White House Deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn stepping down, reports say

Published: Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 1:43 PM

White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs and Implementation Rick Dearborn (L), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and others attend a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and House of Representatives committee leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs and Implementation Rick Dearborn (L), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and others attend a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and House of Representatives committee leaders in the Roosevelt Room at the White House March 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn will leave his position early next year in the latest high-profile resignation from the Trump administration in recent weeks, according to multiple reports.

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“Rick loyally served the president for two and a half years and brought tremendous energy to the White House staff,” White House chief of staff John Kelly said in a statement obtained by The Wall Street Journal. “He’s a super guy and it breaks my heart to see him leave, but I look forward to his continued personal friendship and support for the president’s agenda.”

White House officials told the Journal that Dearborn, who oversaw a broad range of White House departments, planned to pursue work in the private sector.

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An unidentified source familiar with Dearborn’s decision told CNN that “he saw the passage of the sweeping Republican tax bill as his time to leave.” The bill was signed Friday morning by President Donald Trump.

Fox News reported Dearborn was “considered well-liked by the top brass at the White House, including chief of staff John Kelly, who tried to keep him.” Dearborn told the news network his departure felt “bittersweet.” 

He worked as a Senate aide before joining Trump’s administration, according to the Journal. Among other positions, he previously served as chief of staff for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions.

His exit comes amid an anticipated round of Trump administration official departures heading into the new year, according to The Associated Press. Earlier this month, White House officials said deputy national security adviser Dina Powell would be leaving early next year.

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Democrats hope marches can sway Congress on guns

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018 @ 12:00 AM

After watching lawmakers agree to two bills this week dealing with guns and school safety in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Democrats say the gun violence marches around the nation on Saturday have the chance to change the political dynamic on gun control in the Congress.

“Their hope gives me hope,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and others who have joined in calling for action on gun violence.

“Their determination gives me determination,” Nelson said at a U.S. Capitol news conference, even as he and other Democrats again acknowledged that they are far from having the votes to press ahead with gun control plans.

Among the plans that Democrats have focused on in recent weeks include:

+ The Manchin-Toomey ‘universal background checks’ bill, which would require checks for almost all private gun sales.

+ A federal law raising the minimum age to purchase a weapon to 21, mirrored on a law just passed by the state of Florida.

+ A ban on the sale of weapons like the AR-15.

+ Limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“We have an important role to play in insuring that no students should ever be afraid to walk down the hallway of their school,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose district includes Parkland, Florida.

“It is our job, and everyone working in that building behind us, to pass laws, to keep our communities safe,” Deutch said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

But the last five weeks were also a reminder of the difficulty of acting on any gun-related legislation – no matter how minor it might be.

The “Fix NICS” bill approved this week as part of a giant spending bill was bipartisan, yet it also had some sharp opposition from Republicans in the House.

And that makes the idea of the ‘Buy 21’ bill, or any ban on assault weapons, difficult to see getting through the Congress, unless there is major change in the makeup of the U.S. House and Senate.

“You know the politics, but you got to start somewhere,” said Nelson. “This is the first step at the federal level.”

“There is no better example of the youth of our country becoming engaged, than in this march,” said Deutch.

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Defense gets major increase, pay raise for troops in budget plan

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:42 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:42 PM

            Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could benefit from budget plan that passed the U.S. House Thursday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base could benefit from budget plan that passed the U.S. House Thursday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Congress has passed a massive spending bill which includes $700 billion for defense, spends billions more on aircraft, ships and tanks and provides a 2.4 percent pay hike for troops.

The $60 billion increase in military spending is the biggest in 15 years.

The budget plan also includes $300 million to continue cleaning the Great Lakes, $400 million for cleanup at a closed uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, and millions of dollars for Ohio to combat opioid addiction.

The $1.3 trillion measure, which was passed by the House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday, keeps the federal government open until the end of September. But Friday morning, President Donald Trump signed the bill Friday after he threatened to veto it because it did not include money for a resolution for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and failed to fully fund a wall across the country’s southern border.

The Air Force share of defense spending is $183.6 billion, which also aims to add 4,000 airmen by 2020, Air Force officials have said. It includes nearly $25 billion for procurement of aircraft, space vehicles, missiles, and ammunition and more than $49 billion for operations and maintenance, budget documents show.

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“For the Air Force, the higher level of spending in the budget bill offers an opportunity to fix nagging readiness problems while moving forward with long delayed plans to replace Cold War aircraft,” Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant, said in an email. “It also provides seed money for a transformation in how the Air Force will assure U.S. air and space superiority in the future.”

The spending bill includes $1.08 billion to upgrade the Abrams M-1 tank. Most of that money will be spent at the JSMC plant in Lima.

Across all research, testing and technology accounts, it adds $25.6 billion, documents show.

Impact at Wright-Patterson

The influx of dollars is a particular windfall for research spending at the Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson, observers said.

“For Wright Patterson, the impending budget increase signals a surge in research spending to unprecedented peace time levels,” Thompson said. “This could be the beginning of a golden age for the Air Force’s premier research and modernization site if Washington can find a way of keeping spending levels high in the years ahead.”

AFRL’s budget could exceed last year’s level of $4.8 billion, which was nearly split between government appropriations and sponsored research.

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This time, about $1.2 billion of that in government appropriations is headed to Wright-Patterson, according to spokespersons in U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

A breakdown of other budgets at Wright-Patterson was not yet available, spokeswoman Marie Vanover said Thursday.

But in some research accounts, such as materials and aerospace vehicles, spending could rise as much as 20 percent, said Michael Gessel, vice president of federal programs at the Dayton Development Coalition.

The budget boost bodes well for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, also headquartered at Wright-Patterson, with money beyond the president’s request to procure more aircraft and will jump start new contracts that had been on hold without a permanent budget, Gessel said.

“The larger, overall funding level provided by this bill, which is accompanied by additional flexibility on spending authority, will relieve many budgetary pressures as the funding makes its way from Washington to field operations, including Wright-Patterson,” Gessel said in an email.

“There are provisions which give more flexibility in personnel management of civilian defense workers. This is important to Wright-Patterson because of the large percentage of civilians who work on the base.”

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Non-defense spending

The bill provides $3 billion to reduce opioid addiction, of which $1 billion is set aside for grants that will go directly to the states. Fifteen percent of the state grant money has been earmarked for states which have been hardest by opioids, such as Ohio.

“This is good news for Ohio and good news for the millions of Americans who continue to struggle with addiction,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. “I’m particularly pleased that the bill includes $60 million for states to develop an infant plan of safe care to help newborns exposed to opioids and their families.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said “while we know there is more work to be done,” the money in the bill “is a meaningful step forward for Ohio.”

The money for the Great Lakes was inserted into the bill after the White House did not include any money for the program, known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program has strong bipartisan backing from lawmakers from both parties, such as Portman and Brown.

Both Brown and Portman pushed for more money to continue the cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, about 65 miles south of Columbus. The $400 million, Brown said, should guarantee no additional layoffs at the facility.

RELATED: Memphis Belle towed into Air Force museum for first time

How Ohio lawmakers voted

The House passed the measure by a vote of 256-to-167 with local Republicans Mike Turner of Dayton and Steve Chabot of Cincinnati voting yes.

Republicans Jim Jordan of Urbana and Warren Davidson of Troy voted no.

In an interview on Fox News, Jordan complained that the 2,200-page bill “grows the government at a $1.3 trillion price tag which will lead to a trillion dollar deficit,” adding “this may be the worst bill I have seen in my time in Congress.”

By contrast, Columbus-area Congressman Steve Stivers said the measure “provides critical funding for our military and veterans, resources for opioid addiction prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, and resources for our schools to keep our kids safe.”

The Senate must approve the bill because lawmakers from both parties were unable to agree on a budget for the 2018 spending year which began on October 1 and ends on September 30. By passing the bill, the Senate guarantees the government will remain open for next seven months.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Trump backs off veto threat, signs giant federal spending bill

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 9:43 AM

Creating a bit of legislative drama, President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to veto a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill, and then after a few hours of leaving Congress in limbo, Mr. Trump backed off and signed the bill into law, expressing his frustration over limited funding for his campaign vow to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

"There are a lot of things that I'm unhappy about in this bill," the President told reporters, as he vowed, "I will never sign another bill like this again."

The 2,232 page plan had been unveiled by GOP leaders in Congress on Wednesday night, and then rushed through the House and Senate – with bipartisan support – but the President made clear he didn’t like the final product, stacked high on a table next to him.

“Nobody read it and it’s only hours old,” the President fumed.

In expressing his frustration, the President called on Congress to give him line-item veto authority, so he could strike out specific items in spending bills – but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that power can only be given to the President by an amendment to the Constitution.

The President also turned his ire on the rules of the Senate, demanding again that Senators end the requirement to get 60 votes to end filibusters – that does not have the support of a number of GOP Senators.

The Friday drama was a complete surprise to Republicans on Capitol Hill, as the White House had made clear that the President would sign the bill – no matter some of his reservations – as lawmakers left town yesterday and today for a two week Easter break.

And then, the President tweeted just before 9 am.

On the issue of DACA and the border wall, Mr. Trump has accused Democrats of not helping resolve the status of illegal immigrant ‘Dreamers’ in the United States, while Democrats say he’s at fault.

“DACA was abandoned by the Democrats,” the President said in an earlier tweet. “Would have been tied to desperately needed Wall.”

But while the White House accused Democrats of standing in the way of a DACA deal, they argued Mr. Trump had multiple chances to accept an agreement, as Democratic leaders had offered him $25 billion to build the wall, in exchange for a plan that would put the Dreamers on a 10-12 year path to possible U.S. citizenship.

The President rejected that, leading to the negotiation of the $1.3 trillion funding bill, which gave $1.6 billion to work on the wall.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats blasted the President.

“One of the best things we Democrats have going for us is that Trump really has no idea what he’s doing,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA).

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Frustrated by funding for border wall, Trump threatens veto of giant spending bill

Published: Friday, March 23, 2018 @ 5:17 AM

A day after top White House budget officials said the President supported a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by the Congress, President Donald Trump threw Capitol Hill into turmoil on Friday morning, saying he was thinking about issuing a veto against the plan, because it did not include enough money for his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and no deal on what to do with illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”

Unable to reach a deal in the past two months with Democrats on DACA, the President again blamed that on Democrats, expressing frustration with the $1.6 billion in the bill that would go to his border wall.

“Please do, Mr. President,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said of the President’s veto threat against the Omnibus funding bill, which combined all 12 spending bills for the federal government, along with a series of unrelated legislative measures.

“I am just down the street and will bring you a pen,” Corker added, who last night labeled the budget process, “juvenile.”

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