👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Trump to propose 10% spike in defense spending, massive cuts to other agencies. The federal budget proposal dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting virtually all other federal agencies by the same amount. (Washington Post)
- The White House sets its budget guidance: calls for $54 billion increase in defense spending. The proposal represents a 10% bump in defense spending and national security-related efforts. (Politico)
- Trump’s proposed budget: major defense spending increases and big cuts to the E.P.A. Congress ultimately determines how the federal government’s money is spent. Mnuchin said Trump’s first budget won’t touch entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare. It will instead focus on ways to produce long-term economic growth by slashing taxes. (Bloomberg)
- Trump’s promised economic stimulus won’t happen this year. If it happens at all, the soonest the economy will begin to feel the impact of a Trump stimulus is in federal fiscal year 2018, which begins October 1st. (Forbes)
- Trump to demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the E.P.A. and State Department while social safety net programs, aside from Social Security and Medicare, will get hit hard. The move comes a day before delivering a high-stakes address to a joint session of Congress. (New York Times)
2/ Sean Spicer personally arranged CIA and GOP intelligence push-back in attempts to discredit a New York Times article about alleged contacts between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives.
On February 15th, Spicer called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, and connected them with reporters from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Pompeo and Burr told the journalists that the New York Times story wasn’t true but provided no details.
3/ Bush breaks with Trump, calling the media “indispensable to democracy.” Recalling his own presidency, when he was often the target of withering media critique, Bush said he devoted significant time to extolling the virtues of a free and independent press around the world. Trump has called the press “the enemy of the American people.” (Politico)
4/ GOP’s new plan to repeal Obamacare: Dare fellow Republicans to block the effort. Republican leaders are betting that the only way for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act is to set a bill in motion and gamble that wavering rank-and-file Republicans don’t have the guts to block it. Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about forging ahead with a repeal plan that could leave millions with no coverage — especially after enduring raucous town hall events during last week’s recess. (Wall Street Journal)
After meeting with Trump, governors say he’s crafting his own Obamacare plan. Congressional Republicans are looking to move forward with committee markups on legislation in the House within a few weeks. A separate plan from the White House could throw a curveball into the process and shift the debate. At the same time, congressional Republicans themselves are still grappling with a range of issues, with Medicaid expansion among the most prominent. (The Hill)
A divided White House still offers little guidance on replacing Obamacare. Lawmakers, state leaders, and policy experts say the administration is largely delegating the development of an ACA substitute to Capitol Hill. Trump appears more interested in brokering specific questions, such as how to negotiate drug prices, than in steering the plan’s drafting. (Washington Post)
Trump: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” he noted with some exasperation about the complexity of the nation’s health laws, which he’s vowed to reform as part of a bid to scrap Obamacare. (CNN)
Freedom Caucus chair would vote against draft Obamacare repeal bill. The North Carolina Republican finds refundable tax credits in the bill unacceptable and said plenty of other lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus share his concerns. (CNN)
5/ Trump navy secretary nominee withdraws citing concerns about privacy and separating his business interests. Philip Bilden announced his decision only days after White House said he was 100% committed to the role. (The Guardian)
6/ The U.S. hopes of hosting the World Cup in 2026 will be damaged if Trump’s travel restrictions come into full force. The United States is a clear favorite to be awarded the 2026 tournament, either on its own or as part of a joint North American bid with Mexico and Canada. Immigration policy is among the areas considered during the evaluation of a World Cup bid, and is was suggested that it would “not help” if Trump succeeded in placing harsher restrictions on travel. (New York Times)
7/ U.S. detains and nearly deports French Holocaust historian. Henry Rousso, one of France’s most preeminent scholars and public intellectuals, attempted to enter the U.S. to attend an academic symposium. He was detained for more than 10 hours — for no clear reason. (Washington Post)
8/ Trump’s Justice Department is ending the government’s opposition to a controversial voter ID law in Texas. For the last six years, the Justice Department has sided with the citizens and civil rights groups fighting Texas’ voter ID law, which a federal judge at one point found to be intentionally discriminatory against black and Latino voters. (Talking Points Memo)
9/ U.S. State Department tweets, then deletes congratulations to the Iranian people and Asghar Farhadi for his Oscar win. Farhadi directed “The Salesman,” which won an Oscar for best foreign-language film, criticized Trump’s travel ban as “inhumane.” (Reuters)
10/ Russia looks to exploit White House “turbulence” as it’s becoming increasingly convinced that Trump will not fundamentally change relations with Russia. The Kremlin is instead seeking to bolster its global influence by exploiting what it considers weakness in Washington. Russia has continued to test the United States on the military front, with fighter jets flying close to an American warship in the Black Sea this month and a Russian naval vessel steaming conspicuously in the Atlantic off the coast of Delaware. (New York Times)
11/ This is how Planned Parenthood is fighting to survive in the era of Trump. A leaked draft of a bill shows Congress is getting ready to defund the women’s health clinic and abortion provider. The organization’s president says that “no one really knows what will make a difference anymore, but that’s why we have to do everything we can.” (BuzzFeed News)
12/ Rep. Darrell Issa backtracked on his call for a special prosecutor to look into Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential election. “I think it’s very important to realize there’s been no allegation by any part of this administration or by anyone who’s been to the hearings about any crimes,” Issa said. “So one of the challenges we have is a special prosecutor exists when you have an individual under suspicion. Currently we don’t have that.” Wat? (CBS News)
13/ Sen. Tom Udall floated a plan to confirm both Gorsuch and Garland to the Supreme Court together. The plan would put both Obama and Trump’s picks on SCOTUS at the same time. His proposal is for Trump to meet privately with Supreme Court justices who are interested in retirement. If one of those justices decided they would be willing to retire, and if Trump promises to nominate Garland, President Barack Obama’s unconfirmed former SCOTUS pick, in their place, then the retiring justice would submit a letter of resignation contingent on that promise. Then, both Garland and Gorsuch would be voted on simultaneously. (CNN)
14/ House Democrats forced the GOP to take recorded vote on Trump tax returns. The effort failed on a party line vote, 229-185, with two Republicans voting “present.” The move was the latest in a series of Democratic efforts to push Congress to request Trump’s tax returns, and Democrats demanded a roll call vote to force Republicans to go on the record. (The Hill)
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