News Sips Tipsheet 7/27: Summer Showdowns Heat Up DC
Here’s for what you need to know before your skinny iced coffee gets warm, the July 27, 2017 edition of the tipsheet.
What DC’s Talking About: “Skinny” Surging
The Senate is continuing the Vote-a-Rama over amendments and changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). While the vast majority of these votes are show-votes (virtue signalling for Senators), there is an important amendment waiting to be taken up: the “Skinny Repeal.”
Skinny Repeal, as we’ve discussed here before, is excising the individual and employer mandates from Obamacare as well as the medical device tax. Each of these changes have widespread support among Senate Republicans. Bellwether Senator Rand Paul has announced that he intends to support the Skinny Bill, signalling that the chance of passage is remarkably high.
If the Senate goes Skinny, the bill will then go to conference with the House of Representatives where leaders from both sides of the Capitol will hammer out a compromise piece of legislation and send it for votes from the House and Senate. This will be a major test of Republican cohesion, as the conference bill will likely go too far for moderate Senators and not far enough for conservatives in the House. However, given that there will be a legitimate piece of legislation in front of them that will, ostensibly, keep a major campaign promise, the pressure to send the bill to the President’s desk will be enormous.
If Skinny Repeal passes, we are looking at a late-year or early-2018 conference bill.
Let’s remember that Congress is running out of time on debt ceiling legislation and a budget while also getting pressure from the White House and business interests to act on tax reform. While House conservatives have signaled that they are willing to move forward on a clean debt ceiling increase (like the one being pushed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin), it’s unclear if moderate Republicans will try to attach riders to the bill that make it unpalatable for conservatives.
Made-For-Social Media News: The Trans Ban
Yesterday morning, the President issued a series of Tweets that effectively set out a new policy (that re-instated an old policy) that prohibits transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the United States Military.
The response from the social justice wing of Twitter, as well as the DC-New York media, was swift and intense. However, rather than a debate about the rights of transgender people, the actual policy issue looks like it came down to cash. According to reporting from Politico, the President was confronted by House members who threatened to tank funding for some of the President’s key initiatives unless the White House took definitive action on funding for gender reassignment treatments. Of course, given the statistics, the actual outlay of cash for the estimated 4,000-6,000 active duty transgender people is paltry, but the House conservatives put their legislative foot down on the issue. The White House well-beyond the request to weigh-in on funding and simply issued a directive that no transgender people would be allowed to serve.
The issue is now being framed in one of two narratives. From progressives, this move is seen as a bigoted and hateful targeting of a patriotic minority who are merely looking to serve their nation. From the right, this move is finally undoing Obama-era social experimentation within the military. Social conservatives associate transgender-ism with other disqualifying disabilities that render otherwise patriotic Americans unfit for service. Progressives respond with the contention that these arguments are merely cover for discrimination.
There are likely, as with everything from the Trump Administration, to be lawsuits over this issue.
One of the concerns from even supporters of this move by the White House was the seemingly Alexandrian approach used by the President in untangling the apparent knotty issue. With similarities to the initially messy rollout of the President’s first immigration pause, key stakeholders have reported that they were not notified of the President’s intention. While Defense Secretary James Mattis was informed a day before of the President’s decision, the Pentagon was already conducting a longer-term review of the issue. However, the outcome was not expected until early in 2018. The Politico report mentions that Mattis and his staff did not move quickly enough for House conservatives, and this unresponsiveness led them to seek out the President, personally.
Pronouncements on Twitter notwithstanding, there will still need to be a policy review period and directives from the Pentagon about how to handle the issue of transgender people already serving in the military. This will take at least several months.
Despite the firestorm of criticism from the inside-the-beltway media, the move to crack down on alleged social experimentation in the military will likely play well with Mr. Trump’s base as well as blue collar Democrats who are tired of the Democratic Party’s force-feeding of identity politics to voters. Certainly, this will be one of many issues that the almost dozen Senate Democrats running in states carried by Mr. Trump last year will have to address in 2018.
Newly minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is taking a hard-line against leakers in the West Wing, so, of course, he is now the subject of leaks against him. He’s contacted the FBI.
The President is rumored to be considering a recess appointment of a replacement for “beleaguered” Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley indicated that that Committee would not take up the nomination for any Sessions replacement. There has been talk in the special election in Alabama to fill Sessions’ Senate Seat that the contenders may suspend their campaigns to allow Sessions back in if he got fired. Color us unconvinced of this whole narrative. The President is a master at manipulating the media and the feud with Sessions is just-too-perfect made-for-television scandal. We’re only going to believe this feud is real when Sessions is no longer Attorney General.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that produces hi-tech components for products like Apple’s iPhone, announced it will be building a $10B manufacturing center in Wisconsin. This investment will net between 3,000 and 13,000 for Wisconsin and is a major win for the President’s goal to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
Kid Rock, thought to be considering a run for US Senate in Michigan, threw some cold water on speculation last night saying, in part, that he will be focused on voter registration and will make a final decision on a run for Senate in the coming months. We wrote about celebrities running for office here.
What We’re Reading
ForeignPolicy: Beijing Deals Another Blow to Hong Kong’s Autonomy
Baltimore Sun: Hogan opposes ‘skinny repeal’ of Obamacare