Wake Up To Politics - February 27, 2017
Monday, February 27, 2017
617 Days until Election Day 2018
1,345 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
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White House Watch
- Trump to Request Military Spending Hikes, Cuts to EPA The White House is expected to release an outline of its budget proposals to federal agencies today, a document that will reportedly request a large increase in military spending, coupled with spending cuts to a number of agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In a break with recent Republican budgets, the proposal will not include and changes to Social Security or Medicare.
- A number of news outlets reported on the budget outline on Sunday night, led first by the New York Times. The request to agencies represents the first step towards President Donald Trump's release of a full budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018. According to the Times, Trump will call for tens of billions of dollars in cuts to the EPA (especially climate change programs) and State Department, as well as social safety net programs (such as food stamps) other than the major entitlement programs. Other outlets reported that defense, homeland security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies will all see spending increases.
- The outline was largely crafted by Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, along with National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Trump's formal budget request to Congress will be the first legislative document of his Presidency, after spending most of his first month in office signing executive orders. First, this outline goes to federal agencies, which can try to negotiate to avoid deep cuts, before the final product is voted on by Congress (where it will be debated and amended).
- On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to protect Social Security and Medicare, while calling for cuts to the EPA and an increase in military spending, all promises that are kept in his first agenda-setting budget document.
- Coming Up This is a big week for the White House, with multiple attempts to control the narrative after a month of chaotic missteps. The first step is the budget outline being released today, with dramatic cuts that are catching attention in ways presidential budget requests rarely do.
- Next up is the President's address to a joint session of Congress, which is scheduled for tommorw at 9pm. This is Trump's first big primetime speech, the equivalent of a "State of the Union" address, giving him the opportunity to lay out a more optimistic, big-picture message.
- According to the Washington Post, GOP lawmakers are hoping Trump offers specific plans for two top priorities that they have had difficulty in uniting on: repeal of the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) and reform of the tax code. The White House has said that the speech will focus on a number of policies, from health care to immigration to the economy, and will likely not delve into specifics.
- All three branches of government will be gathered to hear Trump's address: both houses of Congress, his Cabinet, and the Supreme Court, as well as a television audience across the globe.
- After the address, on Wednesday, President Trump is expected to sign an updated executive order on refugees and immigration, according to the Associated Press. His initial order banning trael from seven Muslim-majority nations was blocked by a federal court.
- The President's Schedule What does President Trump have on tap for today?
- 9:30am Stops by the National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in the State Dining Room. The NGA, which is made up of all 50 state governors, holds an annual meeting in Washington, D.C.; last night, the President and First Lady hosted the group for a dinner. The White House meeting today is with Cabinet officials and top presidential aides, and Trump will merely drop by towards the beginning. He is expected to speak about his budget outline during the drop-by.
- According to the NGA, a record number of governors (at least 46) are attending this year's meeting, which is focusing on education, infrastructure, childhood hunger, and cybersecurity.
- 10:30am Leads a listening session with health insurance company CEOs in the Roosevelt Room. Participants include the heads of UnitedHelthGroup, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Anthem, BCBSA, and Independence Blue Cross, among other companies, according to Politico Playbook.
- 12:30pm Has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in the Presidential Dining Room.
- 2:30pm Meets with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Oval Office, to discuss the GOP legislative agenda on Congress' first day back from a week-long recess.
- 3:15pm Meets with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the Oval Office.
- 6:30pm Has dinner with regional press affiliates in the State Dining Room to preview his Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.
- Also today, the President will be interviewed by Breitbart political editor Matthew Boyle and Fox News' "Fox and Friends." Breitbart, a news outlet linked with nationalist views, has many ties to the Trump Administration, most prominently through the site's former executive chairman, Stephen Bannon, who now serves as White House Chief Strategist. Fox News is also a conservative-leaning network, with former contributors and anchors in the Trump Administration. Reporters from Breitbart and Fox News were present at a Friday gaggle with Press Secretary Sean Spicer that excluded the New York Times, CNN, and other leading news outlets.
Capitol Hill News
- Congress Returns from Recess The Republican-controlled Congress will return from its weeklong recess today.
- Obamacare repeal tops the agenda for congressional Republicans, who hope to have legislation replacing the health care law by next month. The House is hoping to pass the bill by early April, with the Senate vying to then approve it before Easter. However, the repeal process may be complicated after many GOP lawmakers spent the last week being angrily confronted at town halls by constituents protesting repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
- Republicans have yet to agree on a repeal plan. A draft of the House bill obtained by CNN last week included "plan[s to replace Obamacare's subsidies with less generous tax credits, hike the amount that insurers can charge older Americans and effectively eliminate Medicaid for low-income adults," according to the outlet.
- The Senate also hopes to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, before Easter, with Judiciary Committee hearings beginning soon. Gorsuch has already met with 58 senators, according to C-SPAN's Craig Caplan; he will sit down today with Democratic Sens. Mark Udall (NM) and Maggie Hassan (NH).
- Today in the Senate The upper chamber will convene at 12pm. At 3pm, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) will read President Geroge Washington's 1796 Farewell Address in its entirety. Every year since 1896, the chamber has chosen one member, alternating by party every year, to read the speech.
- After the reading, the Senate will launch into debate over billionaire investor Wilbur Ross' nomination to be Secretary of Commerce. At 7pm, the chamber will vote to confirm Ross, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for Secretary of the Interior. Ross has bipartisan support in the Senate (his nomination was advanced by a 66-31 vote earlier this month).
- Ross will be Trump's 15th Cabinet-level nominee to be confirmed; Zinke will be next, followed by Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson and Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry. The remaining nominees, Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence), Robert Lighthizer (U.S. Trade Representative), and Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture), are all waiting for committee hearings.
- Today in the House Meanwhile, the lower chamber also convenes at 12pm, with votes on five bills scheduled. Three of the measures make changes to the borders or administration of national park properties; the others are about Naive American employment and job training, and on transparency in fees awarded by federal court to entities that win cases against the United States.
A review of the top stories from over the weekend
- Perez Elected DNC Chair Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, giving the party a formal leader after a chaotic, months-long race.
- Perez, who was backed by Vice President Joe Biden and many others in the Obama orbit (he served in the former President's Cabinet), won 235 votes after two rounds of voting at the DNC meeting in Atlanta. His closest competitor, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) won 200 votes; 218 were needed to win. Ellison lost despite endorsements from leaders in the progressive wing of the party, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
- After the vote, Perez named Ellison deputy chairman, hoping to unify the fractured party, which largely spent the DNC race replaying the fierce 2016 primary battle between Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
- Navy Secretary Nominee Withdraws President Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Navy, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew his name from consideration on Monday. "I have determined that I will not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family's private financial interests," he said in a statement.
- Bilden is the third Trump nominee to withdraw, after Vincent Viola (Army Secretary) and Andrew Puzder (Labor Secretary).
- Blast to the Past On February 18, WUTP subscriber Major Garrett, CBS News' Chief White House Correspondent, reported that Bilden was "likely to withdraw." White House press secretary Sean Spicer called the report "wrong," tweeting that Bilden was "100% committed" to becoming Navy Secretary.
- Russia Saga Continues Fallout continues over reports that Trump campaign aides were in contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, just weeks after those allegations forced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to resign days into the job.
- CNN and the Washington Post reported on Friday that the White House asked FBI officials and to publicly refute the reports of Russian ties. The request, which is a likely violation of restrictions on communication between the White House and the FBI (especially in light of an ongoing investigation), was rejected by the bureau. "We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth," Spicer told CNN in response. House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the purported request "an outrageous breach of the FBI's independence."
- According to the Post, senior lawmakers including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who chair the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, were also enlisted to rebut the reports. In addition, Axios reported this morning that Spicer personally connected reporters with Nunes, Burr, and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
- Meanwhile, calls have continued for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the Trump campaign/Russia contacts, as opposed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A GOP lawmaker and Trump supporter, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), said Friday that a special prosecutor is needed.
- Father of Slain Navy SEAL Calls for Investigation The father of Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL commando killed in an operation in Yemen last month, is calling for an investigation into his son's death. Bill Owens, the father, told the Miami Herald that he refused to meet with President Trump (who greenlighted the operation less than 10 days into his Administration). "Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration," Owens asked, according to the Herald.
- "The government owes my son an investigation," he said. Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC's "This Week" that she "imagine[d] that he would be supportive of that," referring to President Trump.
- Trump to Skip Annual Dinner President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he plans to skip the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. He will be the first President since Ronald Reagan to miss the annual event, which traditionally features comedic roast delivered by the President and a comedian. The dinner has been criticized as an awkward show of the relationship between the White House and the Press Corps, especially with the red carpet that has emerged in recent years to feature celebrity guests.
- Thursday's Answer Thursday's trivia question asked for one of the two Vice Presidents, other than incumbent Mike Pence, who were born in Indiana.
- The answers were...Dan Quayle, who was born in Indianapolis and served under George H.W. Bush, and Thomas R. Marshall, who was born in North Manchester and served under Woodrow Wilson.
- GREAT JOB... Robin Perez, Janice Goodman, Steve Boyd, Jim Wilbat, Joe Bookman, Ted Weiner, Sarah M-M, Matt Neufeld, and Brad Chotiner - who all named Quayle; and to Rick Isserman, Joan Zucker, and Marlee Millman - who named both.
- Joan also noted that there are three Vice Presidents who were affiliated with Indiana, although they were born elsewhere: Schuyler Colfax, who served as a Congressman from the state; Thomas Hendricks, who served as Governor; and Charles Fairbanks, who served as Senator from the state.
- Thanks for answering everyone!
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Microsoft's News Center, Independent Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Time for Kids, Salon, the Globe, St. Louis Magazine, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.