Washington Brief: Senate GOP Under Increasing Pressure From White House to Deliver on Tax Reform


Top Stories

  • Senate Republicans are under increasing pressure from the White House and GOP lawmakers in the House ahead of a budget resolution vote scheduled for Thursday, a move that would kickstart plans to overhaul the U.S. tax code. President Donald Trump, administration officials and some senators are reportedly concerned that tax reform legislation, like Obamacare repeal efforts earlier this year, will fail in the Senate. (Politico)
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that as Congress works to strengthen the Iran nuclear agreement, the onus is on the Trump administration to sell its new Iran policy to European allies. Corker is spearheading congressional efforts to craft legislation that would establish new terms for the U.S. role in the 2015 international agreement. (Reuters)
  • Justice Department lawyers were back in court defending the latest iteration of Trump’s travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations, with opponents of the ban seeking immediate legal action to prevent the ban from fully taking effect on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang said he would issue a ruling as soon as possible. (BuzzFeed News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
Bloomberg Government event on affordable housing 8 a.m.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on prescription drug costs 10 a.m.
National Iranian American Council event on the future of the Iran nuclear deal 12 p.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce TecNation event 12:30 p.m.
Georgetown Law event on Trump-Russia investigation 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday
BPC event with former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz 9 a.m.
Sens. Hassan, Portman speak at Washington Post event on opioid epidemic 9 a.m.
Attorney General Sessions testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee 10 a.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on health reform 1:30 p.m.
Sens. Cruz, Sanders debate GOP tax plan on CNN 9 p.m.
Thursday
CSIS event on U.S. energy policy 12:30 p.m.
Heritage Foundation event on North Korea 3 p.m.
Friday
Brookings Institution event on Trump’s deregulatory efforts 10:30 a.m.
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The NFL Is Now One of the Most Divisive Brands in the U.S.

According to Morning Consult Brand Intelligence data published in The New York Times, the NFL has become one of the most controversial organizations in the country.

General

Trump White House fed up with the Senate
Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey, Politico

President Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stood side by side at the White House Monday afternoon to declare they’re “together totally” and “very united” heading into this fall’s tax reform battle. But behind the scenes, Trump, his administration and even some senators are increasingly worried that taxes will go the way of Obamacare repeal in the Senate: Months of bickering ending in extreme embarrassment.

Trump and McConnell See a Way to Make Conservatives Happy
Carl Hulse, The New York Times

Stymied legislatively, President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell are turning their attention to one way they can skirt Democratic roadblocks and mollify unhappy Republicans — by filling scores of federal court vacancies. In Monday’s surprise display of togetherness, both the president and Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, emphasized their shared desire to begin moving aggressively to install conservative jurists at the appeals and district court level.

NFL endorses criminal-justice reform bill in the midst of anthem debate
Karoun Demirjian and Beth Reinhard, The Washington Post

The National Football League, still in political crosshairs over whether players should take a knee during the national anthem, is throwing its weight behind another cause in Washington’s debate over racial inequality: criminal justice reform. The NFL’s spokesman said on Monday that the league has decided to endorse a bipartisan bill to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders, eliminate “three-strike” provisions that require life sentences and give judges more latitude to reduce sentences for certain low-level crimes.

Syria war: US-backed forces ‘fully control’ Raqqa
BBC News

A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters says it has taken full control of so-called Islamic State’s one-time “capital” of Raqqa. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a four-month assault.

Bowe Bergdahl, Called a ‘Traitor’ by President Trump, Pleads Guilty
Richard A. Oppel Jr., The New York Times

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan in 2009, setting off a huge military manhunt and a political furor, pleaded guilty on Monday to desertion and to endangering the American troops sent to search for him. The guilty pleas by Sergeant Bergdahl, a 31-year-old Idaho native now stationed at an Army base in San Antonio, Tex., were not part of any deal with prosecutors.

Presidential

The Trump Administration Just Went To Court To Defend Its Latest Travel Ban
Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News

Justice Department lawyers were back in court on Monday to defend President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to ban travel to the United States by nationals of several Muslim-majority nations. The new travel restrictions are set to fully take effect on Oct. 18.

Trump to interview Yellen about Fed chair appointment this week
Tucker Higgins and Eamon Javers, CNBC

President Donald Trump will interview Janet Yellen Thursday about potentially staying on as chair of the Federal Reserve after her first term ends in February, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CNBC on Monday. If the president appoints Yellen to another term as the nation’s top central banker, it will be a sharp turn from the president’s prior remarks about the economist.

Trump declines to express confidence in drug czar nominee in wake of Post/‘60 Minutes’ probe
Ed O’Keefe et al., The Washington Post

President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic and declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies. Trump’s remarks came amid widespread reaction across the political spectrum to a Washington Post/“60 Minutes” investigation that explained how Marino helped guide the legislation, which sailed through Congress last year with virtually no opposition.

Trump expresses wariness of Bannon’s ‘season of war’
Matthew Nussbaum and Cristiano Lima, Politico

President Donald Trump, who in 2016 ran as the nontraditional, nationalist insurgent riding roughshod over the establishment, on Monday expressed skepticism about Steve Bannon’s attempt to produce a wave of such candidates in coming Republican primaries. “Some of the people he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that,” Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference when asked about Bannon’s pledge to recruit primary challengers to all but one sitting Republican senator in 2018.

Trump Falsely Claims Obama Didn’t Contact Families of Fallen Troops
Mark Landler, The New York Times

President Trump falsely asserted on Monday that his predecessor, Barack Obama, and other presidents did not contact the families of American troops killed in duty, drawing a swift, angry rebuke from several of Mr. Obama’s former aides. Mr. Trump was responding to a question about why he had not spoken publicly about the killing of four Green Berets in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago when he made the assertion.

Trump Asia Itinerary Filled With Potential Headaches
John T. Bennett, Roll Call

President Donald Trump will stop in China and South Korea — two countries key to his standoff with North Korea — next month during his first Asia swing, a trip that also will feature one-on-one meetings in the Philippines with that country’s hardline leader. Trump is slated to depart on an 11-day swing through the continent on Nov. 3, with the main event to be his participation in an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.

Senate

Key U.S. Republican says Trump must work with Europe on Iran
Patricia Zengerle, Reuters

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday to work closely with European allies as it develops its new Iran policy. “This is something that can only work if the administration exercises tremendous diplomacy with our European allies,” Corker told reporters as the Senate returned to the Capitol for the first time since Trump announced his Iran policy.

McCain slams ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ sweeping US in passionate speech
Tara Fowler, ABC News

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., slammed “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in an impassioned speech while accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia this evening. McCain, who was presented with the medal by former Vice President Joe Biden, began by saying he was humbled by the award before eventually lashing out at the nationalism that has swept the U.S. and warning against leaving the nation’s place of prominence in the international community.

Callista Gingrich Confirmed As Ambassador To The Vatican
Scott Neuman, NPR News

Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican in a 70-23 Senate vote that included backing from key Democrats. President Trump announced her nomination in May.

Judge Declines to Throw Out Menendez Bribery Charges
Pete Williams and Brian Thompson, NBC News

A federal judge Monday declined to throw out federal bribery charges against Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, leaving the Justice Department’s case intact against one of the Senate’s senior Democrats in the middle of a jury trial. U.S. District Court Judge William Walls said the evidence presented by federal prosecutors during the past month in Newark, N.J., appeared to meet the legal test for proving bribery under federal law.

Pro-Trump group endorses in key Senate primaries
Katie Glueck, McClatchy DC

A prominent pro-Donald Trump super PAC with ties to ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is rolling out its official endorsements in the Wisconsin and Arizona GOP Senate primaries. Great America PAC will announce that in Wisconsin, it is supporting Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran running in a hotly contested primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won.

Cochran’s absence creates unexpected budget hurdle
Seung Min Kim et al., Politico

Senate Republicans are scrambling to lock down the necessary votes for a budget that would unlock a tax overhaul — facing unforeseen absences and still-wavering GOP votes. The chamber is aiming for a vote on Thursday regardless of whether Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), whose office announced Monday that he would not return to Washington as planned, remains absent, according to GOP sources.

House

Paul Ryan: Claim that GOP tax overhaul favors wealthy is ‘class warfare rhetoric’
Mark Sommerhauser, WiscNews

House Speaker Paul Ryan pressed for a Republican tax overhaul in Madison on Monday, arguing it would jolt the national economy and aid wealthy and middle-class taxpayers alike. Ryan, R-Janesville, brushed aside as “class warfare rhetoric” the critique that the plan is tilted to favor the wealthy.

Rep. Duncan Hunter has spent nearly half a million dollars on legal fees amid FBI probe
Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign has spent nearly half a million dollars on legal fees this year amid the ongoing FBI investigation into alleged misuse of his campaign funds. Hunter’s most recent report to the Federal Election Commission shows the campaign spent $134,794 with six prominent Washington, D.C., area and San Diego law firms in the last three months.

Majority leader speaks to local GOP
Brian Francisco, The Journal Gazette

The first nine months of the current Congress have been historically productive, according to a high-ranking Republican legislator – at least on one side of Capitol Hill. The other side, not so much.

States

Former Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen considers Tennessee U.S. Senate bid
Joel Ebert and Joey Garrison, The Tennesseean

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the last Democrat to win a statewide election in the Volunteer State, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Republican Bob Corker after previously ruling out a bid. Bredesen said in a statement Monday that he is mulling an entry into the race after several people urged him to reconsider a potential run.

Efforts to pry loose Trump tax returns hit a wall
David Siders, Politico

Efforts to pry loose President Donald Trump’s tax returns at the state level have hit a wall, stalling in statehouses across the country including in California, a hotbed of anti-Trump resistance. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation late Sunday that would have forced presidential candidates to make their tax returns public before appearing on the California ballot, marking the death there of a measure once ballyhooed by Democrats and open government advocates as an end run to Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax filings.

Gov. Rick Scott to seek $1 million for Jewish school safety
Caitlin R. McGlade, Sun Sentinel

The state budget next year should include $1 million to help cover the cost of security at Jewish schools, Gov. Rick Scott said on Monday. A wave of anti-Semitic threats in the last year prompted his decision to push for the money, Scott said during his announcement at the Katz Hillel Day School of Boca Raton.

New York organ donor law now permanent
Natasha Vaughn, Democrat & Chronicle

A law aimed at boosting the number of registered organ donors will now be extended permanently. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Monday removing the expiration date for Lauren’s Law, a measure named after a Rockland County girl who received a heart transplant at age 8 in 2009.

Advocacy

How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA
Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post

Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn’t match the price of incoming produce. But emboldened by the Trump administration’s hostility toward foreign trade, DiMare and a group of Southeast growers are pushing for tough new protectionist measures against their Mexican rivals — so tough, in fact, that their demands threaten to wreck the negotiations.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

To Move Forward, Democrats Should Reject False Choices
Kish Rajan, Morning Consult

The events in Charlottesville, Va., reignited a debate that started during the presidential campaign. There’s no question that the election of Donald Trump emboldened the strong showing there from neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups. But was that because of issues about race or issues about economic opportunity?

The government’s shameful role in the opioid crisis
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Multiple, glaring government breakdowns are documented in the revealing investigation of the opioid-overdose epidemic by The Post and CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The report exposed weakening federal enforcement of drug distribution; corrosive industry lobbying that crippled that enforcement; and a dysfunctional Congress and White House at a time when a debilitating scourge swept the country.

Assault on the Kurds
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

A central tenet of the Trump foreign policy, a work in progress, has been that the U.S. would rebuild its relationship with America’s allies. That commitment is being put to the test in northern Iraq.

Under Mr. Trump, America Surrenders
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

Americans have long struggled with the question of whether this country should be more involved in world affairs, or less. The contest of ideas between internationalists and isolationists has been particularly fierce among Republicans, going all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and continuing on to the beginning of World War II.

Research Reports and Polling

More Insight on Support for Trump Actions, Leadership Style
Frank Newport, Gallup

President Donald Trump’s average weekly job approval rating has remained in the 35% to 39% range for months. The last time his weekly average was above 39% was well over four months ago, and he has never had a weekly average below 35%.