Trump, Ryan meet at Mar-a-Lago amid calls for action on gun violence

By Julia Manchester – 02/18/18 07:57 PM EST

© Greg Nash
President Trump on Sunday met with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) at Mar-a-Lago to discuss the Republican Party’s agenda, as calls grow for both the administration and Congress to take action on gun control in the wake of a deadly shooting at a nearby Florida high school.
The shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead, was among the issues the pair discussed during the meeting, the White House said in a statement, although no details were provided.
Trump, who has said he is “working with Congress on many fronts” to prevent future shootings, has not yet weighed in on his stance on tougher gun measures in the wake of the shooting. He did, however rail against the Obama administration on Twitter on Sunday for supposedly failing to pass gun control legislation when it had the chance.
Ryan for his part has warned against new gun control measures following the latest deadly shooting.
“There’s more questions than answers at this stage,” Ryan said in a radio interview Thursday. “I don’t think that means you then roll the conversation into taking away citizens’ rights — taking away a law-abiding citizen’s rights.”
The meeting came as a growing chorus of lawmakers, activists and students called for the government to take action on gun violence.
Thousands gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday to mourn the deaths of those in Wednesday’s shooting and call for restricted access to firearms, while on Sunday students appeared on television to call for an organized march in an effort to hold lawmakers accountable.
Some Democrats and Republicans on Sunday also urged lawmakers to consider varying degrees of reforms, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), a former presidential contender, pleaded with Trump to take the lead on the issue.
Trump and Ryan also discussed immigration and infrastructure reform, according to the statement.
The immigration debate hit a roadblock last week after the Senate failed to pass legislation that would address the fate of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The Senate on Thursday rejected Trump’s plan for immigration reform by a 39-60 vote, making it the fourth proposal in a row denied by the upper chamber.
The Trump-backed measure, which was led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), provided a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, who could face deportation as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is scaled back.
The White House’s infrastructure plan was also thrust into the spotlight last week when the administration released its 55-page proposal. The plan puts forth a framework for lawmakers draft legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that would focus on public-private partnerships and funding from state and local governments.

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Ryan: ‘Do not’ doubt my commitment to solving DACA

By Scott Wong – 02/08/18 01:05 PM EST
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday had a message for his critics who don’t think he’s serious about protecting hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants: Don’t doubt me.
“I know that there is a real commitment to solving the DACA challenge in both political parties. That’s a commitment that I share. To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference in the Capitol.
“We will bring a solution to the floor — one that the president will sign.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats are pressuring Ryan to immediately bring legislation to the floor to shield from deportation the so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to country illegally as children.
In a record-setting eight-hour speech on the House floor Wednesday, Pelosi vowed to oppose a bipartisan deal to boost spending and avert a government shutdown early Friday because the agreement excluded an immigration solution. President Trump has said protections will end next month for about 800,000 recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The Speaker, however, argued that passing the massive budget caps deal Thursday would allow Congress to focus its efforts on the immigration issue.
“Guess what? In order to shift our focus and get onto the next big priority, which is a DACA solution, we’ve got to get this budget agreement done,” Ryan said. “And I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again, we will bring a DACA solution to the floor.”
Another point of contention between Ryan and Pelosi is how exactly an immigration bill will come to the floor. Pelosi has asked Ryan for a more free-wheeling amendment process, where competing proposals come to the floor and the most popular bill advances.
But Ryan has rejected that approach, saying he’ll only bring an immigration bill to the floor that he’s sure Trump will sign.
“I want to make sure we get it done right the first time. I don’t want to just risk a veto. I want to get it right the first time, and I think we can get there,” Ryan said. “I’m confident we can bring a bipartisan solution to the floor that can get signed into law and solve this problem.”

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The Real Cause of the Last Government Shutdown—and the Next One

Republican leaders have proven unable to enact any spending bills, despite controlling both houses of Congress.
Paul Ryan speaks in front of Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on January 17, 2018.Evan Vucci / AP
NORM ORNSTEIN
6:00 AM ET
For Chuck Schumer and his Senate Democrats, the reaction since the government shutdown ended has been nothing short of brutal. Schumer and his colleagues are being hit from all sides: Trump and his acolytes like Brit Hume who are contemptuous of the cave-in, pundits like David Brooks decrying their ineptitude, progressives and Dreamers screaming about betrayal. It all fits the penchant of journalists and pundits to focus on winners and losers. Before the shutdown, the focus was on the negotiations over DACA, the president’s outbursts and reversals, whether all this would lead to a shutdown, whether it would be a Schumer shutdown or a Trump shutdown, and who would pay a price or benefit politically. Of course, these issues and questions are not trivial—any more than an election horserace is trivial. But like the horserace obsession, they muddy up other critical issues. In this case, there is a whole series of important elements to recognize and consider.
Step back and look at the broader context: Why was there an endgame in January 2018 that led to the brief shutdown? It is true that the status of nearly 700,000 recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, needed to be resolved ahead of a deadline of March 5. But the fundamental answer is that the Republicans in charge of all three governing entities could not manage to enact into law a single one of the dozen spending bills that make up the discretionary part of the government for a fiscal year that had begun three-and-a-half months earlier, on October 1.

In 2017, as the new fiscal year approached, Republicans passed a continuing resolution punting the need for spending bills until December 8. That was followed by another continuing resolution on December 7, punting it again until December 22, to give time to resolve the issues before the holiday break. That was followed by the third continuing resolution, to carry the government through the holidays, with the disaster of the Gingrich-inspired shutdown in 1995-96 fresh in the minds of Republican leaders. When the deadline of January 19 for that CR loomed, we got the showdown that led to the shutdown, and ultimately to a fourth continuing resolution, which will end on February 8.

So make that—so far—four continuing resolutions for funding most of what government does, still providing no clear guidance for the remaining seven-and-a-half months of the fiscal year. Put shutdown politics and DACA aside for a moment; that is simply pathetic. Consider the comments of Defense Secretary James Mattis in a long letter to Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain. As Defense News summarized it:

Mattis first warns of readiness impacts, stating that 90 days after the start of a CR, lost training is ‘unrecoverable’ due to the need to move onto previously scheduled events. As a result, the Marines will lose out on vital training for coordinated joint fires, while the Air Force will be unable to train a group of pilots needed to refresh a pilot shortage.

The Navy will delay induction of 11 ships, which would push some readiness availabilities into fiscal 2019. The service will also reduce flying hours and steaming days, as well as slow down orders of spare and repair parts. The Army, meanwhile, will postpone all noncritical maintenance work orders until later in the year, as well as restricting home-station training.

Overall, no new military construction projects can begin, which will have an ‘inevitable delay in project schedules and potential increased costs,’ Mattis warns. That includes 37 Navy projects, 16 Air Force projects, and 38 Army projects.
The sentiment in Mattis’s comments is shared by every manager in government and among key contractors. It is difficult enough to plan policy when you operate on one-year budgets, with no certainty about funding beyond that year. It is much worse when you cannot plan beyond a month or a couple of weeks. And it is made worse yet when managers have to spend a great deal of time and resources planning for possible shutdowns every few weeks.

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Republicans Claim Victory in the Shutdown Fight
The failure to enact any spending bills is a product of deep disagreements over spending and spending priorities among and between House and Senate Republicans, deeper disagreements between Republicans and Democrats, and the looming problem of the damaging across-the-board cuts called “sequesters” that came about because Congress could not agree on a deficit reduction plan in 2011—primarily because Republicans would not accept a balance that included tax increases along with the major changes they demanded in Social Security and Medicare.

House Republicans passed appropriations bills that restored the sequester cuts in defense and added a good deal more for the military—but insisted on taking that funding out of domestic programs, proposing deep cuts to programs from diplomacy and development, to education and the safety net, to the environment and health. Senate Republicans, faced with losing some their own members to an electoral backlash if they supported this gross imbalance, simply avoided taking the process to its conventional conclusion—passing appropriations bills and taking them to conference committees to work out the differences. They were aware that bringing up spending bills that might force difficult votes would likely end up producing gridlock anyhow, because Democrats would filibuster. (There was another reason: Taking a lot of time debating those pesky spending bills would mean less time for other priorities, like repealing Obamacare and passing big tax cuts for the rich and corporations.)

Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have understood well the perils of this approach. The third CR that was enacted in late December was a heavy lift for Ryan; his Freedom Caucus members do not want an unending set of CRs that preserve the status quo and give them no cuts in domestic programs, while many other House Republicans hate CRs that do not add a sizable additional amount for defense. McConnell faces the Senate’s 60-vote hurdle for passing anything except reconciliation and confirmations—but also the additional challenge of a razor-thin majority that could leave him short even of the 50 votes required from his own members without a filibuster.

Shutdown politics, like debt-ceiling politics (Coming soon to a Capitol near you!), have something in common: They become endgame negotiations where all sides maneuver to get more out of the deal before everyone goes over the cliff. That can be political parties, the president, or even individual lawmakers when the numbers are close enough that one vote can make the difference. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is widely popular across all partisan and ideological lines; it provides health insurance to 9 million kids who otherwise would be left unprotected. It is regularly cited by Orrin Hatch as his proudest legislative accomplishment, done in partnership with Ted Kennedy in 1997.

The program faced expiration at the end of the last fiscal year, on September 30, 2017—and despite its popularity, it received from House and Senate majorities no attention and no action. States that administer CHIP were forced to plan for its demise, with some beginning the process of untethering the children from their insurance protection.

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had turned the program into a bargaining chip, to lure (or force) Democrats to accede to their CR by including a reauthorization for the program. Using 9 million innocent children as hostages is morally reprehensible, but it was a factor in Democrats’ deciding to give in three days into the shutdown.

Democrats voted to reopen the government in exchange for six years of authorization for CHIP, along with a promise of Mitch McConnell to give a clean debate and vote on a DACA fix. There was one bitter pill to swallow—another $31 billion in tax cuts that further undermine the Affordable Care Act. But all Democrats fundamentally conceded was three more weeks on a CR.

So what lies ahead? One scenario is déjà vu all over again; no action in the House even if there is a vote on a bill in the Senate, leading to another fandango over an immigration fix, more intervention by White House aides Stephen Miller and John Kelly, a veto power exercised by nativist lawmakers like Tim Cotton, and another shutdown over another short-term CR. But it might not be one forced only by Democrats; it is not at all clear how many more short-term CRs Freedom Caucus members or conservative Republican senators will tolerate.

A second scenario is that no fix for DACA is enacted by February 8, and Republicans instead propose a new extended CR lasting until the end of the fiscal year—one with enough sweeteners in the form of budget and tax cuts to entice enough Republicans in the House and Senate to win majorities, but not enough to overcome the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, leading to a more prolonged standoff and shutdown. A variation would be two CRs—the first one separating out defense spending to offer a huge increase, followed by the non-defense items with at least the 15 percent cuts required by sequestration. If Democrats ultimately folded, the repercussions for their party would be far stronger and more devastating.

There is a third scenario, more favorable to Schumer and his colleagues. There could be a DACA deal and a broader immigration package—not far removed from the one Senators Durbin, Graham, Flake and others put together that was blown up by Kelly and Miller after the infamous White House meeting—that gets a debate in the Senate and draws broad bipartisan support, garnering well over 60 votes. With the Dreamer program about to end, the pressure on Paul Ryan to hold a vote would be ramped up—and Democrats would have more traction and legitimacy to use another shutdown to force that vote. Ryan might hold out, but the dynamic would be quite different from the one we have seen so far.

Whichever of these scenarios, or some variation thereof, plays out, the deeper conflicts over spending priorities would not be resolved by them. At some point, immigration notwithstanding, it is more likely that the focus will shift to the House, and the onus will be on Paul Ryan to find a way to get a spending bill through by biting the bullet and supplanting lost Freedom Caucus members with Democrats—a dilemma very familiar to his happily retired predecessor John Boehner. And we cannot ignore the other looming and related issue—the debt ceiling. A shutdown, even for a few days, has major costs to governance, federal employees and many other Americans. A debt ceiling breach would be much, much worse.

But even if the spending bills pass, and the debt ceiling is increased, that will simply reset the table for a replay of these same conflicts and fissures for the next fiscal year, which is rapidly approaching.

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Looming shutdown raises fundamental question: Can GOP govern?

Ryan calls spending disagreements ‘Washington melodrama’
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that rebuilding the military is his “highest priority,” and characterized the spending disagreements as “melodrama.” (Reuters)
By Damian Paletta and Erica Werner January 18 at 10:39 PM
The federal government late Thursday faced increasing odds of a partial shutdown, the culmination of a long period of budget warfare that has now imperiled what most lawmakers agree is the most basic task of governance.

The immediate challenge Thursday was a refusal by Senate Democrats to join with Republicans in passing legislation that would keep the government open for 30 more days while legislators continued to negotiate a longer-term solution.

But the impasse raised deeper questions about the GOP’s capacity — one year into the Trump administration — to govern. Never before has the government experienced a furlough of federal employees when a single party controls both the White House and Congress, but that’s what will happen after midnight Friday if a spending bill fails to pass Congress.

While Democrats criticized Republicans for failing to do what was necessary to win their support to keep the government open — a responsibility that has historically fallen to the party in charge — even some Republicans acknowledged there had been a profound breakdown in how Washington is run.

The 30-day extension, passed by the House but expected to be defeated in the Senate, would have been the fifth temporary funding measure in the past year, a period during which Republicans had failed to put in place a long-term budget plan.

“We have one real responsibility here, and that’s to keep the government funded,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “There’s a lot of stuff we want to do or we’d like to do, but there’s one thing we must do and that’s to pass a budget and keep the government funded. And it is very frustrating that simple, basic task has become such a herculean effort.”

Added Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.): “I think it makes us all look terrible and it calls into question whether a democratic republic like the one we live in can actually govern itself in a predictable way.”

The partial government shutdown has been months, if not years, in the making.

Unlike almost any president or administration before him, Trump has fanned the flames of a shutdown.

Trump has repeatedly mused about the prospects of halting federal operations, saying at one point that the government needed a “good shutdown” to teach Democrats a lesson. The budget he proposed last year was so sparse on key details that the Congressional Budget Office said it could not analyze its impact on revenue.

Who gets sent home if the government shuts down? View Graphic
His aides have not hashed out a broader spending agreement with GOP leaders or Democrats, and the White House and GOP leaders have remained split on how much money to appropriate for the military.

Senate Republicans spent the second half of 2017 immersed in tax negotiations, spending little time focused on how to pay the government’s bills this year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which votes on spending bills, has held just one full committee hearing since July. Its chairman, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), has missed large spells of time in office while battling health issues. The House Budget Committee, meanwhile, has had three different chairmen in 14 months.

As Congress remained focused on taxes and trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers resorted to passing four short-term spending bills known as continuing resolutions to keep the government operating.

These agreements essentially freeze spending at existing levels. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed frustration that they lurch from one temporary deal to the next, without any long-term strategy, and patience has worn thin.

“We’re not getting our job done, and it’s about time we admit it and we change the system so it works for both the majority and the minority parties,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said Thursday.

A visibly frustrated Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director who is working to try to avoid a shutdown, placed all of the blame of the current predicament on Congress. In an event hosted by the University of Virginia on Thursday, he said everyone was hyperfocused on the government funding vote but not enough attention was being paid to all the missed opportunities in past months to avoid the deadline.

“What’s missing in this conversation is the compete dysfunction of Congress and its inability to actually complete an appropriations process,” Short said.

Senate Republicans aren’t expected to vote on a budget resolution at all this year, a move that would have been unthinkable in recent years, as they said it was a cornerstone of good governing.

“I think our appropriations process is basically broken and that’s one of the casualties here,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday, referring to tighter limits on military spending.

These continuing resolutions have made leaders from both parties restless and increasingly defiant heading into the November midterm elections, when Democrats see an opportunity to wrest control of one or both chambers of Congress.

Republicans have said that even though they control the White House and Congress, Senate rules make it impossible for them to pass spending bills without bipartisan support.

But there are no signs that Republicans are united behind their own budget proposals. They control just a 51-49 margin, and several Republicans have said they won’t support the spending bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is battling cancer and isn’t expected to be back in time for a vote on Friday, and they need 60 votes to proceed.

As congressional leaders searched for a solution Thursday, Trump upended the process by renewing his demand that the U.S. taxpayer fund construction of a border wall with Mexico and saying he opposed reauthorizing a health care program for children as part of the short-term spending bill — a stance that he later reversed.

He also made an ominous threat about changing the budget process if a shutdown occurred, saying, “If the country shuts down, which could very well be, the budget should be handled a lot differently than it’s been handled over the last long period of time — many years.”

These comments have created a moving target for Republicans, as they try to force concessions from Democrats, only to be undercut by the White House’s evolving demands.

The president’s rapidly fluctuating positions have frustrated Republicans who are working to blame the budget problems on Senate Democrats. Even though Democrats have their own divisions, especially between those from conservative states and other, more liberal members, they appear to be uniting because of Trump’s changing demands.

Those Twitter posts emboldened Democrats and infuriated a number of Republicans who were hoping to patch together enough votes to avert a shutdown.

Democrats, who also have major differences on spending bills, have used the GOP disunity to unite. They have insisted that any spending bill must take action to prevent the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Trump had appeared open to that idea early last week, but his approach changed. He became more rigid in his insistence that immigration and spending bills include money for a wall along the Mexico border, one that he initially said would be financed by Mexico but now requires $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer money.

“The President’s repeated statements urging a government shutdown are beneath the office and have heightened the budgetary dysfunction,” Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrats, said in a joint statement. Virginia would be hit particularly hard by a government shutdown, in part because of the large number of federal employees who live there.

Today’s budget dysfunction has many of its roots in the election of a tide of conservative tea party members in 2010. They pushed the party to clash with President Barack Obama repeatedly, demanding measures to shrink the size of the government and eliminate the deficit.

This tea party bloc helped push for a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, led largely by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over complaints about the Affordable Care Act.

But the Republican Party never fully united during the Obama administration, with some members pushing for dramatic spending changes and others wary of slashing benefits for the elderly and the poor.

The Obama administration leveraged this GOP split by seeking deals that — even if it splintered the Republican Party — could still become law.

In 2017, Republicans took control of the White House and both chambers of Congress and they no longer had Obama to blame for budget disagreements.

After one year of complete GOP control in Washington, the government’s budget picture has only worsened. It now has roughly $21 trillion in debt. The U.S. government spent $666 billion more than it brought in through revenue last year, and that figure is expected to grow this year because of the deep tax cuts that went into effect Jan. 1.

Ryan said Thursday that this part of governing has faltered because of intransigence by Senate Democrats, whose support is necessary for any spending bill to pass into law. But Republicans haven’t held any votes on these measures in the Senate Appropriations Committee or the Senate floor, as it’s unclear whether they have enough support within the party to pass any of the bills.

This situation has bogged down other GOP budget goals. Republican promises to overhaul programs by curtailing welfare spending have largely been sidelined after Trump backed away from this push, saying it would only work if Democrats came on board.

Changes to those programs probably would have cut the deficit but, instead, Republicans are now pursuing a deal that could add close to $250 billion in new spending for military and nondefense programs. In addition, lawmakers have looked at adding another $80 billion in spending to address hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters that occurred in 2017.

But these negotiations have stalled repeatedly and are one reason that Congress kept passing short-term spending bills until lawmakers this week showed signs they had enough.

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