What’s Sure To Be A Rollicking 116th Congress Gets Underway…With House Passing First Of Many Bills Trump Won’t Sign…
In her first speech to the House, the new Speaker laid out what she described as a bipartisan agenda. But got very little applause from Republicans in the chamber. Even when she slyly quoted President Reagan saying:
“If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost.”
And late last night one of the first things the House did now that it’s controlled by Democrats is pass a package of bills that would reopen the government without funding Trump’s wall. Pelosi called that bipartisan too, because it’s based on what Republicans passed in the Senate back before Trump said he wouldn’t sign it. Pelosi even got some Republican support this time around, but not much.
Those are the first of many bills Democrats in Congress will pass that have little chance of getting passed in the Senate and even less chance getting signed by the President. But that’s O.K. By laying out their priorities, Democrats can build a body of work they can run on in 2020, providing a more substantial vision than simply opposing Trump. At the same time, some of what they may propose: like tax cuts for the middle class, or expanded medical benefits may be hard to pull off even if they do get a chance to pass it in the future. With the ballooning budget deficit, resulting from Trump and Republicans’ $1.5-trillion give-away to corporations, the interest alone the U.S. government now has to pay out on the money it’s borrowed is not that much less than the budget of the entire U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Trump apparently couldn’t stand not being the center of attention for even one day, and so pulled a stunt where he made a surprise pop-up appearance in the White House briefing room. He brought along with him some border security agents to talk up the wall, and then left without taking any questions.
But he did have some nice things to say about the new Democratic leader:
Could be empty words; niceties. But we don’t think the President’s completely disingenuous. While many pundits have opined that Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are more of a natural fit; both emerging from the outer boroughs of New York, we believe Pelosi’s got much more of a shot making inroads with the President. That’s because we think Trump views Schumer as a bit of a nudnik who can’t keep his mouth shut, while he likes Pelosi’s unwavering toughness and the fact that at least publicly she’s stood up to him, making far less of an effort than Schumer to make nice. In some strange way, we think Trump respects that more.
Meanwhile, the stock market tanked, after Apple reported slumping sales and profits in China, and blamed Trump’s trade war with China for exacerbating that. But of course Trump’s trade wars are hurting U.S. companies overseas, and are going to hurt even more. What he’s counting on is coming out in the end with trade agreements that help those companies increase overseas sales in the future. And in China deal effectively with things like theft of intellectual property. Still, China’s a huge market so it’s a legitimate concern that a weak Chinese economy could start dragging U.S. corporate profits down. And as we’ve often pointed out: trade wars are sieges, not firefights.
At the same time, some daylight seemed to be emerging last week, with analysts pointing out the U.S. economy is still pretty good and there’s no overwhelming negative like the housing collapse that triggered the 2008 Recession. That small amount of positivity seemed to evaporate with Apple’s news.
Finally, since we mentioned the “Santa Claus rally” last week, figured we’d follow-up on how that turned out. As we mentioned, the stock market tends to go up during the last 5 sessions of the year, and the first 2 of the New Year, and if it doesn’t, Wall Street looks to the year ahead with trepidation. And actually, despite Thursday’s plunge, the Dow eked out a “Santa Claus rally” after all, starting that period at 22,445 and ending at 22,686. Not a huge gain–only 1%–but it did go up. Which we guess is a good sign except that it’s a completely meaningless superstition.