After Health Care, Congressional Republicans Pivot to Tax Reform

While Senate Republicans torpedo the GOP’s latest attempt at unraveling President Obama’s signature health care law, House Republican budget writers are trying to keep the party on track to deliver its other top agenda item: Tax reform.

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN) yesterday unveiled her first fiscal blueprint as head of the panel once led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). In addition to spelling out the party’s spending priorities, Republicans plan to use the budget resolution as a vehicle for overhauling the tax code. Senate Republicans can advance legislation on simple-majority votes — and avoid potential Democratic filibusters — only if they use the procedural workaround known as budget reconciliation. And they need an approved budget resolution before they can invoke reconciliation to pass a tax bill. Continue reading “After Health Care, Congressional Republicans Pivot to Tax Reform”

Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules

Fierce competition in mobile broadband. A steady decline in cable subscribers. New technology that drives down data prices. Hugely expensive infrastructure costs. An uncertain road to next-generation 5G wireless.

Those are just some of the challenges wired and wireless broadband providers are facing. Now those telecom firms are breathing a sigh of relief and gearing up to launch new services and enter new markets in a big way. Regulatory rollbacks will benefit web providers. But the path forward won’t be easy. Continue reading “Broadband Providers are Gearing Up to Profit from Relaxed Web Rules”

From Russia With Love: New Revelations Once Again Put White House on the Defensive

Russia has historically been the downfall of many promising political careers.  Napoleon was on a roll until he decided to invade the country in 1812, when a brutal Russian winter froze his formidable army in its tracks. In America after World War II, the Red Scare ensnared many prominent figures who had once had Soviet sympathies, most notably Alger Hiss, a well-respected diplomat who was tried as a Russian spy (and eventually convicted of perjury).

Donald Trump may be next. No matter how hard the president tries, he can’t seem to shake allegations that members of his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.  

Continue reading “From Russia With Love: New Revelations Once Again Put White House on the Defensive”

Senate Republicans Double Down on Health Care Reform

Senate Republicans are no closer to reaching consensus on a health care bill than they were before they broke for the Fourth of July recess 13 days ago. However, they’re still plugging away, determined to get this done one way or another.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he will release a revised package Thursday morning and hinted at a possible floor vote next week. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to analyze the plan’s fiscal impact sometime early next week. But eye McConnell’s renewed push warily. Continue reading “Senate Republicans Double Down on Health Care Reform”

The Odd Couple: Trump and Putin Finally Meet

The long-awaited first meeting between President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is finally happening Friday at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

It couldn’t come at a stranger time in U.S.-Russian relations. Trump, who came into office seeking a reset with America’s implacable geopolitical adversary, is under pressure at home thanks to an investigation into alleged ties between the Kremlin and his 2016 presidential campaign. Continue reading “The Odd Couple: Trump and Putin Finally Meet”

Nightmare on the Korean Peninsula: Pyongyang Gets an ICBM

Tuesday was the Fourth of July. And while many Americans celebrated the holiday in usual pyrotechnic fashion, it was North Korea that produced the day’s biggest fireworks.

Indeed, Pyongyang chose America’s Independence Day to launch its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile, a major development that came sooner than expected and put the world’s most infamous rogue state one step closer to targeting the U.S. with a nuclear weapon.  Continue reading “Nightmare on the Korean Peninsula: Pyongyang Gets an ICBM”

Do Oil Prices Have Room To Fall Further?

Folks hitting the road for July 4th this year won’t have much to complain about at the gas pump.  The day before the holiday, AAA reports that regular unleaded averages a mere $2.23 per gallon nationwide: The lowest price for early July since 2005. (Of course, that nationwide average includes some sharp regional variations. Californians are paying roughly $2.94 per gallon of regular. In South Carolina, the statewide norm is $1.90.) It’s hard to believe that just three years ago, the nationwide average price was $3.68 per gallon.

Of course, drivers can thank the oil market for those savings. The world has been awash in excess crude for more than two years now, and oil prices have plunged during that time. Even with OPEC limiting its oil exports to shrink the supply glut, prices have remained stubbornly low. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate showed some signs of rallying this spring, but topped out at about $53 per barrel in April before retreating below $50 again. In fact, WTI technically entered a bear market when it closed at $42.53 on June 21, marking a 20% decline from its April peak. (A small rebound has taken crude back to about $46.50.) Continue reading “Do Oil Prices Have Room To Fall Further?”

GOP Health Care Bill Faces Perilous Path Forward

Congressional Republicans’ push to repeal and replace Obamacare is down but not out. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) surprised everyone yesterday, including his own caucus, when he called off an expected vote on the Senate GOP’s health care bill amid opposition from at least a half-dozen of his party colleagues. It’s an embarrassing about-face for the leader, who last week emphatically promised to pass the bill this week.

But think of the setback more as McConnell hitting the pause button than throwing in the towel. Congress is out next week for its annual Independence Day break, and he will use the time to tweak the bill in the hopes of wooing reluctant Republicans. He wants to hold a vote soon after Congress returns the second week of July. And if anyone can get this done, it’s McConnell, a master of Senate politics and parliamentary procedure. Continue reading “GOP Health Care Bill Faces Perilous Path Forward”

Supreme Court Gives Trump’s Travel Ban a Boost

President Trump’s travel ban is once again the law of the land—at least for now. The Supreme Court decided Monday to reinstate certain parts of the president’s controversial executive order, pending a full review by the justices this fall.

In a unanimous opinion, the high court struck down two lower court orders that put a hold on the travel restrictions, freeing the Trump administration to impose a freeze on new visas from six Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for 90 days.            

Continue reading “Supreme Court Gives Trump’s Travel Ban a Boost”

The Specter of War in Syria

The U.S. further embroiled itself in yet another Middle Eastern conflict last week by shooting down a Syrian fighter jet that was reportedly threatening American-backed Kurdish forces in the country.

This was the second time since the beginning of Syria’s civil war that the U.S. directly attacked Syrian government forces (the first was a missile strike in April to retaliate for Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons). Continue reading “The Specter of War in Syria”