The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Short-term spending bills epitomize congressional dysfunction and hurt the military

The House of Representatives on Feb. 6 passed a temporary spending bill in a vote of 245 to 182. (Video: U.S. House of Representatives)

with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: Averting a second shutdown tomorrow at midnight should be a given, not a benchmark for success. Appropriating money is the most fundamental obligation laid out for lawmakers in the Constitution. But here we are.

The 2018 fiscal year started last Oct. 1, but Congress still has not gotten around to passing a defense appropriations bill. Instead, the military has been funded by short-term spending agreements that cover their operations for a few weeks at a time. These continuing resolutions — or “CRs” in Washington shorthand — make leaders at the Pentagon bonkers and result in negative consequences that aren’t obvious to people outside the armed forces.

With funding set to run out again at the end of Thursday, congressional leaders are scrambling to get out of the pickle they got themselves into. There are signs of an impending breakthrough, but stumbling blocks remain.

The House passed a bill last night that would increase defense spending to $584 billion annually and guarantee it through Sept. 30, while funding the rest of the government at current levels through March 23 (six weeks). But this is dead on arrival in the Senate, where at least nine Democrats need to crossover because of the 60-vote threshold to open debate.

Senate leaders say they are very close to finalizing a bipartisan, two-year deal that would boost defending spending by $80 billion above the existing $549 billion while increasing nondefense spending by $63 billion. Many conservatives in the House say that’s too much domestic spending for them to stomach, though it could get over the finish line with Democratic support.

President Trump threw a curveball by declaring that he wants a shutdown tomorrow unless Democrats agree to his hard line immigration demands. “I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of,” he said yesterday afternoon at a White House event designed to highlight crimes perpetrated by immigrants. “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety … let’s shut it down.”

Trump’s remarks appeared unlikely to snuff out the negotiations, which mainly involved top congressional leaders and their aides — not the president or his White House deputies — and have largely steered clear of the explosive immigration issue,” Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner report.

House Democrats have nixed their annual policy retreat because negotiations on a budget framework and immigration proposals have hit a critical juncture and party officials wanted to avoid the appearance of leaving town for a resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” Paul Kane reports. “Instead, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s caucus will hold its breakout sessions and meetings inside the Capitol complex, allowing the California Democrat to sneak away to any key bipartisan talks at the leadership level.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that stopgap measures like continuing resolutions harm national security and the readiness of the armed forces. (Video: Senate Armed Services Committee)

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis predicted yesterday that Congress will wind up passing another stopgap measure to avoid a shutdown. “Without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it,” he grumbled to members of the House Armed Services Committee, where he was discussing the new National Defense Strategy. “Under frequent continuing resolutions and the sequester’s budget caps, our advantages continue to shrink. … If we are to sustain our military’s primacy, we need budget predictability.”

Mattis testified that a temporary extension of spending at current levels will mean that the military cannot recruit 15,000 soldiers and 4,000 airmen he says are needed to fill vacancies. Speaking before the contours of a possible two-year Senate deal emerged, he warned direly that he’ll need to ground aircraft, delay contracts and deplete ammunition supplies. “Let me be clear: as hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating in 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration,” said Mattis, a former Marine general who came out of retirement to run the Pentagon.

-- This problem long predates Trump. The Pentagon has had to contend with the constraints of a CR in 13 of the last 18 months. For the past decade, the military has operated under a CR for at least part of the year. Mattis’s Democratic predecessor, Ash Carter, made almost identical complaints every time he came to Capitol Hill when Barack Obama was president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he's "optimistic" about finding an agreement to fund the government before the Feb. 8 deadline. (Video: The Washington Post)

-- Everyone across the ideological spectrum agrees this is a terrible way to run the government, but the inability of congressional leaders to reach meaningful compromises has made it routine.

“You know you’re eating a loaf of bread, yet you’re only being given the money to buy one slice at a time. It costs more when you buy things in small pieces,” said Max Stier, the president of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, in an interview. “Congress is really responsible for failing to operate the government in a way that’s fiduciarily responsible. … Everyone who runs an organization ought to understand this because no other organization could run this way. … You need a longer runway.”

-- The flash points have been similar for years now. Defense hawks have pushed to bust the military spending caps put in place by sequestration, but more dovish Democrats say they will only go along if there is a corresponding increase in domestic spending. In other words, they want more butter in exchange for more guns. Many tea partyers in the House have been adamant that they won’t accept significant growth in discretionary spending to strengthen the safety net at home, even in exchange for more military money.

“I will remind you that the only reason we do not have a full budget agreement is because Democrats continue to hold funding for our government hostage on an unrelated issue,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters at a news conference yesterday. “They must stop using our troops as pawns in a game of politics!”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Congress is making "real progress" to reach a deal that funds military and domestic priorities. (Video: The Washington Post)

“Democrats have made our position in these negotiations very clear,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) replied in a floor speech. “We support an increase in funding for our military and our middle class. The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t want to do just one and leave the other behind.”

This extended impasse is partly a lingering consequence of the failure of the “supercommittee” in 2011. The Budget Control Act mandated caps in the event that a special bicameral group couldn’t come up with a grand bargain to curb the national debt. The idea was that draconian cuts would scare both sides into making a deal. But there was no agreement. Washington has been stuck with the sequester ever since.

While discussing the potential of a budget agreement, House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Democrats are using "troops as pawns." (Video: Reuters)

-- Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer estimates that his service alone has wasted at least $4 billion because of CRs over the past decade. “We have put $4 billion in a trash can, poured lighter fluid on it, and burned it,” he testified at a subcommittee hearing last month.

-- “As the commanding officer of a U.S. Navy helicopter squadron, CRs directly affected the readiness of my aircraft,” said Dan Keeler, a federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Budgetary uncertainty hits the military supply chain hard. Under a CR, spare parts are often short. Contractors and suppliers cannot start new orders until a budget is signed. Eventually, part shortages hit the fleet. We are forced to ‘cannibalize’ parts from one aircraft to make another one whole. A good widget is pulled off a down aircraft to fix another. This inefficient process doubles the amount of work and time required to conduct maintenance. This resulted in longer periods of downtime for my aircraft and reduced training opportunities for my aircrew.”

In 2011, a CR forced the Navy to cancel maintenance on the USS Gunston Hall. “The ship eventually received all deferred maintenance, but at significantly increased cost,” Keeler notes in a blog post for Brookings. “The scheduled maintenance period increased from 270 days to 696 days and costs increased from $44.7 million to $111 million. Due to the most recent rounds of CRs, the Navy delayed induction of 11 ships scheduled for shipyard maintenance this year. Maintenance delays for these ships will ultimately have impacts similar to the USS Gunston Hall.”

-- The system has adjusted in many ways. The brass has come to expect CRs as the new normal, so the bean counters use all the gimmicks they can to make do with inconsistent funding streams. But waste and inefficiency cannot be avoided. “You can’t expect a team to win if they only play three quarters out of four,” Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson, an admiral, said during a speech last week at the Heritage Foundation. “That’s kind of what our fiscal environment is asking us to do in many ways. … Working through this squanders the most precious resource: time. We’re spending time managing through this churn, rather than getting on with the strategic direction we need to maintain.”

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-- The federal government will open two hours late this morning because of the weather. (OPM)

-- Some of the region’s schools are also on a delayed schedule or closed. Check here for an updated list. 

-- The wintry mix will become rain by the afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Precipitation is mainly in the form of sleet and freezing rain to start out, perhaps briefly mixed with snow in our northern suburbs. It should change to all freezing rain or plain rain from south to north around 7-10 a.m. With early- to midmorning temperatures near or a bit below freezing, icy spots are possible, especially on sidewalks and driveways, ramps and bridges, and some untreated roads.”

-- The Pentagon and White House are planning a grand military parade  — a large-scale, high-dollar event inspired by France’s Bastille Day celebration and personally requested by Trump. Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker report: “Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top secret discussions — marked a tipping point … Surrounded by the military’s highest ranking officials … Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said. ‘The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,’ said [one military official]. ‘This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.’ American shows of military strength don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it. … Several administration officials said the parade planning began in recent weeks and involves [John Kelly], but cautioned that it is in the preliminary stages.”

Trump’s request for a parade breaks with many of his predecessors, who have generally avoided such grand displays of military hardware. “'I don’t think there’s a lack of love and respect for our armed forces in the United States,’ said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. ‘What are they going to do, stand there while Donald Trump waves at them? It smacks of something you see in a totalitarian country — unless there’s a genuine, earnest reason to be doing it.’”

-- Kim Jong Un will send his sister and close adviser to the Winter Olympics as part of North Korea’s delegation. Anna Fifield reports: “Kim Yo Jong’s name was included in a list of officials submitted to the ministry before the delegation crosses the Demilitarized Zone on Friday. If the visit takes place, she would become the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit South Korea and it would be seen here as a sign that the Kim regime is serious about improving ties with the progressive government in Seoul.”

-- Mike Pence announced the administration would soon unveil “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.” Anna Fifield and Ashley Parker report: “‘[A]nd we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,' Pence said, speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his official residence. The vice president offered no specific details of the sanctions, which his staff said the Treasury Department would officially unveil in the coming days.  Pence made his comments during his first stop, in Japan, on a five-day trip through Asia intended to pressure Kim Jong Un’s regime to move toward denuclearization. He heads Thursday to South Korea, where he plans to meet with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang[.]”

-- Missouri Democrats flipped a state house seat in a district that went for Trump by 28 points in 2016. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup reports: “Democrats made a small dent in the GOP’s supermajority in the Missouri House on Tuesday, swiping a Jefferson County-based district that had been held by a Republican. Democrat Mike Revis snagged nearly 52 percent of the vote compared to Republican David Linton’s 48 percent, according to preliminary results from the Missouri secretary of state. Based on the unofficial results, Republicans held on to three other seats in four special elections on Tuesday, winning decisively in two western Missouri districts and narrowly in the southeast Missouri 144th District.”

SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6 from the Apollo launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Video: SpaceX)


  1. SpaceX successfully launched what is now the world’s most powerful rocket — a stunning spectacle that sent the behemoth rocket tearing out of the atmosphere with the force of 18 Boeing 747 jetliners. The mission was SpaceX’s first test of the Falcon Heavy rocket — it carried both a dummy mannequin astronaut, and Elon Musk’s personal Tesla, which he plans to send into orbit around the sun. (Christian Davenport)
  2. A flat-earther tried and failed to leave the planet this weekend in a crowdfunded, steam-powered homemade rocket. The aborted mission — which was blamed on technical difficulties — is part of the daredevil’s larger campaign to prove that astronauts have been lying about the shape of the planet. (Avi Selk and Amy B Wang)
  3. The Dow Jones closed up 567 points or 2.3 points yesterday after big losses on Monday. “Volatility is back,” said Jamie Cox of Harris Financial Group. “It’s not back in a big way, but it’s not going to be dormant like it was in 2017. That’s the real story.”(Steven Mufson, Emily Rauhala and Thomas Heath)
  4. Records revealed Nashville Mayor Megan Barry regularly took business trips without a police officer before beginning an affair with the head of her security detail. The records call into question Barry’s claims about needing to travel with a police officer for safety reasons. (Tennessean)
  5. Germany’s main political parties agreed to form a governing coalition. The deal comes after four months of gridlock. (Luisa Beck)
  6. The trade deficit with China hit a record high in 2017, according to new figures released by the Commerce Department. The imbalance defies Trump’s promises to shrink a number he sees as proof that the United States is being treated “unfairly” by other countries. (David J. Lynch)
  7. A private contractor asked to provide 30 million meals to Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria supplied only 50,000 meals before having its contract terminated. Congressional Democrats argue stories like this illustrate FEMA’s lack of preparedness for major natural disasters. (New York Times)   
  8. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez retook the Democratic helm of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee nearly three years after he was indicted on corruption charges (his trial ended last fall in a hung jury and federal prosecutors recently said they wouldn't retry the case). Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), who was the top Democrat in Menendez's stead, will be the ranking minority-party member on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. (Paul Kane)
  9. Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay hotel is renumbering its floors — effectively doing away with the 32nd floor from which gunman Stephen Paddock used his window to open fire into a crowd of concertgoers last October. MGM officials said the floor numbers will be changed by the end of the week. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
  10. Tronc is expected to announce the sale of the L.A. Times — a surprise move that likely signals the end of a long-troubled relationship between the California publication and its Chicago-based parent company. The new buyer is L.A.-area physician and current Tronc shareholder Patrick Soon-Shiong, according to people familiar with the deal. Soon-Shiong is also slated to buy the Times’s sister newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Paul Farhi)
  11. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned home after a bitterly disappointing Super Bowl finish only to encounter another problem: His house was robbed while he was away. The break-in is believed to have involved “multiple safes and possible guns,” according to a police dispatch and multiple items were stolen. (Boston Globe)
  12. This Olympics could be the coldest games in history. Organizers in South Korea are distributing a kit that includes a fleece blanket and a red knit cap for Friday’s Opening Ceremonies. (Chelsea Janes)
  13. Several months after the 2016 presidential election, Facebook hired a full-time pollster to track the public perception of founder Mark Zuckerberg. “It was a very unusual role,” says Tavis McGinn, who says he quit six months into his new gig. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him.” (The Verge)
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly says he doesn’t expect President Trump to extend DACA’s deadline if Congress fails to reach an immigration deal. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he does not expect Trump to extend a March 5 deadline for DACA, raising the stakes for lawmakers struggling to secure continued protections for “dreamers.” Erica Werner and Ed O'Keefe report: “'I doubt very much’ that Trump would extend the program, Kelly told reporters during an impromptu interview at the U.S. Capitol. He told reporters that he was ‘not so sure this president has the authority to extend it’ because the [program] … was not based on law . . . With the clock ticking, Kelly also said that he would recommend against Trump’s signing a short-term extension of DACA approved by lawmakers. ‘What makes them act is pressure,’ Kelly said of Congress.

“But some Republicans said that a short-term extension may be their only choice[:] ‘I hope we don’t end up there. But I’m not for ending up with no solution, either,’ Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a lead GOP negotiator on immigration, told reporters.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) on Feb. 6 told President Trump that “we don’t need a government shutdown” over immigration legislation. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents a Virginia district heavy with federal workers, called out Trump at the White House after he said he’d “love to see a shutdown” if Democrats don’t cave to his demands on immigration. “We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she told the president on live TV. “I think both sides have learned that a government shutdown was bad, it wasn’t good for them. And we do have bipartisan support on these things.” Trump continued to press his point, but Comstock spoke over him and touted her bill to deport MS-13 gang members before Trump curtly cut her off. “Thanks, Barbara,” he said, looking away.

Comstock, who represents the affluent D.C. suburbs, is one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the 2018 midterms. Hillary Clinton won her district in 2016, but the congresswoman won a second term by outperforming Trump by 16 points — so it's probably no surprise she's trying to create some distance from the president. (Jenna Portnoy has more.)

-- Trump’s divisive comments about Democrats threaten to undermine immigration talks. John Wagner and Sean Sullivan report: “On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Democrats said that Trump’s partisan attacks were undercutting sensitive negotiations on immigration, and more broadly the notes of unity he tried to hit during his State of the Union address a week ago. … Trump aides and associates said that Democrats were overreacting and had misplayed the address by sitting silently during so many Trump applause lines. … While some Democrats said that Trump’s rhetoric over the past week has not improved prospects for cooperation, others said they have become so accustomed to his inflammatory comments that it doesn’t change the calculus much.”

-- Trump's proposal to slash legal immigration — which includes scaling back a family-based sponsorship program for green cards and eliminating the diversity visa program — could keep white Americans in the majority for up to five additional years, according to a Post analysis.

Jeff Stein and Andrew Van Dam report: “Together, the changes would disproportionately affect immigrants from Latin America and Africa. The Census Bureau projects that minority groups will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in the United States in 2044. The Post's analysis projects that, were Trump's plan to be carried out, the date would be between 2045 and 2049, depending on how parts of it are implemented. All told, the proposal could cut off entry for more than 20 million legal immigrants over the next four decades.”

  • “By greatly slashing the number of Hispanic and black African immigrants entering America, this proposal would reshape the future United States. Decades ahead, many fewer of us would be nonwhite or have nonwhite people in our families,” said Michael Clemens, an economist at the Center for Global Development. “Selectively blocking immigrant groups changes who America is. This is the biggest attempt in a century to do that.”

-- Right-wing allies that once backed Trump’s immigration policies are now at war against them — with one group launching television spots accusing Trump of breaking his campaign promises on the issue. McClatchy DC’s Anita Kumar reports: “Other groups are sending email alerts to their supporters, some nearly daily, asking them to contact members of Congress to kill what they call Trump's 'amnesty' plan. And still others are blasting his proposal on Facebook and Twitter. The common denominator, however, is a sense of betrayal by Trump's compromise on immigration.” “What happened to the president that promised to put Americans first?” asks the narrator in the TV ad, which will hit airwaves this week. “Tweet Donald Trump and ask him.”

The Russia probe got its start with a drunken conversation, an ex-spy, WikiLeaks and a distracted FBI. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)


-- The definitive story on Christopher Steele and the dossier: Hero or hired gun? How a British former spy became a flash point in the Russia investigation,” from Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman: “For months, the British former spy had been working to alert the Americans to what he believed were disturbing ties Trump had to Russia. He had grown so worried about what he had learned … that he told colleagues it was like ‘sitting on a nuclear weapon.’ [A little over a month before Trump’s election], he was summoned to Rome, where he spent hours in a discreet location telling four American officials — some of whom had flown in from the United States — about his findings. The FBI investigators treated Steele as a peer, a Russia expert so well-trusted that he had assisted the Justice Department on past cases and provided briefing material for British prime ministers and at least one U.S. president. During intense questioning that day in Rome, they alluded to some of their own findings … and raised the prospect of paying Steele to continue gathering intelligence after Election Day[.]

“The meeting in Rome captured the unusual and complicated role of Steele … [who] struggled to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life. As his anxiety drove him to reach out to the FBI, he also met with journalists from several news organizations, including The Washington Post.”

  • “Among those who have continued to seek his expertise is Steele’s former boss Richard Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004. In an interview, Dearlove said Steele became the ‘go-to person on Russia in the commercial sector’ following his retirement … He described the reputations of Steele and his business partner, fellow intelligence veteran Christopher Burrows, as ‘superb.’”
  •  “[After Rome], Steele kept up his communications with the FBI, which over months included phone calls, emails and Skype exchanges[.] In October, he shared with his contacts at the bureau another report he had received from a State Department employee … written by Cody Shearer, a freelance journalist who was friends with Hillary and Bill Clinton. In a note to the FBI, Steele made clear that he could not vouch for the accuracy of the Shearer memo, but noted that it echoed his own research, which also found that the Russians allegedly held evidence that could be used against Trump.” “We have no means of verifying the sources or the information but note some of their own is remarkably similar to our own, albeit from a completely different sourcing chain,” he wrote.

-- Meanwhile in a CNN interview, Joe Biden said he would advise Trump not to sit down with Robert Mueller given the president's “difficulty with precision” and described the president as a “joke” in reference to his “treason” comments.  


-- Trump met with Rod Rosenstein to discuss the classified Democratic memo responding to GOP allegations the FBI abused its surveillance powers. Politico’s Ayanna Alexander reports: “[John Kelly] told reporters earlier Tuesday that Trump [would] be briefed on the Democrats' memo, which he called ‘pretty lengthy.’ [Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee] Sanders said Trump met with Rosenstein to discuss ‘differences between the two memos.’ She said the administration would follow a similar course to review the Democratic memo as it had the GOP version.” 

-- Both sides admit redactions will almost certainly be necessary for national security reasons, which has prompted a preemptive blame game. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Democrats have warned the president against scrubbing any more classified information from their document than the FBI and [DOJ] recommend . . . House Republicans say they suspect the Democrats of designing their memo to require so many redactions that they can later accuse Trump of muzzling their rebuttal for political purposes.”

-- House Intelligence Committee Republicans are mum on whether they would override Trump if he declined to release the Democratic memo or redacted key portions of it. (CNN)

-- An AP investigation found Russia cyberspies exploited poorly protected email accounts as they pursued sensitive U.S. defense information. The AP’s Jeff Donn, Desmond Butler and Raphael Satter report: “The hackers known as Fancy Bear, who also intruded in the U.S. election, went after at least 87 people working on militarized drones, missiles, rockets, stealth fighter jets, cloud-computing platforms or other sensitive activities, the AP found. … Fifteen of the targets identified by the AP worked on drones — the single largest group of weapons specialists. Countries like Russia are racing to make better drones as the remote-control aircraft have moved to the forefront of modern warfare.”

-- A British judge denied Julian Assange’s request to have an existing arrest warrant withdrawn given that the Swedish charges it stemmed from have been dropped. (Karla Adam and William Booth)

Casino mogul Steve Wynn stepped down as CEO of Wynn resorts on Feb. 6, after being accused of sexual misconduct by individuals who have worked at his casinos. (Video: Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)


-- Steve Wynn stepped down as CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd. following reports the casino magnate engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment and misconduct. Travis M. Andrews reports: “In a statement Tuesday, Wynn said that he decided to step down after ‘an avalanche of negative publicity,’ adding, ‘I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.’ The board said Tuesday that it had appointed Matt Maddox, the president, as the company’s CEO.”

-- The House voted to prohibit sexual relationships between members of Congress and their employees. Elise Viebeck and Jenna Portnoy report: “The prohibition, pushed by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), took immediate effect as Congress moves toward changing the system for reporting and adjudicating employees’ claims of sexual harassment. The House approved language Tuesday establishing an office to advocate for employees during that process, and a separate bill requiring lawmakers to reimburse taxpayers when they are involved in workplace settlements. The bills cancel the requirement that accusers undergo counseling and mediation and loosen confidentiality rules governing the complaint process.”

-- Two women said the Marine Corps did “nothing” after they complained about an officer who repeatedly made sexually explicit overtures to them at work. USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook reports: “Maj. David Cheek works at the Marines' office of manpower and reserve affairs at Quantico, Va., the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps. At the time of the alleged harassment, he supervised the women as their section head in the Behavioral Health Branch. In their complaints to Marine officials … the women say Cheek arranged to meet with them privately, and on five different occasions, showed them he [was sexually aroused] through his clothing. An investigative report filed by the Marines … found Sherry Yetter's complaint unsubstantiated, amounting to his word against hers. She complained in 2014 … [and] again in July 2017 when Cheek was reassigned to the building where she works with her husband, a Marine lieutenant colonel, and the other woman who filed a complaint.”

-- A Detroit-area man was charged with sexually abusing three underage girls across two states after a video of one encounter went viral on Facebook — spreading as far as France as outraged users attempted to identify the suspect. The suspect has yet to be arraigned on charges including child sexual abuse and use of a computer to transmit child porn — but if convicted,  he could be sent to prison for decades. (Alex Horton)

-- A former Michigan state representative running to replace former congressman John Conyers (D) could become the first Muslim American woman elected to Congress. Rashida Tlaib joins a crowded field of five Democrats vying to replace Conyers, who resigned in December over allegations of sexual harassment. (Detroit Free Press)


-- Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced he will step down as CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable in March — sending his strongest signal yet he is aiming for a comeback gubernatorial bid. The Star-Tribune’s Jennifer Brooks and Jim Spencer report: "‘As has been publicly reported, I am exploring that as an option but certainly haven’t made any decisions in that regard,’ Pawlenty said when asked if he was running for governor, a job he held from 2003 to 2011. He is scheduled to meet next week with a group of donors and supporters to discuss his options. The last Republican to win a statewide race in Minnesota, in 2006, Pawlenty and his allies have been reaching out in recent months to donors, trying to gauge support for a possible third term.”

-- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is encouraging his Senate colleagues to sign a pledge not to campaign against each other — a moratorium that could greatly aid his own reelection chances. David Weigel reports: “So far, the main result of the pledge has been sarcasm. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is expected to spend heavily to try to defeat Manchin, pointed out that he endorsed (and supported, through his PAC) Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes when she challenged [Mitch] McConnell.”

-- Republican attack ads in 2018’s first congressional race — a special election in Pennsylvania — have focused on Nancy Pelosi. David Weigel reports: “[T]he Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with [Speaker] Paul Ryan, begins [today] the fourth TV ad buy in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. As in a previous spot from CLF, a spot from the Ending Spending super PAC, and one from the National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic nominee Conor Lamb is linked with Pelosi and her warnings about the [GOP tax plan]. … The omnipresence of Pelosi in the race comes with a twist: Lamb, like several Democrats in swing and red districts, has said he will not back Pelosi if he gets to Congress.”

-- House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said he would decide “in the next week or so” whether to seek reelection for a sixth term — potentially making him the 10th GOP chairman to exit the House after in 2018. “I truly have not decided,” Roe told reporters, citing family considerations as the primary reason behind his possible retirement. (Roll Call)

-- Former HUD secretary and rumored presidential hopeful Julián Castro is slated to head to New Hampshire to headline the state’s Young Democrats dinner — a speech that could kick-start a 2020 bid. NBC News’s Suzanne Gamboa reports: “Castro, 43, [who was on a shortlist for Hillary Clinton's 2016 running mate], has been up front about his interest in a run for the nation's highest office. He formed the Opportunity First political action committee last year and publicly launched it this year. ‘I have every interest in running’ in 2020 for president, Castro told NBC News. ‘Part of the process of figuring out whether I'm going to run is going to listen to folks and feel the temperature of voters.'”

-- A Democratic group seeking to gain greater power in the redistricting process is targeting states with full Republican control of government, including Florida and Ohio. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns reports: “The group’s list of high-priority states includes most of the critical states in presidential elections. [Barack] Obama, who has made redistricting a focus of his attention since leaving office, plans to visit some of those states in 2018, and [former Attorney General Eric] Holder reviewed his strategy with the former president in Washington on Monday, aides said. States at the top of the just-finalized target list include traditional purple states like Michigan and Wisconsin, where Republicans can currently design maps without Democratic input, and others — including Colorado, Minnesota and Nevada — where Democrats have significant influence in government but must defend it in the 2018 elections.”

-- Karen Tumulty warns in her first column for The Post that plenty could still go wrong for Democrats in this year’s midterms: “Already, Democratic strategists are getting a little jumpy about the party’s shrinking advantage in the polls, especially the closely watched generic-ballot test[.] … What should be more worrisome to Democrats — ironically enough — are some of the very forces that are working in their favor. They are on track to have a record number of candidates running, led by a surge of women and veterans. … All of that is a good thing for any party. Except when it leads to large, messy primaries. … Finally, perhaps the single biggest miscalculation that Democrats could make right now is to expect Trump to do all their work for them.”


-- Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports Trump is considering yet another staff shake-up in the West Wing: “[Sources] say the president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood. …[One] outside adviser who regularly speaks with Trump said that the president is regretting some of his Cabinet choices. ‘He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.’ Trump has recently told advisers he wants a ‘killer’ to steer the White House’s response to [Mueller’s] investigation and craft a midterm election message for him to stump on this fall. … The president’s top choice for the strategist position is Jason Miller, who served as communications director for Trump’s presidential campaign.”

-- The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee slammed a memo from Jeff Sessions to Justice Department officials asking them not to talk to Congress without approval. CBS News’s Kathryn Watson reports: “[Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)], who has prioritized whistleblower protections in his time in the Senate, said that while he appreciated DOJ's efforts to speak from a coordinated front, he fears Sessions' letter may violate the law and prevent critical information from reaching Congress.”

-- Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) mocked one of the president’s ambassador nominees who peddled fringe conspiracy theories about Trump’s political opponents during the campaign. "[Leandro] Rizzuto should feel free to put on his tinfoil hat and visit our office with evidence for his salacious conspiracy theories and cuckoo allegations,” said Sasse spokesman James Wegmann. “While he's at it, the Senate probably needs to know his views on the moon landing. I'm sure Senator Sasse will be willing to evaluate the specific evidence for his claims — but it's got to be more than a stack of National Enquirers.” Wegmann added, “Cynics and nuts are probably going to have a hard time securing Senate confirmation.” One more Republican defection could kill Rizzuto’s nomination. (CNN)


Trump wished a fellow president a happy birthday:

A GOP strategist used the occasion to implicitly criticize Trump:

A CNN reporter noted this of the White House deliberations over the Democratic memo:

According to John Kelly, the president has not yet read the Democrats' memo. From a Post contributor:

The House Intelligence Committee chairman dodged a question about the Republican memo:

Nunes replied to the video:

"The Daily Show” created a string of fake headlines to satirize the White House's excuse for the “treason” comments:

This former Obama adviser commented on John Kelly's remarks that he doesn't expect Trump to extend DACA:

The president's son endorsed Jeb Bush's son in a statewide race:

The director of U-Va.'s Center for Politics mocked Trump's plans for a military parade:

From a former spokesman for Hillary Clinton:

From a Naval War College professor:

From independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin's former running mate:

From the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation:

From Joe Biden's former chief of staff:

From a Washington state Democrat:

From George W. Bush's former press secretary:

A former NFL player lambasted Trump's response to the death of Colts player Edwin Jackson:

Twitter celebrated the SpaceX launch:

From Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):

From a Post editor:

One congressman appeared to have lost a bet, per a New York Times reporter:


-- Politico, “Meghan McCain: Trump won't attack my dad again,” by Anna Palmer and Reena Flores: “Trump won't be trashing Sen. John McCain anytime soon. After months of criticizing the war veteran over his stance on a GOP health bill and more, the president called the Arizona Republican’s daughter Meghan to say he would back off the cancer-stricken veteran senator. ‘I don’t believe he would go there again,’ the younger McCain [said]. ‘I don’t think at this point in his administration it would be beneficial to him in any way.’”

-- New York Times, “The Republican Fiscal Stimulus Could Be Bigger Than Obama’s,” by Jim Tankersley: “The $1.5 trillion tax cut that President Trump signed into law late last year, combined with a looming agreement to increase federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars, would deliver a larger short-term fiscal boost than President Barack Obama and Democrats packed into their $835 billion stimulus package in the Great Recession. The administration is also expected to soon roll out its $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, which would include $200 billion in new federal spending, offset by unspecified cuts elsewhere. The question is how much added fuel is good for the economy.”

-- New York Times Magazine, “The Towers Came Down, and With Them the Promise of Public Housing,” by Ben Austen: “The fate of public housing in America — its rise, much of it in the form of towers like Cabrini-Green, and its fall as those towers came down — is the story of urban poverty as an unsteady political priority.”


“Trump Evangelical Adviser Says You Don’t Need Flu Shots When You Have Jesus,” from HuffPost: “A controversial minister linked to [Trump] said flu shots aren’t necessary when you have Jesus. ‘Inoculate yourself with the word of God,’ urged Gloria Copeland[.] [Both she and her husband] serve on Trump’s evangelical advisory board. While health officials continue to urge people to get flu shots . . . Copeland told followers that faith in Christ is all that’s really needed. ‘Well, listen, partners, we don’t have a flu season,’ Copeland said … ‘And don’t receive it when somebody threatens you with, “Everybody’s getting the flu.” We’ve already had our shot: He bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases. That’s what we stand on.’ She said the faithful who don’t have the flu can ward off the infection by repeatedly saying, ‘I’ll never have the flu. I’ll never have the flu.’ Last week, the CDC said flu hospitalizations have reached their highest point in nearly a decade, and that 48 states are experiencing widespread illnesses due to the virus.”



“Gowdy implies Clinton friend Blumenthal fed information to Steele,” from Politico: “During an interview on Fox News' ‘The Story,’ host Martha MacCallum asked [Rep. Trey] Gowdy (R-S.C.) whether ‘weeks before the election, somebody in the Obama State Department was feeding information from a foreign source to Christopher Steele.’ … ‘When you hear who the source, one of the sources of that information is, you're going to think, “Oh, my gosh, I've heard that name somewhere before. Where could it possibly have been?”‘ Gowdy replied. … ‘I'm trying to think of how Secretary Clinton defined him. I think she said he was an old friend who emailed her from time to time,’ Gowdy said. Asked whether it was Blumenthal, Gowdy said: ‘That would be really warm. You're warm.’ . . . Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton friend, confidant and adviser, never worked at the State Department under President Barack Obama. He worked in the White House of President Bill Clinton and for the Clinton Foundation during Obama's tenure.”



Trump has a morning meeting with the Health and Human Service secretary followed by a meeting with the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He will also sit down with Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee and later attend the National Prayer Breakfast Dinner.

Pence is in Tokyo for his Asia trip. 

The bipartisan duo of Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) will hold a news conference this morning to announce their Senate resolution establishing a committee to investigate the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over their handling of the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse scandal. (CNN)


Paul Ryan once again defended the Nunes memo during a news conference: FISA abuse matters to each and every one of us as citizens. And if our government abused the FISA process . . . we should care about that. So this is about making sure that our civil liberties — as citizens — are protected in the FISA court and that it is not politicized.” (New York Times)



-- The Capitals beat the Blue Jackets 3-2. (Jesse Dougherty)

-- The Wizards lost to the 76ers 115-102. (Candace Buckner)

-- Maryland’s transportation chief has promised Amazon a “blank check” on any transportation improvements if the company chooses Montgomery County for its second headquarters. Katherine Shaver reports: “Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said that amount ‘could be more or could be less’ than the $2 billion in unspecified transportation upgrades the state has already committed to as part of its $5 billion pitch for Amazon to choose the White Flint area of North Bethesda in Montgomery County. ... Rahn said the state doesn’t have the $2 billion budgeted, saying, ‘I don’t know how we’d do it.’ ‘However, there is no doubt we will have to fund it if they choose Maryland, and quite honestly, that would be a problem I would love to have,’ he added.”

-- A Boston-bound Acela train separated shortly after leaving Union Station. No one was injured in the incident. (Lori Aratani)

-- Speed-camera violations generated $62.2 million in revenue for Maryland, with most of the tickets being issued in the Washington suburbs. (Luz Lazo)

-- The Georgetown home where John F. Kennedy met Jacqueline Bouvier is up for sale. The Q Street NW residence will hit the market this week for $1.725 million. (Helena Andrews-Dyer


Stephen Colbert tried to goad Trump into sitting down with Robert Mueller:

Trevor Noah went after Trump's "treason" comments:

The Post fact-checked Trump's claim that wages are rising "for the first time in many years":

The president is touting gains in wages, but there's much less than meets the eye. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor to criticize Trump's “treason” comments:

And Cape Town received water donations to combat shortages in the South African city:

The Groenland Water Users Association began releasing up to 10 billion liters of water on Feb. 6 to alleviate shortages in Cape Town, South Africa. (Video: Leigh-Anne Jansen/eNCA)