As the dust settled on last week’s non-vote to repeal Obamacare, that very dust turned into flying fur as President Trump took to Twitter (odd, huh?) to attack members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, many of whom he blames for the plan’s failure. Let this be a reminder to all that this President is not exactly a traditional Republican, and he’s spent his life doing deals. If you aren’t at the table, you are probably on the menu.
Our own U.S. Senator Pat Toomey this week was much more circumspect about the “Repeal and Replace” implosion, expressing displeasure that the House couldn’t get its collective act together but maintaining hope. We would remind our friends who were dancing in the streets last Friday: The House GOP may have swung and missed last week, but it is only the first inning. Rome, much like Obamacare, was not built in a day. Or even seventy days, for that matter.
Toomey also opined that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate, no two ways about it. For those who like to refer to changing Senate confirmation rules as “the nuclear option,” we would say that given how dysfunctional Congress has been out of the gate, the nuclear option phrase may be a tad overused. These folks nuke each other rhetorically every single day. See: Nunes, Devin.
Our other U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. this week spent some time convening a roundtable with law enforcement to discuss the heroin and opioid crisis that is gripping the nation. We were once again reminded by the men and women in blue that we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis.
One such man in blue, our good friend John McNesby of the Philly Fraternal Order of Police, found himself in a room with the President and Vice-President this week, discussing everything from crime to sanctuary cities. McNesby, never shy about expressing his beliefs, had been publicly critical about the President’s unwillingness to listen on some occasions. Seems Trump was listening after all.
As if on cue that same day, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired off a threat to so-called sanctuary cities, saying he will likely pull all Department of Justice funding for cities who don’t comply with the feds’ wishes on immigration. “We will take your funding” seems to be a recurring political threat these days.
President Trump is about to affix his signature to yet another Executive Order, this one directing his administration to explore trade abuses. Trump’s hatred of the North American Free Trade Agreement is well-documented from the campaign trail, and is yet another stark reminder of how everything we once knew about politics has pretty much flown out the window: A Republican President is looking to repeal a free trade agreement signed by a Democratic President. Dogs and cats, living together. It will be anarchy!
A bill winding its way through our own General Assembly that would temporarily shield the name of a police officer involved in a shooting may be headed for the same fate as last year: the veto pen of Governor Tom Wolf. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, could be the target of the first-ever veto override attempt of the Wolf Administration. A word of caution to all veto override proponents: voting for a bill is a LOT easier than voting to override your own governor. The latter is Pennsylvania’s version of the nuclear option.
A political battle has broken out in Pittsburgh over the speed (or lack thereof, depending on the camp you are in) at which the city is replacing lead water lines. Like many cities, Pittsburgh is grappling with trying to replace millions of dollars worth of outdated lines with some duct tape, a case of Iron City and a prayer. Not too many American cities are flush with cash these days, it turns out.
Speaking of cash, Philly City Council this week began discussing Mayor Jim Kenney’s $4.4 billion proposed budget. And while council members are cautiously optimistic, Council President Darrell Clarke has his eye fixed firmly on the horizon, where more than a few storm clouds are forming.
Lawmakers are finding themselves in a familiar place this year as they try to expand gaming in Pennsylvania while a cadre of lawmakers works to inject legalized gaming terminals in bars into the mix. We have seen this video gaming terminal discussion scuttle the ship before, but this time around much more is at stake, outside of the revenue needed to help close the budget gap.
What else is at stake, you may ask? Glad you are so inquisitive on this soggy Friday! The legislature still needs to come up with a fix to the local share section of the slots casino law, and that clock is ticking loudly. Local shares, for the uninformed, are the dollars that casinos pony up to host counties and municipalities. The courts have ruled the current funding construct to be unconstitutional, throwing a sense of urgency into the mix, especially for the folks who spend that loot every year.
A group of GOP lawmaker this week unveiled a package of bills aimed at making Pennsylvania a so-called Right to Work state. The chance of Governor Tom Wolf signing any of those bills is roughly equal to that of President Trump giving up Twitter, so we will leave that right there and move along.
In the race for the medical marijuana grower and distributor licenses, a rather weird trend has emerged. That is, applicants bringing former NFL players in as partners in their applications, apparently hoping that the “star power” will help them win the coveted licenses. Notwithstanding the fact that NFL players may not have much experience in the medical cannabis field, we wonder if the opposite scenario might work. For instance, if the Philadelphia Eagles sign a horticulture expert to play quarterback next year, would they win the Super Bowl?
We send a shout-out this week to our good friend, former state senator and longtime transportation funding advocate John Wozniak, who this week was nominated by Governor Wolf to serve as a commissioner at the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Good luck, Woz!
In our We Can’t Make This Up section this week, we will temporarily change the title to “We Wish We Were Making This Up.” According to a published and abjectly terrifying report, spiders could theoretically eat every single human on earth in just one year. We will be under the covers with a flamethrower if you need us for anything from here on out.
That is what passes for news around here as March turns to April and we all set our sights on warmer weather and a state budget impasse. Until next week, have a great weekend and buy some extra cans of Raid!
The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh