TOWOIT #98

April 24, 2017… Day #95

This last week before day 100 is dizzy. Day 100 is also potential government shutdown day to boot. It’s like this circus doesn’t realize I’m trying to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and get better at sleep hygiene.

But first, this snippet:

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Woman efficiently handles male commenters

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Things reporters asked Sean Spicer today:

OK wait, first things they asked Steve Mnuchin when he popped in to talk about sanctions against Syria.

  • Mr. Secretary, is this the only round of sanctions we can expect against Syria in the wake of that chemical weapons attacks or are you considering more? And are you considering the possibility of sanctions against Russia for not going far enough to try to dissuade Assad?
  • Secretary, on the budget, is the border wall a deal breaker for the President, even to the point of a government shutdown?
  • Secretary, can you tell us what these sanctions actually do?What is different today than was different yesterday before OFAC moved?
  • As you know, the administration is trying to grapple with the Paris Climate Agreement and come to a decision on that. Where do you stand on it? Do you support staying in Paris or coming out?
  • The President said last week there would be a tax reform proposal Wednesday.
  • I imagine that surprised you a little bit. What can we expect?
  • Secretary, thank you very much. Along the lines of tax reform, I know the specifics of the broad details will be delivered on Wednesday, but without getting into the specifics, what does the middle class gain if there is a simplification but also a loss of deductions, whatever they might be. If we lose the deductions, how does that help the middle class?
  • Thank you, sir. I guess the question I have is to sort of bounce off of what John was asking about this announcement on Wednesday. It doesn’t sound like we’re going to get the finer details of what this tax reform package will entail. Is it a good idea to start talking about tax reform — something that you say can’t be accomplished by August — when you don’t have all the details?
  • Can I just follow up on what Major was asking you? For those of us who are not completely clear about the 271 employees, are you suggesting, by looking at these sanctions, that there are U.S. companies, or they have holdings in the U.S., or they would be traveling or doing some sort of business that we’re actually freezing or barring?
  • Mr. Secretary, would you say that simplification of the tax code or cuts would be the first priority? You’ve mentioned both the Coast Guard —
  •  — and closing the gap with growth. But which is the first thing that we’re going to hear about on Wednesday?
  • Can you say if the tax plan will be revenue-neutral?

Sean Spicer’s turn now:

  • Talking about the budget, how committed is — this was asked earlier, but can you talk about how committed the President is to having the border wall funded this week or having some funding in that spending bill? And if it is not in there, will he sign it?
  • Yes, Sean, just doubling up on that question there about the CR debate and the funding, does he specifically expect there to be funding for the border wall, or would border security measures be enough to satisfy the President? And how do you differentiate between the two?  For example, what could be funded in the CR that you could say is part of the wall even if it’s not explicitly funding for the wall?
  • Sean, just to follow up — are we backing off from the wall? Are you saying it is on the table?
  • Two questions for you. On the Syrian economic sanctions, how would the administration determine how effective they are?
  • And my second one on North Korea. The fact that a third U.S. citizen has been detained by the regime in Pyongyang, does this make it more difficult for the President to negotiate through China to try to denuclearize North Korea?
  • Is the Trump administration calling for the release of this U.S. citizen currently being detained?
  •  Thanks, Sean. As you know there’s quite a bit of concern among Republicans on Capitol Hill about the federal deficit. When you roll out the tax plan on Wednesday, are you also going to include pay-fors in there, that is those things that raise revenue as well as those things that are tax cuts, so that conservatives can be confident that this won’t blow a hole in the deficit?
  • Sean, can you tell us if the President is aware of the American pastor jailed in Turkey? And did he raise that with President Erdogan in the call he made to congratulate him?
  • Sean, can you explain why President Trump didn’t use the word “genocide” to refer to the killing of 25 million Armenians in his statement today?
  •  have two questions on two different topics. First, the border wall, the logistics of that. Secretary Kelly said he still expects construction to start this summer. There are still a few ranchers in Texas and Arizona who welcome the security but are skeptical of giving up family-owned land that’s been in their families for generations. So what is the White House message to them directly? And what — can you guarantee that they will be compensated?
  • And on the next question on a different topic — the FBI and Justice Department last week arrested two doctors in Michigan for allegedly performing genital mutilation on little girls, as young as six years old. It’s the first case in the United States. What is the White House reaction to that case?
  • Is 100 days, as the President said on Twitter, a ridiculous benchmark, or an important one?
  • What is the context?
  •  In the campaign Mr. Trump introduced a contract with the American voter over 100 days —
  • If in that 100 days there is no funding — explicit funding — for the wall, and there’s no healthcare reform or repeal of Obamacare — would the President consider that, and would he invite his supporters to consider that a conspicuous failure, based on the promises he made during the campaign?
  • And without the President necessarily describing it as a failure or not, would he say that he’s learned something about the process and how long things take that he perhaps didn’t appreciate as a candidate? Maybe he over-promised on the speed with which he’d achieve these things?
  •  I’m talking about some conspicuous campaign promises that, at rally after rally, he made and said, don’t worry it’s going to happen.  
  • All I’m asking is, does he have a different awareness of how difficult those things are than he did as a candidate?
  • Thanks, Sean. Two questions on two different topics. First, to follow up on Jordan, and the other question is on the budget. Is the President willing to sign a continuing resolution that is not deficit-neutral or deficit-reducing? For instance —
  • Yeah. Continuing resolutions that would increase the deficit.
  • You’re not ruling that out one way or —
  • And following up on Jordan’s question, the President talked a lot about — he has not been shy about criticizing his predecessors for some of their missteps from both parties, and also hasn’t — has made a point of often balking (inaudible).  So why not take this moment to label the killing of a million-and-a-half Armenians a genocide?
  • Would you agree with the assessment that some within the administration have that a vote on healthcare this week is very, very unlikely?
  • But would you think that this week is unlikely?
  • But there was a push to try to get something on the legislative scoreboard by the 100th day. Does it look like that now will not happen?
  • The President has been very clear that Judge Gorsuch, now Justice Gorsuch, is a big part of his first 100 days’ accomplishments. And the White House, in the rollout about the 100 days, said there would be a dinner with the President and all the justices of the Supreme Court. Now that is off the list. Is the dinner not happening, or is not publicly being talked about because it’s wrapped up in the politics of the White House?
  • Was it unfortunate to sort of sweep the High Court into the politics of 100 days?
  • Can you explain the President’s change of thought on DACA?
  •  But I understand that he said that the criminals would leave first, but last August he said that DACA defied federal law and was illegal. So does he still think it’s illegal?
  • But does he still think it’s illegal?
  • Border crossing is a big thing, but amnesty is a big part. Does he —
  • Sean, how confident are you that there will not be a shutdown? Can you, from that podium, guarantee that there will not be a government shutdown?
  • How close can you get to confidence —
  •  So he won’t insist that his priorities get funded on the border, the wall, or increase security?
  • Is he willing to shut down the government to accomplish that?
  • And on the 100 days, if I could just follow up. The contract with the American voter that the President signed included 10 pieces of legislation. Right now he’s over 10, and only one of those has been introduced.
  • But why have nine of them not even been introduced yet?
  • But this isn’t nitpicking. These are 10 pieces of legislation —
  •  — he promised to take action on in his 100 days.
  • And just to be clear, you’re not describing the wall and healthcare as nitpicking, are you?
  • Sean, on the wall, why is there even a discussion about shutting down the government over paying for the wall? Isn’t Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?
  • But that is a promise that the President made during the campaign time and again —
  • — that Mexico would pay for the wall. And now we’re having a discussion that the government might shut down over the wall and who’s going to pay for it.
  • And just a real quick follow-up.  If border crossings are down — and that’s a talking point that the White House uses time and again — is the wall even necessary?
  • How can the border crossings be down when the President is saying, well, we’re going to have all these drugs flowing in if we don’t have a wall?
  • So Mexico is going to pay for it?
  • Sean, this might relate to Jim’s question, too, but on Wednesday — I have two questions. On Wednesday, when we see the outline that Secretary Mnuchin was just describing, will the President help aim Congress toward his decision about whether the border adjustment tax is the right idea, and also, related to that, whether the pay-fors for the wall that might be of interest to lawmakers will become evident as part of the outline of what he’d like to do in terms of taxes?
  • Can you say whether we will have a generally better idea? Will we have a generally better idea of where his thinking is?
  • Wait, wait, I have one follow-up.  When you were just describing, and Secretary Mnuchin was describing, achieving economic growth of 3 percent or higher, which is slightly lower than what the President talked about in the campaign, which was a very ambitious goal of 1 percent — I’m just trying to figure out, what is the timeline for that? Is the President thinking he would like to achieve 3 percent or higher in his first term because of the headwinds that obviously the United States is facing abroad? I mean, that’s a very ambitious goal still — 3 percent.
  • Thanks so much, Sean. As you know, the first go-around at replacing Obamacare was not successful. Since then, are you any closer to getting 218 votes in the House to pass or replace the Affordable Care Act?
  • Got a number?
  • Yeah, elaborate a little more than “yes”?
  • And a separate one, obviously a different topic, and that’s the election over the weekend in France. Any comment on the results that came out of France over the weekend? Would the President be satisfied with either alternative, Macron or Le Pen?
  • Two questions. One, on the budget, the spending plan, what is the President doing? I understand Mick Mulvaney and others are doing things. Is he calling members? I don’t see anything on his schedule for this week. Are members coming over?
  • Has he been calling members?
  • When he calls, is he talking about his priorities? I would like you to include —
  • Okay.  And then on the second issue, on the 100 days, someone mentioned the President tweeted that it was a ridiculous timetable or whatever. Why is the White House doing so much this week? You have indicated that all these activities this week, from hearing from different people, are because of the 100 days. Why do this 100-day push if it’s a ridiculous amount of time?
  • So you’re doing something for us?
  • And just to clarify, are we going to hear, prior to the rally on Saturday, are we going to hear directly from him? There was some talk of a press conference.
  • So there will be one, or maybe not?
  • The press conference —
  • Thanks, Sean. I just want to circle back on healthcare, because at the top of the President’s listed agenda items for the first 100 days was repealing and replacing Obamacare. So does the President want to, expect to see, a vote on healthcare this week?
  • So he’s concerned about potentially rushing it through.
  • I hear what you’re saying is he doesn’t want it to happen this week just to meet that.
  • Okay. Let me ask you about tax reform. I know you don’t want to get ahead of the announcement on Wednesday.
  • But there’s a sense that it is more realistic to pursue targeted tax cuts as opposed to broad tax reform. Will we, on Wednesday, see a proposal for targeted tax cuts?
  • But does the President think that it’s realistic to do broad tax reform without having to repeal or replace Obamacare?
  • Is it possible, mathematically?
  • Is there a plan for infrastructure reform in the works?  Will we get that before —
  • It’s one of the things that could potentially have bipartisan support. Is there urgency to get infrastructure reform passed?

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