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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019 10:36 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Trump’s congressional stonewall

Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking point: It's plain as day in the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 1: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Founding Father George Mason of Virginia said at the Federal Convention that Members of Congress “are not only Legislators but they possess inquisitorial powers. They must meet frequently to inspect the Conduct of the public offices.” That includes you, President Trump, just as Congress investigated President Warren Harding during the Teapot Dome and President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandals. Perhaps Trump is weary of his presidential company on thus matters.

President Trump’s former legal counsel, Don McGahn, snubbed a congressional subpoena to testify this morning at the behest of his former boss and the House Judiciary Committee responded with an "empty chair" hearing. In doing so, McGahn jeopardizes his standing as an officer of the court. It’s part of Trump’s stonewalling strategy, with his administration refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. But there has already been a breach in the strategy, with U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington ruling Congress has the power to demand Trump's tax returns. “To be sure, there are limits on Congress’s investigative authority. But those limits do not substantially constrain Congress,” Mehta said in a 41-page ruling. “So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,’ Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution.”

2. Delay to 2020?

President Trump seems to be goading House Democrats into impeachment, figuring the Republican Senate would be his firewall. He figures that if Democrats impeach, they'll find out what Republicans did with President Clinton in 1998, that impeachment doesn't have much political support.Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now trying to fend off her restive caucus. Politico:  At a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee stood up and demanded Trump's impeachment. Pelosi countered, "This is not about politics, it's about what's best for the American people." Pelosi sees impeachment as a losing proposition heading into 2020. HPI: Trump's resistance and court rulings could push much of the ramifications into 2020, an election year.

3. Pence's 'Indiana mafia' at HHS

Politico  describes Vice President Mike Pence's "Indiana mafia" over at Health and Human Services. Top HHS leadership include Secretary Alex Azar,Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Medicaid/Medicare Chief Seema Verma, all from Indiana and most with ties to Gov. Pence. “He has clearly recruited people connected to him who share his very extreme views on sexual and reproductive health care," said Emily Stewart, the vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood. "This has been one of the most active administrations ever on rolling back reproductive rights and there's no way that happens unless you have people in the White House driving the effort to put out policies at such a rapid clip.”

4. SCOTUS passes on HEA1337

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday deferred action  on two Indiana abortion law challenges that could pose a threat to Roe v. Wade. As we analyzed last week, the Indiana law HEA1337 signed by Gov. Pence in March 2016 has a better chance to test Roe than the draconian Alabama statutes signed last week. But SCOTUS could revisit that decision  as early as next week. Bloomberg News: Both Indiana appeals are optional; the court could turn them away without making any comment on the merits, as it does with thousands of appeals every year. Four votes are needed to accept a case, meaning that in all likelihood either Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Brett Kavanaugh would have to join with the three most conservative justices to grant review.

5. Mayor Pete news

Mayor Pete Buttigieg'sFox News  town hall Sunday night drew 1.1 million viewers, or 18 million less than the final episode of "Game of Thrones"(which Buttigieg views, describing it as a "guilty pleasure"). Buttigieg is out of his South Bend throne half the time since launching his presidential bid. The South Bend Tribune's  Jeff Parrott reports Mayor Pete has been out of town 55 or 120 days, or 39 of 86 weekdays. In an Iowa Starting Line/Change Research Poll  released Monday, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were tied at 24%, Buttigieg was third at 14%, Elizabeth Warren at 12% and Kamala Harris at 10%. Buttigieg picked up the endorsement of Florida Democratic attorney general nominee Sean Shaw of Tampa. It's his first major nod from an African-American. Shaw told the Miami Herald: “He’s the future of not only the party, but where I’d like to see us go with the country. Every time I hear him speak I love the way he makes me feel about where this country could go.”

All hail King Bran the Broken, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and the Protector of the Realm! Have a great day, folks, and thanks for reading. It's The Atomic!
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  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND  — Mayor Pete won another South Bend election. This one wasn’t so big. Or was it?

    While Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, his candidate’s name was. James Mueller, his candidate, his choice to be his successor as mayor, won the Democratic mayoral nomination, tantamount to being elected mayor of South Bend. Mueller, with 37% of the vote, won with a double-digit percentage margin over the nearest competitor in a nine-candidate field that included four other candidates considered viable. Not bad for a candidate who came from nowhere. Well, he of course came from somewhere, from the Buttigieg administration, where he was the mayor’s chief of staff and then executive director of a key development department. But, politically, from nowhere. Mueller began the race with low political name recognition, no cultivated political following and lack of political campaign expertise. He hadn’t planned to run. Didn’t at first really want to run. Buttigieg told victory celebrants Tuesday night that Mueller “answered the call when it was not the most comfortable or obvious thing to do. It’s why, even though he’s not the cigar-chomping, back-slapping politician that some people might expect, and neither am I, he is exactly the right person.”
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON  – A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to a group of students and decided to start with a point-blank question: Is Congress doing a good job? There were perhaps 100 people in the room, and not a single one raised his or her hand. So I asked the question a different way: Is Congress nearly or completely dysfunctional? Most hands went up. These were not experts, of course. They were simply reflecting a broad public consensus that things are not working well on Capitol Hill. But they weren’t wrong, either. Things aren’t working well on Capitol Hill. I can tick off the problems and so can you. Congress doesn’t follow good process. It seems to have lost the ability to legislate. It’s too polarized and partisan. It’s dominated by political game-playing and the undue influence of money. It defers too readily to the president. Routine matters get bottled up. Its output is low and it simply cannot pass a budget on time.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – You don’t want to hear it, but fractions are important. They guide our lives. The unemployment rate. The pollen count. The interest rate. The speed of a car. All are fractions with numerators (the numbers on top) and denominators (the numbers on the bottom). Per capita personal income (PCPI) is a fraction that became the holy economic grail for Hoosier politicians. What do they know of that annual numeric stew cooked by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis? PCPI is personal income divided by population? Yeah, but personal income is not the amount you report to the IRS. The top of the fraction (personal income) includes money paid by employers for Social Security, unemployment insurance and other sums you don’t see. Plus there’s dividend, interest and rental income “imputed” to you. Also included is the value of government payments you get (Social Security) or made on your behalf by government (Medicare and Medicaid).
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    NASHVILLE, Ind. — Last week I regaled you with the legacies of the Senate lions, the late Birch Bayh and Richard Lugar. Their passing occurred just months after Indiana's newest senator, Republican Mike Braun, followed in their giant footsteps. In the television age of politics, only nine white guys have made it to the U.S. Senate from Indiana. Our new senators tend to arrive in crisis atmosphere, whether it was the assassination of President Kennedy 11 months after Sen. Birch Bayh was sworn in, the shooting of President Reagan three months after Dan Quayle took the oath, or President Clinton's impeachment that prompted Sen. Evan Bayh's first votes. Sen. Braun came to Washington with the federal government shut down, in a standoff over immigration between President Trump and congressional Democrats. It was a "crisis" that pales in comparison to the thunderclap immediacy of gunshots and impeachment, but it is a sclerosis that has created historic dysfunction at a time of global duress, whether it be climate change, rising super powers or a rapidly aging population. All of these issues will test the viability of our republic in the coming years. Braun won office by sporting a blue shirt sans tie, dispatched three sitting Members of Congress along the way with a cranky attitude that endeared him to many Hoosiers who are fed up with bovine scatology that has become federal governance. 
  • By TREVOR FOUGHTY

    INDIANAPOLIS - There's an old aphorism about being a mayor that goes, "Plowing streets isn't a partisan issue." In other words: Being a Republican or Democrat might signal the governing approach of a legislator or a candidate for state or federal executive office with a broad range of powers, but it doesn't tell you much about how a mayor may manage a city. Once elected, a mayor — perhaps more than any other officeholder — is judged more on their ability to deliver results around nuts-and-bolts issues than their ability to advance an ideological agenda. And yet so many obituaries for the late Dick Lugar note that he was a successful senator and he was a successful mayor, but fail to make the connection that he was a successful senator because he was a successful mayor. To most commentators, his eight years leading Indianapolis are merely a one-sentence biographical prelude to paragraphs about his thirty-six years of achievement in Washington. But it wasn't those achievements that earned Lugar the title of statesman, it was his approach to governing. And in so many of his later achievements, we see the approach of a mayor: Someone who understood that bringing people together, solving problems, and delivering results should be the goal of government, at whatever level.

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  • Atomic! 2020 preview;  Noonan on 'wounded nation'; Amash & stirred
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. 2020 preezy preview: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: We got a sneak peak of 2020 presidential politics this past weekend, with Vice President Pence at Taylor University,Mayor Pete Buttigieg doing a Fox News town hall Sunday night, while Rep. Eric Swalwell did Democratic campaign events in Indianapolis and Columbus (where his wife is from). Pence received a standing ovation  despite about 40 students and staff walking out prior to his commencement address at the Upland campus. With Roe v. Wade scenarios flying in the wake of Alabama’s draconian abortion law restrictions, Pence used his address to inspire students. "Wherever life takes you, take a service attitude. Consider others as more important than yourselves. Go show the world every day, that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time." Mayor Pete spent his hour with host Chris Wallace on Fox talking about minority voters and issues. But his comments on President Trump and Fox News commentators like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham created a buzz. "Look, it's mesmerizing,” he said of Trump. "It's hard for anybody to look away. Me too. It is the nature of grotesque things that you can't look away. Look, what we’re trying to do here is different because the moment that we’re in is different."
  • HPI Analysis: Trump's pull out of TPP complicates his tariff war
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – This has been a tough spring on Indiana’s grain belt. Because of the soggy weather, the percentage of corn and soybean crops in the field hovers between 1% and 6%. Commodity prices are tanking. And the political giant in rural Indiana,  President Donald Trump, has plotted a course that puts farmers in the global crosshairs. With trade talks faltering between the Unites States and China, and Trump ratcheting up tariffs from 10% to 25% last Friday, there is no end in sight. Hoosier Ag Today’s Eric Pfeiffer reported: We’ve all heard the expression, “When it rains, it pours.” Rensselaer farmer and Indiana Farm Bureau Vice President Kendell Culp says farmers are being poured on, literally and figuratively at the moment, testing their patience. “Because of planting delays, because of rain, and because of lower prices every day, and comments made by the administration which causes an immediate drop in in commodity prices, and really no relief in sight, no deals in sight … It’s just time and, the farmers, I just think they’re out of patience.”
  • Change of fiscal guard as Vincent leaves OMB

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - The change of the fiscal guard in the Holcomb administration continued Friday after it was announced that OMB Director Micah Vincent was resigning on the same day Budget Director Jason Dudich left. Vincent will be replaced by deputy chief of staff Cris Johnston. “Micah has played key roles in some of our biggest initiatives and became a trusted advisor," Gov. Eric Holcomb said. "I appreciate his creative ideas to solve issues and the thoughtful way he has approached maintaining the state’s solid fiscal footing. Cris is a veteran who will step seamlessly into the OMB role and assist with the financing of large infrastructure projects, such as the West Lake and South Shore rail expansions in northwest Indiana.” The change is effective June 30. As previously announced, Friday was Dudich’s last day as state budget director. Vincent will take over those responsibilities on an interim basis until a replacement is named. Vincent has accepted a position as vice president, strategy+M&A, with The Heritage Group, in Indianapolis.

  • Atomic! Indiana abortion law & SCOTUS; Trump, Pete & Chasten
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Indiana's abortion restrictions and SCOTUS: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Vice President Mike Pence's career goals has been to consign Roe v. Wade "to the ash heap of history." Three months before ascending to Donald Trump's national ticket, he signed HEA 1337 saying it would “ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry or disability, including Down syndrome.” This week a wave of abortion restrictions  have passed in Alabama, Missouri and Louisiana, setting up speculation of a U.S. Supreme Court showdown. The Alabama law is seen by conservatives ranging from Rev. Pat Robertson to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as an overreach. It is the Indiana law that could ultimately challenge Roe v. Wade. When the 7th Circuit struck the law down, Judge Daniel Manion noted that in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which defined how far states could go in limiting abortion, “the purported right to have a pre-viability abortion is more ironclad even than the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Only a majority of the Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment can permit the States to place some limits on abortion.” Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute told WTHR-TV's  Kevin Rader, "The U.S. Supreme Court for many weeks now has been considering taking on Indiana's case that could be the beginning of the end for Roe v. Wade. We know today it was under review for a 14th time. Maybe unprecedented, but certainly quite rare in the history of the Supreme Court. There is some important reason the court continues to keep this case on the front burner." 
  • HPI Analysis: Gov. Holcomb reelect on historic footing

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Has there been such a thing as a slam-dunk reelection for an Indiana governor? This question is posed as Gov. Eric Holcomb and First Lady Janet are in the midst of their deliberations on whether he will seek a second term. On the face of it, the notion that Holcomb wouldn’t run would be a stunner. Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer told HPI on Monday, “He’s publicly said he and Janet will spend some time talking and thinking about things. That will happen on his own timeline. As a state chair, he’s done the work and had achievement that should he desire, he’d been in a strong position. “I would be very disappointed if he didn’t seek a second term,” Hupfer said. Short of that silly “rumor” that he was on a short list to become ambassador to Italy, it’s hard to fathom Holcomb not seeking a second term. He purports no national ambition at this point in his career and appears to enjoy every aspect of the job. Not only that, but he’s in about as strong a position as an incumbent governor could find.

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  • Walorski lauds Trump lifting metals tariffs
    “This is great news for American manufacturers, farmers, workers, and families. The agreement with Canada and Mexico to lift steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliation without quotas will allow the U.S. to better target China’s unfair trade practices and pave the way for the USMCA. I’m grateful to President Trump and Ambassador Lighthizer for fulfilling their pledge to resolve this issue so we can move full steam ahead on a modernized trade agreement with two of our closest trading partners. I look forward to working together to finalize a great deal for the American people.” - U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski after President Trump announced he was lifting steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada. Trump also said he would not impose tariffs on autos. Walorski is pictured with Ambassador Robert Lighthizer.
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  • Indiana newspaper closings continue

    Indiana's atrophied newspaper saga continues. Today we learn of the closing of the Hendricks County Flyer, which covered Brownsburg, Avon, Plainfield and surrounding areas. Publisher Beverly Joyce told readers that only 6% of recipients voluntarily paid for the paper. “Unfortunately, the business model of free content to a large print audience was not sustainable,” the paper quoted Joyce saying. “We tried every way we could to keep the operation viable.”

    This sad news comes as close to 1,800 newspapers across the U.S. have closed since 2004. Other newspapers closing in Indiana include NUVO Newsweekly in Indianapolis and Green Banner Publishing of Pekin, which had newspapers in Scott, Washington and Floyd counties. The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel is now a one-person operation.

    This is a crisis for Hoosier citizens. Where will they be getting their local news? - Brian A. Howey, publisher


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