President Donald Trump doesn’t want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs.
The White House is asking Congress to cut $18 billion from discretionary spending bills for the current fiscal year that have been long settled — a move that could threaten a major showdown just a month ahead of the deadline to keep the government funded.
Story Continued Below
In an extensive document shared with House and Senate appropriations committees on Friday, and obtained by POLITICO, the Trump administration is offering its most detailed instructions to date on how Congress should shape the trillion-dollar spending legislation Congress must enact by April 28 to prevent a government shutdown.
GOP leaders decided to punt last fall’s government spending bill deadline to this year, in part because Trump had asked to play a role in the package. But GOP appropriators have said they didn’t receive fiscal 2017 feedback until the White House turned over a draft outline for fiscal 2018 this month.
The department-by-department breakdown shows Trump is targeting domestic programs including education, health care and housing, as well as international food aid — cuts that are in line with the administration’s “skinny budget” for next year.
The $17.94 billion cut would help pay for Trump’s military supplemental request, which was sent to Congress earlier this month. About $2 billion would also go towards Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border.
But the latest request for cuts — which would be absorbed over the five months left in the fiscal year — could prove to be too little, too late from the White House. Lawmakers have indicated they are prepared to reject Trump’s calls to gut programs they deem important.
After the Trump administration asked Congress earlier this month to strip 3 percent of discretionary spending in fiscal 2017, several top House appropriators said the White House weighed in too late in the process to affect the outcome of the spending legislation for the current fiscal year.
In the document sent to Capitol HIll on Friday, the Senate’s Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, which oversees the largest individual spending bill, would see the steepest cut. Its budget would drop by $7.26 billion, largely by slashing grant funding — ranging from the NIH to mental health programs — and by eliminating programs like Americorps. NIH alone would see a $1.23 billion cut.
The State and Foreign Operations subcommittee would see the next-largest cut, to the tune of $2.88 billion. The White House wants to cut about equally from the State Department’s core functions, like peacekeeping, and its foreign aid programs at USAID.
Other programs on the chopping block include HUD, with a $1.68 billion cutback, and the EPA with a $247 million cut.
The proposal calls for a more than $1 billion cut to the Department of Agriculture. And much like Trump’s blueprint for 2018, the plan would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International food program, a bipartisan initiative that feeds millions of vulnerable schoolchildren abroad, and make deep cuts to the Food for Peace program.
Any administration typically provides a list of proposed offsets for supplemental spending requests when it wants to avoid adding to the deficit. But this year, that request is coming with just a handful of weeks left in session for either chamber.
Earlier this month, budget chief Mick Mulvaney proposed cutting about $18 billion from FY18 discretionary spending to pay for the supplemental military spending. He suggested paying for an additional $30 billion defense package by raising the 2011 budget spending caps and through the emergency overseas contingency fund.
10:30 a.m.: President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
11 a.m.: Trump will hold a listening session with the Fraternal Order of Police in the Roosevelt Room.
2 p.m.: Trump will sign an “Energy Independence Executive Order” at the Environmental Protection Agency.
4 p.m.: Trump will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in the Oval Office.
7 p.m.: Trump will host a reception for senators and their spouses in the East Room.
OTHER HAPPENINGS: Vice President Mike Pence is hitting the Hill to meet with lawmakers. Sean Spicer will brief the press at the White House at 1 p.m. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump will visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum this morning at 9:45 a.m. to talk STEM education.
TRUMP’S TWITTER THIS MORNING: “Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS! … Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”
And last night, Trump took to Twitter to declare: “Trump Russia story is a hoax.”
COMING TODAY:From the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: “President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.”
SPENDING CUTS: From POLITICO Pro’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Sarah Ferris: “President Donald Trump doesn’t want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs. The White House is asking Congress to cut $18 billion from discretionary spending bills for the current fiscal year that have been long settled — a move that could threaten a major showdown just a month ahead of the deadline to keep the government funded.”
SPEAKING OF SPENDING:From POLITICO’s Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade: “Congressional Republicans might deliver some more bad news for President Donald Trump, fresh off their embarrassing failure to scrap Obamacare: No new money is coming to build his wall. Trump hoped to jump-start construction of a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border with money in a must-pass government funding bill. But Democratic leaders are vowing to block any legislation that includes a single penny for the wall.”
SCOTUS UPDATE — TROUBLE AHEAD:From POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor: “Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s path to 60 votes is rapidly closing — setting the stage for a nuclear showdown in the Senate as soon as next week. Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s.”
This issue seems to be the latest reminder of an uncomfortable question for the White House: Why would any Democrat cooperate with them? Trump lost the popular vote, is under multiple investigations, has basement-level approval ratings, is signing executive actions that outrage the liberal base and has done almost no serious outreach to Democrats.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’ announcement last week that officials from the transition team of President Donald Trump had been inadvertently surveilled by the U.S. intelligence community came at the behest of the White House, Rep. Eric Swalwell said Tuesday morning.
Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed Monday that he had traveled to the White House to meet with his still-unnamed source on the day before he made his announcement but denied that the public disclosure was coordinated in any way with Trump administration officials. The White House, Nunes said in a CNN interview, simply served as a secure location for reviewing classified information and “I’m quite sure that I think people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.”
Story Continued Below
But Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, disputed the chairman’s argument Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s not an internet cafe. You can’t just walk in and receive classified information,” Swalwell said of the White House, adding that when a member of Congress visits, “everyone in the building knows that you’re there in the building.”
“This is done because the White House wanted it to be done,” the California Democrat said. “And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now.”
If Nunes wanted to view classified materials, Swalwell said, there are secure facilities for doing so at the Capital, making a trip to the White House unnecessary. “If this was done the proper way, they could have brought it over, shared it with both parties of the committee,” he said.
Swalwell also wondered aloud why Nunes has been unwilling to share the source of his information when committee members have “always been on the same team up until now.”
In the wake of Monday’s revelation regarding Nunes’ White House visit, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called on Nunes to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation into ties between the Russian government and the 2016 election. Swalwell echoed that call and, without naming specific lawmakers, said he’s heard frustration from Republicans that Nunes has at least created the perception of a compromised investigation.
“A lot of them have said that we don’t need an independent commission because we’re doing the work in the House committee, on the intelligence committee, and so that’s always been the out for not having an independent commission,” Swalwell said. “So I’ve heard frustration that they don’t have that out anymore. So where do we go now?”
When President Donald Trump’s first travel ban executive order was effectively shut down by a federal judge, the Trump administration seemed to be in a huge rush to get the policy back on track.
This time? Not so much.
It took less than a day for Justice Department lawyers to file an appeal last month after U.S. District Court Judge James Robart blocked the key parts of Trump’s directive.
A few hours later — just after midnight Eastern Time — the federal government filed an emergency motion asking the San Francisco-based 9thCircuit to allow the president to move forward with his plan to halt travel to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries and to suspend refugee admissions from across the globe.
A three-judge 9th Circuit panel unanimously turned down Trump’s request, prompting the president to redraft the executive order, dropping Iraq from the roster of affected countries and exempting existing visa-holders from the directive.
But when a federal judge in Hawaii issued a broad block on the new order March 15, just hours before it was set to kick in, there was no immediate appeal. In fact, nearly two weeks later, the Justice Department is still tangling with Honolulu U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson and has yet to take the issue back to the 9th Circuit.
The delay has puzzled many lawyers tracking the litigation, particularly given Trump’s public warning that “many very bad and dangerous people may be pouringinto our country” as a result of the courts’ interference with his first travel ban directive. A total of two months have now passed since Trump signed his first order.
“A lot of people have talked about that,” said University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias. “It seems hard to wait on this without undercutting the argument” that the travel ban order is needed to address an urgent national security threat, he added.
Some attorneys believe the Justice Department is intentionally dragging its feet in the Hawaii case because the 9th Circuit rotates the three-judge panels assigned to motions every month, with the next swap-out due Saturday. The 9th Circuit also announces the panels publicly, although not in advance. This month’s consists of two Obama-appointed judges — Morgan Christen and John Owens — along with George W. Bush appointee Milan Smith.
“Maybe they looked at the motions panel this month and felt it was maybe, 2-1 [against them] … at best and they didn’t see any percentage in that so they figured let’s see what’s up next month,” Tobias said.
“It does not bespeak a lot of confidence in the merits of their position if the strategy here really is waiting until the calendar flips over on Saturday,” University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck added. “It’s both a long shot and strange one.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the timing. A lawyer for the State of Hawaii, which obtained the broad restraining order, also declined to comment.
The feds’ apparent decision to slow walk the Hawaii case may have been bolstered earlier this month when five Republican-appointed 9th Circuit judges took the unusual step of publicly signaling that they would have upheld the original order. That wasn’t enough to reconsider the initial 9th Circuit panel decision refusing to let Trump proceed with his first order, but the dissenting opinion told federal government lawyers that there was a significant reservoir of support for their position among the appeals court’s judges.
Still, Democratic-appointed judges on the court’s active bench outnumber Republican nominees, 18-7, and the court’s senior ranks are split, 10-9, in favor of Democratic appointees. It’s also worth noting that a George W. Bush-appointed senior judge, Richard Clifton, joined two Obama appointees in turning down Trump’s emergency motion to reinstate his earlier policy.
There are also other potential hurdles facing Trump’s revised order at the 9th Circuit. Under that court’s procedures, cases involving the same subject matter are sometimes returned to the same judges who considered the issue the first time around. In addition, the first panel’s opinion is considered binding precedent that could affect a second ruling, even one by different judges.
That may be why the Justice Department initially asked that the first ruling be wiped out, although it eventually dropped that request.
Another explanation for the slow-roll in the 9th Circuit could be that the Justice Department sees more fertile ground elsewhere. A judge in Maryland blocked the visa-ban aspect of Trump’s revised order about two weeks ago, leading federal government lawyers to promptly file an appeal with the Richmond-based 4th Circuit.
That court has scheduled arguments on the issue for May 8. Unlike the 9th Circuit, the 4th Circuit announces its three-judge panels only a half an hour before arguments begin, in order to avoid what one attorney called “gaming the system.”
To some observers, the Trump administration’s odds at the 4th Circuit don’t look much better.
“In general, the court has moved to be much more moderate. It used to be the most conservative court in the country, but these days is really hard to predict,” Tobias said. “It has drifted from the right to the middle and maybe even a little to the left.”
“This is not your father’s 4th Circuit,” Vladeck joked. “I don’t think there’s any court of appeals where Obama has more of an impact.”
That said, the 4th Circuit’s leftward drift tends to be less pronounced in national security cases. That could give the federal government a fighting chance in front of a randomly picked three-judge panel, although the full bench seems like a bigger challenge, in part because the larger panel is unbound by earlier 4th Circuit precedents.
Another factor in the swirl of litigation: Trump’s pending nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. A modest delay in the court proceedings on Trump’s travel ban could give Gorsuch time to be confirmed and take his seat on the high court — perhaps as soon as next week.
While his vote may not be a lock for the White House, Trump’s chances of getting a majority of the justices to back some kind of emergency relief that allows the travel ban to take effect seem decent with Gorsuch in place and infinitesimal without him.
Although the Justice Department has not yet appealed the Hawaii ruling — which blocks Trump’s policy worldwide — federal government lawyers have not been sitting on their hands in the case.
Two days after Watson issued his restraining order, the government asked him to “clarify” it, by narrowing it to cover just the visa ban and by limiting the provisions related to refugees, or dropping that portion altogether.
The judge gave the back of his hand to that effort, saying that the Justice Department’s arguments asked “the Court to make a distinction that the Federal Defendants’ previous briefs and arguments never did.”
The Justice Department could have appealed at that point, as well, but instead chose to embark on a 10-day effort to persuade Watson to let the temporary restraining order expire or to narrow it in precisely the way he rejected earlier. The judge has scheduled a hearing on that issue Wednesday.
Those options to seek clarification or to try to get the judge to narrow the relief in a preliminary injunction were also open when Robart issued his order last month, but the government didn’t use them.
Some greater clarity in the Hawaii litigation could come if Watson rules later this week, giving the federal government yet another chance to note an appeal. Any new stay motion filed over the weekend could be assigned to a new 9th Circuit panel, providing a verdict of sorts on the Trump administration’s legal strategy.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the government’s approach defies easy synthesis,” Vladeck said.
WE HOPE THIS IS TRUE — Playbook’s Palm Beach correspondent Luke Russert sends in this dispatch: PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nats Park on Opening Day. He also might spend an inning in the announcing booth with MASN. The Nats open the season next week against the Miami Marlins. Multiple White House aides did not reply to a request for comment. Here’s video of Trump throwing a football pretty well in 1992 http://bit.ly/2oc1fgO
Story Continued Below
ATTN. MR. PRESIDENT — So far, Donald Trump has not been able to move anything through Congress. So, his White House is signaling he’ll recalibrate, and look to Democrats to get his legislative priorities passed. BUT, BUT, BUT: Top aides to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) say they HAVE NOT been approached by Trump or his aides since the health care bill went down last week. And the coordination before that was minimal, to say the best.
— REALITY CHECK FROM A HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP AIDE: “On tax reform, infrastructure and budget, we have yet to see anything we can go along with … no details whatsoever. The White House has not communicated with Democratic leaders and they don’t even have policy principles, let alone proposals, to point to on their supposed legislative priorities. They have been on a far right trajectory focusing on items, such as the Muslim ban, that have made cooperation virtually impossible. They need a hard reboot.”
THERE ARE NO QUICK WINS for Trump. A White House source floated through Axios’s Jonathan Swan that they want to couple tax reform and infrastructure spending, and think they can get it done this year (http://bit.ly/2nHjexX). But there is no silver bullet — not tax reform, not infrastructure and not the combination of the two. After the failure of the Republican-written health-care replacement plan, few believe that Congress should bundle up two complicated issues and jam them through. The White House spin that they’ll reach out to and do business with Democrats sounds nice, but it ignores very fundamental realities of today’s Washington.
HERE ARE THE FACTS: Polls have consistently shown that it is in Democrats’ political interest to oppose Trump and his policies, not work with him because he asks. Just look at the Senate, where Republicans might have to use the nuclear option to get Judge Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court. Trump has spent months berating Democratic leaders, and signing executive orders that they are opposed to and that seek to unravel their years of work. There’s nothing expressly wrong with that, it just makes bipartisan dealmaking all the more unlikely.
THE HOUSE is no different. The House Democratic Caucus has drifted to the left, and reaching out to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — a moderate, compared to many in his party — is a good idea, but ignores the crosscurrents among his colleagues. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leads the party and Hoyer won’t freelance without her express approval.
THE MOST IMPORTANT LINE MANY OF US MISSED — SEAN SPICER at yesterday’s briefing, speaking about tax reform: “I mean, obviously we’re driving the train on this. So, I mean, we’re going to work with Congress on this. But I think the president, as you’ve heard multiple times the president be very clear — this is a huge priority for him and something that he feels very passionately about. And so we’ll have more on that later.”
— Many on the Hill weren’t paying attention to this, and when we alerted top GOP aides and lawmakers to Spicer’s comments, they were skeptical, to put it charitably.
IMPORTANT — “Divisions threaten Trump’s hope of winning his next big legislative battle: Taxes,” by WaPo’s Damian Paletta: “[T]here are divisions with congressional Republicans and within the administration over who should be in charge of the effort — and how ambitious it should be, say administration officials and congressional aides. Some GOP allies say they have already produced tax legislation and that it would not make sense for the White House to produce its own. Key division points could be about whether to seek a broad overhaul of the tax code or whether to limit it to more specific provisions — such as those affecting corporations — and whether such an initiative could increase the deficit without offsetting spending cuts or changes to tax policy…
“Within the administration, meanwhile, there are open questions about who will lead the charge on tax policy. The Treasury Department has close to 100 people working on the issue, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has signaled to lawmakers that he will be a point person in any negotiations. At the same time, some legislators say National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn has also emerged as a powerful force within the White House for overseeing economic policy and that he could attempt to take the reins of what is likely to be the administration’s most important policy issue going forward. …
“To take more of a leadership role, the administration is planning to issue a document that lays out the specific changes to the tax code it wants in any legislation, people familiar with the deliberations said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. … Mnuchin has known Trump for 15 years but is a newcomer to government and has never negotiated even a simple piece of legislation before. Overhauling the tax code is considered to be one of the most daunting legislative tasks, and it hasn’t been completed since 1986 despite efforts by lawmakers from both parties.” http://wapo.st/2ocgarw
ANOTHER COMING RIFT BETWEEN THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE HILL — “Trump pushes Congress to cut domestic programs this year,” by POLITICO Pro’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Sarah Ferris: “President Donald Trump doesn’t want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs. The White House is asking Congress to cut $18 billion from discretionary spending bills for the current fiscal year that have been long settled — a move that could threaten a major showdown just a month ahead of the deadline to keep the government funded. …
“In an extensive document shared with House and Senate appropriations committees on Friday, and obtained by POLITICO, the Trump administration is offering its most detailed instructions to date on how Congress should shape the trillion-dollar spending legislation Congress must enact by April 28 to prevent a government shutdown. … The department-by-department breakdown shows Trump is targeting domestic programs including education, health care and housing, as well as international food aid — cuts that are in line with the administration’s ‘skinny budget’ for next year.” Story for Pros http://politico.pro/2mLphCw
— TRUTH BOMB: This spending proposal has practical and political implications. The practical: Hill Republicans are going to be skittish about some discretionary spending cuts this year. Deep slashes to NIH, for example, are unlikely to be popular. Practically zero Hill Democrats will agree. The political: it’s just more poison in the well for Trump’s relationship with Democrats.
THE REAL DEADLINE — 33 DAYS until the government shuts down. The House — where most of Trump’s problems exist — has just 11 MORE DAYS in session before the shutdown.
****** A message from the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care: America’s hospitals provide critical, often life-saving care — and other primary and preventative care services — within and outside their four walls. But that hasn’t stopped Congress from cutting vital federal funding for patient care. Join us to protect America’s hospitals and the vital care they provide to their communities. http://politi.co/2mZqMIh ******
AND MORE … “Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record,” by WaPo’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis: “President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. … The order is silent on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, because the administration remains divided on that question.” http://wapo.st/2nq8ces
–SOME INTERNAL FRICTION, TOO: “Congress may stiff Trump on wall funding,” by Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade: “Congressional Republicans might deliver some more bad news for President Donald Trump, fresh off their embarrassing failure to scrap Obamacare: No new money is coming to build his wall. Trump hoped to jump-start construction of a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border with money in a must-pass government funding bill. But Democratic leaders are vowing to block any legislation that includes a single penny for the wall. … Republican leaders, wary of this, are considering a plan that would not directly tie the border wall money to the April 28 government funding deadline. … While no decision has been made by GOP leadership, Republican lawmakers may decide to decouple the two to avoid a confrontation with Democrats. If they do, the chances of getting Trump’s wall funding passed this spring become slim.” http://politi.co/2mLCJ97
WHAT TRUMP IS TWEETING — @realDonaldTrump at 9:26 p.m.: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….” at 9:35 p.m.: “…money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!” … at 9:41 p.m.: “The Republican House Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. After so many bad years they were ready for a win!” … at 10:03 p.m.: “The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds – not long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!” … at 6:36 a.m.: “Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!”
— PSST. — In regards to Russia, your party controls both chambers of Congress, Mr. President.
THE BIG QUESTION — “2018 Dilemma for Republicans: Which Way Now on Obamacare?” by NYT’s Jonathan Martin: “As they come to terms with their humiliating failure to undo the Affordable Care Act, Republicans eyeing next year’s congressional campaign are grappling with a new dilemma: Do they risk depressing their conservative base by abandoning the repeal effort or anger a broader set of voters by reviving a deeply unpopular bill even closer to the midterm elections? The question is particularly acute in the House, where the Republican majority could be at risk in 2018 if the party’s voters are demoralized, and Democratic activists, energized by the chance to send a message to President Trump, stream to the polls….
“‘We’ve got a lot of time to do real things on infrastructure, to do real things on tax reform, on red tape reform, and really get the American economy moving,’ said Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House campaign arm. ‘We do those things and we still have a lot of time to recover.’ ‘If you’re going to fumble the ball,” he added, “better to do so in the first quarter of a football game.'” http://nyti.ms/2nvKcYM
AND WE’VE GOT A NAME — MICHAEL ISIKOFF in Yahoo: California Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D) call for House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation “came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes’ White House source, focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel’s office. A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff.” https://yhoo.it/2nv70b5
GORSUCH WATCH — “Gorsuch’s path to 60 votes closing fast,” by Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor: “Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s path to 60 votes is rapidly closing – setting the stage for a nuclear showdown in the Senate as soon as next week. Senior Democratic sources are now increasingly confident that Gorsuch can’t clear a filibuster, saying his ceiling is likely mid- to upper-50s on the key procedural vote. That would mark the first successful filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee since Abe Fortas for chief justice in the 1960s.
“In the latest ominous sign for the federal judge from Colorado, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Monday he’ll oppose Gorsuch on the cloture vote, which is expected late next week. More than a decade ago, Nelson helped break a filibuster of now-Justice Samuel Alito. If Democrats successfully filibuster Gorsuch, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has heavily telegraphed that he will invoke the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to unilaterally change Senate rules with a simple majority vote. And Republicans are confident they’ll have the votes to do it, as wary as many senators are about forever altering the deliberative nature of the chamber.” http://politi.co/2otALa3
GET YOUR POPCORN READY — “Schumer headed for epic clash with McConnell,” by Burgess Everett: “At their first sit-down as party leaders in December, Chuck Schumer pledged to tell Mitch McConnell exactly what’s on his mind going forward — no subterfuge or backbiting. ‘You and Harry didn’t get along,’ Schumer recalled saying, referring to his predecessor, Harry Reid. ‘Each of you thought the other was a liar. But I’ve learned in life if people think people are liars, sometimes they misconceive things when they don’t know the whole story.’ Schumer went on: ‘Mitch, I’m from Brooklyn. I will tell you what I think. Sometimes you’ll like it, sometimes you won’t. But I’m not going to try to surprise you.’ Schumer wasn’t kidding about laying it all out in the open.
“The Democratic leader is now predicting victory over McConnell in two partisan confrontations about to come to a head, over the Supreme Court vacancy and a potential government shutdown. Never mind that the Democratic Party is in its weakest state in more than a decade.” http://politi.co/2mLLqAn
HOT IN FOGGY BOTTOM — “State Department Press Room Goes Dark — At Least for Now,” by WSJ’s Felicia Schwartz: “For the first six weeks of the Trump administration, the State Department didn’t hold a single on-camera press briefing … Less than three weeks later, they’ve stopped again. Officials said the on-camera briefings won’t resume for at least two weeks as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson moves to get a permanent spokesperson in place. Mark Toner, a career foreign service officer who has been the department’s acting spokesman, is slated for another assignment. He might return to the podium on camera later this month, but the Trump administration doesn’t yet have a full-time spokesperson in place. That official is expected to be Heather Nauert, until now a Fox News anchor, but she is awaiting approval of her security clearance.” http://on.wsj.com/2ottLK2
HMM — @sarahmargon: “Quiet renaming of NSC offices underway: Multilateral Affairs & Human Rights now dubbed Directorate for Int’l Organizations & Affairs.”
BUZZ … Trump’s decision to turn to tax reform next is creating a boom in business as companies and industries look to keep their carveouts in the tax code. One thing to watch: who is consulting on the border adjustment tax. While there is a lot of activity starting to ramp up around BAT, there are also a lot of conflicts as most companies have a position on the provision that may be at odds with the upstart coalitions.
HAPPENING TODAY — EDUCATION SECRETARY BETSY DeVOS and IVANKA TRUMP are visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum this morning at 9:45 a.m. to try to boost STEM education. They’re appearing with local students, leaders from the museum and NASA astronaut Kay Hire. They’ll also discuss empowering young women to pursue STEM-related careers and introduce a viewing of the film “Hidden Figures.” Local students from D.C., Maryland and Virginia who are interested in STEM will attend.
— President Trump is launching a newly formed Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, which will be chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
THE JUICE …
— JOHN BOEHNER is not dealing with the ongoing war between leadership and the rank and file, and he’s raking in cash. Boehner took in $298,006 from sitting on the board of Reynolds America, according to an SEC filing made public this month. Boehner took in $44,610 in cash-based fees, and $252,769 in stock in the tobacco company. Boehner is in line to make much more next year — he was only named to the board in September.
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon are joining the upcoming Women in the World Summit in April. Trudeau will join Tina Brown, talking about his roles as prime minister, feminist, teacher and father and how all these roles inform his priorities for Canada. Sturgeon is the first woman to serve as the leader of the Scottish National Party, and will be on stage with Brown, discussing her fight to keep Scotland in the EU in the wake of Brexit.
— SCOOP: NEWSROOMS UP SECURITY — Some national news organizations have recently increased their security for employees as tensions continue to run hot toward the media. In recent months, the Washington Post has increased security at its downtown D.C. HQ, with both more security at the door and more security guards walking around the newsroom during the day. In the past few weeks, McClatchy Newspapers’ DC bureau has begun requiring employees to swipe their key cards to access their floor in their downtown D.C. building (which also houses the WSJ) — they also have locked the doors to get into the newsroom once people reach their floor, according to a source familiar with the building.
–“We upgraded security from essentially nothing to something consistent with other news organizations in Washington. It wasn’t in response to a specific threat. It’s simply general acknowledgement of the environment in which we all work,” Kristin Roberts, executive editor of McClatchy Washington, told us. CNN, which had already ramped up security after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, has stepped up its security following an increasing number of threats against reporters and anchors, according to a source familiar with the network’s plans. WaPo and CNN declined to comment.
— THE RESURFACING: “Hillary Clinton’s comeback tour to include a speech at Georgetown,” by WaPo’s Emily Heil: http://wapo.st/2o5CwxN
M.I.A. — “White House’s Online Visitor Logs Remain Offline Under Trump,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus: “Press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday said he didn’t know who had signed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) onto the White House grounds last week … One way the White House could help clear up potential future controversies: if it began updating the online visitor log maintained by former President Barack Obama’s administration. Under the former administration, visitor logs were typically updated within 90 to 120 days. Since President Donald Trump took office, the website has been down, with a message that says: ‘This page is being updated. It will post records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, once they become available.’ The White House in recent months has declined to say when or if it will update the log. Mr. Spicer said on Monday: ‘We’re reviewing that now.’” http://on.wsj.com/2nv6bPr … See the White House website’s empty visitor logs pagehttp://bit.ly/2mLJvvy
— “Mar-a-Lago can’t release visitor logs — because it doesn’t keep them,” by Darren Samuelsohn in Palm Beach: http://politi.co/2nvd03R
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Uber is betting D.C. commuters are willing to pay to slug,” by WaPo’s Faiz Siddiqui: “Uber will use Northern Virginia as a testing ground for a new carpooling feature, described by the company as ‘digital slug lines.’ And while the news is drawing applause in the high-tech corridor’s business community, the region’s sluggers — a dedicated group of commuters who pool together to use HOV lanes to save time and money — have been less enthusiastic, with reaction ranging from flattery to scorn. There’s one clear consensus however: Uber’s program may be inspired by their grass-roots community, but it’s not real slugging. Traditional slugging is free; Uber will charge a fee for its service.” http://wapo.st/2o126E4
GOTHAM UPDATE — “Trump’s boyhood home fetches premium from mystery buyer,” by Lorraine Woellert: “President Donald Trump’s boyhood home in Queens has sold for $2.14 million, a 54 percent jump from its sale price in December and a premium for the neighborhood. The buyer took title to the house under the name Trump Birth House LLC. … The 2,000-square-foot house was flipped by a real estate speculator, Michael J. Davis of Wareham Holdings LLC, who paid $1.39 million for the Jamaica Estates property before Trump was inaugurated. Davis made a 50 percent profit on the deal, according to Paramount Realty USA, the company that sold the house at auction.” http://politi.co/2mLsB0b
2020 WATCH — @steinhauserNH1: “NH likely one of the first stops on @GovernorKasich book tour late next month” http://bit.ly/2nH0GOh
— HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Disney Extends CEO Bob Iger’s Contract to 2019,” by Georg Szalai and Paul Bond: “Set to retire from the entertainment giant in June 2018, Iger has now re-upped his contract until July 2, 2019, amid concerns among industry observers that there is no heir apparent within the company’s executive ranks.” http://bit.ly/2nHcal0
ABOUT THOSE POLLS — “Democrats burned by polling blind spot,” by Steven Shepard: “As they investigate the forces behind the party’s stunning losses in November, Democrats are coming to a troubling conclusion. The party didn’t just lose among rural white voters on Election Day, it may have failed to capture them in its pre-election polling as well. Many pollsters and strategists believe that rural white voters, particularly those without college degrees, eluded the party’s polling altogether — and their absence from poll results may have been both a cause and a symptom of Donald Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton in several states.” http://politi.co/2o1gD2t
****** A message from the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care: The Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care was formed to protect access to the best quality health care for all people. Our community of over one million grassroots supporters fight back against congressional and executive action that threatens America’s hospitals. When our caregivers, our patients, or our communities are at risk, our supporters speak out and advocate. Join our community and protect access to quality patient care for all. http://politi.co/2nZNSjR ******
BUSINESS BURST — “Foreign Investors Flock to Iran as U.S. Firms Watch on the Sidelines,” by WSJ’s Asa Fitch and Benoit Faucon: “After years shunning Iran, Western businesses are bursting through the country’s doors.France’s Peugeot and Renault SA are building cars. The U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC is teaming up with an Iranian firm to build up network infrastructure. Major oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC have signed provisional agreements to develop energy resources. And infrastructure giants, including Germany’s Siemens AG, have entered into agreements for large projects.…Peugeot Middle East chief Jean-Christophe Quémard says his company’s early entry has left U.S. rivals in the dust.” http://on.wsj.com/2nGVB8I
JACK SHAFER in Politico, “The Three Lame Stories the Press Writes About Every President”: “Usually up first in their rotation is a breathless beat-sweetener about the incoming vice president. Thanks to his unusual closeness to the boss, chin-stroking reporters and commentators write, the new veep is the most powerful in history. … The second inevitable wave of stories claim that the administration is ‘rebooting.’ If it’s true that administrations ‘hit the ground running,’ then it follows that all stumble and fall on their fat asses. By cloaking an administration’s desperate do-overs as reboots, the press provides camouflage for incompetents in power. … Monday’s Washington Post brings us, on Page 1 above the fold, the third classic of the first 100 days of reporting: A story about the coming ‘reorganization’ of government—this time by Prince Jared, the president’s son-in-law.” http://politi.co/2obQTgY
PRITZKER WATCH — from Illinois Playbook author Natasha Korecki — Galia Slayen has joined J.B. Pritzker’s exploratory Illinois gubernatorial committee as communications director. Slayen worked on former Florida Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy’s Senate race, served as communications director for Andy Beshear’s attorney general race in Kentucky, and worked on several other high-profile campaigns, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and Christie Vilsack’s House bid in Iowa.
HOLLYWOODLAND — “Coming Soon to a TV Near You: Hollywood’s Latest Blockbusters,” by Bloomberg’s Anousha Sakoui: “The span between a movie’s theatrical debut and home-video release is likely to get shorter — as soon as this year. … Theater chains have long resisted the idea of letting studios release movies direct to consumers any sooner than 90 days after the films arrive in the cinemaplex, but reality is starting to set in. In 2016, DVD sales fell nearly 10 percent to $5.49 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, but the overall home-entertainment industry grew 1.4 percent, thanks to streaming and digital sales. Studios get a higher profit margin from digital sales and would rather make their films available sooner rather than letting them linger in theaters for weeks making diminishing returns. A shorter window could also help save on advertising spending, eliminating the need for a separate campaign for home rentals.” http://bloom.bg/2ndbUak
MEDIAWATCH — “Breitbart Has Been Denied Permanent Congressional Press Passes — For Now,” by BuzzFeed’s Steven Perlberg: “Monday, the standing committee of correspondents of the US Senate Daily Press Gallery — a group of five reporters at traditional media outlets — declined to grant Breitbart ‘hard passes’ to report more easily within the halls of Congress until the right-wing news site can provide more information. The committee in particular wants Breitbart to clarify links to conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute as well as the involvement of Rebekah Mercer, whose family is an investor in the site. … Late Thursday … [Breitbart CEO Larry] Solov sent a letter stating that [Steve] Bannon had resigned [on or about November 13, 2016’ and that he has ‘no editorial, executive, financial or other role or interest’ in Breitbart News.” http://bzfd.it/2nGXxxY
–“Video producer to depart conservative site,” by Hadas Gold: “A video producer for the conservative media site Independent Journal Review is quitting over concerns with the direction of the company, a person familiar with the situation told POLITICO. Colin Chocola, a lead producer in IJR’s video department, put in his two-week notice on Monday. … And other staffers at IJR share his concerns and are looking to leave, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.” http://politi.co/2mLcYWM
SPORTS BLINK — “Tom Brady is willing to play six or seven more years, Robert Kraft says,” by the Boston Globe’s Rachel Bowers: “Patriots owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady spoke as recently as two or three days ago. And Brady, who turns 40 in August, reiterated what he has said on more than one occasion: He wants to play well into his fifth decade of life. ‘He assured me he’d be willing to play six, seven more years and at the level he performed,’ Kraft said Monday at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. ‘There’s no one that would be happier than I and our fan base.’” http://bit.ly/2nbP2XL
— “GW names Maurice Joseph full-time men’s basketball coach,” by WaPo’s Gene Wang: “Maurice Joseph signed a five-year deal to become full-time head coach of the George Washington men’s basketball team, the school announced on Monday. Joseph had served as interim coach this season, directing the Colonials to a 20-15 record following the dismissal of former coach Mike Lonergan in September. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.” http://wapo.st/2otBjfR
SPOTTED — California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters in first class Monday on AA flight 240 from LA to D.C. … UVA men’s bball coach Tony Bennett and an assistant coach (who seemed to know a handful of passerbys) enjoying a Corona and tacos at Cactus Cantina on a beautiful day …an AIPAC attendee giving former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) his iPad back after Israel had accidentally forgotten his device at the hotel bar at the Marriott Marquis … former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Rayburn cafeteria on Monday afternoon … former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) on her cell phone outside the Marriott Marquis …
… Ash Carter Monday getting off the American Airlines shuttle from DCA to Boston with security waiting at Logan Airport … Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy and Sen. Elizabeth Warren getting on the same shuttle to DCA … Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) yesterday walking on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis … Ohio Gov. John Kasich lingering just off the House floor, chatting with Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis … Mark Shriver at The Palm Monday night.
TRANSITIONS — FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Alex Halpern Levy, a former Schumer speechwriter, has left SKDK to launch a speechwriting and strategy firm, A.H. Levy & Co. Inaugural clients include former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, David Brock’s constellation of groups, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, and the Miami-based Knight Foundation. The firm opened an office in NYC’s Greenwich Village earlier this month. http://bit.ly/2mLsTV2
–José Aristimuño has started a new PR and communications firm, NOW Strategies. Most recently, he was the deputy national press secretary at the DNC and the director of broadcast and specialty media for HHS. http://bit.ly/2o1gtbp … Frank Schembari is joining Javelin as an associate. He was previously at Mercury Public Affairs. … Chris Bender has joined Adfero, a D.C.-based strategic communications firm, as vice president; he was previously head of public affairs at biotech company Novozymes.
OBAMA ALUMNI — “Postmates has picked up an Obama administration alum as it eyes the policy fights to come,” by Recode’s Tony Romm: “[T]he startup has hired one of former President Barack Obama’s top aides on innovation and automation: Vikrum Aiyer, who is joining Postmates as its head of strategic communications and policy, he told me in an email.” http://bit.ly/2nuSUqq
— JASON FURMAN, the former Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has joined the Board of Scholars of the American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research. Furman is a senior fellow at the Peterson
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Lauren Ehrsam, president of public affairs firm Maverick Consulting and alum of PIC, Carly, and DCI Group – she celebrated last night with dinner at Rasika with a few close friends and is “heading off to Nicaragua to hike and ‘surf’ the volcano, visit Lago de Apoyó, and get some sun” – read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2ndoczy
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Alex Aragon, deputy scheduler for Sen. Rubio (h/t Megan McKinley)
BIRTHDAYS: Zbigniew Brzezinski, former White House national security adviser, is 89 … WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe, the pride of Delmar, N.Y., is 34 … Rob Nabors … Ben Porritt, partner at Outside Eyes (hat tip: Madden, who discovered Porritt on a bar stool) … Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is 72 … Aaron Davis, former director of congressional affairs at FEMA … former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, now a senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies and chairman of the Paulson Institute at U Chicago, is 71 … Jackie Hassell, Team Romney alum now senior director for partnership development at TriBeCa Film Festival (h/t Ryan Williams) … Peter Ambler, founder and executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions and a Gabby Giffords alum … Hadassah Lieberman, wife of former Sen. Joe Lieberman, is 69 … Tevi Troy, a Bush 43 WH alum now president of American Health Policy Institute, is 5-0 celebrating with a trip to New York with his wife – they went to Abigael’s on Broadway for dinner last night and also saw the play “Present Laughter,” starring Kevin Kline … Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va) is 7-0 … Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) is 64 … Ian Blue, member relations director at Wine Institute and a “Gaucho for Life,” per his Twitter … Cheryl Oldham, VP of education policy at the U.S. Chamber … former Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) is 84 … McCain alum Keith Nahigian, president and founder of Nahigian Strategies, is 49 (h/t Anna Stallmann) … Ricky Moxley of Rep. Ted Budd’s office …
… Kentucky gentleman Josh Cook, VP of digital engagement at Berlin Rosen and OFA PA alum … Alexander Grieve … Rob Garza, D.C. native, current resident of San Francisco, and co-founder of Thievery Corporation (h/t Ben Chang) … Dennis Sills … James Singer, deputy research director at the DGA, celebrating by Irish exiting every bar in the greater U street area (h/t Rob Flaherty) … Janine Benner, assistant director for the planning and innovation division of the Oregon Department of Energy and a DOE and Earl Blumenauer alum … Todd Piro … Allegra Hewell Wilson, the DC event planner and owner of Hewell Events Group … John Geis, director for South Asia and Oceania at the Office of the Secretary of Defense … Jennifer Cook, PR supervisor at UPS and a Stephen Fincher alum … Anne Marie Malecha … Hailey Lann … Karin Socci (nee Gallet), a one-time leader of the Draft Bloomberg ’08 effort … Kevin Sessums is 61 … Katherine Berland, director of gov’t relations at ANCOR … Scott Becher … Cathleen Duffy Leuba … Brianna Alcorn, director of special event sales and marketing at URBN’s terrain, celebrating with an inspection of her new home in Kennett Square, Penn. (hubby tip: Josh) … Roger Simon … Josie Gilbert … Molly Scherrman (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … author Mario Vargas Llosa is 81 … country singer Reba McEntire is 62 … Salt (Salt-N-Pepa) is 51 … Vince Vaughn is 47 … Lady Gaga is 31 (h/ts AP)
****** A message from the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care: America’s hospitals are under near-constant threat of federal cuts to patient care. These cuts make it harder for hospital staff to do their jobs, prevent hospitals from getting beyond their four walls to better serve those who rely on them, and increase wait times and reduced access to medical technologies. We can’t afford any more cuts to patient care. Stand up for your hospital and protects access to the best quality health care for all people. Join the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care today. http://politi.co/2nZHxom ******