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Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 12:16 PM
Updated: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 9:02 PM
WASHINGTON — A Senate standoff that partially shuttered the federal government for nearly three days ended Monday when Senate Democrats agreed to support a bill to re-open the federal government through Feb. 8.
Sen. Sherrod Brown joined 31 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine in backing the spending bill, which they did under the condition that the GOP permit debate on a bill to provide protection for the children of undocumented immigrants, a program known as the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA.
The final vote to move forward was 81-18. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also backed the measure. The House passed the bill later Monday on a 266-150 vote.
President Donald Trump signed the bill just before 9 p.m. Monday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D–N.Y., announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor shortly before a scheduled vote on a bill to keep the government open 17 days. The bill would also extend for six years a popular program that provides billions of federal dollars to the states to pay for the health care costs of low-income children.
"We expect that a bipartisan bill on DACA will receive fair consideration and an up–or–down vote on the floor," Schumer said.
Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R–Ky., pledged to have the Senate will take up immigration after the government re-opens. In a floor speech Monday morning, McConnell promised “an amendment process that is fair to all sides.”
“This immigration debate will have a level playing field at the outset,” McConnell said.
Said President Trump in a statement: "I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children."
In a separate e-mail to supporters, he exulted: "Democrats CAVED — because of you ... We can’t let them get away with it. We will never forget the names of EVERY single liberal obstructionist responsible for this disgusting shut down, and we will work to FIRE them come November."
However, even if the Senate does ultimately vote on a bill on DACA, it's unclear whether the House will follow suit.
Not a big impact in D.C.
Still, the spending agreement cut off what had been an inconvenient but not overly disruptive morning on Capitol Hill — the first regular work day since the government closed at midnight Friday. While some Capitol staff had been furloughed because of the partial shutdown, Brown and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, kept their staffs at full capacity.
Some of the Capitol’s restaurants and entrances were closed. A popular coffee place in a Senate office building couldn’t serve sandwiches after 1:30; it had run out of bread because of the flood of customers. Some federal workers who had driven into D.C. Monday morning to get furlough notices returned home only to find that the government was to reopen. In all, it was anticlimactic.
But Republicans and Democrats seemed to disagree on the takeaway. Brown and others said they were hopeful that the agreement would be the beginning of a new era of bipartisan compromise. Republicans, meanwhile, argued that Democrats learned the hard way what congressional Republicans learned in 1995 and 2013: that it is difficult to prevail in a partial shutdown against a White House that will not budge.
Great to see how hard Republicans are fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border. The Dems just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked. If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2018
In 2013, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded that the price for keeping the federal government open was for President Barack Obama to scrap his signature 2010 health-care law known as Obamacare. Obama held firm and the congressional Republicans collapsed in acrimony. Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan later acknowledged that the plan had not worked.
“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something that the American people didn’t understand and wouldn’t have understood in the future,” McConnell said.
Portman echoed those comments. “It was wrong of Democrats to vote against continuing the operations of the government for something unrelated,” he said.
But Democrats including Brown seemed heartened that the agreement would mean not only fewer short-term spending bills, but possible compromises on pensions and other issues.
Their optimism appeared to carry to the Senate floor, where Republicans and Democrats chatted amiably with one another before the vote.
An unusual scenario
Sen. Dick Durbin, D–Ill., said the dialogue over the weekend was something he’d not seen in years: “constructive bipartisan conversation and dialogue on the floor.”
Brown, meanwhile, said senators had “better conversations than we’ve seen in a long time, more substantive and more sort of directed.”
He said he had voted against the spending bill that failed, shutting down the government, largely because of his frustration with the temporary, month-to-month spending measures.
“You can’t run a government like that,” he said, saying the agreement reached Monday “fundamentally changes it.” If Republicans keep their part of the agreement and allow a debate on DACA, he said, it will be the first time they have allowed a Democratic amendment on the Senate floor since Trump has been president.
Although most analysts do not believe a brief shutdown will have any meaningful impact on the November elections, Senate Democrats such as Brown and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania were among those under intense pressure to keep the government open, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee airing ads online against they and other Democrats in states that Trump won in 2016.
Privately, Republicans in a closed door meeting after the vote wondered if they would need to end a rule that requires 60 votes to pass a spending bill in order to prevent further shutdowns.
If there was any agreement, it was this: Republicans and Democrats would have to rely on one another in order to forge compromise; they’d have to leave Trump out of it.Tweets by Ohio_Politics
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 4:59 PM
A day after President Donald Trump demanded an investigation into how the FBI dealt with investigations during the 2016 campaign, the White House accepted a plan from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to expand an ongoing review of the probe into Russian interference in the elections, and how it touched on the Trump Campaign.
“Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” read a statement issued by the White House.
“It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested,” the statement added, referring to an ongoing battle between Republicans in Congress and the feds for documents about the Russia probe.
The outcome of the meeting between Mr. Trump, the Deputy Attorney General, the FBI Director, and the Director of National Intelligence – which was not listed on the President’s public schedule – was less explosive than what President Trump had seemingly threatened on Sunday, when he said he would demand a full investigation into whether the feds had “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
Mr. Trump and Congressional Republicans have been playing up the issue in recent days, arguing that initial FBI efforts to find out what Russia was doing with relation to the Trump Campaign, was actually an effort to undermine Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House.
But Democrats say what’s going on now is an effort by Mr. Trump and his allies in the Congress to undermine the current investigation, by allowing the President’s lawyers to see what evidence the Special Counsel’s office – and maybe U.S. Intelligence – had been able to gather during the 2016 campaign.
The Monday meeting at the White House came as Republicans stepped up demands for documents about the investigation, as Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), asked the Justice Department for information on contacts between officials and former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who put together a controversial ‘dossier’ on the President, funded by Democratic sources.
In a letter to Rosenstein, Grassley zeroed in Monday on Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, and his contacts with Steele.
“Accordingly, please provide all records related to Mr. Ohr’s communications about these matters, including: (1) emails from Mr. Ohr’s personal and work accounts, (2) phone logs, (3) handwritten notes, and (4) text messages from personal and work accounts,” Grassley wrote in a letter.
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
WASHINGTON — With the 2018 midterm elections months away, experts are eyeing two scenarios for House Republicans: One: they lose the House majority. Two: They keep the majority, but it shrinks.
For U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, the first scenario is a nightmare.
The second could make him one of the most powerful people in Washington.
Jordan, who saw his two endorsed GOP candidates for Ohio U.S House seats fall in the May 8 primary elections, nonetheless has not lost any political capital with their defeat. Most of the roughly three dozen members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, which he founded, are in safe seats heading into November.
Instead, it’s House GOP moderates who are more likely to lose their seats, meaning that even with the primary defeats of Melanie Leneghan and state Rep. Christina Hagan in Ohio, Jordan stands to gain ground next year, providing, of course, that House Republicans keep their majority.
That may not mean that Jordan becomes the next House speaker — an idea the Urbana Republican floated in the aftermath of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire at the end of this Congress. But it may mean having enough votes to be the deciding factor in what does and doesn’t pass the House.
That power was on display Friday when Jordan and the Freedom Caucus helped defeat a Republican farm bill over an immigration dispute.
Should the GOP hang onto the majority, said one Ohio Republican political strategist, Jordan “has a little more influence, absolutely. He can prevent us from getting to 218 (votes necessary to pass a bill) or he can help us to get 218. And we’ll need him every time we need to get to 218.”
Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said there is a ceiling on Jordan’s power.
“I have a hard time seeing how Jordan will have the votes to be speaker,” Kondik said. “It’s not like he needed one Melanie Leneghan to do that. He probably needed 50 Melanie Leneghans.”
In the odd math of politics in Washington, however, ultraconservatives like Jordan gain when the party loses seats.
“The reality is the only time we really have power with Republicans is when it’s close,” said Tom Zawistowski, a tea party leader from Portage County in northeast Ohio. “The worst thing that happens is we hold all the state offices and a supermajority in the House and Senate because then they don’t need you, they don’t need your vote…you’re better off with 51 votes in the Senate, because if they have 60, they can tell (Kentucky Sen.) Rand Paul to go pound salt.”
Jordan, a former wrestler elected to the House in 2006, founded the House Freedom Caucus in 2015. Since then, that caucus – which numbers only two or three dozen – has held an out-sized influence on the House Republican caucus, which often needs their votes in order to reach the 218 majority threshold.
Their lack of support for a GOP replacement bill to the 2010 health law known as Obamacare contributed to Ryan’s decision to pull the bill. More recently, the group was among those who voted against a mammoth spending bill. But they were also key in the passage of the 2017 tax overhaul, which Jordan calls one of the few legislative achievements of this Congress.
In 2015, the Freedom Caucus’ demands were one of the reasons then-Speaker John Boehner decided to resign. Boehner, in an October 2017 interview with Politico, called the group “anarchists” who “want total chaos.” He’s been quoted as calling Jordan a “legislative terrorist.”
Whether it is as speaker — Ryan has endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California for the speakership — or in some other capacity, Jordan’s focus is on pushing the agenda to the right.
“What we’re trying to do is impact policy in a way that we told voters we are going to do, in a way consistent with the mandate entrusted to us in 2016,” Jordan said.
The Republican speaker battle won’t take place if Democrats capture the House in November. But conservative groups are already touting Jordan for the post.
Noah Wall, vice president of advocacy for FreedomWorks, a tea party-affiliated organization, said his organization has received 25,000 signatures on a petition they’ve circulated calling for Jordan to run for speaker. He called Jordan “kind of a cult hero” to the group’s activists.
But others in the party see him as more of a divisive figure.
“With Jim Jordan, everyone has a strong opinion of him,” said one Ohio Republican political strategist who spoke on a condition of anonymity. “Nobody is ambivalent. Nobody doesn’t care. And the problem with that is there are 30 people who love him and a whole bunch of people who don’t like him.”
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 8:28 AM
For a second straight day, President Trump used Twitter to go on the attack over the probe into links between Russian interference into the 2016 elections and his own campaign for President, this time targeting a former CIA Director in the Obama Administration, John Brennan, who publicly ridiculed the President and GOP leaders in Congress on Sunday, after Mr. Trump launched a Twitter barrage over the fairness of the Russia probe.
“John Brennan is panicking,” the President said of the former CIA chief. “He has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the Country, he has disgraced the entire Intelligence Community.”
In his tweets, Mr. Trump placed Brennan at the center of a conspiracy to use the ‘Steele Dossier’ to start what the President says was a politically motivated investigation of the Trump Campaign.
“This guy is the genesis of this whole Debacle,” the President wrote, quoting Dan Bongino, a conservative commentator who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Florida and Maryland.
“This was a Political hit job,” the President wrote.
Mr. Trump’s tweets came just a few hours before he was going to the CIA to swear in the new Director of Central Intelligence, Gina Haspel, who was confirmed to the post last Thursday by the U.S. Senate.
Ironically, Brennan has been a strong public supporter of Haspel, breaking with many Democrats, who had pressed for her rejection in the Senate.
Brennan, who was CIA Director during the second term of the Obama Administration, earned the ire of the President with a Sunday tweet that not only slammed the President, but as GOP leaders in Congress, accusing them of doing nothing in the face of an effort by Mr. Trump to interfere in a lawful investigation of Russian meddling in 2016.
Brennan has sniped at Mr. Trump on Twitter before, accusing him earlier this month of lying about the Iran nuclear deal, and arguing he has diminished the office of the President of the United States.
“Your hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Brennan tweeted in late April, when Mr. Trump accused former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of leaking the Steele Dossier to CNN and lying about it.
The tweets by the President on Monday morning did not rival his outburst on Sunday, in which he savaged the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and said he would demand a review of whether the investigation was political in nature.
Top Justice Department officials responded on Sunday evening by saying they would have the Inspector General review Mr. Trump’s claims.
It was not immediately clear if that move satisfied the President, who made this declaration Sunday afternoon on Twitter:
Democrats derided the President’s outburst on Twitter, again saying the Mueller investigation should be allowed to go forward without interference.
“Trump can wriggle and squirm and spew on Twitter all he wants, but in America the law will run its own course,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2018 @ 3:12 PM
Venting his frustration in a series of tweets on Sunday, President Donald Trump again demanded to know how the Justice Department, FBI, and Obama Administration handled questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying he would request a new review specifically to see if an investigation was opened for ‘political purposes’ involving his campaign.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” the President said.
It was one of a number of tweets where Mr. Trump flashed aggravation with the investigation into questions of Russian interference in the 2016 elections this weekend, as he repeated his charge that the feds had gone easy on Hillary Clinton and Democrats, while focusing investigative resources on his own campaign.
What seemingly set off Mr. Trump on Sunday was a report in the New York Times, which said Donald Trump Jr. had held a meeting at Trump Tower in the months before the elections, to hear an offer of help from emissaries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia – so now they’re looking at the rest of the World,” the President tweeted.
The President’s call for a review of how the FBI handled questions about Russian interference is already the subject of a review inside the Justice Department – it wasn’t clear how this request would be dealt with by officials.
“There are rules,” said Carrie Cordero, a former Justice Department national security lawyer, who is now a professor at Georgetown University Law School.
In Congress, Democrats saw the President’s tweets as a signal of one thing – that he’s worried about what investigators are finding out about the 2016 probe, as they raised questions of whether the President is trying to exert political pressure on the Justice Department.
“The President has sent 8 tweets in 5 hours on Hillary and the Mueller investigation,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). “He is unhinged.”
“A President who has nothing to hide would not have done another series of tweets this Sunday Morning smearing the DOJ investigation,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).