Biden’s full-throated attack on Trump seen as double-edged sword

Joe Biden took to Twitter Thursday to declare, “President Trump picked a fight with the wrong guy.”

That’s the same line the former vice president used a day earlier – to a rousing standing ovation – as Biden, for the first time, unequivocally called for the impeachment of Trump.

While the president has been front-and-center in the Ukraine controversy that sparked House Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump, Biden’s another key player, and with the impeachment push overshadowing the 2020 White House race, the Democrat has grabbed outsized attention over his rivals for the presidential nomination.

BIDEN, WARREN, GAIN GROUND IN NEW FOX NEWS POLL

It’s a double-edged sword for the former vice president, with Trump’s allegations against Biden’s own Ukraine connection also in the spotlight.

Biden on Wednesday launched a forceful attack on the president – coming from a candidate who in recent weeks was anything but aggressive in calling for Trump’s impeachment, unlike most of his 2020 rivals.

“We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It’s no joke,” Biden emphasized during two speeches in New Hampshire. “He’s shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it.”

Biden’s announcement came one day after the White House vowed not to play ball with the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, but it also came as the former vice president lost his polling status as the unrivaled front-runner. Biden’s neck-and-neck with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for the top spot in most of the recent national and early-voting-state surveys, although he held a lead in the latest Fox News Poll.

FOR FIRST TIME, BIDEN CALLS FOR TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

And, Biden was left in the dust in the race for campaign cash, with both Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont each topping him by roughly $10 million in the July-September third quarter of fundraising.

With those setbacks in mind, the unveiling of the more aggressive, in-your-face approach by Biden has been seen as considerably timely.

“It gets his sea legs under him,” noted Larry Rasky, a longtime Biden friend, adviser and fundraiser. “It gives everybody more energy.”

Rasky, who’s not directly involved in Biden’s 2020 campaign, predicted, “it’s definitely going to help fundraising.”

He added that donors “are happy to see Biden taking on the fight with intensity.”

Biden, in his speeches, taunted the president, claiming “he’s afraid of just how badly I will beat him next November.”

Veteran Democratic consultant and communications strategist Lynda Tran noted that such swagger would resonate with voters. She also said the Ukraine controversy put the spotlight on foreign relations, a wheelhouse for the former vice president.

“His remarks yesterday came across as an ‘enough is enough’ call to action and reminder to the American electorate of the fighter and statesman they have long known,” said Tran, who ran communications for the Obama-era grassroots group Organizing for America and was a founding partner of the communications firm 270 Strategies.

The impeachment inquiry was sparked by Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter over their dealings in the eastern European country. Fueled by whistleblower complaints and a transcript of the call released by the White House, Democrats argued the president was asking a foreign country to interfere in a U.S. election.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that before that phone call, millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine was put on hold. Despite allegations that Trump was using that money as leverage, Trump has insisted repeatedly that he did nothing wrong. He said there was no “quid pro quo” and on numerous occasions has described his conversation with the Ukrainian leader as “perfect.”

BIDEN CAMPAIGN SLAMS NY TIMES FOR OP-ED ON FORMER VP’S UKRAINE TIES

The president and allies instead have tried to put the spotlight on Biden and his son.

Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president. Trump and fellow Republicans have questioned how Biden pushed in 2016 for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was looking into corruption at the company. The prosecutor – who had faced widespread accusations of overlooking corruption in his own office – later was dismissed.

Biden, defending his actions in Ukraine, said, “there’s no truth to [Trump’s] charges and attacks against me and my son. Zero.”

Biden also accused the president of throwing “lies and distortions and smears” at him and his son, “because he thinks he’ll undermine my candidacy for the nomination as well as the presidency if I am the nominee.”

While the Fox News national poll released Wednesday indicated that a majority said the president should be impeached and removed from office, Biden has faced warning signs of his own.

MAJORITY BACK TRUMP IMPEACHMENT IN LATEST FOX NEWS POLL

Thirty-six percent questioned in the survey said they found the Trump allegations against Biden extremely or very troubling. That included 34 percent of independents and even 24 percent of Democrats.

Longtime Republican strategist Colin Reed highlighted that “the discussion involving Ukraine is going to involve a continued focus on why Hunter Biden was being paid $50,000 a month to sit on the board of an energy company with him having absolutely no expertise in that area.”

Reed emphasized, “I think that crony capitalism does not sit well with voters in the center, right or left.”

And, Biden’s increased criticism aimed at the president likely will incite further attacks from Trump.

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While the former vice president was speaking in New Hampshire, the president took to Twitter to return fire.

“So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment – and I did nothing wrong. Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!” Trump wrote.

Ukraine top prosecutor says Hunter Biden, Burisma cases will be reviewed

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said Friday that his office is “conducting an audit” of closed cases that had been previously investigated, including the probe into Hunter Biden and the energy giant Burisma.

Ruslan Ryaboshapka, the country’s prosecutor general, said at a news conference that his office was instructed to review cases that have been closed, fragmented or investigated earlier to make sure they were fairly and thoroughly handled. He said no one attempted to influence him to call for the new investigations.

DOCUMENTS HEIGHTEN SCRUTINY ON BIDEN-UKRAINE DEALINGS, INDICATE HUNTER MAY HAVE MADE ‘MILLIONS’

His comment came as the Trump White House fights an impeachment inquiry that involves allegations that President Trump used military funding as part of a “quid pro quo” proposal with Kiev to investigate Biden and his father, former Vice President Joe Biden.

President Trump has denied wrongdoing. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who participated in a scrutinized phone call with Trump in July, said he never felt pressure from Trump.

Trump’s key focus has been how Hunter Biden, who reportedly knew little about the energy business and the country, ended up on Burisma’s board while his father was vice president under Barack Obama.

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Ryaboshapka is considered a reformer and “the father of the anti-corruption strategy in Ukraine,” a former associate told the Washington Post. Another peer called him an “honest person” but expressed doubts that he has the ability to weed out corruption in the country.

“Being a good guy is not always enough,’ the source said.

California to appeal Trump tax return ruling, renew bid to block president from 2020 primary ballot

California’s chief elections officer said Tuesday he will appeal a federal judge’s decision to block a state law that would have required President Trump to submit five years’ worth of his personal income tax returns in order to be included on the state’s 2020 primary ballot in March.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced his plans just hours after U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. issued a written opinion saying the state law likely violates the U.S. Constitution. England Jr., who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, had announced last month he planned to block the law.

TRUMP ATTORNEY JAY SEKULOW SAYS CALIFORNIA TRIED TO ‘SHRED CONSTITUTION’ AFTER COURT RULED IN FAVOR OF PRESIDENT

“California will appeal this ruling and we will continue to make our thorough, thoughtful argument for stronger financial disclosure requirements for presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Padilla said in a statement. “Our elected leaders have a legal and moral obligation to be transparent with voters about potential conflicts of interest. This law is fundamental to preserving and protecting American democracy.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, had signed the proposal into law in July. Jesse Melgar, the governor’s spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times that Newsom supported an appeal of Tuesday’s ruling, adding: “States have a legal and moral duty to restore public confidence in government and ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards.”

In his 24-page decision, England Jr. said the law violates Trump’s First Amendment right of associating with voters who share his political beliefs. He also noted the California Legislature is controlled by Democrats, who passed a law targeting a Republican president.

“The dangerous precedent set by this act, allowing the controlling party in any state’s legislature to add substantive requirements as a precondition to qualifying for the state’s presidential primary ballot, should concern all candidates alike,” the judge wrote.

“The dangerous precedent set by this act, allowing the controlling party in any state’s legislature to add substantive requirements as a precondition to qualifying for the state’s presidential primary ballot, should concern all candidates alike.”

— U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow praised the ruling in an interview on “Hannity,” saying the law reflected “an ongoing pattern and practice of trying to basically shred the Constitution.” England Jr.’s ruling affirmed that it was outside the state’s authority to set qualifications for running for president. That power belongs to the Constitution.

Lawyers from state and national Republican parties, who are also defendants in the lawsuit, voiced concerns during last month’s hearing that leaving Trump off the primary ballot would stifle Republican voter turnout at the primaries and, therefore, ensure that fewer GOP candidates make it to the general election.

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Under California’s so-called jungle primary system, all candidates, regardless of party, vie for the same elected office and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election. Since it was implemented in California in 2010, this system has often ensured a Democrat-vs.-Democrat general election battle in all but California’s most conservative areas.

California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson called the ruling a victory for voters and their ability to vote for the candidate of their choice. Patterson said in a news release: “This decision rightfully stops the Democrats’ petty politics and their efforts to disenfranchise millions of California voters and suppress Republican voter turnout.”

Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

North Korea, US officials agreed to meet to resume nuclear talks: report

The United States and North Korea have agreed to hold working-level talks this coming weekend, according to a report by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA published Tuesday.

The meeting would break an almost an eight-month-long stalemate on a nuclear agreement between the two countries.

JOHN BOLTON CRITICIZES TRUMP’S NK STRATEGY IN FIRST SPEECH SINCE WHITE HOUSE EXIT                                                                                                             

Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials have stalled since President Trump and Kim Jong Un walked away from their second summit in Vietnam in February without a deal. Kim wanted sanctions relief in exchange for partial disarmament. In the several months since, North Korea has run several short-range missile tests. Trump has largely downplayed the tests, saying they haven’t violated any agreements.

Citing a statement issued by North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, KCNA reported the two countries will make preliminary contact on Friday before sitting down for working-level talks Saturday.

“The delegates of the DPRK side are ready to enter into the DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations,” Choe said in the statement, according to Reuters. The foreign minister used North Korea’s official name, which is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“It is my expectation that the working-level negotiations would accelerate the positive development of the DPRK-U.S. relations,” Choe said.

Last month, North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, warned that Washington ought to offer the “right calculation method at the upcoming talks,” Reuters reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in September that the U.S. was prepared to meet with North Korea to re-open discussions on a nuclear deal.

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On Monday, former national security adviser John Bolton warned in a speech in Washington D.C. that Kim Jong Un “will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.” 

Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.

First House Republican comes out in support of impeachment inquiry: report

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., on Friday became the first House Republican to express support for Congress’ impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

“I’m a big fan of oversight, so let’s let the committees get to work and see where it goes,”  he said in a conference call with reporters, according to The Hill.

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) speaks at a town hall with Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) inside the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on April 17, 2017 in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by David Calvert/Getty Images)

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) speaks at a town hall with Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) inside the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on April 17, 2017 in Reno, Nevada. (Photo by David Calvert/Getty Images)

WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT ON TRUMP UKRAINE CALL: READ THE DOCUMENT

Amodei told reporters that at this point he wouldn’t vote to impeach Trump. But he said he was concerned about the July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s activities in the country.

“Using government agencies to, if it’s proven, to put your finger on the scale of an election, I don’t think that’s right,” Amodei added. “If it turns out that it’s something along those lines, then there’s a problem.”

But he cautioned he was “in no way, shape, or form” indicating “support for impeachment,” The Hill reported.

Trump’s phone call with Zelensky came under scrutiny after an unidentified whistleblower filed a complaint with the Inspector General, alleging Trump abused his office by pressuring a foreign country to investigate his political rival.

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Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., has said he supports impeachment. He left the Republican party earlier this year.

Trump’s UN meeting with Ukraine president still on despite ‘whistleblower’ story: reports

President Trump remains scheduled to meet with his Ukraine counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week despite a media frenzy unleashed by Friday’s report that a whistleblower complained about a “promise” the U.S. president allegedly made to the foreign leader in a July phone call.

The U.N.’s official schedule says Trump, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and 16 other world leaders will attend a General Assembly meeting Tuesday. NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell tweeted Friday that the White House confirmed Trump will meet with Zelensky on Wednesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the second gathering would be a one-on-one meeting.

NEW DETAILS REPORTED ON TRUMP-UKRAINE CALL AS DEMS CLASH WITH WHITE HOUSE ON COMPLAINT

Zelensky will also take meetings with leaders of the Ukrainian community in the U.S., leaders of Jewish organizations based in the U.S. and representatives of the American business community, O’Donnell reported. He will also attend the Sustainable Development Summit.

A senior White House official told Axios that Trump will meet with Zelensky to congratulate him on his victory in the eastern European nation’s recent presidential election and his “energy and success” in battling corruption. The official said Trump will also voice “his concerns about predatory Chinese economic activity in Ukraine.” Trump’s itinerary also says he’ll meet with the leaders of Pakistan, Poland, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt, South Korea, the U.K., India, Iraq and El Salvador, Axios reported.

Trump will also host a summit Monday on religious freedom. His speech will present the U.S. as an alternative to authoritarianism and underline his “commitment to upholding democracy and protecting religious freedom,” administration officials said Friday during a briefing call, according to Axios. Trump will not attend a U.N. meeting that same day that’s slated to focus on climate change.

A secret whistleblower filed a complaint with the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, on Aug. 12, detailing a “promise” Trump reportedly made to an unnamed foreign leader. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire so far has withheld the complaint from Congress. The Washington Post and the New York Times both reported Thursday that the complaint involved Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that, in a July phone call, Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to work with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on a probe into Hunter Biden. The call came a month before Trump put a hold on $250 million in military aid to Ukraine — a hold that was eventually released after objections from the Senate.

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Trump called the whistleblower a partisan and dismissed the allegation as “another political hack job,” while Democrats in Congress accused the president of trying to intimidate whistleblowers and demanded the administration hand over the complaint and a transcript of the call. 2020 hopefuls used the controversy as a chance to renew calls for impeachment.

Joe Biden, now a Democratic presidential candidate, has faced scrutiny for months over his past role allegedly pressuring the country to fire its top prosecutor while he was leading a corruption investigation into a natural gas company that had ties to his son Hunter Biden. Giuliani has suggested that Biden, as VP, worked to protect the company from investigation.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.

Trump family ‘dynasty’ will ‘last for decades,’ 2020 campaign chief says

President Trump and his family represent a political movement with the potential of transforming the Republican Party, according to Brad Parscale, manager of the president’s 2020 reelection campaign.

“I just think they’re a dynasty,” Parscale told reporters after delivering a speech Saturday at the fall convention of the California Republican Party.

“I think they’re all amazing people … with amazing capabilities,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared. You see it from all.”

GOP PLANS CALIFORNIA COMEBACK IN 2020, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER BRAD PARSCALE SAYS AT STATE CONVENTION

“I think they’re all amazing people … with amazing capabilities. I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared. You see it from all.”

— Brad Parscale, manager of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Parscale was speaking at the end of a week that saw Ivanka Trump embark on a trip to Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay to promote the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative; saw Republican political strategist Rick Wilson predict in a Daily Beast column that Donald Trump Jr. will seek and likely win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination; and saw Jared Kushner appoint a lieutenant in his role of crafting the president’s Middle East policy, according to Politico.

Earlier Saturday, Parscale told the convention crowd in Indian Wells that the Trump family’s influence would likely “last for decades,” and propel the GOP “into a new party – one that will adapt to changing cultures.

“One must continue to adapt while keeping the conservative values that we believe in,” he added, though when speaking later with reporters he declined to speculate on whether any of the president’s family members would seek elected office, the AP reported.

Then-President-elect Donald Trump, center, is flanked by daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., at a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 11, 2017. (Associated Press)

Then-President-elect Donald Trump, center, is flanked by daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr., at a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Jan. 11, 2017. (Associated Press)

At the California GOP convention, party delegates sought to develop an election strategy in a heavily Democratic state that Trump lost by more than 4 million votes in 2016. Polls show the president remains widely unpopular there.

Parscale acknowledged that California was not a key focus of Trump’s reelection plans. “This is not a swing state,” he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

But he noted California was the biggest source of the president’s campaign donations.

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The party’s struggles in California are well known. Democrats control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature, while holding an edge of nearly 4 million in voter registrations. Both U.S. Senate seats are in Democratic hands, and the party has a 46-7 edge over Republicans in U.S. House seats in the state.

The last significant push by a Republican presidential candidate to win California was in 2000, when George W. Bush was backed by more than $15 million, then lost to Democrat Al Gore by 12 points.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

US says it plans to create fake social media accounts to monitor immigrants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers can now use fake social media accounts to monitor immigrants seeking visas, green cards and citizenship.

The new plan is a policy change from July that reverses a Homeland Security Department ban that cited privacy issues.

A statement from USCIS said the agency will use the fake accounts only “to access social media content that is publicly available to all users of the social media platform,” adding its personnel will respect users’ privacy settings and won’t “friend” or “follow” users.

PROTESTERS IN NYC RIP ICE, TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION POLICIES; COUNTER-PROTESTERS SAY DEMS TO BLAME FOR BORDER CRISIS

USCIS said it doesn’t proactively monitor social media accounts.

“We use social media information to investigate an existing request for immigration benefits, as part of our background and security check process,” the statement said.

In June, the State Department started requiring visa applicants to give their social media information.

However, the new USCIS policy may violate Facebook’s and Twitter’s terms of use, which both prohibit users from creating fake accounts.

“It is against our policies to use fake personae and to use Twitter data for persistent surveillance of individuals. We look forward to understanding USCIS’s proposed practices to determine whether they are consistent with our terms of service,” Twitter said in a statement to Fox News.

Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher for the civil liberties advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the new policy “undermines our trust in social media companies and our ability to communicate and organize and stay in touch with people.”

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There has been bipartisan support for more social media background checks since the 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Rep. Steve King jokes about imprisoned Muslims being forced to eat pork in China

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is facing backlash after he joked about forcing Muslims imprisoned in China to eat pork during a town hall event on Tuesday.

The Sioux City Journal reported that King was explaining China’s crackdown on Muslims and how a “million of them” have been detained in concentration camps where he said the women are sterilized so that they can’t have any children. He went on to mention how China had also been forcing them to “wear Chinese clothes” and “eat Chinese diet,” which he reportedly added, “includes trying to force the Muslims to eat pork.”

“That’s actually the only part of that that I agree with. Everybody ought to eat pork. if you have a shortage of bacon, you can’t be happy,” King chuckled.

An estimated 1 million Uighurs have since been detained in internment camps and prisons across the region, and advocacy groups say that includes more than 400 prominent academics, writers, performers and artists. Critics say the government is targeting intellectuals as a way to dilute, or even erase, the Uighur culture, language and identity.

REP. STEVE KING SLAMMED BY FELLOW GOP COLLEAGUES FOR ‘WHITE SUPREMACIST’ REMARK 

King has already gotten blowback from The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), demanding GOP lawmakers to condemn the Iowa representative.

“Republican leaders need to make clear, once and for all, that Islamophobia will not be tolerated in their ranks,” CAIR said in a statement to the Sioux City Journal. “If King had joked about any other religious minority in concentration camps suffering the same humiliation he would have been kicked out of the Republican Party.”

This isn’t the first time King’s remarks sparked controversy. Earlier this month, the congressman pondered whether everyone’s “family trees” included ancestors who were the product of rape or incest while attempting to defend his pro-life stance that excludes any exceptions for abortions.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said. “Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”

Several GOP lawmakers condemned their colleague following those remarks, including Rep. Liz Cheney, who called on him to resign.

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King was formally condemned in the House of Representatives back in January for asking why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” had become offensive. He was also stripped from all committee assignments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Presidential administrations from both sides like to spend, but then again, so do most Americans

Eat your veggies. Take your vitamins. Hit the gym. Eliminate alcohol and caffeine.

Everyone knows how to stay healthy.

Yet we don’t like carrots and kale. We forget our Centrum. We go to happy hour with friends after work and skip the cardio class.

This is human nature. Who wouldn’t rather eat goodies then pound away a few hours at the gym?

So, is it any surprise the federal debt and deficit is exploding?

The psychology is really the same.

The public doesn’t like to hear about burgeoning debt. People certainly lecture Washington about profligate spending. There’s renewed worry about the federal deficit amid signals of a potential economic slowdown. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the new fiscal blueprint lawmakers okayed earlier this summer could spike the deficit by $800 billion over the next decade. Few on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue have the will to make meaningful spending cuts.

Let’s face it: the deficit is up because Congress and Presidents of both parties like to spend. But frankly, most Americans like spending too.

The Congressional Budget Office revised its economic outlook after Congress voted to terminate old spending limitations. Those strictures kept some federal expenditures in check. President Trump went along with the plan.

“The nation’s fiscal outlook is challenging,” said Congressional Budget Office Director Philip Swagel.

There’s now a chasm between what the government takes in and what it spends. Swagel said the difference is now at “the highest level just after World War II.”

Despite President Trump’s support, only 65 House Republicans supported the budget measure. A scant 29 Senate Republicans voted yea there. Mr. Trump signed the package into law.

“Can you hear it?” asked Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Senate floor a few weeks ago as the Senate prepared to consider the budget accord. “It’s a dirge. A funeral march. It’s the death of a movement. A once-proud movement with hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall. It’s the death. It’s the last gasp of a movement in America that was concerned with our national debt. Today is the final nail in the coffin. The tea party is no more.”

The tea party energized Republicans in 2010. It helped flip control of the House of Representatives in one of the most-epic, landslide victories in American politics. The result was a repudiation of the “big spending” policies of Democrats. Tea party loyalists targeted passage of Obamacare and the $700 billion stimulus package after the economic calamity of 2008.

This followed approval of a bipartisan $700 billion fiscal rescue measure in the fall of 2008. Plus, there were multiple, massive spending measures to fight the war on terrorism and fund military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those came on the watches of a mostly-GOP controlled Congress and President George W. Bush.

The point is that both parties like to spend. Republicans seemed to get religion with fiscal discipline, via the tea party, when it was politically advantageous to pillory President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Paul called out his GOP brethren for this hypocrisy.

“So Democrats don’t care. The country should know that. Democrats do not care about the debt. But here is the problem. The only opposition party we have in the country is the Republican Party, and they don’t care either,” said Paul.

There are two types of federal spending: “Mandatory” and “discretionary.”

For every dollar of federal spending, about 70 cents immediately goes toward the mandatory side of the ledger. It’s called “mandatory” because Congress put entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on automatic pilot decades ago. Congress doesn’t approve any money for those programs. The funds just “mandatorily” float out of the federal coffers.

This is where the public finds itself in conflict. People know to diet and eat right. But they just can’t turn down a slab of birthday cake slathered with buttercream icing.

No lawmaker from either party wants to touch those entitlements, because, well, the public likes that spending. The public sends a mixed message: slash spending. But don’t harm benefits – even if entitlements are responsible for most of the national debt.

Seventy cents of every federal dollar goes for entitlements. The remaining 30 cents is allocated for “discretionary” spending. In other words, Congress has “discretion” to approve that money each year. Defense is the biggest chunk of discretionary spending Of the remaining 30 cents of each federal dollar, about 16 cents goes to the military. Some Democrats and a handful of Republicans would like to cut Pentagon expenditures. But the military would still consume a substantial portion of the discretionary pie. So, entitlements and the Pentagon consume about 86 cents of every federal dollar.

Then, throw in money for the Department of Veterans Affairs and a spending line called “Military Construction.” Nobody wants to cut the VA. So, if you couple the appropriations bill known on Capitol Hill as “MilCon/VA” with the annual Pentagon spending bill, 88 cents of each federal dollar is untouchable. That leaves only the remaining 12 cents as a potential place to cut. That final 12 cents funds everything from the State Department to the Department of Interior. It funds Congress. Homeland Security.

If policymakers really wanted to make an impact on the debt, they’d mine entitlements and defense spending for cuts. Eliminating programs from the 12 cents is the equivalent of a ding in the fender when there’s an 18 car pileup on the freeway.

Entitlements, and, to a much lesser degree, the military, are the biggest contributors to the national debt. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) says lawmakers are loathed to cut from either.

“Those are so toxic to talk about. Everyone doesn’t want to talk about it,” said Lankford.

There is also some chatter about the impact of the GOP tax cut law on the debt. The Congressional Budget Office said the GOP tax cut bill would increase the deficit slightly over the next decade. But one of the main pitches Republicans made in favor of the tax cut is that it would stimulate the economy – perhaps by as much as four percent or more. As a result, the tax cut would “pay for itself.” That would help reduce the gap between revenues and expenditures.

“This grows the economy,” argued former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in late 2017.

“It’s deficit-neutral,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) when asked about the tax law on Fox Business.

In a defense of the tax law, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee assert the problem is “spending, not revenues” when it came to the deficit. GOPers note that income and payroll taxes are up, even if corporate receipts were off earlier in the summer. That’s what compelled Congress to lift the debt ceiling.

So spending is higher. But tax cut law proponents certainly haven’t witnessed the level of economic growth they hoped to help harness the deficit.

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Presidential administrations of both parties like to spend. Liberals and conservatives on Capitol Hill like to spend. And even though they don’t like to admit it, most Americans like the government to spend.

Everyone knows they should eat their veggies and build up a sweat at the gym. But that slab or rhubarb pie with a side of French vanilla ice cream is just too enticing.