White House 'confident' of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall – Washington Post

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The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall.

Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade.

But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to fund the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

“The president is working hard to keep the government open,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Monday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was “very confident” that an agreement would be reached by Friday, but he pointedly said he could not “guarantee” that a government closure would be averted.

At issue is whether the spending measure will explicitly allocate funds toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a campaign promise that was a rallying cry for Trump’s base and one on which he is eager to demonstrate progress by Saturday, his 100th day in office.

Democrats, meanwhile, gave the White House an opening, saying they would agree to some new money for border security — so long as it did not go toward the creation of a wall, something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called “immoral.”

In a speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the idea of a wall while suggesting that a combination of smart technology and law enforcement, including the use of drones, would be “a much more effective way to secure the border” without hitting an impasse in Congress.

Republicans were working to define Trump’s campaign promise down, arguing that any form of border security would fulfill it.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of immigration reform who challenged Trump in the 2016 primaries. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key appropriator and member of Senate leadership, said that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places,” implying that there would not be funding for the wall sketched out in campaign rhetoric. “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally,” he said.

Trump has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in new money to start construction on the wall, and he wants an additional $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The wall, experts say, would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct.

At the White House, Spicer portrayed Trump’s position not as a demand but rather as one of two priorities — the other being additional military funding — in evolving negotiations with Congress. He left open the possibility that the president could agree to funding for border activities generally, such as additional fencing or drones.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations that are ongoing,” Spicer said.

Should lawmakers fail to find consensus by Friday, there are plans ready to quickly pass through the House and Senate what is referred to as a “short-term C.R.,” a continuing resolution to keep the government open until discussions are finalized.

The Senate returned Monday night and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving only three days this week when both chambers will be in session.

The more conciliatory language emanating from the White House did not stop Trump from continuing to hammer away on Twitter at what he claims is an urgent need for the wall. In a pair of posts, Trump sought to build public pressure on lawmakers to pass funding for wall construction.

“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others!),” he wrote in a morning post.

In another message several hours later, Trump wrote that if “the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall.”

Still, Trump has left himself wiggle room to agree to sign a government funding bill that does not include money for the wall.

“My base understands the wall is going to get built, whether I have it funded here or if I get it funded shortly thereafter,” Trump said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “That wall’s getting built, okay? One hundred percent.”

Asked if he would sign a bill without wall funding, Trump told the news service, “I just don’t know yet.”

The debate over wall funding is just one of several moving pieces congressional leaders are trying to address this week to avoid a partial government shutdown. In 2015, President Barack Obama made a deal with congressional lawmakers to fund government operations through April 28, 2017. If a new agreement isn’t reached by then, many federal employees will stop being paid, national parks will close, and a number of other changes will kick in — as in 2013, the last time the government shut down.

Since new rules about spending bills went into place after Jimmy Carter’s administration, a government shutdown has never occurred when a single political party has controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Paramount for many Republican lawmakers is funding the government, as opposed to the wall specifically. If the government shuts down, they fear, voters could blame the GOP for failing to govern, and the party could suffer the consequences in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I’d like to make it as clean as we can and fund the government,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “I wouldn’t mind funding the wall, but it’s a question of what we can do. The question is, what’s doable and will we make the deadline?”

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said that an effective “wall” along the border had been “authorized years and years and years ago,” in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

“It’s been partially built and partially funded. He wants to fund the rest of it and build it — perfectly legitimate debate that should take place on that,” Risch said.

Asked if that debate could happen in three days, Risch chuckled. “Things get done quickly around here when they want it to get done,” he said.

Even when Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they could rarely pass spending bills without Democratic support. That is because a number of the House’s most conservative members often refused to support such bills, making a bipartisan majority coalition a necessity. In addition, 60 votes are needed to pass a requisite procedural vote in the Senate. With just 52 seats, Senate Republicans will need bipartisan support in that chamber as well.

Among other guarantees, Democrats want assurances that insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act will continue to be funded. There have been discussions among Republicans that Democrats could agree to provide money for the construction of the wall in exchange for those health funds, but Democrats have refused.

Sunday morning, congressional Democrats submitted to Republicans a compromise spending plan, which included some new money for border security but only if it did not go toward a wall. Democrats also asked for assurances that the health insurance subsidies would continue to be funded, language that would shore up benefits for coal miners and a change that would expand Medicaid benefits to people in Puerto Rico, according to a senior Democratic congressional aide.

Pelosi told reporters on a conference call Monday that Congress was “on the path to get it done until [Trump] did intervene” and that the administration’s actions so far belied his campaign promise to “make Mexico pay” for the border wall.

James Norton, a former deputy assistant undersecretary for homeland security under President George W. Bush, said funding for technologies, such as cameras and radars, on the border has dropped off since the early 2000s. He said to get money for the wall or other border security measures, the administration will have to “sell specifics” to lawmakers.

“Each part is going to need to be sold in a specific way to Congress, and they’re going to have to hit the Hill hard,” Norton said. “It won’t be easy.”

Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

Read more at PowerPost

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In Chicago, Obama tells young leaders that 'special interests dominate the debates in Washington' – Washington Post

On April 24, in his first public appearance since leaving office, former president Barack Obama spoke with young adults in Chicago on finding common ground in Washington politics. (The Washington Post)

CHICAGO — In his first public appearance since leaving the White House in January, former president Barack Obama told young leaders here Monday that “special interests dominate the debates in Washington” and that getting involved in their communities is the best antidote to the divisiveness dominating the country’s politics.

Obama, who has kept a relatively low public profile since the end of his second term, did not mention President Trump once during the 90-minute event at the University of Chicago, but said he was determined to galvanize younger Americans to do more politically because they were the ones best positioned to bridge the current political divide.

“The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world,” said Obama, who sat onstage, wearing a black suit, white button-down shirt and no tie, with a half-dozen Chicago-area activists in their teens and 20s, as dozens more student leaders watched on.

He admitted that he failed to realize his “aspirational” goal of uniting Americans in red and blue states, but said the country is not as divided as it sometimes seems.

“That was an aspirational comment,” the former president said of his famous 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, prompting laughter from the audience at the University of Chicago. He added that when talking to individual Americans from different political backgrounds, you learn that “there’s a lot more that people have in common” than it would appear. “But, obviously, it’s not true when it comes to our politics and our civic life.”

[Obama’s post-presidency is like no other]

In keeping with his previous vow not to criticize his successor, Obama — speaking days before Trump’s 100-day mark — made little mention of Republicans’ rush to dismantle his legacy back in Washington as quickly as possible. Republicans are debating whether to try again this week to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act after failing to vote on a bill in March. Trump has signed executive orders and bills from Congress undoing Obama-era regulations on everything from climate change to guns. And the Senate just appointed a conservative to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court after refusing to hold nomination hearings last year on Obama’s pick, D.C. Circuit Court Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

Obama referred to none of that. Instead, he focused on political polarization, which he ascribed to gerrymandered electoral districts, money in politics, a politicized media and voter apathy, especially among young people.

“The one thing I’m absolutely convinced of is: Yes, we confront a whole range of challenges, from economic inequality and lack of opportunity, to the criminal justice system to climate change to issues related to violence. All those problems are serious, they’re daunting,” Obama said. “But they’re not insolvable. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”

The session, which took place at an intimate hall near where he got started as a community organizer, and a few miles away from where he gave his carefully orchestrated farewell address this year, marks the start of public appearances the former president will deliver in the United States and overseas. He’ll be in Boston next month to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, and in Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy to attend the The Global Food Innovation Summit.

His wife, Michelle, for her part, will deliver her first paid speech Friday in Orlando at a meeting of the American Institute of Architects.

On Sunday, Obama had met behind closed doors with members of Chicago Create Real Economic Destiny (CRED) program, an initiative headed by his former education secretary, Arne Duncan, which aims to provide job opportunities for the city’s at-risk young adults. An aide said in an email that the meeting was “the first in ongoing conversations and efforts” by the Obamas to work with private and public groups “that are committed to tackling violence, poverty and unemployment in communities around the country.”

Monday’s audience was filled mostly with aspiring Chicago-area college students, dressed in their best suits and ties, many of whom grew up watching and cheering Obama’s political rise.

Jon LeVert and Marquise Davion, both student government leaders and film majors at the Columbia College Chicago, said they were looking for the former president to give some assurance that things aren’t as bad as they hear it is in Washington, and a road map on how to make things better in their communities.

“We have these people excited to do something, it’d be great to hear from him: You can do this by x, x and x,” Davion said.

While Obama tried repeatedly during the event to emphasize the legitimacy of different political viewpoints, noting that many Americans want immigration to be “lawful and orderly” and that it is important “not to assume that everybody who has problems with the current immigration system is racist,” it remains unclear whether the message he was hoping to convey would take root. The political polarization he decried was on display just outside the hall where he spoke: Three protesters stood outside with white posters taped to their backpacks that read, “Obama, we are not on the same intramural team as Trump.”

As he talked on stage, the former University of Chicago law professor sounded less like a lecturer than an inquisitor. “What is it that you think would make the big difference in young people saying, ‘If I volunteer for this, I might make a difference?’ ” he asked high school senior Ayanna Watkins after pointing out that only one-third of young people vote in midterm elections.

As Obama pressed the point, panelist Ramuel Figueroa offered that activists need to “connect personal problems to policy issues” to get people invested in elections.

“If you’re working two jobs and can’t afford day care, it’s not because you’re lazy,” said Figuero, an undergraduate at Roosevelt University who had served in the military before starting college. Of activists, he said, “You need to demonstrate some connection.”

And Obama probed the political divide that exists on college campuses, which tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. All of the hand-picked panel members were Democrats except for one Republican, University of Chicago undergraduate Max M. Freedman. Asked by Obama whether he has a hard time being heard on a college campus as a Republican, Freedman replied, “You can expect some level of ostracization from certain people.”

“There’s a significant empathy gap, not just here, but everywhere. … We’ve cloistered ourselves,” Freedman said. “Civic engagement, at some point, will require a level of civility.”

During his time in office, Obama relished holding town halls with young people while traveling overseas. Monday’s event had a similar feel, though he was visibly looser than he was while serving as president. Even as he bemoaned how Americans had created news silos through their social media feeds, he joked, “Or maybe you’re just looking at cat videos, which is fine.” At another point, he noted that while his use of marijuana in his youth had not hurt his political career because he was forthright about it, “I would advise all of you to be a little more circumspect, in terms of your selfies.”

Obama’s re-entrance into the public spotlight comes at a time when there really is no clear leader of the Democratic Party, and its grass-roots base is demanding one.

The former president did not mention his party’s struggles after its disappointing 2016 election, but he said he wants to be a resource for young people looking to get involved politically, especially through a post-presidency foundation he is setting up. He framed engaging younger people as the best antidote to a divisive Washington.

“There’s a reason why I am optimistic, even when things aren’t going the way I want,” he said as he wrapped up his appearance. “And that’s because of young people like this.”

Obama’s interest in young leaders heartened Dorian Meighen, a student at Roosevelt University: “All that he did, he will still continue doing, and he’ll still be there to help people even though he’s not in office.”

Eilperin reported from Washington.

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The Spending Bill Was Supposed to Be Easy. Then Trump Intervened. – New York Times

WASHINGTON — To be clear, it isn’t that hard to keep the government’s lights on.

Fights over short-term spending bills have long been used by Republicans and Democrats as proxies for broader policy fights. But with Republicans fully in control of Washington, President Trump has turned a sure thing into a major drama, with a Friday night deadline before much of the government shuts down.

Congressional appropriators, who are always happy to spend money together, seemed on a glide path to quietly do so, until Mr. Trump belatedly intervened, insisting on using the bill to get a down payment on a wall at the Mexican border that even many Republicans are leery of and that he has long insisted would be paid for by Mexico.

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The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

Suddenly, a spending bill that was meant to be a mere legislative grace note to much larger health care and tax policy bills has become the centerpiece of another down-to-the-wire battle.

“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!” Mr. Trump said Monday on Twitter.

The president’s early habit of tossing hornets into Republican policy picnics has hampered his agenda and demonstrated the lack of experience among his staff in working with Capitol Hill to get things done. His lack of early engagement on the health care bill helped lead to its demise, and his early efforts at a tax bill were disorganized — he announced he had one even though critical staff members and congressional leaders knew nothing of it. Those stumbles and his current flirtation with a government shutdown demonstrate a continued pattern of playing to his base rather than governing.

Democrats — whose votes will be needed to pass any spending bill — and plenty of Republicans have no interest in building a wall, certainly not in paying for it with a short-term spending bill. “Donald Trump threw a monkey wrench with the wall,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “We believe that the Republican leaders should tell Donald Trump that we can do this at a later time.”

On Monday, as senators returned to Washington from a two-week recess to confirm Sonny Perdue for secretary of agriculture, Republican congressional leaders were negotiating with White House officials, who have been pressing for wall funding and a mechanism to take some funding from the Affordable Care Act. The House returns on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump is hardly the first president to fight with his party over major policy matters. President Andrew Johnson clashed with Congress over Reconstruction programs, which helped lead to his impeachment, and President Jimmy Carter’s fights with fellow Democrats over nearly everything prompted Senator Edward M. Kennedy to challenge him for the party’s nomination in 1980.

President Barack Obama fought with coal-state Democrats who sunk his climate change bill and with war-weary members of his party over whether to launch airstrikes in Syria.

“The general dynamic to get congressional leaders aligned with the White House is often a challenge, but rarely impossible,” said Patrick Griffin, a former aide to Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and a legislative director during President Bill Clinton’s first term. “This dynamic is only different in that the president is so unpredictable. What should be obvious is not a certainty.”

Counterproductive as his moves may appear, Mr. Trump is clearly eager for a victory, and funding for his wall would be one, at least with his base. His negotiating method appears to be to join the conversation late in the game and pressure Congress via his beloved Twitter account, with references to campaign promises that were always long shots.

“The president is not beholden to the same constituencies as previous Republican presidents,” said Ken Spain, a former spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “That was a major asset for Trump as a candidate, but from a governing perspective it can lead to competing priorities with the more conventional wing of the party.”

Mr. Spain added, “To the extent the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill can utilize a hand-in-glove approach, the likelihood for success increases dramatically.”

While many presidents bring advisers from their home state during their first term, they also tend to staff up with people wise to the ways of working with Congress. But like Mr. Carter’s, Mr. Trump’s inner circle is particularly full of close associates who have not spent time in Washington, and have learned the hard way — at the hands of lawmakers, often from their own party — about what is and is not possible.

“They learn Congress is a coequal branch of government,” said former Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi and a onetime majority leader. “What Congress has to do and the Senate majority leader has to do is say to the president of their own party sometimes is, ‘We appreciate your interest, but we are not going to do that here today.’ I did that with Bush sometimes and Karl Rove did not like it, but I thought it was important to tell him what we could do and couldn’t do.”

Indeed, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, warned the Trump administration soon after the election that the best course of action was to accept a spending bill that would have gotten the government through the rest of the fiscal year without the bill’s being slowed or sidelined by tax and health care legislation. His counsel was not heeded.

Democrats support increased border spending, just not in the form of a wall. “Let us all recognize that we have a responsibility to protect our borders,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader. “The fact is that the wall is a dereliction of duty in doing that.”

As such, it is likely that Congress will try to come up with a bill that can please both parties and include new funding for the border with vague promises to work on the wall issue later in the year. To get to that point, it is also likely that a very short-term spending measure will have to be passed on Friday as a bridge to that final spending bill.

However, should Mr. Trump decide to dig in, there could be a huge and largely needless fight over spending that distracts from the rest of his agenda. “It is not going to happen in this bill, so I am not sure why they are making a sweat over it,” Mr. Lott said.

“This is one of the places where they need to get this done, and it’s easy,” he added. “They have to do health care and a tax bill and appropriations so that they can turn later this year to infrastructure. Because if they don’t have health care and tax reform, there is going to be hell to pay at the next election.”

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State Department website touts glittering history of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate – Washington Post

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A State Department website that promotes travel to the United States included an article this month about the history and lavish furnishings of President Trump’s privately owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, opening questions about whether the federal government is improperly promoting Trump’s moneymaking enterprises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the travelogue-style blog piece Monday, asking in a Twitter message why the State Department would spend “taxpayer $$ promoting the president’s private country club.”

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the item was appropriate or had been vetted for legal or ethical concerns. State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the item during a news briefing Monday, but he said he had not heard about it. The department has promised a response.

The short item was posted on a promotional website called “Share America” on April 4, ahead of Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A version of the item was recently reposted on the website maintained by the U.S. Embassy in London, where it caught the attention of watchdog groups.

The item adopts Trump’s term “winter White House” for the ­members-only club. It does not expressly encourage foreigners to visit Mar-a-Lago, although other articles on the same website actively promote U.S. tourism. The item does note that the estate “is located at the heart of Florida’s Palm Beach community.”

“By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the item reads. “The ornate Jazz Age house was designed with Old-World Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese influences” and filled with original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of antiques, the article notes.

The item includes photographs of the house and sumptuous interiors, and copies of Trump tweets mentioning Mar-a-Lago.

The article gives a brief summary of the 1927 mansion’s history, including Post’s desire that it be used by U.S. presidents as a retreat and the subsequent decision by the U.S. government that the property was too expensive to maintain. Trump bought it in 1985.

“After refurbishing the house and adding an events space, Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club,” the State Department item reads. “Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.”

The State Department describes the “Share America” site as its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

The site is produced by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which produces material distributed by U.S. embassies.

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State Department website touts glittering history of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate – Washington Post

By ,

A State Department website that promotes travel to the United States included an article this month about the history and lavish furnishings of President Trump’s privately-owned Florida resort club Mar-a-Lago, opening questions about whether the federal government is improperly promoting Trump’s moneymaking enterprises.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to the travelogue-style blog piece Monday, asking in a Twitter message why the State Department would spend “taxpayer $$ promoting the president’s private country club.”

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the item was appropriate or had been vetted for legal or ethical concerns. State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the item during a press briefing Monday, but he said he had not heard about it. The department has promised a response.

The short item was posted on a promotional website called “Share America” on April 4, ahead of Trump’s meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. A version of the item was recently reposted on the website maintained by the U.S. Embassy in London, where it caught the attention of watchdog groups.

The item adopts Trump’s term “winter White House” for the members-only club. It does not expressly encourage foreigners to visit Mar-a-Lago, although other articles on the same website actively promote U.S. tourism. The item does note that the estate “is located at the heart of Florida’s Palm Beach community.”

“By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the item reads. “The ornate Jazz Age house was designed with Old-World Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese influences” and filled with original owner Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of antiques, the article notes.

The item includes photographs of the house and sumptuous interiors, and copies of Trump tweets mentioning Mar-a-Lago.

The article gives a brief summary of the 1927 mansion’s history, including Post’s desire that it be used by U.S. presidents as a retreat and the subsequent decision by the U.S. government that the property was too expensive to maintain. Trump bought it in 1985.

“After refurbishing the house and adding an events space, Trump opened the estate to dues-paying members of the public in 1995 as the Mar-a-Lago Club,” the State Department item reads.

“Post’s dream of a winter White House came true with Trump’s election in 2016. Trump regularly works out of the house he maintains at Mar-a-Lago and uses the club to host foreign dignitaries.”

The State Department describes the “Share America” site as its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

The site is produced by the department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, which produces material distributed by U.S. embassies.

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Donald Trump's Idiotic Shutdown Threat Could Destroy His Presidency – Slate Magazine

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, on April 6 in Washington, D.C.

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Donald Trump has positioned himself to wake up on Saturday, the 100th Day™ of his presidency, with a shut-down government. It would be a fitting celebration of the Trump administration’s legislative record on this arbitrary milestone. The president has backed himself into a corner from which his pride won’t easily allow him to escape. It will now be up to congressional Republicans to find their president a face-saving legislative maneuver to avoid a humiliating lapse of appropriations under unified GOP government.

Jim Newell is a Slate staff writer.

You may remember the Republican Congress well from such recent hits as the slapstick collapse in March of its promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, legislation they insist is still a work in progress. (We’ll see.)

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On the government funding front, though, Republicans had been managing appropriations in proper adult fashion and looked poised to avoid a shutdown when funding lapses on Friday at midnight. They were executing the process the way it was meant to be executed: by getting Democratic and Republican appropriators in a room to hash out something that could get a bipartisan mix of 216 votes in the House and 60 in the Senate. One neat benefit of bipartisan spending negotiations is that they allow Republican leaders to circumvent poison-pill demands from either the House Freedom Caucus or the Senate axis of Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul.

Republican leaders’ problem now lay not within their own caucuses, but with the president. Trump, who usually does not care what provisions are in the bills he would sign so long as he would get to sign something, has made it known recently that he wants money to start his Southern border wall within the newest spending bill.

Congressional leaders had consensus that “the wall,” divisive as it was, would be dealt with separately in a supplemental spending bill, or perhaps never. But then our mercurial president—hungry for some legislative “points on the board” pegged to his 100-days jubilee—got it in his head that it would be savvy politics to threaten Democrats with the sabotage of individual health care markets in exchange for a few billion dollars of “wall money” in this spending bill. It hadn’t occurred to him that crippled insurance markets would hurt the president’s own standing, especially if the president took active measures to cripple them. Democrats aren’t biting.

The jury’s still out on whether Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is himself the idiot whose idea this was, or if he just speaks for one. But he has served as the primary public spokesman for this wall-money-for-health-care play, and he’s made the case so publicly by now that it will be hard for the White House to walk it back without the appearance of defeat.

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Aside from the president himself, Mulvaney may be the only public spokesman for this play. Few congressional Republicans have the administration’s back. Rep. Peter King—who wrote the 2006 border fencing law the administration is trying to fund—doesn’t believe now is the right time to be having this fight. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a realist, said on CNN Monday morning that if the border wall demand was met as the White House is insisting, “it would be a Republican-only bill”—a gently coded way of saying that such an appropriations bill couldn’t pass the Senate, and the government would shut down. He also noted that he had yet to see any plan from the administration about “where and what that wall would look like.” Rep. Tom Cole, a leadership ally, said he “wouldn’t risk a $1 trillion funding bill for a $3 billion wall.” The wall demand is not something that the House’s most conservative members are pushing, either. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Freedom Caucus member, said “no” on Sunday when asked if the wall was worth a government shutdown. “I think there are still questions about, wait a minute, this is a guy that said the Mexicans were going to pay for it,” he added. Fair point.

Trump’s wall demand, based on false leverage, has little constituency on Capitol Hill and interrupted a relatively smooth process to avoid a shutdown that would be embarrassing for him and career-threatening for many Republicans in Congress. But the demand has been made, and the president has staked himself on it. How does this one end?

The distant, best-case scenario for the White House would be to get Democratic negotiators to concede on wall money. The only way it could conceivably do this is to give them much, much more than they’re offering. Instead of just offering to appropriate some of the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reductions, as the current offer stands, the administration could offer to give up on any further legislative efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and commit to improving the law. Or something. Yes, Democrats think the wall is dumb and counterproductive. But as I wrote last year, if Trump really thinks he needs the wall, then Democrats should consult the furthest reaches of their imagination on what to ask of this great American dealmaker.

Congress could also just ignore the president. Though Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday that the president was “insistent” on wall funding, neither Trump nor Mulvaney would flatly say that the president wouldn’t accept a spending bill without it. Appropriators, then, could continue their work without the wall distraction, move a negotiated bill through the House and Senate, and dare Trump to veto it. But congressional Republicans might not be willing to challenge their new president quite so frontally.

The easiest face-saving option would be for Republican leaders to set up a separate vote on the wall. This is the tactic that ex-Speaker Boehner, time and again, tried to employ to assuage conservative hard-liners who were holding up a must-pass bill: a separate vote on whatever their pet issue was, be it repealing the Affordable Care Act or defunding Planned Parenthood. It never worked very well, because the conservative hard-liners recognized that they were just being offered “show votes” that would die in the Senate. It may not be as difficult to trick Trump, who treats the showier aspects of politics much more seriously than he does the actual policies. Speaker Ryan could set up a separate vote the following week on border-wall funding and whip the votes to pass it; Trump could then blame filibustering Senate Democrats for blocking the wall indefinitely. Fine! Win-win-win.

The last—and worst—thing Trump could do though, is refuse to budge, allow the government to shut down, lose support from congressional Republicans, and then make a tough decision as his approval numbers and the Republican share on the generic congressional ballot fall to roughly 20 percent.

It would have served the president to game this out a few more steps before running his mouth. That would be another perfect lesson for these first 100 days.

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Macron's strong finish in the French election shows populist wave may be ebbing – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the E.U. was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, tweeted dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with EU flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French vote.

If Macron is elected — and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker — continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the bloc back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jump-start his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of front-runner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of the European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany — and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Macron's strong finish in the French election shows populist wave may be ebbing – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the E.U. was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, tweeted dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with EU flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French vote.

If Macron is elected — and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker — continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the bloc back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jump-start his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of front-runner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of the European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany — and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Macron's strong finish in the French elections shows populist surge may fade – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the European Union was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green-Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones, saying he can win over Germany, which he has already visited twice during the presidential campaign.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, wrote dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with E.U. flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French election.

If Macron is elected – and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker – continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the European Union back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jumpstart his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of frontrunner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany – and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It may be counterproductive,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.” 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she defies the polls and wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

[email protected]

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Macron's strong finish in the French elections shows populist surge may fade – Washington Post

By and ,

BERLIN — In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise.

It might actually pay to embrace the European Union.

The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who jets to Berlin to give speeches in English. The blue-and-yellow banner of the E.U. flutters off his campaign headquarters. He is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Marine Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.

After years in which the European Union was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and President Trump’s euroskepticism. The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green-Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. The former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany.

And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead “an ambitious Europe,” restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. He pledges to push for reforms that would force stronger nations to protect weaker ones, saying he can win over Germany, which he has already visited twice during the presidential campaign.

Sunday’s balloting showed French attitudes toward Europe split down the middle, with euroskeptic politicians winning nearly half the vote. In addition to Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate, drew millions of votes. Opinion polls examining E.U. attitudes revealed conflicted feelings, with a majority of French respondents describing themselves as pro-E.U. but saying the institution needed deep reforms. 

Given such division, European leaders nervously watched the first-round voting to see which way France might tilt. On Monday, many political figures were unusually public about their support for Macron.

[Choice for French voters: Hope in Europe or fear of globalization]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted that Macron’s first-place finish showed that “France AND Europe can win together. The center is stronger than the populists think!”

The centrist German lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff heaped on more praise. Macron is “a French John F. Kennedy,” he told Germany’s ZDF television on Monday.

In a rare display of cross-continental comity, Macron also was congratulated by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a combative leftist who has sparred with the German government ever since he was forced to accept a humiliating bailout in 2015.

Pro-E.U. politicians were not the only ones to focus on Macron’s attitudes toward Europe.

Nigel Farage, the British anti-E.U. politician who helped lead last year’s Brexit campaign, wrote dismissively that Macron gave his victory speech Sunday night “with E.U. flag behind him. Says it all.”

Leaders in Europe normally maintain a studious silence when the vote isn’t on their turf. That they didn’t in this case reflects the gravity for Europe of the final round of the French election.

If Macron is elected – and opinion polls suggest he has a comfortable lead over Le Pen despite his first-round squeaker – continental leaders are cautiously optimistic that he can steer the beleaguered country back to its historically central role in European affairs. If Le Pen wins, modern Europe — defined by integration and growing cooperation across national boundaries — could fall apart after already being jolted by Britain’s decision to exit the E.U.

Analysts believe that if Macron can put more of a Gallic stamp on the E.U. machinery in Brussels, he may have a chance to shift France’s complicated attitude toward the European Union back toward more positive ground, particularly if he can also jumpstart his country’s stalled economy.

“The French liked Europe when it was a greater France, but they feel today that it’s no longer the case. It’s a greater Germany,” said Eddy Fougier, an expert on anti-globalization movements at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

[French election: How the pollsters got the last laugh]

For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.

Dutch euroskeptic leader Geert Wilders crashed out of frontrunner status ahead of March elections in the Netherlands. Germany’s euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party spiked after Trump’s election but has more recently split and sputtered. Now the ascendant political force in Germany is Schulz, a center-left leader who spent more than two decades as a member of European Parliament and has staked his career on a robust defense of Brussels.

And though Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star party is doing well before elections that must be called before spring 2018, few observers see them as the existential threat to Europe that a Le Pen presidency would be.

The support for the centrist politicians reflects “a reasonable approach to a reality that everybody must recognize, and that is the European Union,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Franco-German former European lawmaker who supports Macron. 

“Today more and more people are concerned about how we can protect Europe and the European project,” Cohn-Bendit said. “This has a link with Trump’s election, with Brexit.”

At a time when the E.U.’s popularity is on the wane, Macron has stood apart for his unabashed support for Europe and globalization. On a January trip to Berlin’s Humboldt University, he switched to flawless English to exhort students to build a stronger Europe. The move drew praise in Germany – and darts from his far-right rivals, who said he was disrespecting the French language.

As the European powers-that-be closed ranks around Macron on Monday, they took two major risks. One is that by backing the French centrist, they will fan the flames of anti-establishment ire that have propelled Le Pen’s rise. 

“It may be counterproductive,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It could reinforce some of the discontent in France among those who will see this as the global elite denying them their right to vote.” 

The other potential pitfall is that European leaders could find it more difficult to work with Le Pen if she defies the polls and wins. For months before Americans voted last year, European leaders denounced Trump — only to have to make amends this year with solicitous visits to the new U.S. president at the White House.

“It would have been dumb to speak out in the way they did if they thought she could still win,” Janning said. “They seem to view that possibility as close to zero.” 

Analysts suggested that, even if Macron wins, Europe’s centrists will need to keep their expectations in check for what he can achieve. 

“It may be that Europe’s leaders have an over-interpretation of the role Macron can play,” said Claire Demesmay, who studies France for the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The anti-European mood in France will still be there — and it could increase.”

[email protected]

Birnbaum reported from Paris. Virgile Demoustier in Paris, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

Read more

The geographical divides behind Le Pen’s and Macron’s success

Marine Le Pen goes from fringe right-winger to major contender

After years of hiding their relationship, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron enter the political stage together

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

Let’s block ads! (Why?)