WASHINGTON (Washington Times) — Sen. Rand Paul on Thursday blocked the Senate’s attempt to fast-track President Biden’s $40 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine over concerns there is insufficient oversight and transparency into how the money is being spent.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, both hoped for a swift final passage of the bill, after the House overwhelmingly approved the aid 368-57 on Tuesday.
But Mr. Paul, Kentucky Republican, blocked Mr. McConnell’s request for unanimous consent on the measure Thursday afternoon without the addition of language into the bill that would create a special inspector general to oversee the disbursal of aid to Ukraine.
The move was met with vitriol from both the Democrat and Republican leaders anxious to get the aid out the door. Mr. Paul’s objection will push the Senate’s final vote on the measure into next week.
“He is simply saying my way or the highway,” Mr. Schumer said. “When you have a proposal to amend a bill, you can’t just come to the floor and demand it by fiat. You have to convince other members to back it first. That is how the Senate works.”
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — President Biden said Wednesday it appears the GOP is going through a “mini-revolution” amid a public rift among House members loyal to former President Trump and those such as Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) who have been sharply critical of him.
“It seems as though the Republican Party is trying to identify what it stands for. And they’re in the midst of significant sort of mini-revolution going on in the Republican Party,” Biden told reporters after giving remarks on aid for restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been a Democrat for a long time. We’ve gone through periods where we’ve had internal fights, disagreements. I don’t remember any like this,” he added. “We badly need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It’s not healthy to have a one-party system. And I think the Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point.”
Biden’s comments come as House Republicans have turned on Cheney for her repeated denunciations of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), along with many rank-and-file Republicans, are moving to oust Cheney from her role as the No. 3 GOP House member.
Trump on Wednesday endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Cheney in House GOP leadership. Stefanik, a vocal Trump ally, is viewed as the likely pick should the caucus vote to remove Cheney or should she step down.
Biden earlier Wednesday was asked during a visit to a local restaurant about the drama surrounding Cheney and responded: “I don’t understand the Republicans.”
He and other administration officials have been adamant that they will try to work with Republicans on policy where there is mutual agreement.
The president is expected to meet next week with McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alongside Democratic leaders, and he will separately host Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and other lawmakers for talks on his infrastructure proposal.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering sidestepping congress to to provide Coronavirus relief via executive order now that the Senate has failed to reach a deal, says the Washington Post.
According the report, the president is considering allocating funding for school vouchers, and improving the temporary payroll tax deferral through the Economic Stabilization Fund, which was established by Congress last March and is said to have hundreds of millions in funds waiting to be disbursed. The funds would also be used to to boost the airline industry and federal unemployment benefits.
Trump hinted days ago that he may be considering moving forward with or without congressional approval
“We have $300 billion in an account that we didn’t use — and we are willing to use that,” the president said at a White House press conference last week. “I think there is a theory that I could do it without having to go back [to Congress], but I think it would be appropriate to go back, and I would ask Congress to approve it.”
Leaders on both sides of the political isle have accused each other of playing politics when it comes to getting a much needed economic relief bill passed.
“Democrats just point fingers, call names and keep blocking American families from getting any more help before the November election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R)-Ky., said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., countered MCConnell’s remarks by asking why the majority leader continued to push a bill that he knows won’t pass.
“Is it because they really don’t want a bill, but a political issue — one that will ultimately backfire on them, I believe?” Schumer said.
Calls for comment to McConnell’s spokesperson were not immediately returned.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested the possibility of delaying November’s election based on concerns of voter fraud.
“Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster,” the president tweeted. “Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count!”
“New York Mail-In voting is in a disastrous state of condition. Votes from many weeks ago are missing – a total mess. They have no idea what is going on. Rigged Election. I told you so,” Trump continued. “Same thing would happen, but on massive scale, with USA. Fake News refuses to report!”
The response to the president’s comments came quickly from both the left an the right, as both Democrats and Republicans balked at the idea.
“The fact that he is even suggesting it is a serious, chilling attack on the democratic process. All members of Congress – and the administration – should speak out,” New Mexico Senator Tom Udall said of Trump’s comments.
Even some of the president’s staunchest allies condemned the idea.
“Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, too, said the election should go forward on time as planned.
Grilled by reporters over whether or not the president had the authority to move the election date, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would not “enter a legal judgement on the fly” but said the justice department would “make that legal determination”, adding “we want an election that everyone is confident in”.
Chris Stewart, a Republican congressman from Utah said while he did not agree with the idea of postponing the election, the president had a valid point when it comes to election tampering.
“Can you ensure the accuracy of mail-in voting?” Stewart said. “Now in some states you can. In my state in Utah, for example, we’ve been doing it for quite a while, but we’re a small state with a relatively small population. It’s harder to do on a national scale.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump insisted “good things” were underway on the next COVID-19 aid package Monday as he met with Republican congressional leaders, but new divisions between the Senate GOP and the White House posed fresh challenges as the crisis worsened and emergency relief was soon expiring.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been prepared to roll out the $1 trillion package in a matter of days. But the administration criticized more virus testing money and interjected other priorities that could complicate quick passage.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said as the meeting got underway.
But the president acknowledged the “big flare up” of rising caseloads and deaths in the states. “Unfortunately, this is something that’s very tough,” he said.
Lawmakers were returning to a Capitol still off-limits to tourists, another sign of the nation’s difficulty containing the coronavirus. Rather than easing, the pandemic’s devastating cycle is rising again, leaving Congress little choice but to engineer another costly rescue. Businesses are shutting down again, many schools will not fully reopen and jobs are disappearing, all while federal aid will soon expire.
Without a successful federal strategy, lawmakers are trying to draft one.
“We have to end this virus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday on MSNBC.
Pelosi said any attempt by the White House to block money for testing “goes beyond ignorance.”
The political stakes are high for both parties before the November election, and even more so for the nation, which now has registered more coronavirus infections and a higher death count of 140,500 than any other country.
McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy huddled with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Mnuchin vowed passage by month’s end, as earlier benefits expire, and said he expected the fresh $1 trillion jolt of business tax breaks and other aid would have a “big impact” on the struggling economy.
Mnuchin said he’s preparing to start talks with Democrats. He and Meadows were headed to the Hill later to brief lawmakers.
“We can’t pass the bill in the Senate without the Democrats and we’re going to talk to them as well,” McConnell agreed.
The package from McConnell had been quietly crafted behind closed doors for weeks and was expected to include $75 billion to help schools reopen, reduced unemployment benefits and a fresh round of direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans, and a sweeping five-year liability shield against coronavirus lawsuits.
But as the administration was panning some $25 billion in proposed new funds for testing and tracing, said one Republican familiar with the discussions. Trump was also reviving his push for a payroll tax break, which was being seriously considered, said another Republican. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks.
Trump insisted again Sunday that the virus would “disappear,” but the president’s view did not at all match projections from the leading health professionals straining to halt the alarming U.S. caseload and death toll.
“It’s not going to magically disappear,” said a somber McConnell, R-Ky., last week during a visit to a hospital in his home state to thank front-line workers.
McConnell also faces divisions from some in his ranks who oppose more spending, and he is straining to keep the package at $1 trillion.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer warned Monday his side will block any effort from McConnell that falls short.
“We will stand together again if we must,” Schumer said in a letter to colleagues.
The New York Democrat is reviving his strategy from the last virus aid bill that forced Republicans to the negotiating table after McConnell’s original bill was opposed by Democrats. This time, the House has already approved Pelosi’s sweeping $3 trillion effort, giving Democrats momentum heading into negotiations.
Trump raised alarms on Capitol Hill when he suggested last month at a rally in Oklahoma that he wanted to slow virus testing. Some of Trump’s GOP allies wanted new money to help test and track the virus to contain its spread. Senate Democrats were investigating why the Trump administration had not yet spent some of $25 billion previously allocated.
The payroll tax break Trump wanted also divided his party because it historically has been used used to fund Social Security and Medicare. Cutting it only adds to the nation’s rising debt load at a time when conservatives are wary of any new spending. Some Republicans also see it as an insufficient response to millions of out-of-work Americans.
This would be the fifth virus aid package, after the $2.2 trillion bill passed in March, the largest U.S. intervention of its kind.
While many GOP hoped the virus would ease and economy rebound, it’s become clear more aid is needed as the first round of relief is running out.
A federal $600-a-week boost to regular unemployment benefits would expire at the end of the month. So, too, would the federal ban on evictions from millions of rental units.
With 17 straight weeks of unemployment claims topping 1 million — usually about 200,000 — many households are facing a cash crunch and losing employer-backed health insurance.
Despite flickers of an economic upswing as states eased stay-at-home orders in May and June, the jobless rate remained at double digits, higher than it ever was in the last decade’s Great Recession.
Pelosi’s bill, approved in May, includes $75 billion for testing and tracing to try to get a handle on the virus spread, funnels $100 billion to schools to safely reopen and calls for $1 trillion to be sent to cash-strapped states to pay essential workers and prevent layoffs. The measure would give cash stipends to Americans, and bolster rental and mortgage and other safety net protections.
In the two months since Pelosi’s bill passed, the U.S. had 50,000 more deaths and 2 million more infections.
“If we don’t invest the money now, it will be much worse,” Pelosi said.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Andrew Taylor contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (CNSNews.com) — A coalition of conservative leaders sent a letter to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warning that the congressional spending in the coronavirus must stop because it’s getting very close to $10 trillion, which is more than the government spent fighting the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War I and II combined.
The Save Our Country coalition, which is made up of conservative leaders, called on Trump and Republican congressional leaders to “Stop the Spending.”
The coalition consists of: Stephen Moore, co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity; Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks; Jim DeMint, chairman of Conservative Partnership Institute; Lisa Nelson, CEO of American Legislative Exchange Council; Arthur Laffer, Laffer Associates; Casey Mulligan, University of Chicago; Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots; Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform; William Bennett, former Reagan cabinet member; Brent Bozell, founder and president of Media Research Center; Scott Garrett, former member of Congress; Bob McEwan, Center for National Policy; Ed Meese, former Attorney General of the United States; Jim Miller, former Office of Management and Budget; and William Walton, Center for National Policy.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, they released new budget projections showing government spending is headed to 51 percent of GDP for the first time ever. The federal government has already spent trillions in stimulus funds, and the White House and Congress are considering plans to spend at least $1 to 3 trillion more.
“Congress has already spent more than $2 trillion on CoronaVirus relief packages. The irresponsible Pelosi bill that passed the House a week ago would raise that spending total to $5 trillion, which is on top of the $4.71 trillion that Congress already authorized,” the coalition wrote in the letter.
“We are getting very close to an unthinkable $10,000,000,0000,000 (ten trillion) federal budget, which is more money in one single year than the United States government spent, adjusted for inflation … to fight the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II – combined,” they wrote.
The coalition noted that for the first time in history, “more than half of all national income would flow through the government,” when you take into account state and local expenditures.
“The inside-the-beltway crowd falsely calls these trillions of dollars a ‘stimulus’ to the economy. But government can only give money to some people, as Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman taught all of us many years ago, by taking money from others,” the coalition wrote.
“Government spending – and policies such as paying millions of workers more money to stay unemployed than to go back to work, and paying states more money to enable them to stay shut down – is inhibiting the fast recovery we want in jobs and incomes, not stimulating it,” they wrote.
The coalition said that “runaway government spending is the new virus” afflicting the U.S. economy. They say that “the best way to supercharge a jobs recovery would be to repeal the payroll tax so that every working American would receive a 7.5% raise in the paycheck immediately, and every small business would see a reduction in their payroll costs of 7.5%”
“This incentivizes hiring and work. The economy desperately needs more of both of these and less debt spending,” they wrote.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday came out swinging against Beto O’Rourke, blaming the would-be Democratic presidential nominee for the lack of deal being reached with Democrats on gun control legislation.
Beto, who once claimed to be a “staunch defender” of the Second Amendment, has raised eyebrows in recent weeks after vowing to confiscate all AR-15’s and AK-47’s in the country should he become president.
“Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward!”
Trump’s comments referenced O’Rourke’s remarks in Houston during last week’s Democratic debate where Beto called for a mandatory federal buyback of assault weapons. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” O’Rourke proclaimed.
O’Rourke quickly fired back on Twitter by calling Trump a coward for refusing to take a tougher stance on gun control.
“The only thing stopping us from ending this epidemic (of gun violence) is you,” O’Rourke tweeted.
“To be clear: We will buy back every single assault weapon. We‘ll also license every gun & do a background check on every buyer. That’s what the American people want—and deserve,” O’Rourke wrote. “The only thing stopping us from ending this epidemic is you & your cowardice. Do the right thing.”
“Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a vote on a bill that would mandate universal background checks for gun-buyers. A proposed version of the bill passed the House of Representatives late last year.
A bipartisan group of senators have been pushing for a compromise bill that covers most gun purchases but negotiations on that bill have stalled.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — House Democrats passed a sweeping electoral reform bill in a 234-193 party-line vote on Friday.
The For The People Act, better known as H.R. 1 — spearheaded by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) — aims to expand voting rights, implement new ethics rules and increase transparency in elections, according to its proponents.
The bill includes provisions to enable automatic voter registration, strengthen resources to stave off foreign threats on elections and make Election Day a national holiday for federal workers.
Democrats unveiled the legislation shortly after the start of the 116th Congress, underscoring its importance in their agenda. Supporters of the bill argued it’s necessary in order to tackle corruption and dark money in politics. Under the legislation, the Citizens United Supreme Court case, which got rid of some limits on corporate and union political spending, would be overturned and coordination between super PACs and candidates would be prohibited.
Freshman Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) lamented that Washington is home to 11,000 registered lobbyists — “25 lobbyists per member of Congress,” he said — and recounted a lobbyist dinner he attended on one of his first nights in Washington.
“I thought it was going to be a chance to talk about some of the issues that I hear from families in our community,” he said. “Imagine my surprise when the only thing these lobbyists wanted to talk about was what would benefit their clients.”
“It’s far too easy for well-financed lobbyists to crowd out the needs of our families in favor of their clients,” he continued.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that enactment of the package is vital if Congress is to restore the voters’ trust in the idea that Congress is working in the public interest.
“It is fundamental to our democracy that people believe — they believe — that actions taken here will be in their interest,” she said. “That is what this legislation will help to restore.”
Portions of the bill appear to directly take aim at President Trump, including language requiring the president and vice president and candidates for those positions to disclose a decade’s worth of their tax returns.
But Republicans have blasted the bill as a power grab by Democrats, arguing it limits free speech and overreaches on states rights. Top Republicans have also slammed Democrats for failing to work across the aisle on bipartisan reforms, with many saying there are provisions in the bill they could have supported.
Language that would create a 6-to-1 federal campaign match on small donations has been one of the most controversial for Republicans, who argue taxpayer dollars should not be used for campaign purposes.
“The most important bill that the democrat socialist majority has is to take more of your money and give it to the politicians who want to vote for this bill. How ironic,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on the floor ahead of the vote.
“Now, even though H.R. 1 has such broad spectrum of where to go, it was referred to 10 committees —imagine that, 10 committees but 40 percent of this bill has not even been marked up.”
Provisions advocating for D.C. statehood, a prohibition on gerrymandering and language allowing federal workers to take up to six days of paid leave to work at polls also received strong pushback from the GOP.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vocally opposed the bill, which Republicans have dubbed the “Democrat Politician Protection Act,” asserting the measure is going nowhere in the upper chamber.
McConnell’s pushback played a key role in rallying all House Republicans against the bill and helping them remain on message, one senior GOP aide told The Hill.
“We really did unite everyone in opposition to this and pushed hard against it,” the source said. “Obviously, we’ll lose the vote, but I think there’s satisfaction among members that we had a cohesive and unified message against this. And working with McConnell and getting him engaged against this was huge.”
The Hill’s Mike Lillis contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — President Trump on Wednesday said he does not want to see another government shutdown, the latest indication he may sign a spending agreement that includes just a fraction of the funds he demanded for a border wall.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump blasted Democrats as “stingy” for not meeting his target for wall funding but said “we have options that most people don’t really understand” to circumvent Congress and build the barrier.
“I don’t want to see a shutdown. Shutdown would be a terrible thing,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque.
“I don’t want to see another one,” he added. “There’s no reason for it.”
Trump and his advisers have dropped hints he may sign the bipartisan spending agreement ever since Capitol Hill negotiators announced it on Monday evening, a decision that would please leaders in both political parties.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the No. 4 House Democrat, earlier Wednesday predicted “the overwhelming majority” of his fellow party members would vote for the legislation following a caucus meeting where leaders sought to rally support for the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also expressed hope Trump will sign the legislation, saying Tuesday, “I think he’s got a pretty good deal here.”
Lawmakers have yet to resolve disputes over related issues, such as an extension of the Violence Against Women Act and back pay for federal contractors, and the text remains incomplete with less than three days before the Feb. 15 funding deadline.
While the White House has indicated Trump will sign the measure, the president has stopped short of affirming he will do so. Trump on Wednesday said “we’ll be looking for landmines” when the legislative text arrives.
“We’ll take a very serious look at it,” he said.
The bipartisan agreement would provide $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of new barriers along the southern border, well short of Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion and less than what was included in a spending deal he rejected in December, which triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown that resulted in a massive hit to his approval ratings.
In exchange, Democrats dropped their demand for a hard cap on the number of immigrants that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is allowed to detain at a given time. Lawmakers instead included funding for an average of 45,000 detention beds over the fiscal year.
Trump on Wednesday sought to allay concerns from some conservatives who say the package does not fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.
The president said the measure actually includes almost $23 billion for the border, even though that figure includes money for all security measures, including technology and personnel, in addition to the wall.
Trump also repeated his claim that his wall is already being built, despite the fact that the vast majority of construction happening now at the U.S.-Mexico border is to repair or replace existing barriers.
“I appreciate all the work the Republicans have done because they’re really going against a radical left. It’s a radical left. And they’re going against it very hard,” he said.
Conservative media figures, whose criticism of the December deal helped prompt Trump to shut down parts of the government, have offered a mixed reaction to the latest agreement.
Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter attacked the deal on Twitter, writing, “we thought Trump was going to be different” in response to House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows’ (R-N.C.) criticism of the compromise.
Others have given Trump some cover.
Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday night called the measure “pathetic,” but added that he is “not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill.”
Trump again on Wednesday floated the prospect of taking executive action to build the wall.
One proposal being floated by White House advisers is reprogramming certain federal funds, such as unused military-construction or disaster-relief dollars. That option would allow Trump to begin construction without taking the controversial step of declaring a national emergency while also skirting congressional approval.
“We have other things happening which people aren’t talking about. We’ve got a lot of funds for a lot of other things,” the president said Wednesday.
Trump, however, has not taken a national emergency declaration off the table.
Either move would almost certainly trigger a legal challenge that could stymie wall construction.
The House is expected to take up the funding bill on Thursday evening. If it passes, it would head to the Senate for another vote before it reaches the president’s desk. Roughly one-quarter of the government would shutter after midnight Friday if Trump does not sign the spending package.
The Hill’s Jordan Fabian contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is not happy with an agreement reached by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown.
The deal, which includes no funding for his promised U.S.-Mexican border wall, was proposed by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown.
“I have to study it. I’m not happy about it,” Trump replied when asked by reporters whether he would sign the deal crafted by the Democrat-led House and Republican-controlled Senate.
“Am I happy at first glance?” he said. “I just got to see it. The answer is no, I’m not. I’m not happy.”
The proposed deal would allot just $1.375 billion for new fencing along the border, far less than the $5.7 billion the president had demanded for construction of the wall and even less than the deal that he struck down last December, triggering a government shutdown which lasted 35 days.
Despite no funding for construction of the wall, Republican leaders are urging the president to sign the proposed deal in an effort to avoid another government shutdown.
“I hope he’ll sign it,” Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters afterward. “I think he got a pretty good deal.”
Temporary funding for about a quarter of all government operations is scheduled to expire on Friday.
But in typical Trump fashion, the president was already hard at work at an alternative, claiming he was “moving things around” in the budget from “far less important areas” to finance it despite the efforts of Congress.
“Right now, we’re building a lot of wall,” said the president. “And you think it’s easy? We’re building in the face of tremendous obstruction and tremendous opposition.”
Democrats have long fought against the president’s efforts to build a border wall that would divide the United States from Mexico. Despite statistics showing marked increases in crime relating to illegal immigration Democrats claim the wall is “racist” and “unnecessary”.