A look at how the White House came to its expected Iran announcement
Tax reform turmoil: The signature GOP promise is looking more complicated
A behind-the-scenes look at the expected White House decision on the Iran nuclear deal, watching the changing dynamic of the Trump/Tillerson relationship, and new worries for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy promise on tax reform. It’s all in the “Inside Politics” forecast – where you get a bit of tomorrow’s news today.
1) Inside the White House decision on Iran
President Donald Trump is expected to announce plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal this Thursday. The Iran deal has been a big talking point for the Trump White House. Trump didn’t mince words about it before he took office, saying it wasn’t a good deal for the country.
Now he says Iran has not “lived up” to the spirit of the deal. As the Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren tells us, the President has been wanting to do something about the Iran deal since he took office and one call from Trump to a member of Congress could have upped that momentum to get the deal changed.
“Ninety days ago, when this recertification question was up, the White House was prepared to recertify,” said Warren. “The day that they were supposed to be recertifying, the President changed his mind. And for seven hours within the White House there was a scramble; changing talking points, debates. The President was calling up Sen. Tom Cotton, one of the big opponents of the Iran deal, to have a conference call essentially with his national security team. In the end of those seven hours, the President did decide to recertify.
“But basically from that moment on, he made the decision that he was going to do whatever he could to not recertify the next time around.”
2) The dos and don’ts of the nuclear deal
It’s not as easy as one announcement and everything is changed – not when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal. In Congress, there’s been a plan in the works for months about what to do about the deal. As The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian explains, it’s a one-shot kind of endeavor and lawmakers know the devil is in the details. Congress is going to try to address “the main GOP complaint that after 10 years that Iran is put on a definite pathway to nuclear development,” said Demirjian. “The problem is, they don’t have buy-in from Democrats.”
“Either you blow up the deal or you don’t blow up the deal; we know they don’t want to blow up the deal, which means you get one shot to actually change the things you don’t like about it. Otherwise you become the boy who cried wolf,” said Demirjian.
“If you do this every three months, people aren’t going to believe you’re actually going to change anything. That rests now on doing something in congress … the question is how hard are Democrats going to hold to the line of protecting Obama’s deal and try to make this a political issue. It is not clear who it is a win for. But it will become a political fight on Capitol Hill. The question is, who will ultimately win and what will the President’s reaction then be?”
3) Policy déjà vu has GOP worried
As Trump touted a possible temporary deal with Democrats, House Speaker Paul Ryan was trying to follow through on another big GOP promise. Ryan was on a tax cut public relations blitz this week. He said lawmakers are right on track with tax reform legislation.
But as CNN’s John King has learned, some big stakeholders in the tax reform promise are worried that this legislative fight is starting to look a lot like another Republican promise that failed – Obamacare repeal and replace. One of the main similarities: There are, again, significant internal GOP policy divides in both the House and the Senate. Another possible battle involves procedural hurdles. Even the characters are familiar.
One veteran GOP strategist closely involved with the tax legislation said he understood the public optimism from a marketing and morale standpoint.
But now it’s October and with major issues remaining in both chambers, the strategist suggested that “the serious obstacles – both political and procedural – facing tax reform have been ignored.”
In the Senate, the budget squeaked out of committee on a party line vote but – much like the Obamacare debate – there are big hurdles to getting it passed given the narrow GOP majority and various internal divides.
“Kind of crazy down to that again,” a second GOP operative involved in the tax maneuvering said of the pressure on leadership to try to find the right formula to win enough votes.
Those sources and several others tracking the tax debate said the political urgency – the GOP needs a policy win – should help resolve some of the conflicts. But, “that’s what people thought about health care,” one of the strategists said.
4) Aides hope time will heal all Tillerson wounds
Trump is standing by his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The vote of confidence comes as reports surfaced, again, about Tillerson wanting to leave his post this past summer. This time those reports came with another bombshell: that Tillerson allegedly called his boss a “moron.”
Tillerson went in front of cameras this week to deny that he wanted to leave his post. When asked Wednesday about the “moron” reports, he said, “We don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense. It is intended to do nothing but divide people.”
The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip has spoken to White House aides about the dynamic between Trump and Tillerson and said staffers are hoping a little time to cool off will go a long way.
“The two have not met face to face and there are no plans at the moment for that to happen. Their relationship is on ice. Thin ice. And, you know, (Tillerson) has the job right now, but when you talk to folks in the White House, they say, ‘We just don’t know.’ At any moment the President really could just change his mind. They haven’t really had any opportunities to broach the conflict over this issue and, as time goes on, I think there are a lot of White House aides who suspect the President’s going to stew and stew and then one day Tillerson is no longer going to have that coveted presidential confidence.”
5) Trump defends Puerto Rico hurricane response
Puerto Rico is still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria. Trump visited there this past week and the White House is still on the defensive when it comes to the federal response to the US territory. As CNN’s Sara Murray tells us, the backlash about Trump’s visit and the federal help has been a sore spot for the White House.
“They’re very defensive. They are taking aim at local officials saying they’re not doing enough, taking aim at reporters on the ground saying they’re misrepresenting the situation and no one has acknowledged, at this point, what they could have done better, what they have learned from this, what they might do differently next time,” Murray said.
“There is still a humanitarian crisis that is unfolding on the ground in Puerto Rico. It is going to last for months. And it is clearly a very sensitive spot for this White House because they feel like they have done a really good job, responding to other crises, responding to Texas, responding to Florida; they’re certainly not getting high marks in Puerto Rico though.”