Control of Congress Rests on Handful of Critical Variables

It’s too early to make a definitive call on the midterm elections, but here are some key factors shaping the campaign landscape.

The Generic Congressional Ballot: This poll asks people which party they would support in a congressional election, without mentioning any specific candidate. So far, Democrats have a clear advantage. RealClearPolitics, a political polling and news aggregator, shows the party with an average lead of 9 points on the generic ballot, based on polling data dating back to January 2017.

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GOP Lawmakers Aim To Stave Off Government Shutdown

Lawmakers are again leaving town without making some tough decisions, punting numerous issues into the new year ahead of a midnight Friday deadline to keep the federal government open.

Given the disagreement among congressional Republicans—not to mention with Democrats—on everything from how much money to dole out to various agencies, to how to deal with foreigners illegally brought to the U.S. as children, GOP leaders have decided to leave Washington on a high note after passing their massive overhaul of the tax code. Continue reading “GOP Lawmakers Aim To Stave Off Government Shutdown”

Democratic Win Inadvertently Helps Republican ‘Wildcards’ Gain Clout

Republicans’ loss in this week’s special election in Alabama strengthens the hands of a cadre of independent-minded Senate GOPers.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and occasionally others have used the GOP’s tenuous 52-48 majority to their advantage, threatening to hold up major legislation unless they get certain concessions. Continue reading “Democratic Win Inadvertently Helps Republican ‘Wildcards’ Gain Clout”

Palace Intrigue at the State Department: Trump Contemplates Plan to Force Out Secretary of State

Reports that President Trump may force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo have rocked Washington, D.C., once again underscoring the ongoing turmoil within the administration.

To some extent, this isn’t a surprise. Washington pundits have been writing Tillerson’s political obituary ever since reports emerged this summer that the secretary of state privately called Trump a “moron.”

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Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to lose some of its potency. Although Republicans—who have opposed the agency since its inception—will succeed in extracting some of its teeth, the GOP won’t be able to totally defang it.

Now that CFPB Director Richard Cordray is stepping down at the end of the month, President Trump, a critic of the consumer watchdog, is free to nominate a more business-friendly replacement. The administration also will work with congressional Republicans, many of whom want to dismantle the agency, to revamp its structure and refocus its mission. Continue reading “Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out”

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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