In Surprise, Trump’s Pick for UN Ambassador Withdraws

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Heather Nauert, picked by President Trump to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations but never officially nominated, has withdrawn from consideration, the State Department said. Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman who was previously a breaking news anchor on Fox & Friends, said in a department statement that “the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interest of my family that I withdraw my name from consideration.“ Nauert’s impending nomination had been considered a tough sell in the Senate, where she would have faced tough questions about her relative lack of foreign policy experience, according to congressional aides. A potential issue involving a nanny that she and her husband had employed may also have been a factor in her decision to withdraw, according to one aide.

That issue, which was first reported by Bloomberg on Saturday, centered on a foreign nanny who was legally in the US but did not have legal status to work, according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Trump’s initial UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, announced her resignation in October with plans to step down by year’s end. That December, Trump said he would nominate Nauert. In the wake of November elections that strengthened Republican control of the Senate, her confirmation appeared likely if not easy. Yet Trump never put Nauert’s name forward with the Senate and no confirmation hearing was scheduled, reports the AP. The State Department said in its statement that Trump would announce a nominee for the UN position “soon.“

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Whether it was finalizing the border security agreement or fighting for miners’ pensions, a lot happened this week.

The Final Agreement

After many months of negotiating with my fellow conferees, meetings, and consultations, I was glad we reached and passed an agreement that will fund our government, secure our borders, and provide resources for important West Virginia priorities. The bipartisan compromise makes a significant down payment on President Trump’s border security goals—through physical barriers, increased technology, and enhanced personnel— and to help further achieve those goals, I plan to support the national emergency declaration he made on Friday.

Of course, while much of the discussion has been around border security, it’s important to note the significant resources this legislation provides to support other West Virginia priorities that I have long advocated. For example, the package makes huge strides for rural broadband deployment, including $500 million I secured for a new pilot program that will help underserved communities in our state and across the country.

The legislation—which the president signed into law—also includes funding for economic development, efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, educational and scientific resources, and so much more. Click here to learn about the specifics of this agreement and how West Virginia can benefit.

Keeping West Virginia Wild and Wonderful

West Virginia is fortunate to have so much natural beauty and so many valuable natural resources. This week, the Senate passed comprehensive public lands legislation that will help us maintain and preserve our public lands for generations to come. This bipartisan bill does so much, including permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund—an important tool in protecting and maintaining access to some of our state’s most beautiful and treasured destinations. I’ve been a strong and long-time supporter of the program and co-sponsored that specific portion of the legislative package. I’m also excited that the legislation includes a measure I supported to establish the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area in West Virginia.

Building Economic Stability

Economic development has always been one of my top priorities. One way I’m working to bring more jobs and businesses to West Virginia communities is by working directly with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to increase investments in West Virginia projects. In fact, back in 2015, I met with the EDA and encouraged the agency to be a more active participant in our state’s economic development has been announced for 35 projects that will create and/or retain 5,000 jobs in 86 percent of West Virginia counties.

Just this past week, I was in Greenbrier County where I announced a grant that will help create jobs and provide a brighter future for the county. I look forward to seeing how this grant will help rebuild White Sulphur Springs and provide economic stability for years to come.

#CapitoConnect Update

Earlier this week, after months of working directly with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), I was thrilled to learn that our state will be included in a new national broadband initiative. West Virginia is one of eight states that will be collaborating with NTIA to broaden and update the national broadband availability map. Accurate availability maps are absolutely crucial for informed decision-making when it comes to closing the digital divide, and West Virginia will undoubtedly benefit from being a key player in this process. I’m excited to continue working through my Capito Connect program to make even more progress in better connecting our communities.

The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

Tax Refunds Are Smaller, and People Are Ticked

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The IRS is out with early numbers on tax refunds in 2019, and people hoping for a bump under the new tax changes are being unpleasantly surprised. In the first week of the filing season, the average refund was $1,865, down about 8% from last year’s average of $2,035, reports Politico. That has left many wondering what happened to the “$4,000 raise” the White House promised families would receive under the tax overhaul. Short answer: People are confusing their refunds with their tax burden. Details:

  • An example: The Washington Post highlights the example of a middle-class New Jersey couple whose income didn’t change but who received $3,000 less this year. “It totally feels like a scam,” says John Prugh. “I did still get a small refund, but compared to what I was expecting from previous years, it was shock.”
  • Feeling the same: NBC News notes that the hashtag #GOPTaxScam has surfaced, with people who have gotten decent refunds for years unhappy to discover that they’re getting far less or are even required to pay.
  • The issue: Financial experts explain that what these people are overlooking is that their overall tax burden went down; they likely got bigger paychecks during the year, even if they didn’t notice. “There’s a difference between taxes and your refund,” a senior research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute tells the Post. “People generally got a piece of their tax cut last year gradually in the form of lower withholding on their paychecks.”
  • Lost deductions: The tax law may have lowered tax rates and increased the standard deduction, but it also limited deductions for state and local taxes, per Yahoo Finance. In fact, the new tax code eliminates or modifies many long-used deductions, including those related to mortgage interest, student-loan interest, and moving expenses.
  • It’s early: Tax-filing season runs through April 15, and it’s possible trends could change. In fact, people seem to be delaying filing, perhaps because of all the changes: The IRS received 16 million returns in the first week, which is down 12.4% from last year.
  • They’re doing it wrong: Those who have traditionally gotten fat refund checks from the IRS may think it’s great, but it’s more likely a sign that they need to examine their withholdings. “A large refund from the IRS may seem like an advantage, but it isn’t the best or most effective use of your cash flow,“ a rep from Robert W. Baird & Co. tells CNBC. “You’re basically giving the IRS an interest-free loan.“

The McKinley Capitol Report

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Exciting News: New Coal Mine to Open in Barbour County

The new coal mine opening in Barbour County is great news for our coal miners and our state. It’s great to see companies investing in West Virginia. Arch Coal’s new mine will provide around 600 jobs to West Virginians and invest more than $350 million over the next 3 years.

McKinley Votes to Condemn Anti-Semitism

Republicans and Democrats in the House voted this week to condemn anti-Semitism in all forms. Anti-Semitism cannot and will not be tolerated in the United States or anywhere.

Reps. McKinley and Peters Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Spur Carbon Capture and Use Technology Development and Demonstration

America must do more to encourage innovation and ensure we can use our energy resources in the cleanest way possible. We must continue to advocate for a reasonable, innovation-focused approach. This bipartisan legislation builds off our work in the last Congress to expand tax credits for carbon capture technology and will promote utilization technologies that will lower emissions and allow us to use all of our energy resources for years to come.

Reps. McKinley and Welch Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Lower Prescription Drug Prices

The high cost of prescription drugs requires many Americans to make difficult financial decisions for themselves and their families. The FAST Generics Act will help provide patient access to lifesaving medications at affordable prices. Families should never have to decide between affording their medications and grocery shopping or filling up their gas tanks. 

Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

Trump’s national emergency sparks new GOP divide in Congress

Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to build his long-promised border wall ends one political problem for the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill, but launches another.

Republicans are torn over Trump’s decision to invoke executive power after Congress denied him money he wanted for the wall along the Southern border. Some are backing the president, while others are vehemently opposed, setting up a potential showdown that extends beyond the expected legal battles.

Democrats are almost certain to hold a vote of disapproval that will force Republicans to stand with the president — or against him.

It’s an outcome Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership GOP warned Trump against. For days, they publicly urged him not to declare an emergency. With Trump’s signature Friday declaring an emergency, Republicans are largely falling in line behind Trump.

Not all Republicans back the president.

“No crisis justifies violating the Constitution,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, said that while he supports Trump’s commitment to securing the border, “a national emergency is a serious act with deep implications, and it’s disappointing that partisan politics have brought us to this point.”

Top Trump allies are splintering. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, once resistant to an emergency declaration, told Fox News he’s all for it. “We would be idiots as Republicans not to support Donald Trump to try to build this wall anyway he can,” Graham said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, may be tougher to sway. “I, too, want stronger border security, including a wall in some areas. But how we do things matters,” Paul said in a statement.

“Extraconstitutional executive actions are wrong, no matter which party does them,” added Paul, who regularly criticized former President Barack Obama for what Paul and other Republicans termed executive overreach.

Congress has specific ability under the National Emergencies Act to halt the president by a simple majority vote of disapproval in both chambers. That makes the outcome uncertain, especially in the Senate where Republicans now hold a narrow 53-47 majority.

Trump would almost certainly threaten to veto such a resolution, if it passed, and Congress would then be faced with the difficult task of mounting the votes to override.

Trump’s decision creates an “important moment for constitutional democracy,” said Chris Edelson, assistant professor of government at American University and author of a book on presidential power.

“Congress has the tools available to stop this if it chooses to act,” Edelson said. “All eyes should be on Republicans in Congress, some of whom are clearly troubled by this action, including the precedent it could set.”

On and off Capitol Hill, many Republicans criticized Obama for what they saw as executive overreach, particularly on immigration issues. Some of Obama’s actions, including those to shield young immigrants from deportation, continue to play out in the courts.

While some GOP voices this week urged Trump on, others encouraged restraint.

“We’ll regret this,” said a headline in the conservative National Review. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Friday that Trump’s decision will “create a dangerous precedent that erodes the very system of government that has served us so well for over 200 years.”

Rubio and others have asked what would happen if a future president tried to use the same emergency authority for their priorities — for example, to impose gun control or fight climate change.

But Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., another Trump ally who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, said there’s “wide support” in the party for Trump’s action. “There’s certainly a big push to make sure that we limit executive power,” he said, but the laws are in place and “we support it.”

Democrats are already gearing up to do battle. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who has launched an ambitious climate change plan known as the Green New Deal, tweeted Friday that Democrats “aren’t going to let the President declare a fake national emergency without a fight.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Democrats will challenge Trump “in Congress (and) in the courts. And I think the American people will challenge the president.”

In the end, the philosophical arguments about presidential powers may run into the more specific concerns about how Trump plans to pay for the wall.

White House officials said Friday they plan to spend $8 billion on the wall — the nearly $1.4 billion Congress approved for new fences and barriers, plus more than $6 billion drawn from other funds.

Among them is a military construction account popular on Capitol Hill because it provides money to improve housing, medical facilities, roads and other aspects of military life. The projects are spread throughout congressional districts nationwide.

A group of House Republicans, led by Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, urged Trump in a letter not to shift money away from military construction accounts. “Diverting funding from ongoing or planned projects would be incredibly harmful,” the GOP lawmakers wrote.

The White House said it would be looking at “lower priority” projects. A senior administration official granted anonymity to brief reporters on a conference call Friday said officials will look to shift money from projects that are “to fix or repair a particular facility that might be able to wait a couple of months into next year.”

Pelosi Warns Of The Consequences Of A National Emergency

Donald Trump on Fox and Friends November 2014

Obama turned to what he liked to call his pen and his phone after House Republicans blocked an overhaul of the immigration system that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Months after expressing doubt about his legal authority to do so, Obama signed an executive order to protect the undocumented parents of children who were born in the United States, and thus American citizens, from being deported. “This is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court,” Trump said at the time. “I think certainly he could be impeached ...”

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