House Republicans are nearing a decision on whether to force a political standoff over the debt ceiling in a bid to win approval for the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Congress on Monday that the nation’s borrowing limit could be exhausted as early as the end of the month, a signal that lawmakers will soon need to raise the debt limit to prevent default.
But a debt-ceiling vote won’t come easy.
The Washington Post reports that House leadership is planning to make any vote to increase federal borrowing authority contingent on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast, or repeal of a provision of the president’s signature health care law.
The provision of the Affordable Care Act that’s at stake would mitigate financial risk for health insurance operators in the first three years they operate on the law’s new health care exchanges.
House leadership has not yet decided which route to take. A meeting of lower-chamber conservatives at the Capitol on Tuesday is likely to shed light on which alternative will attract more support.
Congressional Republicans have long considered the possibility of forcing a vote to approve the pipeline, a project whose profile was raised at the end of last week when a State Department finding concluded that the pipeline probably would not have any major bearing on the rate of Canadian oil sands development.
Still, the political gambit isn’t likely to win over all members of the party.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, shied away from the idea of linking the debt limit to a vote on Keystone XL.
“Keystone ought to be approved on its own merits; it doesn’t need to be tied to the debt ceiling,” Scalise told The Washington Post. “I don’t think that would be enough for a lot of RSC members to support. I’d like to see a repeal of the bailouts for the insurance companies. That’s becoming a real strong prospect; it’d be good to put it on the table.”
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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."