Trump proposed deep cuts in EPA, HHS, and Education, for example. It is understood by Scriber’s usually unreliable sources that Trump wanted to zero out those agencies but felt he needed an excuse to do so. Shutting down the government would give Trump the cover he needs. One of my sources says the President is giddy at the thought of a shutdown and the destruction of so many government services. “My 100th day will be more bigly than Obama’s”, said Trump. “Never mind repeal and replace. Never mind tax cuts. This place will go boom on April 29th. It will be a beautiful shutdown.”
OK. Fun’s over. Back to serious business. I lead with reports on an impending government shut-down now muddled with “stupid” attempts to bring Democrats into line. The second topic is the lack of wise words from the White House Counsel, Don McGahn who is said to have a “blow-it-up mentality.”
Joan McCarter (Daily Kos) reports that Budget Director Mick Mulvaney offers Democrats an Obamacare funding deal too stupid to be true.
Mick Mulvaney, popular vote loser Donald Trump’s budget director, says he’s made a ransom offer to Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, said the White House is offering a deal to Democrats on government funding: Money for key ObamaCare payments in exchange for helping fund the border wall.
“We’d offer them $1 of CSR payments for $1 of wall payments. Right now that’s the offer that we’ve given to our Democratic colleagues,” Mulvaney told Bloomberg Live on Friday.
He added that they had “finally boiled this negotiation down to” the border wall and ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments.
The catch is that Dems’ response boils down to two letters, one is F and the other rhymes with a second-person pronoun.
… Democrats can tell Mulvaney to pound sand. A) Isn’t Mexico supposed to be paying for the wall? Go get the damned money from Mexico; and B) Democrats aren’t going to be the ones getting blamed if the government shuts down or if people start losing their health insurance. C) Republicans are the ones under the most pressure for coming up with the CSR funding—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pressuring them on it, for chrissakes!
Mulvaney, like his boss, doesn’t seem to understand the consequences of this election. Trump and the Republicans own everything now. Democrats don’t have to help them one damned bit. Which is pretty much what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman says.
Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker reports that The White House seems excited to shut down the government.
Next Saturday, April 29th, is President Trump’s hundredth day in office, a historical marker used by the press to assess a new President’s progress since the first term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. F.D.R. was grappling with the Great Depression, and he had a pliant Congress that would have passed almost anything he proposed. Presidents since then have often struggled to meet the expectations of the hundred-day report card but generally can point to a list of major legislative accomplishments. Trump does not have such a list. At the same time, the Trump White House is facing a much more consequential deadline, one that will help define his first months in office and perhaps his first term: absent a spending deal with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, next Saturday the government will shut down.
While the potential for a government shutdown has been overshadowed by other events—Syria, North Korea, the attempted repeal of Obamacare—the Trump White House is suddenly seized with the issue. “Next week is going to have quite high drama,” a top White House official, who sounded excited by the coming clash, told me. “It’s going to be action-packed. This one is not getting as much attention, but, trust me, it’s going to be the battle of the titans. And the great irony here is that the call for the government shutdown will come on—guess what?—the hundredth day. If you pitched this in a studio, they would say, ‘Get out of here, it’s too ridiculous.’ This is going to be a big one.”
Yesterday [Thursday, April 20th], that changed. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican and former congressman who was one of the House members who agitated for the 2013 shutdown and is now Trump’s budget director, announced that “elections have consequences.” The consequence, it would seem, was a divisive proposal. Mulvaney suggested that if Trump didn’t get his defense spending and border wall—which, it should be noted, he promised would be paid for by Mexico—then the federal payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, or C.S.R., that pay for health insurance for millions of Americans under Obamacare had to be cut from the spending bill. The ruination of Obamacare is once again tied up with keeping the government running.
The funding legislation likely can’t pass in the House without some Democratic votes, and it certainly can’t pass without Democratic votes in the Senate, where Republicans need eight Democrats to reach the sixty-vote threshold to prevent a filibuster. The two sides aren’t even close.
For more on what divides Democrats and Republicans, and divides Republicans and other Republicans, check out Lizza’s report in the New Yorker.
So far, it does not look like a bridgeable gap. “This is going to be high-stakes poker,” the White House official said. When I asked if a shutdown was likely, the official paused for several seconds. “I don’t know,” the official said. The official added, “I just want my wall and my ice agents.”
UPDATE: So you think that there are cool heads in the White House? Clear thinkers who might avoid a shutdown? Think again.
Here’s a report from Mother Jones on how White House counsel Don McGahn has the hardest job in Washington: keeping the president on the right side of the law. (h/t Linda Laird.). The thing is, McGahn does not come down on the the right side, preferring instead to “blow it up.” Here are snippets to convince you that the White House Counsel is an amplifier for Trump’s worst reflexes.
… McGahn is ideally suited for a job in the Trump White House. The administration’s deregulatory agenda—the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” as chief strategist Stephen Bannon put it—is perfectly in sync with McGahn’s libertarian views. To carry out that mission, he has put together a team of nearly 30 lawyers, many of whom are experts in federal law and how to unravel it. McGahn has plenty of experience dismantling the bureaucracy from within: That was precisely the program he pursued for five years while serving on the Federal Election Commission. “He didn’t care about the institution, and he seemed mostly interested in grinding its work to a halt,” says David Kolker, a former associate general counsel at the FEC who worked alongside McGahn. “Don had a blow-it-up mentality.”
And McGahn succeeded.
To his critics, McGahn was on a one-man crusade to destroy the FEC from within. An analysis by the good-government organization Public Citizen found that the number of deadlocked enforcement votes spiked after his arrival, from an average of 1 or 2 percent in the early and mid–2000s to 15 percent in 2011. McGahn had no qualms about undermining the FEC’s nonpartisan lawyers—in one case, he posted a memo to the agency’s website contradicting the commission’s attorneys in an ongoing lawsuit. He bragged about disregarding parts of the law he disputed or saw as out of sync with court rulings. “I’m not enforcing the law as Congress passed it,” he told a group of law students in 2011, referring to the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, which was partially invalidated by the 2010 Citizens United ruling. “I plead guilty as charged.”
McGahn left the commission in September 2013 and returned to private practice. If his goal was to paralyze the nation’s election watchdog, he largely succeeded. Deadlocked votes continue. Enforcement actions and assessed fines have dropped. (The Republican commissioners tout these statistics as evidence that more candidates and committees are following the law, while Democrats say they’re proof of the agency’s failure to act.) The commission has gone more than three years without naming a new general counsel, and Congress hasn’t confirmed any new members since 2013, with one current member’s term having expired as many as 10 years ago. A 2016 survey of federal employees found that morale at the FEC was at its lowest ever. Ann Ravel, a Democratic commissioner, recently resigned two months early, weary of the FEC’s dysfunction.
McGahn is not solely at fault for the FEC’s sorry state—but those who worked alongside him or observed his time there say he deserves much of the blame. “He ushered in a strategic approach to gridlocking that agency,” says David Donnelly, president of the election reform group Every Voice, “because if an agency can’t do its job, it can’t enforce the law.”
The mark of a great White House counsel, experts say, is providing sound legal advice to the commander in chief whether he wants to hear it or not. But with McGahn, the evidence so far—the lax approach to Trump’s ethics problems, the execution of the immigration order, the Flynn imbroglio—suggests a loyal lieutenant eager to please the president. “Don is an expert. He is not a lawyer who says, ‘You simply are unable to do X,’” a former Trump campaign aide told me. “He’ll look for every single type of way to be able to do X.” Which, in the end, may be the last thing this president needs.