Conservative Lawmakers’ Blueprint Would Trim Nondefense Spending, Balance Budget in 8 Years

House conservatives propose to cut nondefense spending and balance the federal budget within eight years in a blueprint released Wednesday.

The document produced by the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of GOP lawmakers in the House, includes a long list of policy goals such as repealing Obamacare, restoring power to states, making tax cuts “permanent,” reforming welfare programs, and “saving” Social Security and Medicare.

The 169-page blueprint, called “A Framework for Unified Conservatism,” proposes to cut government spending by more than $12.4 trillion over the next 10 years, compared with current law.

“I am very hopeful, when it comes to the legitimacy of this, if we are ever going to talk about the expectation of the federal government to live within its means, here’s the framework, this is the blueprint,” Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the 150-member caucus, said Tuesday during a press briefing.

“I don’t believe for one second that everything can be immediately instituted,” Walker told reporters, but “our job … is to put together some kind of blueprint, the framework that I have discussed, where we show, ‘Here is the path.’”

The Republican Study Committee traditionally seeks to unify GOP lawmakers to promote a conservative agenda, and this proposal boasts that it “refocuses federal spending on core constitutional responsibilities like national security.”

Under the budget framework, total defense spending would rise from the current $700 billion in fiscal 2018 to $716 billion in fiscal 2019.

The framework would reduce nondefense discretionary spending from the current $579 billion to $355 billion in fiscal 2019.

It also would reverse the decision by Congress to break caps on spending, which President Donald Trump approved Feb. 9 and again last month in signing the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2018.

The RSC plan also calls for:

  • Cutting or eliminating programs that fall outside Congress’ constitutional authority and those that are “duplicative, unnecessary, wasteful, or ineffective,” and limiting funding for “unauthorized programs.”
  • Increasing defense spending from $716 billion in fiscal 2019 to $800 billion in fiscal 2028, with an emphasis on military readiness, a “robust naval fleet,” and responsiveness to threats in multiple theaters
  • Banning budget earmarks for lawmakers’ pet projects, ending permanent authorizations, and increasing transparency in the budget process.
  • Making permanent full and immediate expensing, which allowsbusinesses to immediately deduct expenses from taxable income.
  • Reforming and ensuring solvency for Social Security, including more accurately calculating cost-of-living adjustments and phasing in a higher eligibility age of 70 to avoid tapping out the trust fund by 2035.
  • Improving Medicare through more choices, lower costs, and a simpler model, including implementing premium support in 2023, retaining the traditional fee-for-service approach as an option, and phasing in the higher eligibility age of 70.

The blueprint also calls for saving taxpayers’ money by converting some mandatory government programs to discretionary programs. With “discretionary” programs, Congress must set funding levels each year, while the funding of mandatory programs such as Social Security and other entitlements is determined by the number of those enrolled.

The RSC plan says it considered input from congressional committees, individual lawmakers and their staff, conservative think tanks, and the executive branch to put forward over 300 specific policy reforms and spending cuts.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., chairman of the group’s budget and spending task force, told reporters Tuesday that this is the right way forward:

We block-grant many programs back to the states, giving them the freedom to innovate according to their own best judgment and needs; we fully fund the president’s defense requests while eliminating several wasteful programs and moving them to core defense priorities; [and] we save Medicare from impending insolvency in 2029 by moving to a premium support plan, very similar to the existing Medicare Advantage program.

McClintock is a senior member of the House Budget Committee as well as the Natural Resources Committee.

Besides calling for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, the RSC blueprint proposes to make the health care market more affordable and competitive by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, and by budgeting block grants for Medicaid at pre-Obamacare levels and limiting eligibility to U.S. citizens.

The budget blueprint says it “aims to go well beyond the least common denominator of politics to reflect the American people’s desire to see a more responsible and accountable government.”

It says it would do so in part by building on recent reforms such as making permanent the tax relief for individuals and other elements of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that took effect Jan. 1 after Trump signed the package that passed Congress without a single Democrat vote.

And it calls for:

  • Reforming the regulatory process and expanding congressional oversight of government programs.
  • Increasing opportunity and self-sufficiency by rewarding work and “earned success” and requiring work, job searches or training, or volunteering for able-bodied adults who want to qualify for welfare programs.
  • Reaffirming conservative principles such as the right to bear arms, the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and border security.

The RSC framework follows the Feb. 12 release of Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, which begins Oct. 1.

That document includes the president’s recommendations to Congress, but Stan Collender, a former staffer for the House and Senate budget committees, is among those arguing that a rational budget process no longer exists. In an op-ed Tuesday in Forbes, Collender writes:

The federal budget process is not broken: It’s dead. Under Trump administration and congressional Republican control, the budget rules that are supposed to guide what the president and Congress do about the budget each year have died an ignominious death because of a combination of abject abuse and atrocious neglect.

In the congressional tradition known as regular order, the House Appropriations Committee passes 12 spending bills covering different aspects of government from transportation and social services to foreign policy and defense. Then the full House does the same, and the Senate follows suit. Finally, the president signs the 12 appropriations bills into law.

Congress hasn’t followed this process for more than 20 years, however.

In the latest go-round, Congress passed the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2018. By that time, Congress will need to approve a budget for fiscal 2019, or at least short-term funding, to avert a government shutdown.

With such problems for Congress in mind, the Republican Study Committee proposes “reclaiming the … power of the purse by limiting spending and reforming the budget process.”

The next move on a budget for fiscal 2019 and beyond essentially is that of the House Republican leadership team under Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who recently announced he will not seek re-election in November and will retire in January.

All 435 seats in the House are up in the November elections; Republicans currently hold 236 seats and Democrats 193, with six vacancies.

Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at The Heritage Foundation, said that if the RSC’s budget plan were to clear Congress, Americans “would see a smaller federal government certainly, less regulation, basically less of the federal government getting into areas that businesses and state and local government should be into.”

Instead of passing 12 separate appropriations bills this year, Bogie said, Congress might choose to do smaller omnibus spending bills, or “mini-buses,” where spending legislation is packaged into three or four bills. Congress technically would pass all 12 bills by Sept. 30, but not individually.

If Congress tries to pass the same type of omnibus that Trump threatened to veto before he signed it March 23, though, Republicans could be in hot water with the president.

“If they do it the exact same way that they did it last time, he probably doesn’t sign it or at least that threat is out there; if they pass more bills or most of the bills and then put them into an omnibus, then I think he probably signs it,” Bogie said.

Congress has no excuse for failing to start work on the budget, McClintock said.

“I think it would be an inexcusable dereliction of duty for the House Budget Committee to fail to produce a budget, and I am disappointed and embarrassed that it has not even begun that work, now a full week after the deadline for the House to adopt a budget,” the California Republican said.

“That’s why the RSC budget is so important,” he said. “It is the only credible and comprehensive plan put forward in this session to turn us back toward fiscal solvency before it is too late.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

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Rachel del Guidice

Rachel del Guidice is a reporter for The Daily Signal. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Forge Leadership Network, and The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program. Send an email to Rachel. Twitter: @LRacheldG.

Dear Readers:

With the recent conservative victories related to tax cuts, the Supreme Court, and other major issues, it is easy to become complacent.

However, the liberal Left is not backing down. They are rallying supporters to advance their agenda, moving this nation further from the vision of our founding fathers.

If we are to continue to bring this nation back to our founding principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, we need to come together as a group of likeminded conservatives.

This is the mission of The Heritage Foundation. We want to continue to develop and present conservative solutions to the nation’s toughest problems. And we cannot do this alone.

We are looking for a select few conservatives to become a Heritage Foundation member. With your membership, you’ll qualify for all associated benefits and you’ll help keep our nation great for future generations.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee is by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom.

Why did Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) vote for the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Budget Bill?

Congressmen Vern Buchanan and Charlie Crist have something in common, they both voted for the $1.3 trillion omnibus budget bill. In the end the final vote on the bill was:

  • Eight Republicans (Bilirakis, Buchanan, Diaz-Balart, Dunn, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Ross, Rutherford) and ten Democrats (Castor, Crist, Demings, Deutch, Frankel, Hastings, Lawson, Murphy, Wasserman-Schultz, Wilson) from the Florida delegation voted YEA.
  • Eight Republicans (Curbelo, DeSantis, Gaetz, Mast, Posey, Ros-Lihtinen, Webster, Yoho) and one Democrat (Soto) from the Florida delegation voted NAY.
  • Both Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson voted YEA.

Here is a video breakdown of what is in the bill with commentary from Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham:

Rep. Buchanan on his Congressional website under Jobs & Economy states:

As a businessman for over 30 years, I know what it’s like to create jobs, balance a budget, and meet a payroll.

Buchanan also has this statement on his Congressional website under Immigration:

“No Amnesty.  Secure the Border.  Enforce the Rule of Law.  Respect the Constitution.”

This bill busts the budget. This bill does not secure the border, does not fund the border wall, caps the number of ICE agents that can be hired. It is filled with pork projects.

Why focus on Rep. Vern Buchanan?

Rep. Buchanan is the Republican co-chair of Florida’s House Congressional delegation. He is also on the House Committee on Ways and Means. The Committee on Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives.

When Vern Buchanan first ran for Congress in 2006 he vowed to reduce the federal budget deficits and called for a Constitutional balanced budget amendment. In a June 2015 press release Rep. Buchanan called balancing the budget “an urgent priority”. Buchanan stated:

[T]he United States can no longer afford to ignore its out-of-control spending problemWe’re going broke, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, unless we change what we’re doing. We need a standard and I think that standard is a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment– Florida balances the budget every year, we make the tough choices…

It’s immoral what we’re passing on to our kids and grandkids. I have a granddaughter and a grandson on the way and I feel horrible about what’s taking place up here. “

[Emphasis added]

Rep. Vern Buchanan on balancing the federal budget after he was elected:

So what happened to Rep. Buchanan?

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach said this about the omnibus bill:

“Today is a bad day for fiscal conservatives and for responsible governance alike. The 2,232-page omnibus bill and the 1,507 pages of ‘Explanatory Materials’ were presented to Members of Congress only sixteen hours before the vote was scheduled. It is unreasonable to ask Congress to vote to spend over 1.3 trillion taxpayer dollars without sufficient time to study how that money is spent. Being asked to vote blindly for legislation as large-scale and costly as this omnibus is an insult to Congress and to the American people, whose tax dollars deserve to be treated with respect.”

Congressman Vern Buchanan is now a Charlie Crist Republican. He is a typical politician. He says one thing to get elected and then does the exact opposite once elected. He is not a fiscal conservative. He voted without understanding the implications of the bill. Buchanan went against his campaign’s principled stand for fiscal responsibility.

Vern Buchanan, like most politicians, is in his own words is “immoral.” Sadly his immorality, along with his vote, is destroying this great nation. Good luck to his and our children and grand children.

RELATED ARTICLE: Omnibus Spending Bill Was a Giant Giveaway to the Swamp

Congressional Delegation from Florida

SENATE

Name Room Phone
Nelson, Bill 716 HSOB 202-224-5274
Rubio, Marco 284 RSOB 202-224-3041

 

HOUSE

District Name Room Phone
1 Gaetz. Matt 507 CHOB 202-225-4136
2 Dunn, Neal 423 CHOB 202-225-5235
3 Yoho, Ted 511 CHOB 202-225-5744
4 Rutherford, John 230 CHOB 202-225-2501
5 Lawson, Al 1337 LHOB 202-225-0123
6 DeSantis, Ron 1524 LHOB 202-225-2706
7 Murphy, Stephanie 1237 LHOB 202-225-4035
8 Posey, Bill 2150 RHOB 202-225-3671
9 Soto, Darren 1429 LHOB 202-225-9889
10 Demings, Val 238 CHOB 202-225-2176
11 Webster, Daniel 1210 LHOB 202-225-1002
12 Bilirakis, Gus M. 2112 RHOB 202-225-5755
13 Crist, Charlie 427 CHOB 202-225-5961
14 Castor, Kathy 2052 RHOB 202-225-3376
15 Ross, Dennis 436 CHOB 202-225-1252
16 Buchanan, Vern 2104 RHOB 202-225-5015
17 Rooney, Tom 2160 RHOB 202-225-5792
18 Mast, Brian 2182 RHOB 202-225-3026
19 Rooney, Francis 120 CHOB 202-225-2536
20 Hastings, Alcee L. 2353 RHOB 202-225-1313
21 Frankel, Lois 1037 LHOB 202-225-3001
22 Deutch, Ted 2447 RHOB 202-225-9890
23 Wasserman Schultz, Debbie 1114 LHOB 202-225-7931
24 Wilson, Frederica 2445 RHOB 202-225-4506
25 Diaz-Balart, Mario 440 CHOB 202-225-4211
26 Curbelo, Carlos 1404 LHOB 202-225-2778
27 Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana 2206 RHOB 202-225-3931

Budget Deal Is a Betrayal of Limited Government Conservatism

Last week, Congress passed a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government funded through March 23.

This is the fifth continuing resolution of the fiscal year—a sixth may be needed before March 23, since both parties have agreed to begin debate on an immigration bill this week.

But as bad as the decision to continue funding the government through unamended short-term autopilot bills is, the two-year budget cap deal that passed along with the continuing resolution is even worse.

With the continuing resolution, Congress agreed to fund specific government programs at specific levels only through March 23. The larger budget deal set overall spending levels for two years. The breakdown of spending on specific programs after March 23 will be decided in future funding decisions.

But no matter how Congress divvies up the budget in the months ahead, the budget deal guaranteed that the end result will blow the top off the nation’s already rising debt.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the spending increases in the budget deal will drive next year’s budget deficit to almost $1.2 trillion, a level not seen since the beginning of President Barack Obama’s failed stimulus program.

This is a complete betrayal of everything limited-government conservatives fought for during Obama’s presidency.

It also is a betrayal of the limited-government vision the Trump administration outlined in its fiscal year 2018 budget. That document called for a $1.4 trillion reduction in discretionary spending over the next 10 years. By contrast, this bill sets up a path to dramatically increase discretionary spending.

But that’s not all. The bill also threw in more than $17 billion in tax loopholes to special interests, including tax rebates for rum producers in Puerto Rico, accelerated depreciation for racehorse investors, special expensing provisions for Hollywood producers, and tax subsidies for electric vehicles.

It even suspended the federal government’s $20.5 trillion debt limit through March 1, 2019. Suspending the debt limit functionally raises the borrowing authority of the federal government by over $1 trillion—and it does so without any effort to reduce or reform federal spending.

If you hoped that this budget deal would create the possibility for welfare or spending reform, I have bad news for you. By setting spending levels for the next two years, the deal has made passage of a budget resolution this year extremely unlikely.

Without a budget resolution, there can be no reconciliation process. And without a reconciliation process, any serious effort to reform welfare or spending is dead.

It is unclear what the Senate will do legislatively between now and the November elections. What should be clear to limited-government conservatives is that they have been completely abandoned by the Republican Congress.

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Portrait of Sen. Mike Lee

Mike Lee is a Republican senator from Utah. Twitter: .

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Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by MarianVejcik/Getty Images.

The Gun Industry’s Surprising Take on the Trump Administration

After eight years of President Barack Obama, you’d think that firearms owners—and the entire firearms industry—would be dancing with joy at the presidency of Donald Trump.

Certainly, it was great to hear the president speak up for the Second Amendment in his State of the Union address. But as I learned at this year’s SHOT—Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades—Show, which wrapped up last week in Las Vegas, it’s more complicated than that.

The SHOT Show, organized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, is the best place to take the temperature of the world of American firearms. With 12 miles of displays and a seemingly endless crush of attendees, it’s a well-organized melee of manufacturers, importers, exporters, advocates, retailers—and, of course, firearms enthusiasts.

But this year, the enthusiasm of the enthusiasts was notably muted.

There’s little doubt that the majority of SHOT Show attendees prefer Trump, personally and professionally. Obama made it clear that he didn’t like the firearms business, or firearms owners, and it’s never pleasant to know that the man in the White House hates your passion and your livelihood.

But in practice, Obama was a gift to the firearms industry, as fear of what he would do drove gun sales to previously unimaginable heights and put millions of guns in American homes.

So the relief the industry felt at his departure—and Hillary Clinton’s defeat—was tempered by the reality that it would likely hurt sales, which in turn was coupled with the hope that Trump would back reforms that the firearms industry has been clamoring for.

As of today, the sales pain is a reality—but the industry’s hopes for reform have not been fulfilled. Indeed, in some respects, things are worse now than they were in 2016.

Gun Sales

Like almost everyone else, the firearms industry was anticipating a Clinton win, in anticipation of which a lot of the industry filled its order pipeline. Now, with lots of orders placed and with sales on the wane, the industry is shaking out.

This is an old pattern in the firearms industry, which appears to be unable to kick its addiction to the sales seesaw. Back in 1994, for instance, a bump in sales—caused by President Bill Clinton’s “assault weapon ban”—was followed by a collapse over the following years.

Today, collapse is much too strong a word, but decline certainly is not.

In 2016, according to adjusted figures from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were 15.7 million background checks on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which federally licensed firearms dealers use to determine if a prospective buyer is allowed to purchase a firearm.

By comparison, in 2017 there were only 13.96 million checks. Imports, which normally make up about a third of the market, are down almost 30 percent, year on year.

And according to a 2017 National Shooting Sports Foundation study conducted with Responsive Management, the surge of participation in shooting activities before 2014 fell back down in 2016, while hunting has continued its long-term retreat. In 1981, there were 17.5 million active hunters in the U.S., while in 2016, despite a larger population, there were only 11.5 million.

Increasingly, shooting is done on a range, by an urban, suburban, and more female constituency. Still, shooting participation overall remains higher than it was a decade ago—and those millions of new Obama gun owners are a constituency that gives the industry a higher baseline, if they can be mobilized as regular shooters and voters.

The State of Reforms

On the reforms side, the pattern is even less happy.

Like every highly regulated industry, the firearms industry has a long wish list. But none of the five items that top the list are visibly much further along now than they were a year ago.

Export control reform, of which the National Shooting Sports Foundation has been a stalwart proponent, has still not brought commercial firearms and ammunition from the purview of the State Department over to the control of the Commerce Department. And the U.S. signature is still on the Arms Trade Treaty, which remains as unworkable as it is unwise.

Legislatively, the picture is even less appealing. The Hearing Protection Act is stuck in the House. The bill would eliminate the transfer tax on firearms suppressors (which some inaccurately call “silencers”) and—in effect—remove the devices from the purview of the National Firearms Act, which is mostly for weapons such as machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. Only the U.S. places suppressors in the same class with machine guns. In most of Europe, suppressors are an off-the-shelf purchase.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, meanwhile, is stuck in the Senate. The bill would make a concealed carry license in one state effective in all the states that allow it.

Finally, there’s the Fix NICS Act, the fruit of a National Shooting Sports Foundation campaign dating back to 2013, which would make the National Instant Criminal Background Check System more reliable by including more mental health records—and which has still not received the bipartisan push over the goal line that it deserves.

On the subject of the background check system, I’m always astonished by what I learn about firearms regulation at the SHOT Show. Today, as a result of the terrible Vegas shooting, banning “bump stocks”—which give a semi-automatic weapon the firing speed of a fully-automatic one—is the latest anti-gun silver bullet.

But yet, as attendees at a National Shooting Sports Foundation seminar on the background check system were told, there are still federal departments out there that will respond to FBI queries related to the system only if the FBI writes them an old-fashioned letter.

Federal firearms dealers are allowed to go through with a sale if the National Instant Criminal Background Check System fails to respond within three business days, meaning that some system checks happen only after the fact, at which time it becomes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ duty to recover the sold firearm.

Instead of panicking about bump stocks, perhaps Congress should require all federal agencies to make timely replies to National Instant Criminal Background Check System inquiries from the FBI.

What the Trump Administration Has Done

The really troubling part of the Trump administration, though, isn’t so much what it has failed to do, but what it has actively done.

In November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo forbidding the Department of Justice (in most cases) from avoiding notice and comment rule-making—a wise policy in general, but a problem for the firearms industry, which is regulated in large part by the ATF on the basis of administrative determinations.

ATF overcame that barrier—its actions are individual adjudications, and thus allowed by the Sessions memo—but not before ATF had ground to a halt for some time.

The fundamental problem, though, is the same one that has bedeviled the Trump administration throughout its tenure: a lack of appointed leadership in the federal agencies. The result has been to hand considerable power to permanent government bureaucrats, and virtually no one in the industry is happy about how that power has been used.

As Johanna Reeves, executive director of the FAIR Trade Group—the industry association of firearms importers and exporters—puts it, “Obama has more power now than when he was president.”

Throw in the fact that the most experienced and knowledgeable civil servants who once oversaw the export control process have retired or resigned, and the result is a lot of change that the industry doesn’t like.

On the ATF side, the industry is concerned that regulations to eliminate bump stocks will end up capturing all semi-automatic firearms, and they are alarmed by the prospect that ATF inspections of federal firearms licensees might start to piggy-back off the Pentagon’s much more intrusive oversight of defense contractors.

In the here and now, a series of decisions in the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has added to the burden of obtaining export licenses for minor parts and components and different calibers of ammunition, and—perhaps as a result—processing times have slowed. Licenses for exports to Canada used to take two to three days. They now take 10. Some licenses for exports to Europe are now taking 30 days to process.

All these changes at the State Department come at a time when, the industry hopes, the process of export control reform is crawling toward a resolution—which implies that the logical thing for State to do is to make no changes before it hands the business over to the Commerce Department.

Reportedly, the only major sticking point now between State and Commerce is State’s desire that Congress continue to be notified of all firearms exports worth more than $1 million—a sticking point that should be eminently solvable.

The advantage of export control reform for State is that it will substantially reduce the number of license applications it has to process. The advantages for the industry include the fact that quite a few foreign purchasers are unwilling to buy anything that is subject to U.S. export controls, as the compliance processes on the foreign side are as onerous as they are on the U.S. exporter.

But today, the firearms industry is in the worst of all possible worlds: State is focused on the supposed “crown jewels” (like tanks) that remain under its control, and commercial firearm exports are getting caught up in that increased scrutiny. This wasn’t how export control reform was supposed to work.

What is missing here is political and administrative leadership—leadership to finish off export control reform and to press ahead with at least a couple of the other reforms.

Hope for Action

National Instant Criminal Background Check System reform should appeal even to gun-hating liberals in Congress, and Trump can unsign the Arms Trade Treaty on his own. Concealed carry reciprocity and the Hearing Protection Act may well take longer, but as the firearms industry knows all too well, eternal vigilance is the price not just of freedom, but even of modest reform.

Right now, however, weakening sales, no public steps forward, and quite a few small administrative steps back make for an unpleasant combination. It’s all well and good knowing that the man in the White House is fundamentally on your side, yet kind wishes don’t pay the bills.

In the realm of firearms, the Trump administration isn’t endearing itself to either its opponents or its supporters. It’s certainly not too late for it to do better, and as I commented earlier, 2018 could be a great year for American gunmakers, sellers, and buyers. But if progress doesn’t arrive before next year’s SHOT Show, the outlook, both administratively and politically, could be a great deal darker.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Ted Bromund

Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D., is the Margaret Thatcher senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Read his research. Twitter: .

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

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High-Tax States Should Lower Their Taxes Instead of Trying to Evade Federal Taxes

High-tax states such as New York, California, and New Jersey are spending significant time and resources trying to concoct ways for their high-income residents to evade federal taxes.

This strategy is in direct response to the newly enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which caps state and local tax deductions from federal income taxes at $10,000 per taxpayer. But legislators in high-tax states who wish to prevent the wealthy from fleeing to lower-tax states should lower the cost of local and state government instead of ducking federal taxes.

The $10,000 cap in the state and local deduction is irrelevant for most taxpayers.

For starters, 70 percent of taxpayers don’t itemize their deductions when filing their federal income taxes. These taxpayers benefit instead from the standard deduction.

Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubles the standard deduction, The Heritage Foundation estimates that about 85 percent of taxpayers will not itemize deductions. And the state and local tax deduction is worth nothing to taxpayers who don’t itemize.

What’s more, the cap won’t limit many taxpayers’ state and local tax deductions because only about half of those who currently claim the deduction pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes.

It’s primarily high-income taxpayers in high-tax states who will be affected most by the change in federal tax law. And that’s why lawmakers in those states are trying to find ways around the law.

Instead of trying to pass the buck of their big-government costs to federal taxpayers in lower-tax states, policymakers in high-tax states should just reduce their own state taxes.

As U.S. Rep. John J. Faso, R-N.Y., aptly said:

“The solution is to lower the cost of government in New York and make our state a place where businesses can create jobs so our people don’t have to flee.”

While a dollar in additional state and local tax deductions could save taxpayers as much as 37 cents in federal taxes (depending on their marginal tax rate), a dollar in state and local tax cuts would put 100 cents back into most taxpayers’ pockets.

Rather than address New York’s own high-tax problems, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is proposing a new payroll tax on employers that would be deductible at the federal level.

But a new payroll tax on employers—one that would be in addition to existing income taxes—could hurt workers, businesses, and government revenues by discouraging companies from locating in New York. Such a tax would be extremely complicated and have disparate impacts on workers and businesses across the state, creating big boons for some and losses for others.

New York already has experienced the largest outmigration of residents of any state in recent years. State officials don’t need to exacerbate that with higher or more complex taxes.

Another idea being considered by states such as California and New Jersey is to circumvent the new cap on state and local tax deductions by setting up state-run charitable institutions to fund the government. Taxpayers who make donations to those institutions would receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their state tax bills.

But federal tax law specifies that donations providing a direct monetary benefit for the donor do not qualify as charitable deductions. It’s hard to contest the direct monetary benefit of a dollar-for-dollar reduction in state tax liability.

Rest assured, even if states such as New York and California manage to circumvent new federal limits on state and local tax deductions, the IRS will implement new rules to enforce the intent of the cap. Instead of reducing total taxes for residents, the result could be higher taxes because high-tax states may not fully abandon their newly generated “workaround” revenue sources.

Additional sources of tax revenues are the last thing residents in high-tax states need. Taxpayers who live in New York and who make between $75,000 and $100,000 already pay an average of $9,950 in state and local income taxes. And the average millionaire in New York pays $502,000 in state and local taxes.

These highly taxed residents don’t need their governments spending more time and resources trying to evade taxes or create new, hopefully deductible taxes. Instead, they need state policymakers to make their governments more efficient and accountable; to limit nonessential government services; and to cut out waste and redundancies.

If states reduce government costs to more reasonable levels, residents will have more money in their pockets and fewer will be affected by the new cap on state and local tax deductions.

And, as economic studies show, states with lower tax burdens have significantly better economic outlooks, including higher growth in incomes, employment, population, gross state product, and even state and local tax revenues.

It’s time for lawmakers in high-tax states to throw in the towel on their efforts to shift their high-tax burdens onto federal taxpayers in other states, and instead focus on reducing the taxes they charge their residents.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Rachel Greszler

Rachel Greszler is a senior policy analyst in economics and entitlements at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. Read her research.

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking in Harlem during the National Action Network’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Jan. 15, 2018. Gov. Cuomo is proposing a new payroll tax on employers rather than cutting the cost of government. (Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/Newscom)

VIDEO: Schumer Shutdown Makes Clear Democrats’ Real Priorities

A couple of days before the shutdown, Genevieve Wood recorded this commentary, which you can either watch above or read below.  Since then, Senate Democrats, whose leader is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did indeed refuse to join Republicans to vote for a spending bill, and so the government did shut down. 

As you may have heard, a government shutdown is looming here in D.C. Many of you out there watching probably think, “So what? That can be a good thing. Less of Washington, fewer bureaucrats telling us what to do and how to spend our money.”  Those are all good points.

But that is not why Democrats are threatening to shut down the government.

Let’s keep in mind this is the same party that is always telling us if we shut down the government, this will be a travesty for millions of Americans, so many government programs and services will be unmet.

But yet they’re still willing to do so. Why is that?

Well, it’s because their liberal base is demanding that in this election year they put the needs and desires of those who are here in this country illegally before anybody else.

So if you’re an American who wants to live in a safe community and wants a safe border, too bad for you. If you’re a man or woman serving in our military, sworn to protect us around the world, well, we’re just not going to get those funds in that the military may need. And if you’re somebody who is not an American citizen but you’re standing in line because you, too, want to have a chance at the American dream and you’re trying to do it the right way? To all of those folks, Democrats are saying, “Get to the back of the line. ”

Now for all of you of [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients out there who may feel as though you’re kind of a pawn in this whole thing: Well, you have a reason to believe that. Keep in mind Democrats have made promises to you before. But when Barack Obama was president, Nancy [Pelosi] was running the House, Harry [Reid] was running the Senate—for two years, Democrats were in control of the White House and Congress, they did absolutely nada.

That’s why Democrats are willing to shut down government. The reality is they don’t really want a deal on immigration. They talk about addressing the needs of the DACA population, but they have no time to address the other side of the immigration issue, border security and enforcement.

Here’s the deal. Democrats are fearful that President [Donald] Trump and Republicans could go into the midterm elections with both victories on tax cuts and immigration reform. So at the end of the day, that’s what all of this is about. It’s an election year, and that means politics, not people, are their priority.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Genevieve Wood

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Senate voted 81-18 to break a Democratic filibuster on a stalled government spending bill, clearing the way to end the three-day government shutdown. – Fox News

Shock poll: Americans want massive cuts to legal immigration – Washington Times

‘We Are Outraged!’ Illegal Alien Activists Turn on Democrats After Amnesty-or-Shutdown Fail – Breitbart News

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

Let Them Eat Cake: Pelosi hosts 192 Democrats at D.C. restaurant as military families go unpaid

Kristinn Taylor in a Gateway Pundit article reports:

According to media reports, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) invited the 192 Democrat Members of the House of Representatives out to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. Saturday during the first day of the government shutdown.

The restaurant is the Acqua Al 2 with a rather expensive a la carte menu with a salad costing $14, cheapest soup $8, cheapest dinner $12 and dessert $12. So the dinner, without drinks or beverages, cost Rep. Pelosi at approximately $46 per guest or about $8,882 to feed her 192 Democrat colleagues, not including a tip, for the night’s celebration.

At some point around 1789, when being told that her French subjects had no bread, Marie-Antoinette (bride of France’s King Louis XVI) supposedly sniffed, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.”

Responding to a Jake Sherman tweet “PELOSI hosting a dinner for all House Dems tonight at aqua al 2, Thomas-S FL asked, “Can my @USArmy daughter go?”

It appears that Nancy Pelosi is just as obliviousness to the conditions and daily lives of ordinary people and members of the U.S. military as was Marie-Antoinette.

We know that Marie-Antoinette was convicted and sent to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. Will Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic Party face the same fate during the 2018 midterm elections 225 years after Marie-Antoinette’s demise? Time will tell.

RELATED VIDEO: Complicit

A Government Shutdown is Absolutely Good and Inspirational

With all the hand-wringing over the idea of a “government shutdown,” lost is whether this is Armageddon or a little breath of fresh air truth.

First of all, let’s discard the political fears that Republicans will be blamed for the shutdown. Of course they will. Even before the media lost their minds 2017 style, the mainstream, partisan Democrat media was going to blame Republicans like they did in 2013 and in 1995 and 1996 — the three largest profile government shutdowns when Democrats had the White House. It’s not like they are going to blame their own party.

So then the question becomes: Is such a shutdown a terrible event — as all Democrats, most Washington Republicans and the media say it is? No. Not at all. In fact, it could be downright educational for Americans to see that “non-essential” government employees and programs may also be classified as unnecessary. So perhaps it could be inspirational for Congress.

Because unlike the 2013 shutdown when Americans were not noticing any difference in life and requiring President Obama to manufacture pain in closing open-air, unguarded monuments and parks, President Trump will take no such harmful actions.

So let’s walk through briefly how this could work.

What really is a government shutdown?

A federal government shutdown happens when Congress and the president cannot agree on the 12 appropriations bills required for each federal agency. Typically, to avoid a shutdown and the public appearances of it, Congress and the president create an extension called a continuing resolution (CR). The idea is that this temporary funding mechanism can allow time for Congress and the President to reach a spending agreement.

In fact, many of the Obama years, particularly with the Democrat Congress, were done with ongoing CRs. The federal government has been operating since since Oct. 1 on two CRs.

Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – a bipartisan, nonprofit organization, told Fox News: “Essential staff at top level agencies would continue working, but most federal employees whose jobs aren’t vital would likely be sent home.”

But really, based on money spent, at least 83 percent of the federal government will keep operating. That includes the military, the Depart of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, Social Security and Medicare payments, school lunch programs, food stamps (SNAP), air traffic controllers and TSA officers, the Postal Service, even national parks this time. What will be closed? The National Transportation Safety Board, part of the EPA, and those agencies that collect and report economic data are some.

So, not surprisingly, the term “government shutdown” is grossly inaccurate.

And who is hurt? All important services continue and the government employees furloughed are paid all their back-pay for the time they did not work. Basically, they get a paid vacation in addition to their normal paid vacations. Not too terrible. So virtually no one is hurt.

History of government shutdowns

Surprisingly, the federal government has shut down 18 times since 1976, when Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act…………. Interesting that in the general media hysteria over a government shutdown, this is never mentioned. Again, context is ignored to benefit an agenda.

Five times the federal government shut down when Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House. This would be the first time that Republicans controlled all three during a shutdown.

There have been three significant government shutdowns in the history of the U.S. Two of those occurred during the Clinton administration in 1995 and 1996. President Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans couldn’t agree and shut down the government for a total of 26 days. No Armageddon followed and the Republicans picked up seats in the next election after being lectured by the media how much their intransigence would cost them.

The third shutdown lasted 16 days during the Obama administration in 2013, when the House and Senate could not find agreement on extending the debt ceiling — because Obama would not sign a budget without it. Of course Republicans were blamed, but the effect of the shutdown was so unremarkable that Obama had to go to great lengths to close national open-air monuments just so Americans would notice.

The Office of Management and Budget said the 2013 shutdown cost about $2 billion — primarily the back-pay to federal employees for not working.

“The average person doesn’t really notice it,” Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida, told WFLA in Tampa.

Exactly.

Shut her down

Other than the media frenzy — which is just becoming a big yawn to a lot of Americans because it is every day — where is the downside to shutting down the government other than having to pay some “non-essential” employees for not doing apparently non-essential work?

There is none. The upside is that there is the opportunity for Americans to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of federal jobs that are not important, and billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on them.

Perhaps, combined with the tax reform package and our ridiculously irresponsible level of national debt, Republicans could take these three points and find a way to explain exactly what needs to be done.

It’s obvious, right?

RELATED ARTICLE: Now That The Government Has Shut Down, Here’s What Actually “Shuts Down”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act. Watch the Revolutionary Act’s YouTube Channel.

What a federal government shutdown really means, and why its a good thing

“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.” — U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 7, clause 1

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” — U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 9, clause 7

Not passing a bill fully funding the government has become the new normal for Congress. The failure to pass an annual budget has become the tool for political positioning.

QUESTION: Is shutting down the government a good or bad thing?

Countable.us provides these facts about a government shutdown.

Who stops working?

Over 800,000 federal workers are obligated to stop showing up for work—something known as an “unpaid furlough.”

Here are some of the major departments that shut down:

  • Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Food and Drug Administration.
  • Health and Human Services.
  • Internal Revenue Service.
  • NASA.
  • National Institute of Health.

Who continues working?

“Essential” employees, such as those in law enforcement and security, will continue working.

Do members of Congress and the President still get their paychecks?

A Congressional Research report answered this question:

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution forbids the salary of the President to be reduced while he or she is in office, thus effectively guaranteeing the President of compensation regardless of any shutdown action.”

“Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, Members of Congress are not subject to furlough. Additionally, Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution states that Members of Congress ‘shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.’”

Is the military affected?

The military gets paid on the 1st and 15th of every month.

The Department of Defense issued guidance Friday saying that if there’s a shutdown: “Military personnel on active duty, including reserve component personnel on Federal active duty, will continue to report for duty and carry out assigned duties.”

Will airport security be even worse than usual?

Airports will remain open and air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officials will stay on the job.

Amtrak will continue operating trains through the shutdown.

Can I still visit a national park?

During most shutdowns, no. This year, as the Washington Post explained, “Trump administration officials have made a precedent-setting decision to keep National Parks and public lands ‘as accessible as possible’ in the event of a shutdown.”

Will I still get my mail?

Don’t fret. The Postal Service isn’t funded by Congress—your coupons to the local tire place will arrive as always.

Look, I was actually asking about my Social Security Benefits

Yes. You will continue to receive your Social Security Benefits.

And Domino’s coupons.

How long will a shutdown last?

Long as it takes. Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress need to reach a deal to fund the government.

The government shutdown of 2013 lasted 16 days.

If the federal government actually shuts down this may be a way to make lemonade out of lemons. This is a chance for the federal government to identify nonessential positions and look at eliminating them. President Trump froze hiring. This shutdown may help unfreeze some the taxpayers dollars by cutting the fat in the federal bureaucracy.

RELATED ARTICLE:

USA Today: Amnesty Debate Is About 3.6 Million ‘Dreamers,’ not Just 800,000 DACA Illegals.

Democrats Just Admitted Their Goal is to Shutdown the Government.

Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers

Tobias Peter, senior research analyst at the AEI Center on Housing Markets and Finance, wrote the following blog post: Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers.

In it he explains how “another government housing policy intended to open “the door to home purchase mortgages for large numbers of new buyers” has failed.  Instead of bringing income-constrained borrowers into the market, it making housing less affordable by adding more fuel to a national house price boom that is pricing them out of the market, while providing a windfall to home sellers and real estate agents.”


Connecting the Dots: How the Latest Affordable Housing Policy Benefits Homeowners and Realtors, not First-time Buyers

Tobias Peter (Tobias.Peter@AEI.org), Senior Research Analyst

AEI’s Center on Housing Markets and Finance

January 16, 2018

The numbers are in and yet another government housing policy intended to open “the door to home purchase mortgages for large numbers of new buyers” has failed.  Instead of bringing income-constrained borrowers into the market, it is making housing less affordable by adding more fuel to a national house price boom that is pricing them out of the market, while providing a windfall to home sellers and real estate agents.

Let’s connect the dots.  As of the weekend of July 29, 2017, Fannie Mae, one of the two government sponsored housing enterprises (GSE), started buying and securitizing many more mortgages with a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) of up to 50 percent.  The DTI measures the ratio of monthly payments to income.  The higher the ratio, the greater a borrower’s monthly debt payments and the greater a borrower’s likelihood to default.

Prior to the policy change, the large majority of Fannie borrowers were limited to a DTI of 45 percent, with only a few borrowers allowed to go as high as 50 percent with compensating factors such as a certain number of months of cash reserves or a higher down payment.  Fannie’s move thereby allowed borrowers to take on more debt relative to their income.  Freddie Mac, the other GSE, had been buying more mortgages with DTIs over 45 percent than Fannie, but it too ramped up its purchases after Fannie’s announcement as data from the AEI National Mortgage Risk Index (NMRI) show.

Sensing an opening for income-constrained borrowers to now enter the housing market, housing advocates hailed Fannie’s move as a “win for expanding access to credit.”  Yet this line of reasoning was always flawed.  Access for income-constrained borrowers already existed.  The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), another government housing entity, already guarantees loans with a DTI up to 57 percent and with less stringent credit score and down payment requirements than Fannie or Freddie ever would.  By offering this service at a lower cost to certain borrowers, Fannie’s (and Freddie’s) move thereby pitted one government guaranteed insurer of mortgages against another.

The effect of the change has been stunning since it took effect.  First, the share of Fannie borrowers with a DTI above 45 jumped 11 percentage points to 17 percent within just three months after the program’s implementation.  Yet precious few of these borrowers were new market entrants while the large majority were Fannie borrowers taking on more debt.

This is problematic.  In today’s seller’s market, prices have been rising rapidly.  The measures from a variety of sources all show prices rising 6 to 7 percent over the past year, and as much as 10 percent for entry-level homes.  DTIs function as a friction slowing the increase of house prices through binding limits.  Remove the friction and house price increases will pick up.  This happens the following way: First, income-constrained borrowers take advantage of the higher limits, as they initially no longer have to settle for lower priced homes.  Then, because supply is limited, the extra debt ends up raising prices – either directly through more aggressive bidding for houses or indirectly through appraisals when inflated home sales become comparables for other sales as our research shows.  Soon, the cycle feeds on itself and everyone, not just income-constrained borrowers, has to take on more debt.  This is exactly what happened as the NMRI data also show (see chart).

What is driving up prices so rapidly today is the combination of a seller’s market, which is now in its 63rd month, and more liberal access to credit through, for example higher DTI limits, or generally looser lending standards as documented by the NMRI.  Since 2012, national house prices have risen by around 50 percent as shown by the Case-Shiller index, but in the bottom tier of the market, where supply is more constrained and credit more liberal, prices have doubled.

And so, what started as a policy change by Fannie Mae to close the growing affordability gap has added yet more fuel to the house price boom, especially at the lower end of the market.  Thereby this policy will benefit existing homeowners, realtors, and builders, but it will hurt first-time buyers and those with limited resources as they will have to stretch further to afford homeownership or be forced to remain on the sidelines.

Trump: Immigration Deal Has ‘Got to Include the Wall’

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would not sign an immigration bill without funding for a border wall—clarifying some doubt left over from a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress a day earlier about reaching a deal on the policy for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Asked during a joint White House press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg if he would sign a deal that didn’t include the wall, Trump responded, “No, no.”

“It’s got to include the wall. We need the wall for security,” the president said. “We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from pouring in. I would imagine that the people in the room — both Democrat and Republican —I really believe they’re going to come up with a solution to the DACA problems.”

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, proposed legislation Wednesday to allow illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors receive protection from deportation to get a three-year renewal; to provide $30 billion for construction of the wall, adding  5,000 Border Patrol agents, and another 5,000 Customs and Border Protection officers; defund sanctuary cities; and require employers to use E-Verify to ensure the legal status of workers. Co-authors of the legislation are Reps. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, and Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

When meeting with members of Congress Tuesday, the bipartisan group decided to address four issues: DACA, border security, chain migration, and the visa lottery system.

During the meeting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked the president about doing a “clean” DACA bill and saving the other issues for a second phase of a “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Trump, at first, seemed to be warm to the idea.

“We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive,” Trump said in response to Feinstein. “I think a lot of people would like to see that. But we need to do DACA first.”

After that, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., jumped into explain the need for border security.

Trump later said during the meeting: “To me, a ‘clean’ bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them, and we also take care of security, and the Democrats want border security, too. … Then we go to comprehensive later on.”

DACA stemmed from President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive action that shielded an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants from deportation brought to the country as minors. Comprehensive immigration reform has in past proposals included providing legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Last fall, the Justice Department announced it was reversing DACA, under threat of a lawsuit from 10 state attorneys general, giving Congress a deadline of March for legislating a replacement. However, on the same day as the bipartisan meeting, a federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to maintain the program. The Justice Department announced it would appeal the ruling.

Trump also took questions about the possible interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, named to investigate possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

“There is collusion, but it is really with the Democrats and the Russians far more than it is with the Republicans and Russians,” Trump said.

Many legal experts said they believe Mueller if focused less on Russia and more on building an obstruction of justice case against Trump or associates.

“When they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion, at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump said.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

RELATED ARTICLE: Trump: Judge’s move to protect DACA shows court system is ‘broken and unfair’

RELATED VIDEO: President Trump and Prime Minister Solberg of Norway hold joint news conference

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of President Donald Trump answering questions from reporters during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway Wednesday in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/Newscom)

New Offshore Drilling Plan Will Reverse Obama Restrictions, Unleash U.S. Energy Dominance

America is moving forward in its march toward energy dominance, and the Trump administration just took an important step forward in achieving that goal.

In unveiling its draft five-year Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan on Thursday, the Interior Department is reversing the Obama administration’s “Keep it in the Ground” anti-energy policy.

An abundance of untapped energy lies beneath America’s ground and off the coasts. For six years, America has been the world’s largest petroleum and natural gas producer, supporting more than 10 million jobs and contributing more than $1.3 trillion to the economy.

The increase in energy supplies has lowered prices for households and businesses. Families are saving hundreds, if not more than $1,000 each year on electricity bills and home-heating costs, and paying less at the gas pump.

It also means companies around the country devote less money to paying energy bills and more to investing in labor and capital.

All of these benefits have accrued to Americans, despite the fact that the Obama administration made a majority of America’s coastal waters off-limits to natural resources exploration and production.

In fact, 94 percent of federal offshore acreage is off-limits to development. The United States is the only country in the world that has placed a majority of its territorial waters off-limits to natural resources extraction.

Until now, that is.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s draft plan is the first part of a multiyear process that would make more than 90 percent of the total federal acreage available, which includes 98 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in the Outer Continental Shelf.

As highlighted by Interior’s press release:

The Draft Proposed Program … includes 47 potential lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas—19 sales off the coast of Alaska, seven in the Pacific region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, and nine in the Atlantic region. This is the largest number of lease sales ever proposed for the National Outer Continental Shelf Program’s five-year lease schedule.

The 47 potential lease sales top the number of sales listed in President Ronald Reagan’s two submissions of 41 and 42.

At several points in time, offshore drilling was not such a partisan issue. When President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, made his 1979 energy speech, he said, “We will step up exploration and production of oil and gas on federal lands.”

As a result, the Carter administration’s Interior Department proposed 36 lease sales. As recently as 2013, both Democratic senators from Virginia offered legislation to open parts of the Atlantic to offshore development.

It’s understandable why.

Offshore drilling is a critical component of the Gulf of Mexico economy, one of the limited areas where offshore activity takes place in federal waters.

Recognizing that offshore resource exploration is systematically safe, the energy industry has a very strong relationship with the seafood and tourism industries. In fact, Louisiana hosts a Shrimp and Petroleum Festival each year.

Despite the Deepwater Horizon incident that adversely affected the Gulf environmentally and economically, there was a broad recognition among these three industries that the blanket drilling moratorium was bad policy and bad for the region as a whole.

The economic benefits of realizing America’s true energy potential could be significant. Opening the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves and the eastern Gulf of Mexico could create more than 800,000 jobs by 2035.

Increased supplies, which could equate to as much as 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, would lower prices for families.

Furthermore, federal and state governments would stand to benefit as well, since increased production would increase revenues from bonus bids (for new leases), royalties, rents, and increased economic activity.

By 2035, the federal government could collect more than $200 billion in revenue. With the country burdened with massive amounts of federal debt, policymakers should welcome the potential for revenue generation.

No one knows where oil prices will be once the Interior Department finalizes the plan. Therefore, it’s difficult to fully project where the industry will invest.

Nevertheless, the market will determine what areas the oil and gas companies will pursue. The federal government should not stand in its way.

It’s encouraging to see Interior take a hatchet to a long-standing barrier to energy dominance and improved economic well-being.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Nicolas Loris

Nicolas Loris, an economist, focuses on energy, environmental and regulatory issues as the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Read his research. Twitter: .

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.

SUPPORT THE DAILY SIGNAL

U.S. Has a National Mango Board With a $6.7 Million Budget

Even those who follow government closely may not know that the United States has a National Mango Board with a multi-million-dollar budget to help increase consumption of the juicy tropical fruit. This is a serious matter that is handled at the presidential cabinet level. The Mango board is a type of panel that was authorized by Congress decades ago and has 18 members who are appointed by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It operates under a USDA oversight body known as the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Based in Orlando, Florida, the National Mango Board has a generous $6.7 million annual budget, according to USDA figures. The board is composed of eight importers, two domestic producers, one first handler and seven foreign producers who serve three-year terms. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently appointed six members to the board, including a mango producer from Jalisco, Mexico and another from Piura, Peru. The others are importers from California and Texas and a producer from Hawaii. “I truly appreciate the time and expertise that these individuals have agreed to give guiding the National Mango Board in its mission to find ways to provide fresh mangos to U.S. consumers and help their industry thrive,” Perdue said in an agency statement.

Here’s why this obscure government entity exists; to increase the consumption of fresh mangos in the United States, unlikely to be a pressing issue for most Americans. The board accomplishes this with promotion and market development activities that naturally also support a thriving industry. “The board’s vision is to bring the world’s love of mangos to the U.S.,” according to the National Mango Board website, which describes itself as a “promotion and research organization.” The site includes all sorts of interesting information about mangos, including the unique texture and flavors of different varieties, how to ripen, cut and store the fruit and tips on choosing the perfect mango—don’t focus on color because it’s not the best indicator of ripeness. There are also recipes for just about any dish with mango, including tropical mango guacamole, shrimp and mango curry, mango Manchego stuffed with jalapeños and crusted pork with mango relish, among others. Six varieties of mangos are sold in the U.S.; Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt, Honey and Francis.

The board’s research portion is displayed in several sections that offer information on nutrition, history and “fun facts.” For instance, mangos were first grown in India over 5,000 years ago and mango seeds traveled with humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and South America beginning around 300 or 400 A.D. “Legend says that Buddha meditated under the cool shade of a mango tree,” according to the National Mango Board. More serious research includes academic studies on consumer attitudes, bioactive components of mangos and the effect of hot water treatment on a Mexican specie (Tommy Atkins) vulnerable to fruit flies. A separate study on this type of mango, which also comes from Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, focuses on sunken pits on the fruit’s peel caused by pitting or lenticel damage. This can deter consumers at the store level, according to researchers, and most packers do not have a clear understanding if the damage comes from the orchards or the packing process. Tommy Atkins mangos from Oaxaca, Jalisco, Nayarit and Sinaloa are the focal point of that research.

One of the more recent studies sponsored by the board includes an in-depth analysis on the ideal temperature to deliver the highest quality mangos. The findings are delivered in an exhaustive 38-page report, but the nutshell is that the optimal transit temperature for mangos is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem however, is that mangos are often transported in refrigerated trailers with other food items that require colder temperatures and the mangos get compromised. The experts in“perishable food cold chain”  hired to research the matter were left with the objective of finding commercially available pallet covers for the thermal protection of mango pallets transported in a mixed load refrigerated trailer. It’s not clear how much this important research cost the Mango Board. For those wondering, Kent mangos were used in the study and pallet covers were tested with and without a base.

Analysis Finds 1 Million Americans So Far Getting Pay Raise From Tax Reform

One million Americans are getting pay increases because of the tax reform package signed into law in December.

“More than one million hardworking Americans have already received a ‘Trump Bonus’ or ‘Trump Pay Raise’ as a result of the historic tax reform package that President Donald J. Trump signed into law just before Christmas,” @PressSec says.

That’s according to Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group that established a running list of companies that have announced bonuses, wage hikes, and charitable donations.

“Just five days into 2018 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has changed the nation for the better,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said in a statement. “American companies are raising wages, paying bonuses, expanding operations, and increasing 401(k) contributions.”

The website asks for people to provide information if they are aware of other companies providing pay raises because of tax reform.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress said the reform would grow the economy, while Democrats argued the corporate tax cuts would not benefit employees.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement Friday night, which said:

More than one million hardworking Americans have already received a “Trump Bonus” or “Trump Pay Raise” as a result of the historic tax reform package that President Donald J. Trump signed into law just before Christmas. President Trump said from the beginning that lowering tax rates, simplifying the complicated tax code, and making our companies more competitive would be the fuel that propels our economy to new heights. The preliminary results show that the president is right, and American workers and families are the big winners. And this is only the beginning. The president remains focused on empowering Americans to build more prosperous lives for themselves and brighter futures for their children.

The new law cut the corporate tax rate from 39.6 percent to 21 percent. It also lowered individual rates and closed loopholes.

Among the employers to give bonuses were AT&T, which gave $1,000 bonuses to its 200,000 employees; American Airlines, which gave $1,000 bonuses to 127,600 employees; BB&T Bank, which gave $1,200 bonuses to its 27,000 employees and raised the base wage from $12 to $15 per hour; Southwest Airlines, which gave $1,000 bonuses for 55,000 employees and $5 million in charitable donations; and Sinclair Broadcasting, which gave $1,000 bonuses for 9,000 employees.

For the full list of companies, click here.

This story was updated to include a comment from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Portrait of Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred. Twitter: @FredLucasWH.

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2017: Another Year Millions of Americans Bought Firearms

We, like many of our members, watched the NICS numbers all year. We read – and fact-checked – all of the claims about the “Trump Slump” and the imminent collapse of the entire firearms industry (see herehereherehere, and here). Month after month, the narrative around the NICS data framed gun sales as waning because a new record wasn’t set. Bloomberg headlined its latest entry, “Gun Sales in America Drop.” The Chicago Tribune reported that “Holiday gun sales dip after record Black Friday.” 

The FBI released the final NICS numbers for 2017. There were 25,235,215 total NICS checks in 2017 – making last year the second busiest year ever for the NICS office. Across all states, territories, and the District of Columbia, there were 7.2 million NICS checks related to handguns (not including private sales, rentals, returned, pre-pawn, or pawn redemption checks); 5.2 million for long guns; just under 400,000 for “other” firearms; and 236,167 checks for multiple purchases. More than 9.9 million Americans initiated a NICS check for a permit last year. 

In terms of individual categories of NICS checks, 2017 ranks third for handgun-related NICS checks and second for “other” checks. In terms of total sales-related checks (handgun, long gun, other, and multiple), 2017 was the fourth-busiest year ever. It was also the second busiest year for permit checks. 

Interest in defense and the shooting sports clearly remains strong; sure, NICS doesn’t provide a 1:1 proxy for gun sales but the FBI saw more than 13 million sales-related checks and almost 10 million permit checks. That equates to more than twenty-seven thousand permit checks and nearly thirty-six thousand sales-related checks every single day of the year. 

Hopefully, we can put the claims of “Trump Slump” and of the demise of the firearms industry to rest along with the year 2017. The continued strong NICS numbers all year indicate that Americans’ interest in defending themselves and their families, and their interest in the shooting sports, is not dependent on the occupant of the White House. We fully expect the firearms industry to continue to support the passions shared by millions of law-abiding Americans throughout 2018.