Our new Politics newsletter: Time running out to get things done

A calendar sits in the middle of the newly-renovated temporary Senate chamber. ((Benoit Roussel, CBC))

The 2019 election campaign is already underway – the CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

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With 35 days to go in the House, what can really get done?

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

This election will be different for the Liberals for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is they have to run on their record, and they only have about 35 days to cement that record.

That’s how many days are left in which the House of Commons is scheduled to be sitting. Yes, there is the potential for longer, evening sittings and to stretch the calendar, but the likelihood of that making a big difference is negligible.

So why does that matter, you ask? Who will suffer when the riveting excitement of votes and question period comes to a close?

It totally matters. There are a lot of bills either in the House or in the Senate and time is ticking to turn them into law.

A short sample of what still isn’t law:

  • Bill C-69, which would overhaul the pipeline approval process.
  • Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers on the northern coast of B.C.
  • Bill C-92, First Nations child welfare legislation.
  • Bill C-71, new gun laws.
  • Bill C-59, new national security laws and a redress system for people stuck on the no-fly list because their name matches someone who is actually on the list.

And that doesn’t include the other stuff the government has talked about for years: a possible handgun ban, regulating social media companies and pharmacare.

To be fair, the Liberals aren’t the only party to face this issue. I remember going to a police station in late spring of 2015 to watch then-justice minister Peter MacKay introduce new drunk driving legislation that would never see the light of day unless the Conservative were re-elected.

When I asked why they would introduce a bill with almost no time left to pass it, I was met with looks of incredulity as if I had just proposed unicorns were real.

In any event, that list up there, like I said, is just a short sample. In total, there are 10 bills still before the House and 13 in the Senate.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger rises to cast her vote during a marathon voting session in the House of Commons Thursday March 21, 2019 in Ottawa. The Parliamentary session began Wednesday and has continued through the night into Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Oh yeah, the Senate!

It’s new! It’s more independent! Is that true? Is that good or bad? These are the questions we’ve asked ourselves at various junctures over the past three and a half years. I remember standing outside the red chamber doing live hits when the Senate was studying the assisted dying legislation and everyone was abuzz wondering if Senators would try and put the kibosh on it.

WHAT WILL THE SENATE DO? I asked as I stared into the camera, trying to convince myself and viewers this was wild and exciting stuff.

Now, the leadership of all Senate parties and groups (it’s never simple there) did strike a deal to hold third reading votes on or before June 6 for 10 of the 13 bills before senators. But some of the outstanding ones — I’m thinking especially of Bill C-69 — are real doozies. They won’t be easy to push through.

There’s also the prospect that the drama that preceded this two-week Easter break could repeat itself. The Conservatives, protesting the decision of Liberal MPs on the justice committee to shut down the committee’s probe of the SNC-Lavalin affair, used every means possible to delay proceedings in the House. Will it happen again? I know you’re on the edge of your seats.

All of this is not to say the process should be rushed. I’m not a cynic and I believe parliamentarians debating and examining bills perform an essential function — the result is nearly always stronger, and better-thought-out laws.

But politically, a lot hangs in the balance. “We gotta get this done,” one staffer in House Leader Bardish Chagger’s office told me (but like, how?, I replied. They then asked me where my blazer was from. It was a short conversation).

So much…

Don Walton: The death penalty, faith and partisan politics

The annual death penalty debate in the Legislature always is solemn, dramatic and revealing.

It’s an issue that ought to be deeply personal, and it is. For many people it is faith-guided or faith-based.

An issue that Chambers says ought to particularly challenge Catholic senators who take a position contrary to last year’s action by Pope Francis changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church to state that “the death penalty is inadmissible.”

It’s an issue that really shouldn’t be used as a partisan political instrument, but it is. Everything is today.

And so that was a big part of the debate last week with threats of political retaliation injected and the vote of the people to overturn the Legislature’s previous repeal of capital punishment employed as a cudgel.

Hey, Sen. Adam Morfeld protested, so how about the 2018 vote of the people to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans who have no access to health care coverage and…

Eyeing 2020, Capito seeks six more years in Senate

Shelley Moore Capito
Buy Now

Shelley Moore Capito Q&A.

KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail

Aiming to curb health care costs, build a wall along the southern U.S. border, and create and maintain employment opportunities to anchor young people in West Virginia, Capito said she has amplified the state’s voice on the national stage and will continue to do so.

“I think I’ve shown myself to be listening to my constituents — my fellow West Virginians — to things that are important to them: jobs, the opioid crisis, broadband, infrastructure,” she said. “I’m placed well in my committees to be effective. I’ve been able to reshape the appropriations process, as much as you can without earmarks, to favor some of the projects we have in West Virginia.”

Capito has served in Congress since winning a seat in the House of Representatives in 2000 and becoming the state’s first female U.S. Senator in 2014. She sits on the Committee on Appropriations, among the most powerful of any congressional committee.

In an interview at Books and Brews, a new restaurant on Charleston’s West Side, Capito ranged in topic from the Affordable Care Act, to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the conduct of President Donald Trump and his 2016 campaign, to her case for the need for a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border.

Perhaps more than any other policy point, health care drove the 2018 midterm elections — to the demise of a wide swath of House Republicans. Capito said while she thought the notion of removing protections for people with preexisting conditions was a “political tool” for campaign season and not a real threat, insurance companies should be required to cover the population and not charge it higher rates than those offered to healthy people.

Prohibiting insurance providers from hiking prices on those with preexisting conditions was a central canon…

Politics, paradoxes and self-fulfilling prophesies

The fear of a populist comeback is fast becoming both a vicious circle and a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The fear of a populist comeback is fast becoming both a vicious circle and a self-fulfilling prophesy.

For many months now President Mauricio Macri has been playing with fire – restricting the electoral alternatives to the populism incarnated by his predecessor Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in order to ensure that continuity is at the very least the lesser evil, while running the calculated risk of spooking the markets (supposedly covered by the insurance policy of the biggest International Monetary Fund loan in history). This strategy somehow managed to survive all last year’s crises, but in the anniversary week of that first run on the currency its basic premises now risk collapsing all along the line, thus making the current turbulence potentially more dangerous.

Perhaps the immediate catalyst of this latest crisis of confidence was something bound to happen sooner or later – a stagflation persisting too long is finally resulting in the first serious opinion polls showing Fernández de Kirchner winning a run-off against Macri beyond the margin of error, thus wrong-footing the spin doctors who took the economic setbacks in their stride while re-election remained in sight.

In theory monetary problems are fixed by monetary solutions but this only works when the causes are also monetary – a purely monetarist policy thus becomes almost worse than useless when the political and psychological factors are so dominant. Throwing money at the problem becomes akin to using water against an oil fire – it should not be forgotten that the 2018 crisis began exactly a year ago last Wednesday, when then-Central Bank governor Federico Sturzenegger deployed over US$1.4 billion to defend the 20-peso mark. The massive IMF package seemed to stop the rot (just like the blindaje mega-swap of some US$40…

Trump Pulls Out of Arms Treaty During Speech at N.R.A. Convention

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INDIANAPOLIS — In a speech to National Rifle Association members on Friday that was part political rally and part pep talk, President Trump called himself a champion of gun rights. Then he proved it, whipping out a pen onstage to sign a letter that would effectively cease America’s involvement in an arms treaty designed to regulate the international sale of conventional weapons.

Mr. Trump said that his administration “will never” ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to discourage the sale of conventional weapons to countries that do not protect human rights.

Although the accord was brokered by the United Nations and signed by President Barack Obama, it has never been ratified by the Senate. Experts in arms control note that the accord, even if ratified by the Senate, would not require the United States to alter any existing domestic laws or procedures governing how it sells conventional weapons overseas.

Still, Mr. Trump said his decision to sign a letter asking the Senate to send the treaty back to the White House “is a big, big factor,” calling the accord a “badly misguided” arrangement.

To supporters of the decision, making certain that the United States does not ratify the treaty is one more step toward deregulation that Mr. Trump has championed. In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said that a major factor in his decision was the lack of compliance with the treaty from other large conventional arms exporters, including China and Russia.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had its own set of controls to ensure the appropriate sale of arms abroad, and added that the Trump administration opposed possible future amendments to the treaty up for consideration in 2020.

Critics see it as a concession to the gun lobby, and another effort by the Trump administration to distance itself from multilateral diplomatic initiatives — from the nuclear deal with Iran to the Paris climate agreement — that advocates say are meant to make the world a safer place.

The president’s action today is yet another mistaken step that threatens to make the world less safe, rather than more secure,” Thomas Countryman, a former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation and lead American negotiator on the Arms Trade Treaty, said in a statement.

Mr. Countryman also pointed out that a ratification of the treaty would not have caused the United States to change any existing laws or procedures governing how it sells the weapons.

“It is sad, but to be expected, that this president opposes efforts to require other countries to meet the high standards of U.S. military export decisions,” Mr. Countryman said.

Mr. Trump’s move means that the United States would be in the company of countries like North Korea and Iran, who abstained from participation in the treaty, and leaving behind a group of the world’s largest gun manufacturers, including France and Germany, who signed on.

But in Indianapolis, the president’s announcement prompted a standing ovation, as did some of the other red-meat campaign rally topics.

Mr. Trump touted gains in the economy and railed against a “corrupt” news media. He also disparaged the special counsel investigation into his campaign that he said had been part of a coup attempt carried out at the highest levels…

As Democrats Agonize, G.O.P. Is at Peace With Doing Nothing on Mueller’s Findings

Erin Schaff for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans see the special counsel’s report — with its stark evidence that President Trump repeatedly impeded the investigation into Russian election interference — as a summons for collective inaction.

Republicans in the upper chamber, who would serve as Mr. Trump’s jury if House Democrats were to impeach him, reacted to the report’s release with a range of tsk-tsk adjectives like “brash,” “inappropriate” or “unflattering.” Only Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, called out the president’s behavior as “sickening.”

Yet no Republican, not even Mr. Romney, a political brand-name who does not face his state’s voters until 2022, has pressed for even a cursory inquiry into the findings by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that the president pressured senior officials, including the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and the former attorney general Jeff Sessions, to scuttle his investigation. Where Democrats see a road map to impeachment, Republicans see a dead end.

“I consider this to be, basically, the end of the road,” said Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who once tried to thwart Mr. Trump’s presidential nomination and now serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to investigate Mr. Mueller’s findings.

“There is no question that some of these revelations are unflattering,” Mr. Lee said in an interview on Wednesday. “But there is a difference between unflattering and something that can and should be prosecuted.”

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, has been as critical in private of Mr. Trump’s actions as Mr. Romney has been in public, but he, too, said it was time to move on.

“While the report documents a number of actions taken by the president or his associates that were inappropriate, the special counsel reached no conclusion on obstruction of justice,” Mr. Portman said in a statement.

That is factually accurate; in releasing his findings a week ago, Mr. Mueller laid out about a dozen instances in which the president may have obstructed justice, but he left it to Congress to reach that conclusion, counseling “that Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority.” House Democrats responded by ramping up committee investigations, kicking off what is likely to be a long, rending intraparty debate over impeachment.

Senate Republicans saw Mr. Mueller’s invitation in far more cynical terms, as a quintessential Washington punt of responsibility, according to aides and political consultants. One senior aide to a Senate Republican put it this way: If the most respected law enforcement official of his generation did not have the temerity to accuse Mr. Trump of obstructing justice, why should they?

“The Republican Party, and the Senate, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist based in Florida who has been a sharp critic of Mr. Trump’s. “Occasionally, a few guys in the Senate will furrow their brows, but it will never be backed up by action. They wake up every day and pray, ‘Please, God, don’t let Trump be mean to me on Twitter.’”

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, urged the Republicans on the panel to investigate…

Syracuse launches program to train veterans in political careers

This fall, Syracuse will launch its “Veterans in Politics” program, which is designed to give veterans a crash course in what it takes to succeed in politics. (Syracuse University)

If you’re a veteran interested in pursuing a career in the political world, Syracuse University may have just the program for you.

This fall, Syracuse will launch its “Veterans in Politics” academic program, which is designed to give veterans and military family members a crash course in what it takes to succeed at all levels of politics.

“We hope to in a very practical way create the opportunity to put the veterans who participate in the program on a path to enacting their aspiration for office,” said Mike Haynie, Syracuse’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation. Haynie also serves as the executive director of the school’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

The Veterans in Politics program will be run out of Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Haynie said that veterans will learn valuable skills like campaign planning, fundraising, developing an issues platform and crafting policy.

He also said that Syracuse plans to ask some of the veterans currently serving in Congress to come impart their wisdom to students.

Haynie is a veteran himself, having served in the Air Force from 1992 to 2006 as a logistician. For him, getting more veterans elected to office has larger implications than just representation.

“I believe as a citizen that it’s important the individuals making decisions about sending the nation’s sons and daughters to war have firsthand experience of what that means,” he said.

One of the program’s goals is to increase the number of veterans getting elected to political offices. Only 96 veterans are currently serving in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Justin Brown — founder of the nonprofit Hillvets

Overtime? Travis Cummings sees possibility of extended Session

House budget go-to guy Travis Cummings in Tallahassee.

Call it a Good Friday news dump: House Appropriations Chair Travis Cummings said there was a chance an extended or Special Session may be needed this year to finish the 2019-20 state budget.

“I could see a scenario where we extend Session past Sine Die … if we do not make the necessary progress with our Senate partners in budget negotiations,” Cummings, a Fleming Island Republican, told Florida Politics.

“That would occur if we do not begin budget conference shortly after the Easter holiday.”

Cummings made similar points a few weeks ago, amid multiple differences between the House and Senate budgets. That included VISIT FLORIDA, which the Senate authorized $50 million, below the $76 million level sought by DeSantis, while the House once again seeks to sunset the program.

That said, there still may be, Cummings allowed, room to move.

“I am a lifelong Floridian. And being a legislator has increased the importance I place on tourism for our state. But the question remains on how much in taxpayer resources are used to promote our state,” Cummings said.

“There has been heavily publicized misuse of funds in prior years, but we are past that with new leadership and more accountability,” he said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year appointed former lawmaker Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, to take the reins of the state’s tourism marketing arm. “I can’t tell you how honored I am to have this opportunity and I won’t let you down,” she told tourism leaders then.

Negotiation, said Cummings, is the key for projects that are prioritized by the Senate, such as Senate President Bill Galvano’s…

Trump and impeachment: where Democrats stand after Mueller

Elizabeth Warren was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for impeachment.

Long before a redacted version of the Mueller report was released this week, the winds of impeachment were swirling around Donald Trump’s presidency.

Nonetheless, the findings in the 448-page report, which include 11 instances in which Trump or his campaign engaged in potential obstruction of justice, have increased pressure on prominent Democrats to take a stand on the issue.

Articles of impeachment would have to pass the Democratic-controlled House. But to remove the president from office, two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate would need to vote in favor.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly resisted calls for impeachment. She and other Democrats fear the process, which would be overwhelmingly likely to fail in the Senate, would become a political distraction and that the party should instead bet on the ballot box in 2020 as the way to get Trump out of the White House.

Nonetheless, in the wake of the Mueller report, prominent Democrats including presidential contenders, committee chairs and rank-and-file lawmakers found themselves having to position themselves as for impeachment, against it … or somewhere in between.

For impeachment

Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren)

I read the Mueller report. When I got to the end, I realized this is a point of principle. Because it matters not just for this president, but for all future presidents. No one is above the law. pic.twitter.com/RdAHQYoH0V

April 20, 2019

Elizabeth Warren: The Massachusetts senator was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for impeachment, writing that not holding such proceedings “would suggest that both the current and future presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways”.

“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” she tweeted. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States.”

Julián Castro: The former housing secretary and hopeful for the Democratic nomination said he would support Congress opening impeachment proceedings, telling CNN “it would be perfectly reasonable for Congress” to do so.

Tom Steyer:The billionaire explored running for president until January, with impeachment as a key part of his platform. Despite deciding not to run, he has continued to pursue impeachment. In response to Warren’s support, he said she was “one of the people in Washington who has the moral courage to do what’s right”.

Rashida Tlaib: A month before the redacted Mueller report was released, the Michigan representative introduced an impeachment resolution. “We all swore to protect our nation, and that begins with making sure that no one, including the president of the United States, is acting above the law,” Tlaib wrote in a letter to colleagues. She also called for Trump’s impeachment on her first day in office in January, in a Detroit Free Press opinion piece and at a swearing-in event, where she commented: “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said she would sign-on to Tlaib’s resolution, in the wake of the Mueller report. “Many know I take no pleasure in discussions of impeachment. I didn’t campaign on it, and rarely discuss it unprompted,” the New York representative and progressive star tweeted. “We all prefer working on our priorities: pushing Medicare for All, tackling student loans, and a Green New Deal. But the report squarely puts this on our doorstep.”

Maxine Waters: The Californian who chairs the House finance committee – and who has been attacked by Trump – backed impeachment on Thursday. “Congress’s failure to impeach is complacency in the face of the erosion of our democracy and constitutional norms,” she said. “Congress’s failure to impeach would set a dangerous precedent and imperil the nation as it would vest too much power in the executive branch and embolden future officeholders to further debase the US presidency, if that’s even possible.”

Al Green: The Texas representative has pushed for impeachment since Trump fired the FBI director James Comey in May 2017, forcing two unsuccessful votes on the articles of impeachment. He continues to push on. “I call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America,” Green said in a press conference streamed on Facebook. “This…

Biden, at Hollings Funeral, Talks About How ‘People Can Change’

Mic Smith/Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday remembered Ernest F. Hollings as “a giant in this state and nation” who evolved to “write the great story of our times.”

Speaking at the funeral of Mr. Hollings, the former South Carolina senator who died this month at 97, Mr. Biden hailed his longtime friend and former colleague, a one-time segregationist, as the embodiment of this state’s growth.

“People can change,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Hollings, who was known as Fritz, adding, “We can learn from the past and build a better future.”

Mr. Biden’s trip here marked his first visit to an early nominating state this year and came just a week before he is expected to make his long-anticipated entry into the Democratic presidential primary.

His somber appearance at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college and Mr. Hollings’s alma mater, was not the 2020 debut the former vice president and his aides were planning. But his eulogy underscored Mr. Biden’s deep ties to this pivotal state with its high percentage of black voters — and the promise and peril of his candidacy.

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Mr. Biden once described Mr. Hollings as his best friend in the Senate. And as he recalled in strikingly subdued tones Tuesday, it was Mr. Hollings and his wife, Peatsy, who helped persuade him to remain in the Senate when his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident shortly after he was first elected in 1972.

“Aside from my family, the first people to bring me back from that black hole I was in were Fritz and Peatsy, that’s not hyperbole,” he said.

That friendship is what first brought Mr. Biden to South Carolina, where Mr. Hollings would introduce him to many of his political allies. Eventually, Mr. Biden began vacationing in the state, usually staying on one of the barrier islands near Mr. Hollings’s native Charleston. The relationships Mr. Biden developed here now form the nucleus of his support network in the first-in-the-South primary state.

Those connections were on vivid display as the former vice president stood before hundreds of mourners in the cadet chapel. It was an audience that included scores of influential state and local Democratic officials such as Representative James Clyburn, a fellow eulogist and the highest-ranking African-American in Congress.

The funeral reflected the era of the man his admirers had come to honor, with gray hair filling the pews and sepia-toned memories flowing from the pulpit, recalling a lawmaker who was first elected to office in the aftermath of World War II and…