VIDEO: Speaker Boehner shows reporter how to tie his tie properly

Published: Thursday, May 09, 2013 @ 11:54 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 09, 2013 @ 12:50 PM

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., is known on Capitol Hill for his dapper look and perfectly tied neckwear.

Recently after an interview with Peter Cook of Bloomberg News, Boehner gave the reporter a lesson in how to tie the perfect knot.

“You don’t have a dimple. You’ve got to have a dimple in it,” Boehner said.

Deep in the details of the Trump 2018 budget plan

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 8:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 8:07 PM

While some of the plans proposed in President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 seem unlikely to be approved by the Congress, the document sets out a unique road map of how the Trump Administration views a variety of functions within the federal government, and what items the White House would like to get rid of – big and small.

Here are eight things you might have missed in the fine print of the 2018 Trump budget:

1. An effort to close down excess military bases. The Trump budget includes a provision to start a round of military base closures in 2021, an idea that is sure to draw strong opposition, despite clear evidence that the military has too much overhead and infrastructure. Lawmakers have routinely rejected such efforts in recent years, with some still simmering about the impact of past base closure rounds – especially the last one in 2005. “The Department of Defense (DOD) has approximately 20 percent excess infrastructure capacity across all Military Departments,” the budget argues. While it may make sense to some, the odds are probably stacked against this provision in the Congress.

2. End funding for public broadcasting. For a number of years, Republicans have pushed to reduce the amount of money that the feds put into public broadcasting, and President Trump’s plan would do away with almost all the $484 million being spent this year on such activities, leaving $30 million to wind down operations. The White House argues that PBS and NPR ” could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members.” As with the effort to close down military bases, the odds would seem to be against this – but Congress will have the final say.

3. When is a Medicaid cut not a Medicaid cut? I have always tried to be very careful about using the term “cut” – because too often, there are not budget cuts, but just reductions in the level of increase in a program. Let’s look at Medicaid in the President’s 2018 budget as an example:

If you look at this graphic, you will see how the President’s budget would save $610 billion by reforming Medicaid. The second set of figures is the “baseline” for Medicaid – where spending would go without any changes. That says $408 billion would be spent on Medicaid in 2018, ending up at $688 billion in 2027. The bottom graphic is the Trump proposal, which has Medicaid at $404 billion in 2018 and $524 billion in 2027. “There’s not cuts at all,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). “It’s a matter of slowing the growth rate.” Yes, the Trump plan would spend less money than current built-in automatic growth rate, but the overall amount still goes up over the ten year budget.

4. But those are real cuts at CDC and NIH. One of the areas with some of the strongest bipartisan support is on medical research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And so, when the numbers came in on Tuesday, there was a bipartisan negative reaction on cuts to NIH and CDC. NIH funding would be reduced by from $31.8 billion to $25.9 billion. CDC’s budget would go down $1.2 billion, a 17 percent cut. It’s a pretty good bet that lawmakers will not approve those cuts suggested by the President. The former head of the CDC expressed his displeasure:

5. Still few details on funding infrastructure plan. For months, the President and his top aides have talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads and bridges in the United States. There was a fact sheet released by the White House, setting out some ideas, like rolling back regulations on how infrastructure projects are developed, but no new pot of money to fund $200 billion in seed money. “Providing more federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges,” the White House noted. One of the few ideas offered was to allow states to levy tolls on interstate highways, and allow private companies to run rest areas. The Trump plan reduces spending from the highway trust fund by $95 billion over ten years.

6. Farm country not pleased with Trump budget details. If you had an infrared heat detector just off the Senate floor today, you might have seen the steam coming from the ears of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Speaking with reporters, Roberts – well known for his dry wit – suggested the White House needs to make its budget writers count to 60 multiple times every day – to remind them that 60 votes would be needed for major farm policy spending changes. The Trump plan would save $38 billion over 10 years by limiting crop insurance subsidies and eligibility, streamlining conservation programs and more. Outside groups quickly made their voices heard on the proposed changes as well. It is hard to imagine these plans becoming law.

7. Legal Services Corporation again on the chopping block. One of the first debates that I distinctly remember from my first summer on Capitol Hill in 1980 was an effort to cut money from the non-profit Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low income Americans. The LSC budget is $384 million for this year, and under the Trump plan, would be cut down to around $30 million, to allow for operations to be terminated. Again, this is another budget cut that seems unlikely to be approved, as GOP lawmakers, like Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), are already saying they oppose such a plan.

8. Trump wants to sell D.C. drinking water authority. Created by Congress in 1859, the Washington Aqueduct brings drinking water to Washington, D.C., and parts of the Virginia suburbs. While the drinking facilities operate under the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water customers pay for all the operation and maintenance costs, as well as any improvements. Why does the White House want to sell this? “Ownership of local water supply is best carried out by State or local government or the private sector where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives,” the budget documents state. It’s not clear how the feds estimated that selling the authority would bring in $119 million for Uncle Sam.

If you want to read more of the details about the Trump 2018 budget, you can find those on the White House website.

President Donald Trump promises balanced budget in 10 years

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 12:22 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 7:22 PM

President Donald Trump’s first budget — which includes $3.6 trillion in cuts over 10 years — would slash federal dollars to most discretionary programs but beef up money for Defense, veteran services and Homeland Security amid a promise of a balanced budget by 2027.

“Finally we have a president who presents a pathway to a balanced budget, an enthusiastic Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said. “This budget provides much-needed increases in spending for our military while also reforming our welfare system by incentivizing work for able-bodied adults.”

RELATED: Trump budget plan calls for $3.6 trillion in spending cuts

But advocates for Ohio’s poor said proposed cuts to social programs, including food stamps and Medicaid, would devastate “the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Of the 1.5 million Ohioans receiving food stamps, 84.4 percent are children, seniors and disabled, said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

Hamler-Fugitt called the cuts “shameful.”

“The Trump budget proposes dramatic cuts to one of the most effective poverty reduction programs in the country,” she said. “He’s taking food off the tables of everyday families.”

Several lawmakers Tuesday emphasized that the budget is a mere proposal and hardly cast in stone. “I don’t think the president’s budget is going anywhere,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, wasn’t that blunt but did say the plan will undergo much revision in Congress.

RELATED: Trump budget slashes money of clean air and water programs

“The president and his people have given their recommendation,” he said. “Now it’s our job to go through the appropriations process…to come up with our own proposal. Congress has to appropriate every dime.”

Some Ohioans — including Portman — breathed a sigh of relief that the proposed budget plan calls for saving the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, a federal program that coordinates federal spending on drugs.

RELATED: House passes $1.1T spending bill

Trump’s draft budget — released weeks ago — had all but slated that office and its two major programs for elimination, drawing widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike who argued the office and its so-called drug czar are on the front lines in the national fight against opioid addiction.

The budget released Tuesday cut the office’s overall administrative costs from $20 million to $18.4 million, but kept its programs intact. Richard Baum, acting director of National Drug Control Policy, said he believed that staff could “find ways to continue all of our operations” with the request.

RELATED: Trump budget proposal includes 25% cut to food stamps

Portman said he appreciated that the White House “has changed course” on on the drug czar, but he wasn’t so happy with the proposed elimination of federal money to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is aimed at cleaning up the Great Lakes.

In documents explaining the budget, the administration argues that the $300 million saved by eliminating the program will enable the Environmental Protection Agency to refocus on “core national work.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the money is needed to preserve a valuable natural resource.

“Taking a blow torch to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could cost Ohio jobs that rely on the lake, and jeopardize public health by putting our drinking water at risk,” said Brown. “Those of us along the Great Lakes will not stand for a budget that eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

Any budget proposal in a divided political arena has its critics, but Trump’s first budget seemed to land with a fairly loud thud. While conservative like Jordan applauded its promise to end deficit spending within 10 years, others poked holes in proposals that called for gutting even programs with large and motivated constituencies.

“What is going on in the White House with this kind of budget?” asked Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “How many people in America want to cut cancer research? President Trump evidently does.”

Proposed cuts to Medicaid and education seemed to draw the loudest rebukes. The Medicaid cuts alone would amount to $600 billion, according to some estimates, and that doesn’t include the billions that would be trimmed from the program if the House-passed Republican health care bill becomes law.

“We’re no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off those programs,” said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“Compassion needs to be on both sides of that equation. Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds, but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it.”

Thomas Gentzel, executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association, said the $9 billion in proposed education cuts would “deliver a devastating blow” to the nation’s education system if enacted.

Mike Uhl, president of Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, said the Medicaid cuts would force hospitals like his to cut jobs and absorb the cost of more uncompensated care.

“Health care coverage is vital to working Americans (and) it’s vital that we not overlook the impact this will have on jobs,” Uhl said.

Ohio has much to lose from Trump’s budget proposals, according to Wendy Patton, senior project manager of Policy Matters Ohio, a left–leaning research group. Patton said the health care sector is a critical part of Ohio’s economy and the growth of private health care jobs in recent years has helped blunt the loss of manufacturing jobs in rural and urban counties alike.

There were some wins in the budget for Ohio. In addition to the additional money being ponied up for Defense, the budget request included money for cleanup work at the former uranium enrichment plant in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Portman said the $351 million budget request, if enacted, “would ensure there are no layoffs and that cleanup of the site stays on track.”

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said Trump’s budget “bends the out of control spending curve in the right direction by making good on his promises to reform mandatory spending, cut wasteful programs, and balance the budget.”

“This is a serious proposal to begin addressing our nation’s fiscal crisis,” he said.

Information from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press was used in this story.

Ex-CIA Director worried by 2016 contacts between Russia and certain U.S. persons

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 12:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 12:15 PM

Former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Tuesday that he was so concerned about intelligence that showed contacts between Russian officials and people linked to the campaign of President Donald Trump, that he warned key members of Congress and other intelligence agencies about the Russian actions, and sent that information on to the FBI for further investigation.

It became very clear to me last summer, that Russia was engaged in a very aggressive and wide ranging effort to interfere,” Brennan said, revealing that he had brought in experts from around the U.S. Intelligence Community to try to figure out what the Kremlin was doing.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US Persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee, as part of its review of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

At a hearing, Brennan refused to identify anyone by name, or give any indication as to whether the Russians had been successful in getting the “witting or unwitting” help of any Americans, to further the Kremlin’s 2016 efforts.

Pressed by several GOP lawmakers, Brennan acknowledged that he did not know of any evidence of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin – but Brennan said that was for the FBI to investigate, not the CIA.

“I don’t know whether or not such collusion – and that’s your term – such collusion existed, I don’t know,” Brennan said.

Brennan also denied that he had made last minute requests to unmask names of any U.S. Persons – possibly linked to the Trump Campaign – before the former CIA Director left the agency as President Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017.

The Russia investigation was also grabbing the attention of Senators at the same time, as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats refused to say whether he had been pressured by the President – or by White House officials – to try to get the FBI to drop its investigation into the Russia matter.

“I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize conversations with the President,” Coats said.

A former Senator, Coats seemed ill at ease as he sidestepped the queries of some of his former colleagues.

Trump budget plan calls for $3.6T in spending cuts; boost for defense

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 5:49 PM

In this photo taken May 2, 2017, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks at the White House in Washington. The White House is finalizing a budget blueprint that promises a balanced federal budget within 10 years, doubling down on cuts to domestic agencies and adding a new round of cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump will release a budget plan Tuesday calling for $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and a 10 percent increase in defense spending.

The budget plan presumes a 3 percent annual growth rate to the economy and, if its assumptions are correct, would balance the budget within the next decade.

Trump is proposing $3.6 trillion worth of cuts over the next decade – “the most proposed by any President in a budget,” according to summary sheets put out by the White House. The cuts would encompass both discretionary programs but also entitlement programs for low income Americans.

RELATED: House passes $1.1T spending bill

The budget includes at least $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid – but that could be more, assuming that the House-passed health care bill goes into effect as passed. It would cut $190 billion from the food stamp programs, cutting $272 billion overall from anti-poverty programs over 10 years.

But it would also cut other agencies as well, including 31.4 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget over one year, 29.1 percent out of State and other foreign programs and 19.8 percent out of Labor’s budget from 2017 to fiscal year 2018.

The bill would also defund Planned Parenthood and virtually eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Defense would see an increase in spending

Trump’s budget plan would boost defense spending by 10 percent and begin to pay for the border wall that Trump made a centerpiece of his campaign, according to Mulvaney.

The budget includes $2.6 billion for border security, with $1.6 billion going toward the “brick and mortar” construction of the wall, Mulvaney said, and the balance going toward enhanced technology and other infrastructure measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration.

RELATED: Top Air Force general says ‘all programs are at risk’

Mulvaney said the budget would boost programs encouraging school vouchers – which pay for public school students to go to private school – as well as a $25 billion program that would create nationwide child leave for mothers and fathers of newborn and adopted children.

The budget would also include $200 billion for infrastructure – another follow-up on a Trump promise.

In a briefing with reporters Monday, Mulvaney called the budget a “taxpayer-first budget,” that was “written through the perspective of people who pay taxes as much as the people who receive the benefit.”

He dismissed the notion that the budget would target the poor, saying many taxpayers would prefer to have their money go to pay for law enforcement or defend the nation rather than go for programs that have not been proven to work.

“People don’t mind paying taxes as long as they know their money is not being wasted,” he said. “And for too long the federal government has been unwilling to prove that’s the case.”

RELATED: Trump budget plan boost to military

“We are going to measure success by actually helping people,” he said, saying he considers that to mean “helping them get off programs and helping them get in charge of their own lives again.”

Mulvaney said that also meant requiring a Social Security number for the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit – a distinction which would effectively bar tax-paying undocumented immigrants from being able to use two tax credits that have been highly popular among the working poor. “How do you go to someone who has paid taxes and say, ‘hey, we want to give the Earned Income Tax to someone working here illegally,” Mulvaney said. “That’s not defensible.”

Will it get through Congress?

Members of Congress on both sides were skeptical Monday the budget plan would get through lawmakers.

“I do not believe the President’s proposed budget will be Congress’ starting point,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington.

Democrats were critical of the proposals.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, said the budget would be cut “on the backs of working people.”

“Ohio families know that making a budget is about choosing priorities,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, “and so far Ohio families have not been this Administration’s priority.

The budget is expected to be released mid-morning today. Mulvaney will testify before the House Budget Committee Wednesday and the Senate Budget Committee Thursday.