White House officials at COP 21 helped craft a deal congressional Republicans would not be able to stop – and the effort required major political capital
Watch CNN’s coverage of the fifth Republican presidential debate live from Las Vegas on Tuesday, December 15. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET.Washington (CNN)Nine candidates will appear in prime-time Tuesday night for the final Republican presidential primary debate of 2015, a critical event that will help shape the contest heading into the Iowa caucuses.Businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner for the nomination, will again be center stage flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on his right and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on his left, CNN announced Sunday. The six remaining participants in the prime-time contest will be Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.Four candidates — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki — will appear in the first debate on Tuesday evening.
Priorities USA Action is simply not a priority for the Bay Area’s wealthy few who Democrats believe are necessary to fund a winning presidential effort.
SAN FRANCISCO — The main super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s White House bid is struggling to convince Silicon Valley’s mega donors to cut the $1 million-plus checks it says it needs to lay the groundwork for what’s expected to be the most expensive general-election fight in history.
The challenges facing Priorities USA Action, according to a dozen people closely involved in the PAC’s California efforts, are manifold: Some of these liberal Democratic tech moguls are more interested in their own self-funded political groups; others cite ideologically fueled distaste for super PACs; and more still point to residual bad blood after a messy Silicon Valley congressional race in 2014.
No matter the reason, it all adds up to one thing: Priorities is simply not a priority for the Bay Area’s wealthy few who Democrats believe are necessary to fund a winning presidential effort.
“The fear is that once the [Republicans] decide to turn the guns on, they’re not going to stop,” explained one high-ranking swing-state Democrat, warning that Priorities needs to have the big-money reserves to counter such attacks before they start. A mad rush to collect those checks would be chaotic at best, he said: “You never want to scramble”.
The pro-Clinton super PAC surprised many party insiders in June when it rushed to prove itself by pulling in eight separate $1 million checks. Coming shortly after a leadership shakeup at the organization, that mid-year financial report showed nearly $16 million in cash collected since January and included some of the party’s most generous big-money donors. (The group had raised $25 million more by mid-September.)
“I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.”
Both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have largely focused their campaigns on domestic policy—and both garnered significant applause from the audience when it came to these issues. Sanders’ attacks on Wall Street and the campaign finance system, and his call for a raising the minimum wage were met with big approval from the crowd. O’Malley hit several of those same notes, though his biggest applause line came when he called Donald Trump an “immigration-bashing carnival barker.”
Though the debate remained civil, Sanders and O’Malley did attack Clinton on several issues, including the donations she has received from Wall Street over the years. Her strategy for rebutting such attacks came into focus during the debate.
Here are some of the night’s top moments.
Sanders says he’s not as big a socialist as Dwight Eisenhower
Sanders wants to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, make public college free, and expand Social Security. If his plan is to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for these investments, CBS’ Nancy Cordes asked him, how high would they be?
“We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was 90 percent,” Sanders promised. The crowd laughed almost nervously at the high number. But Sanders quickly reassured them.
“I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.” The audience roared.
On Friday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) released an immigration plan. The plan is arguably more similar to Donald Trump’s plan, released this August (and which Donald Trump himself seems to have forgotten), than to Cruz’s own position from past years.
In 2013, Cruz wanted to expand legal immigration, and proposed an amendment — which Cruz allies now claim didn’t represent his actual position — to legalize unauthorized immigrants currently in the US without allowing them to become US citizens. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz wants to freeze legal immigration, make it much harder to get visas for high-skilled workers, and increase deportations.
And while he doesn’t explicitly say this, his plan includes all the elements of past policy proposals for “attrition through enforcement” — the policy agenda known as self-deportation.
Cruz wants to make it much harder for employers to hire foreign workers
In 2013, Cruz opposed the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that Marco Rubio helped write. At the time, Cruz made it clear that he opposed unauthorized immigration but supported legal immigration. He voted against amendments from Sen. Jeff Sessions to reduce legal immigration and actuallyintroduced an amendment to make the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers five times bigger. And even during the speech unveiling his immigration plan, Cruz called for the US to focus on skilled workers such as doctors.
But he appears to be worried that the Republican base voters he’s hoping to win away from Donald Trump are just as worried about legal immigrants taking their jobs as they are about unauthorized immigration. (He’s probably right.) So his plan actually calls for a freeze on legal immigration levels — and it specifically targets the H-1B visa program.
Cruz’ plan would “suspend the issuance of all H-1B visas for 180 days” while investigating the program. (Since new batches of H-1B visas get issued twice a year, and they typically run out within hours, this could be timed so that it didn’t actually disrupt any visa issuances — but it would be tricky.) The H-1B visas will only start being issued again after his administration has made “fundamental reforms” to the program.
Cruz justifies the visa freeze by saying the government needs to investigate allegations of abuse in the visa program. There have, in fact, been increased reports that some of the heaviest users of the system are using H-1B workers to replace American workers. But those reports involve employers breaking the existing federal rules for hiring high-skilled immigrant workers. Cruz’s “fundamental reforms” — which aren’t included in his written plan but which he mentioned in his speech — include a requirement that visa holders have a PhD-level degree (preferably from an American university); a ban on firing American workers for a certain amount of time after H-1B workers are hired; and a requirement that employers sign sworn affidavits that they’ve tried to hire American workers first.
Cruz wants a freeze on legal immigration
Cruz also wants to freeze legal immigration levels across the board “as long as work-force participation rates are below historical averages.” How high a bar that sets depends on how you define “historical”: If you go back to the 1950s, the current labor force participation rate is on par with the historical average. Since Cruz doesn’t think that’s the case right now, it appears he’s setting the bar a little higher.
Technically, he wants to prevent legal immigration levels from being “adjusted upward.” That could just mean that he wouldn’t let Congress raise quotas in the law. But if he means he would freeze the number of applications that the federal government could approve to come legally each year, it could have a pretty big impact.
The latest presidential debate vividly captured how the 2008 financial crisis has reshaped the Republican Party by unleashing a potent populist strain that could further scramble an already unpredictable primary contest.
Candidates vying for the 2016 GOP nomination have grown distinctly more leery of big banks, corporations and international trade deals, and outright hostile toward the Federal Reserve.
Some of these impulses gave rise to the tea-party movement in 2009 and flared in the 2012 GOP primary contest, but they faded with the nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a private-equity executive.
The debate in Milwaukee didn’t appear to fundamentally alter the state of the race. But with candidates heading off to Iowa and New Hampshire on Wednesday, it showed how their jockeying to carry the populist banner could intensify in the run-up to those states’ early nominating contests next February.
Candidates who have made full-on appeals for the antiestablishment mantle—businessman Donald Trump, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—are looking to consolidate that support as the field eventually narrows. Others, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are walking a finer balancing act to maintain broader appeal.
The populist undercurrent has upended the Democratic field as well, where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist, has filled arenas while raising millions from small donors. Progressive party leaders have pushed front-runner Hillary Clinton to adopt more liberal proposals on everything from higher minimum wages to making Social Security benefits more generous.
“A nasty—and ignorant—anti-Wall Street climate prevails in both parties, and it’s something our industry has to worry about,” said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, in a client note Wednesday.
The fourth GOP debate, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal and Fox Business Network, illustrated how Republicans are competing to bridge their populist message with the party’s traditional support for lower taxes and less regulation. Candidates castigated crony capitalism, questioned the value of a Pacific trade pact and bashed the Fed as a cause of the financial crisis and a tool of the Obama administration.
Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, criticized President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul for prolonging a “cozy little game between regulators and health-insurance companies.” She called on the government to require every health-care provider to publish “its costs, its prices, its outcomes, because as patients we don’t know what we’re buying.”
Mr. Cruz said his flat-tax proposal would end preferential treatment of the rich and well-connected. “No longer do you have hedge-fund billionaires paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries,” he said. “Giant corporations with armies of accountants regularly are paying little to no taxes while small businesses are getting hammered.”
Mr. Rubio found himself defending a proposal to boost child-care tax credits as a way to support low- and middle-income Americans against charges from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul that it would run up big deficits and create a new entitlement program.
One notable exchange came when candidates were asked how they would handle failing banks during a hypothetical rerun of the 2008 financial crisis. During a back and forth with Mr. Cruz, Mr. Kasich chided candidates for issuing “philosophical” platitudes.
“When you are faced, in the last financial crisis, with banks going under and people who put their life savings in there, you got to deal with it,” Mr. Kasich said, who was booed by the audience at one point.
Mr. Cruz initially said he would “absolutely not” support bailing out big banks but later said there was a role for the Fed to serve as a “lender of last resort.”
The exchange “seemed yet one more example of how the wounds from the financial crisis have yet to heal, and those who try to talk rationally about it are disadvantaged against populists,” said Charles Gabriel, a financial-industry policy analyst at Capital Alpha Partners in Washington.
Candidates voiced concerns about the power of big banks, even as they promised to sweep away new regulations, including the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that requires the biggest banks to raise more capital to withstand financial crises. They also heaped criticism on the Federal Reserve, which has taken unprecedented steps to spur growth in the seven years following the financial crisis—but has also consistently overestimated growth rates in its forecasts.
Mr. Paul said the Fed’s policies had hurt the poor by leading to higher prices and lower currency values. But inflation has remained under the Fed’s 2% target for more than three years with many economists concerned more recently about deflation. Also, the dollar has strengthened this year as U.S. economic growth looks comparatively better than in the rest of the world.
Mr. Cruz said the Fed had become “a series of philosopher-kings trying to guess what’s happening with the economy.” To manage inflation, he advocated a return to the gold standard, an idea widely dismissed by mainstream economists.
Milton Friedman, the late Nobel laureate who championed free-market policies, urged President Richard Nixon to abandon the system of fixed currency-exchange rates that emerged after World War II shortly before Mr. Nixon took office in 1968. Mr. Nixon scrapped the peg in 1971.
In Tuesday evening’s first debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized the Fed for keeping rates artificially low to support Mr. Obama. He then warned that rates were too low to revive the economy should it slide back into recession. “The Fed should stop playing politics with our money supply,” he said.
White House officials have rejected outright the idea that they would seek to influence monetary policy. Some analysts said the criticism of the Fed distracted from Republicans’ opportunities to offer more concrete pocketbook proposals.
“The most dismaying element” of Tuesday’s debate was that “none of the candidates appear to have read, much less absorbed, the innovative ideas” of “reform-minded conservative economists,” said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has advocated many of those policies. “Instead, they all promoted ideas that appealed to the antediluvian base.”
Write to Nick Timiraos at firstname.lastname@example.org