In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that punting difficult questions about immigration until next year would be “terrible,” “irresponsible” and “bad for the country.” They may just do it anyway.

With negotiations stalling out in the House and Senate on how to handle the fate of 700,000 young immigrants whose protections President Trump revoked last year, how much money to send to the U.S.-Mexico border and what changes if any should be made to legal immigration policy, lawmakers are warning that a one- or two-year deal may be in the offing, leaving millions of immigrants and their families in limbo.

Whether the White House would sign such a short-term deal is unclear. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly indicated earlier this week that he would advise the White House against it, and said of Congress, “What makes them act is pressure.”

Read More →

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a bipartisan deal to fund the government on Wednesday, a major breakthrough that could force the House to swallow the agreement to avoid a possible shutdown.

The deal would set federal spending for the next two years, boosting both defense and non-defense spending by a combined $300 billion and raising the debt limit for months. It also provides funding to battle the opioid addiction crisis and for natural disaster recovery, and extends funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another four years.

House leaders in both parties may not be thrilled they’ve been jammed again — and immigrant advocate groups have expressed fury that a deal to protect young immigrants brought here as children wasn’t included. But with one day before the government once again runs out of funding, it appears the Senate is likely to get a lot of what it wants.

The deal would end months of brinksmanship and uncertainty where Congress passed five short-term deals as lawmakers looked for a breakthrough agreement.

“This bill represents a significant bipartisan step forward,” McConnell said before praising Schumer in a rare show of bipartisan warmth.

Schumer returned the compliment.

“It should break the long cycle of spending crises,” he said. “At the end of the day I believe we’ve reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of.”

But those warm-and-fuzzies don’t extend across the Hill, with House lawmakers in both parties viewing the deal warily.

As Schumer and McConnell unveiled the deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) entered the third hour of a House floor speech demanding action on immigration reform to protect recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from facing possible deportation. McConnell has agreed to an open debate on immigration, but it’s far from clear what deal the Senate might reach — and whether that would be palatable to President Trump and House Republicans.

While many on the left flank of the Democratic caucus are likely to vote against the deal because of its lack of a DACA fix, the main reason Senate Democrats forced a government shutdown late last month, many hardline House conservatives aren’t happy with how much the deal spends, or about the longer-term debt ceiling increase.

The Senate is usually pretty good at forcing the House to grimace and swallow its deals. But it’s not a slam-dunk that this can and will pass the House without more changes, and there may be more twists and turns before a government shutdown is averted.

Read More →

Democrats on Tuesday pulled off another surprising special election upset, this time capturing a Missouri statehouse seat in a deep-red district that President Donald Trump easily carried in 2016.

Democratic candidate Mike Revis defeated GOP nominee David Linton on Tuesday night by a 4-point margin in a seat Trump carried with 61 percent of the vote just over a year ago, and which former President Barack Obama lost by 12 points in 2012. That’s a major swing — and the latest time Democrats have vastly over-performed their previous numbers this year as they look toward a potential wave election in the fall.

“Representative-elect Mike Revis’s victory tonight will undoubtedly send another shockwave through the GOP as we continue to run the best candidates focused on addressing local issues and improving their neighbors’ quality of life,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee head Jessica Post said in a statement.

Democrats have now picked up 35 state legislative seats across the country in special elections, while Republicans have picked up just four since Trump took office. This is the latest deep-red seat that Democrats have flipped and, like the party’s recent victory in a Wisconsin state senate election, indicates how revved up the Democratic base is.

There will undoubtedly be higher overall voter turnout in the 2018 general election, making it harder for progressive base enthusiasm alone to power a major wave. But this win, as well as Democrats’ improved numbers in a trio of other Missouri special elections they lost Tuesday night in heavily Republican areas, are the latest signs that white-hot liberal enthusiasm is creating new opportunities across the country for Democratic candidates, even in areas that have moved hard against their party in recent years.

That’s good news for Democrats across the country — including those staring down tough reelection fights, like Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Read More →

The Senate is slated to begin a floor debate early next week on some kind of an immigration bill, though what exactly will be included in that bill remains a mystery. Lawmakers meeting nearly every day to hammer out a compromise say they have yet to reach consensus on any piece of the puzzle, from how many young immigrants known as Dreamers will be granted a path to citizenship to how much funding will go to building new walls on the U.S.-Mexico border to what changes, if any, will be made to the nation’s legal immigration system. Amid this tangle of issues, several senators have told TPM, one piece has emerged as particularly difficult: the status of Dreamers’ parents.

Read More →

President Trump and congressional Republicans have been on a bit of a hot streak as of late.

Their successfully passed tax cuts seem to have boosted them with Republican-leaning voters. They won the messaging war on the first round of government shutdown, largely because Trump stayed out of view during the fight. Trump managed to get through his State of the Union speech with at least as much coverage about Democrats’ refusal to applaud as his sometimes-divisive message.

That series of good breaks has helped Trump and congressional Republicans’ poll numbers tick up from abysmal to merely lousy, and boosted their hopes that the 2018 election might not be nearly as bad as many have feared. Trump’s approval rating has crept back up above 40 percent in some recent surveys for the first time in months, and Democrats’ lead has shrunk to the mid-single digits in many recent generic congressional polls, possibly not enough for them to win the House.

But in the last 24 hours, Trump made two new major gaffes that once again show his utter inability to stick with message discipline —  and hint at how short-lived the Republican rally might prove to be.

On Monday, Trump accused Democrats of “treason” for refusing to applaud his State of the Union speech. On Tuesday, he threatened to shut down the government if Democrats don’t accede to his demands to drastically cut legal immigration in exchange for protections for DACA recipients.

Reporters didn’t even have to leave the room to get a view of how well that would play with vulnerable Republicans: Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), at the White House for an event about MS-13 gang violence, took the opportunity to publicly rebuke the president over his remarks.

“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” Comstock told him with the cameras present.

It was a smart move: Her suburban Northern Virginia district has a huge number of federal employees, and a large number of immigrants who voted for Hillary Clinton last presidential election.

But that wasn’t enough to dissuade Trump, who interrupted her reiterate his shutdown threat.

“You can say what you want. We are not getting support of the Democrats,” he replied.

Trump doubled down minutes later.

“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue. If we don’t straighten out our border, we don’t have a country,” he told reporters. “Without borders we don’t have a country. So would I would shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can’t speak for our great representatives here but I have a feeling they may agree with me.”

Comstock’s comments are great fodder for her argument that she’ll break with Trump and stand up for her voters, and will likely give her a personal boost in 2018. But the president will continue to dominate the election landscape, and other GOP lawmakers aren’t going to be nearly as lucky as to be in the room to call Trump out when he says things that will hurt their reelection chances.

Trump has mostly managed to stay out of his own way and stick to the script in the last few weeks, and that’s helped his party recover with independent voters. But his off-script moments regularly remind swing voters why many don’t like him while further infuriating Democrats, driving their election enthusiasm ever-higher. After a surprisingly disciplined stretch it appears he’s returning to his old ways once again — and that should alarm Republicans already facing a tough election map.

Read More →

When the Trump administration chose to terminate President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, it gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a way to protect the program’s nearly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. After months of negotiations, there is no deal in sight, and exacerbating lawmakers’ usual foot-dragging and partisan divisions is widespread confusion about whether the deadline for action is truly just a few weeks away.

Read More →

The short-term budget Congress threw together to end the government shutdown in January will expire this week, and lawmakers have yet to solve any of the disagreements that brought them to the brink in the first place.

Negotiations over the fate of 700,000 young immigrants whose protections Trump revoked last year have stalled out—with moderates attempting to craft a narrower deal and the White House threatening to veto anything that doesn’t include provisions to slash legal immigration. And because Congress has yet to cut a deal to set new budget caps on military and domestic spending, lawmakers will have to pass yet another stop-gap continuing resolution by Feb. 8 to avoid another shutdown. Hanging over all of this is the debt ceiling, which Congress must raise earlier than expected because the GOP tax bill is already costing the government tens of billions in revenue.

With an eye on the midterm elections this fall, lawmakers are hesitant to stick their necks out for tough compromises, making agreement on all these issues an even heavier lift.

Welcome to the spring of Congress’ nightmares.

Read More →

Newly-sworn-in Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar flew to Indiana on Friday to announce that the state has been approved to impose work requirements, premiums and a 90-day lockout provision on its Medicaid population.

The green light for the state — home to Vice President Mike Pence and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma —  to impose those restrictions is the second ever allowed in Medicaid’s 50-plus year history, and follows on the heels of a similar waiver for Kentucky that is already drawing legal challenges.   

Read More →