Headlines: December 4, 2018
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The White House and lawmakers are wrangling over a deal for a stopgap measure to fund the government for two weeks while being consumed by the funeral services for the late President George H. W. Bush. In light of the funeral Congress agreed on Monday to postpone discussions until December 21st – which could mean a fight over spending right before Christmas. The original deadline was December 7th. There will be no votes this week. The political battle between President Donald Trump and Congress is funding for his border wall. The President wants $5 billion while Congress has agreed to $1.6 billion.
On Monday Trump inexplicably tweeted a complaint about the bloated military budget. He wrote, “I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” First, the amount he cited is not the amount spent on weapons this year. It is the entire Defense Department budget. Second, it has been Trump who led the push for spending vast amounts of tax dollars on the US military, and boasting of his support for a huge budget. For example in March, he tweeted, “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich.”
Incoming House Democrats have signed on to a letter to their party’s leadership urging them to place their focus on passing bills rather than investigating the President in the new year. About three quarters, or 46 newly elected Democrats signed the letter, asking that leaders like Nancy Pelosi “prioritize,” bills on issues like healthcare, immigration reform, gun control, climate change and criminal justice. According to Associated Press, “The letter calls on leaders to hold monthly meetings with freshmen and to appoint them to highly sought committees like Appropriations and Ways and Means. And it requests changes in some congressional procedures, such as prioritizing bills that have at least 290 co-sponsors — which means significant bipartisan support.”
Senator Bernie Sanders in a town hall meeting on Monday hosted newly elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other speakers. Carried live on C-SPAN, the town hall addressed the issue of climate change in particular. Ocasio-Cortez answered Sen. Sanders’ question of the fear-mongering argument against transitioning to a green economy. Also on Monday Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the health insurance options she gets to choose from as a freshman lawmaker. “As a waitress, I had to pay more than TWICE what I’d pay as a member of Congress. It’s frustrating that Congressmembers would deny other people affordability that they themselves enjoy. Time for #MedicareForAll,” she posted.
The media outlet Quartz reported on Monday that Trump’s travel costs during the campaign season for the midterm races ran into the tens of millions of dollars – costs that tax payers may be on the hook for. According to the outlet, “Trump flew to more than 40 political rallies in the months leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, to coax his loyal fans to come out to the polls for Republican candidates. A Quartz analysis of Trump’s travel schedule and the latest Department of Defense operating figures for Air Force One aircraft suggests the tab for the air travel alone was $17 million.” Additionally, “US taxpayers also paid unknown amounts for Secret Service and support staff that accompanied Trump to the rallies.” Presidents that use Air Force One for political rallying are supposed to have their election campaigns or political parties reimburse taxpayers for the enormous costs of operating the aircraft. But the last time the Trump campaign filed documents to reimburse the US Treasury was in April.
A new report by the group Good Jobs First, has concluded that US public schools lost $1.8 billion in 28 states last year directly as a result of corporate tax subsidies. The report’s authors took advantage of a new rule requiring the disclosure of how many corporate tax subsidies are received. In particular the report found that, “Three of the five most-affected school districts are in Louisiana parishes. Together, they were shortchanged more than $158 million—more than $2,500 for each enrolled student.” Given the recent teacher strikes and walkouts over poor pay across the nation, the report is particularly relevant.
At the state level, Republicans are worried about new Democratic regimes exercising their power. In Michigan and Wisconsin outgoing GOP state lawmakers are pushing through bills to undermine the power of incoming Democrats. According to Reuters, “The Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature began an unusual lame-duck session on Monday to consider bills that would undercut the power of Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, Democrats whose victories broke six years of Republican control of the state’s executive and legislative branches.” Thousands of activists gathered at the state capitol on Monday night in Wisconsin to denounce the moves.
Reuters also reported that, “Michigan Republicans have also introduced legislation to strip some powers from the offices of the state attorney general and secretary of state, which were both captured by Democrats, along with the governorship in the Nov. 6 elections.”
Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco, California, who have been on strike for months, have finally voted on a new contract, ending the largest and longest such strike in decades in the city. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “The strike, which began Oct. 4, spanned seven San Francisco hotels operated by Marriott. Almost 2,500 workers marched outside the hotels, demanding higher pay, lighter workloads and preservation of existing health benefits.” About 99.6% of the union members voted to approve the new contract.