Flood Insurance Program Will Swell But Not Breach

Congress will reauthorize and revamp the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires at the end of September. Lawmakers are in no mood to let the program lapse in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. What’s less certain is just how extensive those reforms will be.

The 49-year-old Federal Emergency Management Agency program enables property owners in flood-prone areas to purchase flood insurance that is administered and backed by the federal government. Local governments must adopt and enforce floodplain management plans for their communities to be eligible. Continue reading “Flood Insurance Program Will Swell But Not Breach”

Afghanistan: Donald Trump Continues America’s Longest War

President Trump’s plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and emphasize “killing terrorists” over “nation building” put to rest any notion that he intends to wind down America’s longest war.

Trump was short on detail during his first prime-time speech since addressing Congress in February. He didn’t say how many soldiers will join the 8,400-strong U.S. force already in Afghanistan, leaving that specific for the Pentagon to sort out. Nor did he elaborate on the most provocative component of his new strategy: Putting more pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring the Taliban.  

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2018 elections could become a GOP family feud

Look for Republican incumbents on Capitol Hill to face a wave of primary challengers in 2018 if by year’s end they cannot deliver two key campaign promises: Obamacare repeal and tax reform.

It’s very early in the election cycle so many potential challengers are waiting to see how 2017 ends. There’s time for congressional Republicans to mitigate their legislative shortcomings, but the clock is ticking. Continue reading “2018 elections could become a GOP family feud”

Conflict Still Unlikely in North Korea Nuclear Standoff

Don’t panic yet: The U.S. is not on the brink of war with North Korea, even after a heated exchange between the two countries that culminated with Pyongyang threatening to put Guam, a strategically important U.S. territory that hosts several American military bases, in the crosshairs.

Heated exchanges are routine in U.S.-North Korean relations. Pyongyang regularly threatens to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” This time, the stakes are higher — as are the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang — but the old rule of thumb still holds: Kim Jong-un knows that any needless military provocation could result in the destruction of his regime, which means he’s unlikely to take such a drastic step.

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North Korea Puts New York in Range

North Korea made another major leap forward in its nuclear program over the weekend, successfully launching a new missile that experts say puts most major U.S. cities, from Los Angeles to New York, in range.

Like most of the Hermit Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs, this one came sooner than expected. North Korea still has several additional steps to master before it officially has the ability to conduct a nuclear attack on the U.S. But American intelligence officials now think North Korea will be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as next year. Just a few months ago, the consensus estimate was somewhere between five and ten years. 

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Republican Senators Strive for Unity on Health Care Bill

After coming within one vote of total failure today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was able to rally Republicans to at least allow a floor debate over altering the Affordable Care Act. Until ailing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced late yesterday he would return to Washington sooner than expected, after being diagnosed with brain cancer, to participate in the procedural vote, it looked like the Senate would break for August recess without even considering some sort of GOP Obamacare repeal or replacement plan.

But even though the one-time Republican presidential nominee provided McConnell the much-needed momentum that for months had eluded him, it is entirely unclear whether enough support exists to get any sort of repeal bill through the Senate, let alone a comprehensive package. Continue reading “Republican Senators Strive for Unity on Health Care Bill”

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”

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.  

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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”

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”