Washington Brief: Voters Give Congress Middling Grades on First 100 Days

Washington Brief

  • Americans are lukewarm on the performance of congressional Democrats and Republicans, according to a new poll that asked voters to grade lawmakers on the first 100 days of the 115th Congress. (Morning Consult)
  • President Donald Trump’s push for the House to vote next week on an Obamacare replacement bill is being met with skepticism by Republican lawmakers, who will have their hands full trying to reach an agreement with Democrats on a spending measure to fund the government beyond April 28. (The Washington Post)
  • Trump said Iran is “not living up to the spirit” of its nuclear agreement with the United States. The Trump administration notified Congress earlier this week that Iran has been compliant with the deal. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Arkansas carried out its first execution since 2005 after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to proceed. (NPR News) Like others states, Arkansas is struggling to acquire drugs for lethal injections – the Trump administration has blocked Texas and Arizona from importing drugs from India. (BuzzFeed News)

Chart Review

Initial 2018 Gubernatorial Ratings
Sabato’s Crystal Ball

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled



DNC rally with anti-abortion candidate fuels backlash
Elana Schor, Politico 

The addition of an anti-abortion Nebraska mayoral candidate to a Democratic National Committee “unity tour” sparked blowback from the left on Thursday. Democrat Heath Mello, a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate for mayor of Omaha, is scheduled to appear with Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the DNC’s new deputy chair, at a sold-out rally on Thursday.

France launches terror probe after Paris shooting
Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, Financial Times

France has launched an anti-terror investigation after a policeman was killed and two other officers injured in a suspected Islamist attack in Paris on Thursday that threatens to disrupt the country’s presidential election. French authorities said the suspected gunman had been shot dead in the assault on the Champs-Élysées shortly before 9pm local time. One civilian was also injured in the attack.

Obama wades into French election fight
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico 

Former President Barack Obama gently waded back into international politics on Thursday, talking by phone with French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. Macron is the center-left candidate, and the leading contender to stop far-right Marine Le Pen from winning in either Sunday’s first round or the subsequent runoff.

Inside The Hunt For Russia’s Hackers
Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed News

Russia’s cyberwarfare operations are built on the back of their cybercriminal networks. Can the US and its allies take them down?

4 Hours at the White House With Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Kid Rock
Glenn Thrush, The New York Times

Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Sarah Palin had a fete to remember at the White House for several hours Wednesday night, as President Trump treated the high-profile supporters to a white-china private dinner, a room-by-room tour and free-range policy chat. Mr. Nugent — a guitar demigod, knife-between-the-teeth hunter and conservative provocateur — offered an inside glimpse of a gracious, relaxed and house-proud president with ample time to offer his thoughts on a wide array of topics, from entertainment to existential geopolitical perils.


White House turns up heat on Congress to revise the Affordable Care Act
Paige Winfield Cunningham et al., The Washington Post 

President Trump is pushing Congress toward another dramatic showdown over the Affordable Care Act, despite big outstanding obstacles to a beleaguered revision plan and a high-stakes deadline next week to keep the government running. The fresh pressure from the White House to pass a revision was met with skepticism by some Capitol Hill Republicans and their aides, who were recently humiliated when their bill failed to reach the House floor for a vote and who worry now that little has changed to suggest a new revision would fare any better.

Trump Says Iran ‘Not Living Up to the Spirit’ of Nuclear Deal
Rebecca Ballhaus, The Wall Street Journal 

President Donald Trump said Thursday that Iran was “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement reached in 2015. Mr. Trump, speaking at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, said Iran was “doing a tremendous disservice” to the agreement, which he called “as bad as I’ve ever seen negotiated.”

Mnuchin Says Tax Overhaul Plan Will Happen by Year’s End
Lynnley Browning and Saleha Mohsin, Bloomberg News

The Trump administration is aiming to complete the biggest overhaul of the tax code since President Ronald Reagan by the end of the year, even if a second attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act fails, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Whether health care gets done or doesn’t get done, we’re going to get tax reform done,” Mnuchin said Thursday at a conference in Washington.

AG Sessions says he’s ‘amazed’ a judge ‘on an island in the Pacific’ can block Trump’s immigration order
Andrew Kaczynski, CNN

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week he was amazed that a judge in Hawaii could block President Donald Trump’s executive order halting immigration from several majority Muslim countries. Sessions made the comments in an interview with “The Mark Levin Show” Tuesday evening that was put online Wednesday.

In ‘Buy American’ Push, Trump Is Starting in a Hole
Coulter Jones and Shane Shifflett, The Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump’s effort to force the federal government to “Buy American” will be a challenge as foreign-owned companies already hauled in more money from federal contracts in the past three months than in any corresponding period in a decade. Much of the payout to foreign-owned firms in the first quarter of this calendar year was set in motion by the Obama administration, a trend likely to continue throughout Mr. Trump’s first year.


Oracle’s Larry Ellison to host Mitch McConnell, other high-powered GOPers for fundraiser
Ethan Baron, The Mercury News

It could be imagined that U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell would be unwelcome in many Silicon Valley homes, unless in effigy form for burning. This region, famously liberal, overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton over now-President Donald Trump in the election campaign.

Senate Democrats to Trump: Disclose Visitor Logs, Ethics Waivers
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

A group of seven Democratic senators on Thursday penned a letter to President Donald Trump calling on the White House to disclose its ethics waivers and release its visitor logs, saying his administration’s decision to keep them private runs contrary to his campaign pledge to “drain the swamp.” The lawmakers – including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) – said Trump is undermining his own executive order on ethics by “freely and secretly issuing waivers” to administration officials and making secrecy “the hallmark” of his administration by withholding the logs.


Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC invests $800,000 in Montana
David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner 

The super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is purchasing $800,000 of television advertising on Montana television to boost the Republican candidate in a May 25 special election for a vacant House seat as the GOP moves to defend another front in the battle for control of Congress. Beginning Friday, the Congressional Leadership Fund is airing a 30-second spot on broadcast and cable television in the Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula media markets.

Utah Prepares Special Election as Rep. Chaffetz Says He May Step Down Early
Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal 

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the top Republican on the House committee primarily responsible for conducting oversight and investigations of the Trump administration, said Thursday he may leave Congress before his term ends, a day after announcing he would not run for re-election in 2018. “My future plans are not yet finalized but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving early,” he said.

Schiff could use Russia probe as Senate springboard
Austin Wright and Carla Marinucci, Politico

The congressman from Hollywood has landed his breakout role — investigating President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — and it might be Adam Schiff’s path to the Senate. As the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, the California congressman has become a daily, sometimes hourly, fixture on cable news, winning rave reviews from Democrats for his lawyerly and occasionally devastating takes on the Russia probe’s latest developments.

Waiting for Goodlatte: Some residents frustrated by congressman’s absence
Jenna Portnoy, The Washington Post

If you’re a constituent of longtime Rep. Bob Goodlatte and you want to communicate with him, here are your options: You can attend one of the regularly scheduled “open-door meetings” in his district, where a Goodlatte staffer will listen to your concerns and pledge to relay them, but is not authorized to respond. Or you can participate in a “tele-town hall,” by signing up online to join a conference call, along with thousands of your neighbors.


Arkansas Conducts First Execution In Years After U.S. Supreme Court Clears
Path James Doubek, NPR News

Arkansas has carried out its first execution since 2005, just minutes before the expiration of the inmate’s death warrant. Ledell Lee was executed by lethal injection minutes before midnight Friday Central time in Grady, Ark. at the Cummins Unit facility, shortly before the warrant was set to expire.

Trump Administration Blocks Shipment Of Illegal Execution Drugs
Chris McDaniel, BuzzFeed News 

Texas and Arizona bought 2,000 vials of a now-banned anesthetic from a supplier in India. Thursday, Justice Department lawyers told a court the FDA “has issued a final decision, refusing admission of the detained drugs into the United States.”

Is Dennis Kucinich running for governor?: He’s coming to Dayton Monday
Will Garbe, Dayton Daily News 

Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich will hold a town hall meeting Monday in Dayton, raising questions about whether the former Cleveland mayor and presidential candidate could run for Ohio governor. Kucinich will hold a Columbus press conference earlier in the day before coming to Dayton to discuss “the impact of privatization on Ohio’s public schools,” according to a news release.

How G.O.P. in 2 States Coaxed the Health Law to Success or Crisis
Abby Goodnough and Reed Abelson, The New York Times

In Oklahoma, which has raged against the Affordable Care Act, insurance premiums are among the nation’s highest. New Mexico, which oversees its marketplace, has one of the lowest average premium costs.

A Transgender Woman Is Suing Idaho For Refusing To Correct Her Birth Certificate
Dominick Holden, BuzzFeed News 

A transgender woman sued top health officials in Idaho on Tuesday for the right to change her birth certificate’s sex marker to female, saying in US District Court that a state policy blocking her from updating the document has led to humiliation, such as being called “tranny” and “faggot” in a federal social security office. It’s the second lawsuit filed this month by a prominent LGBT group, Lambda Legal, to challenge a small handful states that still ban transgender people from fixing their birth record.


Top Retailers Boost Spending on Lobbying Amid Border-Tax Battle
Ben Brody and Matthew Townsend, Bloomberg News

Three top U.S. retailers almost quadrupled their combined spending on lobbying in Washington during the first quarter of 2017, as they work to defeat a corporate-tax proposal that some have said threatens their industry. Target Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc. and Gap Inc. spent almost $3.2 million combined on lobbying during the quarter — up from $830,000 in the same period a year ago — according to federal lobbying disclosures filed Thursday.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

NEW REPORT: 66% of small merchants are satisfied with what they pay for debit card acceptance. When it comes to interchange, small merchants want value, not price caps. So who is putting small merchants’ choice and flexibility at risk? Get the facts from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Republicans, Learn the Limits of Loyalty
Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

They think since he is a Republican and they are Republican, they must defend him on all things. They are looking at it wrong. He is Donald Trump. He is not “a Republican.”

With North Korea, we do have cards to play
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

The crisis with North Korea may appear trumped up. It’s not.

The GOP’s biggest health care achievement has been making Obamacare more popular
Ezra Klein, Vox 

It is bizarre watching House Republicans persuade themselves that the problem they face on health care is cutting a deal between the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group rather than crafting legislation that people actually like, and that will actually make some part of the health care system noticeably better. But the GOP’s refusal to take public opinion even mildly into account has put them in a disastrous position.

The Secret Service pushes Americans even farther from the White House’s doors
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Shut it down and close it up. That seems to be the default reaction of the Secret Service to any problem or failing — including its own — in protecting Washington buildings.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Don’t be fooled by big box retailers’ claims about the Durbin amendment. A new Javelin study found small merchants choose their card processor based on value, not cost. In fact, despite price controls applying only to debit transactions, more merchants prefer credit card payments than debit card payments. Learn the truth about the interchange system from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Research Reports and Polling

Voters Give Congress Middling Grades on First 100 Days
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

It’s been a fractious start to the 115th Congress, with the first 100 days marked by a new low in Senate bipartisan relations and House Republicans struggling to impose their will on the first big-ticket item of the era of GOP-controlled government. Voters are lukewarm on the performance of both parties, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll.