President Trump, in Speech to Congress, Calls to “Restart the Engine” of U.S. Economy

President Trump declared Tuesday that a “new chapter of American greatness is now beginning” as he made economic revival the centerpiece of his first address to Congress – issuing a clarion call to “restart the engine of the American economy” through tax cuts, better trade deals, immigration enforcement and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.

He also called on Congress to replace what he called the “imploding ObamaCare disaster” with legislation that lowers costs and expands access, an ambitious goal for GOP lawmakers still trying to come together on a plan.

The president outlined his agenda in an address to a joint session of Congress that lasted roughly an hour and focused largely on priorities at home, more than abroad. He offered a decidedly upbeat vision for the future of the country that stood in contrast to his at-times foreboding inauguration address.

“Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope,” Trump said, urging lawmakers to “join forces” to deliver.

Trump called for a “national rebuilding,” urging Congress to pass legislation that produces a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure.

Speaking to a key campaign promise that has yet to be realized, he said his team is developing “historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.” He vowed a “big, big cut” including “massive tax relief for the middle class.”

And he urged Congress to replace ObamaCare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.”

He outlined “principles” to guide negotiations, including a call for Americans with pre-existing coverage to keep access to care, for states to have “flexibility” with Medicaid, and for Americans to be able to buy insurance across state lines.

In calling to “restart” the American jobs engine, Trump said the U.S. must make it “easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much, much harder for companies to leave our country.”

The biggest task ahead is Republicans’ drive to repeal and replace ObamaCare. As Trump appealed for a comprehensive package, some in the party have been divided over the plans being privately discussed at the Capitol.

House Speaker Paul Ryan played down divisions ahead of Tuesday’s speech. “This is a plan that we are all working on together,” he told reporters. “There aren’t rival plans here.” After the speech, Ryan applauded Trump for what he called a “home run.”

But the official Democratic response offered a reminder of the resistance Trump will face on his legislative agenda, particularly on ObamaCare.

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear warned those efforts would strip affordable health insurance from Americans. “This isn’t a game. It’s life and death for people,” he said.

State Senator wants Audit of Federal Funding, Obligations in State Programs

A conservative lawmaker wants an audit conducted of all state programs that use federal funds — and the ultimate costs federal obligations place on state and local freedom.

State Sen. David Craig sent a letter Tuesday to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requesting it direct the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a “comprehensive audit of all state programs which receive or utilize federal funds.”

The Town of Vernon Republican wants a review of the “federal requirements, regulations, and restrictions which bind the usage of those (federal) funds and tie the hands of our state government officials, local officials, and limits the freedom of our constituents.”

Craig asks the audit bureau to consider:

  • The cost of compliance and freedom lost by the state agency and local officials due to regulation.
  • The estimated savings that could be realized should a regulation be lifted or lessened.
  • The cost of compliance and loss of freedom born by the citizens of the state as a result of the regulation.

A Tax Foundation review found that in fiscal year 2013 a combined 30 percent of state revenues nationally were derived from federal grants-in-aid. That included everything from federal Medicaid payments and education funding assistance to cash for infrastructure projects and housing grants.

Mississippi topped the dependency list in fiscal year 2013, deriving nearly 43 percent of its revenue from federal assistance. Louisiana was next at 41.9 percent, followed by Tennessee (39.5 percent).

Wisconsin ranked 36th in the nation, with 27.7 percent of revenue coming from federal sources, according to the Tax Foundation.

North Dakota was least dependent, at 19 percent, followed by Hawaii (21.5 percent), and Alaska (22.4 percent).

Such dependency creates obligations that can be costly for state and local governments, particularly in funding areas such as transportation and health care. In essence, the federal government demands that state and local governments follow costly rules and procedures or risk losing a portion or all of the federal dollars.

“As part of the on-going efforts to return powers and flexibilities back to the states though our (legislative) Federalism Committee, I am seeking additional information to identify the areas which would lift the burden of federal government regulations and mandates so the committee can craft reforms which will bring efficiency to our state government and liberty our citizens,” Craig wrote in the letter to state Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, co-chairs of the Joint Audit Committee.

Senator Marklein Introduces Rural Broadband Bill to Increase Funding and Expand Access

State Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) introduced LRB -2042/1, a collaborative rural broadband expansion bill today that is a combination of the proposal that was promoted by Governor Scott Walker on December 1, 2016 and recommendations made by the 2016 Study Committee on Rural Broadband, which he chaired in 2016.

“This bill is the product of hundreds of hours of hard work and study by many dedicated people in Wisconsin,” Marklein said. “We took the funding ideas from the Governor and combined them with the Rural Broadband Study Committee’s recommendations to produce legislation that will make an immediate, significant impact on rural broadband in Wisconsin.”

LRB -2042/1 is co-authored by Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and is part of the Assembly’s Rural Wisconsin Initiative for the 2017-2018 session. The bill is currently in circulation for co-sponsorship through Friday, February 17, 2017.

“The Study Committee on Rural Broadband developed several recommendations for improving the Rural Broadband Expansion Grant program that is administered by the Public Service Commission,” Marklein said. “This bill insures that these ideas are applied to any new grants from the program.”

“In December, the Governor announced the availability of surpluses in other programs that could be used for broadband,” Marklein said. “Combining these funds with the study committee’s recommendations is good policy and I look forward to moving this bill through the legislative process quickly.”

The bill accomplishes the following:

1. Allocates an additional $15.5 million to the Rural Broadband Expansion Grant Program for additional 2017 grant awards from surplus funds in E-Rate ($5 million) the Universal Service Fund (USF) ($6 million) and the unencumbered balances from other USF-funded appropriations (estimate $4.5 million).

2. Provides the PSC with a requirement that the grants go to the areas of the state with the greatest need. We want to use scarce resources to “fill from the bottom up”.

3. Includes a policy that prevents broadband service providers from “cherry picking” high value customers, while ignoring the needs of residential customers.

4. Directs the PSC, in evaluating grant proposals, to consider the impact of improved broadband on our students at home, and patients at home.

5. Discourages the duplication of existing service. Seeks to supplement the federal CAFII funding in areas not benefiting from the federal money.

6. Adds funding to the Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program and expands the number of rural school districts who are eligible for the program.

Neil Gorsuch: Who is he? Bio, Facts, Background and Political Views

Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, is President Donald Trump’s choice to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated a year ago by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch has the typical pedigree of a high court justice. He graduated from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, clerked for two Supreme Court justices and did a stint at the Department of Justice.

Since 2006, he has served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Colorado. He is an outdoorsman who fishes, hunts and skis. On the court, conservatives hope he will become the intellectual heir to Scalia, long the outspoken leader of the conservative bloc.

“The real appeal of Gorsuch nomination is he’s likely to be the most effective conservative nominee in terms of winning over Anthony Kennedy and forging conservative decisions on the court,” said Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center. “He’s unusual for his memorable writing style, the depth of his reading and his willingness to rethink constitutional principles from the ground up.

Like Justice Scalia, he sometimes reaches results that favor liberals when he thinks the history or text of the Constitution or the law require it, especially in areas like criminal law or the rights of religious minorities, but unlike Scalia he’s less willing to defer to regulations and might be more willing to second-guess Trump’s regulatory decision.”

Gorsuch is a favorite of legal conservatives because he has sharply questioned a three-decade old legal precedent that many on the right believe has given too much power to the regulatory state. The landmark 1984 Supreme Court ruling involving the Chevron oil company held that courts should defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous federal laws.

In a ruling last August in an immigration case, Gorsuch questioned the wisdom of that doctrine, arguing that the meaning of the law is for judges to decide, not federal bureaucrats.

“Where in all this does a court interpret the law and say what it is?” Gorsuch asked in an extended digression on the subject. “When does a court independently decide what the statute means and whether it has or has not vested a legal right in a person? Where Chevron applies that job seems to have gone extinct.”

Other rulings give conservatives confidence that Gorsuch is a strong supporter of religious freedom rights. Last September, he joined a dissent arguing that requirements for contraception coverage in Obamacare ran roughshod over the rights of religious non-profits.

Gorsuch also wrote a 2000 law journal article and a 2006 book arguing strongly against assisted-suicide laws. The practice of allowing the terminally ill to end their lives is now legal in six states and is on the verge of being legalized in Washington, D.C.

President Trump Signs Executive Order to Curtail Federal Regulations

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday aimed at slashing federal regulations to help businesses, the latest in a string of presidential directives he has unveiled in his first 10 days in office.

The “one in, two out” plan requires federal agencies requesting new regulations to cut two existing regulations. Trump said the order will reduce regulatory burdens on the private sector, particularly small businesses.

“If you have a regulation you want, number one, we’re not going to approve it because it’s already been approved probably in 17 different forms,” Trump said while signing the order surrounded by small business leaders.

“But if we do, the only way you have a chance is we have to knock out two regulations for every new regulation,” he said. “So if there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two.”

Government agencies must self-identify the regulations to cut, although the White House will ultimately decide what to nix.

A temporary regulatory freeze issued by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is already in place, but Monday’s directive sets a budget for new regulations. It doesn’t apply to the military or to national security regulations, and there is also an exception to allow flexibility during emergencies.

Before signing the order, Trump held a listening session with the business leaders at the White House where he pledged to create a climate that will allow businesses to thrive.

“We’re going to create an environment for small business like we haven’t had in many, many decades,” Trump said. “This isn’t a knock on President Obama. This is a knock on many presidents preceding me. It’s a knock on everybody.”

The businessman-turned-politician campaigned heavily against overbearing government rules that he said stifle entrepreneurship. Trump has pledged to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act aimed at regulating Wall Street, which he claims made the big banks bigger, and to replace it with “new policies to encourage economic growth and job creation.”

Wall Street has embraced Trump’s presidency so far, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting 20,000 points for the first time last week. Stocks dipped, however, on Monday as uncertainty swirled around Trump’s order to close the United States to people from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump has relied heavily on executive orders since his inauguration Jan. 20 to begin addressing his biggest campaign promises. He has declared that the United States will build a wall on the southern border with Mexico, advanced the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and weakened the Affordable Care Act.