Sen. Coons: Republican nuclear option to confirm Gorsuch is ‘tragic’

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“I’m very concerned about where we’re headed,” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons says.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said he doubts Neil Gorsuch will get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and that he is bracing for Republicans to go for the so-called nuclear option to push the Trump administration’s pick through without any support from Democrats.

“I think this is tragic,” Coons said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about the “nuclear option” that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he may employ to get Gorsuch on the bench. “And on talking to friends on both sides of the aisle, we’ve got a lot of senators concerned about where we’re headed. There’s Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule, we’re mad at them for shutting down the government, they’re mad at us for Gorsuch, and we’re not headed in a good direction.”

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Gorsuch, who enjoys widespread support from Republican lawmakers, is expected to come up short, as he needs eight Democratic lawmakers to support him in a confirmation vote unless Republicans pursue the nuclear option that would allow Gorsuch to be approved by a simple majority. The Supreme Court pick, who was grilled by Democrats last week during four days of hearings, is unpopular among Democrats who think he is far too conservative for the bench. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly signaled that Democrats will vigorously oppose Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Coons said Democratic lawmakers are still bitter about obstruction from Republican lawmakers last year to prevent the confirmation of former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland.

“Gorsuch got what Garland didn’t, which was a fair hearing,” Coons said. “He got a full four days of hearings last week. I questioned him vigorously, some would say aggressively. And he is a charming man, he’s got a good resume, he’s got strong qualifications in terms of his education, his service on the court, but he would be in some measures the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court.”

McConnell has vowed to confirm Gorsuch before the April 8 recess, even if the nominee does not receive the 60 votes.

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Rep. Poe explains why he split from the House Freedom Caucus

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Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said the conservative group was asking for too much. | Getty

Rep. Ted Poe, the congressman who resigned from the House Freedom Caucus over its unwillingness to support White House-backed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Monday morning that the arch-conservative group was guilty of moving the goal posts for the bill’s backers.

The repeal-and-replace measure, labeled the American Health Care Act, was supported by House leadership and the administration of President Donald Trump but failed to muster enough support among rank-and-file Republicans to pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan and the president agreed Friday to cancel a scheduled vote on the legislation once it became clear that it would not have the votes.

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The bill ultimately failed thanks in no small part to the Freedom Caucus, whose members generally opposed it because it did not go far enough in undoing certain provisions of Obamacare. Poe (R-Texas), one of a handful of Freedom Caucus members to support the legislation, said the conservative group was asking for too much.

“The president, Speaker Ryan, came to the Freedom Caucus and made some changes that we wanted several times,” Poe said in an interview Monday morning on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” “But no matter what changes were made, the goal post kept getting moved and at the end of the day, ‘no’ was the answer. And sometimes you’re going to have to say yes.”

Poe announced his resignation from the Freedom Caucus on Sunday, writing in a statement that “saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do.” He said caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) wanted Poe to remain with the caucus, but the Texas legislator said “it’s best for me, and even for the caucus that I not be a member of the Freedom Caucus.”

“It was unfortunate that even though changes and we were included, the Freedom Caucus decided that ‘no’ was going to be the answer,” he said. “At some time we’re going to have to say ‘yes.’ We are in power. We need to lead.”

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Today in Trumpworld – March 27

TRUMP’S SCHEDULE:

10:30 a.m.: President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

11 a.m.: Trump will participate in a roundtable discussion with women small business owners in the Roosevelt Room.

12:30 p.m.: Trump will lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the presidential dining room.

3 p.m.: Trump will hold a bill-signing in the Oval Office.

OTHER HAPPENINGS: Sean Spicer will brief the press at the White House at 1:30 p.m.

NOW WHAT: From POLITICO’s Tara Palmeri: “After suffering its first legislative blow at the hands of the Washington establishment, the White House regrouped over the weekend with senior aides strategizing on ways to score their boss a few wins and reassessing future friends and foes. Instead of dwelling on the humbling Obamacare repeal defeat, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon told POLITICO there would be “action, action, action” this week coming from the White House. Expect executive orders this week on trade, energy and environmental regulations, he said in a text message.”

ACTION, ACTION, ACTION: From the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker: “President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions. The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements.”

BLAME GAME IN THE WHITE HOUSE: From POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt: “With President Donald Trump’s sweeping agenda hitting the rocks as he edges toward the 100-day mark, top aides, political allies and donors are embroiled in a furious round of finger-pointing over who is at fault. The recriminations extend far beyond the implosion of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal on Friday. Senior aides are lashing each other over their inability to stem a never-ending tide of negative stories about the president. There is second-guessing of the Republican National Committee’s efforts to mobilize Trump’s electoral coalition on behalf of his legislative priorities. At the Environmental Protection Agency, a top official quit recently amid accusations the department is failing to advance the president’s campaign promises. And one of Trump’s most generous benefactors, Rebekah Mercer, has expressed frustration over the direction of the administration.”

TAX REFORM PROSPECTS: From the New York Times’ Alan Rappeport: “Picking themselves up after the bruising collapse of their health care plan, President Trump and Republicans in Congress will start this week on a legislative obstacle course that will be even more arduous: the first overhaul of the tax code in three decades. Mr. Trump’s inability to make good on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act has made the already daunting challenge of tax reform even more difficult. Not only has Mr. Trump’s aura of political invincibility been shattered, but without killing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans will be unable to rewrite the tax code in the sweeping fashion that the president has called for. The grand plans of lower rates, fewer loopholes and a tax on imports may have to be scaled back to a big corporate tax cut and possibly an individual tax cut. A lot of people think Mr. Trump might go for this to get an easy win.”

Matthew Nussbaum is a White House reporter for POLITICO.

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Kushner to lead new White House office offering business solutions to federal problems

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“The government should be run like a great American company,” Jared Kushner said. | AP Photo

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will lead a new White House office tasked with reforming the federal bureaucracy by applying lessons from the business world, Trump is expected to announce Monday.

The office, to be called the White House Office of American Innovation, will be filled with former business executives and report directly to the president, according to The Washington Post, which first reported details of the Kushner-led team.

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“All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump said in a statement to the Post. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”

Kushner, who raised eyebrows with his family ski trip to Colorado during last week’s ultimately unsuccessful scramble to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, characterized his new office as “an offensive team” in an interview with the Post. To begin its work, it will focus on opioid abuse, reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, modernizing technology across the federal government, and working on “transformative projects” that would fit within the president’s promised infrastructure package.

“The government should be run like a great American company,” Kushner said in his interview with the Post. “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

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Juan Williams: If Obama had acted like Trump…

Right-wing media to President Obama: We are so very sorry.

That’s the message I got last week from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page.

The Journal abandoned efforts to make sense of President Trump’s outright fiction that Obama wiretapped him. Its editorial page — never a friend to Obama — wrote this last week about Trump:

“[He] clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.”

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Wow. The Journal was sharply critical of Obama but never said he had the credibility of a drunkard.

They are not yet saying “Thanks, Obama,” but their words do stir new appreciation for the good old days under the previous president.

Will right-wing talk radio follow the Journal’s example?

Imagine the reaction from far-right talk radio — the people who raised hell and their ratings by attacking Obama daily with accusations about fake scandals — if the 44thpresident had lied about his predecessor or if people in his circle had been taking money from Russia.

Imagine the outburst from Rush Limbaugh — the king of conservative talk radio — if the Justice Department told Obama that his National Security Advisor had lied about discussing sanctions with Russian government officials and Obama had waited three weeks to demand that person’s resignation.

And what would Hugh Hewitt say on radio if it was later revealed that the advisor took over $65,000 from companies linked to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in addition to pocketing more than $500,000 from moonlighting as a lobbyist tied to the Turkish government?

What might my friend, conservative radio host Lars Larson, have said if Obama’s former campaign manager had taken $10 million from Russian oligarchs to — in his words — “greatly benefit” the interests of Putin’s Russia inside the U.S.?

Of course, the reality is Obama’s team never engaged in such damaging acts. It is Trump’s team that is under investigation for all of these charges of scandalous behavior.

Radio talk show hosts on the right have great ratings but they are not elected to defend the democratic basis of our government. That job belongs to Congress.

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has become an apologist for Trump. Last week, he rushed over to the White House to say he had seen transcripts of apparently legal intercepts that may have swept up some Trump campaign officials.

Was this evidence that Obama wiretapped Trump as he was running for president? No. Even Nunes admits that. But by briefing the White House before sharing the information with his own committee, Nunes revealed himself as an advocate for the Trump White House.

Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, compromised any claim to independence and threw away the credibility he needs.

Before Nunes’ rash action it was left to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffNunes won’t reveal sources to Intel Committee members First GOP lawmaker calls for Nunes to recuse himself Spicer: If Trump uses Russian salad dressing ‘somehow that’s a Russian connection’ MORE (D-Calif.), to explain to the nation what the House panel had already found:

“Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential presidential campaign, [Russia]…intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other,” Schiff said.

Schiff made more news later in the week when he told Chuck Todd of NBC News, “there is more than circumstantial evidence” that there was collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, House Republicans continue injuring the party’s brand as they busily sweep dirt from the Russia scandal under the White House carpet.

But even the attempted congressional cover-up can’t fool the public — not even in concert with the silence from right-wing talk radio hosts. Look at the polling: Trump’s approval ratings are at historic lows for any president in the modern age at this point in his presidency.

A Quinnipiac poll last week found his approval rating had fallen to 37 percent while his disapproval rating had risen to 56 percent. According to the same poll, 60 percent of voters say he is “not honest,” 55 percent say he “does not have good leadership skills” and 57 percent say he “does not care about average Americans.”

What could be driving the president’s collapsing poll numbers?

The Quinnipiac results suggest an answer.

A whopping 70 percent of voters do not believe Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him last year. Just 19 percent believe — in the face of the evidence — that Obama did so.

In perhaps the most damning result in the Quinnipiac survey, 73 percent of voters say Trump’s administration makes “statements without evidence to support them ‘very often’ or ‘somewhat often.’”

Again, it was left to the Wall Street Journal editorial page to admit that the Trump White House is drowning in a vast credibility crisis. 

“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him?” The Journal wrote. “Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”

President Obama, please accept the right wing’s many apologies.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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

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