GOPer Roy Moore Is Trouble For Party Establishment

Republican firebrand Roy Moore’s easy victory in this week’s Alabama Senate primary runoff against appointed Sen. Luther Strange sent a chill down the spine of the party establishment. And the takeaway for Capitol Hill Republicans was crystal clear: Deliver on key campaign promises, such as repealing Obamacare, or face swift intra-party ouster—no matter how much money or how many high-profile endorsements you’ve pocketed.

The controversial, former state Supreme Court chief justice’s victory was a rebuke of the GOP-controlled Congress and its inability to advance the party’s agenda since winning control of the White House and Congress. Despite endorsements from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and receiving hefty campaign donations as a result, Strange could muster no better than a 9-percentage point loss. Continue reading “GOPer Roy Moore Is Trouble For Party Establishment”

North Korea: Trump and Kim’s War of Words

If any diplomatic solutions to the North Korean nuclear crisis remain, President Trump is rapidly burning through them. His escalating war of words with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, replete with colorful name-calling and provocative threats, is making actual dialogue impossible and upping chances of armed conflict.

Trump kicked off the latest round of verbal sparring with his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, during which he referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the U.S. is “forced to defend itself or its allies.”

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GOP Health Care Overhaul Down But not Out

Republicans are fully focused on overhauling the tax code after yet another attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act flopped in the Senate this week. But that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned hope of dismantling President Obama’s signature domestic program. Far from it.

Senate GOPers say that despite their embarrassing failure to do away with Obamacare, they’re within striking distance of drafting a plan their entire 52-member conference can support—a claim President Trump made repeatedly Wednesday. They vow that as soon as they approve a tax reform package (though that endeavor will take months, or longer, and could also end in failure), they’ll immediately pivot back to health care. Continue reading “GOP Health Care Overhaul Down But not Out”

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”