Washington Brief: Trump’s Budget Gets Lukewarm Reception From GOP Lawmakers

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2018 was not well received by many congressional Republicans. Even with its proposed hike in defense spending, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Trump’s budget could not pass the GOP-controlled Senate. (Bloomberg News)
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who leads the Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm, said Trump’s budget proposal should be a “wake-up call” for Trump voters, previewing a possible 2018 campaign message. (Roll Call)
  • The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said there is no evidence that the U.S. government wiretapped Trump Tower in New York before or after the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Trump stood by his claim. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • In its opposition to the GOP’s health care legislation, the House Freedom Caucus is going around House leaders and finding a sympathetic ear in White House strategist Steve Bannon. (Politico)

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Tillerson says ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to North Korea
Anna Fifield, The Washington Post

The Trump administration gave its clearest signal yet that it would consider taking military action against North Korea, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying Friday that “all options are on the table” to deter the threat from Pyongyang. Tensions are running high in northeast Asia, with North Korea making observable progress towards its goal of building a missile that can reach the United States mainland and China incensed over South Korea’s decision to deploy an American anti-missile battery.

Mike Flynn Worked for Several Russian Companies, Was Paid More Than $50,000, Documents Show
Shane Harris, The Wall Street Journal 

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian companies shortly before he became a formal adviser to the then-candidate, according to documents obtained by a congressional oversight committee that revealed business interests that hadn’t been previously known. Mr. Flynn was paid $11,250 each by a Russian air cargo company that had been suspended as a vendor to the United Nations following a corruption scandal, and by a Russian cybersecurity company that was then trying to expand its business with the U.S. government.

Rulings offer glimpse into what kind of justice Gorsuch would be
Robert Barnes, The Washington Post

Some liberals wary of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s fitness for the Supreme Court point to the Case of the Frozen Trucker. As an appeals court judge, Gorsuch ruled against a driver who claimed he’d been wrongly fired because he ignored his supervisor’s demands by unhitching his unheated truck from its malfunctioning trailer and driving away in subzero weather in search of safety.


Trump’s Steep Cuts Face Rebuff in Congress Even With GOP Control
Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis, Bloomberg News

Donald Trump is offering an audacious budget with steep cuts to nearly every domestic department, but there is little chance that Congress will accept the bulk of its recommendations. “It is clear that this budget proposed today cannot pass the Senate,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, an Arizona Republican.

Trump Budget Guru, Long a Fiscal Hawk, Now Has to Sell Spending
Matt Flegenheimer and Alan Rappeport, The New York Times 

Making the rounds at the Capitol on a recent evening, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, decided to add an unscheduled stop: a meeting of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of hard-line conservatives that once counted Mr. Mulvaney as a founding member. This history, it seems, does not afford lifetime privileges.

Trump Stands by Wiretapping Claim After Senate Panel Leaders Say They See No Evidence
Byron Tau and Michael C. Bender, The Wall Street Journal

President Donald Trump isn’t backing down from his unsubstantiated assertion that he was the target of surveillance by the previous administration, despite a bipartisan statement from the Senate Intelligence Committee leaders on Thursday that they have seen no evidence for such a claim. “He stands by it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, referring to the president, during his Thursday news briefing.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley: ‘We should never trust Russia’
Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said unequivocally in an interview that aired Thursday that Russia should “never” be trusted — a far tougher stance than the one taken by her boss, President Trump. Asked by NBC’s Matt Lauer what she thinks Trump should do in response to Russia’s cyber attacks meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Haley said, “Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.”

One Beneficiary of GOP’s Tax Bill: President Trump
Richard Rubin, The Wall Street Journal

The first big tax cut moving through Congress under President Donald Trump would likely benefit the president himself, potentially saving him millions of dollars in taxes on his rental income next year and even more money on other income if he wins a second term. Mr. Trump’s decision to continue owning his businesses as president without running them expands the tax’s effect on him and thus makes him benefit more from the proposed repeal, which would take effect in 2018, according to accountants and tax lawyers.


Reacting to Trump Budget, Van Hollen Previews 2018 Message
Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call

Previewing a likely political argument heading into 2018, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen says the proposed reductions in President Donald Trump’s budget would disproportionately hit more rural, Republican areas. “I think this is going to be a wake-up call to a lot of people who supported Donald Trump that his budget is betraying them,” Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said at a Thursday afternoon news conference on Capitol Hill.

Perdue’s confirmation hearing date set
Tamar Hallerman, Atlanta Journal Constitution 

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Senate confirmation hearing will come nine weeks after President Donald Trump first tapped the Republican to lead the Department of Agriculture. The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider Perdue’s nomination on March 23, the committee announced Thursday evening.

Manchin: Only Trump Can Stop Obamacare Repeal
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

There might be a few more West Virginians clogging up the White House phone lines, courtesy of their home-state senator. Sen. Joe Manchin III encouraged his constituents gathered at a town hall meeting here Thursday to phone the White House and implore President Donald Trump to slow down the effort to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

Cotton goes after Ryan agenda in battle of GOP heavyweights
Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade, Politico

Paul Ryan is going all out to sell Americans on his three-step plan to fix the health care system, even delivering an elaborate PowerPoint lecture before a phalanx of TV cameras last week. Tom Cotton laid waste to the entire thing with just a few words.


Freedom Caucus aligns with Bannon in risky Obamacare gambit
Rachael Bade et al., Politico

Steve Bannon was furious. Last weekend, the Washington Examiner published a story claiming that President Donald Trump had vowed to back primary challengers to run against Republicans who oppose the GOP’s health care plan.

Budget Committee OKs Obamacare repeal over objections from conservatives
Eliza Collins, USA Today

The House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare moved one step forward Thursday with a narrow victory in the House Budget Committee despite three Republican members voting against the legislation. The committee voted 19-17 to move the legislation forward. No Democrats voted for it.

House conservatives face robocalls urging support for Obamacare replacement
Kyle Cheney, Politico

American Action Network, the nonprofit aligned with House GOP leadership, is launching a pressure campaign aimed at conservative House members lawmakers who have been reluctant to support the leadership-backed plan to replace Obamacare. AAN will run 1 million robocalls in 30 congressional districts held predominantly by members of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus.


Republican Denver Riggleman suspends campaign for Virginia governor
Graham Moomaw, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Nelson County distillery owner Denver Riggleman announced Thursday that he’s suspending his outsider campaign for governor. “Based on business considerations, resource shortages, and family health issues, I have no other choice but to suspend my campaign for governor effective today,” Riggleman said in a news release Thursday afternoon.

Lack of indictments leaves little-known Democrats to battle de Blasio
Laura Nahmias, Politico 

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to coast to the Democratic nomination in September, now that he and his top aides have been effectively cleared of criminal wrongdoing following a months-long probe into his fundraising. That was the early consensus among the city’s political establishment after state and federal prosecutors announced on Thursday that they would not bring criminal charges against the mayor or his aides.

Democratic push to end gerrymandering, helmed by Eric Holder, to begin in Va.
Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post

Eric H. Holder Jr., the former U.S. attorney general, is coming to Virginia to support Democrats trying to hold on to the governor’s mansion, the first stop for his new national campaign to reverse years of Democratic losses on the state level by reshaping legislative maps that have favored Republicans. Holder will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner on June 17, four days after voters cast their ballots in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Florida governor reassigns cop-killing case after prosecutor refuses death penalty
Mike Schneider, Chicago Tribune

Florida’s governor took a case involving the killing of a police officer out of the hands of its prosecutor Thursday, hours after she announced that her office would no longer seek the death penalty in any cases. The unusual and firm stance against capital punishment by State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Orlando surprised and angered many law enforcement officials, including the city’s police chief, who believed suspect Markeith Loyd should face the possibility of execution.


Donald Trump’s Favorite Law Firm
Paul Barrett, Bloomberg News

When prominent lawyers take top jobs at the White House or the U.S. Department of Justice, they often bring along several attorneys from their firms. With the Trump administration, one firm—Jones Day—is taking that to an extreme.

Sources: Trump expected to tap Wheeler as EPA deputy
Andrew Restuccia et al., Politico

President Donald Trump is expected to tap Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist and former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe, to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, sources familiar with the hiring process told POLITICO. Sources cautioned that the decision has not yet been finalized, but they said Wheeler is expected to get the job.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Mr. Trump’s Tear-Down Budget
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

The White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, defended the president’s budget proposal for 2018 by saying it puts numbers on Mr. Trump’s campaign promises. That it does, but in so doing, it shows that many of those promises simply cannot be kept.

Reach Across the Aisle, Mr. President
Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

All the emphasis seems to be on cutting. We will cut CPB, NPR, NEA.

Trump budgets for a dumber, dirtier America
Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

President Trump’s first budget is an attempt to reshape the federal government in his own image — crass, bellicose, shortsighted, unserious and ultimately hollow. Unsurprisingly, Trump titled it “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”

Let Bannon Be Bannon!
David Brooks, The New York Times

I continue to worry about Steve Bannon. I see him in the White House photos, but he never has that sprightly Prince of Darkness gleam in his eye anymore.

The Best and Worst Republicans in Congress
Conservative Review 

At Conservative Review, we routinely mention that our federal elected officials not only have votes, they have a voice. A voice to fight for freedom and make the critical arguments that are so badly needed to advance conservative principles.

Research Reports and Polling

Voters want congressional investigations into Russia Dana Blanton
Dana Blanton, Fox News 

Majorities of voters think Congress should investigate if Russia interfered with the election and allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. That’s according to the latest Fox News Poll, taken amidst a new volley of allegations of ties between Trump and Russia, and wiretapping of Trump Tower.