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Daily Archives: August 3rd, 2019


Moscow Mitch- true to form. MA

Sheryl Gay Stolberg 3 hrs ago

WASHINGTON — Seven months into a new era of divided government, the Republican-led Senate limped out of Washington this week after the fewest legislative debates of any in recent memory, without floor votes on issues that both parties view as urgent: the high cost of prescription drugs, a broken immigration system and crumbling infrastructure.
The number of Senate roll call votes on amendments — a key indicator of whether lawmakers are engaged in free and open debate — plummeted to only 18 this year, according to a review of congressional data. During the same time period in the 10 previous Congresses, senators took anywhere from 34 to 231 amendment votes.
The inaction stands in stark contrast to the promises of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. After his party took control of the Senate in 2015, Mr. McConnell vowed to end the gridlock that had gripped the chamber under his Democratic predecessor, Harry Reid, and pledged to allow both parties to offer amendments to legislation — even if it forced Republicans to risk taking politically unpopular votes.

“We’ll just take our chances,” he said at a news conference in early 2016. “You know, we’re big men and women. We’re prepared to vote on proposals that are offered from both sides.”
Instead, the Senate, once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” is operating exactly as Mr. McConnell now wants it to: as an approval factory for President Trump’s judicial and administration nominees.
In his effort to remake the courts, Mr. McConnell is succeeding; so far this year, the Senate has confirmed 13 circuit court nominees, for a total of 43 since Mr. Trump took office in 2017, and 46 of his district court nominees, for a total of 99. By contrast, during the last two years of President Barack Obama’s administration, with Republicans running the Senate, only 22 judicial nominees were confirmed.
Dysfunction in Washington, of course, is nothing new, and it is especially pronounced when the House and Senate are controlled by opposing parties. This year has been worse than most. It started off with a government shutdown that did not get resolved until three weeks into the new Congress.
In an analysis of the first six months of the new Congress, the Bipartisan Policy Center found fault with leaders in both parties for “not engaging in the kind of deliberation and debate that is necessary to develop quality bills.”
The Senate’s legislative achievements have been confined largely to noncontroversial bipartisan measures — including a land conservation package and a bill cracking down on illegal telemarketing — and must-pass bills, including disaster relief and emergency aid for the border; an annual military policy measure; and a two-year budget deal lawmakers approved just before they left.
But the budget deal, the product of negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, passed over the objections of roughly half the Senate Republicans. Lawmakers had little say in its content, and Mr. McConnell permitted debate on just one amendment, offered by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, that would have cut spending and required a balanced budget.
“The Senate was supposed to be the great deliberative body,” said G. William Hoagland, the senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and a one-time adviser to Bill Frist, the former Republican leader. “You offered the amendments, and you debated the amendments and you actually had a debate. I got more out of last night’s Democratic debate on some policy issues than I’ve gotten the last few months out of the Senate.”
Mr. McConnell declined to be interviewed. But in a speech on the Senate floor in recent days, he blamed Democrats for creating delays and clogging up the Senate calendar by insisting on so-called cloture votes — procedural votes that determine whether to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote — for most nominations. Senator John Thune, the No 2. Republican, echoed that point when asked if he was surprised that so little legislation of consequence had passed.
“I was not surprised by it,” he said in an interview. “Obviously we’ve been busy with the personnel business of the Senate, which is a very time-consuming task — especially with the Democrats forcing cloture votes on every judge or other nominee we bring up.”
In the foreign policy arena, the Senate defied the president by voting to end American military assistance for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen and to block Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration at the southwestern border. It passed a Middle East policy bill that rebuked Mr. Trump for withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan and included a provision aimed at undermining the boycott Israel movement. But it rejected a bipartisan measure that would have required Mr. Trump to get permission from Congress before striking Iran.
But the Senate’s legislative record on domestic issues has been so thin that a number of Republicans were left grasping for words when asked to name the chamber’s most significant legislative achievement this year.
“Did we pass the opioid legislation this year, or was that last year?” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, asked her aide, who informed her that the bipartisan measure to address the opioid epidemic had passed in 2018. Ms. Capito paused, and a long silence ensued.
“Criminal justice reform!” declared Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. But the bill overhauling sentencing laws, which Mr. Grassley championed, passed at the end of the last Congress, he was told. Mr. Grassley waved his hand. “Close enough,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, put it this way: “We’re at a complete standstill on the big stuff.”
Senate committees, though, have been working. The Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved a package of bills in June aimed at lowering the cost of medical care and prescription drugs, and the Senate Finance Committee has also passed a measure to lower prescription drug prices. Both are bipartisan efforts, and Mr. Thune said he expected votes on health care in the fall.
The Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan highway bill this week, though Mr. Thune said he believed an infrastructure package would be “a heavy lift,” because the parties disagree on how to pay for it. Also this week, Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, pushed through an immigration measure that would extend family detentions, over the vociferous objections of committee Democrats.
The House, with a Democratic majority under the leadership of Ms. Pelosi, left for recess a week earlier than the Senate with a long list of symbolic victories but few substantive ones, in part because the bills have passed almost universally along party lines. Mr. McConnell, who has cast himself as “the grim reaper” for progressive policies, has refused to take them up.
Democrats have seized on that refusal, accusing Mr. McConnell of turning the Senate into a “legislative graveyard” — a phrase Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, invoked in recent days when he complained to reporters about the state of affairs in the chamber, including Mr. McConnell’s recent decision to block legislation aimed at improving the security of elections.
“From health care to gun safety to climate change, Republicans just say no, despite the overwhelming consensus of the American people on these issues,” Mr. Schumer said, adding: “Leader McConnell’s Senate has been a big black hole. There has not been a single bill open for amendment all year. Not. One. Bill.”
Some Republicans say they do not blame Mr. McConnell.
“There are certain issues that the ideological divide is so great I think that if I were Mitch, I wouldn’t bring something up on the floor that would be anything more than a big debate club with no outcome,” said Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina. Floor time, he said, is the Senate’s “coin of the realm,” and it makes far more sense to allocate it toward judicial nominations and consensus bipartisan measures.
“When you’re in divided government like we are now,” he said, “you’ve got to set aside your more contentious issues.”
But other rank-and-file Republicans are grousing, including many freshmen who have had to curb their ambitions. Senator Josh Hawley, a freshman Republican from Missouri, arrived in Washington hoping to address the high cost of prescription drugs. Instead, he will report to constituents that he is the first freshman to have a bill signed into law: a bipartisan measure that restores grant funding to establish suicide-prevention programs and mental health services for police officers.
“I promised the people of Missouri when I ran for this job that I would not be a wall flower, I would not just sit back, and I would not go along with the status quo, that I would actually speak up for the issues that matter to our families, working families, parents, children,” Mr. Hawley said proudly.
He was asked if he is frustrated. “Oh, yeah!” Mr. Hawley exclaimed. “It’s totally dysfunctional.”
Follow Sheryl Gay Stolberg on Twitter: @SherylNYT.

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Apparently, the DNC and it’s aspiring candidates for President haven’t figured out how to beat TOTUS. Aside from begging for money and pointless debates (20 plus people?-ridiculous!), there is NO party line that grabs attention. TOTUS aka os
calcaribus (bone spurs) is on definitive search and destroy by being a bully, lying and name-calling. The way to combat it is giving back, there is no better reaction to a bully than standing up. It may be under ordinary circumstances smart to go high when they go low but not now. Bully the bully by using a higher quality of insults and naming his cohorts such as “Moscow Mitch”, “Manipulating Mnuchin”, “Madman Mulvaney” or “Bulldog Barr”. I see no reason to donate to wimps who cannot conjure up a cohesive theme for their election run. In a simplistic fashion, there has to be a basic theme even in the debates regardless of the individual ideas presented by each aspirant. The Dupublicans are United even when they don’t like each other and they all follow a basic theme, perhaps the Scamocrats can do the same.

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Is “Moscow Mitch”  better or worse than TOTUS? MA

By NATASHA BERTRAND and THEODORIC MEYER 10 hrs ago
Two former top staffers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the development of a new Kentucky aluminum mill backed by the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to a new lobbying disclosure.

The disclosure comes as Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to review Rusal’s $200 million investment in the Kentucky project — concerned that the mill will supply the Defense Department — and as McConnell weathers criticism for helping block a congressional effort to stop the investment.

The Russian firm was only able to make the investment after it won sanctions relief from penalties the Treasury Department initially imposed in April 2018 on Rusal and other companies owned by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and Kremlin ally accused of facilitating Moscow’s nefarious activities, such as seizing land in Ukraine, supplying arms for the Syrian regime and meddling in other countries’ elections.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced in December that the department would lift the sanctions on Deripaska’s companies, which had roiled global aluminum markets, if the oligarch agreed to drastically reduce his stake in the businesses. The deal was reportedly potentially beneficial to Deripaska, however. Deripaska himself still remains under U.S. sanctions.
Attention over the sanctions relief deal has focused on McConnell, given his role in halting a bipartisan congressional effort in January to stop the penalties rollback. McConnell told reporters in May that his support for lifting the sanctions was “completely unrelated to anything that might happen in my home state.”
“A number of us supported the administration,” McConnell said. “That position ended up prevailing. I think the administration made a recommendation without political consideration. And that’s — that was how I voted — the reason I voted the way I did.”
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has been pushing the administration to review the Rusal investment.
In a statement, Wyden said: “Rusal’s proposed investment in a Kentucky rolling mill is deeply concerning. The deal was announced just three months after the Senate voted to lift sanctions on Rusal, and now we learn that Majority Leader McConnell’s former staff have been lobbying for the project. The American people need to have confidence that this deal is in the country’s best interest.”
It’s unclear whether the former staffers — Hunter Bates, a former McConnell chief of staff, and Brendan Dunn, who advised the Kentucky Republican on tax, trade and financial services matters before heading to K Street last year — directly lobbied McConnell’s office over the aluminum mill project. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, the law and lobbying firm where Bates and Dunn work, and McConnell’s office declined to comment on whether they had done so.
In Washington, it’s common for congressional staffers to lobby their former colleagues.
Former Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who’s now a lobbyist representing Rusal’s parent company, EN+ Group, gave McConnell “a heads up” on the Rusal deal prior to its announcement, according to a disclosure filing first spotted by The New York Times.
The lobbying push by McConnell’s former staffers, one of whom left his office in 2002 and the other who left a year ago, also comes as McConnell is being criticized for blocking election-security bills in the wake of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. McConnell took to the Senate floor earlier this week to rebut accusations that he’s kowtowing to Russia, prompting the hashtag #MoscowMitch to begin trending on Twitter.
The lobbying disclosure, made last week, shows Bates, Dunn and three other Akin Gump lobbyists are working for Braidy Industries in the new Ashland, Ky., aluminum mill. Rusal holds a 40 percent stake in the project.
Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation of the project by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency body that can recommend the cancellation of foreign financial arrangements with U.S. firms over national security concerns.
A spokesman for Braidy told POLITICO in a statement that the company “has never negotiated or signed any contract to supply aluminum to the U.S. Government, including the DOD,” and noted that Braidy first “engaged” Akin Gump on May 20, months after the decision to lift the sanctions was made.
“We are thankful for the support provided by Rusal, the world’s second largest aluminum company and largest supplier of low-carbon aluminum,” the spokesman added. “Leading the rebuild of Appalachia is not easy. Unemployed coal miners, steel workers, and railroad workers in Appalachia need new advanced manufacturing jobs.”

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I suppose Ratcliffe wasn’t a bad enough Rat to bring on board? MA

John Wagner, Shane Harris 20 mins ago

Ratcliffe to Mueller: ‘You didn’t follow the special counsel regulations’
President Trump announced Friday that Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), his embattled pick to lead the nation’s intelligence community, was withdrawing from consideration and would remain in Congress.

The lawmaker was facing intense questions about padding his résumé and a lack of experience, which led to a lukewarm reception on Capitol Hill.
Trump said he would announce a new pick for director of national intelligence shortly.
In tweets, Trump said that Ratcliffe was being treated “very unfairly” by the media.
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“Rather than going through months of slander and libel, I explained to John how miserable it would be for him and his family to deal with these people,” Trump wrote. “John has therefore decided to stay in Congress where he has done such an outstanding job representing the people of Texas, and our Country.”
In a statement issued shortly after Trump’s tweets, Ratcliffe said that he remained convinced that if confirmed by the Senate he would he would have served “with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve.”
“However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue,” he said. “The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue. Accordingly, I have asked the President to nominate someone other than me for this position.”
Trump made the announcement of Ratcliffe’s withdrawal shortly before appearing at a White House event to announce a new deal to sell more beef to the European Union. He ignored questions shouted by reporters about Ratcliffe’s withdrawal as he left the event.
One White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that Ratcliffe got cold feet because of the lack of support among Republican senators.
But inside the White House, at least some believed that while Ratcliffe would likely have faced a contentious nomination fight, Senate Republicans were ultimately unlikely to vote against a Trump nominee. Ratcliffe might have survived, and may have withdrawn too early, in the view of some.
Ratcliffe’s background has come under scrutiny since Trump announced Sunday that he planned to nominate the lawmaker to be the next director of national intelligence, replacing Daniel Coats, a longtime senator and diplomat who was often at odds with the president.
Though Ratcliffe had dialed back claims that he had won convictions in a high-profile terrorism case as a federal prosecutor, his planned nomination drew opposition from Senate Democrats and tepid support from key Republicans.
Some current and former intelligence officials have said Ratcliffe is the least-qualified person ever nominated to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies — previous directors have been former diplomats, senior intelligence officials and military leaders — and questioned whether he would use the position to serve Trump’s political interests.

© Andrew Harnik/AP Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) questions former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Capitol Hill last week.
The post was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to coordinate the 16 other agencies of the nation’s intelligence community.
Ratcliffe has been a staunch defender of the president and has alleged anti-Trump bias at the FBI. Trump tweeted out his plan to nominate Ratcliffe several days after the lawmaker attacked former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III during a hearing.
Congressional and intelligence officials have described Ratcliffe as a relatively disengaged member of the House Intelligence Committee and as little-known across the ranks of spy agencies he has been tapped to lead.
Though Rep. John Ratcliffe’s membership on the House committee is perhaps his most important credential for the top intelligence job, officials said he has yet to take part in one of its overseas trips to learn more about spy agencies’ work. The other new lawmakers on the panel have done so or are scheduled to travel in the coming months.
It is also unclear whether Ratcliffe has spent much time at the headquarters of the CIA, the National Security Agency or other parts of the sprawling U.S. intelligence community that he has been nominated to direct.
On Thursday, The Washington Post also reported that a Ratcliffe claim of a massive roundup of immigrant workers at poultry plants in 2008 as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas was undercut by the court record and recollections of others who participated in the operation. Ratcliffe has often cited the arrests as a highlight of his career.
In a statement, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said he respected Ratcliffe’s decision to withdraw from consideration.
“As the White House determines its next nominee, I’m heartened by the fact that [the Office of the Director of National Intelligence] has an experienced and capable leadership team to see it through this transition,” Burr said. “However, there is no substitute for having a Senate-confirmed director in place to lead our Intelligence Community.”
john.wagner@washpost.com
Ashley Parker, Robert O’Harrow, Shawn Boburg and Greg Miller contributed to this story

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