An Unusual, High-Stakes, Round Robin, Anything Goes Free-For-All Gets Underway Today On The Senate Floor

Mitch McConnell Keeps His Promise; DACA Debate Suddenly In Full Swing

The New York Times calls it “an exceedingly rare step that, in effect, will allow Senators to attempt to build a bill from scratch on the Senate floor“. And as the Senate Majority Leader says: “whoever gets to 60 wins“. He’s referring to the number of votes needed to pass a bill in the Senate.

Which is of course an oversimplification of the issue. Several proposals are on the table right now to clear a way for undocumented immigrants who have been here since childhood to stay in the country. Some are bipartisan. Some aren’t. None of them would pass in the Senate and House and/or be signed by Trump as they stand now.

The latest proposal, introduced by Republican hard-liners, is more-or-less a version of what Trump’s said he wants in bill form. They’re calling it “The Secure and Succeed Act”. And we think C-Span (which is scrupulously nonpartisan) is correct in calling it a “$25-billion border security bill with DACA fix”, rather than a DACA fix that includes border security. McConnell personally endorses this plan.

Something bipartisan will almost certainly have to happen to get DACA passed, but Trump has nixed all the bipartisan plans currently on the table. And it’s unlikely Republicans in the Senate will back a plan they’re sure the President won’t sign. Democrats will likely never support the out-and-out Trump plan. And no matter what the Senate passes, there’s no guarantee it’ll pass in the House.

Axios has a nice, comprehensive guide to all the proposals currently on the table and what they all do and don’t include. It puts them side by side so you can assess for yourself where and whether there might be any room for compromise.

Deadline: March 5th. That’s when DACA protections start running out.

Trump emphasized that in an early morning Tweet:

At the same time, that strongly contradicts an admittedly puzzling Tweet he posted in September of last year:


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) NY, presents Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky with a bottle of Brooklyn-made whiskey (yes, there is such a thing). There’s a little video clip from the Washington Post about the relationship between the two party leaders you can watch by clicking on the photo.



Trump’s Budget Is No Fun–Or–The “Blue-Apronization” Of Food Stamps

It’s not even a diverting game anymore to see what deeply horrifying cuts Trump would make if he had all the power, because it’s become so predictable. Huge increases for the military. Big dollars for Homeland Security. Budget deficits be damned. And cuts to just about everything else: including some of the deepest in the social programs that benefit Trump voters the most. Anyone surprised? Didn’t think so.

But there’s one big reason it’s still very important: it indicates Trump isn’t likely to reject a budget purely on the basis that it adds too much debtPolitico sums it up well: “The only certainty in Trump’s budget: oceans of red ink”.

We will repeat what we said in our preview yesterday: there are 3 ways you can react to Trump’s latest budget proposal:

  1. Get really angry over the things Trump is proposing to cut.
  2. Ignore it. Since none of the stuff you got angry about at this time last year (except perhaps a huge increase in military spending) ended up getting implemented in the budget bill that just passed last week (much to Trump’s dismay). The only danger would be if Republicans somehow win a filibuster proof majority in the Senate this fall.
  3. Do a little of both.

We’re going with option #3, and will call your attention to just a couple of things that caught our attention:

Snap quiz: if Trump were to get his way, how big in dollar terms would the State Department be compared to the Defense Department? Think about it for a minute. We’ll give you a couple of hints:

  1. Trump’s proposing cutting State Department funding by 25%.
  2. It’s true that Homeland Security’s taken over a lot of the vetting of people entering the country. But the State Department is still responsible for issuing visas. With dramatic cuts to immigration imminent; not a big deal anymore. And there will be no real premium put on processing visas promptly and efficiently.
  3. Trump seems to feel diplomacy can be largely accomplished through Twitter and an increased show of military might. A story on Vox sums it up this way: “[we’re] saying we have a hammer and nothing else”.
  4. The diplomats that remain will be increasingly pushed in the direction of negotiating agreements allowing other countries to buy more and bigger weapons from the U.S., turning a big part of what’s left of the State Department into an arms bazaar.
  5. There another side to this, which comes with its own skewed logic. The biggest ticket industrial products still made in the U.S.A. are planes and weapons. The surest way for Trump to achieve strong domestic growth with factories at capacity and plenty of new jobs is to make sure those industries get lots of new business.
  6. The answer to the question at the beginning of this section? 3% according to Slate. That is the State Department’s entire proposed budget would amount to just 3% of military spending.



• A plan where food stamp recipients get a box of canned goods shipped from the government instead. This one seems like a “pet project” of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who spoke excitedly about transforming the food stamp program. Said Mulvaney: “What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash.”

Reminds us of the 5-pound blocks of cheese the federal government handed out to poor people during the Reagan administration. Except they didn’t have to give their food stamps up to get it.

Three comments:

  1. Where’s the outrage? When Obama suggested using more energy efficient light bulbs, Republicans (most notably Sarah Palin) slammed him, saying Americans were entitled to “light bulbs of their own choosing”. And all that stuff about the “nanny state” not letting kids have cookies? Now the government literally plans to tell more than 40-million Americans exactly what they’re gonna eat. Nothing? Really?
  2. Trump says he’s all about deregulation. Yet when it comes to social programs, it seems he’s all about more regulation: work requirements and lifetime limits on Medicaid, for instance. (Whether you agree with it or not, he’s vehemently in favor of adding regulations there). So next time Trump talks about “deregulation” remember that’s only for corporations and rich developers who want to build without worrying about things like pollution and environmental impact.
  3. In order to receive a box of food you need to have a place to receive it, and a place to store it. It’s harder to manage than some money automatically being put on a card you take to the supermarket  Which seems to be consistent with a lot of things Trump is doing because he can’t (yet) cut these programs outright: make social programs so cumbersome recipients will just give up stop using them.

If you want more, here are some additional stories about other aspects of Trump’s budget proposal from the Washington Post and CNBC.


Meanwhile, Axios says forget about all of this: Trump’s real goal this year is finding some new, divisive “cultural flashpoint” that can re-polarize the electorate and energize his supporters ahead of the midterm elections.



Follow The Money

The stock market recovered some to open the week, after a dreadful showing last week. Where will it go next? Anyone’s guess.

A good illustration is Reuters running two stories back-to-back that are seemingly contradictory, yet both make perfect sense:

At the same time, Trump seems intent on proceeding with policies that could threaten a rebound. Most specifically, the President’s making noise again about starting a trade war. Trump says at some point this week he will announce what he’s calling a “reciprocal tax” on imports from countries that “rob us blind”. Depending on the scale of Trump’s action and which countries are included (and whether he even goes through with it: he’s talked big about this kind of thing before and then backed off), this could mean higher prices for U.S. consumers. And that could stoke the rising fear of inflation that’s already sent the market tumbling.



And Just In Case You Haven’t Seen Them Yet, Here Are The Official Obama Portraits, Presented Without Comment (Except We Like Them)


They’ll be on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Here’s a review by an art critic in the Washington Post.