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Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 9:04 PM
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 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.
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.
“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.
Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM
A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.
“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.
Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.
The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.
Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 3:04 PM
Struggling to find consensus on immigration reform, the House on Thursday rejected a more conservative Republican immigration reform bill, and then in a bid to salvage the effort, GOP leaders delayed action on a second immigration reform measure until Friday.
41 House Republicans voted against the first GOP bill, which was defeated on a vote of 231-193, as the plan received more votes than most GOP lawmakers had expected.
The Republicans who voted against the first GOP bill were a mixture of the Republican Party’s different flanks, featuring more conservative lawmakers who wanted to do more, and moderates who felt it went too far.
“This is a difficult issue,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who voted for this bill, but wouldn’t tell reporters whether he would support a second measure on Friday.
“Any jot or tittle one way or the other, you lose people because of the complexities, because of the sensitivities, and the emotions in this particular piece of legislation,” Meadows said.
Here is the list of the 41 Republicans who voted “No.”
One of the reasons more moderate Republicans voted against the first bill was because of the lack of a path to citizenship for younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.
While that is in the bill to be voted on Friday, those provisions then could cause some other Republicans to vote against it, arguing it is nothing but amnesty.
“I’m a big fat no, capital letters” said Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), after the first vote.
“It doesn’t do anything to stop illegal immigration,” Barletta added.
In debate on the House floor, Democrats focused mainly on the more recent immigration battle over the separation of illegal immigrant families, blaming President Donald Trump for doing little to seek compromise.
“On this issue, God is going to judge you as well,” said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) said to Republicans who were backing the President’s get-tough effort on the border.
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:48 AM
In a decision that will impact online shopping for all Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a South Dakota law which required online companies to collect and remit state sales taxes, even if that company did not have a ‘physical presence’ in the state.
“Each year, the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 5-4 decision.
“These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause,” the majority wrote.
The ruling overturned previous Supreme Court precedents from the 1992 Quill case, which had theoretically made internet sales a tax-free zone in certain situations; over the years, that changed, but this ruling will now require online sellers to collect sales taxes for all states.
The decision allows state and local governments now to press online retailers to collect sales tax revenues – which some experts believe could bring in billions of dollars in additional revenues, which would be collected if the online seller had a ‘physical presence’ – a store – in that state.
Maybe the most interesting part of the ruling was the lineup of Justices, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined with Kennedy, and three more conservative Justices to provide the majority, while the Chief Justice sided with the remaining three more liberal Justices.
“This Court ‘does not overturn its precedents lightly,'” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the minority, as he said the Court was wrong to change the way states can deal with sales taxes and online sales, arguing the Legislative Branch should take that step.
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 7:28 AM
After months of internal wrangling over how best to deal with illegal immigration, the House is poised on Thursday to debate and vote on two immigration reform bills written by Republicans – but because of fissures inside the GOP – it’s possible both measures may go down to defeat on Thursday afternoon.
“This is very good compromise legislation,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was struggling to convince more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus to back a bill that some GOP lawmakers denounced as “amnesty” for illegal immigrant “Dreamers.”
“The failed policies of previous administrations have catered to open border radicals and left Americans less free, less safe,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), one Freedom Caucus member reluctant to vote for a more moderate GOP measure.
The internal bickering boiled over on the House floor on Wednesday afternoon, when Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) appeared to engage in an angry back-and-forth with Speaker Ryan, during a vote on the House floor.
With no Democrats expected to back either of the GOP immigration bills – a rupture inside the GOP on these plans will lead to only one thing – defeat.
The first bill is the more conservative measure, drafted mainly by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the head of the House Judiciary Committee.
“I’m a ‘yes’ ‘yes,'” Goodlatte said of how he would vote on both bills. “I want 218 votes.”
But the chances of getting a majority on either bill seemed slim – moderates think the conservative bill is too harsh, while conservatives think the more moderate measure doesn’t do enough.
The measures delve deeply into a number of subjects, how to treat illegal immigrant DACA “Dreamers,” reform the asylum system, a host of changes in interior immigration enforcement laws, ending the diversity visa lottery, reforms for temporary agricultural workers, measures to address so-called “sanctuary cities,” more aggressive efforts to return unaccompanied children and other migrants, and much more.
The Goodlatte bill runs 414 pages – the other plan backed by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo totals 299 pages.
The House debate comes a day after a rare retreat by President Trump on the issue of immigration, as he announced a hastily drawn executive order, designed to stop the forced separation of illegal immigrant families.
But Democrats said while the order stopped children from being taken away from their parents, it left many questions unanswered.
“The president’s order does not solve this problem”,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “It does nothing to reunify the 2,300 children who have been taken from their parents.”
“As a country, we are better than this! Separating children from their parents,” said Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL)
Republicans also chided the White House.
“It is about time the Administration takes action to address this issue, but more needs to be done,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). “I want to make sure this practice is ended, unequivocally, and I strongly believe we still must take legislative action.”
“The President did the right thing by signing an executive order to keep families together at the border,” added Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL).
But despite all the talk, nothing on that seems likely to make it through the Congress anytime soon – as a possible double defeat for the GOP in the House on immigration reform seemed a strong possibility.
And it was obvious that a visit by President Trump on Tuesday night to the Capitol had done little to unify Republicans, as the President took another jab on Wednesday as Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), after mocking Sanford during the GOP meeting.
“I have never been a fan of his!” the President said of Sanford on Twitter.
“This was a classless cheap shot,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).