Mnuchin: Congress needs to act on Harvey aid and debt limit

Steven Mnuchin is pictured. | AP Photo

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to cast aside politics saying the White House will urge congressional leaders to act quickly. | Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday the Trump administration wants Congress to consider clean debt limit legislation — without any spending cuts — tied to disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey.

“That’s our priority,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “At this point we need to put politics aside. We need to make sure that we can get to Texas the appropriate amount of money to rebuild the state. It is absolutely critical, and the president is committed to making sure that the states have the money that they need.”

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“If Congress appropriates the money, but I don’t have the ability to borrow more money and pay for it,’ Mnuchin added, “we’re not going to be able to get that money to the state.”

Harvey, which brought destructive winds and deadly flooding to the Texas Gulf Coast and neighboring Louisiana, stands as the first major natural disaster of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

The White House reconfigured its emergency funding request on Friday — asking lawmakers for $7.85 billion as a down payment in aid for areas struck by the hurricane, including $7.4 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief and $450 million to support the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program.

The White House is warning that the additional funding could be in jeopardy if Congress doesn’t act quickly to raise the nation’s debt limit.

On Sunday, Mnuchin tried to cast aside politics, saying the White House will urge congressional leaders to act quickly.

“Prior to Harvey, I’ve said we’ve had enough funding to go through end of September and had urged Congress to focus on this before that period of time,” Mnuchin noted. “But with Harvey, it’s moved the situation up earlier, and without raising the debt limit, I’m not comfortable that we will get the money that we need this month to Texas to rebuild.”

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Mnuchin preparing new economic sanctions against North Korea

Steven Mnuchin is pictured. | Getty

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he’s spoken with President Donald Trump about North Korea’s continuing to escalate its efforts. | Getty

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday he’s preparing new economic sanctions against North Korea for President Trump to consider in response its latest nuclear test.

“It’s clear this behavior is completely unacceptable,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve already started with sanctions against North Korea, but I am going to draft a sanctions package to send to the president for his strong consideration that anybody that wants to do trade or business with them would be prevented from doing trade or business with us.”

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“We’re going to work with our allies,” Mnuchin added. “We’ll work with China, but people need to cut off North Korea economically. This is unacceptable behavior.”

Pyongyang late Saturday night claimed it had a small hydrogen bomb that could be attached to an intercontinental missile, a marked new escalation for the nation, along with an overnight test.

South Korea said that North Korea is believed to have conducted its underground sixth nuclear test — and the first during the Trump administration — after seismic waves were measured.

Mnuchin said Sunday he’s spoken with the president about the escalation, saying: “If countries want to do business with the United States, they obviously will be working with allies and others to cut off North Korea.”

Mnuchin would not say whether the latest escalation Pyongyang would put the U.S. closer to military action response, but did say there’s more the U.S. can do to cut off the nation economically. “Much more than we’ve done already,” he emphasized.

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Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will lead Democrats to 2020 victory

As Democrats survey the political landscape and focus on rebuilding the party after the disastrous 2016 election, there’s no denying that a change in leadership is desperately needed. One of the primary complaints leveled by Democratic supporters during and after the 2016 election was the lack of diverse faces in leadership positions. A party once led by Barack ObamaBarack ObamaOPINION | Bill O’Reilly: Harvey, Sandy, Katrina — A tale of three superstorms Week ahead: Tech mobilizes on DACA | House panel looks at Uber economy Trump asked aides for ‘a way out’ on DACA: report MORE and his picturesque first family is now scrambling to find candidates that can excite millennials and invigorate the base. It should come as no surprise to anyone well versed in Washington politics that managing to do both is no easy task. Politicians like Obama come along once in a generation.

Since leaving office, the former president has been relatively quiet, choosing very carefully when to address the news of the day. Obama’s absence has left a void that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerRSC Chairman: Harvey aid could be jeopardized if linked with debt ceiling Dems prep for major fight over Trump USDA science pick Ex-Medicare chief promotes ObamaCare enrollment on Twitter after Trump cuts outreach funding MORE (D-N.Y.) have been unable to fill and one that has led to a contentious relationship between the libertarian-leaning, Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWeek ahead: Congress returns to take up bipartisan health care effort Sanders urges support for progressive policies on Labor Day Top Dem: Trump ending DACA would be his administration hitting ‘rock bottom’ MORE-supporting wing of the party and its more politically moderate, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump faces critical fall Trump lawyer to reporter: ‘Are you on drugs?’ John Legend casting ‘out of shape’ Trump supporters for music video: report MORE-supporting, establishment wing.

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This fractured relationship was clearly evident in the 2016 presidential campaign. Bad blood between Sanders and Clinton supporters during the presidential primary spilled over into the Democratic convention and hampered Clinton’s ability to unite the base in the general election. While Clinton certainly ran a flawed campaign that suffered from weak messaging and questionable strategic choices, it’s undeniable that soft support from the “Bernie wing” of the party contributed to her historic loss.

As the Democratic party looks toward the 2020 presidential election, there are questions about who will take over the mantle of spokesperson and future leader of the party. There are questions about whether or not Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, will make another run at the Democratic nomination. There are questions about whether the Democratic Party is quickly becoming a regional party. Less than a year into President Trump’s chaotic tenure, there are no clear answers to those questions. What is certain, however, is that the future of the Democratic Party appears to be female.

Rising stars Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWeek ahead: Congress returns to take up bipartisan health care effort Sanders single-payer bill poses dilemma for 2020 Dem hopefuls Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will lead Democrats to 2020 victory MORE (D-Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSanders single-payer bill poses dilemma for 2020 Dem hopefuls Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will lead Democrats to 2020 victory Gillibrand slams Army for ‘empty promises’ following general’s suspension MORE (D-N.Y.) seem to have the rare ability to unite the party and excite the various factions making up the base. While the senators originate from very different sections of the country, their paths to elected office are extremely similar. Both women began their careers as attorneys prior to landing in the U.S. Senate. Both women have publicly endorsed a single-payer health-care system. Harris recently said, “It’s not only about what’s morally and ethically right. It also just makes sense from a fiscal standpoint or a return on investment for taxpayers.”

Support from President Obama and fellow women senators like Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGoogle faces blowback after think tank fires critic Judd Gregg: The left’s theater of the absurd Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand will lead Democrats to 2020 victory MORE (D-Mass.) have only increased the national profile of Harris, who served six years as the attorney general of California before winning a seat in Congress in 2016. Often compared to Obama as a result of her mixed-race upbringing, Harris has not been shy about tackling issues relating to income inequality, racial justice and health security.

Both Harris and Gillibrand hold no punches and have been criticized for exhibiting the same political aspirations as many of their male counterparts. Harris has been no stranger to addressing controversy head-on. She began her first year in Washington by addressing the Women’s March, challenging Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) SessionsSessions to make DACA announcement Tuesday Trump to end DACA with 6-month delay: report Trump lawyer to reporter: ‘Are you on drugs?’ MORE in an open Senate hearing and taking President Trump to task for his response to the events in Charlottesville, Va. As the polls closed on election night last November, Harris told a rowdy California crowd that she intends “to fight.” Less than a year into her first term, Harris has stayed true to her words.

The same can be said for Gillibrand, who has been championing access to health care since her 2006 run for Congress. The junior senator from New York has been outspoken about her support for the public option, her support for a living wage and most recently, her criticism of Trump’s executive order restricting transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military. Gillibrand’s ability to speak to the concerns of upstate, blue-collar union workers as well as downstate minorities and millennials has Democrats excited about the extent of her political future.

Unlike the Clinton campaign, which was unable to drum up the excitement of the Obama campaigns, a new era may be coming to the Democratic Party. Harris and Gillibrand are void of many of the flaws that turned away potential Clinton voters. As relative newbies on the national political scene, neither Harris nor Gillibrand has had the time to accumulate the partisan ire that was often attributed to the former first lady and secretary of State. Neither Harris nor Gillibrand suffers from questions about their age or potential fitness for office. Neither Harris nor Gillibrand has to address unfair questions relating to their husband’s indiscretions or political decisions that they were not elected to make.

Instead, the most important trait that could launch a Harris or Gillibrand candidacy straight into the White House, is their unique ability to inspire. Much like with President Obama’s quick ascent during the George W. Bush years, America is desperately in need of an inspirational figure. America is desperately in need of a movement to believe in. Just as Obama inspired Democrats to get out to the polls and vote for a new path forward, Harris and Gillibrand could breathe air into a party on the verge of flat-lining.

What could be more opposite from the status quo than intelligent, hard-working and inspirational women running the country? They are qualified candidates not merely because they are smart, accomplished women showing little girls all over the country that one day we will shatter that last glass ceiling, but also because they represent what makes our country great, something our current president doesn’t come close to doing.

If Democrats have any hope of winning back the White House in 2020, we have to do more than just run a candidate, we must run a movement. We must have a story to tell and an answer to the most important question any candidate for office must answer: Why are you running? Whoever runs for the Democratic nomination in 2020 must be able to tell Americans why Democratic policies will help keep them healthy. Democrats must be able to explain how Democratic policies will help keep them safe, help keep food on their table and help keep a job for them to go to every day. Democrats must have simple answers to complex problems.

Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand appear equipped to answer these questions. The future of the Democratic Party may be fluid, but if voters put their trust in the hands of either woman, the path to 270 will suddenly become a smoother journey. Even after the heartbreaking loss by Hillary Clinton to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSouth Korea conducts live-fire exercises for second day in a row N. Korea moving rocked believed to be ICBM: report OPINION | Bill O’Reilly: Harvey, Sandy, Katrina — A tale of three superstorms MORE last November, the future of the Democratic Party still looks female. Let the race to 2020 begin.

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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Obama offered ‘reflections’ instead of advice to Trump in Inauguration Day letter

Former President Obama offered “reflections” instead of advice to President Trump in an Inaguration Day letter that touched on American leadership in the world and democratic institutions, CNN reported Sunday.

In the nearly 300-word letter obtained by the network, Obama congratulated him on his “remarkable run” and said “all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.

“This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful,” Obama added. “Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.”

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The former president noted that both he and Trump have “been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune.”

“It’s up to us to do everything we can [to] build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.” 

Obama also urged Trump to preserve American leadership on the world stage “through action and example,” and emphasized that both of them were just “temporary occupants of this office.”

“That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions — like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties — that our forebears fought and bled for,” Obama wrote. “Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.”

Obama ended his note to the new president by encouraging him to take time for friends and family, and wished him “Good luck and godspeed.”

CNN reports it obtained a copy of the letter from someone shown the letter by Trump, adding that the president occasionally shows it to visitors at the White House.

Trump had previously gushed about the letter in an interview with ABC News shortly after taking office. He called Obama’s letter “beautiful” and “so well-written.”

“I doubt too many of them were written in this manner,” Trump said.

“In fact, I called him and thanked him for the thought that was put into that letter.”

Trump didn’t let ABC News host David Muir read the letter but noted it was “long” and “thoughtful.”

“It was long. It was complex. It was thoughtful. And it took time to do it, and I appreciated it and I called him and thanked him,” Trump said.

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Houston news executive fires back at Trump over attacks on media

A Houston news executive is firing back at President Trump after he took a swipe at the media during a visit to Texas to meet evacuees and volunteers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

“I’ve had with the insults,” Bill Bishop, the managing editor of KHOU-TV in Houston, tweeted on Sunday.

“Let’s see him stand in E. coli water reporting for hours like the media does.”

Trump on Saturday praised the Coast Guard for having “saved 11,000 people.”

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“Think of it, almost 11,000 people by going into winds that the media would not go into,” Trump said at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, before gesturing toward the press.

“They will not go into those winds, unless it’s a really good story,” he said.

Trump made the remarks on his second visit to Texas following Harvey. The president took a more hands-on approach, handing out food and speaking with victims at an evacuation center in the Houston area.

“It’s been really nice. It’s been a wonderful thing,” Trump said. “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

Major media outlets have provided near-constant coverage of the storm in the days since Harvey had landed as a Category 4 hurricane, and CNN reporter Drew Griffin rescued a man who drove into a ravine on live TV last week.

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