What to Know in Washington: Shift of Funds to Wall Hits States

The list of military projects deferred to pay for a $3.6 billion tranche of President Donald Trump’s border wall drew bipartisan complaints yesterday — potentially increasing pressure on Congress to resolve the long-running conflict over Trump’s signature initiative or to find the money elsewhere.

Trump already successfully faced down a bipartisan resolution to end the emergency declaration he issued after Congress refused to appropriate funds for a border wall he demanded in a lengthy government shutdown earlier this year. Congress was unable to override his veto, even though more than two dozen Republicans in the House and Senate joined Democrats to oppose the president’s attempt to unilaterally shift taxpayer money.

The Department of Defense’s list of projects put aside includes nearly $1.1 billion in deferred spending on facilities in 23 states, with the rest coming from projects in U.S. territories and overseas.

The cuts hit states represented by members of both parties, including $62.6 million for a middle school at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and $160 million for engineering and parking projects at the United States Military Academy in New York, home to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Alaska, represented by Republicans, and Virginia, represented mostly by Democrats, are also among the biggest losers on the hit list, as are Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, with the trio of territories targeted for $687 million in deferred projects.

A handful of Republican senators seeking re-election next year are facing cuts in their states, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who penned a Washington Post op-ed to oppose Trump’s emergency declaration, only to later flip and vote with Trump in March. Among the deferrals in his state are projects at Camp Lejeune, one of the state’s major employers. Projects in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and South Carolina are also on the list. Read more from Steven T. Dennis.

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump inspects a border wall prototype.

Coming Up in Congress

Pelosi Drug-Pricing Plan Draws Skepticism: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to unveil House Democrats’ drug-pricing proposal officially in coming weeks but its scope and timing may leave it struggling to gain support.

Pelosi’s plan, a targeted Medicare negotiation bill taking aim at drugs that have been on the market without competition, is slated to go through two key health committees in the House after it’s introduced. It’s also expected to be designated H.R. 3, a symbolic gesture noting it as part of the major bills making up Democrats’ domestic policy agenda.

However, progressives in the House are already grumbling that the proposal doesn’t go far enough to rein in drug prices or punish drugmakers who won’t give the federal government a discount on their products. Some Democratic activists are also worried Pelosi has waited too long to roll out her bill and kept details of it hidden from her caucus. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

DHS Subpoenaed Over Alleged Trump Pardon Offers: The House Judiciary Committee said it served a subpoena against the Homeland Security Department for documents relating to Trump’s “multiple alleged attempts to offer pardons to officials carrying out his illegal and cruel immigration policies.” The subpoena requires the production of documents connected to March 21, 2019, and April 5, 2019 meetings between Trump and DHS officials in which pardons were reportedly discussed, the panel said in a statement. Read more from Ana Monteiro.

Congressional Standoff Could Delay Election Oversight: The Federal Election Commission’s paralysis on key campaign-finance matters could be extended indefinitely as leaders in Congress skirmish over how to appoint new commissioners.

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), want to install six new commissioners. The move would fill vacancies and replace current commissioners, including Ellen Weintraub, the FEC’s Democratic chairwoman, who has frequently criticized Trump. A clean slate of members will go a long way toward fixing some of the perceived dysfunction at the commission, said a Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be named. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

Mining Union Calls for Congressional Help: Politicians’ lack of engagement with miners is leading to a drought of congressional leadership on everything from global warming to middle class futures, the president of the United Mine Workers of America said at a National Press Club event yesterday. Politicians love to talk about mine workers in America. But they often fail to talk with them, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said. The comments come as the UMWA fights to steer the conversation on a variety of Democratic legislative activity including the Green New Deal and pension reform. Read more from Andrew Wallender.

Elections & Politics

BGOV Podcast—N.C. Election Draws National Attention: A special election in North Carolina is being watched as a potential bellwether for the 2020 campaign. The state’s 9th Congressional District will vote on Tuesday to fill a vacant seat in the House after the 2018 results were nullified following evidence of absentee ballot fraud.

On this episode of “Suspending the Rules” from Bloomberg Government, BGOV campaigns and elections reporter Greg Giroux and Andrew Ballard, a staff correspondent based in Raleigh, break down the race between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop. Listen and subscribe to Suspending the Rules from your mobile device: Via Apple Podcasts | Via Overcast | Via Stitcher | Via Spotify

  • Trump is invested in the outcome of next week’s election. The president’s campaign announced today that it had given Bishop a maximum donation of $2,000. Trump’s re-election effort said last week that the president would hold a rally to help Bishop in Fayetteville, N.C., one day before the Sept. 10 vote. A poll last week showed McCready has a narrow edge over Bishop. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Sensenbrenner Won’t Seek Re-Election: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said he won’t run for re-election next year and will retire at end of his term in 2021, according to WISN radio host Dan O’Donnell. “Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has announced on the Mark Belling Show on @NewsTalk1130 that he is retiring at the end of his term in January of 2021,” O’Donnell tweeted. Sensenbrenner was first elected in 1978 and is the second- most senior House member in the 116th Congress. Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District is heavily Republican. Trump won it 56%-36% in 2016, Kim Chipman and Greg Giroux report.

Susan Davis Won’t Seek Re-Election: Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) said she won’t seek another term in the House. “I do not know what I will do next but I know there are many ways to serve our community,” Davis said in a letter to constituents. Davis was first elected in 2000. Her 53rd Congressional District includes parts of San Diego and Chula Vista, which voted 65% to 30% for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, Greg Giroux and Ben Livesey reports.

Democrats Tout Similarly Bold Climate Plans: Even as they touted ambitious proposals to reduce carbon emissions to a national audience, Democratic candidates for president tried to balance the boldness of their plans with the need for simplifying a complex scientific problem to make it palatable to voters. The result: A conversation that was as often about cheeseburgers, light bulbs and plastic straws as it was about the kind of systemic change they acknowledge is needed to fight climate change.

While the 10 candidates tried to appeal to a growing and vocal constituency within the Democratic Party, they were also conscious of the inevitable Republican attacks on their multi-trillion-dollar versions of the Green New Deal. At a marathon town hall in New York that was televised by CNN last night, they lined up to outline how they would slow climate change as president of the U.S. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Warren Wealth Tax Defended by French Academics: The French economists behind Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposed wealth tax lay out the rationale for and defense of the plan in a paper to be presented at the Brookings Institution on Friday. University of California, Berkeley professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue that such a tax would be a “powerful tool’’ to tackle inequality in a country where the top 0.1% of households own about $12 trillion in assets. Both men have conducted research with Thomas Piketty, whose best-selling book put a spotlight on income and wealth dispa rities. Read more from Rich Miller.

Push to Get Medicaid Expansion on Missouri Ballot: Missouri is the third state this year to consider expanding Medicaid at the ballot box in 2020 after a coalition of groups launched a campaign to collect signatures yesterday. The Healthcare for Missouri campaign, backed by state hospitals and primary care associations, has until May to collect 172,000 valid signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the November 2020 ballot.

Ballot initiatives are becoming a popular option to expand Medicaid eligibility in Republican states where legislatures are resistant to Obamacare. Advocates in Oklahoma and Florida each launched similar campaigns this year. Read more from Sam McQuillan.

Movers & Shakeups

FEC’s Petersen Moves to K Street: Two prominent campaign finance lawyers have landed at a top GOP firm that boasts high-profile Republican clients and groups, Megan R. Wilson reports. Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky, which handles political compliance issues, has brought on Matthew Petersen. Petersen stepped down last month from the Federal Election Commission, where he had served since 2008, including as its chairman. His departure leaves the commission with only three members, one short of the four commissioners needed to take enforcement action.

Chris Winkelman, who most recently served as the general counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee, has rejoined the firm after three election cycles with the committee. Jessica Furst Johnson, who also works as the top lawyer for the Republican Governors Association, has been promoted to partner.

Leif Olson to Rejoin Labor Department: Appellate lawyer Leif Olson will return to the Labor Department just days after he resigned. Olson resigned from the agency Aug. 30, less than four hours after Bloomberg Law asked the department for comment on a Facebook conversation that referenced anti-Semitic tropes. “On Friday, August 30, 2019, Senior Policy Advisor of the Wage and Hour Division, Leif Olson offered his resignation and the Department accepted,” the DOL said in a statement yesterday. “Following a thorough reexamination of the available information and upon reflection, the Department has concluded that Mr. Olson has satisfactorily explained the tone of the content of his sarcastic social media posts and will return to his position in the Wage and Hour Division.” Read more from Terence Hyland.

Departed Interior Official Led Alaska Mining Review: A former Interior Department official who abruptly resigned last month personally expedited environmental review for a 211-mile private road project across federal land that would open up a vast new copper, gold and precious metals mining district near a national park in northern Alaska, according to a company seeking to mine there.

Joseph Balash, an Alaskan who until Aug. 30 served as assistant Interior secretary for land and minerals, was the mining industry’s primary Interior contact who was responsible for expediting the Bureau of Land Management’s approval process for the road, said Patrick Donnelly, vice president of Vancouver, B.C.,-based Trilogy Metals. Read more from Bobby Magill.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

China, U.S. to Resume Trade Talks in October: China announced that its trade negotiators will travel to Washington early next month for talks with U.S. counterparts, boosting the chances for a resolution to the tariff war after weeks of uncertainty and escalation. Vice Premier Liu He agreed to the visit in a phone call on Thursday morning Beijing time with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to a statement from China’s commerce ministry. Lower-level officials will have “serious” discussions this month to prepare for the talks, which had originally been expected to take place in September. Read more.

U.S., Japan Rush to Finish Trade Deal: The U.S. and Japan are still thrashing out details of a trade deal that Trump wants to sign this month, including the crucial issue of whether he’ll refrain from imposing higher tariffs on imported cars, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump, at the Group of Seven meeting in France last month, celebrated what he called a “major deal” that he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would sign on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, starting later this month in New York. But people familiar with the talks said the leaders only agreed on the broad strokes of a trade deal. Read more from Jenny Leonard.

Pence to Meet With Johnson: Vice President Mike Pence will meet today with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at his office in London, according to Pence’s daily schedule distributed by the White House. Johnson’s premiership was thrown into crisis yesterday after Parliament dealt a triple blow to his radical plan for breaking away from the EU whatever the cost.

Pence met yesterday with Iceland Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, whom he urged to “look carefully at threats posed by untrusted vendors seeking access to develop critical infrastructure such as the 5G network,” according to a White House readout of the conversation. Pence expressed support for Iceland’s commitment to “rigorous” screening of foreign investment, Kim Chipman reports. The two leaders agreed that expanding bilateral economic ties was a high priority, and vowed to find ways to boost trade and investment in order to create jobs in both countries, the White House said.

Meanwhile, Trump said he never spoke with Pence about staying at his Ireland golf resort during an official trip this week, contradicting the vice president’s chief of staff. “I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place, it’s Doonbeg, I own it, it’s in Ireland, it’s beautiful, it’s wonderful, and he had—his family lives there, which is really amazing,” Trump told reporters yesterday. Pence stayed at Trump’s Doonbeg, Ireland resort on Monday and Tuesday, as he met with the country’s officials in Dublin, about 125 miles away. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Justin Sink.

Around the Administration

Trump to Meet With GM’s Mary Barra: Trump will meet today with Mary Barra, the chief executive officer of General Motors — days after he castigated the company for shrinking its U.S. workforce. The White House meeting, scheduled for the afternoon, will take place as four other auto industry giants have defied his administration by reaching a compromise with California to bolster fuel efficiency. A person familiar with the matter said that Barra hoped to use the get-together, which was reported earlier by Reuters, to talk about jobs, trade and fuel economy rules. The person requested anonymity to discuss the meeting, which was announced by the White House last night. Read more from John Harney and Josh Wingrove.

Rule Seen Costing 1.9 Million Households Food-Aid Benefits: More than 10% of households in 20 states that are on food assistance would lose eligibility under a recent proposal by the Agriculture Department, a policy research group projected in an analysis requested by the USDA. The department announced in July a proposed rule to eliminate “broad-based categorical eligibility,” a voluntary standard that states can use to automatically qualify recipients of non-cash welfare assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the rule, more than 3 million people are slated to lose eligibility.

The research by Mathematica, released today, found 18% of SNAP households in Wisconsin—a state Trump won by less than 1 percentage point in the 2016 presidential election—would lose benefits under the rule. For North Dakota, the projected loss would be 17%, and 16% in Delaware, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Read more from Teaganne Finn.

What Else to Know

Dorian Strengthens, Targets Georgia: Hurricane Dorian, working its way up the U.S. East Coast, is nearing Georgia and the Carolinas after sweeping past Florida with nowhere near the force it brought to bear killing at least 20 people in the Bahamas. Dorian brought life-threatening storm surges as it reached about 105 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C., the National Hurricane Center said in an 2 a.m. New York time advisory. The storm’s sustained winds strengthened to 115 miles per hour, regaining Category 3 status. Read more from Brian K. Sullivan.

Gorsuch Says It’s Just Fine to Be Forgotten: If history doesn’t remember Justice Neil Gorsuch, that’d be just fine by him. “We’ll all be forgotten soon enough,” the justice quotes his former boss and Supreme Court predecessor Justice Byron “Whizzer” White in his upcoming memoir, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.” And that’s “exactly as it should be,” Gorsuch says in an exclusive excerpt obtained by Bloomberg Law. Read more from Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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