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In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Trump’s betrayal of American workers

Donald Trump signed his, “Buy American, Hire American” executive order last week with fabulous flourish and fanfare. Elated with prodigious pride, Trump showed his magnificent signature to the awestruck crowd of pre-assembled American workers.

It certainly looked like something extraordinary was happening, and like all Republican endeavors, the title sounded simply marvelous, but what was the actual substance? This order directs federal agencies to crack down on fraud and abuse in the H-1B worker visa program, and it directs the federal government to enforce fully federal guidelines prioritizing the use of American firms and goods in federal projects.

Translation: Continue with the guidelines and policies already in place. To be fair, there is one provision that calls for Cabinet members to propose more regulations to protect American workers from immigrant labor. Perhaps, someday soon, we may all enjoy the decadent sumptuousness of produce picked by American hands.

Even though Donald Trump has his own foreign visa workers at the Mar-a-Logo “White House,” and has many of his glitzy products manufactured overseas, he ran his campaign posing as a friend of the American worker. He promised workers they would “finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.” Large numbers of voters fell for his act, hoping against desperate hope his rhetoric was real. Again, let’s check for substance.

Of the 24 Congressional bills signed into law since Trump became president, I can only find one that has to do with American workers. That was Public Law 115-21, which nullified a Department of Labor rule requiring employers to maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses. This helps corporations, but hurts workers.

Trump has issued 66 executive actions so far. These include 24 Executive Orders, 22 Presidential Memoranda, and 20 proclamations. While these all sound dreadfully important, most aren’t. I did, however, find three that will affect American workers.

On January 24, Trump issued an Executive Order expediting environmental assessments for infrastructure projects “in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals.” Translation: “Follow all the rules, but try to do it faster.”

Thanks to Trump, starting on March 27, companies bidding on federal contracts will no longer have to disclose if they’ve violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, or the National Labor Relations Act. When corporations that cheat on worker pay and safety are allowed to compete on an equal footing with those that play by the rules, all workers lose.

The next day, Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to rescind any existing regulations that “unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources.“ This generous gift to energy corporations will no doubt trickle down in the form of some new workers, but at what cost to worker safety and our environment?

To be brutally honest, Trump’s only real presidential “achievement,” in his first hundred days, has been nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka said of Gorsuch, “He’s been a very, very strong advocate for corporations at the expense of working people.” Unfortunately, Gorsuch will probably be advocating for corporations at the expense of workers for decades.

Almost all political pundits have credited working class Americans for handing the presidency to Donald Trump. But so far, in all his executive actions and especially in his CEO, banker, lobbyist and billionaire Cabinet picks, Trump has sided with corporations, while giving workers only elaborate shows, flowery words of praise, and glittery broken promises.

Trump owes his position to American workers and workers deserve better, much better, by him.


►  Nearing 100 days, Trump says his presidency is ‘different’

For nearly 100 days, Donald Trump has rattled Washington and been chastened by its institutions.

He’s startled world leaders with his unpredictability and tough talk, but won their praise for a surprise strike on Syria.

He’s endured the steady drip of investigations and a seemingly endless churn of public personnel drama.

“It’s a different kind of a presidency,“ Trump said in an Oval Office interview with The Associated Press, an hour-long conversation as he approached Saturday’s key presidential benchmark.

Trump, who campaigned on a promise of instant disruption, indirectly acknowledged that change doesn’t come quickly to Washington. He showed signs that he feels the weight of the office, discussing the “heart” required to do the job. Although he retained his signature bravado and a salesman’s confidence in his upward trajectory, he displayed an understanding that many of his own lofty expectations for his first 100 days in office have not been met.

“It’s an artificial barrier. It’s not very meaningful,“ he said.

Trump waffled on whether he should be held accountable for the 100-day plan he outlined with great fanfare in his campaign’s closing days, suggesting his “Contract with the American Voter” wasn’t really his idea to begin with.

“Somebody put out the concept of a 100-day plan,“ he said.

One hundred days are just a fraction of a president’s tenure, and no president has quite matched the achievements of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who set the standard by which all are now judged.

Still, modern presidents have tried to move swiftly to capitalize upon the potent, and often fleeting, mix of political capital and public goodwill that usually accompanies their arrival in Washington.

Trump has never really had either.

A deeply divisive figure, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton and had one of the narrower Electoral College victories in history. Since taking office on January 20, his approval rating has hovered around 40 percent in most polls.

Trump’s early presidency has been dogged by FBI and congressional investigations into whether his campaign coordinated with Russians to tilt the race in his favor. It’s a persistent distraction that Trump would not discuss on the record.

Furthermore, his three months-plus in office have amounted to a swift education in a world wholly unfamiliar to a 70-year-old who spent his career in real estate and reality television.

For example, his two disputed travel ban executive orders are languishing, blocked by federal judges.

On Capitol Hill, majority Republicans muscled through Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, but had to blow up long-standing Senate rules to do so. Then there was the legislative debacle when Trump’s own party couldn’t come together to fulfill its long-sought promise of repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said Trump is learning that “the world is the way it is for a whole bunch of complicated reasons. And changing the guy at the top doesn’t change the world.“

Trump won’t concede that point.

But he acknowledged that being commander in chief brings with it a “human responsibility” that he didn’t much bother with in business, requiring him to think through the consequences his decisions have on people and not simply the financial implications for his company’s bottom line.

“When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria,“ Trump said of his decision to strike a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack. “I’m saying to myself, ‘You know, this is more than just like 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved.‘“

“Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government involves heart, whereas in business most things don’t involve heart,“ he said. “In fact, in business you’re actually better off without it.“

As for accomplishments, Trump cited “tremendous success” on an undefined strategy for defeating the Islamic State group. He talked at length about saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on the price of F-35 fighter jets. Trump held meetings during the transition and in the White House with the CEO of Lockheed Martin, which produces the F-35, but the cost-savings were already in the works when he took office.

He promised a tax overhaul plan that would give Americans a tax cut bigger than “any tax cut ever.“

A man accustomed to wealth and its trappings, Trump has embraced life in the Executive Mansion, often regaling guests with trivia about the historic decor. With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president.

It’s too soon to say whether the presidency has changed Trump in substantive ways. He’s backpedaled on an array of issues in recent weeks, including his critiques of NATO and his threats to label China a currency manipulator. But his self-proclaimed flexibility means he could move back to where he started just as quickly.

Stylistically, Trump remains much the same as during the campaign.

He fires off tweets at odd hours of the morning and night, sending Washington into a stir with just a few words. Trump still litigates the presidential campaign, mentioning multiple times during the interview how difficult it is for a Republican presidential nominee to win the Electoral College.

He is acutely aware of how he’s being covered in the media, rattling off the ratings for some of his television appearances. But he says he’s surprised even himself with some recent self-discipline: He’s stopped watching what he perceives as his negative coverage on CNN and MSNBC, he said.

“I don’t watch things, and I never thought I had that ability,“ he said. “I always thought I’d watch.“

For the moment, Trump seems to have clamped down on the infighting and rivalries among his top White House staffers that have spilled into the press and created a sense of paranoia in the West Wing. He praised his national security team in particular and said his political team in the White House does not get the credit it deserves for their work in a high-pressure setting.

“This is a very tough environment,“ he said. “Not caused necessarily by me.“


►  Lawmakers suggest former Trump aide Flynn broke U.S. law

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, appeared to violate federal law when he failed to seek permission or inform the U.S. government about accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Russian organizations after a trip there in 2015, leaders of a House oversight committee said Tuesday.

The congressmen also raised new questions about fees Flynn received as part of $530,000 in consulting work his company performed for a businessman tied to Turkey’s government.

The bipartisan accusations that Flynn may have broken the law come as his foreign contacts are being examined by other congressional committees as part of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Congress returned earlier this week from its spring recess, and Tuesday’s announcements reflected renewed interest on Capitol Hill.

Representatives Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Flynn could be criminally prosecuted because, as a former Army officer, he was barred from accepting payments from foreign governments. Flynn, who headed the military’s top intelligence agency, is a retired lieutenant general and was Trump’s national security adviser until he was fired in February.

“That money needs to be recovered,“ said Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “You simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else.“

The congressmen spoke after reviewing classified documents regarding Flynn that were provided by his former agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency. They were also briefed by agency officials. The congressmen declined to describe in detail the materials they reviewed.

Chaffetz and Cummings said they planned to write to the comptroller of the Army and the Defense Department’s inspector general to determine whether Flynn broke the law and whether the government needs to pursue criminal charges.

Cummings also criticized the White House for refusing to turn over documents the committee requested about Flynn’s vetting before his appointment and his foreign contacts during his three-week stint as national security adviser. In response to a letter to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, a Trump administration official told the committee that documents relating to those contacts likely contained classified and other sensitive information and could not be turned over.

“That is simply unacceptable,“ Cummings said.

The committee also wants documents relating to Flynn’s security clearance. In the White House response, Marc T. Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said the material could be provided only by the Defense Department.

Flynn campaigned for and advised Trump before the presidential election and was chosen as national security adviser in January. Trump fired him in February on grounds that he had failed to notify senior administration officials about his contacts with Russian officials before his appointment.

Cummings said Flynn’s failure to formally report the Russian payments on paperwork requesting his security clearance amounted to concealment of the money, which could be prosecuted as a felony. Chaffetz said Flynn was obligated to request permission from both the Defense and State departments about prospective foreign government payments.

Flynn’s lawyer said in a statement that Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency about the 2015 Moscow event organized by the Russia Today news organization. Flynn had led the spy agency until 2014, when he was forced to retire by the Obama administration.

During his briefings, Flynn “answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip,“ attorney Robert Kelner said.

A spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency, Jim Kudla, has said Flynn briefed the agency in advance about his trip to Moscow “in accordance with standard security clearance procedures.“

A spokesman for Flynn previously said that Flynn disclosed the RT trip when he last came up for a security clearance review in January 2016.

Flynn received $33,750 from RT, which has been described by U.S. intelligence officials as a propaganda front for Russia’s government. During a televised RT celebration, Flynn sat at the head table, next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Chaffetz and Cummings said Tuesday said that the documents they reviewed showed no evidence Flynn asked permission for the payments or later detailed the amounts he received to military authorities.

“There was nothing in the data to show that Gen. Flynn complied with the law,“ Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz added that while “it would be a bit strong to say that Flynn flat-out lied,“ he should have sought and received permission before accepting any foreign government payments. At issue in any further inquiry is whether the Russian and Turkish entities that paid Flynn were clearly government-supported or controlled.

Flynn also disclosed to the White House that he received between $50,000 and $100,000 as part of his personal stake in $530,000 that his company, Flynn Intel Group, received for consulting work performed last year for a Turkish businessman. Flynn’s firm filed as a foreign agent last month with the Justice Department for the consulting work and acknowledged that it may have benefited the government of Turkey. Flynn’s client, Inovo BV, is owned by a Turkish businessman who is also a member of a committee overseen by Turkey’s finance ministry.

Earlier Tuesday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee announced a public panel May 08 to hear testimony for the first time from the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, who played a role in Flynn’s firing.

Yates was supposed to testify publicly before the House intelligence committee in March, but that was canceled and has yet to be rescheduled. Some Democrats believe the White House wants to limit what Yates says publicly, but the White House has denied this. Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper is also to testify at the May 08 hearing.


►  All 100 Senators to Attend Briefing at White House

In what Reuters and Fox News call a “rare” move, four top officials in Trump’s administration will brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. The topic? North Korea. It’s not unusual for top administration officials to address members of Congress on Capitol Hill, but in this case all 100 senators have been asked to go to the White House for the 3pm briefing, which was convened by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will address the senators—an “unusual” configuration of officials, per Reuters. A similar briefing for the House of Representatives is reportedly in the works.

The news comes as US officials are increasingly concerned about North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and its threats against the US and other countries. Trump recently spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by phone, Fox notes. Xi reportedly told Trump during the call that China opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and wants “all parties” to “exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation,“ while Abe agreed Japan would work to urge Pyongyang not to take any provocative actions.


►  Trump Pushes Huge Tax Cut, but There’s One Big Problem

Trump promises to outline his tax proposals on Wednesday, and the big headline in advance is that he wants to cut the corporate tax rate dramatically from 35% to 15% even if that raises the national debt. Here’s a look at the ramifications, along with other aspects of what’s known about the tax plan:

  • Such a tax cut would cost the government an estimated $2 trillion over a decade, though Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin maintains the tax plan would “pay for itself with economic growth.“ Still, GOP lawmakers worried about the deficit are likely to balk. The Wall Street Journal digs into the political hurdles.
  • Reuters predicts Trump also will try to cap the individual rate at 33% and repeal the alternative minimum and real estate taxes. But the story also notes that the surprise rush by Trump to release his plan raises questions of whether this will be genuine tax reform or merely a slew of tax cuts.
  • One legislative hitch: If Republicans want to pass permanent tax cuts with only 51 votes instead of a two-thirds majority, they must show that the deficit won’t grow over a decade. Which means Trump’s cuts would almost certainly be temporary, explains New York magazine.
  • House Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan say a tax on imports could raise $1 trillion, easing the impact on the deficit, but Trump seems to have cooled to the idea of the so-called border-adjustment tax, notes the Washington Post. Even factoring in the BAT, Ryan proposed reducing the corporate tax rate to only 20%.
  • Trump boasted to the AP that he would deliver what might be the biggest tax cut in history to Americans. Measuring that is not so simple, and the New York Times concludes that Calvin Coolidge is the current president to beat.
  • Bloomberg takes note of another comment of Mnuchin’s: Trump wants to simplify the tax code to the extent that most people could file their returns on a postcard.
  • So which aide has the most influence on Trump in regard to taxes? It’s tough to say, but an analysis at MarketWatch is betting on former Goldman Sacs exec Gary Cohn, who is director of the National Economic Council.


►  Trump Willing to Delay Fight Over Border Wall Funding

Saturday will be Trump’s 100th day in office and his administration seems confident that the day won’t feature a government shutdown, despite disagreements over funding for his border wall. Trump told conservative journalists at a White House reception Monday evening that he is willing to delay the border wall fight until September, Politico reports. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that he is “very confident” there will be an agreement by the Friday deadline, though he said he can’t guarantee there will be no shutdown, and declined to confirm whether Trump will sign a spending bill that does not include wall funding, reports the Washington Post.

White House officials have also signaled that they may be open to a compromise with Democrats that includes funding for border security but not a physical wall—an option that some Republicans say would actually fulfill Trump’s campaign promises. “There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,“ says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, per the Post. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security.“ For now, GOP sources tell the Hill, it appears increasingly likely that some kind of stopgap funding measure will be agreed upon to prevent a government shutdown Saturday.


►  Flynn May Now Face Criminal Prosecution

Michael Flynn’s Russia headache just got worse: The two heads of the House Oversight Committee say the erstwhile national security adviser probably broke the law in regard to his foreign business dealings, reports the Washington Post. GOP Representative Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings say they reviewed classified military documents and found that Flynn never received the proper permission to accept payments for a speech in Russia and for lobbying on behalf of Turkey. That means Flynn could face criminal prosecution and may have to surrender any money received, reports the AP.

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey, or anybody else,“ said Chaffetz of the former general, per the New York Times. ““And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law.“ Added Cummings: “He was supposed to get permission, he was supposed to report it, and he didn’t.“ The White House has denied the panel’s request for more documents related to Flynn’s hiring and subsequent departure, reports the Hill. Flynn resigned in February over phone calls he made to the Russian ambassador before assuming office.


►  Feds Delete Blog Post Promoting Mar-a-Lago

The State Department appears to have axed a controversial blog post that sung the praises of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private estate in Florida. The page, which was strongly criticized by ethics experts, now states “the intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.“ The deleted post, which was strongly criticized by ethics experts, stated that Trump was belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer” by using the resort as a “winter White House,“ reports the BBC, which notes that membership fees doubled to $200,000 after Trump took office.

Ethics experts tell BuzzFeed that the post, created by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, was probably taken down because it violates a federal regulation that bans using official channels to promote a private business. The post, which contained plenty of images of Mar-a-Lago’s interior, was shared in places including the website of the US Embassy in London. The White House said Monday that it had been unaware of the existence of the post, which Democrats slammed as an example of the Trump administration’s “kleptocratic” nature, ABC News reports.


►  Obama Returns to Public Spotlight With a Quip

Former President Obama is done with his post-presidential vacation, but he’s keeping things low-key politically. In his first public forum since Donald Trump took office, Obama on Monday generally avoided talk of his successor, reports NPR. He did, however, quip, “So, uh, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?“ in his opening remarks at the University of Chicago. Obama was there to moderate a youth roundtable on community involvement. “I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job,“ he said, adding that he’s concluded it will involve helping “prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.“

The forum is the first in a series of public events for Obama in the US and Europe, but aides say those looking for him to directly criticize Trump will be disappointed, reports the New York Times. They say Obama won’t shy away from defending his own policies such as the Affordable Care Act, but he won’t look to engage Trump in a public fight, either. On Monday, Obama ticked off a series of problems facing the nation, including climate change, criminal justice reform, and economic inequality, reports the Hill. “All these problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble,” Obama said. “What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”

In Politics….

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►  Bloomberg to world leaders: Ignore Trump on climate

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg urged world leaders not to follow Donald Trump’s lead on climate change and declared his intention to help save an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Bloomberg, who considered a presidential bid after serving three terms as New York City’s mayor, addressed his intensifying focus on climate change in an interview with The Associated Press. He said there was no political motive tied to last week’s release of his new book, “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet,“ co-authored by former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

“I’m not running for office,“ the 75-year-old Bloomberg said.

Instead of helping to re-ignite his political career, he said the new book offered a specific policy objective: To help save an international agreement, negotiated in Paris, to reduce global carbon emissions.

The Trump administration is debating whether to abandon the pact as the president promised during his campaign. Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.

Bloomberg said he believed the U.S. would hit that goal regardless of what Trump does because of leadership at the state level and market forces already at play in the private sector.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,“ he said in an email Saturday to the AP. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression — and help save the Paris deal.“

Bloomberg already plays a significant role in shaping some of the nation’s fiercest policy debates, having invested millions of dollars in one advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun control and another that promotes liberal immigration policies. In the new book, which follows what a spokeswoman described as $80 million in donations to the Sierra Club in recent years, the New York businessman solidifies his status as a prominent climate change advocate as well.

His policy repertoire aligns him with core values of the Democratic Party, although the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent has no formal political affiliation.

In the interview, Bloomberg shrugged off conservatives who condemn him as a paternalistic New York elitist. He noted that policies he helped initiate in New York City — including a smoking ban and high taxes on sugary drinks — have eventually caught on elsewhere.

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,“ he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.“

In his new focus on climate change, Bloomberg directs particularly aggressive language at the coal industry.

“I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies,“ he wrote in the book. He added: “But for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business…“

Similar language haunted Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid last year and fueled criticism from Trump and other top Republicans that Democrats were engaged in a “war on coal.“

Bloomberg offered a pragmatic approach when asked about the political consequences for politicians who embrace such a stance.
“The fact is, coal in Appalachia is running out,“ he said, adding that “Washington can’t put generations of people back to work in a dying industry.“

Saying that coal miners “have paid a terrible price,“ Bloomberg also disclosed for the first time plans to donate $3 million to organizations that help unemployed miners and their communities find new economic opportunities. Bloomberg Philanthropies highlights the plight of coal miners in a new film to be featured at the Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday.

He avoided condemning the Trump administration directly, however, largely casting the new president’s steps on climate change as irrelevant. The White House declined to comment when asked about Bloomberg’s statements.

“As it turns out, Trump’s election makes the book’s message — that the most important solutions lie outside of Washington — even more important and urgent,“ Bloomberg said.


►  Dems to Trump: We have the leverage

Senior House Democrats held a conference call on Thursday night with members of the Democratic caucus, and according to a Dem aide, one of the key conclusions reached on the call was this: In the battles over Obamacare, Trump’s border wall, and funding the government, Democrats – not the White House – must behave as the ones with the leverage.

As the 100-day mark of the Trump presidency approach, panic has set in among aides who fear that the press coverage will brutally (and accurately) reflect his historical lack of accomplishments. This is leading to questionable decisions on their part that could prove destructive to the country – and could backfire and make the 100-day mark coverage even more brutal for them. But this worry should also be seen as handing more leverage to Democrats in the near term. Dems seem both aware of this and inclined to act accordingly.

The White House has adopted a new strategy in the battle over funding the government, one designed to compel Democrats to help fund Trump’s Mexican wall and expanded deportation force. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is now saying that the White House might agree not to sabotage the Affordable Care Act – by funding the subsidies to insurance coverage for lower-income people which, if halted, could melt down the exchanges – if Democrats agree to fund the wall and more immigration enforcement agents.

But on the Thursday night conference call, House Dems resolved not to back down in the face of any such pressure, according to a readout of the call provided by a Democratic aide.

“We have the leverage and they have the exposure,“ Dem leader Nancy Pelosi told people on the call, per the aide, adding that, because Republicans are in the majority, keeping the government funded will be seen as “their responsibility.“

Also on the call, Representative Nita Lowey – the ranking Dem on the Appropriations Committee – flatly declared: “We are not building a wall.“ Lowey said progress was being made in negotiating with GOP appropriators towards a short-term government funding bill. But she noted that a short-term extension of the previous funding bill – called a “continuing resolution,“ or “CR” – might be necessary first, which suggests Democrats are willing to allow things to come to a head before buckling to White House demands.

Now, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will hold as firm as their current posture suggests. It also remains to be seen what Democrats will get out of these negotiations. But it looks likely that Republicans will need Democratic votes to pass a government funding bill, both in the Senate (where Republicans only hold 52 seats and will need to break a Dem filibuster) and in the House (where conservatives may bolt, leaving Republicans short of a majority on their own). Democrats want Republicans to drop the White House demand for funding for the border wall and increased deportations, and they also want Republicans to fund the “cost sharing reductions” (CSRs) that subsidize low out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people, to prevent insurers from fleeing the individual markets, which could leave at least 10 million uncovered.

The White House position is that the need to fund the CSRs gives Trump leverage to demand funding for the wall and a deportation force. But why should Democrats give Republicans anything in exchange for funding the CSRs, when Republicans are currently trying to inflict far more damage on the Affordable Care Act than not funding the CSRs would?

Absurdly enough, even as the White House is demanding concessions in exchange for not sabotaging the ACA, it is also pushing Congress to vote on a new version of the GOP repeal-and-replace bill that would be even more regressive and destructive than the last one was. Trump would likely take the blame for the chaos and loss of coverage that killing funding for the CSRs would unleash. Why should Dems bail him out of that problem—and allow Republicans to wield the CSRs as leverage against them – as long as the drive to roll back coverage for far more people continues? This should – and likely will – increase the resolve of Dems to dig in harder.

Tellingly, multiple reports indicate that the White House is demanding a rushed vote on the new repeal-and-replace bill because aides are desperate to showcase something, anything, as a legislative achievement in time for the 100-day mark. So you’d think the last thing the White House can tolerate is a government shutdown on Trump’s watch at precisely that moment, which would further reinforce the image that Trump and Republicans are making an enormous mess of governing. And so, in the government funding fight, Democrats should see the looming 100-day milestone as something that also gives them increased leverage. Judging by this week’s Democratic conference call, they are aware of this.


►  Trump Near 100 Days: Deeply Unpopular, With Staunch Base

Trump is proving as polarizing and vexing as candidate Trump once did: A new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that while Trump remains a deeply unpopular president, the people who voted for him are sticking by him. The current inhabitant of the Oval Office has a 42% approval rating among all Americans, and the Post has to go back to Dwight Eisenhower to find another president with a lower such rating at this point in the game. His disapproval numbers are also stratospheric at 59%; the previous high was Bill Clinton, who also had a bruising first 100 days, at 39%. The Post notes that Trump’s predecessor’s approval rating was 69% at this stage, disapproval at 26%.

Fox News, though, finds the silver lining, with a staggering 96% of people who voted for Trump saying they’d do it again, while only 2% said they’d change their minds. And the president’s approval rating is starkly different among Trump voters (94% like the job he’s doing) and among Republicans (84%). Trump also beats Clinton’s start in the percentage who say he’s gotten either a great deal or a good amount done: 42% to 37%, respectively. And Trump again edges Clinton among those who feel campaign promises are being kept, 44% to 42%. Another chink in Trump’s armor: Only 38% of respondents said he was honest, compared to 74% for Obama and 62% for George W. Bush. The complete poll is HERE .


►  Sessions: ‘One Way or Another’ We’ll Pay for Wall

When it comes to paying for Trump’s border wall with Mexico, the administration has options, says Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We’re going to get it paid for one way or the other,“ Sessions told ABC’s This Week on Sunday, per the http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/330110-sessions-on-border-wall-were-going-to-get-it-paid-for-one-way-or-the” target=“_blank”>Hill, adding that he doesn’t think Mexico will “appropriate money” for the contentious project. But “we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue to pay for it.“ Politico reports that he added some of that money could come from $4 billion a year in excess tax credits that go to “mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up—$4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion.“ Democrats were dismissive, with Nancy Pelosi telling NBC’s Meet the Press that “The wall is, in my view, immoral, expensive, unwise,“ while California AG Xavier Becerra told This Week that “I’m still trying to figure out who believes that a Medieval situation to fix our broken immigrant situation is what we need.“


►  Ditching Press Dinner, Trump Plans Rally Instead

Eschewing tradition in Washington, DC, Trump on Saturday will become the first commander in chief since Ronald Reagan—who was then recuperating from an assassination attempt—to skip the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, and instead will head to Harrisburg, Pa., to hold a rally, reports NBC News. Trump announced his intention to skip the so-called “Nerd Prom” in February, but Saturday tweeted that “Next Saturday night I will be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania. Look forward to it!“ Saturday will mark Trump’s 100th day in office. Also skipping the dinner is Samantha Bee, who plans her own roast of Trump, the Not the White House Correspondents Dinner.


►  Trump visits a Trump-branded property for the 12th weekend in a row

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►  Border Wall May Trigger a Government Shutdown

Two familiar phrases are back in the news this week, and this time they’re related: “government shutdown” and “border wall.“ Congress has until Friday to pass a budget and avoid a government shutdown, and one big sticking point is the White House’s renewed push for money for Trump’s promised wall on the Mexican border. Here’s a look at what’s happening on the shutdown front:

  • First things first: NBC News reports that it’s likely Congress will punt by passing a short-term spending bill that will give them a week or two to hammer out a longer-term deal.
  • The wall is suddenly a big priority again: The White House is pressuring congressional Republicans to insist on money for it in any spending plan, reports the Washington Post. But Democrats remain adamant against the idea, and Republicans such as Marco Rubio say they don’t think the issue is worth a shutdown.
  • The White House has offered Democrats a deal: $1 in crucial ObamaCare subsidies for every $1 in border wall money, reports Politico. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer likened it to a “hostage” deal and called the proposal a nonstarter.
  • Trump himself is weighing in: “The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,“ he tweeted.
  • A post at the American Spectator thinks a shutdown would work in Trump’s favor. In previous shutdowns, presidents Clinton and Obama picked which programs would get shut down with the goal of making Republicans look bad. “But when Trump gets to pick what gets cut, it’ll be a different story—one of the ‘swamp’ vs. Trump, and he’ll win that one.“
  • But a shutdown would come just ahead of Trump’s 100th day in office on Saturday, with his party in control of both houses of Congress. Forcing a shutdown over the border wall, which doesn’t have widespread public support, would be “really masochistic,“ an American University prof tells Newsweek.
  • Another sticking point in talks: Lawmakers from big coal states want a long-term fix to a dispute over health benefits for retired miners, reports the New York Times.

WV Legislative Update: Delegate Brent Boggs - Minority House Finance Chairman

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April showers really brought on the greenery last week in the woods, gardens and around home and farm.  After a brief visit early last week with Justin, Jen and the twins camping and fishing on Shavers Fork in Randolph County, the difference in the trees budding and beginning to leaf due to elevation was striking.  The hillsides still looked very much like winter.  However, Justin and Carson didn’t seem to mind, as the trout fishing was very good and camping beside the beautiful mountain stream made it all the better.  Both Carson and Kenzie possess fishing skills well beyond their eight years.  It was a great way to spend a crisp, beautiful spring day with family.

The one day getaway was indeed brief, as legislative business renewed the next day at the Capitol with informal meetings with Governor Justice and his senior staff regarding the budget impasse.  Spending over two hours with the Governor, he fielded all questions, listened to suggestions and reiterated his concerns about adequate revenue needed to repair our crumbling roads and to complete many long overdue road construction and highway upgrade projects around the State.

We are awaiting some clarifications and specifics from the Dept. of Revenue regarding some of his proposals.  As these are completed in the coming days, I will share them with you in this space.  There is no set schedule for the Governor to reconvene the Legislature for a brief budget session, but I believe it may occur sometime in early to mid-May, should progress be made with both parties in both houses.

One thing is clear – getting a budget will not give everyone all that they wanted.  Everyone has some specific lines in the sand that would trigger a no vote.  Traditionally, working around and avoiding the toxic areas of disagreement has usually been the norm.  However, these are not usual times.

At this juncture in West Virginia, our young citizens and their families are lacking needed jobs, opportunities and a quality of life that they can often find elsewhere.  Therefore, it’s important that we take some bold steps.  West Virginia is losing population faster than any other State.  And, it’s not because we’re over-taxed or over-regulated or that our legal system needs overhauled (again), as many would have us believe.  History will look back and document that we’ve been comfortable doing things the way they’ve always been done.  Those things worked well fifty, twenty, even ten years ago.  Things have changed.  The economy has shifted.  Extractive industries will continue to use fewer workers.  Coal will remain an important part of the economy, but gas and wind energy are now factors, too.  Personally, I’ve witnessed thousands of coal, trucking and railroad jobs evaporate over the past thirty-eight years.

Building and maintaining quality roads for residents and businesses; placing a higher emphasis on education and training; looking for ways to lower the cost of post-secondary education, training and retraining for citizens of all ages; providing services that citizens expect and appreciate; looking for ways to make our healthcare and quality of life better for all ages; providing more infrastructure dollars for waterlines to hurting communities; high speed broadband so that this and future generations can compete from our mountains and valleys with anyone in the world; combating the drug epidemic by providing much needed and long overdue treatment facilities – these are just some of the bold steps that we must take.

It’s no longer optional.  It’s not free.  It’s time to think outside the box.  Failure to do so will surely hasten the exodus of this and future generations.  That’s something I’m not willing to sit back and watch happen.  And the longer we wait, we’ll see more and more of our sons, daughters, grandkids and friends leaving.  Not because they want to, but because they will have no choice.

Meanwhile, a total of 262 bills were passed and sent to the Governor during the regular session (132 House bills and 130 Senate bills).  Thus far, he has signed 108 bills; put the veto pen to 5 bills; and 148 bills await his review and action.  One bill has yet to be enrolled and received by the Executive.

It takes several days or sometimes weeks after the session for bills to be enrolled and sent to the Governor.  After proofed and reprinted in the proper form, bills must be signed by the Chair of Enrolled bills in the House and Senate; Clerks of the House and Senate; and Speaker of the House and Senate President.  When not in session the Governor has fifteen days to act on a bill once his office receives it in the proper form.  Otherwise, he can choose to let a bill become law without his signature.  This is seldom used but not without precedent.

Until the budget work is completed, please send your inquiries to the Capitol office:  Building 1, Room 258-M, Charleston, WV 25305.  My Capitol office number is 304.340.3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

Traveling the District and Meeting with Constituents

We had a very busy week traveling the district and meeting with constituents. We attended a ribbon cutting at Ohio Valley University for their new water purification system, held a roundtable on drug addiction, spoke to the Clarksburg Rotary, and met with local officials in Bridgeport, just to highlight a few of our stops.

On Wednesday, we bumped into Senator Shelley Moore Capito! It’s always great to see the Senator in my hometown of Wheeling.


Update on Miners Health Benefits

By the end of this month, over 20,000 miners could lose their health benefits if action is not taken by Congress. Our miners are some of America’s hardest workers. They have powered this country for decades and they don’t deserve to lose the benefits they’ve already earned. I have authored legislation that will bring a permanent fix to this situation and I will continue to fight hard on this issue so that our miners and their families have the peace of mind they deserve and know that their benefits will no longer be threatened.


Reforming Health Care

It is very clear that health care costs have been hurting working families in West Virginia and all around the country. Premiums have soared, deductibles have skyrocketed, and choices are limited. Over the next few weeks, Congress will continue to work on and debate the best way forward when it comes to reforming health care. The current system is failing. The American people deserve access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage.
Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

Mooney: This Week in Congress

The Gilmer Free Press

This week is National Park Week and many parks are offering free admission. This is a great chance to get outside and explore Wild & Wonderful West Virginia. Visit findyoupark.org to locate a park near you.

Please stop by my office if you are ever in Washington, D.C.  If you are taking a trip to Washington, D.C., please reach out to my staff at 202.225.2711 to schedule a tour of the Capitol. 

I cosigned a letter to Congressional leaders seeking a permanent solution to fund miner pensions.

I recently toured Recovery Point West Virginia’s newest facility in Charleston.

I was very impressed with the work they do to help those struggling with addiction.

I had a great meeting and tour with the air traffic controllers at Charleston Yeager Airport. We discussed ways we can continue to ensure safe and reliable air travel.

It was great to catch up with Scott Freshwater, President of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia in my Charleston office. We talked about ways we can continue to support these small business leaders and job creators.

Thank you,
The Gilmer Free Press
Alex X. Mooney
Member of Congress

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