Fox News Halftime Report -- Trump steps up pressure on Senate GOP

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Fox News Halftime Report

May 2, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: Trump steps up pressure on Senate GOP - Bait and switch? TrumpCare backers count on watered-down version to come - What they are saying: Trump and the strongmen - Audible: Comb over to his way of thinking - Well, it's not like they were using them 

TRUMP STEPS UP PRESSURE ON SENATE GOP
Chagrined at the thought of signing into law a spending plan that represents the continuation of the status quo from the Obama era in Washington, President Trump today promised much greater disruptions to come.

The decision by Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress to essentially kick the can on spending between now and the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 is potentially a very good one.

As we discussed Monday, a strategic retreat on short-term spending priorities could be a very smart move if it gives Republicans time and opportunity to focus on larger, lasting issues.

We will see how the GOP is able to use the time they are buying with the spending plan Trump is expected to soon sign. Potential wins on taxes, the new budget and maybe even health insurance could pay enormous dividends. Or, it could be a bust. It's just too soon to say.

But Trump is obviously frustrated by Democrats' crowing about how they got the upper hand on this showdown.

Most of the attention is focused on Trump's call for a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year. This is most likely Trump trying to throw his adversaries off balance and increase his negotiating power when all of the aforementioned issues come down to the wire.

But that's likely not going to be a very big deal. That is the same kind of "Blazing Saddles" negotiating style that Trump tried to use when he threatened to boot ObamaCare beneficiaries from their insurance to force Democrats to the negotiating table.

If things are so bad five months hence that Trump really wants to hold himself hostage by forcing a shutdown, all will have been lost for his agenda and his party's hopes in the midterms by then anyway.

What demands more careful attention, though, is the president's reiteration of a desire to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for legislation in the Senate.

A primer for anyone who slept through the fight over Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court: Democrats in 2013 used a simple majority to lower the 60-vote threshold for all presidential appointments except for Supreme Court justices. Faced with a Democratic blockade of Gorsuch, a simple majority of Republicans voted to apply the same rule to the high court.
 
In interviews given to highlight and reframe his first 100 days of office, Trump complained about "archaic" Senate rules that he said are "really a bad thing for the country."  And in his tweeted defense today, Trump suggested that it might be time to do away with the 60-vote threshold for everything else.

Now, we might wear this garment as loosely as we do some of the president's other recent remarks, like his expression of interest in raising gasoline taxes, rolling back press freedoms or breaking up big banks. We can wait to be pleased or alarmed, depending on our points of view, until even the smallest movement in favor of such large objectives is made.

But on this one, the president can change the dynamic through his words alone.

It is safe to say that if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put forth a rule change to create the simple-majority Senate, the response from his conference would be cool, to say the least. Reducing the power of the minority to impede presidential appointments is one thing, but doing the same thing for making law is quite another.

There are already those on the right who would argue that since the 60-vote threshold will eventually be eliminated in some subsequent Congress, it would be better for Republicans to do it now so as to obtain the policy objectives. Even so, there would almost certainly be at least enough holdouts in the Senate to prevent such a rule.

This sets up an interesting dynamic as the president tries to put his agenda into place. Rather than trying to find eight Democrats to support him, Trump can shift his focus to browbeating McConnell and at least 50 of his colleagues to back the rule change.

There are not eight Democrats who Trump could realistically threaten with political harm. But are there 51 Republicans? Maybe.

As Trump grows frustrated with the way Congress works, he is growing impatient since Democrats have zero incentive to help him succeed and Republicans continue to make policy demands in order to offer their support for his initiatives.

What you might be seeing develop before your eyes is a nuclear showdown between Trump and his own party on which his presidency and the future of the Republican Party could depend.   

See you in September…

THE RULEBOOK: LOCK THEM UP
"As the spirit of party, in different degrees, must be expected to infect all political bodies, there will be, no doubt, persons in the national legislature willing enough to arraign the measures and criminate the views of the majority." – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 26

TIME OUT: NOTA BENE
New Yorker: "Between 2010 and 2014, archeologists digging in London's financial district … made an astonishing discovery—a collection of more than four hundred wooden tablets, preserved in the muck of an underground river. The tablets, postcard-sized sheets of fir, spruce, and larch, dated mainly from a couple of decades after the Roman conquest of Britain, in A.D. 43… Eighty of them carried legible texts—legible, that is, to Roger Tomlin, one of the world's foremost experts in very old handwriting. … But his most striking accomplishment is deciphering Roman ephemera—wooden and lead tablets that, miraculously, archeologists still unearth from time to time around the province formerly known as Britannia. … Tomlin is one of a tiny number of people in the U.K. skilled in reading this script. Catharine Edwards, the president of Britain's Roman Society, has called his ability 'uncanny.'"

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

BAIT AND SWITCH? TRUMPCARE BACKERS COUNT ON SENATE TO SOFTEN BILL
WaPo: "The aim has become very simple for House Republicans stumbling closer to passing a bill to revise the Affordable Care Act: just get it off their plates and over to the Senate. In the messy effort to rally their often unruly party around a measure to replace big parts of President Barack Obama's health-care law, House leaders have been forced to leave other objectives by the wayside and focus on one simple, political goal: pass a bill they can say repeals Obamacare — even if it has no hope of survival in the Senate — to shield their members in next year's elections. 'I would hope it gets changed over there,' Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) told Bloomberg News, echoing other center-right members who explicitly said they were willing to pass the new revision in hopes that the Senate would strip out the harsher provisions."

That may not be enough for some - Politico: "President Donald Trump dialed up his campaign-trail ally Rep. Billy Long on Monday, after the Missouri Republican announced his decision to vote against the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. The goal was straightforward: Persuade Long to change his mind. It didn't work. Though Long hails from a deeply conservative district that overwhelmingly backed Trump over Hillary Clinton in November, and Long supported earlier versions of the legislation, the president's entreaties fell short, GOP insiders said. It was an unexpected blow for House GOP leaders and the White House, who were bullish over the weekend that they were on the cusp of clinching the votes to pass the legislation. Instead, the scramble for support is still very much on."

[Not-so-funny story - How Jimmy Kimmel's story of his newborn son's heart ailment may shape the debate on coverage for preexisting conditions in TrumpCare.]

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: TRUMP AND THE STRONGMEN
In his recent flurry of interviews looking to put a positive spin on his first 100 days in office, President Trump has offered a flurry of compliments for some of the world's worst dictators and strongmen, setting off the same kind of criticism that met his continued praise for Russian ruler Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. Trump lauded not just North Korean despot Kim Jung Un, but also the brutal and mercurial leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. This followed Trump's recent congratulations to Turkey's ascendant autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for rolling back constitutional protections.  
 
Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair suggests that Trump's tendency is to create moral equivalency between the United States and some of the most repressive leaders in the world not only removes an incentive for those leaders to consider human rights, but also robs America of the needed moral authority to function as the world's superpower.
 
But Tom Rogan at National Review says it's good that Trump is being smart to introduce more "realism" about American foreign policy, since working with bad people is often required to do good in the world. By eliminating some moral preconditions for diplomacy, Trump is simply putting America first.
 
Richard Cohen, however, sees Trump's departures from American foreign policy norms in the mold of Kaiser Wilhelm II, an unpredictable and emotionally unstable leader of a great power at a moment of global upheaval.   
 
Russia sanctions bill on hold as election investigation continues - WaPo: "Bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in Ukraine, Syria and the 2016 U.S. elections is indefinitely on hold, according to the Senate's top voice on foreign policy, likely until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes its investigation into the Kremlin's activities. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday that the Senate would wait 'to get some facts' before moving ahead with the bill, which codifies existing sanctions against Russia imposed by executive order since 2014 and introduces new punitive measures against anyone supporting Russian cyber-hacking against public or private infrastructure.
 
Trump-Putin talk today - Politico: "President Donald Trump will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone Tuesday, a conversation that comes as the relationship between Washington and Moscow is strained over Syria's long-running civil war."
 
SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -8.7 points
Change from one week ago: +2.7 points

PLAY-BY-PLAY
First round of special House election today to replace Trump budget boss Mulvaney has some GOPers nervous - NBC News  

James Hohmann explains why the markets shrugged off Trump's threats to break up the big banks - WaPo
 
Top ethics officer wants details on Trump's lobbyist's waivers NYT
 
Gillibrand rules out 2020 presidential run - AP

Trump plans to end Michelle Obama's 'Let Girls Learn' programThe Hill
 
Ten GOP House members added to Patriots program for 2018 re-elections - Roll Call
 
Georgia Conservative groups scramble for money as Ossoff's fundraising soarsAJC
 
Ivanka Trump talks to NYT about her growing role in her father's White House NYT
 
AUDIBLE: COMB OVER TO HIS WAY OF THINKING
"As a Trump supporter, I do my best not to pay attention to what he says. If I pulled my hair out for every nutty thing he said, I'd be bald." – Former Rep. Joe Walsh R-Ill., said in an interview on MSNBC.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WELL, IT'S NOT LIKE THEY WERE USING THEM 
AP: "Police say a flower shop owner stole plants and other items from graves at a New Jersey cemetery for months. Capt. Christopher DePuyt says police installed surveillance cameras at the First Reformed Church Cemetery in Pequannock Township after two plants disappeared from the mausoleum and replacement plants were stolen two days later. He says the cameras caught a woman in a minivan taking the plants and Riverdale officers recognized her as a former police dispatcher and current flower shop owner. Authorities charged 59-year-old Lynda Wingate, of Riverdale, with the disorderly person's offense of theft of moveable property. DePuyt says Wingate claimed she was cleaning up old flowers from graves of people she knew, but he says that isn't the case. A message seeking comment was left at her flower shop."

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"In fact the proof is that if this were a calculated proposition, he would never have used the word 'honored,' which obviously is a mistake. You are not honored to meet him. You would meet him if you thought it was advancing things. That's not a serious proposition." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier."



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