Friday, March 31, 2017

Progressive Breakfast: Calvin, Hobbes & Budgetary Bait-and-Switch

MORNING MESSAGE

Liz Ryan Murray
Calvin, Hobbes & Budgetary Bait-and-Switch
A great old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip tells us a lot about the current budget debate. Calvin asks his mom to let him do a succession of ridiculously dangerous things: First he asks if he can set his mattress on fire; his mom says no. Then he asks if he can ride his tricycle on the roof. Again, his mom says no. Finally, he asks if he can have a cookie. When she says no to that as well, he grumbles, “I think she’s on to me.” Replace Calvin with Republicans and Calvin’s mom with all of us, and you have an idea what the current budget debate is really all about.

2 Dems for Gorsuch

Two Dems back Gorsuch. The Hill: “[Sen. Heidi] Heitkamp’s announcement came moments after [Sen. Joe] Manchin became the first Senate Democrat publicly backing Gorsuch … Gorsuch will need backing from six more [Democrats]. Other red-state Democrats like Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) are facing pressure … Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) haven’t closed the door voting to end a filibuster. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — who is under pressure because he represents Gorsuch’s home state — also hasn’t announced his decision.”
60 still appears unlikely. NYT: “…other Democrats remain confident that he will not earn the support necessary to break a filibuster … More than 30 senators have come out against Judge Gorsuch and pledged support for the filibuster, including some from states that Mr. Trump won. “

Trump Backs Off NAFTA Threats

Trump goes soft on NAFTA. NYT: “[Trump] appears to have backed off his threat to abandon the deal and is instead proposing keeping major planks in place when he begins renegotiating it later this year … The president is poised to give Congress the legally required 90 days’ notice of his intention to renegotiate Nafta … The tone of the eight-page draft letter [to Congress] … did not echo Mr. Trump’s campaign speeches. Nowhere was there a mention of his threats to pull out of the agreement … Rather than scrap Nafta’s arbitration tribunals, regarded by some free-trade critics as secretive bodies … the letter proposed to ‘maintain and seek to improve procedures’ for settling disputes. It made no mention of currency policy…”
Trump criticizes China ahead of meeting Chinese president next week. Politico: “‘The meeting next week with China will be a very difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses,’ the president said in a series of tweets. ‘American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives.’ … Xi will reportedly spend two days next week, April 6 and 7, with President Donald Trump and officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in their first in person talks since the president took office…”
“Trump to Order Study of ‘Trade Abuse'” reports Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump will order on Friday a comprehensive study to identify every form of “trade abuse” that contributes to U.S. deficits with foreign countries, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. Trump also will take steps to toughen enforcement of trade penalties … Ross said the two executive actions weren’t intended as a warning to China … Trump also will announce Friday an order to strengthen enforcement of existing countervailing duties and anti-dumping penalties against foreign products to address under-collection…”

Conservatives Turn On Pruitt

Conservative accuse EPA chief Scott Pruitt of going soft. The Hill: “Undoing the 2009 endangerment finding … would remove the legal obligation under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide [but] would be a significant lift … with the vast majority of scientific data working against Pruitt … sources claimed that Pruitt … was concerned about his political future and didn’t want to be labeled anti-science … Breitbart News columnist James Delingpole wrote this week that Pruitt should consider resigning…”
Enviros pin hope on CEOs to try to convince Trump on climate. NYT: “Jeffrey R. Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, says climate change is real, a position at odds with the Trump administration. As a member of a White House manufacturing advisory council, he also has President Trump’s ear … Elon Musk of Tesla, another member of Mr. Trump’s council, is building an energy business intended to avoid the need for fossil fuels … Doug McMillon of Walmart, the retail giant, has committed his company to a sharp reduction in the planet-warming gases it emits, as has Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo … BlackRock, the world’s largest publicly traded money manager — whose chief executive, Laurence D. Fink, sits on Mr. Trump’s council — has pledged to press companies to address the effects of climate change on their businesses.”

Republicans Fight Medicaid, But Embrace Subsidies

Conservative states still fight Medicaid expansions under ACA. Politico: “…most of the holdout states are walking away from the money and what they regard as a broken entitlement program. Some even want to shrink the program they have. ‘The cost of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare is irresponsible and unsustainable,’ said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday after he vetoed an expansion bill … North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, tried to expand the program unilaterally upon taking office earlier this year, but Republican lawmakers are challenging him in court. In Maine, voters will consider a ballot initiative in November after conservative Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed several expansion bills.”
Republicans expect to maintain ACA subsidies for now. NYT: “Senior House Republicans said Thursday that they expected the federal government to continue paying billions of dollars in subsidies to health insurance companies to keep low-income people covered under the Affordable Care Act for the rest of this year — and perhaps for 2018 as well … The Republican-led House [previously] won a lawsuit accusing the Obama administration of unconstitutionally paying the insurance-company subsidies … that decision is on appeal … [Rep. Greg] Walden said his preference was for Congress to appropriate the money, about $7 billion a year. That is ‘the best legal way to do it,’ he said. At the same time, Mr. Ryan said the House would pursue the litigation to vindicate its ‘power of the purse.'”
Senate scraps Obama rule that encourage retirement saving. NYT: “…The vote reverses a Labor Department rule that allows local governments to automatically enroll private-sector workers in retirement plans unless they opt out. The 50-49 vote was a startling reversal for many Republicans, who have argued for much of their careers that overzealous federal regulators were trampling the rights of state and local governments.”

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