Tag: Donald Trump

New Promised Trump Tax Cut Is A Big Nothingburger

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President Trump made headlines late last week with another of his shoot-from-the-hip policy pronouncements, this time that there would be a tax cut before the midterm elections. According to The Washington Post, Trump said the cuts would get done “sometime just prior, I would say, to November.”

I’m going to give Trump the benefit of the doubt and assume that he meant that only the specifics of his new tax proposal would be announced rather than that the plan would be enacted prior to November. With Congress out of session and the GOP leadership almost certainly against calling its members back to Washington during the final days of the election, it’s hard to imagine that he meant anything but that there would be an announcement.

(I shudder to think about the possibility that Trump either thought this actually could get done legislatively over the next two weeks or that he could ignore the U.S. Constitution and simply impose the changes he wants without congressional action.)

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But even assuming that what Trump meant was just an announcement, it’s hard to see how what he might propose (For the record, I’m not at all convinced he will actually propose anything) can get done in the lame duck. Here’s why.

1. The Trump tax plan can be filibustered in the Senate.

2. Unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is willing to do away with the legislative filibuster, which he so far has been completely unwilling to do, the only way to avoid a filibuster of the Trump tax bill will be to do it as a reconciliation bill.

3. But reconciliation may only be done if both houses of Congress adopt a budget resolution conference report with reconciliation instructions ordering it…and neither the House nor Senate have passed a budget resolution yet this year. The House Budget Committee has approved one but there has been no activity in the Senate.

4. Therefore, before a new Trump tax plan could be considered, a budget resolution with its projected trillion-dollar deficits would have to be adopted. That will be much easier to do after than before the election, but still won’t be a simple vote for some GOP members even if it would make a tax cut easier..

5. And it will take time. Even with a truncated process, adopting a budget resolution is likely to take at least two weeks…and probably closer to three or four.

6. Meanwhile, votes become less reliable the longer a lame duck continues as retiring and defeated representatives and senators become less interested in their current job and more concerned about what’s next. If the past is any guide, some will even stop coming to Washington entirely.

7. This is not to say that enacting another tax bill will be impossible, just that it will be very difficult. The process could be expedited if the House passed the budget resolution already adopted by its budget committee, if the Senate then agreed to what the House passed with an amendment requiring reconciliation, if the House then passed the budget resolution with the Senate amendment, if the House Ways and Means Committee quickly adopted the Trump plan, if the full House quickly passed what the committee approved and if the full Senate bypassed its Finance Committee and adopted the House-passed bill without making any changes.

8. That’s six ifs. Add in the typical no shows during a lame duck and you get a recipe for no action.

That will put the new Trump tax plan on the same legislative trash heap as his wall, his space force, his infrastructure proposal and his military parade.

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Trump 5% Budget Plan Shows That He’s Weak

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President Trump tried to sound powerful when he announced that he had ordered his cabinet members to come up with five percent reductions in their fiscal 2020 department or agency budget.

Here’s why Trump’s plan is actually the total opposite of bold.

1. The plan isn’t for the current year (fiscal 2019); it’s for 2020, the budget that Trump is legally required to submit to Congress early next year and won’t start to be implemented almost a year from now. In the meantime, Trump’s own Department of Treasury and Office of Management and Budget project that the deficit will grow by $306 billion to almost $1.1 trillion. Trump isn’t proposing to do anything about that.

2. Trump could have proposed that Congress “un-appropriate” spending in the current year by using the impoundment control procedures specified in the Congressional Budget Act. He didn’t.

3. Trump’s pronouncement was that his cabinet come up with a plan to reduce “discretionary” spending within their agency or department. That’s only about 25 percent — roughly $1.1 trillion — of the total amount expected to be spent in 2019.

(Note: The $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending is roughly equivalent to the total projected 2019 deficit. Trump would have to propose to eliminate all of it to completely balance the budget this year.)

4. If Trump had wanted to propose something impactful he would have included most of the rest of the budget — mandatory spending other than interest on the national debt. But just before the election that would have subjected him to the very politically damaging charge that he was going to propose cuts in Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits.

5. There is a strong possibility that this wasn’t even the new order Trump made it out to be. Asking cabinet departments to develop different spending-cut scenarios (-2 percent, -5 percent, etc.) is the standard procedure every president uses early in the year to formulate the budget. There’s a good chance, therefore, that the cuts Trump just said he ordered were actually developed around this past June.

In other words, the Trump five percent cut plan was just about the least he could say he would do and still sound like he was doing something.

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Trump Will Say Democrats Stole The 2018 Election…And 7 Other Predictions

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Less than a month before the election, about a month before the start of the lame duck session of Congress, a little over about 50 days before the next government shutdown deadline on December 7 and less than three months before the next Congress begins, these 8 things are both keeping me up at night and giving me nightmares while I’m awake.

It’s therapeutic (at least for me) to share them.

1. Trump Will Insist The Democrats Stole The 2018 Election

If Democrats win one or both houses of Congress this November, Trump will insist that it happened because (1) they colluded with the Russians or Chinese, (2) they hacked the election results in all 50 states, (3) illegal immigrants voted in record numbers or (4) all of the above. Trump will say he has information proving that the results weren’t a referendum on him, that he doesn’t plan to change a thing and that he will make the Democrats pay for stealing the election.

Then see #s 5,6, 7 and 8 below.

2. Big Federal Budget Deficits Are Now Permanent

The Trump administration will soon verify what the Congressional Budget Office reported last week.  When the U.S. Treasury releases its monthly statement for   September, it will confirm that the fiscal 2018 federal budget deficit increased to close to $800 billion dollars this past year and will be at or above $1 trillion for 2019.

But that will be just the beginning.  With more tax cuts about to be considered (see #3), a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan likely to be enacted at some point in the next few years, hurricanes and other disasters almost certainly on the horizon and no serious revenue increases or spending reductions likely to be considered, $1 trillion or higher federal budget deficits are now a permanent part of the U.S. economy and American politics. The previous political goal of projecting on paper (let alone actually achieving) a balanced budget in 10 years is now gone…forever.

3. Another Huge Tax Cut Will Happen This Year

I’m increasingly convinced that, during the lame duck, the Senate will take up the tax cut the House passed just before it recessed for the election. My sources on Capitol Hill tell me that preparations are already underway for Congress to quickly adopt a budget resolution at the start of the lame duck just so the Senate will be able to avoid a filibuster on the tax bill.

This will increase the deficit by another $600 billion to $700 billion over the next decade, and much more after that.

4. The Budget Deficit Will Reach $2 Trillion By 2024

There will be an economic downturn at some point over the next few years. Combined with #2 and #3 above, this will increase the deficit to close to $2 trillion.

5. Trump Will Ignore Democratic Subpoenas And Set Off A Huge Appropriations Fight

The common assumption seems to be that, if the Democrats are in the majority in one or both houses of Congress next year, as part of official committee investigations they will inundate the Trump administration with subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Not only do I seriously doubt that the White House will meekly comply with these subpoenas, I expect the president to routinely assert every possible reason that he doesn’t have to do so.

Yes, the courts will then get involved. But I also expect congressional Democrats to use next year’s appropriations process to push the administration to comply. It wouldn’t be shocking, for example, if Democrats threaten the funding for several assistant secretaries and the White House counsel in response to the White House’s stonewalling.

6. Shutdown Showdowns Are About To Become Even More Of A Thing

There will be multiple shutdown fights for two reasons.  First, Trump may not agree to full-year funding in any form (a continuing resolution, omnibus appropriation or Department of Homeland Security appropriation) without money for his wall. He’s far more likely to agree to a series of short-term funding bills that allow him to keep raising the issue, especially if he’s able to blame a Democratic majority for the wall not happening. That will set up frequent shutdown threats every year.

Second, see #5.

7. Trump Will Precipitate A Debt Ceiling Fight Sooner Than Expected

The federal debt ceiling was suspended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 until March 1, 2019, and the overwhelming assumption is that the Treasury will use “extraordinary measures” (the Washington equivalent of getting a cash advance on one credit card to make a payment on another) to delay raise the debt ceiling until September.

But just because Treasury has always used extraordinary measures in the past doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to use them this time. Trump could easily at least threaten not to use these bookkeeping gimmicks at all or to stop using them at some point before September if the president doesn’t get something (such as funding for his wall, a space force and a military parade) he wants in return.

8. Trump 2020 Budget Will Be An Even Bigger Political Statement

The first two Trump budgets basically were campaign brochures masquerading as official federal documents. The next Trump budget — fir fiscal 2020 budget — will be released as his reelection efforts formally get underway and so will have very little to do with governing. It will be largely forgotten on Capitol Hill within two weeks of it being released.

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Donald Trump Is A Federal Budget Wuss

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The fiscal 2019 appropriations Congress is sending the White House include much more spending than the president requested, don’t have most of the spending cuts he proposed, don’t provide the $5 billion he demanded for the wall he wants built between the United States and Mexico and don’t stop funding for Planned Parenthood.

That’s much more than just a slap of Trump’s face by the GOP-controlled House and Senate: It’s a crack upside his head with a 2×4.

And, in response to Congress’s almost wholesale rejection of his budget priorities, Trump did…wait for it…nothing, or at least nothing meaningful.

Yes, on multiple occasions over the past year Trump huffed and puffed and menacingly threatened to blow Congress’s house down by shutting the federal government if he didn’t get what he wanted.

But when faced with the opportunity this week to veto the legislation that didn’t provide any money for his wall and actually to shut down the government, Trump ran from the fight he had been threatening so loudly for so long. While he was 250 miles away from Capital Hill in New York, Trump meekly said he would avoid the confrontation with Congress and sign whatever he was sent.

In other words, Donald Trump is a federal budget wuss.

This was a not strategic retreat by the White House. If anything, it’s going to be even harder for Trump to get what he wants on spending and taxes in a lame duck session than it was before. This was his best chance.

This is especially true of funding for his wall. Congress has already refused multiple times to provide the funds Trump wants and that isn’t likely to change after the election. That’s particularly true if the Democratic wave many are predicting actually happens and Trump’s policies become even less important to Republicans.

It’s also true of Trump’s other budget priorities. The two “minibus” appropriations that Trump’s signature will enact will provide funding for the full fiscal year and include the majority of the spending the president gets to approve. Trump simply won’t be able to have that much of an impact on what’s left even if he tries.

But even more important than the rejection of his budget policies is the fact that Congress played Trump like a virtuoso and he was unable and unwilling to do anything about it.

That kind of weakness is always recognized and seldom, if ever, forgotten.

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Trump Is About To Kiss His Wall Goodbye

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Donald Trump is about to give away what could be his last chance to get Congress to fund the wall he wants built between the Unites States and Mexico.

Trump wanted $5 billion for his wall this year, but the Republican-controlled Congress once again refused to appropriate anything for it in either the five full-year appropriations or the continuing resolution it has sent to the White House.

Trump could express his displeasure and disappointment over Congress refusing yet again to fund his wall by vetoing the CR, triggering a government shutdown and forcing a showdown with Congress over the issue, and for a time it looked and sounded like he might do just that.

But rather than make a stand over funding for his wall, Trump stated yesterday during an appearance in New York with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would not shut the government before the election over this issue.

Trump, the president who always claims he’s great at dealmaking, let the supposedly friendly GOP-controlled Congress play him big time. Congress didn’t want a pre-election shutdown, gave Trump absolutely nothing for his wall to get his cooperation and then called his bluff by in effect telling him to take it or leave it.

And, rather than trying to cut any kind of deal with the House and Senate controlled by his own party, Trump took it.

in other words, for all of his bluster and promises over the past six months that he wouldn’t sign a CR, omnibus appropriation or regular appropriation if it didn’t fund his wall, Trump folded.

Trump didn’t even get a promise from the GOP congressional leadership that it would fund his wall in the lame duck session of Congress. All House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the president was that a shutdown after the election would be better than a shutdown before…and he bought it.

It’s very likely that the lame duck Congress won’t provide funds for Trump’s wall given that it has repeatedly refused to do so up to now and the retiring and defeated members will be less reliable votes for the White House.

Funding for the wall will be even less likely if the Democratic wave many are expecting in this election actually occurs and is interpreted by Republicans as a rejection of Trump and his policies.

And a Democratic House and/or Senate majority over the next two years is even less likely to fund Trump’s wall that the Republican majorities have been the past two years.

Trump still has three days to change his mind and veto the take-it-or-leave it deal Congress is offering him. If he doesn’t, Trump’s wall may never be heard from again.

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This Is The Week We Find Out If Trump Is A Shutdown Blowhard

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The federal government will shut down a week from today if Donald Trump carries out his often-made threat to veto the continuing resolution that will prevent Washington from turning into a pumpkin on September 30th at midnight.

So…at least as far as this shutdown is concerned…we’re finally going to find out whether Trump is all talk and no action since he swore this past March never to sign another funding bill without money for the wall he wants built between the United States and Mexico.

To be fair, Trump has also often made threats over the past six months not to cause a government shutdown. As I’ve been posting (most recently here), where Trump stands on shutting down the government on any day has been anything but consistent. When it comes to a shutdown, what he has said and when he has said it has had no relation to what he has said the day before.

It’s very possible that Trump has been doing nothing more than pounding his chest the past few months.

But with the new fiscal year set to start next Monday and only 3 of the 12 appropriations enacted, it’s finally put-up-or-shut-up time for Trump.

At this point there are few facts and lots of speculating about this situation.

The facts:

1. Congress combined two – for the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services — of the remaining 2019 appropriations into a single bill. That combined appropriation has already passed the Senate and presumably will be adopted this week by the House week.

2. The GOP congressional leadership added a continuing resolution for the seven appropriations that will not be adopted by September 30th to this DOD-HHS “minibus.” That CR will keep all the agencies and departments in those seven bills funded until December 7th.

3. The DOD-HHS-CR includes no new funds for Trump’s wall.

4. Trump’s most recent statement on the shutdown came when he tweeted late last week that the DOD-HHS-CR bill that doesn’t provide the $5 billion he wants for his wall is “ridiculous.”

So, with less than a week to go, there’s a clear need for a CR but no way to know what Trump will do.

The Speculation:

As Amber Phllips (@byamberphillips) reported last week in The Washington Post, the speculation about what Trump will do is rampant.

1. On the one hand, congressional Republicans don’t want a shutdown before the election and Trump supposedly has agreed to wait until the December 7th deadline to push the wall issue.

2. On the other hand, in a very Trumpian fashion, the president has indicated several times since meeting with Ryan and McConnell that he might not be willing to wait until December to get the funding he wants.

3. As much as he needs to work with the GOP leadership, Trump seems to be taking his cues on this issue as much from Sean Hannity and other conservative commentators as he is from Ryan and McConnell.

4. It’s possible that Trump realizes both that Ryan and McConnell have been playing him for close to two years about funding for his wall and that getting what he wants after the election will be more difficult than it will be now.

5. It’s also possible…and perhaps even likely…that Trump will see a fight over funding for his wall as the best way to reinvigorate the immigration issue in a big way before the election.

6. And it’s definitely possible that Trump will see a shutdown next week as a great way to divert attention away from Mueller, Manafort, Cohen, Bob Woodard’s book and the Kavanaugh nomination, especially if the Kavanaugh nomination doesn’t go well.

But it’s also very possible that Trump has been doing nothing more than pounding his chest the past few months and in the end will prove he’s a blowhard by doing nothing more than signing the CR and claiming a great victory.

We’ll know the truth in just days.

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GOP Congress Gives Trump Its Middle Finger

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No, it’s not oversight hearings into…well…anything.

And it’s certainly not a subpoena, legislation to protect the Mueller investigation or the rejection of his Supreme Court nominee.

But the GOP congressional leadership’s decision last week not to give Donald Trump the $5 billion he wants for a wall between the United States and Mexico before the election and then to make it much harder for him to veto the legislation that codifies that decision was the closest House and Senate Republicans have come since Trump was elected to publicly giving him their collective middle finger.

First, Congress decided to combine several of the fiscal 2019 appropriations together both to deal with the very limited amount of time left before the government shuts down on October 1 and to make it more likely that the wide swath of programs funded in these small omnibus appropriations (hence the name “minibus”) would attract enough votes to pass the House and Senate.

This was an act of desperation and defiance by the Republican leadership.

Second, the GOP leadership then decided to attach the continuing resolution — the bill that will be needed to keep open the agencies and departments not included in either of the two minibuses — to the combined Defense-Health and Human Services appropriation. Given that the White House staff (but not Trump himself) has indicated that the president will sign that bill, the thinking was that this will reduce or even eliminate the chances of government shutdown before the election.

This was an act of desperation and defiance by the Republican congressional leadership. Knowing that they weren’t going to approve the billions of dollars Trump has been insisting on for his wall and that they would face his wrath when they didn’t, the GOP Congress made it significantly more painful for the president to react negatively when he didn’t get what he was demanding.

This has been coming for months given that the congressional Republicans’ political needs differ so sharply from Trump’s heading into the mid-term elections.

With polls showing the Republican control of the House and Senate increasingly at risk, a government shutdown is the last thing the GOP leadership wants five weeks before Election Day and just as early voting gets underway in many states.

Trump, on the other hand, may see a shutdown over his wall as the best way to raise the reddest of red meat issues — immigration — with his base.

And Trump’s need to energize his base took on increased importance last week with Paul Manafort’s plea deal, the release of Bob Woodward’s book and the continuing aftermath of the New York Times anonymous op-ed.

So far, Trump has been anything but consistent about a shutdown.

Trump may see a government shutdown as the most dramatic thing available to him right now to divert attention. Other very dramatic diversions, such as firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, all seem unlikely before the election.

He may also see it as part of his continuing anti-impeachment strategy to energize the voters he will need to keep Congress from moving forward.

What’s most interesting and potentially most politically significant about this are that the Republicans in Congress (1) decided to devise an appropriations strategy that unambiguously helps themselves rather than Trump, (2) didn’t accommodate the White House in even some small way and (3) challenged Trump so openly.

In addition, the congressional leadership did this not knowing whether it would work. As I noted in this post, So far, Trump has been anything but consistent about a shutdown and there’s no way to guarantee he will be more rational between now and October 1 than he has been so far.

Indeed, given Manafort et al., it may be safer to assume that he won’t be.

In other words, Trump could easily decide to reply to the congressional GOP’s middle finger by giving it right back to them.

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