MOODY TRUMP IS AN UNKNOWN FACTOR AS SENATE GEARS UP FOR IMMIGRATION FIX: The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the "Dreamer" immigrants on Monday, and Republican senators say they'll introduce President Donald Trump's plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation. If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he'll say something that undermines the effort. Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president's blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.
TRUMP'S 2019 BUDGET PROPOSAL A $1 TRILLION DEFICIT NIGHTMARE FOR CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS: "A lot of presidents' budgets are ignored. But I would expect this one to be completely irrelevant and totally ignored," said Jason Furman, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. "In fact, Congress passed a law week that basically undid the budget before it was even submitted." Trump would again spare Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare as he promised during the 2016 campaign. And while his plan would reprise last year's attempt to scuttle the "Obamacare" health law and sharply cut back the Medicaid program for the elderly, poor and disabled, Trump's allies on Capitol Hill have signaled there's no interest in tackling hot-button health issues during an election year. Instead, the new budget deal and last year's tax cuts herald the return of trillion dollar-plus deficits. Last year, Trump's budget predicted a $526 billion budget deficit for the 2019 fiscal year starting Oct. 1; instead, it's set to exceed $1 trillion once the cost of the new spending pact and the tax cuts are added to Congressional Budget Office projections.
FLOODING THE SWAMP: LOBBYISTS SPENT TENS OF MILLIONS SHAPING TRUMP'S TAX SCAM: The National Association of Realtors tallied $22.2 million between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to newly filed disclosure reports. That's double what the organization spent in the third quarter on lobbying activities. The Business Roundtable spent $17.3 million in the fourth quarter, nearly quadruple the amount over the three previous months, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported spending $16.8 million, a $3.7 million increase. Public Citizen, a nonprofit watchdog group, said in a Jan. 30 report that more than 4,600 lobbyists were engaged specifically on the tax rewrite while several thousand more sought to influence tax policy in addition to other legislative matters. That worked out to 13 lobbyists for every member of Congress. Along with cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, the tax law grants tens of billions in tax breaks on profits that America's richest multinational companies have kept overseas. Both moves are big victories for big business.
TRUMP ADMIN FAIL: PENCE SNUBS NORTH KOREANS, TILLERSON REPORTS (FROM CAIRO) IT'S TOO EARLY TO TELL IF PROGRESS IS BEING MADE: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says "it's too early to tell" if recent signs of overture between North and South Korea at the Olympics mean that a genuine political process is beginning. Speaking Monday in Cairo during a weeklong visit to the Middle East, he said it's clear that preliminary discussions are necessary if talks are to be meaningful. He said "It's really up to the North Koreans to decide when they're ready to engage with us in a sincere way, a meaningful way. They know what has to be on the table...we'll just have to wait and see." U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. opposes talks between the two Koreas until North Korea agrees to open negotiations on ending its nuclear program.
ADAM SCHIFF BLASTS TRUMP FOR REFUSING TO RELEASE DEMS' MEMO: Rep. Adam Schiff of California, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump is putting his personal interest above the country's in blocking a memo that "completely undermines his claim of vindication" in special counsel Robert Mueller's continuing investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign's relationship with Russian interests and Russia's meddling in the election. "The president doesn't want the public to see the underlying facts," Schiff said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." Trump overrode strong Justice Department objections when he declassified a Republican memo alleging an abuse of surveillance powers in the FBI's Russia investigation. But Trump has blocked the Democratic document, which tries to counter the Republican allegations of surveillance excesses. "Their goal here is to put the FBI on trial, to put Bob Mueller's investigation on trial, and the president is only too happy to accommodate," Schiff said.