Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to push forward on a wide-ranging veterans’ bill once Congress returns later this month.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, previously said his legislation could be taken up on Feb. 6, but it got waylaid by a pair of proposals that sought to reverse the roughly $6 billion in cuts to veteran pensions included in the December budget agreement.
After a nearly two-month squabble over how to pay for the pension funding, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday that reverses the 1 percent cut to working-age retirees’ cost-of-living adjustment by extending the sequester on Medicare spending by a year.
Sanders’s legislation also reverses the COLA cuts and tackles a swath of veterans issues, including health care, education, and employment. Whether the legislation will move forward with the pension provision intact is unclear. A staffer suggested that if the Senate passed other COLA legislation, the Sanders proposal could be amended and the provision removed, or the Senate could pass it as is.
Either way, Sanders is expected to receive pushback on his legislation from Senate Republicans, and the measure would face an uphill — if not virtually impossible — battle in the House. Republicans in both chambers are objecting to Sanders’s use of Overseas Contingency Operations funds to pay for a large chunk of the bill — which is expected to cost $24 billion.
OCO funds have been used to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Republicans argue that with most, if not all, U.S. troops expected out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, the OCO funds — which aren’t subject to congressional budget caps — aren’t a reliable source of funding for veterans.
The Senate is expected to reconvene on Feb. 24, but it’s likely the vote to end debate on Sanders’s legislation won’t be taken up until later in the week. Senators first have to deal with a handful of nominations, a process that could be drawn out if the full debate time is used.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."