Thursday, December 8, 2016
43 Days until Inauguration Day
698 Days until Election Day 2018I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
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- Cabinet Roundup Here's a rundown of the latest Trump Cabinet picks:
- EPA Administrator: Scott Pruitt President-elect Donald Trump formally announced Thursday morning that he will nominate Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to serve as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, placing a climate change skeptic atop an agency he is a longtime critic of.
- Pruitt, 48, has served as Attorney General since 2011; previously, he was a State Senator from 1998 to 2007, rising to the position of Republican Assistant Floor Leader. In his current post, Pruitt has sued the EPA several times unsuccessfully and is currently a member of a coalition of state attorneys general suing the agency over the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan.
- Trump's selection of Pruitt is the surest sign yet that the President-elect will reverse President Obama's climate change actions. Trump's history on the issue is shaky, having once tweeted that climate change is a Chinese hoax, although he told the New York Times last month he believes there is "some connectivity" between humans and global warming. Pruitt has called the debate on climate change "far from settled," and criticized the EPA's "activist agenda". In May, Pruitt co-authored an op-ed, writing: "Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” although a large majority of scientists have linked climate change to human activity.
- Trump promised on the campaign trail to "get rid of [the EPA] in almost every form, and tapping Pruitt to lead the agency would certainly make that dismantling likely. “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn. As my EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt... will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe,” Trump said in a statement. “My administration strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity."
- According to the statement, as EPA Administrator, Pruitt "will be deeply involved in the implementation of President-elect Trump’s energy plan, which will move America toward energy independence, create millions of new jobs and protect clean air and water" and "will ensure that we conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources, while unleashing an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country."
- In the statement, Pruitt called himself "deeply grateful and honored" by the appointment, adding: "“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”
- The appointment was widely panned by progressives, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders calling it "sad and dangerous," and the Sierra Club likening it to "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires." Former Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted, "At the risk of being dramatic. Scott Pruitt at EPA is an existential threat to the planet."
- However, Republicans praised the pick. "I greatly appreciate the leadership Attorney General Pruitt has shown in suing to stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and look forward to watching him dismantle it piece by piece as EPA administrator," Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) said. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), a onetime Trump rival, tweeted that Pruitt will "bring common sense back to the agency," adding that he "can't imagine a better pick...to reform an out-of-control EPA."
- The Pruitt nomination will likely be one of the more difficult confirmations of Trump's appointees: incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters that Pruitt "will have to answer many tough questions," adding that the Oklahoman's "reluctance to accept the facts or science on climate change couldn't make him any more out of touch with the American people -- and with reality."
- SBA Administrator: Linda McMahon President-elect Trump filled another Cabinet-level position on Wednesday, announcing the appointment of former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) CEO Linda McMahon as administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
- McMahon, 68, helped create WWE with her husband Vince, a professional wrestler, and served as President and later CEO of the company from 1980 to 2009. She has also been a candidate for political office, running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Connecticut in 2010 and 2012, twice winning the Republican nomination but losing in the general election. McMahon has also been a major Republican donor, supporting moderate candidates and causes such as same-sex marriage and immigration reform. She was an early donor to the Trump campaign, giving him over $6.5 million.
- "Linda has a tremendous background and is widely recognized as one of the country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe," Trump said in a statement on Wednesday. "She helped grow WWE from a modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded global enterprise with more than 800 employees in offices worldwide. Linda is going to be a phenomenal leader and champion for small businesses and unleash America's entrepreneurial spirit all across the country."
- Trump also said that McMahon would help lead his "America First" agenda to "bring back our jobs and roll back the burdensome regulations that are hurting our middle class workers and small businesses." In the statement, McMahon said that she was "honored" to join the Administration and work to "promote our country’s small businesses and help them grow and thrive."
- Trump and the McMahons have longtime ties through the wrestling industry: the latter is a noted fan of WWE, and twice hosted WrestleMania at the Trump Plaza (and once even appeared in the event to bodyslam Vince McMahon, earning him an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and the right to shave McMahon's head).
- Department of Dad Jokes Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) weighed in on the appointment via Twitter: "Linda McMahon of WWE named by @realDonaldTrump to head SBA. Great choice. Let Senate 'wrestle' with THAT confirmation!"
- Ambassador to China: Terry Branstad President-elect Donald Trump also announced Wednesday that Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would be his nominee to represent the United States in Beijing.
- Branstad, 70, is the longest-serving governor in American history. Branstad served as Iowa's chief executive for four terms, from 1983 to 1999, and then was elected again in 2010 and for an unprecedented sixth four-year term in 2014.
- Although Trump has been critical of China on the campaign trail, the appointment of Branstad could mean the President-elect will work to have a relationship with the superpower, especially in light of Trump's call last week with the leader of Taiwan. The Iowa governor has made four trips to China in the last seven years to build a trade relationship; China is now the state's second-largest export market. Branstad first befriended President Xi in the 1980's, towards the beginning of his gubernatorial tenure, when Xi was a young bureaucrat. .
- “Governor Branstad’s decades of experience in public service and long-time relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America’s Ambassador to China,” Trump said in a statement. “He successfully developed close trade ties with China while serving as chief executive of the Hawkeye State. That experience will serve him well as he represents America’s interests and further develops a mutually beneficial relationship with Chinese leadership.”
- In the statement, Branstad himself added: "I have known President Xi Jinping for many years and consider him an old friend. I look forward to building on our long friendship to cultivate and strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to benefit our economy. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve as Governor of Iowa and I look forward to serving in this extraordinary new role. Chris and I will always keep Iowa close to our hearts."
- The statement outlined Branstad's role as chiefly being to "negotiate trade deals that put America’s interests first" in order to "create American jobs, increase American wages, and reduce America's trade deficit."
- Branstad was an early backer of Trump's, a rare supporter of the billionaire among establishment Republicans, and his son Eric served as Trump's Iowa state director.
- Homeland Security Secretary: John Kelly Retired Marine Corps general John Kelly will be nominated to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a number of news outlets reported Wednesday. Kelly served in the Marine Corps from 1970 to 2016, nearly half a century, retiring in January as Commander of the U.S. Southern Command.
- As head of the Southern Command, Kelly oversaw military operations in Central and South America. This role gave the general oversight of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, which Kelly clashed with the Obama Administration to advocate keeping open, as well as U.S. crackdown on drug networks in that region, giving Kelly experience with one of Trump's top campaign isuses.
- Kelly, 66, is the second Marine general to be nominated for Trumps's Cabinet, joining Defense Secretary-designate James "Mad Dog" Mattis. Trump's planned national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is also a retired Army lieutenant general, and retired general David Petraeus is a potential Secretary of State. Placing all of these military figures atop the Administration has raised some questions, although Kelly's respected career in the Marine Corps should allow him to glide through confirmation.
- As DHS secretary, Kelly would oversee over 240,000 employees (more than all but two Cabinet departments), and will likely play a large role as point man for immigration, under a President who has promised to crack down on illegal immigration and called for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
- Kelly has experience with operating on the border, but is not the top choice of immigration hardliners, who had supported Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the post, although the Washington Examiner reported that Kobach may still be chosen as deputy secretary.
- The retired general previously served as an adviser to the Commander of the Marine Corps and to the Defense Secretary, bashing heads with a number of Obama Administration figures over Guantanamo Bay and the Administration's support for opening combat jobs to women. Kelly is also a Gold Star father: his son, 1st Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
- President-Elect's Schedule Trump has two meetings on his public schedule today: a sit-down with retired Navy admiral James Stavridis, reportedly a candidate for Secretary of State. Stavridis, 61, was in the Navy from 1976 to 2013, and now serves as dean of the Tufts University graduate school for international affairs. According to CBS News, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is the "top contender" for State, with retired Gen. David Petraeus and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani also in the running. Stavridis and others are seen as occupying the second tier of contenders for the post.
- Trump will also fly to Columbus, Ohio to meet with victims of the attack at Ohio State University last week, auditioning for the role of national grief counselor that he will likely play as President. From there, the President-elect will travel to the third stop on his "thank-you" tour, a 7pm rally in Des Moines, Iowa.
Capitol Hill News
- Today in Congress The Senate will open its meeting for the day at 9:30am. The only piece of legislation the chamber is scheduled to consider is the conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes $619 for defense. The measure is an increase from the President's $610 billion request, with additional funding of $5.8 billion for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Europe, and $3.2 billion more being allocated to military Readiness Stabilization.
- The House passed the conference report in a 277-139 vote last week, earning opposition from Democrats for a provision prohibiting President Obama from closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in his final months in office.
- Meanwhile, the House meets at 9am for legislative business, moving to voting at around 10am. The chamber is scheduled to vote on passage of two key measures before the 114th Congress adjourns: the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, a bill to authorize water projects across the nation; and a continuing resolution to fund the government through April.
- Currently, government funding is set to run out at midnight on Friday; the measure set to pass the House today is a stopgap solution, designed to mostly maintain current spending levels and punt the funding debate to the spring. However, a number of provisions are expected to be added to the CR, including $10 billion in supplemental war funding, $4 billion for disaster relief relating to Louisiana flooding and California drought, $170 million for the Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis, and a fix to speed retired Gen. James Mattis's confirmation as Defense Secretary.
- Also today: retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will deliver his farewell remarks after three decades in the upper chamber (and 17 years in Democratic leadership). At 4pm Eastern Time, Reid's leader portrait at the Capitol will be unveiled, with Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on hand to celebrate the Nevadan's tenure.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Obama has a quiet day today: he has just one public event on his schedule, the annual Congressional Ball for lawmakers and their spouses, at 6:35pm.
- Answer Monday's trivia question, after the announcement of Dr. Ben Carson's planned nomination for HUD Secretary, was: which operation is Carson the first and only doctor to perform?
- The answer: in 1987, while serving as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins University, Carson was the lead neurosurgeon of a 70-member team to separate twins conjoined cranially (by the head), the first to do so.
- GREAT JOB: Rick Isserman, Miles Kwiatek, Joe Bookman, Mitchell Herndon, Steve Gitnik, Joan Zucker, Jorden "JBurg" Burger, Ralph Simon, Ray Slavin, Sarah M, Jim Wilbat, Marlee Millman, and Dr. Scott Heinzel.
- Question Dr. Heinzel offers today's question, continuing the theme: who invented the techniques used to separate conjoined twins, and was the first to perform groundbreaking procedures such as the separation of twins conjoined at the pelvis and twins conjoined at the spine?
- Hint: of course, there is a politics component...he also served as U.S. Surgeon General.
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