President Trump Still Hasn T Made A Decision About Keeping Daca

President Trump Still Hasn T Made A Decision About Keeping Daca

The Trump administration has not yet made a decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects some young undocumented immigrants, White House officials said Thursday.

“This is under review, there are a lot of components that need to be looked at, and once a decision is made we will certainly let you guys know,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

President Donald Trump campaigned against the program, known as DACA, and promised to end it during his run for office in 2016. But since taking office, he has expressed some sympathy for the thousands of young people it covers, saying he wants to treat the Dreamers with “heart.”

When former President Barack Obama signed the legislation in 2012, it allowed some undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as kids to stay and work legally in the United States. Since then, DACA has given protections to more than 800,000 immigrants.

Now, amidst the chaos of Hurricane Harvey, Trump has seen pressure from immigration rights activists and some lawmakers to extend the program. But he also faces a looming deadline as several conservative states threatened to sue his administration if he does not repeal the program by Sept. 5.

Despite news reports on Thursday that the Trump administration had decided to scrap DACA, Sanders reiterated that the President has not come to a decision. She also told reporters she did not have a timeline for when the program’s fate would be decided.

“No offense to your colleague from FOX News but I think that I am little bit better informed than they are in terms of when the White House has made a decision,” Sanders said Thursday.

Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert did say that while the states’ lawsuit threat would not affect the administration’s policy decision, it “will affect the timing of it,” according to Politico.

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President Trump S Tax Plan

President Trump S Tax Plan

President Donald Trump began his fall pitch for tax reform, but his speech in Missouri Wednesday was short on specifics. Aside from laying out an “ideal” 15% corporate tax rate—which Republicans on Capitol Hill are already backing away from—Trump offered only vague outlines of the GOP proposal. Republican lawmakers have haggled for years over such a plan, but have had trouble devising any sort of widespread consensus. In selling the rough sketch, Trump tried to spin the steep business tax cuts, arguing that “lower taxes on American business means higher wages for American workers.” And while he focused on middle class tax relief, the GOP plan would do wonders for the balance sheets of those in the highest income bracket.

The Trump tax reality. McCain to return to Washington. And here’s how low President Trump’s approval rating could drop.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Ivanka Trump supports rollback of Obama’s policy to close gender pay gap

Initiative would have required employers to collect data on wages but ‘would not yield the intended results’ says Trump [The Guardian]

The reality beneath Trump’s tax reform talk

While he emphasizes benefits to regular taxpayers, much of the push is about cutting corporate rates [Politico]

Federal judge blocks Texas’ tough ‘sanctuary cities’ law

Was set to take effect in days [Associated Press]

Top advisers in more displays of disagreement with Trump

Mattis is latest to buck Trump [Reuters]

Grand jury hears from lobbyist in Trump Tower confab

Don Jr. meeting participant testifies [Associated Press]

Here’s How Congress Might Change Your Taxes

TIME’s Nash Jenkins on what’s under consideration

Trump Administration Wants to Stabilize Health Markets but Won’t Say How

Set up for fight with Capitol Hill [New York Times]

Sound Off

“So let’s put — or at least try to put — the partisan posturing behind us and come together as Americans to create the 21st century tax code that our people deserve.” —President Donald Trump minutes after attacking Democrats on Capitol Hill

“It’s pretty standard practice for us not to specifically call out staff. He regularly mentions Cabinet members but very rarely mentions staff in speeches.” —White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on why Trump did not mention Gary Cohn in his tax address.

Bits and Bites

Here’s How Low President Trump’s Approval Rating Could Drop [TIME]

With a drama-filled White House, Mattis has shown deft political touch [Washington Post]

Texas lawmakers press for Harvey money — pronto [Politico]

Statehouses, Not Congress, Hosting Biggest Political Money Fights [Center for Public Integrity]

The Pentagon Admits There Are a Lot More U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Than We Thought [Associated Press]

John McCain Will Return to Washington D.C. Next Week [TIME]

The GOP May Cut $1 Billion in FEMA Funds to Help Finance Trump’s Border Wall [Associated Press]

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Pentagon Begins Deploying Additional Troops To Afghanistan

Pentagon Begins Deploying Additional Troops To Afghanistan

(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon has begun sending additional troops to Afghanistan to carry out President Donald Trump’s new war strategy, which will stick to his predecessor’s approach of supporting the Afghans’ fight against the Taliban rather than doing the fighting for them, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday.

“Yes, I’ve signed orders, but it’s not complete,” Mattis told reporters in an impromptu news conference at the Pentagon.

He would not say how many additional troops are deploying or what their exact roles will be. Trump’s decision to deepen the American military commitment was taken after months of debate within the administration over whether the risk was worth the potential reward of eventually stabilizing Afghanistan to the point where its own forces can prevent a Taliban takeover and contain other militant threats.

Mattis stressed that Afghan forces will remain in the lead, with the extra U.S. troops taking a support role.

“By and large this is to enable the Afghan forces to fight more effectively,” Mattis said. “It’s more advisers, more enablers,” such as “fire support” teams, which he declined to specify but could be artillery units. He said the additional U.S. troops have not yet arrived in Afghanistan.

“I just signed the orders,” Mattis said. “It’s going to take a couple of days.”

Other officials have said the U.S. will send about 3,900 additional troops. In a speech announcing his new strategy Aug. 21, Trump did not mention that an increase in U.S. troop levels was part of his new strategy. He said “conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables,” will guide the strategy, and suggested troop levels will be kept largely secret.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said.

On Wednesday, at Mattis’ instruction, Pentagon officials said that about 11,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, acknowledging publicly for the first time that the 8,400 figure that officials had used for many months was inaccurate. Mattis said he wanted to publicly clarify the current troop total before discussing how many more would be sent.

Officials have said the U.S. plans to send as many as 3,900 more troops — which would bring the number of publicly recognized troops in Afghanistan to about 15,000.

Mattis said he and other senior administration officials are scheduled to brief members of Congress on the latest deployments and the new war strategy next Wednesday. Critics have questioned whether sending a few thousand more troops will make a decisive difference in a war that began when U.S. forces invaded to topple the Taliban regime in October 2001. The Afghan government only controls half of the country and is beset by endemic corruption and infighting.

In the nearly 16 years since the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the number of American troops initially grew in spurts, as U.S. leaders wavered about how much focus to put on the war. President Barack Obama came into office in 2009 saying he would give the war there the attention it required, and the number of American troops on the ground spiraled by mid-2010 to 100,000.

Before becoming a presidential candidate, Trump had argued for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling the war a massive waste of U.S. “blood and treasure” and declaring on Twitter, “Let’s get out!” In his Aug. 21 announcement, just seven months into his presidency, he said that though his “original instinct was to pull out,” he’d since determined that approach could create a vacuum that terrorists including al-Qaida and the Islamic State would “instantly fill.”

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Review The Shape Of Water Is A Poetic Love Letter To Monster

Review The Shape Of Water Is A Poetic Love Letter To Monster

Almost anybody who has grown up watching monster movies knows the heartbreak of falling in love with a doomed, misunderstood creature. Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein doesn’t mean to drown the little blind girl in the river—he simply presumes she’ll float, like the daisies the two have been tossing from the shore. And one King Kong or another has met his demise simply because a woman—a winsome Fay Wray, a foxy-sweet Jessica Lange—has captured his simian heart. Monsters can’t survive in our world largely because they don’t understand the rules. We sympathize with them because so often we don’t understand the rules either.

Guillermo del Toro understands monster love better than any other living filmmaker, and his new movie, The Shape of Water—premiering here at the Venice International Film Festival and opening in the United States in early December—is about the finest love letter any movie monster could hope for. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a young woman living in early 1960s Baltimore. Elisa is mute—she’s been unable to speak since childhood. She makes her living as part of the nighttime cleaning staff of a top-secret government research facility. (Octavia Spencer is marvelous as her co-worker Zelda, who happily chatters the worknight away, filling Elisa’s ears with complaints about her husband and off-the-cuff aphorisms like “Short people are mean!”)

Elisa lives alone in an apartment above an old movie palace—its owner laments that almost no one goes to the movies anymore, content to stay at home in front of their TV sets—and looks after her friend across the hall, out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins, crabbily charming). The two pass the time watching old movies on Giles’s television. They delight in Bill Bojangles Robinson’s stair dance in The Little Colonel; Carmen Miranda’s outsize smile and even bigger fruit-laden headdress fill every inch of the small screen. These stars of the past are part of Giles’s and Elisa’s present: Giles is gay, but the prevailing attitudes of the time keep him closeted. And Elisa, orphaned and set apart by her inability to speak, has never quite belonged anywhere. It’s as if time, in its hustle toward the allegedly brighter future, has left these two and their romantic ideals behind.

One day an evil government lackey in a conservatively cut suit, Michael Shannon’s Strickland, brings a very special specimen to the facility. Elisa watches as Strickland and his minions wheel in a giant metal canister filled with water. When she peers inside, it’s almost love at first sight—or, at least, what she sees fills her with curiosity and a nascent feeling of kinship. Later, she’ll befriend the magnificent being inside, who has been captured from the Amazon and is said to be a god to the indigenous people there. And when we finally get a look at him, we can see why.

This monster—portrayed with supreme elegance by Doug Jones, the actor, previously a contortionist, who played Abe Sapien in Del Toro’s wonderful duo of Hellboy movies—quickly becomes Elisa’s monster, and ours too. Slender and muscular, with sleek coppery skin streaked with iridescent green, he’s like the Creature from the Black Lagoon reimagined by Rockwell Kent. His ruffled gills are like the delicate underside of forest mushroom. His thigh muscles are as chiseled as an art deco woodcut. But his eyes are his most sensual feature: Mournful and dark, they’re searching for a thing he hasn’t been able to find, either trust or love or a mixture of both.

With The Shape of Water, Del Toro has conceived an adult fairytale with overt erotic elements. He doesn’t shy away from imagining Elisa’s desire, as well as her love of beauty and her disappointment in all that the real world has to offer her. Del Toro’s version of 1962 Baltimore is hardly a total fantasy. The Cold War and the violent pushback against the Civil Rights Movement in the South aren’t just lurking in the background as images from TV; they nudge their way into Elisa and Giles’s everyday life as well.

The only element that mars The Shape of Water is its occasional descent into cartoonishly banal views of the evil of mankind. Del Toro hits the hammer on those notes a little too hard (though not as hard as, say, Bong Joon Ho does in his recent “Aren’t humans horrible?” screed Okja). Cat lovers should note that Del Toro breaks faith—slightly—with the audience in one scene, though it may be helpful to keep Frankenstein and his daisy-confusion in mind. And while Shannon is a terrific actor, it may be time he laid the bug-eyed villain roles to rest.

But there’s enough magic, and extraordinary visual imagination, to smooth the edges of the movie’s problems. The Shape of Water opens with a gorgeous underwater reverie, complete with a floating, sleeping princess, that sets the tone for what we’re about to see. Its final image suggests total weightlessness and joy. The script, written by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, from a story by Del Toro, riffs on Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” and Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, but it has its own distinctive soul.

Del Toro’s last feature, Crimson Peak, had a spectacular, florid lunacy. The Shape of Water is quieter and more poetic, largely thanks to the power of its actors. Hawkins, in this nearly silent performance, is wonderful. A scene where she tries to convey her despair to Giles in sign language has a Lillian Gish-style intensity. And Jones—also in a nearly silent role—is remarkable. His creature is a nonhuman in so much pain that he reminds us of all it means to be human. The performance is more like dance than anything, a muscular ode to the idea that freedom and grace can be won, but only after we break out of caution and fear. The Shape of Water leads us deep into a dream. Waking up, and re-entering the everyday world, is the part you have to steel yourself for.

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These Are Spotify S Most Streamed Songs Of Summer 2017

These Are Spotify S Most Streamed Songs Of Summer 2017

Now it’s Spotify official: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito (Remix)” featuring Justin Bieber was the most popular song this summer on the streaming giant, with 786 million plays so far globally, the company announced Thursday. With 16 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and the most-viewed YouTube video ever, the song continues to dominate the season, which Spotify counts as streams between June 21 and Aug. 27.

The Latin jam is followed by DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, a sizzling, Santana-sampling jam released midway through the season. French Montana’s “Unforgettable” with Swae Lee finishes off the top three. Rounding out the top ten of global songs of summer are DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Calvin Harris’s “Feels,” Charlie Puth’s “Attention,” Liam Payne’s “Strip That Down” and Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder.”

But one theme is strong throughout the lists: “2017 gave us the summer of Latin music,” Rocio Guerrero, Spotify’s Head of Latin Culture, shared in a statement. That’s because Spanish-language tracks like J. Balvin’s “Mi Gente,” Maluma’s “Felices los 4” and Danny Ocean’s “Me Rehusó” also pop up, with a total of seven Latin songs on the global chart, a first. Another theme is a male-dominated summer: the only proper single from a female artist is Rita Ora’s “Your Song” at number 25. (Rihanna, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj crop up in some of the other songs for some featured verses.)

The list is slightly different for U.S.-only listeners. In the States, rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO TOUR Llif3” takes silver with “Wild Thoughts” in third. U.S. audiences also are clearly more committed to rap, with Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, 21 Savage, Khalid and Childish Gambino making their mark in the top 10.

Relive the summer of 2017 in music, below.

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Why Houston Will Never Be Able To Stop Flooding For Good

Why Houston Will Never Be Able To Stop Flooding For Good

The scale of Hurricane Harvey is unprecedented in U.S. history: more than 50 inches of rain falling in less than a week inundating a city of more than 2 million people.

As Houston begins to recover from the torrential storm that inundated the city’s streets, local leaders will need to grapple with the reality that Hurricane Harvey will not be the last devastating flood to strike the city. The problem is rooted in Houston’s geography, and the challenge facing Houston if city officials want to protect against long-term flood risk would test even the savviest urban planners armed with unlimited resources.

The chief issue is that Houston rose in a flat low-lying area with limited natural drainage. Because the land is flat, most storm water collects rather than flowing away from the city, leaving the lowest points vulnerable to flooding. The low elevation not far from Texas’ coast also means that storm surge — which occurs when storm winds push ocean water ashore — can easily inundate the city.

Read More: Why We Won’t Be Ready for the Next Hurricane Harvey Either

The geology beneath the Earth’s surface also creates problems for the city’s developers. Houston is located largely on clay that does not absorb water easily. The region houses wetlands that can absorb some excess water, but human development has destroyed much of it, including some 38,000 acres in the region in the past two decades alone, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

All those issues leave the city in a difficult rebuilding situation, where rebuilding the same way in the same places means accepting that flooding will likely happen again. “The best they’re going to be able to do is to learn to live with flood risk and reduce it somewhat,” says Chad Berginnis, executive director at the Association of State Floodplain Managers “There probably aren’t enough resources or engineering or technology to solve the flooding problem in Houston 100%.”

Some of the potential flooding solutions are efficient investments that will pay clear dividends in the long run. In many communities, that includes elevating buildings, mapping flood plains and instituting stricter zoning restrictions. Other programs that could have a broader effect— think sea walls in Amsterdam or pumps in Miami Beach — come at a staggering cost, but that scale of initiative is what Houston would need to protect more fully against flooding. In Houston, such an initiative would likely also mean undoing some of the development in some of the most vulnerable places.

“The scale of it is absolutely tremendous,” says Jason Evans, a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University. “I don’t know how many billions it would cost but I feel confident to say it would be billions, multiple billions.”

Read More: Is Hurricane Harvey Related to Climate Change? Scientists Have a Better Answer

And, even then, planners may struggle to predict with precision how the flooding challenge will evolve in the coming decades, meaning those investments could end up being ineffective in some of the most dire scenarios. At the heart of that uncertainty is the unknown toll of man-made climate change on the severity of storms. Climate scientists say there is a direct link between higher precipitation levels and warmer temperatures and that cities should therefore prepare for bigger storms in coming years. But, at the same time, scientists cannot say exactly how much worse storms will be or how much sea levels will rise.

“You can imagine a situation where you’re just trying to build things higher and higher and higher,” says Kristina Dahl, a climate scientist who runs Dahl Scientific, a consulting group that works on climate change. “We need to focus on whether these are sustainable places to live in the first place.”

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Donald Trump Pushes Tax Overhaul To Bring Back Main Street

Donald Trump Pushes Tax Overhaul To Bring Back Main Street

(SPRINGFIELD, Mo.) — President Donald Trump launched his fall push to overhaul the nation’s tax system by pledging Wednesday that the details-to-come plan would “bring back Main Street” by reducing the crushing tax burden on middle-class Americans, making a populist appeal for a proposal expected to heavily benefit corporate America.

Trump said his vision for re-writing the tax system, a key campaign pledge, would unlock stronger economic growth and benefit companies and workers alike. He promised it would be “pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker and pro-American.”

True to form for the president, Trump dangled the prospect of the “biggest ever” tax cut and warned that without it, “jobs in our country cannot take off the way they should. And it could be much worse than that.”

Trump, who rarely travels to promote his policy agenda, chose to debut his tax overhaul pitch before employees at a manufacturing plant in Springfield, Missouri, a community known as the birthplace of Route 66, one of the nation’s original highways, and one known as America’s Main Street.

“This is where America’s Main Street will begin its big, beautiful comeback,” the president declared.

After eight months without any major legislative victories and after a significant defeat on health care, Trump and Republican congressional leaders face mounting pressure to notch some significant achievements before next year’s midterm elections. But the tax overhaul effort already is facing political headwinds.

The White House and Republican lawmakers have not finalized details of the plan, and the push comes as Congress returns to face an intense September workload filled with must-do items such as raising the debt limit, funding the government and providing assistance for the Harvey recovery effort.

While the White House has been designing a tax plan aimed at appealing to Republicans, Trump sought to cast the effort in bipartisan terms. He called on members of both parties to work with him on a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real tax reform for everyday hard-working Americans.”

“I am fully committed to working with Congress to get this job done — and I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress, do you understand?” Trump said. “Do you understand? Congress. I think Congress is going to make a comeback.”

The president used the official White House event to inject an overtly political message aimed at Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a top Republican target in next year’s midterm elections.

“We must lower our taxes, and your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you. And if she doesn’t do it for you, you have got to vote her out of office,” Trump said, drawing out each of the last five words for emphasis.

Even before Trump took the stage, Democrats eagerly laid down their own markers for what the tax plan should look like.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a series of conditions, telling reporters the tax cuts should not go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. He added that the plan should not increase the budget deficit and should be written by both parties — not just Republicans like the GOP’s failed health care effort.

“If the president wants to use populism to sell his tax plan, he ought to consider actually putting his money where his mouth is” and cut taxes for the middle class, not the richest Americans, Schumer said.

The Trump administration released a one-page set of goals in April for its tax overhaul, followed by a joint statement in July with congressional leaders.

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Gary Cohn, a top Trump economic adviser, said the White House and Republican leaders had agreed on a “good skeleton” for the plan, and said the tax-writing committee in the House would be drafting legislation while the White House tries to sell it.

Cohn, who recently publicly denounced the president’s response to the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, traveled to Missouri with the president and was standing to the side of the stage. But he was not among a number of administration officials whom Trump publicly thanked in his opening remarks.

The White House played down the omission, saying White House staff members typically aren’t recognized in prepared remarks, only Cabinet members.

Trump said he would like to see the top corporate tax rate drop from 35 percent to 15 percent. But it’s not clear that the top rate will go that low in the plan or what kind of tax break a typical taxpayer would see.

With his promises to the middle class, Trump is essentially betting that the benefits of tax cuts for businesses will flow directly to workers, rather than ending up in the pockets of top executives and wealthy investors.

His administration has asserted that high corporate tax rates primarily hurt workers, since companies can stash their money overseas in countries with lower tax rates.

Trump’s Treasury Department cited a 2006 Congressional Budget Office study to back the claim that workers mostly bear the brunt from corporate taxes, as well as research by Kevin Hassett, the economist picked to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

But Treasury officials concluded in a separate 2012 analysis that only 18 percent of corporate taxes’ costs fell on labor. This would suggest that Trump’s plan is more likely to bolster stock prices and CEO pay than trickle down to worker’s salaries.

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Theresa May Is Going Nowhere Here S Why

Theresa May Is Going Nowhere Here S Why

Theresa May has had a bumpy ride in the year and change she has spent as British Prime Minister.

When her position on Brexit was opaque, she was “Theresa Maybe.” When the opinion polls surged, adoring conservatives labelled her Europe’s most powerful leader. As her weakness at retail politics became clear, she became known as the “Maybot.” And then when the opinion polls were proven disastrously inaccurate by June’s general election, she became the Zombie Prime Minister. The humiliating loss of the Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority led to predictions she would be out of a job before the end of the year.

So when May told interviewers on Thursday that she intends to stay on as Prime Minister until at least the next general election, jaws in Westminster dropped. She said she’s “in this for the long term,” and added she would not stand down before the next general election scheduled for 2022. “I’m not a quitter,” she said.

It’s a dramatic change of message from a Prime Minister who told Conservatives shortly after the election fiasco that she would stay on as long as they’ll have her. But it’s hardly surprising, and here’s why.

For one thing, it would project weakness and instability for May to admit she is a lame duck. When her predecessor David Cameron announced he would not fight another election after the 2015 contest, he effectively conceded what authority he had to plan for the future. If May is to lead the country, she has no choice but to do so wholeheartedly.

May also realizes she is now in a position of relative strength. She has no obvious challenger; the man many tipped to replace her, Boris Johnson, has made a weak Foreign Secretary and has lost support from parliamentary colleagues, while the other favorite, Brexit Secretary David Davis, is in the thick of negotiations with the E.U. The government can ill afford him to walk away from those, given the short deadline for agreeing a separation agreement. The party membership is said to want a new leader of a different generation, but no individual has yet emerged to claim the mantle.

Besides, another Tory leadership contest would almost certainly lead to another general election, given the party’s lack of an overall majority — and no Conservative wants to risk the prospect of the far-left Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn building on his June gains and becoming Prime Minister.

Then there’s the Brexit negotiations, which have so far achieved little but increasingly bitter acrimony between Britain and the E.U. The government released a flurry of papers over the summer outlining its positions on a range of issues from customs arrangements to the question of the Irish border post-Brexit. But European leaders refuse to negotiate anything until a deal can be reached on the UK’s financial obligations to the bloc — the so-called “divorce bill” that could top 100 billion euros ($120 billion), if Brussels has its way. The talks are coming perilously close to deadlock.

Whoever takes over from May would also have to take ownership of this desperately complicated process, a process made even more complex by internal party divisions between a ‘Brexiteer’ wing that seeks the fastest possible Brexit, and a so-called Remainer wing that wants a lengthy transition process keeping much of the status quo before cutting the strings with the E.U. That is not a job any ambitious politician would want.

So May will cling on. Doubtless, her position remains tenuous — her parliamentary majority rests on a fragile deal with Northern Irish unionists, and a crippling defeat in the Commons will quickly resurrect questions about her overall future. Should Brexit negotiations improve, or Corbyn’s star fade, it’s likely a Tory stalking horse will emerge. Few Prime Ministers get to choose the date they leave office.

Just ask Tony Blair. In early September 2006, the then-Prime Minister confirmed he would stand down before the next election but refused to give a date. “I’ll do it in the interests of the country and in the circumstances of the time,” he said. Little more than nine months later, he was gone.

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Mourners Remember Diana At Site Of Fatal Crash

Mourners Remember Diana At Site Of Fatal Crash

Royal fans marked two decades since Diana died in a car crash in Paris, triggering a flood of grief across Britain and beyond.

Her admirers began paying tribute to Diana at the time she died before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the gates of the London palace that had been her home.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo arrived around 7 a.m. with a large bouquet which she placed at the Flame of Liberty, a golden memorial above the Alma Tunnel, where the crash took place. The golden flame has become an unofficial memorial to Diana.

A French woman paying tribute, Yvette Demilio, remembered Diana as “a modern mother with a strong character and a strong heart. She was also a fashion icon and, it is true, I loved her a lot.”

An Australian woman cried at the site without speaking.

Linda Grant, from Britain, said that “it’s like it was yesterday still, which means she is still here in our hearts. She has never gone away and she never will. She never will.”

The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Her Mercedes, pursued by paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Alma Tunnel in Paris while traveling at more than 60 mph.

Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were all killed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured but survived.

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Democrats Say Citizens United Should Here S Why That Won T Hen

Democrats Say Citizens United Should Here S Why That Won T Hen

Catastrophe seemed imminent.

“In a certain real way, the republic is at stake,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“We’re really stress-testing our democracy in a way we never have before,” said attorney Lawrence M. Noble.

The menace under the microscope? “Dark money” in politics.

But the doomsday scenarios played out one by one in a subterranean Capitol Hill hearing room that was far from packed, and Republicans were notably absent from the July event.

The event is a metaphor for Democrats’ larger battle against big and secretive political cash: lots of pomp, underwhelming circumstances.

Seizing on the specter of Russian election influence, they’ve ramped up their quixotic effort — with minimal effect — to blunt Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision that unleashed a torrent of special interest spending on U.S. elections.

In doing so, they’ve introduced two dozen bills related to money in politics. Some are aimed at increasing donor transparency, others are targeting massive contributions from special interests. A couple are intent on reforming the Federal Election Commission, the government agency charged with enforcing election laws.

None, a Center for Public Integrity analysis indicates, have had a single formal hearing, much less an up-or-down vote in either the U.S. House or Senate.

Election reform-minded Democrats are also hobbled by their party’s recent history. When they had opportunities during President Barack Obama’s first two years in office to significantly alter the American campaign finance structure through legislation, they didn’t.

And in a twist that’s infuriated acolytes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, among others, Democrats are following Republicans’ lead by raising millions of dollars in so-called “dark money” contributions, the origins of which are largely untraceable.

All the while, Republicans, who now control every branch of government, have expressed little interest in stanching the ever-increasing flow of big money into federal elections.

For his part, President Donald Trump, an early critic of big-moneyed interests, continues to pledge to “drain the swamp.” Swamp draining, however, doesn’t appear to involve political money matters, as Trump rarely addresses the issue these days. (Trump’s press office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

“Whether you like it or not, whether you believe in bipartisanship or not, if you don’t have a strategy to attract Republican votes, you’re just not going to win,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy for Issue One, a nonpartisan government accountability nonprofit.

As for the package of bills the Democrats have proposed, McGehee said: “It has zero chance in hell of going anywhere.”

Citizens United: a love-hate relationship

Federal-level campaign finance reform used to be something both Republicans and Democrats got behind.

Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which mandated reporting requirements of contributions and expenditures. And in 2002, Sens. John McCain, a Republican, and Russ Feingold, a Democrat, teamed up to champion the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which restricted soft money contributions to parties.

Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of reformist nonprofit Democracy 21, points out that legislation to close disclosure loopholes passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2000. Republican senators favored it 48-6.

A decade later, disclosure loopholes were again back before Congress following the Citizens United decision. But this time, every Republican senator voted against the bill. The DISCLOSE Act lost 59-39, one vote shy of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster led by Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader at the time.

Citizens United changed the political calculus. Along with v. Federal Election Commission, it notably paved the way for the creation of so-called super PACs — turbo-charged political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of campaign cash from wealthy donors, corporations and nonprofits.

Several reform advocates said they believe Republicans want to preserve the post-Citizens United system because they’ve benefited the most from it.

They also wonder whether Democrats would actually push through reforms were they to control Congress again — particularly because many Democrats have taken full advantage of the fundraising freedoms Citizens United has granted them.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, for example, railed against Citizens United. But she, too, benefited from a small army of super PACs and millions of dollars in secret political money.

This summer, Democrats are asking supporters to fight against Citizens United. Their messages, however, amount to little more than opportunities for Democrats to collect supporters’ demographic information — and raise money.

In the 2016 election cycle, special interests spent at least $183.5 million in “dark money,” up from $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks political spending. Of that, “liberal” special interests spent at least $41.3 million, or 22.5 percent; “conservatives” spent most of the rest.

In all likelihood, “dark money” expenditures were higher because political nonprofits only have to report money spent within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., is the only Republican who has signed on to cosponsor a campaign finance reform bill this session that’s widely supported by Democrats. Jones said he has pushed for campaign finance reform for nearly three decades — and continues to do so despite his party’s general lack of interest.

Why? Because he believes money has too much influence in elections. Jones predicts it will take a major scandal, perhaps on the scale of Watergate, to prompt either party to reform the system.

“I’m not sure anyone in Washington wants to change it,” Jones said. “They talk about it but they don’t do much about it. Both parties benefit from the current system.”

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the nonprofit Public Citizen, said he believes Democrats are more serious about reform now than they were in the past.

But there’s a caveat.

“Any time a party is in control of the federal government, they tend to be not as enthusiastic about changing the rules of elections, because they’re winning,” Holman said.

Obama was “a big disappointment” to advocates of campaign finance reform, he said.

Obama knew how to work within the post-Citizens United framework, and he didn’t push for the reforms he championed on the campaign trail, said Holman and Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the nonprofit Common Cause.

“A lot of Democratic Party politicians believe in the legislation, but when push comes to shove and they seek the advice of their lawyers, they often back away or their support weakens,” Ryan said.

Obama’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said Democrats were busy juggling health care reform and climate change legislation when Obama first took office and Democrats had the majority in Congress, leaving little time for campaign finance reform.

Plus, some Americans’ anger toward and resentment of special interests hadn’t reached the fever pitch of today, Sarbanes said.

Nearly half of the people who responded to a Center for Public Integrity-Ipsos poll conducted last week said they opposed Citizens United, compared to 30 percent who said they support it. And 57 percent of respondents said they favor limiting the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.

Raising money, or “dialing for dollars,” is quite time-intensive for members of Congress, but the public doesn’t seem to realize it.

According to the Center for Public Integrity-Ipsos poll, 58 percent of respondents believe congressional members spend 10 hours or less a week fundraising. But members, on average, spend 20-to-30 hours per week fundraising, according to research by Issue One.

“Campaign finance reform appears to be one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, with a majority in both parties coming out in support for limits on super PACs and increased transparency on nonprofit donors,” said Chris Jackson, vice president of public affairs at Ipsos.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said there’s overwhelming support for money-in-politics reforms on his side of the aisle. And there’s no question Democrats will reform the system if given another opportunity, he insisted.

“We’re seeing the consequences of a democracy that is driven by the checkbooks of a few rather than the voices of the many,” he said.

Laying groundwork in the age of Trump

Spending by so-called “outside” groups — super PACs, nonprofits, unions and political organizations — soared to more than $1.6 billion in 2016 from $286 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The portion of that considered “dark money” grew to 11.2 percent last year — up from 1.8 percent in 2006.

There’s no way to comprehensively track how much “dark money” is coming from foreign interests, because it is largely untraceable. Still, the potential for foreign influence has attracted attention on Capitol Hill.

“The same dark money channels that are protected by the big special interests who use them to such effect are also fully available to Vladimir Putin,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said during an informal hearing he called earlier this summer. “If the channel is dark enough to hide the hand of Charles and David Koch, it is dark enough to hide the hand of Vladimir Putin.”

If Democrats keep their word and push for reforms, the legislative agenda they’ve introduced is a preview for the changes they’ll seek if they regain a majority.

This year, Democrats have proffered 24 bills that relate to money in politics, compared to six filed by Republicans, according to an analysis by Issue One. Only a handful of those proposals have more than one sponsor from the other side of the aisle.

Cicilline proposed a bill earlier this year, the DISCLOSE 2017 Act, that would require the disclosure of certain campaign donations and funders behind political ads. H.R. 1134 has 128 co-sponsors — all Democrats.

“It’s designed to bring greater transparency at the very least until we can prevent corporations from spending money in our elections,” Cicilline said in an interview. “Let’s make sure people know, where did the money come from? Who is behind the ad? Who paid for it?”

Cicilline said Republicans have been unwilling to move forward on his bill — it’s been referred to committees but hasn’t had a hearing.

But he said it would be a mistake to wait to introduce it until Democrats had control of Congress again. Even though it’s unlikely to pass, he hopes it can be used as a tool to hold other lawmakers accountable.

“Members of the public need to know, does my member of Congress or does a candidate running for Congress support reforming our political system and fixing our democracy,” Cicilline said.

Sarbanes has proposed another sweeping change to campaign finance laws, but he too acknowledged the struggle he’s facing.

Sarbanes’ Government By the People Act of 2017 (H.R. 20) has 156 co-sponsors, and all but one — Jones — is a Democrat. The bill aims to create a system that increases the number of small-dollar donors to political campaigns. It does this, in part, through tax credits and a new pilot program that gives voters campaign contribution vouchers that they may distribute to candidates they support.

The bill was introduced in January and referred to three committees for consideration. And it’s sat, untouched, ever since.

In touting the By the People Project in July, Sarbanes said Americans harbor deep-seated anger and frustration because they feel their voices have been drowned out by special interests and big donors.

“The president said … he was going to drain the swamp, that he was going to bring accountability to Washington,” Sarbanes said. “He’s basically said to the big money and the special interests, ‘If you pay for the red carpet, I’ll roll it right into the White House and give you influence.’”

Respondents to the Center for Public Integrity-Ipsos poll offered a wide range of answers when asked what “drain the swamp” means to them. Responses included reining in special interest groups, reducing the influence of money in politics, wiping out government debt and getting rid of career politicians. Some said they simply don’t know.

The small-dollar matching system and public campaign financing Sarbanes has proposed would dilute the voices of the wealthy few who today contribute the most money to political campaigns, Sarbanes said.

In an interview, Sarbanes said his bill probably won’t be passed by the current Congress, but it’s important to put it out there now to give Americans a choice in the midterm elections, he said.

“We’ve got to put positive, constructive solutions in front of the public and say, ‘Here is what we would do if we had the gavel,’” Sarbanes said. “People here on the Hill move on issues when they feel pressure coming from constituents.”

Only two of the Democrats’ 24 money-in-politics bills have more than one Republican cosponsor.

One is Rep. Derek Kilmer’s Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act (H.R. 2034), which has five Democratic and six Republican cosponsors. Kilmer is a Democrat from Washington.

The bill would shore up the Federal Election Commission, which is charged with enforcing and administering campaign finance laws, and attempt to eliminate the ideological gridlock that’s plagued the watchdog agency for years. Kilmer wants to accomplish this, in part, by reducing the number of commission members from six to five, which would eradicate deadlocked votes.

It was referred to the House Committee on House Administration in April, but it hasn’t had a hearing yet.

Other money-in-politics bills that have been filed by Democrats this year — and appear to have little chance of passing — include:

  • The Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act of 2017, filed by Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., which would direct the Federal Communications Commission to require the inclusion of the names of major donors in political ads. (H.R. 1439)
  • Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., introduced the Campaign Spending Integrity Act (H.R. 838), which would prohibit a candidate from spending campaign cash on vendors owned or controlled by the candidate or by an immediate family member.
  • The Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act (H.R. 1615), sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., which would apply the ban on contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals to “foreign-controlled, foreign-influenced, and foreign-owned domestic corporations.”
  • Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., proposed the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S. 298), which would require Senate reports and statements to be filed electronically. Seven of the bill’s 43 co-sponsors are Republicans.

Democrats are also attempting to reverse Citizens United by proposing constitutional amendments.

One such proposal, sponsored by Rep. Theodore Deutch, D-Fla., (H.J.Res. 31), would give Congress and the states the ability to set “reasonable limits” on the raising and spending of money to influence elections.

The amendment also would give Congress and the states the power to prohibit corporations or other entities from making political expenditures, a controversial component of Citizens United. A similar constitutional amendment proposal, S.J.Res. 8, has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Another proposed constitutional amendment would specify that rights guaranteed under the Constitution are for people only — not corporations and other entities (H.J.Res. 48, by Rep. Richard Nolan, D-Minn.).

But constitutional amendments are exceedingly rare. An amendment requires two-thirds of each congressional chamber to vote for it. Then, three-fourths of all U.S. states must ratify the amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.

The most recent, the 27th Amendment, which deals with congressional salaries, didn’t get ratified until 1992. Congress submitted what would become the 27th Amendment to the states for ratification more than 200 years earlier, in 1789.

Since 1993, Congress has considered more than 1,000 constitutional amendment proposals. All of them have failed.

There’s also the issue of supporting a constitutional amendment that would, in practice, tamper with 1st Amendment rights. It’s a concern shared by advocates across the political spectrum.

Democrats rightly are trying to tap into populist outrage over wealthy campaign donors, said Daniel I. Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at New York University’s School of Law.

“It’s also a political reality that the Democrats right now aren’t going to get anything passed, so they’re messaging,” he said.

And “messaging,” at least in part, means raising money off their fight against political money.

The other side

Republicans control Congress, so it stands to reason their bills have a better chance of passing. They’ve introduced six bills that relate to money in politics.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., filed the Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781), cosponsored by 57 Republicans. The bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to permit tax-exempt organizations to make statements related to a political campaign without losing their tax-exempt status.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. An identical bill on the Senate side (S. 264), sponsored by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

Other Republican-sponsored bills include one that would end a largely defunct system for taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns (H.R. 133) and one that would expand the ability of trade associations to seek contributions from employees of their member corporations (H.R. 2101).

None of the Republican bills would crimp campaign spending or expand disclosure requirements.

“The Republicans are making a political calculation that’s aligned with their ideology that the majority of the outside money that’s going to come in, particularly between now and 2018, is going to benefit Republicans,” said McGehee of Issue One. “That’s the bet that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell has made from the get-go.”

Only one of the Republicans’ bills appears to have bipartisan support.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act has 37 co-sponsors — 11 of whom are Democrats. Gosar is a Republican from Arizona.

His H.R. 1341 would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit campaign donations made with credit cards with foreign billing addresses. U.S. citizens living abroad who want to contribute with credit cards would have to provide the mailing address that they use as a registered voter.

Gosar introduced the bill in March, and it’s languished in committee since then.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered up a measure last year that would have eliminated contribution limits for federal candidates. The bill, which also called for instant disclosure of political contributions, would almost certainly render super PACs obsolete, as people could contribute as much money as they wanted directly to politicians’ own campaign committees.

Cruz’s office said he was unavailable for an interview because he was coordinating response to Hurricane Harvey. But Cruz in November lamented the nation’s campaign money system, declaring it “absurd” — serving the interests of neither free political speech nor transparency.

Bradley A. Smith, a former Republican chairman of the FEC, said campaign finance deregulation, in general, makes sense.

Smith, founder and chairman of pro-deregulation nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics, sees many of the Democratic proposals on the table now as efforts to rig the system in their favor.

The FEC, for example, isn’t as divided as some people make it out to be; the vast majority of money raised and spent in U.S. elections is already disclosed; and government probably shouldn’t be in the business of financing campaigns, he said.

There’s strong reason to believe people such as Sens. Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse want reform because “they think it will stifle speech that opposes their agenda,” Smith said.

‘Existential threat’ vs. the long game

Sixteen Democratic senators popped in and out of Whitehouse’s July hearing at the Capitol to discuss their ongoing dismay at Citizens United and the potential added threat of foreign entities’ financial involvement in the 2016 election.

Five panelists took turns painting the picture in increasingly bleak brushstrokes.

“We have an existential threat to our democracy right now,” said American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein.

In the realm of campaign finance reformers, there are those who see the current system through a lens of absolute urgency — i.e., “the republic is at stake.” They believe the country is on the verge of plunging into plutocracy.

And there are those who believe plutocracy is nothing new; America has always been ruled by an elite class, but through the decades she has marched, slow and steady, toward inclusiveness.

To them, Citizens United was a setback, but one they hope is temporary. They’re in it for the long game.

Put Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the nonprofit advocacy organization Public Citizen, in the former camp.

For Holman, time is ticking for American democracy, and Citizens United is largely to blame.

Campaign finance laws are meant to put a wall between the nation’s equality-based political system and an economic system that’s based on inequality, Holman said. If the inequality of capitalism overwhelms the political sphere, democracy collapses, and those with money take control.

Holman sees the situation as dire, just as Schumer, Ornstein and Noble did on Capitol Hill last month.

“If voters don’t react in 2018 to what’s going on, I think we’re well on a course of no return,” Holman said. “If they don’t react in 2018 congressional elections, we’re going to re-elect Trump in 2020, and it’ll just go on from there. So in other words, I’m saying about a year and a half.”

Ryan, of Common Cause, is in the latter camp of reformers.

Ryan believes the Supreme Court erred gravely in its Citizens United decision, but he bristles when he hears fellow campaign finance reformers pine for the old days when monied interests didn’t control politics.

“That time never existed,” he said.

While Citizens United was a bad decision, Ryan said, the system that preceded it was far from perfect. The United States is more inclusive now than it was decades ago.

“I feel like I’m part of this, not 10- or 15- or 20-year trajectory of campaign finance reformers improving democracy, but this several-hundred-year effort of marginalized and excluded communities fighting for their political rights,” Ryan said.

Most of the action related to campaign finance reform is happening on the local and state levels now, Ryan said.

Related article: “Statehouses, not Congress, hosting biggest political money fights

McGehee of Issue One said campaign finance reform on the federal level won’t happen without bipartisan agreement — and it’s not something that can accomplished overnight. She points to civil rights and smoking bans.

“If I walked in the door of any Republican other than Walter Jones on the House or Senate side and I said, ‘Hey, I want to talk about public financing,’ they’re going to say, ‘Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,’” McGehee said. “It’s a nonstarter.”

But if she approaches politicians to talk about how much time they feel like they have to spend raising money for their campaigns, she gets a far more enthusiastic reaction — and an opening for conversation.

“It’s like feeding a baby,” McGehee said. “You don’t give a baby steak.”

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