Surprise Comey Firing Roils Capitol Hill

President Trump blindsided Washington once again this week, this time with his shock firing of FBI Director James Comey. On Capitol Hill, the move infuriated Democrats and frustrated Republicans, who are growing weary of being left in the dark by a White House often disconnected from, and sometimes disdainful of, the legislative branch.

The Comey sideshow is poised to further slow a Congress already gridlocked by partisan rancor. And as it faces a full plate of major agenda items—such as a health-care overhaul, tax reform, appropriations bills and a looming debt ceiling—Republicans can ill afford another distraction.
Continue reading “Surprise Comey Firing Roils Capitol Hill”

Health Care Bill Faces Uncertainty in the Senate

House Republicans today rushed through passage of legislation that calls for repealing and replacing key parts of Obamacare, with the 217-213 vote coming largely along party lines. But the issue is far from resolved.

Expect the bill to undergo major changes in the Senate, where some Republicans believe it’s too harsh. One provision likely to be stripped out is a ban on federal payments to Planned Parenthood, which was pushed for by anti-abortion House Republicans. Continue reading “Health Care Bill Faces Uncertainty in the Senate”

Trump’s Tax Reform Plan Faces Tough Challenges

Capitol Hill Republicans have greeted President Trump’s tax reform outline with a mix of lukewarm praise and restrained concern, suggesting that one of the administration’s signature agenda items is no slam dunk.

The tepid response doesn’t necessarily doom the proposal, which is extremely light on details. But it does mean that the White House has plenty of work ahead selling – and likely rewriting – the plan in order to win over enough Republican votes. Continue reading “Trump’s Tax Reform Plan Faces Tough Challenges”

Government Shutdown Will Be Averted

Congress will approve a must-pass spending bill in time to avoid a government shutdown next week, but not before some last-minute histrionics spurred on by the White House.

Federal agencies will run out of operating funds next Friday at midnight, so the massive spending bill is needed to keep them open through September, when the fiscal year ends. But President Trump wants to tack on several of his agenda items, such as money for the proposed Mexican border wall, a ban on federal grants to so-called sanctuary cities, which shield illegal immigrants from deportation, and possibly a defunding of Planned Parenthood. Continue reading “Government Shutdown Will Be Averted”

Senate Rule Change for Gorsuch: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

Today’s confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court gave President Trump his biggest victory since his inauguration. But the action has a much broader impact, as it potentially sets up a monumental change in the way the Senate does business.

By invoking the “nuclear option,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) changed Senate rules and barred the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, meaning that confirmation now is achieved with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber instead of 60 votes. Gorsuch was confirmed by a vote of 54 to 45, with three Democrats crossing the aisle and one Republican who missed the vote due to illness. Continue reading “Senate Rule Change for Gorsuch: A Harbinger of Things to Come?”

Will GOP Sink Trump’s Budget?

As is the case with most presidents, Donald Trump’s first budget proposal is already “dead on arrival” in Congress, with Democrats and many Republicans opposed to his plan – though for different reasons – to finance an increase in defense spending with steep cuts to several federal agencies.

And with the parties at odds over how and where to spend taxpayer money, expect another year in which Congress fails to pass a budget. Continue reading “Will GOP Sink Trump’s Budget?”

Trump Wants to Give Churches a Political Role

Churches will play a much greater role in American politics if President Trump and congressional Republicans have their way.

Conservatives on and off Capitol Hill for years have been eager to remove a provision of U.S. tax law that prevents churches and other nonprofits from participating in partisan political activities. Now, with Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, supporters of lifting the six-decade-old ban feel the time is right to act. Continue reading “Trump Wants to Give Churches a Political Role”

Trump’s Tenuous Relationship With Congress Will Evolve

President Trump’s success, ultimately, rests with his ability to work with Congress. And while his relationship with Republicans who control Capitol Hill has gotten off to a rocky start, expect things to smooth over in the coming months as both sides work toward advancing common goals.

Trump’s views expressed in many of his early executive actions, particularly those involving trade, immigration and foreign policy, don’t align perfectly with the Republican mainstream, so it’s not surprising he didn’t check first with GOP leadership on the Hill. But looking ahead to big ticket items on the party’s legislative calendar, namely an Obamacare overhaul and tax reform, the sides are in much more agreement; not perfectly in sync, but not poles apart either. Continue reading “Trump’s Tenuous Relationship With Congress Will Evolve”

Will Republicans Stand with Trump on Spending?

President Trump is racing ahead to make good on campaign promises, taking executive action to reform immigration policies, revive stalled oil pipeline projects, chip away at Obamacare and push along his highly publicized wall along the Mexico border.

But Congress is likely to pump the brakes on some of Trump’s big-ticket items, as fiscal hawks in his own party worry about the deficit and Democrats remain unwilling to cooperate with the new president. Continue reading “Will Republicans Stand with Trump on Spending?”