Spicer: Trump ‘eager’ for legislative wins

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“I think there’s a point at which both parties can look back and figure out whether or not it’s worth engaging,” Sean Spicer said. | Getty

After failing to shepherd a health care bill through a single chamber of Congress, President Donald Trump is “eager” to have major legislation advance through the House of Representatives, press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday.

Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan suffered a political defeat at the hands of their own party last week when they pulled a Friday vote on a measure to repeal and replace Obamacare once it became clear that it lacked enough GOP support to pass.

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Trump has since blamed Democrats, despite their immediate and unanimous opposition, but signaled a willingness to work across the aisle to advance his agenda, which includes tax reform and a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

“I think there’s a point at which both parties can look back and figure out whether or not it’s worth engaging,” Spicer told reporters Monday. “I think the president, as I mentioned, is eager to get to 218 on lot of his initiatives — whether it’s tax reform, infrastructure, there’s a lot of things, and I think that he is going to be willing to listen to other voices on the other side to figure out if people want to work with him to get these big things done, to make Washington work, to enhance the lives of the American people, then he’s gonna work with them.”

Spicer pointed to the president’s meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus last week as an example of Trump’s overtures to Democrats. The caucus met with Trump on Wednesday to discuss issues affecting the African-American community.

“I think he had a great meeting with the CBC the other day, for example, where he talked about infrastructure, he talked about loans and small business lending, education,” Spicer said. “There are things that he is willing to engage individuals with or groups or caucuses to get to 218 and further advance his agenda.”

Spicer rejected the notion that working with Democrats would undermine Ryan’s job security as House speaker by freezing out the House Freedom Caucus, the ultra-conservative bloc of lawmakers that essentially sank the GOP’s proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare and ousted former House Speaker John Boehner.

“It’s not about undermining anybody,” Spicer said. “It’s about moving the agenda forward and getting things done.”

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Germany: Country didn’t receive NATO invoice from Trump

The German government denies that Chancellor Angela Merkel received a NATO bill from U.S. President Donald Trump | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

There is no ‘debt account at NATO,’ says German government spokesman.

A spokesman for the German government on Monday denied media reports that U.S. President Donald Trump handed a multibillion-euro invoice to Chancellor Angela Merkel when they met in Washington earlier this month.

“Reports that President Trump had presented the federal chancellor with a kind of bill with a concrete billion sum are not true,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a press conference.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Trump handed Merkel a bill of more than $300 billion for money Germany supposedly owed to NATO. The gesture was “outrageous,” the paper quoted an unnamed German minister as saying.

After his meeting with Merkel in mid-March, Trump said on Twitter that Germany owed “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. and it “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

Seibert said Merkel and Trump had discussed defense expenditure during their meeting, but there was no “debt account at NATO.”

All NATO members are urged to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. Germany is increasing military spending, but its contribution is still seen falling well short of the 2 percent goal this year.

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Sessions says grants to be withheld from sanctuary cities

“Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” Sessions said during a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room. 

“Today, I am urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.”

It comes as the White House is seeking to get its agenda back on track after suffering an embarrassing defeat last Friday when Republicans were forced to scrap their long-awaited healthcare plan due to lack of support. 

Sessions said that compliance with federal immigration laws will be a prerequisite for states and localities that want to receive grants from the department’s Office of Justice Programs. The office provides billions of dollars in grants and other funding to help criminal justice programs across the country. 

Most recently, its Office for Victims of Crime announced a grant of almost $8.5 million in support for victims of last year’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. 

Sessions also called on Maryland to scrap any movement toward becoming a sanctuary state. Legislation is making its way through the state legislature. 

“That would be such a mistake,” he said. 

“I would plead with the people of Maryland to understand this makes the state of Maryland more at risk for violence and crime, that it’s not good policy.” 

Just days after his inauguration, the White House issued a broad executive order on interior law enforcement that, among other things, ordered the government to study what grant monies are being received by sanctuary cities and states. It also gave the administration the power to limit grants to sanctuary cities.  

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Senate Democrats to meet with Homeland Security chief on immigration

Key Senate Democrats will meet this week with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss their objections to the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

The meeting between Kelly and about a dozen Senate Democrats who work closely on immigration policy will be held Wednesday afternoon, an aide confirmed, and was primarily organized by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

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Democratic lawmakers have been furious over enforcement tactics coming from the Trump administration, which have included raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and detention of some young immigrants who have been granted work permits and deportation deferrals under an Obama-era initiative for so-called Dreamers.

The private meeting will follow the Homeland chief’s contentious meeting with House Democrats over the issue earlier this month. Behind closed doors, Kelly pushed back at criticism from Democratic lawmakers, telling them that he’s the “best thing to happen” to young undocumented immigrants and urging Democrats to rewrite immigration laws if they don’t like the current ones.

Senate Democrats had been asking for a meeting with Kelly for weeks. DHS officials initially responded to their request by offering a sit-down with Thomas Homan, the ICE acting director, and Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Since President Donald Trump assumed office in January, his administration has enacted new policies that give immigration enforcement officials broad discretion to arrest and deport immigrants in the United States illegally, as well as legal immigrants with criminal records.

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Trump approval hits new low

President Trump’s approval rating has hit a new low in the wake of the GOP’s failure to pass its ObamaCare replacement legislation.

According to Gallup’s job approval tracker, only 36 percent of adults polled approve of the job Trump is doing, against 57 percent who disapprove. 

The survey was conducted March 24–26.

The Republican healthcare plan, known as the American Health Care Act, fell apart on Friday, when Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill’s 12:30 Report House GOP insists: We’re not giving up on ObamaCare repeal Ryan: Don’t tie Planned Parenthood to government funding fight MORE (R-Wis.) canceled a planned vote in the face of increasing opposition from Republican lawmakers. Trump whipped furiously on behalf of the bill, warning lawmakers that the rest of his agenda would be in peril if it failed to pass.

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Trump’s previous low in the Gallup survey was 37 percent approval, recorded only 10 days ago.

The president registered his highest approval rating of 46 percent just days after his Jan. 20 inauguration. He has been underwater on job approval ever since, averaging 42 percent approval over the course of his two months in office.

Gallup’s three-day rolling average of 1,500 U.S. adults has a 3 percentage point margin of error.

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