Tuesday, February 7, 2017
637 Days until Election Day 2018
1,376 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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Capitol Hill News
- Today in the Senate The upper chamber will vote at about 12pm to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The vote is expected to be a 50-50 tie, with two Republican senators opposing DeVos, Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Vice President Mike Pence will be presiding to break the tie, expected to become the first VP to break a tie vote on a Cabinet nomination.
- Democrats have been speaking on the Senate floor since 12pm on Monday, hoping to convince one more Republican to oppose DeVos - or at least galvanize public opinion on their side. The 24-hour talk-a-thon lasted all through the night and continues as of this writing. Democrats have taken shifts, with Tim Kaine (VA) speaking during the 3am hour, Chris Murphy (CT) taking 4am, etc.
- Liberal groups have bombarded Senate offices with millions of phone calls on Trump's Cabinet picks; much of that opposition has been focused on DeVos. The nominee has been criticized for her lack of experience in education; much of her time on the issue has been focused on supporting school vouchers, which makes her a hero in GOP circles but has caused Democrats to label her an enemy of public schools. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called DeVos "the least qualified nominee in a historically unqualified Cabinet" last night.
- After the DeVos vote, the Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be Attorney General. Sessions will receive at least one vote from a Democratic colleague, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announcing plans to support the Alabaman. The remainder of the week will be spent debating Trump's picks for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), and Secretary of the Treasury, hedge fund manager Steve Mnuchin.
- Democrats will try to delay the remaining votes for as long as possible, which Republicans have accused of being obstructionist. "Senate Dems protest to keep the failed status quo," President Trump tweeted this morning. "Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!"
- Gorsuch Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch continues to meet with senators from both parties today. He plans to sit down with Leader Schumer today, as well as with Sens. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Mike Crapo (R-ID), according to Politico. Over the weekend, Schumer foreshadowed Democratic plans to tie President Trump to Gorsuch, using the President's tweets about the Seattle judge who temporarily struck down his travel ban as ammunition.
- "With each action testing the Constitution, and each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even high for Judge Gorsuch's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court," Schumer said in a statement. "His ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process."
- Committee Votes the Veterans' Affairs Committee will vote today on the nomination of David Shulkin to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin is currently serving as the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health. After his likely approval by the panel, just three of Trump's Cabinet nominees will be in the committee stage of the confirmation process: Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, Agriculture Secretary-designate Sonny Perdue, and U.S. Trade Representative-designate Robert Lighthizer, none of whom have had their committee hearings yet. All of Trump's other picks are awaiting votes by the full Senate.
- Puzder's hearing was scheduled to be today, but was postponed as the fast food executive continues to drag his feet on submitting the needed paperwork. His hearing has now been postponed four times.
- TV Tonight At 9pm, CNN will host a town hall debate at George Washington University between Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) over the future of Obamacare, moderated by Dana Bash and Jake Tapper.
- Today in the House The lower chamber convenes at 10am today, with three votes scheduled. All three measures the House will consider will strike down regulations put in place by the Obama Administration, which is one of House Speaker Paul Ryan's top goals. Congress can overrule executive branch regulations by the Congressional Review Act; there are two regulations that were already stricken by both chambers, now awaiting the President's approval.
- The House votes today to invalidate an Interior Department rule "intended to increase transparency and public input on the use of public lands" and two Education Department rules, one that "spells out provisions of a recent education law regarding accountability" and the other that "sets the parameters for gathering and sharing data on teaching training program," according to the New York Times.
- The chamber will continue to chip away at the Obama Administration actions in the weeks to come (with the Senate expected to vote on rules after the House does in each case), although this is the last day of session for the House this week (because Democrats are decamping to their annual retreat in Baltimore).
- Committee hearings Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly will testify before the House Homeland Security Committee in a hearing titled "Ending the Crisis: America’s Borders and the Path to Security" at 10am.
- Another interesting hearing on the House side...the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold an 11am hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency, featuring testimony from Jeffery Holmstead (who served as the agency's deputy administrator under George W. Bush), former Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), and others. The hearing's title? "Making EPA Great Again."
- In the Hopper A WUTP feature looking at newly-introduced bills. What's in the hopper today? A resolution introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on Monday "reaffirming a strong commitment to the United States-Australia alliance relationship."
- Why is a bipartisan group of senators suddenly trying to reassure Australia of their alliance with the U.S.? Perhaps because of a Washington Post report last week that President Donald Trump angrily hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after refusing to follow through on former President Barack Obama's promise to take in 1,250 refugees currently being held in Australia.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Trump's day will begin at 9am, with an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
- The President will then hold two "listening sessions" in the Roosevelt Room, sitting down with county sheriffs at 9:30am and with veterans at 10:45am.
- At 1:30pm, President Trump will meet in the Oval Office with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). As chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaffetz leads congressional investigations of the federal government.
- At 3pm, Trump will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. According to Politico, they will be joined by Tillerson's favored choice for Deputy Secretary of State, Elliott Abrams, who served in top national security positions under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The meeting will serve as an opportunity for the President to size up Abrams, a leader in the neoconservative foreign policy establishment that has been critical of Trump for months.
- Abrams' potential nomination has already earned opposition from at least one GOP lawmaker: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). CNN and the Washington Post reported on Paul's opposition to Abrams on Monday; the Kentuck senator sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, which will vote on Abrams' nomination before it reaches the floor. The panel is split 11-10, meaning Paul's "nay" vote would likely result in an unfavorable report from the committee.
- After meeting with his chief diplomat, the President will speak to two foreign leaders by phone: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, at 3:45pm, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at 4:05pm.
- Finally, at 5pm, President Trump will host the U.S. Army's Green Berets Qualification Course Young Officers in the Oval Office.
- State of Washington v. Trump Three federal judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, will hear oral arguments over President Trump's executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. The hearing will be conducted over the telephone, beginning at 6pm and lasting one hour.
- The Attorneys General of Washington and Minnesota, the two states suing Trump, will argue against the travel ban, while the Justice Department will argue for it. No matter what the Court's decision ends up being, the losing side is expected to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning the high-stakes legal battle could continue for months.
- The 9th Circuit is known as one of the country's most liberal courts, and opponents of the executive order already notched a victory in the court on Sunday when an emergency appeal by the Justice Department attempt to overturn Judge James Robart's decision and reinstate the travel ban during the legal process was denied. The three judges who will make a ruling based on today's arguments include one appointee each by Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
- With the appellate court unable to hand down a ruling until at least tonight, visitors from the seven countries listed in the executive order are free to travel to the United States today due to Robart's decision.
- The Trump Administration's lawyers are expected to make the case to the court that overturning the President's order would cause chaos, threatening national security and presidential authority. The plaintiffs plan to argue that the order violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, because it offers preference to a particular religion, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, because it discriminates based on national origin.
- Today's Trivia Since the Super Bowl was on Sunday...which President's inauguration fell on the same day as that year's Super Bowl?
- Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
- Yesterday's Answer I'm a few days overdue on answering this one, but...in light of Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court last week, I asked for the youngest Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.
- The answer: Joseph Story, who was only 32 years old when President James Madison nominated him to become an Associated Justice of the Supreme Court. Story stayed on the court for more than three decades, until his death at age 65. He is known for penning the Court's opinion in United States v. The Amistad, ruling that a group of Africans were illegally captured as slaves. Former President John Quincy Adams argued on behalf of the Africans in the case, which is memorialized in Steven Spielberg's movie "Amistad."
- Joseph Story also plays a prominent role in the film, portrayed by another former Supreme Court justice: Harry Blackmun, who had retired from the court.
- GREAT JOB...Joan Zucker, Steve Gitnik, Brody Goldberg, Scott Bennett, Beth Adams, Janice Goodman, Marlee Millman, Matt Neufeld, Joe Bookman, Helene Mathis, and Steve Sheffey!!!
*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, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.