News Sips 3/28: Sanctuary Warning, Nunes’ Investigation, New EPA Rules, and Tax Divide Brewing
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the March 28, 2017 edition:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was particularly forceful yesterday in a statement to the press about sanctuary cities: you could lose federal funding. The statement is a shot across the bow of liberal jurisdictions across the country and comes on the heels of several high-profile crimes committed by illegal aliens. Some cities and counties have taken it upon themselves to refuse to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers on illegals charged with crimes (in addition to granting illegals other perks and special treatment). These jurisdictions are what are, nebulously, referred to as “sanctuary cities.” There is no, precise, definition for sanctuary cities in federal law, but in the past month, over 200 ICE detainers were not honored by local law enforcement agencies.
In an absolutely incongruous case of bad optics, bad politics, and bad timing, the hard-left in Maryland’s General Assembly are trying to ram a bill through the legislature that would make Maryland a “sanctuary state.” This comes right after two illegal aliens, one of whom was 18 years old, allegedly raped a 14 year old girl at Rockville High School in the DC suburb of Montgomery County (itself a “sanctuary” jurisdiction). Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has rightly said that he would immediately veto such a flawed and dangerous piece of legislation. However, if Democrats in Annapolis are united on the issue, they could override the veto and prevent Maryland’s law enforcement from honoring ICE detainers.
More than merely making the State less safe for residents, Attorney General Sessions was abundantly clear: if a jurisdiction becomes a sanctuary, they will not be getting federal funds (at least insofar as the DOJ is concerned—though the President has made it clear that this policy will be one that transcends his Administration). Moreover, the DOJ may even try to claw-back funds that have already been dispersed. Given the amount of federal cash that pours into Maryland, and especially Baltimore City, the effect of Maryland becoming a “sanctuary state” would result in billions of law enforcement dollars being lost merely because Democrats wanted a political win. This is both unsafe and wholly inappropriate. When he was asked directly about the bill under consideration by Maryland’s legislature, the Attorney General said that Governor Hogan was right to oppose it and that the Attorney General “pleads” with the legislature not to make such a foolish decision based totally on an attempt at playing politics.
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), continues to find himself in the hot seat after rushing to the White House last week to brief the President on new discoveries related to Obama-era surveillance of Mr. Trump and his campaign team. Nunes is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and, in that role, is tasked with the investigation of both the surveillance contentions and the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. While there is no evidence that Russian efforts changed a single vote in the election, it has become a well from which the Democrats have been drawing political attacks against the Administration.
Over the weekend, there was a revelation that Congressman Nunes had reviewed sensitive material, and likely the same material on which he briefed the President, at the White House a day before that dash to meet with Mr. Trump. This raised the eyebrows of Republicans and brought the ire of Democrats who saw the entire affair as a coordinated effort to undermine the Russia investigation. Nunes, who has claimed that he has seen documents that show Mr. Trump’s team was incidentally surveilled and that Obama-era officials illegally unmasked the names of member of the Trump team, has claimed that the meeting at the White House had nothing to do with the President, but rather was arranged so that he could view documents that were kept on an Executive Branch computer system (and, legally, couldn’t just be carried down the road to the Capitol). He has stressed that the whistleblower was not the President or any member of the staff, but rather a member of the intelligence community.
Regardless of the fact that Chairman Nunes’ explanation is consistent with the evidence that exists, Democrats are using this affair as a rallying cry to call for Nunes to step down from his leadership of the Intelligence Committee. Some Republicans have noted that it was probably a bad idea to make a publicity stunt out of going to the White House last week with new information before briefing other members of the Committee. However, unringing the bell at this point is impossible. There’s been nothing to show that Chairman Nunes has colluded with the Administration. Regardless, Democrats are using him as a political tool to try to show corruption in the new Administration.
New EPA Rules
The President will be at the Environmental Protection Agency today to sign an Executive Order that scraps Obama-era regulations that held back American energy independence. Already, the President is keeping his promise to the American people to make it easier for American companies to pursue innovation and business in the United States. The Executive Order that the President will sign today lifts a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that all federal officials consider the impact of “climate change” when making policy decisions.
This is a huge win for businesses, jobs, and American workers. The President made his promises in coal country when he was running for office and this follows through on that promise. Though it will take time to implement, the Order shows that the President is committed to making sure that protection of the environment doesn’t hamstring the development of American industry, or set the American worker at a competitive disadvantage to competitors around the world.
The President’s decision will, without a doubt, draw criticism from the Left and environmentalists who see the President’s “climate denial” as some kind of mortal sin. However, this seems to be more of a pendulum swinging back towards the mean rather than a titanic reversal of policy (despite what the media is reporting—remember, outrage sells). This Order does not withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords nor does it remove all regulations on coal power (this would require Congressional action, anyhow). Rather, it is merely removing onerous regulation and setting a policy that the country can respect its environment while also realizing that it’s in the best interest of the country to pursue energy independence.
Tax Divide Brewing
Just when we thought that it would be easier to pass tax reform than it would be to get some form of repealing and replacing Obamacare through Congress, reports are already emerging that the White House and Congressional leaders are not seeing eye-to-eye on reforms. The President has promised across-the-board tax relief and a significantly-reduced corporate tax rate (America’s corporate tax is one of the highest in the world) and a major reduction to taxes on the middle class. The plan being put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, does little (at least at the outset) to reduce taxes on the middle class.
The looming disagreement, especially in light of the defeat on healthcare reform, may see the President and the Speaker at odds with one another. Trump’s plan is the one conservatives have been waiting-for for decades. The Ryan Plan looks to be the more pragmatic, governing strategy. Regardless of the fine details of the plans, it’s important to remember the position where these two men find themselves. The big question: will Trump acquiesce, for a second time in as many months, to the Speaker of the House’s ideas about legislation, or, given that the Speaker’s attempt at healthcare was met with a stinging rebuke, will the President demand that the House consider his tax plan?
The stakes are enormously high in tax reform and it may put Mr. Trump in league with the Freedom Caucus moreso than House leadership. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, if the Speaker and the President can’t come to mutual agreement on the tax issue, we can only assume that the President’s confidence in Speaker Ryan’s leadership will evaporate (and the Speaker will, in that case, inevitably, face a revolt against his leadership). This, however, is only one future scenario. There’s the option that Trump acquiesces to Ryan’s plans (though this will cause the same House Freedom Caucus revolt as on healthcare) or that the two men reach an understanding on tax reform that can pass the House and the Senate.
The President has mentioned that he may seek to liaise with Democrats going forward on major initiatives. While this may sound like an intriguing bit of bipartisanism, there’s really no reason Democrats would want to cooperate with the President given the current state of the Democrats’ base.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.