Washington Brief: Trump’s Budget Expected to Call for Historic Cuts to Federal Workforce

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump is expected to release his budget proposal this week, and the spending plan is expected to include the deepest combined cuts to government programs and the federal workforce since the wake of World War II. (The Washington Post)
  • Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) said a vote on the House GOP’s health plan in its current form could put the party’s majority in that chamber in jeopardy (The Huffington Post). House conservatives say they won’t support the current version of the bill and will let it fail if they don’t receive some concessions. (Politico)
  • As the Congressional Budget Office prepares to release its score of the House GOP’s health legislation, supporters from the White House on down are already raising doubts about the forthcoming cost estimate. (USA Today)
  • Republican and Democratic leaders on the House Intelligence Committee appear to be on a “collision course” in their investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Democrats are prepared to walk if some of their demands are not met. (Politico)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Monday
Brookings Institution event on U.S.-Japanese relations 9 a.m.
Heritage Foundation event on SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch 12 p.m.
Senate convenes 2 p.m.
Sen. Lee talks trade at AEI event 5:15 p.m.
Tuesday
Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing for USTR nominee Lighthizer 10 a.m.
House convenes 12 p.m.
Wednesday
Washington Post event on Trump’s First 50 Days 9 a.m.
House Armed Services Committee hearing on security challenges in Middle East 10 a.m.
Pew Charitable Trusts event on infrastructure 3:30 p.m.
Trump campaign rally in Nashville, Tenn. 6:30 p.m.
Thursday
Heritage Foundation event on tobacco, e-cigarette regulations 12 p.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

General

Challengers Will Try To Stop Trump’s New Travel Order This Week Before It Even Takes Effect
Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed News

At 12:01 a.m. Thursday, President Trump’s new refugee and travel executive order is due to go into effect. But before that happens, Trump’s lawyers at the Justice Department will have to make their way through several hurdles: court challenges across the nation.

Trump Wants Faster Growth. The Fed Isn’t So Sure.
Binyamin Applebaum, The New York Times 

For President Trump and his economic advisers, the strong February jobs report was a cause for celebration — and a first step toward delivering on the president’s promise of faster economic growth. For the Federal Reserve, it was the final confirmation that the time had come to raise interest rates to prevent the United States economy from overheating.

Authorities Question CIA Contractors in Connection With WikiLeaks Dump
Shane Harris and Robert McMillan, The Wall Street Journal 

Investigators probing who may have provided WikiLeaks with classified information about the Central Intelligence Agency’s purported computer-hacking techniques are zeroing in on a small number of contractors who have worked for the agency and may have been disgruntled over recent job losses, according to people familiar with the investigation. Authorities on Thursday questioned a handful of contractors working in at least two locations in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., these people said.

Preet Bharara’s Probes Likely to Continue After His Exit
Nicole Hong et al., The Wall Street Journal 

The sudden departure of Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, isn’t likely to change the course of several high-profile investigations even as it raises uncertainty about his office’s long-term direction. On Saturday, Mr. Bharara was fired as Manhattan U.S. attorney, a day after the Justice Department asked the 46 remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama to step down.

The New Party of No: How a president and a protest movement transformed the Democrats
Charles Homans, The New York Times

On the morning after Election Day, Chuck Schumer’s phone rang. It was Donald Trump.

Presidential

Trump budget expected to seek historic contraction of federal workforce
Damian Paletta, The Washington Post

President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce. This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II, economists and budget analysts said.

White House casts doubt on upcoming Obamacare repeal cost estimate
Richard Wolf, USA Today

Trump administration officials mounted a vigorous defense of their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare Sunday while bracing for what could be a skeptical assessment from the Congressional Budget Office. Flooding the airwaves less than a week after Republicans introduced the replacement legislation and pushed it through two House committees on party-line votes, members of Trump’s Cabinet claimed more Americans would be able to get health care at a reduced cost and no one would be worse off.

HHS Sec. Tom Price: ‘Nobody Will Be Worse Off Financially’ Under GOP Health Plan
Kailani Koenig, NBC News

No one will be adversely affected by the Republicans’ new health care bill once it’s enacted and more people would be covered, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price insisted when pressed by NBC’s Chuck Todd during Sunday’s “Meet The Press.”

Trump’s budget director claims Obama was ‘manipulating’ jobs data
Jill Disis, CNN Money 

Mick Mulvaney told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that he has long thought the previous administration framed data to make the unemployment rate “look smaller than it actually was.” “What you should really look at is the number of jobs created,” Mulvaney said on “State of the Union.”

Trump to host Xi at Mar-a-Lago
Mike Allen, Aixos

President Trump plans to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gold-plated Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next month for a lowering-the-temperature summit with vast economic and security implications, Axios has learned. No golf is planned during the meeting of the globe’s two superpowers — this will mostly be a working session, according to officials familiar with the planning.

Tillerson Leads From State Dept. Shadows as White House Steps In
David E. Sanger, The New York Times

Henry A. Kissinger slipped into the State Department last week for a quiet lunch in his old office with Rex W. Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil chief executive, who has all but covered himself in a cloak of invisibility in his first six weeks as secretary of state. Describing his impressions, Mr. Kissinger, perhaps America’s most famous diplomatic strategist, chose his words judiciously.

Trump Lets Key Offices Gather Dust Amid ‘Slowest Transition in Decades’
Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times 

At the State Department, the normally pulsating hub of executive offices is hushed and virtually empty. At the Pentagon, military missions in some of the world’s most troubled places are being run by a defense secretary who has none of his top team in place.

Senate

Tom Cotton Warns GOP Health Care Bill Could Put House Majority At Risk
Igor Bobic, The Huffington Post

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Sunday urged House Republicans not to vote for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Obamacare repeal bill, warning them that a vote in favor of the legislation could haunt them in the 2018 midterm elections. “I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year,” he said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

Another key Republican senator knocks GOP Obamacare plan
Burgess Everett, Politico

Sen. Dean Heller panned House Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare during a closed meeting with constituents on Saturday, according to audio obtained by POLITICO. The remarks by Heller, the most vulnerable GOP senator on the ballot next year, are another sign of the difficult prospects the House bill faces in the other chamber.

Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Faced A Fake News Tsunami. Where Did It Come From?
Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis, The Huffington Post

Last June, John Mattes started noticing something coursing like a virus through the Facebook page he helped administer for Bernie Sanders fans in San Diego. People with no apparent ties to California were friending the page and sharing links from unfamiliar sites full of anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda.

Schwarzenegger says he’s not running for U.S. Senate
Seema Mehta, The Los Angeles Times 

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won’t be back. He said Sunday that he is not interested in running for the U.S. Senate, after rumors bubbled last week that he was considering a campaign for the seat held by Dianne Feinstein.

House

Conservatives escalate threats to tank Obamacare repeal
Rachael Bade, Politico

So much for President Donald Trump’s charm offensive with conservatives. Conservative Hill leaders warned on Sunday that they won’t support the House GOP Obamacare alternative as it’s written, saying they’ll let the bill fail if they don’t get concessions.

Paul Ryan says he “can’t answer” how many will lose coverage under GOP health care plan
Emily Schultheis, CBS News

As Republicans work to pitch their health care plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he can’t say how many people would lose coverage under the new legislation — and that it will be “up to people” to decide whether they want to purchase coverage. Asked in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” approximately how many people will lose coverage if the American Health Care Act is passed, Ryan replied: “I can’t answer that question. It’s up to people.”

Sleeper issue of Medicaid’s future could prove health-care plans’ stumbling block
Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

As House Republicans hurtle toward shifting the nation’s health-care system onto a more conservative path, nearly lost so far in the roiling debate over their plans is the profound impact they would have on insurance for the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. The proposed American Health Care Act would break with the government’s half-century-old compact with states in helping to finance Medicaid, which covers 68 million low-income people, including children, pregnant women and those who are elderly or disabled.

GOP Health Plan Would Hit Rural Areas Hard
Anna Wilde Mathews and Dante Chinni, The Wall Street Journal

The House Republican effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act could hit many rural areas particularly hard, according to a new analysis, sharply increasing the cost for some residents buying their own insurance. In extreme cases, the amount a consumer might owe for a plan could exceed that person’s annual income.

House investigators on a Trump-Russia ‘collision course’
Austin Wright, Politico

Adam Schiff says Russia’s effort to sway the election for President Donald Trump is one of the most serious issues of our time. Devin Nunes isn’t even convinced Russia tried to help Trump.

Rep. Steve King blasted for ‘our civilization’ tweet
Greg Toppo, USA Today

U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who last July said white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup,” on Sunday found himself again the subject of criticism, this time for saying that Muslim children are preventing “our civilization” from being restored. King, who was retweeting a message endorsing Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister, said Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

States

Medicaid block grants embraced by GOP candidates for governor, but not some Republican budget leaders
Michael Martz, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Politics and policy are clashing in the Virginia governor’s race as Republican gubernatorial candidates embrace Medicaid block grants that some GOP budget leaders regard as a dangerous approach that could shift federal health care costs to state taxpayers. Ed Gillespie, the presumed front-runner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, told a campaign policy forum this month that he favors proposals to convert Medicaid from an entitlement program shared by the federal and state governments to a block grant that would cap federal spending on health care.

Ohio governor, congressman show differences in GOP on health care
Jessica Wehrman, Dayton Daily News

In dueling appearances on talk shows Sunday morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan demonstrated the wide range of concerns that varying wings of the GOP have with the current Obamacare replacement bill working its way through the House. While Kasich urged Republicans and Democrats to work to fix the current system in order to prevent low-income Ohioans from losing access to health care, Jordan, an Urbana Republican, warned against offering subsidies to those with no tax liability and vowed to fight any extension of the current Medicaid expansion.

When a Common Sedative Becomes an Execution Drug
Alan Blinder, The New York Times

When a chemist named Armin Walser helped invent a sedative more powerful than Valium more than 40 years ago, he thought his team’s concoction was meant to make people’s lives easier, not their deaths. Yet decades after the drug, known as midazolam, entered the market, a product more often used during colonoscopies and cardiac catheterizations has become central to executions around the country and the debate that surrounds capital punishment in the United States.

Advocacy

The Obamacare nightmare scenario
Bob Herman, Axios

The nightmare scenario for Obamacare is a meltdown of the individual health insurance market. If health insurers lose confidence as Republicans struggle with their repeal efforts — or because of the turmoil and price hikes that have already been underway — even more could withdraw, leaving Obamacare customers with nowhere to turn to keep their coverage.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Moral Failing of Obamacare Repeal
Theresa Brown, The New York Times

The House leadership is making gestures toward covering the uninsured by retaining popular portions of the A.C.A. and offering a suite of “market-based” programs like health savings accounts and tax credits. In some ways, that’s their problem; if the Republican bill designed to replace the A.C.A. fails, it could well be because of pressure from the far right, which is insisting on repeal, full stop.

Trump’s Middle East diplomacy is complicated by Palestinian terror incitement
Josh Rogin, The Washington Post

The Trump administration’s budding efforts to establish a new Middle East diplomatic process are about to run into some stiff headwinds at home. Many in Congress want to cancel all U.S. aid to the Palestinians because of payments made to militants who attack Israelis.

How Democrats Can Come Back
Roger C. Altman, The Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s chaotic beginning has many Democrats envisioning a big comeback. They see the marches and protests and presidential tweets and expect newly energized Americans to vote blue in droves.

Research Reports and Polling

The 115th Congress: Feeling Special
Eric Ostermeier, University of Minnesota

Not since before World War II have five U.S. House special elections been conducted during the first six months of a new Congress. Due in large part to members taking positions in the Trump administration, five special elections to the U.S. House are already scheduled to take place by June of this year in Kansas (April 11th, for C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo’s 4th CD seat), Montana (May 25th, for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s at-large seat), California (June 6th, for state Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s 34th CD seat), Georgia (April 18th, for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s 6th CD seat with an expected June 20th runoff), and South Carolina (June 20th, for Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s 5th CD seat).

Briefings

Washington Brief: Montana GOP Candidate in Today’s Special Election Charged With Assaulting Journalist

Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate in a special House election in Montana, was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a journalist who was asking him about the recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the American Health Care Act. Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist in today’s election to fill the seat left vacant by Ryan Zinke, who now serves as head of the Interior Department.

Washington Brief: Trump Calls Naming of Special Counsel the ‘Greatest Witch Hunt of a Politician’ in U.S. History

Robert Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, was named special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian connections to President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump responded on Twitter by saying the naming of a special counsel is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Washington Brief: Chaffetz Demands FBI Turn Over All Records of Comey’s Meetings With Trump

A memo written in February by now-former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey says President Donald Trump urged him to abandon an FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) demanded that the FBI turn over all documents related to meetings between Trump and Comey.

Washington Brief: Trump Defends Sharing Intelligence on ISIS With Russian Officials

President Donald Trump revealed classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador during a White House meeting last week, jeopardizing a source of intelligence on the Islamic State and drawing criticism from Republicans such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker. Trump later said on Twitter that he has an “absolute right” to share “facts” with Russia.

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