Wednesday, January 11, 2017
9 Days until Inauguration Day
664 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
- Senate Holds Hearings on Sessions, Tillerson, Chao Senate committees will hold confirmation hearings on three Trump Cabinet nominees today: Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, and Labor Secretary-designate Elaine Chao. While Chao's confirmation is expected to be relatively easy, Tillerson and Sessions are two of President-elect Trump's most controversial nominees, and today's hearings on them are expected to include contentious questioning from Democrats.
- At 9am, the Foreign Relations Committee will gavel in its hearing on Tillerson, who resigned last month as chairman and CEO of oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil after 40+ years at the company, the last decade as its leader.
- Tillerson will spend much of the hearing answering questions about his relationship with Russia, which members of both parties have criticized. The businessman is close with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and has strongly opposed U.S. sanctions against the country in the past. Tillerson is one of few Trump picks to attract GOP criticism; one of those detractors, Marco Rubio (R-FL), will question him today as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which will be particularly interesting to watch. The panel includes 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, so Rubio casting a vote against Tillerson would block his confirmation.
- Tillerson will address Russia in his opening statement, obtained by The Washington Post, saying: "We must also be clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia. Russia today poses a danger..."
- Democrats will also likely go after Tillerson's conflicts of interest as a former ExxonMobil CEO (in light of SEC filings that he did business in Iran, Syria, and Sudan), and his qualifications for the office. Tillerson will be introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), and former Defesne Secretary Bob Gates.
- At 9:30am, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its second day of hearings on the Sessions nomination. After holding 10+ hours of questioning with Sessions himself on Tuesday, the panel will now hear testimony from 15 witnesses selected by both parties.
- Republican witnesses will include former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Fraternal Order of Police president Chuck Canterbury, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.
- Democrats will counter with a slate of witnesses to attack Sessions' civil rights record, including NAACP president Cornell Brooks, civil rights icon Rep. John Lews (D-GA), and Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond (R-LA). In addition, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will take the unprecedented step of becoming the first sitting Senator to testify against another sitting Senator's confirmation.
- The first day of the hearings yielded interesting comments from Sessions, including opposition to waterboarding and a ban on Muslim immigration, and recognition of the intelligence community's Russian hacking conclusions - all areas where he broke with the President-elect.
- Sessions remains controversial, due to his hardline immigrations stance and civil rights record, which denied him confirmation for a federal judgeship in 1986.
- Finally, at 10:15am, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation will open its hearings on Elaine Chao, a Washington insider who has recorded service as Secretary of Labor, Director of the Peace Corps, and Deputy Secretary of Transportation. Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
- Today in Congress The House gavels in at 10am today; the Senate, at 12pm.
- The lower chamber will consider two more bills in its push to reform the regulatory process, and limit executive power. The first measure will be the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require "agencies to choose the lowest-cost rulemaking alternative that meets statutory objectives and requiring increased public input for major and billion-dollar rules," according to POPVOX. The legislation also includes five other similar bills, which:
- repeal rules requiring judicial deference to them
- require agencies seek to reduce impact of regulations on small businesses
- require agencies postpone any rule with an annual cost of at least $1 billion if a petition seeking judicial review is filed
- require agencies post new proposed regulations to the Internet monthly
- require agencies to publish summaries of the proposed rules online
- In addition, the House will hold a postponed vote on the TALENT Act, which codifies the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program.
- Meanwhile, the Senate will immediately jump to resume consideration of the budget resolution Republicans are using to repeal major parts of Obamacare. Since the budget reconciliation process is being used, the repeal resolution is being fastracked and cannot be filibustered, but the debate process for budget resolutions must also be followed.
- As part of that process, the Senate must consider every proposed amendment to the resolution in what is known as a "vote-a-rama." The series of roll call votes will begin when the six hours of remaining debate over the resolution conclude, at about 6pm.
- Trump Meets the Press President-elect Donald Trump will hold his first press conference since July at 11am at Trump Tower today, a highly-anticipated event where he will face questioning from members of the media.
- Expected to take center stage: new allegations on his relationship with Russia, which were first reported by CNN on Tuesday night. CNN's report revealed that at classified briefings last week, U.S. intelligence officials presented President Obama and President-elect Trump with Russian operatives' claims that they have "compromising personal and financial information." BuzzFeed then posted the full 35-page memo by a former British intelligence officer deemed credible by the U.S., noting that neither outlet had independently verified the memo's claims, many of which were eyebrow-raising.
- The President-elect denied the allegations in a series of tweets last night and this morning. As of publication, here are his tweets on the subject, chronologically and in full (no capitalization added):
- "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
- "Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is 'A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.' Very unfair!"
- "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"
- "I win an election easily, a great "movement" is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!"
- "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?"
White House Watch
- "Yes We Did": Obama Bids Farewell President Obama delivered his Farewell Address to the American people in Chicago on Tuesday night, offering a defense of his legacy and warning on the future of democracy.
- Excerpts from the speech:
- On progress: "Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some."
- On "bubbles": " For too many of us, it's become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions."
- On "fake news": " Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we'll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we'll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible."
- On engagement: "Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions."
- On the Constitution: "Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it's really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power - with our participation, and the choices we make."
- On participation: "Ultimately, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you'll win. Sometimes you'll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America - and in Americans - will be confirmed."
- Closing: "I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can. Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America."
- Today's Question Who was the most recent Cabinet nominee to be rejected by the U.S. Senate?
- Email me (email@example.com) with your answer; correct respondents get a mention in tomorrow's newsletter!
- Yesterday's Answer Tuesday's trivia question was: "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'?"
- The answer was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in one of the most famous president farewell addresses.
- I was happy to see so many of you get the answer right. Congratulations to...Ted Weiner, Erik Soell, Anne Gorenstein, Richard Rogers, Gail Smith, Raymond Slavin, Eric Wagner, Maris Berg, Mason Offman, Rashida Doctor, Joy Lieberman, Steve Gitnik, Steve Sheffey, Miles Kwiatek, Matt Neufeld, Dan Filliol, Lisa Schlesinger, Janice Goodman, Joe Bookman, Marlee Millman, Thomas Alpert, Randy Fleisher, Scott Bennett, and Brad Chotiner!
- Nice job to the long list of respondents...looks like the WUTP readership is highly informed on Eisenhower trivia.
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.