Josh Barro

The Beltway Sketch (Civics: General and Particular)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks about trade in the Oval Office of the White House, 31 March 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

What additional commentary could possibly go here? You will, eventually, encounter a conservative complaining about Democratic obstructionism, and these are some points worth keeping in mind:

1. Democrats are in the minority, and don’t control the Senate calendar.

2. Filibusters on executive-branch nominees have been eliminated. Senate Dems can slow the process down a bit when they want to, delaying votes by a couple of weeks in some instances, but they don’t have the power to block any of Trump’s nominees on their own. It’s simply not possible as a procedural matter.

3. In order for nominees to be confirmed, they have to be sent. Of the 559 key positions in the administration requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has not yet nominated anyone for 442 of the posts. This is especially true when it comes to ambassadors: for the vast majority of these diplomatic positions, the White House hasn’t yet nominated anyone. Josh Barro noted that only five countries currently have U.S. nominees awaiting Senate confirmation: Bahamas, Ethiopia, Holy See, Japan, and New Zealand (and the Vatican doesn’t really count as a country, per se).

All of this is of particular interest right now because there is no current U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, which affects our response to the two recent British terrorist attacks. Trump chose Woody Johnson for the post months ago, but the administration never formally nominated Johnson, so the Senate hasn’t been able to even consider acting.

Trump apparently wants to blame Democrats for this. Even by his standards, that’s completely bonkers.

(Benen)

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A Kansas Story

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

It was not so long ago that Don Gonyea of NPR filed a report on the gubernatorial race in Kansas:

This isn’t your typical incumbent-in-trouble story, though. In office, Brownback has done exactly what he said he would. But many, many voters aren’t happy, including a lot of Republicans.

Big tax cuts that Brownback championed have left Kansas with a serious budget problem ....

.... Some of the loudest complaints have come from moderate Republicans. This summer, 104 Republicans — current and former Kansas officials — held a press conference to endorse Davis.

Brownback’s problem is that in fulfilling his promise to alter the state’s financial structure, he failed to fulfill the other part of his promise, that doing so would help Kansas.

In the first gubernatorial debate recently at the Kansas State Fair, Brownback addressed the state’s economic issues. “Our unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. We have a record number of Kansans working. We have the fastest-growing economy in the region and more new business created than ever in the history of the state,” he said.

But Democrat Paul Davis countered with a darker view of things, saying the deficit is projected to hit $1.3 billion in five years.

“Our credit rating has been downgraded three times. We’re 45th in the nation in new business creation,” Davis said. “In 2013, more businesses closed up shop than opened shop. It’s because we have an economic experiment that isn’t working. Let’s return to a proven Kansas model of growing our economy, and that’s how we’re going to help Kansas.”

Many of Gov. Brownback’s critics foresaw htis outcome. The question is whether or not the hardline Republican can convince voters that, “The sun is shining in Kansas and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

What about the numbers? Will they say anything different, or will they reveal the sunshine?

Right.

Josh Barro explains:

Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, and the state is in for new fiscal pain as a result.

You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated. For fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, the state collected $330 million less in taxes than it had forecast, and $700 million less than it had collected in the prior year.

Those are big numbers in a state that spends about $6 billion annually from its general fund, and the revenue weakness led both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to cut Kansas’ credit rating this year.

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