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The administration’s attempts at beating China is also beating us. MA

By Yawen Chen and David Stanway 1 hr ago

Washington’s decision to ratchet up currency tensions on Monday would also “prevent a global economic and trade recovery,” the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in the country’s first official response to the latest U.S. salvo in the two sides’ rapidly escalating trade war.
China “has not used and will not use the exchange rate as a tool to deal with trade disputes,” the PBOC said in a statement on its website.
“China advised the United States to rein in its horse before the precipice, and be aware of its errors, and turn back from the wrong path,” it said.
The U.S. currency accusation, which followed a sharp slide in the yuan on Monday, has driven an even bigger wedge between the world’s largest economies and crushed any lingering hopes for a quick resolution to their year-long trade war.
The dispute has already spread beyond tariffs to other areas such as technology, and analysts caution tit-for-tat measures could widen in scope and severity, weighing further on business confidence and global economic growth.
The U.S. Treasury Department said on Monday it had determined for the first time since 1994 that China was manipulating its currency, taking their trade dispute beyond tariffs.
The U.S. decision was driven purely by political motive to “vent its anger”, said Global Times, an influential Chinese tabloid published by the Ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily.
China “no longer expects goodwill from the United States”, Hu Xijin, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, tweeted on Tuesday.
The U.S. decision to label China a manipulator came less than three weeks after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the yuan’s value was in line with China’s economic fundamentals, while the U.S. dollar was overvalued by 6% to 12%.
The U.S law sets out three criteria for identifying manipulation among major trading partners: a material global current account surplus, a significant trade surplus with the United States, and persistent one-way intervention in foreign exchange markets.
CHINA’S RETALIATION OPTIONS
Chinese state media had warned that Beijing could use its dominant position as a rare earths exporter to the United States as leverage in the trade dispute. The materials are used in everything from military equipment to high-tech consumer electronics.
Shares in some of China’s rare earth-related firms surged on Tuesday amid speculation the sector could be the next front in the trade war.
Beijing could also step up pressure on U.S. companies operating in China, analysts say.
Beijing in June issued a travel advisory warning Chinese tourists about the risks of traveling to the United States, citing concerns about gun violence, robberies and thefts.
Air China said on Tuesday that it was suspending its flights on the Beijing-Honolulu route starting on Aug. 27, following a review of its network.
In a further sign of deteriorating ties, China’s commerce ministry announced overnight that its companies had stopped buying U.S. agricultural products in retaliation against Washington’s latest tariff threat.
“In the end, the United States will eat the fruit of its own labor,” the PBOC said.
FALLING YUAN
Chinese monetary authorities let the yuan fall past the closely watched 7 level on Monday so that markets could finally factor in concerns around the trade war and weakening economic growth, three people with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters on Monday.
The yuan has tumbled as much as 2.7% against the dollar over the past three days to 11-year lows after President Donald Trump’s sudden declaration last week that he will impose 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept. 1.
But it appeared to steady on Tuesday amid signs that China’s central bank may be looking to stem the slide, which has sparked fears of a global currency war.
The offshore yuan fell to a record low of 7.1397 per dollar on Tuesday before clawing back losses after the central bank said it was selling yuan-denominated bills in Hong Kong, a move seen as curtailing short selling of the currency.
Onshore yuan also opened weaker before steadying, but remained below the 7 level. While the central bank set a slightly firmer-than-expected morning benchmark rate, it was still the weakest since May 2008.
The PBOC has insisted the value of its yuan is determined by the market, though it has maintained a firm grip on the currency and supported it when it neared sensitive levels over the past year.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. government will engage with the IMF to eliminate unfair competition from Beijing.
A IMF spokeswoman said the organization does not have any immediate comment.
After determining a country is a manipulator, the Treasury is required to demand special talks aimed at correcting an undervalued currency, with penalties such as exclusion from U.S. government procurement contracts.
“Naming China a currency manipulator could open the door for U.S. tariffs to eventually increase to more than 25% on Chinese goods,” according to a note from DBS Group Research.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and David Stanway in SHANGHAI, and Cheng Leng and Yawen Chen in BEIJING, Andrea Shalal in WASHINGTON; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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The opinion below is an example of the administration’s ignorance of world finances. MA

Opinion: China just showed why Trump…

Jeff Spross 5 hrs ago
China opened up a new front in President Trump’s trade war on Monday, sending Wall Street into a tizzy. Basically, China’s central bank adjusted the value of its currency down to its lowest point in over a decade. Investors, fearing President Trump will respond with another tariff escalation, reacted by fleeing stocks for the safety of bonds and Treasuries — causing the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to fall 3 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, by the end of the day. And they’re likely right. Yet it’s also the case that the low value of the renminbi versus the U.S. dollar really is a problem worth addressing.
So is there any way America can combat China’s currency machinations without a tariff war and the ensuing market panic? It turns out, there may be.
Right now, as we all know, Trump is relying on tariffs to carry out his trade war. The primary strategy here is to browbeat China into accepting various reforms. But thus far, China hasn’t been overly inclined to cooperate, and Trump’s tariff threats keep escalating: He’s already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. And last week, he threatened a 10 percent tariff on another $300 billion worth, which would basically make every last dollar of Chinese exports subject to U.S. duties.
The drop in China’s currency is a problem for this strategy because it largely neutralizes the pain of Trump’s tariffs. The whole idea behind the tariffs is to raise the cost of Chinese exports in the domestic American market, so that Americans buy less of them. But a fall in the value of China’s currency lowers the cost of those exports for Americans, thus offsetting the tariffs’ effect. Indeed, the People’s Bank of China explicitly said the new, lower value target was retaliation for the “unilateralism and trade protectionism measures and the imposition of increased tariffs on China.” Trump promptly took to Twitter to rage about “currency manipulation.”
The thing is, the Trump administration hasn’t come up with any responses other than to impose even more tariffs on Chinese exports to punish drops in the renminbi. Beyond simply repeating the same strategy and hoping for a different outcome, this perpetual upward ratchet of tariffs is precisely what freaks out the markets. Tariffs disrupt specific industries with specific supply chains, invite retaliatory tariffs that do the same, and generally cause a great deal of headaches for investors.
Beyond all that, Trump’s tariffs have also failed to rebalance the flow of trade between the U.S. and China — ostensibly the larger goal of the president’s economic confrontation with our neighbor to the east. Our trade deficit with China has actually increased since Trump’s trade war commenced.
Bottom line: the tariffs have brought a lot of pain for both sides while achieving little. Trump needs an alternative. And several are readily available.
When China’s central bank engineers a drop in its currency, what it’s doing in concrete terms is buying up financial assets denominated in U.S. dollars. That increases demand for the dollar, hiking its value relative to the renminbi. Bringing the two currencies back into a closer balance requires responding to those purchases in some fashion.
One option is to discourage the buying. For example, the U.S. government could impose a fee or tax on all foreign purchases of U.S. assets. Instead of slapping a tariff on Americans buying Chinese goods and services, we’d essentially slap a tariff on Chinese buyers purchasing U.S. financial instruments. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), for example, just put forward a bill that would give the Federal Reserve a new additional mandate to balance America’s trade flows with the world within five years. And the tool they give the Fed to do this is a new fee to be imposed on all foreign purchases of U.S. stocks and bonds and so forth — effectively making it more expensive for China to engage in this sort of manipulation.
Now, Wall Street would probably hate this idea. To a certain extent, wealthy investors don’t like any government efforts to intervene in trade flows because they just want to be left alone. But it should have minimal effects on the real economy. America is awash in cheap financial capital with or without Chinese investors.
Another option is to get even more surgical: America could buy up Chinese financial assets until the effect of their purchases of our assets are counterbalanced. In short, if China (or anyone else) raises the value of the U.S. dollar relative to their currency by creating demand for our assets, we can raise the value of their currency relative to ours by buying their assets, and neutralize the whole affair. Indeed, the easiest way to do this might be to take the same route Baldwin and Hawley did: Direct the Federal Reserve to bring our trade flows into balance by buying up financial assets denominated in China’s renminbi, or in the currency of any other country our trade flows are out of whack with due to these sorts of interventions.
This would be even less disruptive than charging a fee for foreign purchases of our assets. Investors here and around the world could still buy whatever they wanted without interference; the Fed would simply be participating in the global markets with more strategic intention. As for the real economy, business models and supply chains would simply adjust to changing currency rates, which — in our ostensible global free market for currency exchanges — they already do.
Finally, these aren’t just tools for prosecuting a trade war with China. They are tools for reforming America’s trade flows with the entire world. Estimates suggest the U.S. dollar needs to fall by anywhere from 6 percent to 30 percent to resolve our trade imbalances with the globe. Tariffs are, at best, a horribly indirect method of adjusting currency values, and they do a lot of collateral damage. There are better ways to cut to the heart of the matter.

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Apparently, TOTUS along with his administrative staff keep feeding the “kool-aid” of righteousness to their avid followers. This past week has shown that TOTUS’ staff is trying to tie his tongue. The carefully crafted speech decrying Racism and violence is so out of character as to be comedic n but ni funny. The body language during this contrived speech indicates his discomfort giving a structured speech, he fidgets while holding the podium as to look in control. The reality is that he is projecting his role in all of this onto someone and something else. Within the next few days to a week all of this pseudo concern will be gone as he goes off on another “rally” promoting his dubious accomplishments. His administration has left us almost alone in the wider world with his ill-informed and poorly advised policies. A well-founded policy of assistance to South and Central America would certainly help to stem the flow of migrants fleeing corruption, crime, and death but TOTUS can’t get past his own Racism aided and abetted by his staff and the Senate leadership. Essentially his past speech was no more than a poor attempt to gain some political capital. There are no good policies coming out this administration and the what is being done will hurt us now and in the future, as someone has to correct them. The way forward is the vote and vote again if whoever is elected fails to make the necessary changes required to bring us back to civility and dignity.

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Speechwriter and TOTUS have colluded to put forth a caring face which is more like a hooded face! MA.

John Wagner 1 hr ago

President Trump urged the nation Monday to condemn bigotry and white supremacy after a pair of mass shootings and focused on combating mental illness over new gun-control measures in remarks delivered from the White House.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said. “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
Subscribe to the Post Most newsletter: Today’s most popular stories on The Washington Post
His nationally televised comments followed a weekend of carnage in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left 30 people dead and scores more wounded. The shooter in El Paso appears to have posted an anti-immigrant screed on social media, and authorities are seriously considering charging him with federal hate crimes.
Trump condemned the “two evil attacks” and vowed to act “with urgent resolve.”
He outlined a number of possible steps, including so-called “red-flag laws,” that focus on better identifying mentally ill people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms.
“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” said Trump, who did not take questions from reporters.
He also called for cultural changes, including stopping the “the glorification of violence in our society” in video games and elsewhere.
Hours earlier, on Twitter, he called for “strong background checks” and suggested pairing gun legislation with new immigration laws, a top priority of his that he has failed to move through Congress. Trump did not elaborate on his call for stronger background checks during his televised remarks.
Trump made a similar call to strengthen background checks after a mass shooting last year at a Florida school and has since threatened to veto bills passed by House Democrats seeking to do so.
In his tweets, Trump said “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”
Trump’s televised remarks prompted swift criticism from Democrats, who argued he does not have a coherent plan for addressing gun violence.
In a text message shared publicly by his campaign manager, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called Trump’s remarks “a bull–t soup of ineffective words.”
“This is so weak. We should quickly condemn his lack of a real plan,” wrote Booker, a Democratic presidential candidate.
Trump also drew criticism for mistakenly referring to Toledo, rather than Dayton toward of the end of his nearly 10-minute remarks.
“May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo, may God protect them,” Trump said.
In late February, the Democratic-led House approved the first major new firearm restrictions to advance in a generation. The proposed legislation would amend federal gun laws to require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers.
Federally licensed dealers are required to run background checks on people who buy guns, but private sellers who are not federally licensed are not. Under the bill, private parties would have to seek out a federal licensee to facilitate a gun deal.
The next day, the chamber passed a separate bill that would extend the time for the government to complete a background check on someone trying to buy a gun from a licensed dealer before the sale can go through.
Neither measure, each of which passed with mostly Democratic votes, has advanced in the Republican-led Senate. Trump has threatened to veto the two bills, saying they do not sufficiently protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.
A shooting at a Walmart store in Texas on Aug. 3 left multiple people dead. A suspect was taken into custody after the shooting in the border city of El Paso, triggering fear and panic among weekend shoppers as well as widespread condemnation. It was the second fatal shooting in less than a week at a Walmart store in the US and comes after a mass shooting in California last weekend.
In the wake of the latest mass shootings, Democrats have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to call senators back to Washington from recess to take action.
In a tweet Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Trump to weigh in with McConnell.
“Instead of flailing around blaming everything under the sun, if the president is serious about ‘strong background checks’ there’s one thing he can do: Demand Sen. McConnell put the bipartisan, House-passed universal background checks bill up for a vote,” Schumer said on Twitter.
Trump promised to be “very strong on background checks” in the days after the February 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 people dead.
He later retreated, voicing support for relatively modest changes to the federal background check system, as well as for arming teachers. At least nine people were been killed and another 27 injured when a gunman identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts opened fire on Aug. 4, as he tried to make his way into a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio. The assailant was shot dead by responding officers. The shooting comes less than 24 hours after a gunman in Texas opened fire at a shopping mall killing at least 20 people.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, defended Trump’s record on gun safety on Sunday, pointing to what he characterized as “some sensible improvements.”
Mulvaney, during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” cited executive action to ban “bump stocks” and other gun modifiers that make semiautomatic firearms fire faster. Those devices were used in the October 2017 shooting at a Las Vegas musical festival that left 58 people dead.
“I think we all agree that sick people who are intent on doing things like this should not be able to buy guns legally,” Mulvaney said. “The challenge of course is trying to identify who is sick when they try and buy their weapons, and that’s the type of discussion we have to have.”
In another tweet Monday morning, Trump appeared to blame the media for recent mass shootings.
“The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country,” he wrote. “Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years. News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!”
In recent days, many Democrats have said that divisive rhetoric from Trump on immigration has contributed to the carnage.
“I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country,” former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) told reporters on Sunday at a vigil in El Paso for victims of the shooting. “He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”
While the motives of the shooter in Dayton’s entertainment district remain unclear, the shooter at an El Paso Walmart Supercenter in El Paso is thought to have posted an anti-immigrant screed on 8chan, an online messaging board known for its racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic content, authorities said.
Portions of the 2,300-word essay, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” closely mirror Trump’s rhetoric, as well as the language of the white nationalist movement, including a warning about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The author’s ideology is so aligned with the president’s that he decided to conclude the manifesto by clarifying that his views predate Trump’s 2016 campaign and arguing that blaming him would amount to “fake news,” another frequent Trump phrase.
Democrats were quick to criticize Trump Monday for suggesting gun laws and immigration laws should be paired.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Trump was suggesting that “we have to keep guns out of the hands of the invading hordes of less than human people coming across our borders.”
“That’s the implication. That’s disgusting,” Nadler said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It reminds me of the 1930s in Germany.”
Over time, Trump has floated support for legislation to remake the legal immigration system under a “merit-based” plan that would prioritize green cards for those with high education levels, skills in high-tech industries and English proficiency, while significantly slashing the number of green cards for immigrants seeking to be reunited with family in the United States — which the president has derisively called “chain migration.”
Trump has also voiced support for a Senate Republican bill that would make it harder for thousands of Central American migrants to apply for and receive asylum for entry into the United States.
john.wagner@washpost.com
David Nakamura and Philip Rucker contributed to this report

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In case you misunderstood, this is an elected legislator who somehow thinks she can say whatever she wants and it’s OK- Thanks TOTUS. MA

Alanna Vagianos, HuffPost•August 5, 2019
1:06 1:29
Two Mass Shootings In Less Than 24 Hours
After mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, this weekend, a Republican state lawmaker from Ohio blamed the violence on “homosexual marriage,” “drag queen advocates” and more in a bizarre Facebook post.
State Rep. Candice Keller complained about Democrats playing “the blame game” after every mass shooting in a post on her personal Facebook account. The lawmaker from Middletown — a small city 30 miles south of Dayton, where a gunman killed nine on Sunday — wrote that the real blame should be on the “breakdown of the traditional American family” and “acceptance of recreational marijuana.”
“Why not place the blame where it belongs?” Keller asked before listing the issues she believes are to blame for mass shootings in the country:

The breakdown of the traditional American family (thank you, transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates); fatherlessness, a subject no one discuses or believes is relevant; the ignoring of violent video games; the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders); the acceptance of recreational marijuana; failed school policies (hello parents who defend misbehaving students); disrespect to law enforcement (thank you, Obama); hatred of our veterans (thank you, professional athletes who hate our flag and National Anthem); the Dem Congress, many members whom are open anti-Semitic; the culture, which totally ignores the importance of God and the church (until they elect a President); state officeholders, who have no interest whatsoever in learning about our Constitution and the Second Amendement; and snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.
Keller concluded the post, writing: “Did I forget anybody? The list is long. And the fury will continue.” The post is not visible to everyone on Facebook, but screenshots of Keller’s remarks have circulated on Twitter.

Keller did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. The state lawmaker did confirm to the Cincinnati Enquirer that she wrote the post. It is still published on her Facebook page.
Many people criticized Keller’s controversial comments on Twitter.
Keller announced in May that she is running for the state Senate in 2020.

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If you believe that tariffs work as TOTUS states then possibly you are part f the problem. MA

By Justin Baragona
,The Daily Beast•August 3, 2019

Trump escalates China trade war with new 10% tariff

Immediately after President Donald Trump boasted to White House reporters that the United States rakes in billions of dollars from China because of his tariffs, Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto issued an on-air fact-check of the president’s remarks, directly telling his viewers that Trump is wrong.
While taking questions on the White House lawn Friday afternoon, the president insisted Americans farmers are fully behind his trade war and support his latest tariffs on $300 billion worth of goods from China.
“Remember this, our country is taking in billions and billions of dollars from China,” Trump exclaimed. “We never took in ten cents from China. Out of that many billions of dollars, we’re taking a part of it and giving it to the farmers because they’ve been targeted by China. The farmers, they come out totally whole.”
Right away, Cavuto cut away from the president’s impromptu press gaggle to point out that, once again, Trump was not telling the truth when it came to who pays for tariffs.
“I don’t know where to begin here,” the Fox News host said. “Just to be clarifying, China isn’t paying these tariffs. You are. You know, indirectly and sometimes directly.”
Lou Dobbs Lashes Out at Fox Business Host Who Confronts Him About Trump’s Exploding Debt
He continued: “It’s passed along to you through American distributors and their counterparts in the United States that buy this stuff from the Chinese and have to pay the surcharges. Not the Chinese government.”
Cavuto went on to say that he does not understand what the president was talking about regarding “devaluation of added cost in China” before noting that this latest round of tariffs “will be felt by consumers directly.”
The longtime Fox News and Fox Business Network anchor has been somewhat critical of the president’s economic policies of late. Earlier this week, he got into a heated on-air debate with Trump-boosting Fox Business host Lou Dobbs over the exploding national debt and deficit under the Trump administration.
Read more at The Daily Beast.

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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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