Wednesday, February 8, 2017
636 Days until Election Day 2018
1,375 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 U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote at about 7pm on the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as U.S. Attorney General.
- The chamber has remained in session all night as Democrats use up all of their allotted time to debate the Sessions nomination, after using the same tactic Monday night to stall Betsy DeVos' confirmation as Education Secretary. However, Democrats can only delay the confirmations for so long: DeVos was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday afternoon after he cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her.
- The debate over Sessions turned contentious Tuesday night as Senate Republicans formally rebuked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for a speech about Sessions. Warren was interrupted by the presiding officer, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), as she read a letter submitted to the Senate by Coretta Scott King during a 1986 debate over whether then-U.S. Attorney Sessions should be confirmed as a federal judge.
- Daines warned Warren that she was violating Rule XIX of the Senate, which states that "no Senator in debate shall, directly, or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator...an conduct or motive unworthy or becoming a Senator." Warren continued reading the King letter, adding a quote from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) calling Sessions "a disgrace to the Justice Department." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rose to the floor, saying that Warren "impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama."
- When Warren asked to continue speaking, McConnell objected and presiding officer Daines agreed. Warren appealed the presiding officer's decision to the full Senate, which sided with Daines in a party-line vote. As a result, Warren cannot speak for the rest of the debate on Sessions.
- “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," McConnell explained, a quote that may serve to elevate Warren stock in a Democratic Party searching for leaders to resist Trump and his nominees. Warren protested the decision on CNN, telling Don Lemen that "I have become a non-person on the Senate floor."
- The Senate voted 52-47 to advance Sessions' nomination on Tuesday, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) siding with Republicans in favor of the Alabaman. Manchin is expected to support Sessions' final confirmation today as well. After Sessions is confirmed, the Senate is expected to hold a vote advancing Trump's pick to lead the Health & Human Services Department, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
- In a tweet on Tuesday, President Trump decried the delay in confirming his Cabinet: "It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country," he wrote. "Obstruction by Democrats!" While most Presidents do not have their full Cabinet in place at this point, Trump does have less confirmed nominees than any other recent President at the same point in their Administrations.
- Today in the House Meanwhile, the lower chamber is not in session for the rest of this week as House Democrats decamp to Baltimore, Maryland for their annual retreat. Democrats will hear speeches from celebrities such as NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and late-night host Chelsea Handler as they plot their strategy for their future as a minority in GOP-controlled Washington.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Donald Trump's day will begin at 9am with remarks before the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) Winter Conference at a hotel in Washington, D.C. The MCCA is made up of the police chiefs and sheriffs of the United States' 68 largest law enforcement agencies, as well as the 10 largest in Canada.
- At 10:30am, the President will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
- At 3:30pm, he will participate in a legislative affairs strategy session.
- Also today, according to National Journal's Zach Cohen: President Trump will meet with former Gov. John Sununu (R-NH), who could offer advice on managing the White House, having served as Chief of Staff to George H.W. Bush. Axios reported this morning that the President "has begun reaching out to veterans of earlier White Houses for advice, as he seeks to bring more order and stability to a chaotic internal power structure that relies on competing and sometimes conflicting centers of gravity."
- State of Washington vs. Donald J. Trump A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments on President Trump's controversial immigration order on Tuesday. The panel, randomly chosen to consist of appointees by Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, was seen as more aggressively questioning the Justice Department defender of the executive order. While the court considers its decision, a ruling from Seattle-based Judge James Robart blocking the executive order stands, and vetted citizens from the seven majority-Muslim countries named are free to enter the United States.
- Because Washington is suing the government in the case, the state's Solicitor General argued Tuesday against the executive order, making the case that the directive violates the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause by discriminating on the basis of religion and giving preference to one religion over others. The Washington attorney pointed to Trump's proposed "Muslim ban," and a comment by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said that the executive order emerged because Trump asked him to craft a legal version of that ban.
- The Justice Department lawyer argued that the order is "well within the president's power" and is appropriate due to national security concerns, but was pressed for evidence that the travel ban is necessary to protect the country. The panel also pushed the plaintiff to prove that the order is religious discrimination "when in fact the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected as residents of those nations."
- The appeals court, which is based in San Francisco, said it will hand down a decision "probably this week"; no matter who prevails, the issue is expected to go to the Supreme Court. If the high court hears the case before Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, a 4-4 tie is possible, which would uphold the lower court's ruling.
- Today's Question Who was the first President to have an executive order ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court?
- Yesterday's Answer Tuesday's trivia question asked for the only President to have an Inauguration coincide with the Super Bowl. The answer was Ronald Reagan, whose second Inauguration (on January 20, 1985) was on the same day as Super Bowl XIX. That night, he became the first President to participate in the Super Bowl coin toss ceremony, doing so from the Oval Office via satellite
- GREAT JOB...Lola Fernandez, Joan Zucker, Dan Filliol, Joe Bookman, James Woolley, and Steve Gitnik!
- WUTP's resident Englishman, James Woolley, sends a BBC post on the list of terrorist attacks the White House claims to be "underreported"...offering links to their reporting on nearly every one of the attacks. Take a look here. The list was released after President Trump said on Monday that the "very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report" on terrorist attacks; the White House list includes attacks that were covered less by leading media outlets, but also widely-reported tragedies such as attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Brussels.
*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.