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Democrats turn the screws on border wall builders

Funding isn’t the only thing standing in the way of Donald Trump’s promise to build a border wall with Mexico.

Democrats in cities and statehouses across the country are pressing forward with a calculated, long-range effort designed to undermine Trump’s plan by turning the screws on the businesses that work on the project.

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In California, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a measure to bar the state from awarding contracts to any company involved in the wall’s construction, while a bill to prevent the state’s massive pension funds from investing in those companies stands pending. Lawmakers introduced similar measures in New York and Rhode Island. The city of San Francisco is considering a blacklist, and Berkeley adopted one last month.

“Symbolism matters,” said Rhode Island Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who sponsored the punitive legislation in his state.

Percolating for weeks, the local measures have assumed renewed significance amid the funding negotiations in Washington. While Trump this week withdrew his demand that a government spending bill include money for a wall, the efforts have kept sustained and far-flung pressure on the issue — and put many building firms in the crossfire.

In agriculture-rich California, where many Republicans have long advocated a path to legal status for people in the country illegally, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara framed the no-contract measure he authored as a litmus test on immigration.

“I’m not going to allow people to speak from both sides of their mouth,” Lara told his colleagues on Tuesday, after a lobbyist for California contractors complained that his clients were “getting caught in the crossfire” of the state’s feud with Trump. “You’re either for the wall, which means you are for the ideals that this president has set forth of divisiveness, of walling us off from the rest of the world. Or you’re not. It’s as easy as that.”

Divestment and no-contract measures have held significance primarily for their symbolic value since the time of apartheid, and even supporters like Regunberg acknowledge the effort doesn’t yet involve “enough investment capacity that maybe it could make a difference” in whether the wall gets built. New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic simply called it a “statement of values.”

But for state lawmakers forced to hear — and perhaps vote on — no-contract legislation, said Bill Whalen, a former speechwriter for GOP Gov. Pete Wilson who is a Hoover Institution research fellow, “It puts a Republican in an awkward position on immigration.”

Trump hit the caps lock on Twitter one day after signaling an openness Monday to delaying negotiations on wall funding, asserting he would nevertheless follow through on a signature issue of his campaign.

“Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL,” Trump wrote. “It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.”

Yet as Trump defended his fidelity to the wall against conservative critics — including radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said Trump was “caving” on the issue — many contractors remained wary

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Trump's chaotic first 100 days

President Donald Trump had an action-packed first 100 days, but mostly it was just chaos. Story by Shane Goldmacher. Edited by Sarah Hashemi and Matt Sobocinski.

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Trump tax plan gets lukewarm welcome on Capitol Hill

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“I’m very sensitive to the deficit and the $21 trillion worth of national debt,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). | AP Photo

Republicans greeted President Donald Trump's splashy tax rollout Wednesday with muted enthusiasm — hopeful that the tax code could be reformed but eager to hear a lot more details as well as the president’s strategy for success.

Democrats didn’t hold back, slamming the tax outline as a giveaway to the wealthy, which suggests that Trump will have to pass his plan with only the GOP’s narrow majorities.

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In the hours after Trump’s principles were unveiled for “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country” as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters, it was clear the administration has a lot of work to do on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question facing Republicans is how they can work with Trump on a tax plan that is expected to pay for itself with massive economic growth. Independent analysts worry about the administration’s math. And adding to the deficit presents a politically perilous choice for many Republicans as well as significant legislative complications.

“I’m very sensitive to the deficit and the $21 trillion worth of national debt,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.).

Mnuchin and other Trump officials said they want to work with Congress on shaping a bill that can pass by the end of the year. But the White House is already spurning a key piece of Speaker Paul Ryan’s tax plan — a proposed tax on imports that would help pay for cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, as Trump has proposed.

Ryan downplayed the provision’s absence in Trump’s plan Wednesday.

“We all agree that in its present form it needs to be modified,” Ryan said border adjustment tax at the law firm BakerHostetler. “We don’t want to have severe disruptions — if you’re an importer or a retailer heavily dependent on importers, we don’t want to shock the system so much that it puts them at a disruptive disadvantage.”

Ryan also told reporters that congressional Republicans have been in close contact with the White House. "This is something we've been talking to them all along," he said.

Republican leaders sought to present some sense of party unity with a joint statement from Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that called Trump’s principles “critical guideposts,” but which otherwise provided little specific comment on what Trump laid out.

Rank-and-file Republicans said they hoped for more input from the president and more than the document they saw Wednesday.

“I want to give the president a chance to actually produce a bill,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told reporters. “I would prefer not to add to the deficit, but I’m going to wait and see what the legislative language looks like before I take a hard and fast position on any of this.”

Sen. Bill

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GOP's latest Freedom Caucus headache: Oversight chairmanship

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GOP leaders and their allies are so worried about a Jim Jordan candidacy that they've begun buttonholing Rep. Trey Gowdy to run. | AP Photo

Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP leaders are facing their worst nightmare: A Freedom Caucus-run House committee.

But Trey Gowdy might bail them out.

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House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s announcement last week that he might resign from Congress soon has triggered a behind-the-scenes battle for one of the most high-profile chairmanships on Capitol Hill. And the power vacuum has the potential to cause GOP leaders serious heartburn.

That’s because the committee, which is charged with investigating the executive branch, is stacked with prominent Freedom Caucus members whom leadership doesn’t trust. Chief among them is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a ringleader of the group of far-right agitators. Jordan has made a name for himself as one of the most aggressive Oversight interrogators, but he’s also been a huge problem for leadership over the years.

The Ohio Republican is next in line if the most senior member, Tennessee Republican Jimmy Duncan, decides not to run. Former Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa is third in seniority, but he’s chaired the panel before, and insiders don't believe he’d try for it again.

So GOP leaders could face a quandary whether to reward someone whose past behavior has tripped up their agenda and infuriated most of the GOP conference.

Jordan wouldn’t say if he would run, though people close to him believe he will.

“We’ll see,” was all Jordan would say when asked Wednesday whether he wanted the gavel. “Right now Chaffetz is the chairman, and I want to continue to support the chairman.”

But sources told POLITICO that they’re not sure Jordan can win the post, and not just because of his rocky relationship with GOP leaders. Many members of the House Steering Committee that chooses chairmen — and is comprised entirely of leadership loyalists — don’t like him, either.

GOP leaders and their allies are so worried about a Jordan candidacy that they've begun buttonholing Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — the former chairman of the House Benghazi Committee and a dark-horse candidate for the Oversight post — to run, according to multiple House sources. While Gowdy often jokes that he hates the high-profile nature of his job and would rather be home watching Hallmark movies with his wife, insiders say he is now considering a bid.

Gowdy’s office declined to comment.

In the meantime, several other Oversight committee members are quietly jockeying for potential bids as well. Rep. Dennis Ross, a deputy whip and longtime leadership loyalist, told Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday that he plans to run — as long as Gowdy doesn’t.

“I think Trey Gowdy would be exceptional for that … but if he chooses not to do that, I would definitely choose to be in the running for that position,” Ross (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “I think I’ve got as good a shot as anybody if Trey decides not to do

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Ann Coulter the Liberal

Ann Coulter the Liberal

Getty

Opinion

By Rich Lowry

April 26, 2017

Because the California National Guard couldn’t be mobilized in time, Ann Coulter had to withdraw from giving a speech at Berkeley.

If you take it seriously, that’s the import of UC Berkeley’s decision to do everything it could to keep the conservative provocateur from speaking on campus over safety concerns.

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“If somebody brings weapons, there’s no way to block off the site, or to screen them,” the chancellor of the university said of Coulter’s plan to go ahead and speak at an open-air forum after the school canceled her talk scheduled for this week.

The administrator made it sound as if Coulter would have been about as safe at Berkeley as she would have been addressing a meeting of MS-13—and he might have been right.

We have entered a new, much less metaphorical phase of the campus-speech wars. We’re beyond hissing, or disinviting. We’re no longer talking about the heckler’s veto, but the masked-thugs-who-will-burn-trash-cans-and-assault-you-and-your-entourage veto.

Coulter is a rhetorical bomb-thrower, which is an entirely different thing than being a real bomb-thrower. Coulter has never tried to shout down a speaker she doesn’t like. She hasn’t thrown rocks at cops. She isn’t an arsonist. She offers up provocations that she gamely defends in almost any setting with arguments that people are free to accept, or reject, or attempt to correct.

In other words, in the Berkeley context, she’s the liberal. She believes in the efficacy of reason and in the free exchanges of ideas. Her enemies do not.

Indeed, the budding fascism that progressives feared in the Trump years is upon us, although not in the form they expected. It is represented by the black-clad shock troops of the “anti-fa” movement who are violent, intolerant and easily could be mistaken for the street fighters of the extreme right in 1930s Europe. That they call themselves anti-fa speaks to a colossal lack of self-awareness.

It is incumbent on all responsible progressives to reject this movement, and — just as important — the broader effort to suppress controversial speech. This is why Howard Dean’s comments about hate speech not being protected by the First Amendment were so alarming. In Dean’s defense, he had no idea what he was talking about, but he was effectively making himself the respectable voice of the rock throwers.

After his tweet about hate speech got pushback, Dean tried to throw up a couple of Supreme Court decisions supporting his contention and came up empty. As Eugene Volokh of UCLA law school explained, the court has defined nonprotected “fighting words” narrowly as insults directed at a specific person. Having unwelcome opinions on immigration, or a whole host of other issues, doesn’t remotely qualify.

The upshot of Dean’s view was that “Berkeley is within its rights to make the decision that it puts their campus in danger if they have her there.” This justification, advanced by the school itself, is profoundly wrongheaded.

It is an inherently discriminatory standard, since

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