Policy

The House Freedom Caucus is not happy with GOP leadership after Democrats and Republicans struck a deal last week to fund the government for two years and avoid another shutdown until at least March 23.

The package President Donald Trump signed Friday morning raises the debt limit, provides an additional $300 billion for defense and domestic programs over two years, and allocates relief dollars for natural disaster victims.

Most Freedom Caucus members are furious over what they consider wasteful spending and a betrayal of the GOP’s hardline opposition to debt increases.

“Our leadership caved. The swamp won,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the group’s chairman, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The American taxpayer lost.”

The 36-member Freedom Caucus did have defectors of its own. Roughly nine voted in support of the package. (The Freedom Caucus does not publish its membership roster so it’s difficult to determine an exact count, although most members of the group are known).

For messaging purposes, they kept their cross hairs fixed squarely on leadership’s back.

“Instead of standing firm, our leadership said, “No, no, no, let’s do what Washington always does. Let’s just spend more on everything. Let’s just grow government, give into the Democrats instead of fighting and [standing] firm,’” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said on “Fox News Sunday.” “They gave into the Democrats and we got this boondoggle.”

A persistent thorn in House Republicans’ side is the 60-vote tradition in the Senate intended to curb more extreme bills when one party controls both chambers of Congress and attract some bipartisan buy-in. The rule has stalled a number of more conservative bills that have passed in the House, where only a simple majority is needed.

Freedom Caucus members and other House conservatives have decried the rule as Republicans struggle to enact a broad legislative agenda, even with a red White House and control of both Congressional chambers.

“Last time I checked, there’s more Republicans in the Senate than there are Democrats,” Jordan said, calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to spike the longstanding 60-vote rule.

Meadows echoed that sentiment.

“At some point, we’re going to have to say, ‘Mitch McConnell, enough is enough. Fifty-one votes on anything that is of national security interest. It is time that we change this.’” he said. “The American people ... could care less about their traditions of the Senate. They do care about their pocketbook. And what we’ve done is we’ve actually taken money from them to grow the size of government by almost 13 percent.”

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President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal seeks $23 billion for border security and immigration enforcement funding, a sure sign that he will intensify his deportation agenda and clash again with Democrats during his second year in office.

The administration will seek a total of $18 billion for fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, the Office of Management and Budget said Sunday, a request tied to ongoing congressional negotiations over the fate of “Dreamers” enrolled in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“We’re asking for about $3 billion I think this year for the wall, but we’re also putting in a contingency in this 2018,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that the administration assumes that Congress will get a deal done on DACA and fund the border wall.

The Senate is expected to begin a free-wheeling debate on immigration Monday evening.

A group of Republican senators, including Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, proposed immigration legislation Sunday that would grant 1.8 million Dreamers a path to citizenship in return for a $25 billion border wall trust fund and changes to the legal immigration system.

The proposal follows a framework Trump offered last month and discussed during his State of the Union address. The GOP senators will try to include their proposal in an unrelated tax bill during the amendment process.

In the fiscal 2019 budget request, the administration is making the same demand that any deal to protect Dreamers from deportation must include funding for Trump’s border wall. It is an exchange that many Democrats detest, which helped lead to the three-day government shutdown in January.

Wall funding and legislation to legalize Dreamers were not included in a two-year deal lifting discretionary budget caps and stopgap spending measure that keeps the government operating through March 23. Trump signed the budget deal and continuing resolution on Friday.

OMB said the immigration and border security funds requested represent “the investments necessary to construct physical infrastructure, improve technology, and increase personnel, resources, and authorities on the ground.”

The administration will also seek $782 million to hire and support 2,750 new Customs and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — roughly the same increase it sought in its fiscal 2018 budget request.

OMB also said the administration will request $2.7 billion to detain 52,000 immigrants each day, a sharp increase over the 39,324 beds funded by the 2017 omnibus spending law.

CBP and ICE are two of the three primary federal immigration agencies, part of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security. The third is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The White House is expected to announce its full fiscal 2019 budget request on Monday.

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The Senate Banking Committee narrowly endorsed Thursday the nomination of Marvin Goodfriend to the Federal Reserve Board as Democrats complained that the economics professor is more focused on fighting inflation than creating jobs.

Goodfriend faced opposition from Democrats because of what they described as a lack of commitment to the Fed’s goal of supporting maximum employment. His nomination advanced on a party-line vote of 13-12.

Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo predicted Goodfriend would win Senate approval.

“I’m not aware of any Republican opposition,” Crapo, R-Idaho, told reporters.

The committee also advanced by voice vote the nomination of Jelena McWilliams to become head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a regulator that managed the failures of more than 500 banks since the financial crisis. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked to be recorded as a “No” vote.

The committee also backed by voice vote Thomas E. Workman, a nominee for a seat on the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the body charged with identifying risks to the financial system. While the other nine members of the council, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul are regulators, Workman would occupy the independent seat that must be filled by someone with insurance expertise.

The committee also approved the addition of two new members, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Doug Jones, D-Ala., to three subcommittees: Securities, Insurance and Investment; Housing, Transportation and Community Development; and Economic Policy.

Crapo praised Goodfriend, McWilliams and Workman. “Their judgment and expertise will be an asset,” he said.

But ranking member Sherrod Brown of Ohio complained that Goodfriend has for too long favored the inflation-fighting side of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of maximizing employment and maintaining stable prices. The Fed’s inflation target is 2 percent. Brown said he couldn’t endorse Goodfriend because of “a decade-long record of prioritizing hypothetical inflation” over jobs.

During Goodfriend’s confirmation hearing last month, Democrats blasted him for a variety of reasons, particularly his hawkishness on fighting inflation.

The Carnegie Mellon University economics professor’s commitment to the employment portion of the Fed’s dual mandate was the focus of most of the criticism.

Goodfriend admitted when questioned by Warren that he’d been wrong for suggesting interest rates should be raised to combat inflation caused by an improving job market as early as 2011, when the unemployment rate was still more than 8 percent. While the unemployment rate has since dropped to 4.1 percent, inflation has remained under 2 percent.

Goodfriend told Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that he “totally” supports the dual mandate.

Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon in 2005, Goodfriend was senior vice president and research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where he worked for 27 years.

McWilliams, a former chief counsel and deputy staff director for the committee, would replace Martin Gruenberg, whose five-year term as FDIC chairman expired in November, but who is staying in his position until a new leader is found. McWilliams is executive vice president at Fifth Third Bank, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based regional bank holding company that ranks as the 29th largest banking company in the country with $142 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2017.

She was an attorney at the Federal Reserve from 2007 to 2010.

Workman, a lawyer, was the president and chief executive of the Life Insurance Council of New York, an industry trade and lobbying association. He would replace S. Roy Woodall Jr., whose term expired on the FSOC.

Watch: The State of the Union in 3 Minutes

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President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he will nominate longtime tax lawyer Charles Rettig to be the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Rettig, if confirmed by the Senate, would take over at a critical time for the agency tasked with implementing the most sweeping tax code overhaul in decades. He’s currently with the Beverly Hills, California-based firm Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, PC, and is a vice-chairman for the taxation body of the American Bar Association.

In a statement, the White House hailed his more than 35 years of experience as a tax attorney, representing taxpayers in disputes with the IRS, the Department of Justice’s tax division and more.

Rettig would take the helm of a cash-strapped agency, a frequent target of Republicans in Congress, with a monumental job to do. The IRS is under the gun to implement the new tax law enacted in December, and the agency’s internal public advocate has warned that a major influx of new resources will be needed.

“The IRS has been bogged down by scandal and disruption in recent years, losing the trust of the American people. It’s past time we restore Americans’ faith in this agency,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, whose committee will oversee the nomination process. “I look forward to learning more about Mr. Rettig and his qualifications to both achieve this goal and ensure an efficient implementation of the biggest tax rewrite in over 30 years.”

Watch: Lawmakers Praise Trump in Rose Garden Tax Bill Celebration

Congress passed a massive spending deal early Friday that would potentially pave the way for more money to flow to the IRS this year.

The previous full-time IRS chief was John Koskinen, whose term ended in November. Koskinen, a 2013 appointee of former President Barack Obama, had a rocky relationship with GOP lawmakers who pushed for him to be impeached or fired by Trump.

The acting IRS commissioner is David Kautter, who is also assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy.

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During his State of the Union Address last week, President Donald Trump repeated a promise that he has made many times: America is finally going to do something about its opioid epidemic. The issue could not be more pressing.

We are in the midst of a national public health crisis that cut short 64,000 lives in 2016 alone, a 21 percent increase in overdose deaths over the previous year. Given the devastating urgency of this issue, I want to believe that our president has not forgotten the tragedy of those lost and the pain of the loved ones they leave behind. But he has made similar promises in the past, nearly all of them abandoned and broken.

Mr. President, every day of inaction means 175 more lives lost to this epidemic. Enough is enough. We need you to listen to leaders in Congress, including members of your own party, who are working across the aisle right now to save lives and address this deadly epidemic.

In this current atmosphere of partisanship and division, addressing the opioid epidemic is one of the few priorities that could still find bipartisan agreement in Congress. Leaders in both parties, across all levels of government and sectors of the economy, and even from the president’s own bipartisan opioid commission, have proposed ways to strengthen the pillars of prevention, treatment, and recovery. I have a few specific solutions included in the list. The vast majority of these ideas spent the past year on a shelf collecting dust.

Watch: The State of the Union in 3 Minutes

Matters could actually get worse. During his first year, President Trump pushed a major budget-crushing tax bill and multiple health care repeal measures that will bind the hands and budgets of local, state and federal government leaders who are already struggling to get their arms around this crisis.

His administration continues to push for a 95 percent cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the federal office responsible for coordinating the government’s response to the opioid epidemic. The president has yet to even nominate a director for that office, which through January 2018 was largely led by a 24-year-old whose major professional qualification was working on the Trump presidential campaign.

If the president is finding it difficult to take meaningful action on opioids, I would welcome him to visit upstate New York to meet many of the constituents I have heard from in recent years who are walking the path of recovery.

Take Brendan Norton for example, my official guest for the president’s first State of the Union.

At age 23, Brendan suffered a life-threatening leg injury that required 19 surgeries and two months in the hospital. He was sent home with more than 200 hydrocodone pills, a doctor’s prescription that helped fuel an addiction that came to dominate his life. After a decade of darkness, with the help of his wife and family, Brendan had a moment of clarity and reached out for help.

Luckily, he found it.

Those moments of clarity are familiar to many who suffer from substance use disorder. But all too often when they do reach out, no one is there to take their hand.

Just 20 percent of people who need treatment for this condition are receiving it. That treatment gap isn’t just a number. It represents hundreds of thousands of individuals who are suffering in communities all across this country every day. Access to treatment can mean the difference between recovery and overdose.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree on the need to address this issue. Many are sponsoring bills to help close the treatment gap and strengthen our safety net for the individuals and families who need it.

Despite floundering from this White House, Congress has not been completely silent on this issue.

In 2016, I secured a legislative addition to the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, that expanded the ability of doctors and certain advanced practice nurses to prescribe medication-assisted treatments for individuals with substance-use disorder. Early in this Congress I introduced two major pieces of legislation to build on that progress.

The first, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act, would build on progress made under CARA by adding additional nursing specialists and formalizing a cap increase for the number of medication-assisted treatment patients a doctor can treat at any given time. The House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force has endorsed including this bill among its top legislative priorities for the year.

The second, the Medicaid Reentry Act, would allow states to restart Medicaid benefits for beneficiaries transitioning out of a jail or prison 30 days before their release. The idea behind the bill responds to an alarming reality: Individuals with substance-use disorder as they depart the criminal justice system are eight times more likely to overdose in their first week out.

Addiction is a brutal and unforgiving disease of the brain and leaves people profoundly vulnerable. Just like Brendan and so many others, our nation can walk down the path of recovery, but it’s going to take more than a few sentences read from a teleprompter on the House floor.

As we move forward in 2018, I implore the president to practice what he claims to preach and take decisive leadership on this issue. Let’s turn words into actions. Let’s turn suffering into hope. Let’s cure America of this painful epidemic. And let’s do it together.

Watch: Trump Talks About Wall, Brother During Opioid Crisis Speech

Rep. Paul D. Tonko represents New York’s 20th Congressional District and is in his fifth term. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science Space and Technology Committee.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.

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At a press conference Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said he doesn’t want to risk a veto from President Donald Trump on an immigration bill the White House doesn’t support. The statement came one day after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Wednesday floor speech marathon asking Ryan to bring bipartisan immigration legislation to the floor.

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