Tuesday, January 10, 2017
10 Days until Inauguration Day
665 Days until Election Day 2018
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world H!Q (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
Capitol Hill News
- Trump Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Begin The Senate will open confirmation hearings on two Trump Cabinet nominations today: Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General (Judiciary Committee, 9:30am) and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly to be Secretary of Homeland Security (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 3:30pm).
- The Sessions hearing is expected to be one of the most contentious of all of President-elect Trump's appointments, with the Judiciary panel expected to grill their colleague in the two-day hearings. The issue of race will run through the hearing, with Democrats challenging Sessions' civil rights record. The Alabama Republican was not nominated to a federal judgeship in 1986, but wasn't confirmed after testimony that he had made racially-charged comments to staffers as a federal prosecutor.
- Sessions' nomination has been publicly opposed by a number of civil rights groups, as well as the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian Caucuses. After being introduced by his home-state colleague Richard Shelby (R-AL) and moderate Susan Collins (R-ME), Sessions himself will testify.
- Tomorrow, both parties will call witnesses; Democrats will offer civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond (D-LA), the president of the NAACP, legal director of the ACLU, and others. Their main witness will be Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), set to become the first sitting Senator to testify against another sitting Senator in a confirmation hearing.
- Republicans will counter Democratic allegations of racism with their own slate of witnesses, many of them African-American as well, including former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights commissioner Peter Kirsanow, and former FBI agent Theodore Jackson.
- Democrats are expected to grill Sessions on a number of fronts, including his hardline immigration stance, and positions on LGBT rights and voting rights. Republicans will point to his bipartisan Senate record, leaning on statements of support from prominent African-Americans such as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
- The Kelly hearing is expected to be much less controversial; the former four-star general will be introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
- Tomorrow is the big day, with five confirmation hearings scheduled, a cause for concern among some Democrats upset that not all nominees have submitted ethics reviews. Republicans, however, plan to push ahead, hoping to confirm many of Trump's picks by Inauguration Day.
- Today in Congress The House will be gaveled in at 10am today; the Senate, at 12pm. The lower chamber will move to legislative business at noon, and begin voting around 2pm. The following nine measures are scheduled to be debated and voted on today:
- Helping Angles Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act
- Energy Efficient Government Technology Act
- Small Business Broadband Deployment Act
- Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act
- Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act
- Support for Rapid Innovation Ac
- Leveraging Emerging Technologies Act
- Modernizing Government Travel Act
- Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent (TALENT) Act
- The Senate, meanwhile, will immediately resume consideration of the budget resolution that will allow Republican leaders to fast-track repeal of major elements of the Affordable Care Act. At 2:30pm, the chamber will vote on amendments to the resolution, including Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) proposal to "prevent the Senate from breaking Donald Trump's promise that 'there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.'"
- Many more amendments will be considered tomorrow in the expected "vote-a-rama," a time-honored tradition when considering budget resolutions, where the Senate spends hours voting on hundreds of amendments.
- Yesterday's Senate session did not adjourn until after midnight, with Democrats holding the floor for 5½ hours opposing the repeal of Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are also catching flak inside their own party for plans to repeal Obamacare in the coming days, before deciding on a replacement. At least five Republican senators expressed worry about repeal-before-replace, as well as members of the conservative Hosue Freedom Caucus, complicating the path forward to a quick execution of the top GOP priority.
- Perspective from top health care reporter (and WUTP subscriber) Dan Diamond of Politico, via Twitter: "In 2009-2010, Obamacare lived and died a thousand times. The GOP is hitting some real bumps, but too early to say that repeal is dead."
- Trump Taps Son-In-Law Kushner to Be White House Senior Advisor After intense media speculation over whether or not he would receive a White House job, President-elect Donald Trump announced on Monday that his son-in-law Jared Kushner would serve as a Senior Advisor to the President in the new administration.
- Kushner, who is married to Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka, wielded enormous power and influence during the campaign, often called the "de facto campaign manager." By giving Kushner a White House office, Trump (who is known to place high trust in a small circle of advisers populated mostly by family members) is setting up a whole additional power base to compete with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
- The difference: it is difficult to imagine anyone holding the power to fire the President's son-in-law, or even someone overruling him. Early Presidents frequently installed children in top White House posts, but a 1967 law prohibited the "appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement" of close relatives by public officials (including the President).
- While some Democrats point to the law to label Kushner's appointment illegal, Trump backers argue two points based off of a technical reading of it: with respect to the President, only appointments to an "executive agency" are mentioned, with an argument to be made that the Executive Office of the President is not an agency; in addition, the only punishment mentioned in the law is "an individual appointed...in violation of this section is not entitled to pay, and money may not be paid from the Treasury as pay to an individual so appointed."
- Kushner "has chosen to forego his salary while serving in the administration," according to the statement announcing his hiring. The release did not mention Kushner's relationship to the President-elect, merely calling him "a widely respected businessman and real estate developer" and crediting him as "instrumental in formulating and executing the strategy behind President-elect Trump's historic victory in November."
- To avoid conflicts of interest, Kushner will resign as CEO of Kushner Companies and as publisher of The Observer, exiting the management positions he holds and divesting from many of his assets.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Barack Obama will deliver his Farewell Address to the American People at 9pm Eastern Time tonight from McCormick Place convention center in his hometown of Chicago. With ten days to go before his successor is set to take the oath of office, Obama is expected to thank his supporters and detail the successes and challenges of his White House tenure and the years to come.
- In an email to the White House mailing list, the President called tonight's remarks "a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here."
- As many as 20,000 ticket holders, including First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe and Dr. Jill Biden, will fill the venue (which also hosted Obama's 2012 election night rally) during the speech, which will also be aired on each broadcast/cable news network.
- After the speech, Obama will fly back to the White House from Chicago, marking the last time he is expected to go on Air Force One as president; from Donald Trump's inauguration, the Obamas will depart on the same plane, but the call sign will be changed while no longer carrying the sitting Commander-in-Chief.
- Also today: NBC's Lester Holt will travel on Air Force One with the President to Chicago, for an interview that will air on Friday at 10pm. In addition, while in Chicago, Obama will hold a reunion for all of the alumni of his political campaigns, from the Senate to the presidency.
- Today's Question According to a Wake Up To Politics analysis of presidential speeches, eight previous Presidents have delivered formal Farewell Address. Which President used the occasion of their Farewell Address to warn the nation about the alliance between the U.S. armed forces and defense industry, coining the phrase "military-industrial complex"?
- Think you know the answer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your guess...correct respondents will be named in tomorrow's newsletter!
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.