Opinion: Congress Can Work — If Trump Gets Out of the Way
Lawmakers can make a deal and avoid a shutdown

First the bad news about negotiations over the 2017 spending bill that Congress needs to pass before midnight on Friday or face a government shutdown: The last several days have been a mess of mixed messages about what should get funded, last-minute demands that cannot be met, and disagreement at the highest levels about how to proceed.

But the good news for Republicans, and really for all of us exhausted by the thought of yet another standoff over basic funding levels, is that nearly all of the bad habits of negotiating and governance on this issue have been confined to the White House.

Opinion: How Jon Ossoff Became the Face of the Anti-Trump Fight
Liberal blog Daily Kos led the way in resistance to president

In the days after Donald Trump was inaugurated in January, liberals in America were depressed, despondent, and asking themselves what to do next. David Nir, the political director of the liberal blog Daily Kos, had an answer and that answer was Jon Ossoff.

Nir and the Daily Kos team had been crunching the numbers from Trump’s election since the day after it happened. Which districts did Trump underperform in? Where were the opportunities for Democrats? They quickly noticed that in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which Mitt Romney won by 23 points in 2012, Trump had won by just a point and a half. Could Rep. Tom Price be vulnerable the next time around?

Opinion: Trump’s 100th Day Could Start With a Government Shutdown
President should look for bipartisan agreement on spending bill

Getting to the 100th day in the White House is a major milestone for any new president. But because of a case of truly unfortunate timing, Donald Trump’s 100th day in office could also be the day that the federal government shuts down unless Trump and a bipartisan majority in Congress pass a major spending bill to lock in federal funding for the rest of the year.

But how will President Trump get an agreement on a difficult piece of legislation that he must pass when he’s had so much trouble managing bills that he and congressional Republicans wanted to pass?

Opinion: Gorsuch’s Nomination — the Hill Democrats Want to Die On?
Filibuster attempt will have repercussions

As Democrats have grappled with how to oppose President Donald Trump and his nominees this year, they’ve had to strike a balance of knowing when and where to fight Trump and when and where to admit that Trump got it right, or close enough.

Democrats mostly kept their level of outrage commensurate with a candidate’s fitness, or lack of fitness, for the job. Democratic senators gave Trump full rein for his national security picks, but put up enough opposition to picks such as Andy Puzder for Labor secretary that Puzder eventually withdrew his nomination.

Opinion: And Now for Something Easy, Like Tax Reform
Legislation will need Democratic votes to succeed

Health care reform did not go well for the White House last week. OK, it blew up. But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still bullish about getting tax reform passed and signed by August. 

“Health care and tax reform are two very different things,” he told Mike Allen of Axios last Friday, hours before the Obamacare vote was canceled amid GOP infighting. “Health care is a very complicated issue … in many ways, [tax reform] is a lot simpler. It really is.”

Opinion: Are Republicans Storming the Castle or Walking the Plank on Health Care?
Upcoming health care vote could have consequences for 2018

House Republicans are getting leaned on, hard, to vote for the GOP health care bill. First came the invitations to the White House Bowling Alley. Then the lunch dates. Still hunting for votes over the weekend, President Donald Trump flew members to Mar-a-Lago. But by Tuesday, with a floor vote looming, President Trump was naming names at the GOP caucus meeting. “Mark Meadows?” the president said, looking for the leader of the Freedom Caucus, who has still not said he’ll vote for the bill. “Stand up, Mark. … Mark, I’m going to come after you.”

The White House later said that the president was “just having fun” at the caucus meeting. But when a White House goes into full whip mode, which this White House obviously has, it’s time for the members on the sharp side of the whip to ask themselves whether they’re being asked to storm the castle or walk the plank. In other words, will their vote on health care this week help deliver a successful, necessary legislative victory, or are they being asked to support a bill that may not pass, may not work, or may cost them and their party their seats in two years’ time.

Opinion: TrumpCare Needs a New Doctor
HHS Secretary Tom Price isn’t helping

Before Tom Price was Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, he was a conservative member of Congress. Before that, he was a mustachioed orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia. For the sake of all that’s healthy, let’s hope that in his doctor days, Tom Price focused on the surgery and let his partners tell the patient the bad news. 

Based on Price’s chilly bedside manner explaining to America they’re getting a new version of health care reform and they’ll be grateful once they do, I imagine his conversations with patients used to go something like this:

Opinion: Obamacare Replacement Options — Lots of Promises, Few Facts
Republicans face a big gap between ‘possible’ and ‘feasible’

There’s a difference between “possible” and “feasible,” and the difference comes down to one word: Money. 

“Is it possible to put a window in that wall?” I once asked a contractor friend about my darkish dining room. “Anything is possible,” he said. “But is it feasible? How much do you want to spend?” (I skipped the window.)

Get Ready, President Trump — It’s All Complicated
Keeping his gigantic campaign promises is likely to prove difficult

President Donald Trump laid out a grand vision to Congress last night of the plans he has to Make America Great Again — health care reform, tax reform, immigration reform, the Wall, a massive expansion of the military, reduction of the debt. More for less. Everything better. Everything safer. Everything great. Again.

But saying it is the easy part. Now comes the hard part. There is a vast expanse in Washington between promises and plans, and another expanse further to get to progress and achievement. That seemed to have finally dawned on Trump on Monday after he met with the National Governors Association at the White House and discussed health care reform.

Town Hall Winners and Losers So Far
If lawmakers can’t meet with constituents, why do they have a job?

We’re halfway through the Presidents Day recess, the first during President Donald Trump’s first term in office. Coming after early stumbles from Trump, and with major legislative changes looming for health care and immigration, and the ascendance of a national effort to protest the president’s agenda, it’s no surprise that town halls would become a focal point for the anger swirling on the left. 

[It’s Not “AstroTurf” if the anger is real]

It’s not ‘Astroturf’ if the Anger is real
Politicians should pay attention to protesters

To town hall or not to town hall? That is the question Republicans are struggling with this week as they’re putting their recess schedules together. 

If they hold town hall meetings, they could risk a “Chaffetz,” like the moment last week when an angry crowd shouted Rep. Jason Chaffetz down in his Utah district with news cameras on hand. But refusing to hold town hall meetings could make a member look out of touch or scared to meet with their own voters. A “tele-town hall” feels like a happy medium, right? Members can say they’ve met with constituents, without actually having to meet with constituents.

The Rules That Stopped Elizabeth Warren Are Waiting for Donald Trump, Too
Senate norms have never been more important in our democracy

Rule 19 had its close-up this week, didn’t it? To be specific, Section 3 of Rule 19, did, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell informed Sen. Elizabeth Warren that she had “impugned the motives and conduct” of her fellow senator, Jeff Sessions, when she read a letter that Coretta Scott King had written about him many years ago.

When Warren was told, “The senator shall take her seat,” she took the Coretta Scott King letter, marched a few feet off the Senate floor, and took a different seat in front of a Facebook Live feed that went out to millions. The standoff launched a battle cry for any woman who has ever felt marginalized, belittled or silenced — which, by the way, is nearly all of us. A thousand hashtags bloomed. #SheWasWarned #ShePersisted #LetLizSpeak. You get the picture.

Who’s in Charge in Trump’s Washington?
All three branches of government are answerable to the Constitution

Did you know that the organizational chart for the federal government is the only one you’ll ever see that doesn’t have a person or group of people in the top box? Instead, the three branches of government, including President Donald Trump’s executive branch, sit equidistant from each other on a horizontal row below the top box. And inside the top box is the Constitution.

When a federal employee sent me the org chart during the 2016 campaign, I thought of it mostly as a piece of quirky trivia — hey, look, nobody’s in charge! But I’ve thought about that chart again and again in the last week as people in the federal government have either joined forces with the White House or acted out against it in ways we’ve never seen before.

Is There a ‘Red Line’ for Congressional Republicans With Trump?
Little evidence of standing up to Trump so far

I’ve tried to imagine the moment this week when President Donald Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of invited congressional leadership that the only reason he lost the popular vote was because three to five million undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton.

Or when he said golfer Berhnard Langer, whom Trump described as a friend, had been turned away from voting in Florida, while people who appeared to be Latin American were allowed to vote. (Langer later said he never tried to vote, never told Trump that story, and is not a friend of Trump’s.)

The Final Dignity of Hillary Clinton
An example for the nation: Time to move forward

I can’t remember how many times in the last three months I have typed “the final indignity of Hillary Clinton.” Even for a woman who has been in the spotlight for decades, she seems to have had more than her fair share.

Had she not run for the Senate as first lady, it’s possible that Clinton’s final indignity would have been her husband’s betrayals, literally in the Oval Office, after she had supported him for years. But after a failed impeachment against him and a New York listening tour for her, “Mrs. Clinton” became “Sen. Clinton” and she was on her way to a political career of her own.

No Sophomore Slump for Marco Rubio
Senator appears to be carving out his own role in Trump’s Washington

For a guy who didn’t want to be in the Senate anymore last year, Florida’s Marco Rubio is certainly making a tall glass of lemonade out of the lemons he got running for president in 2016. With a single hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, Rubio went from being the Republican Most Likely to Miss a Vote, a distinction he earned on his way to losing the GOP nomination, to being the Republican Most Likely to Hold Donald Trump’s Feet to the Fire. It’s a role that holds both risks and immense power. That, for Rubio, could be more important than anything.

The hearing, of course, was to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s secretary of State. Although Sen. Jeff Sessions’ hearing to be attorney general was expected to have the most fireworks of the week, the Tillerson hearing went off-track as soon as Rubio began grilling the former Exxon Mobil CEO about the reams of accusations against Russian President Vladimir Putin of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. 

There’s Danger for Democrats, Too, in Obamacare Repeal
Blame for not replacing health care law may end up on everyone’s hands

“So the dog finally caught the car.” That seemed to be the consensus in Washington Wednesday after Vice President-elect Mike Pence and congressional Republicans declared with confidence that they will begin to repeal Obamacare immediately, but struggled to say what Americans could expect as a replacement for the president’s signature health care law, or when.

“It will literally begin on Day One,” Pence promised in a press conference about President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for dismantling Obamacare. But when asked what exactly will happen on Day One, or what the House will eventually vote on, Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan declined to go into detail.  

Too Many Trumps at the Table
An uncomfortable closeness to the trappings of a monarchy

When Bill and Hillary Clinton moved into the White House in 1993, the newly installed first couple was nearly destroyed for making an offer they thought America could not refuse — a two-for-one special on Yale-trained lawyers interested in national public policy. Not only would Bill Clinton become the president, but Hillary Clinton would set up shop in the West Wing and go about the business of trying to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The arrangement wasn’t technically illegal, but it made many uncomfortable and played a big part in health care reform being declared DOA in Congress at the time.

More than 20 years later, President-elect Donald Trump has an even bigger, better deal for the American people. Instead of two for one, like the Clintons, how about five for one? That’s right, America, for a limited time only, you can will get Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, to run your government, all for the low, low price of Donald Trump. Just one of them was elected, and none of them have experience, but you’re going to love them once you try them. All of them.

Could Jaime Harrison Be the DNC’s Plan B?
Clyburn protege says national Democrats have ignored state parties

Members of the Democratic National Committee will meet in Denver this weekend for the first time since Election Day. They’ll certainly talk about what went wrong in 2016, but they’ll also begin the process of finding a new committee chairman.

Rep. Keith Ellison has generated the most buzz so far, but Ellison’s part-time availability for the job has left some DNC members looking for a Plan B.

New Ground Rules for the Press and the President
Managing Trump and the media’s unhealthy marriage

It’s been a couple of on-again, off-again weeks for Donald Trump and the media, which his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has likened to two feuding parents trying to figure out what to do about the kids.

“For me it’s very simple,” she said last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “President Trump and the media have to share joint custody of the nation and its people for the next four or eight years, so it’s highly productive and in everyone’s interest to find a way to do that.”