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On the roster: Schumer, Pelosi no show bodes ill for fiscal, tax bills – Second Conyers accuser comes forward – Moore campaign staff push, shove Fox News crew – Mulvaney clamps down at consumer financial agency – He should’ve just given himself the finger
SCHUMER, PELOSI NO SHOW BODES ILL FOR FISCAL, TAX BILLS
How very Washingtonian to make a day’s news out of doing nothing.
We are not talking about the usual nothing that happens in our nation’s capital, but the special nothing that happened today as a planned summit between President Trump and the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress fell apart over a mean tweet from the commander in chief.
We need to put the nixing by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in some proper context, though.
The Democratic duo to which the president refers scornfully as “Chuck and Nancy” in his tweets, had come out miles ahead after their last such visit to the White House this summer.
The reason for the bout of cliff diving that will begin next week in Washington was that Trump made a separate peace with Democrats on borrowing and spending rather than cut a larger deal at that moment. But now that bonus time is almost up.
September was not the legislative logjam that we expected, but that means what’s coming in December will be worse and more chaotic.
The big issue is, as it has been since 2007, keeping the lights on. Ordinary functions of the government and formerly routine increases in the Treasury Department’s credit limit have become the dominant work of the legislative branch.
If Congress was a business, it would spend 11 months of every year failing to produce products, but still find a way to waste a month doing the books.
The problem this year is that, despite one-party control, the books look to be no easier to do even as the expectations for productivity increase.
Think of it this way, the expectation that a party in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House can get results on policy priorities is substantially based on the fact that the ordinary business of government can be dispatched so easily. That’s not the case here.
The reason Schumer and Pelosi were at the White House in September and were supposed to be there today was that Republicans are so fundamentally split on key issues that Democratic votes will be necessary for ordinary measures.
Back in September, things were a little simpler since the tax proposals on offer in the House and Senate were still in the Imagineering phase so Trump could push back Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with impunity.
Trump, resentful over Ryan and McConnell’s inability to deliver promised cuts to ObamaCare, could take the Democrats’ by the hand and waltz past his own party’s leaders.
The dance floor looks rather different at the end of December.
Trump’s tweet attacking “Chuck and Nancy” came not just ahead of the scheduled meeting on year-end housekeeping, but also Trump’s visit to the Senate today. Trump was on Capitol Hill to try to shove a half-dozen or so reluctant Republican senators into a “yes” vote for the president’s proposed package of corporate tax cuts.
Trump’s stormy relationship with the members of his own party has made life harder for those on both sides of the relationship. But by declaring contempt for the Democrats with whom he partnered in September, perhaps Trump thought he could build a little GOP solidarity.
Schumer and Pelosi didn’t just want to be foils for the president’s unity play, so they took maximal umbrage and walked away.
That not only helps them with their own crabby members, who tend to define issues on the basis of resisting Trump, but increases their eventual leverage.
Remember, in any legislative standoff, the party that is likely to come out ahead is the party that finds failure the most tolerable.
It will probably suit Democrats just fine to see December evolve into desperate negotiations, temporary shutdowns and deep uncertainties about health insurance subsidies and the status of hundreds of thousands of young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as minors.
The hope on Capitol Hill, as usual, is that somehow all of these concerns, including the entire tax code, can be bundled into some sort of “grand bargain.”
To revisit the Congress-as-a-business analogy, lawmakers always have a tendency to prefer easier terms now with balloon payments at the end.
Republican leaders have been increasingly loud in their warnings about what can happen to big talk about tax cuts if the subject gets tangled up with year-end, must-pass legislation.
Those fears brought into plain view today as the Democrats made clear that they are going to make Republicans sweat every way they can.
THE RULEBOOK: LESSONS LEARNED
“There are causes of differences within our immediate contemplation, of the tendency of which, even under the restraints of a federal constitution, we have had sufficient experience to enable us to form a judgment of what might be expected if those restraints were removed.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 7
TIME OUT: PUT UP YER DUKES
It looks like the newly betrothed Henry, Prince of Wales and Meghan Markle are bound to become the duke and duchess of Sussex. Other than being a lovely seacoast duchy – chalk cliffs, Brighton beaches, etc. – what does Sussex have to do with anything? New Yorker: “‘They’re quite limited in the titles that are available,’ Charles Kidd, the editor of Debrett’s Peerage & Baronetage, said in a statement… ‘I think the others are highly unlikely. Clarence hasn’t been used for a long time and it’s been sort of tainted by bad luck.’ In this case, ‘bad luck’ means that one Duke of Clarence was executed by his brother as a traitor (Shakespeare wrote about that, depicting him as being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine) and that another, Prince Albert Victor, a grandson of Queen Victoria, was caught up in a scandal involving a gay-prostitution ring, and died of influenza soon after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck.”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -16.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.2 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
SECOND CONYERS ACCUSER COMES FORWARD
The Detroit News: “A former staffer of U.S. Rep. John Conyers said the veteran lawmaker made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, adding to allegations by other unnamed former employees that have prompted a congressional investigation. Deanna Maher, who worked for him from 1997 to 2005, told The Detroit News that the Detroit Democrat made unwanted advances toward her three times. Maher is the second former Conyers staffer to go public with accusations about the veteran lawmaker. … The first instance of harassment happened, Maher said, shortly after the congressman hired her in September 1997 during an event with the Congressional Black Caucus. ‘I didn’t have a room, and he had me put in his hotel suite,’ said Maher, 77… The other incidents with the now 88-year-old Conyers involved unwanted touching in a car in 1998 and another unwanted touching of her legs under her dress in 1999, she said.”
Franken’s hometown paper not buying apology – Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Franken has declared himself ready to get back to work… While he was busy reflecting, his voice was absent from important issues… At least in the short term, Franken’s effectiveness will be hampered by persistent questions about the allegations, the ethics investigation and the lingering possibility that other women may come forward… There has been other damage. Abby Honold, brutally raped by Daniel Drill-Mellum, a former Franken intern, had earlier this fall asked Franken to sponsor legislation to help rape victims. Honold sought a different sponsor after the Franken allegations came to light. But that has triggered a wave of vitriol from Franken’s supporters. Franken has said publicly he supports Honold’s decision, but he is unable to stop her from becoming collateral damage. Franken is right — he has much to do to regain Minnesotans’ trust. It may not be possible.”
MOORE CAMPAIGN STAFF PUSH, SHOVE FOX NEWS CREW
Fox News: “Campaign staffers for Senate candidate Roy Moore late Monday night got into a scuffle with two Fox News camera crews prior to a rally in the town of Henagar, Ala. Organizers told the media that Moore was expected to use the front entrance at the Henagar Community Center and the cameras were stationed outside, Fox News’ Jonathan Serrie reported. Moore instead used a side entrance. Camera crews and reporters attempted to see the candidate as he made his way into the building. And that point, two men ‘decided to push the cameras back and physically manhandle two Fox News photographers,’ Serrie told Shannon Bream, host of ’Fox News @ Night.’ A Fox News producer stepped in and told the two staffers not to touch the cameras. … It was unclear if Moore witnessed the scuffle that one cameraman said lasted about 30 seconds.”
Moore: Accusers claims are ‘sign of the immorality of our time’ – Fox News: “At a rally Monday night just two weeks ahead of a vote to fill a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, Republican candidate Roy Moore said the sexual misconduct allegations against him are ‘simply dirty politics.’ Moore, speaking in Henagar, Ala., called his campaign ‘long and enduring,’ and said his team has been waiting for it to end for ‘quite a while’ following accusations of sexual assault against the former Alabama Supreme Court justice. The controversial candidate said the accusations against him ‘hurt’ him, calling it ‘a little odd’ that throughout his 40 years of service, ‘never once has this been alleged.’ ‘The truth is this is not really odd at all,’ Moore told a packed room of supporters and news media reporters. ‘This is simply dirty politics. And it’s a sign of the immorality of our time.’ Seven women have come forward in recent weeks…”
Jones outspending Moore in final weeks before election – Politico: “Doug Jones and Roy Moore both released new television ads on Monday. But many Alabama voters will see only one of them. That’s because of the massive disparity in TV ad spending between the two candidates in the Alabama special election to a Senate seat, where Jones, the Democratic candidate, is outspending Moore roughly 7-to-1. The imbalance is stunning, with just two weeks to go in the campaign: Jones has aired more than 10,000 spots on broadcast TV in Alabama since the primaries, while Moore, the embattled GOP candidate, has run just over 1,000, according to figures compiled by Advertising Analytics. ‘I saw probably 40 to 50 Doug Jones ads, and I saw one Roy Moore ad’ over the Thanksgiving break, said Daniel Deriso, an aide to Democratic Birmingham Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin.”
Pro-Moore group paid woman to make fake rape claim – WaPo: “A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets. In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public. The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account.”
MULVANEY CLAMPS DOWN AT CONSUMER FINANCIAL AGENCY
Politico: “Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s pick for acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said Monday he has no immediate plans to dismantle the agency, but he nonetheless implemented a temporary freeze on hiring and new regulations. ‘Rumors that I’m going to set the place on fire or blow it up or lock the doors are completely false,’ Mulvaney, a longtime critic of the bureau, told reporters during a briefing at CFPB headquarters. He insisted that his first day at the CFPB was ‘extraordinarily smooth and professional’ despite an unfolding fight for control of the bureau between himself and Leandra English, who on Friday was appointed acting director by outgoing chief Richard Cordray. Both the hiring freeze and the freeze on all new regulations and guidance will last for 30 days, as will a separate freeze on civil penalty payments. Mulvaney stressed that the bureau will continue to meet its legal and statutory deadlines.”
Judge in lawsuit is ready – WSJ: “The federal judge reviewing dueling claims over the interim leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Monday he would act quickly after the Trump administration responds to claims by an Obama-era official that she should be the one running the bureau. ‘I’ll read the government’s filing when it comes in,’ said Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was nominated by President Donald Trump last summer. ‘We’ll go from there.’”
STATE PROSECUTORS MOVING AHEAD AGAINST MANAFORT
Bloomberg: “Manhattan prosecutors investigating Paul Manafort’s New York business activities are scheduling interviews with 10 to 20 of his work associates and lenders, including Stephen Calk, whose Chicago-based bank provided millions of dollars in loans on Manafort family properties. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office has already subpoenaed lenders for documents related to transactions by Manafort, President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, and is proceeding to conduct the interviews, according to a person familiar with the investigation. Separately, the Manhattan U.S. attorney has recently looked into Calk’s bank as part of a probe into whether Manafort may have engaged in mortgage fraud, honest-services fraud and bank fraud, according to another person familiar with that investigation. Manafort is already under federal indictment for money laundering and other charges. The district attorney’s office wants to know how deeply Calk was involved in loans made by Federal Savings Bank, where he is chief executive officer, for Manafort’s benefit, the person said.”
Senate panel goes lenient with deadline for Kushner documents – Politico: “The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hold Jared Kushner to a Monday deadline the panel initially set for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law to turn over documents for its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a letter before Thanksgiving that Kushner, a top aide to Trump, failed to provide a series of documents the committee requested — including one that they said referenced a ‘back door overture’ by the Russians and another that hinted at pre-election contact with WikiLeaks. They raised the specter of issuing a subpoena if Kushner failed to produce them this week.”
White House debates banning personal phones – Bloomberg: “The White House may ban its employees from using personal mobile phones while at work, raising concerns among some staffers including that they’ll be cut off from family and friends, according to seven administration officials. President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about press leaks since taking office, but one official said the potential change isn’t connected to concerns about unauthorized disclosures to news organizations. The proposed ban is instead driven by cybersecurity concerns, the officials said. One official said that there are too many devices connected to the campus wireless network and that personal phones aren’t as secure as those issued by the federal government.”
WARREN MAKING THE MOST OF TRUMP’S ‘POCAHONTAS’ JAB
The Hill: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren is fundraising off of President Trump’s Monday insult, asking supporters to help her fight against a president who calls her ‘Pocahontas.’ ‘You might have heard that Donald Trump likes to call me ‘Pocohontas.’ He does it on Twitter, at rallies, and even in official White House meetings,’ an email from the Massachusetts Democrat reportedly read. ‘Let’s show Donald Trump that we’re sick of his racist slurs by getting to work to fight his agenda. Donald Trump can keep attacking my family — but I am going to keep fighting for yours,’ she added. Warren’s email came after Trump made the offhand remark during an event held in the Oval Office earlier Monday that meant to honor Navajo Code Talkers who served in World War II. … Warren blasted Trump for stopping to a ‘disgusting low’ by attacking her with a degrading name during a ceremony intended to honor war heroes.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez to retire – Chicago Sun Times: “Signaling the end to a quarter century career in Congress, Rep. Luis Gutierrez will announce Tuesday that he will not seek re-election, Democratic sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times. The Northwest Side Democrat has been one of the more high-profile Latino politicians in the country, advocating forcefully for immigrant rights, since he became a U.S. representative 25 years ago. Gutierrez, 63, planned to make his retirement announcement Tuesday in Chicago, the sources said. He has a news conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant. The sources added that Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, D-Chicago, likely will run to succeed Gutierrez in next year’s election with Gutierrez’s endorsement.”
SENS. JOHNSON, DAINES HOLD ‘NO’ VOTES ON TAX BILL
The Hill: “Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Steve Daines (Mont.), the two Republicans who have said they cannot support the Senate tax-reform package in its current form, want to end a major tax break for big companies to help small businesses. They say the tax bill needs to treat big companies and small- and medium-sized businesses more equally. … The special rate for those ‘pass-through’ companies, whose income is taxed through the individual tax code, would expire after 2025. Johnson and Daines want to increase the deduction available to small businesses, which the Senate bill now sets at 17.4 percent, by not allowing big companies to deduct state and local taxes. Daines estimates it would raise between $100 billion and $200 billion, and Johnson says that would be enough to achieve acceptable tax parity between big companies and mid-sized and small businesses.”
McCain stays undecided – Axios: “Sen. John McCain says he’s undecided on the Senate tax bill, scheduled for a committee vote Tuesday, and has concerns about ‘a lot of things’ in the plan, the Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports. As Axios’ Jonathan Swan has noted, McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake all have reservations on the bill — and none are beholden to Trump or Republican leadership.”
Tech companies make Cyber Monday argument to FCC to try to save net neutrality – The Hill
Fed chair nominee Powell says it’s time to pause and review financial regulations – Reuters
AUDIBLE: AND SO IT BEGINS…
“I wrote in a distinguished Republican. It was not Judge Moore though.” – Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said when asked who he wrote in on his absentee ballot for the upcoming Alabama Senate election.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your tongue in cheek assertion that Sen. Franken could be replaced by ‘a drinking bird poised over the appropriate vote button’ really brightened up my day. Not only is it an apt metaphor, but it brought back memories of a long forgotten clear glass drinking bird I played with as a kid. But then it got me to wondering what color fluid would be appropriate for the new avian Senator. First I thought blue to be the obvious choice to represent the bird’s Democrat bona fides (presuming the Minnesota Governor indeed appointed a Democratic bird). But finally I decided that pink was the best choice, better to show its commitment to women and their issues, given the circumstances of Senator Bird’s ascension to the position.” – Russ Kiekhaefer, Midland, Mich.
[Ed. note: And if he keeps plunking the appropriate buttons, Sen. Bird might have even greater longevity in the Senate than Sen. Byrd!]
“Now, let me get this straight, other than ‘Recess Appointments’, a president can’t make a temporary appointment to run an agency while waiting for the Senate to get off their withered behinds to confirm the appointment, and the current president is stuck with the prior ‘so appointment. First the Federal Appointments Act should have been found unconstitutional as other than the precise wording of constitution is to the effect that presidential appointments must have the ‘advice and consent’ (talk about weasel words) before said appointment becomes accepted full time. Second that during recesses of the Senate, the president can make appoints until the next full session of the Senate. However, the constitution is silent on temporary appointments until confirmed. Perhaps I missed a point somewhere regarding the Marbury v. Madison decision of 1803, that the Supreme Court had no place in interfering in the Executive, and therefore laws of Congress affecting Presidential powers must be by amendment of the constitution itself. I’m confused. What’s constitutional or unconstitutional about what President Trump did? Or has the world of constitutional law been thrown out the window. SCOTUS can make mistakes (Dredscott comes to mind). Can’t they reverse themselves when they boo-boo?” – John William Gibson, Coos Bay, Ore.
[Ed. note: Mr. Gibson, I think you have a better read on this than most. The power of the executive as it comes to populating the branch that bears the same name is all but absolute.]
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HE SHOULD’VE JUST GIVEN HIMSELF THE FINGER
WESH: “A man involved in a road rage incident shot himself accidentally, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said two people stopped near Adela Avenue and Science Drive in Orlando, got out of their vehicles and began to argue Sunday. Deputies said one of the men pulled out a gun because he felt threatened and accidentally shot himself in the leg. The man’s injuries are not life-threatening. Since the man legally possessed the gun and shot himself, authorities said he likely won’t be charged.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.