Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

House conservatives were fuming Friday morning as the Republican conference voted on a deal President Donald Trump struck with Democrats to fund aid for Hurricane Harvey alongside measures to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling through mid-December.

Before the crucial vote, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney met with House Republicans at the Capitol to try to persuade holdouts to back the deal. Conservatives on the Hill oppose raising the debt ceiling without simultaneously passing fiscal reforms, and Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), chair of the Republican Study Committee, told leadership Thursday night that he and other conservatives would oppose the deal.

Walker was far from pleased following the Friday morning meeting. He was particularly irked by Mnuchin’s closing pitch to House Republicans, which he described as “weak.” Walker said that the Treasury secretary told GOP members, “Vote for the debt ceiling for me.”

“That did not go well in the room at all,” Walker told reporters following the meeting. “You could hear the murmurs in the room.”

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said he thought Mnuchin’s arguments in the meeting were “intellectually insulting.”

“How in the world did we get trapped into linking a clean debt ceiling increase over the long run with Harvey funding? To me that’s very cynical. I don’t like it,” Brat told reporters after the meeting.

“He doesn’t get it,” Brat complained, referring to Mnuchin.

Walker said that Mnuchin and Mulvaney were unable to answer questions from members about how the White House would approach votes on the budget and debt ceiling in December. Brat also lamented that the pair were not able to lay out a plan for “fiscal sanity” to be employed later this year.

The irony of Mulvaney, who was a fiscal hawk as a member of Congress and a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, pitching Republicans on a clean debt ceiling increase was apparent.

Walker told reporters “it got a little warm for Mulvaney at times” as members reminded him about his position on the debt ceiling while serving in the House.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told reporters after the meeting that he’d asked Mulvaney if he had any openings in the Office of Management and Budget, joking that the budget chief could perhaps hire some Republican members of Congress so that they could change their thinking on the debt ceiling. Issa said he made the comment in “good humor.”

“It was the only time I’ve seen Director Mulvaney quiet and speechless in at least five years,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said of Issa’s quip.

Despite the irony, Meadows did not seem upset that Mulvaney was pitching a clean debt ceiling hike.

“He has a different job and a different boss now,” Meadows told reporters.

The deal passed easily in the House, albeit with 90 “no” votes. Not all conservatives opposed to clean debt ceiling hikes were persuaded to support the bill: Rep. Joe Barton was one of four House Republicans from Texas to vote against aid for their own state.

“I’m not a happy camper about this process,” he told reporters, arguing that leaders should not tie difficult votes to hurricane relief aid.

Read More →

During an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose this week, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon claimed that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) lost a role in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet following Christie’s perceived lack of support for then-candidate Trump after the release of lewd comments Trump made about women.

In a clip that aired Friday morning on CBS, Bannon revealed how some of Trump’s allies reacted to the October release of Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape. Bannon revealed that Reince Priebus, then the chair of the Republican National Committee, told Trump that he would likely lose the presidential race after the tape was publicized. Bannon said that he told Trump at the time that he had a “100 percent probability of winning.”

The ousted chief strategist told Rose that the weekend following the release of that tape was a “litmus test” for those surrounding Trump, and that the President’s allies should back him no matter what.

“You can criticize him behind, but when you side with him, you have to side with him. And that’s what Billy Bush weekend showed me. Billy Bush Saturday showed me who really had Donald Trump’s back to play to his better angels,” Bannon said on CBS.

Asked if he “took names” that weekend, Bannon said he did, and revealed that Christie “was not looked at for a Cabinet position” because of his reaction to the tape.

“I told him, ‘The plane leaves at 11 o’clock in the morning. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.’ Didn’t make the plane,” Bannon recalled from a conversation he had with Christie.

It’s not completely clear what Bannon was referring to during the CBS interview. After the “Hollywood Access” tape was released, Christie said Trump’s comments on the tape were “unacceptable” and that he was “disturbed and disappointed by it and embarrassed for him and his family.”

The New Jersey governor did not pull his support for Trump at that time, but he did have a much lower profile as a campaign surrogate following that weekend.

The tape dropped just before a debate, and Christie reportedly visited Trump Tower in New York to help Trump prepare. However, he was not seen at the debate, which is perhaps the trip to which Bannon was referring.

A senior political campaign strategist for Christie’s presidential campaign disputed Bannon’s version of the events in a statement to the International Journal Review.

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-NY), a moderate who often bucks his own party, announced late Thursday that he will not seek re-election to the House in 2018.

Dent, the co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House, first revealed that he would retire in an interview with the Washington Post.

“Accomplishing the most basic fundamental tasks of governance is becoming far too difficult,” he told the Washington Post. “It shouldn’t be, but that’s reality.”

Dent told the Post that waited until Thursday to tell House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ fundraising arm. He said that Ryan and Stivers would prefer for him to seek re-election, but that he had decided this summer to retire.

He followed up with a statement explaining his decision to leave Congress.

“I have done my best to make a meaningful, positive impact. As a member of the governing wing of the Republican Party, I’ve worked to instill stability, certainty and predictability in Washington. I’ve fought to fulfill the basic functions of Government, like keeping the lights on and preventing default,” he said. “Regrettably, that has not been easy given the disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos.”

Dent said in the statement that he would “continue my role, both inside and soon outside of government, of giving voice to the sensible center and working to solve problems for the American people through smart policy — the product of negotiation, cooperation and inevitably, compromise.”

His decision to retire in 2018 leaves Republicans to defend yet another swing district without an incumbent running. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) have both already announced they will not run for re-election in districts that Republicans could have trouble maintaining.

Read More →

During his meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, President Donald Trump supported a proposal from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to eliminate the need for Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling altogether, according to several reports out Thursday.

Schumer suggested such a deal in the meeting, and Trump agreed that it was a good idea, according to the Washington Post, Politico, and Reuters. The two reached a “gentleman’s agreement,” a White House official told the Washington Post. Schumer said that Democrats would work on a proposal that could potentially come up for a vote in December, according to the reports.

Trump and Schumer reached an agreement to pursue this plan in the same meeting in which Trump backed Democrats’ proposal to tie Hurricane Harvey aid to legislation funding the government and raising the debt ceiling through mid-December.

The President then acknowledged to reporters on Thursday that he would consider eliminating the debt limit entirely.

“It could be discussed,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting when asked by reporters if he would be open to nixing the debt ceiling. “There are a lot of good reasons to do that.”

A plan to nix the need to vote on raising the debt ceiling could face opposition from Republicans. Conservatives in Congress regularly refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless it is paired with budget cuts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday rejected the idea of eliminating Congress’ need to vote on raising the debt ceiling.

“There’s a legitimate rule for the power of the purse in Article 1 powers, and that’s something we defend here in Congress,” he said at a press conference Thursday.



Read More →

During a meeting with members of his Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump indicated he would consider eliminating the debt ceiling entirely.

“It could be discussed,” Trump said when asked if he would be willing to nix the debt limit altogether, according to a White House pool report. “There are a lot of good reasons to do that.”

Trump’s comments came just one day after he rolled Republicans in Congress by siding with Democrats in agreeing to a three-month extension of the debt limit, tied to a short-term funding bill and Hurricane Harvey aid.

Raising the debt limit has become a daunting task in Congress, as conservative Republicans refuse to support a debt limit hike unless it is paired with budget cuts or fiscal reform. Given that stance, it’s not likely Republicans will be pleased that Trump would entertain completely lifting the limits on the federal government’s borrowing ability.

Read More →

The owners of Starrett City, a Brooklyn housing complex in which President Donald Trump has an ownership stake, announced Wednesday that they had found a buyer for the complex, which receives federal subsidies for affordable housing units.

The news that Trump could profit from the sale of the country’s largest federally subsidized housing complex prompted Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to demand information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the potential sale.

Democrats on the committee previously sent a letter in July to HUD, raising concerns about the fact that Trump could profit if the agency approved the sale of Starrett City. The members asked the department for communications and documents related to Trump’s stake in the complex. In a statement issued Wednesday night, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said that while they’ve received some documents from HUD, they haven’t gotten any information about the potential sale.

“We warned months ago that President Trump and his family could receive a multi-million dollar windfall if officials in his Administration—who ultimately report to him—approve the sale of Starrett City, so we are deeply concerned by this new report that a secret deal may be in the works,” they said in the statement. “Both the Obama and George W. Bush Administrations opposed previous efforts to sell the property because the parties refused to guarantee that families who rent there would be protected, so we need to understand what actions the Trump Administration has taken—or is about to take.”

“We will again push for clarification concerning how President Trump would profit from this potential sale and how affordable housing for thousands of working class families will be protected,” they added.

Trump has a four percent ownership stake in Starrett City. The sale of the complex to a venture between real estate firm Brooksville Company and private equity firm Rockpoint Group must be approved by HUD, as well as by state regulators.

Some New York lawmakers already pledged to carefully examine the potential sale.

“We shouldn’t do this without a full vetting by the tenants,” state Assemblyman Charles Barron (D) told the New York Times. “There’s going to be a battle on this one.”

The owners of Starrett City previously tried to sell the complex in 2007, but federal and state regulators blocked its sale to a partnership that wanted to convert the complex into market rate housing, per the New York Times. A refinancing deal for Starrett City reached in 2009 requires that the complex maintain affordable housing units until 2039, per Bloomberg News.

Trump’s ownership stake presents a conflict of interest for the President, given that HUD would oversee any potential sale of Starrett City and helps set the amounts the federal government pays to subsidize affordable housing units. Trump appointed Lynne Patton, a former aide to the Trump family, to the position at HUD that oversees housing policy in New York and New Jersey.

Cummings and Jeffries also pointed out in their July letter to HUD that Trump’s budget proposal did not touch the program from which Starrett City benefits, while suggesting cuts to other affordable housing programs.

Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis, told TPM that Starrett City is a “beautiful illustration” of why Trump should have divested from his financial interests upon taking office if he wanted to avoid such conflicts.

“HUD’s treatment of this potential sale may well reflect a desire to please the President, rather than a desire to do what’s the correct housing policy for the country,” Clark said.

Read More →

In an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose that aired in part on Thursday morning, ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said that anyone in the White House who disagrees with President Donald Trump should resign, singling out economic adviser Gary Cohn.

Bannon made the comment while defending Trump’s response to the deadly attack in Charlottesville, when the President failed to fully condemn white nationalists. Bannon said that there is “no room in American politics” for “the Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates and the Klan.” He argued that Trump was saying, “Where does it end? Does it end in taking down the Washington Monument? Does it end in taking down Mount Rushmore? Does it end at taking Churchill’s bust out of the Oval Office?”

“I was the only guy that came out and tried to defend him,” Bannon told Rose. “When you side with a man, you side with him. I was proud to come out and try to defend President Trump in the media that day.”

Bannon said that it’s acceptable to offer Trump advice on how to deliver his message, but the former White House official said that anyone willing to openly disagree with the President should step down.

“If you’re going to break with him, resign. The stuff that was leaked out that week by certain members of the White House I thought was unacceptable. If you find it unacceptable, you should resign,” Bannon said.

Rose asked if Bannon was referring to a specific White House official.

“I’m talking – obviously, about Gary Cohn and some other people,” Bannon replied. “That if you don’t like what he’s doing and you don’t agree with it, you have an obligation to resign.”

Cohn openly criticized Trump’s comments blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville during an interview with the Financial Times. He said Trump “must do better” in condemning white nationalists.

During his interview with CBS, which will air in full on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Bannon also criticized the way in which Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The President ended the program that protects undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors from deportation, but he called on Congress to restore the policy through legislation.

“Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this,” Bannon told CBS.

Asked about the Catholic church’s support for DACA, Bannon said that Catholic officials only support DACA because “they need illegal aliens to fill the churches.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump will host House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) for dinner at the White House on Thursday evening, according to the President’s schedule.

The dinner comes during a tense time for Trump and the GOP leader. Trump on Wednesday undercut Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who were pushing for an 18-month debt limit extension, to side with Democratic leaders proposing just a three-month hike in the debt ceiling. The move left Republican in Congress incredibly frustrated.

Trump’s relationship with Republican leaders already seemed tenuous before he cut a deal with the Democrats. The President’s feud with McConnell spilled into public view in August, with both leaders taking jabs at each other after the failed attempt to repeal Obamacare. Trump had also openly criticized Ryan on Twitter, setting up Republicans in Congress to take the fall if Trump’s agenda falters in September.

Read More →

Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, was in the running to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. But Cohn’s chances of succeeding Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen diminished when he criticized the President’s failure to condemn white nationalists in the wake of the Charlottesville attack, according to a Wall Street Journal report out Wednesday night citing unnamed people familiar with the manner.

Reuters also reported Wednesday night that Trump has “soured” on naming Cohn the next Federal Reserve chairman and that he remains upset with Cohn.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal in July that Cohn was one of the top contenders to be the next Fed chair, saying he has “gained great respect” for Cohn. But Cohn has since fallen out of Trump’s good graces.

When Trump first blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville at a “Unite the Right” rally attended by white nationalists, Cohn stood silent. But he later admitted to the Financial Times that he was deeply troubled by Trump’s remarks.

“Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn told the Financial Times.

Trump was blindsided by Cohn’s comments, per the Wall Street Journal, and the President grew irritated with Cohn.

Read More →

Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

During a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump backed a proposal from Democrats to tie aid for Hurricane Harvey to a three-month debt limit increase and a short-term government funding bill through December – much to the reported consternation of congressional Republicans.

“In the meeting, the President and Congressional leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a continuing resolution both to December 15, all together. Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), announced in a statement after meeting with Trump.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One after the meeting, Trump confirmed that he reached a deal with congressional leaders on a package to raise the debt limit and fund the government through Dec. 15, tying that to an initial aid package for Hurricane Harvey.

Republican sources told the Washington Post and Politico’s Jake Sherman that Trump backed the Democrats’ plan despite opposition from Republican leaders present in the meeting.

The White House had been pushing for Congress to tie a long-term debt limit increase to legislation providing initial disaster relief funding for Hurricane Harvey.

Though Republican leaders reportedly did not support Democrats’ pitch to link Harvey aid to a three-month debt limit increase and government funding measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Wednesday afternoon that he would support the plan. McConnell told reporters that Trump reached the deal with Schumer and Pelosi in the meeting with congressional leaders today.

Trump’s decision to side with the Democrats left conservatives fuming. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) described the deal as fiscal malpractice, and the conservative Heritage Foundation blasted the proposal as “political cowardice.”

Earlier on Tuesday, after Democrats first proposed tying Harvey aid to a three-month debt limit increase, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called their proposal “ridiculous and disgraceful” and accused Democrats of playing politics.

Read More →