Forget Impeachment — Congress Agrees on a Major Compromise
Author: Greg Valliere
December 10, 2019
AMID THE IMPEACHMENT DIN, there’s real news from Washington as Congress races toward adjournment in a week and a half, looking for compromises. A NAFTA replacement treaty is close to ratification, and now there’s a major breakthrough on a defense measure that’s largely a victory for President Trump, with two provisions that will reverberate for decades to come.
BOTH PARTIES HAVE AGREED on a $738 billion fiscal 2020 defense bill that will create a new Space Force, a top priority for Trump as the U.S., Russia and China begin the militarization of space. Trump undoubtedly will portray this as a major political victory, but Democrats can brag that they won 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers, a top priority of Ivanka Trump.
ONLY A CHRISTMAS GRINCH would complain about the price-tag; neither of these provisions are paid for, as the Washington spending binge continues unabated. The measure didn’t even accept curbs on Trump’s ability to spend more money on a wall with Mexico. It also includes a 3.1% salary increase for military personnel.
WE HAVE LONG ARGUED THAT THE PUREST INVESTMENT PLAY in Washington is the defense sector, and there’s nothing in this bill to refute that assertion. The desire to spend more on defense is so great that the measure contains funding for 12 more Lockheed F-35 fighter jets than the White House requested. Major increases, as expected, were agreed upon for Naval destroyers, frigates, amphibious warships, etc. Shipbuilding has been a major investment play; space-based defense will be the new frontier.
THE 3,488-PAGE MEASURE INCLUDES SANCTIONS against North Korea and Turkey but the biggest impact of this bill will be the creation of a 6th branch of the military — the Space Force, which will report to the Air Force secretary. The bill creates a chief of space operations, who will be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is a big deal, a legacy issue for Trump.
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THE IMPEACHMENT BANDWAGON: With a House vote to impeach just days away, the only suspense is whether there will be defections in either party. We think it’s possible that no Republican in the House will vote to impeach; ironically, Nancy Pelosi has to worry about her own defections, perhaps up to a dozen. But she clearly has the vote to impeach, setting up a Senate trial beginning in January.
NO CHANGE IN THE SENATE: Assuming all 47 Democrats vote to convict (and that’s not a certain assumption), there would have to be 20 Republican defectors to hit 67 votes, the total needed to oust Trump. There’s a chance that GOP Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Cory Gardner could defect, but that would still leave the Democrats 17 votes short.
MAYBE THERE COULD BE FIVE TOTAL GOP DEFECTORS in the Senate — but maybe there could be none. In any event, as we have asserted for the past year, 20 defectors seems out of the question. Our mantra persists: if you want Trump out, vote him out.
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