said that little information had been given to members of Congress about the attack, making clear his frustration at the lack of details.

“It may require a subpoena,” McCain said on Thursday.

McCain has already threatened to slow down work some Pentagon nominees to get the attention of military leaders, so they will provide more information about the Niger situation, and he made clear that he has sent that message to the Defense Secretary.

This morning, McCain expressed his frustration with the Trump Administration on another front, after the White House did not send a witness to a Senate hearing on defending against cyber attacks.

“We’re going to have to demand a better cooperation and better teamwork than we are getting now,” McCain said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It wasn’t clear if McCain would hold hearings on the Niger incident, as Democrats started to publicly ask questions as well.

Trump meets with Puerto Rico Governor, praises recovery work post-Maria

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 2:06 PM

Repeatedly praising the work of the military and federal emergency officials, President Donald Trump used a Thursday meeting at the White House with the Governor of Puerto Rico to proclaim the disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria to be a success, pushing back against critics who say much still needs to be done to restore power and other basic services.

“I would give a 10,” the President said, ticking off a list of efforts made by FEMA and the military in Puerto Rico, as he sat with the Governor of the island in the Oval Office.

“We have done a really great job,” Mr. Trump added. “Texas – again – really far along, Florida really far along,” as the President said his administration has more than handled the troubles of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate.

At one point in the Oval Office, the President stepped in for reporters, and asked the Gov. Ricardo Rossello a question – “Did we do a good job?”

“You responded immediately,” the Governor answered.

Much still needs to be done in Puerto Rico – a government website today said that just 21 percent of the island has power, while 71 percent now have running water.

“Treat us the same as citizens in Texas, Florida and elsewhere, we will come out of this stronger,” the Governor said.

Earlier, the Governor was on Capitol Hill, asking for extra help in a supplemental hurricane relief bill that is expected to come up on the Senate floor next week, urging Senators to include more aid in that package for Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico doesn’t have another month and a half to address the liquidity issues that it is confronting,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is also asking for billions more in aid for his own state, hit hard by Hurricane Irma.

Not only does Puerto Rico want more in that aid bill, but officials from Florida and Texas have also requested additional funding; the plan approved by the House last week totals $36.5 billion, and could go higher.

“They’re loading it up,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), “with stuff that has nothing to do with disaster relief.”

Shelby, a top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, gave no examples of what extras were being added to the disaster relief bill.

The plan could get a first procedural vote on Monday.