Washington Brief: Trump Considers Tying Debt Limit Increase to Harvey Aid


Top Stories

  • President Donald Trump is considering asking Congress to attach an initial $5.95 billion aid package for Hurricane Harvey to a debt limit increase, a move aimed at lowering the chances of a U.S. default. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 29. (Bloomberg)
  • The Trump administration is cutting almost $116 million aimed at boosting health care sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act ahead of the Nov. 1 open-enrollment period. The move drew criticism from Democrats, who fear the administration is working to undermine the 2010 law. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A federal judge struck down a rule finalized during the Obama administration that would have extended eligibility for overtime pay to more than 4 million U.S. workers. The same judge blocked the rule from taking effect last year. (Reuters)
  • Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said he has “no intention” of joining the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake next year. Other potential candidates who were courted by Trump – state Treasurer Jeff DeWitt and former state Republican Party chairman Robert Graham – have not said whether they will join former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) in the race. (KTAR)

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General

U.S. judge strikes down Obama administration overtime pay rule
Daniel Wiessner, Reuters

A federal judge in Texas on Thursday struck down an Obama administration rule that would have extended mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million U.S. workers, siding with business groups and 21 states that had challenged it. The decision came after the same judge last year blocked the rule from taking effect pending his final decision.

Payrolls in U.S. Rise by 156,000; Wages Also Below Forecasts
Patricia Laya, Bloomberg

The U.S. economy added fewer employees than expected in August, the jobless rate rose and wages rose less than forecast, in a break from otherwise solid progress in the labor market. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 156,000, below the median estimate of 180,000 in a Bloomberg survey of economists, and revisions for the prior two months subtracted 41,000 jobs, according to Labor Department data on Friday.

Treasury inspector general to review Mnuchin’s flight to Fort Knox
Drew Harwell, The Washington Post

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the flight taken by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, last week to Louisville and Fort Knox, Ky., following criticism of their use of a government plane on a trip that involved viewing the solar eclipse. “We are reviewing the circumstances of the Secretary’s August 21 flight . . . to determine whether all applicable travel, ethics, and appropriation laws and policies were observed,” counsel Rich Delmar wrote in a statement to The Washington Post late Thursday.

FBI, Homeland Security warn of more ‘antifa’ attacks
Josh Meyer, Politico

Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as “antifa” had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO. Since well before the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly, DHS has been issuing warnings about the growing likelihood of lethal violence between the left-wing anarchists and right-wing white supremacist and nationalist groups.

Kander-led Let America Vote to open field offices in 5 states, including NH
John DiStaso, WMUR

The progressive nonprofit voting rights group Let America Vote – headed by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander – intends to open field offices in five key states in 2018. The group tells WMUR’s New Hampshire Primary Source exclusively that it hopes to build on what it views as a successful grassroots effort launched earlier this summer in Virginia.

Republicans Want to Sideline This Regulator. But It May Be Too Popular.
Steve Eder et al., The New York Times

With the election of President Trump, the nation’s consumer watchdog agency faced a quandary: how to shield the Obama-era institution from a Republican administration determined to loosen the federal government’s grip on business. In the weeks after the election, Richard Cordray, the Democrat who leads the agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, directed his staff to compile stories from ordinary Americans thanking it for resolving complaints.

Presidential

Trump Weighs Tying Debt Limit Increase to Harvey Aid
Margaret Talev, Bloomberg

President Donald Trump is considering attaching an increase in the U.S. debt limit to an initial $5.95 billion disaster aid funding request for Hurricane Harvey, two administration officials said, a move aimed at lowering the risk of an unprecedented default. The White House request, which could come as soon as Friday, would include $5.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the remainder to the Small Business Administration.

Administration Cutting Ads and Grants Aimed at Boosting Affordable Care Act Sign-ups
Stephanie Armour and Anna Wilde Mathews, The Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump’s administration is cutting nearly $116 million from outreach programs aimed at signing people up for the Affordable Care Act, a move that has cheered the health law’s opponents but inflamed Democrats who fear the administration is undermining it. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to spend $10 million during the coming open-enrollment period on advertising, including emails, texts, radio ads and digital promotions, officials said Thursday.

Trump Attorneys Lay Out Arguments Against Obstruction-of-Justice Probe to Mueller
Peter Nicholas et al., The Wall Street Journal

Lawyers for Donald Trump have met several times with special counsel Robert Mueller in recent months and submitted memos arguing that the president didn’t obstruct justice by firing former FBI chief James Comey and calling into question Mr. Comey’s reliability as a potential witness, people familiar with the matter said. The legal arguments and meetings offer the first detailed look at the interplay between the wide-ranging investigation and the team that is representing the president since the special counsel was appointed by the Justice Department on May 17.

White House: Trump still reviewing Obama-era policy for Dreamers
Madeline Conway and Andrew Restuccia, Politico

The Trump administration is still reviewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants some protections to young undocumented immigrants, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said Thursday. “As soon as the president’s ready to announce the result of our policy process, he’ll do so,” Bossert, who said he has been consulted on the president’s decision on whether or not to rescind the policy, told reporters.

Manafort Notes From Russian Meet Contain Cryptic Reference to ‘Donations’
Ken Dilanian and Carol E. Lee, NBC News

Paul Manafort’s notes from a controversial Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign included the word “donations,” near a reference to the Republican National Committee, two sources briefed on the evidence told NBC News. The references, which have not been previously disclosed, elevated the significance of the June 2016 meeting for congressional investigators, who are focused on determining whether it included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.

Senate

GOP senators: Comey drafted statement clearing Clinton before her interview
Josh Gerstein, Politico

Former FBI Director James Comey began drafting a statement rejecting the idea of criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her private email account about two months or more before Clinton was interviewed in the FBI probe, according to partial transcripts of interviews released Thursday by two Republican senators. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham said they obtained the transcripts from the Office of Special Counsel, a government watchdog agency that launched an investigation into whether Comey’s actions violated a federal law against government employees engaging in political activity while on duty.

Harry Reid Sought White House Help for Menendez Donor, DOJ Says
David Voreacos and Neil Weinberg, Bloomberg

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, in trying to help a campaign donor who was accused of overbilling the government, enlisted then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to “amplify the pressure” on the Obama administration, the Justice Department said. Reid contacted a White House staffer, who declined to help, prosecutors disclosed Wednesday in a court filing.

Why Democrats are snubbing their Alabama Senate candidate
Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico

He’s cash-poor, outgunned and flying under the radar. Doug Jones, the Democrat running in the Alabama special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat, is no Jon Ossoff.

House

Arizona Rep. Franks isn’t interested in running for Flake’s Senate seat
KTAR

The fight for a certain senate seat in Arizona will be go ahead without Rep. Trent Franks. The 60-year-old Republican told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Reality Check with Darin Damme on Wednesday that he was not running against U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in next year’s primary.

Paul Ryan looks forward to tax overhaul and passing health care reform as Congress reconvenes
Jordyn Noennig, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

With Congress poised to return to Washington, D.C., next week, House Speaker Paul Ryan came to Kinetic Co. here Thursday to talk up Republican plans to overhaul the tax code. He told employees of the industrial knives manufacturer that Republicans agree on the contours of a tax plan, but the fine details are still being worked out.

States

GOP lawmaker faces calls for resignation after Facebook post on Confederate statue vandalism
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and Democratic elected officials are calling for a Republican lawmaker from southwest Missouri to step down after he posted on Facebook that people who defaced a Confederate statue should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.” Rep. Warren Love’s GOP legislative colleagues are also condemning the Osceola Republican after he posted his reaction to the news that someone threw paint on a Confederate memorial at the Springfield National Cemetery.

Garcetti isn’t ruling out a 2018 run for governor or senator in California
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico

Eric Garcetti started the week toying with a 2020 presidential run on a trip to New Hampshire, but the Los Angeles mayor is still keeping his options open for a 2018 run closer to home. That includes next year’s open governor’s race, and possibly a Senate race, should Sen. Dianne Feinstein decide not to seek a fifth term.

Push for D.C. Statehood Continues, Despite Odds
Katanga Johnson, Roll Call

Since Election Day 2016, when 86 percent of D.C. voters said they wanted the District of Columbia to become a state, the city’s statehood movement advocates have been strategizing on a path forward. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who affirmed her support for statehood since assuming office in 2015, has a plan this fall she hopes will bring the issue to the attention of Congress and Americans outside the nation’s capital city.

Advocacy

Top conservative wants spending cuts to pay for Harvey aid
Burgess Everett, Politico

A top conservative leader may fight against a massive emergency relief bill for Hurricane Harvey victims if it’s not paid for. Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in an interview Thursday that he and other fiscal conservatives are warily eyeing congressional leaders’ plans to deliver billions of dollars to coastal Texas after the storm’s floods devastated Houston and surrounding towns.

Want to understand how dominant tech companies have become? Look at the number of issues they lobby on.
Brian Fung and Hamza Shaban, The Washington Post

A firing this week by a Washington think tank has exposed the deep and often hidden influence in the nation’s capital of tech companies who are driving key governmental decisions affecting consumers both on and off the Internet. On Wednesday, the New America Foundation — a think tank funded by Google as well as one of its co-founders, Eric Schmidt — ousted members of its Open Markets program, its anti-monopoly research arm, that had openly criticized the Web giant’s growing power.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

It’s time Congress returns to regular order
John McCain, The Washington Post

Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.

Blocking a Bad Immigration Law in Texas
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The judge’s ruling on Wednesday is temporary and the state will appeal it, but it did not seem at all disconnected from the powerful display of America projected before the nation. Houston and five other major sanctuary cities and counties sued to block a Texas law’s attempt to reinforce the nativist political gospel of President Trump and the strong-arm tactics of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who pioneered the use of local police officers as enforcers of federal law in abusive dragnets across Latino communities in Arizona.

Texas, Thou Hast Sinned
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Who says progressives don’t believe in religion? They may not believe in Jehovah or Jesus, but they certainly believe in Old Testament-style wrath against sinners.

Trump fatigue comes early
Joe Scarborough, The Washington Post

Americans eventually tire of the presidents they elect. The political skills that fuel the rise of Roosevelts, Reagans and Obamas always seem to lose their allure over time as the promise of “Morning in America” and “Hope and Change” devolves into the cynicism of “Been There, Done That.”

Are Think Tanks Doomed?
Daniel W. Drezner, Politico

In 2015, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the president and CEO of the New America Foundation co-authored an ambitious manifesto about the future of the D.C. think tank that emphasized the need for civic action. “The Progressive Era model of think tanks as extensions of technocratic governance is no longer sufficient to make meaningful, large-scale progress in resolving public problems,” Slaughter argued.

Research Reports and Polling

Justice, Trump, Capito and Manchin: MetroNews West Virginia Poll evaluates approval
Brad McEihinny, WV Metro News

On the heels of Gov. Jim Justice’s party switch, more West Virginians now disapprove of the governor than approve of him, according to the latest MetroNews West Virginia Poll. The latest version of the poll, released today, shows that 34 percent approve of Justice as governor while 44 percent disapprove.