Thursday, January 12, 2017
8 Days until Inauguration Day
663 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 Advances Obamacare Repeal After nearly seven hours of voting on amendments Wednesday, the Senate voted at about 1:30am early Thursday to pass the budget resolution that sets a blueprint for fast-tracked repeal of major provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
- The vote was 51-48, with all present Democrats joined by Rand Paul (R-KY) in voting "nay." The resolution now goes to the House, where it is expected to get a vote on Friday. Then, according to the measure, House and Senate committees must begin work on legislation repealing many Obamacare provisions and have a bill completed by January 27 (although the date is non-binding). The measure they produce will be fast-tracked in the Senate, and not be subject to a filibuster, as part of the budget reconciliation process this resolution sets in motion.
- "This resolution will set the stage for true legislative relief from Obamacare that Americans have long demanded while ensuring a stable transition," Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said. "The Obamacare bridge is collapsing and we're sending in a rescue team."
- In the series of back-to-back amendment votes (known as a "vote-a-rama"), Democrats made clear their opposition to the repeal, forcing amendment votes attempting to preserve Medicare and Medicaid, as well as parts of Obamacare, such as contraceptive coverage, protections for pre-existing conditions, and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health care plans until age 26. Each Democratic amendment failed, although senators in the party continued to defend Obamacare as they cast their "nay votes," many detailing their objections over the silencing gavels of the Republican presiding officer.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with the Democrats and serves as ranking member of the Budget Committee, was among the loudest voices in opposition to the resolution. After Enzi's remarks, Sanders responded: “The passage of this budget resolution will allow Republicans to come back to the floor of the Senate with a budget reconciliation package which will repeal the [Affordable Care Act] with a simple majority, and if they do that 30 million Americans will lose their health care, with many thousands dying as a result."
- Paul recorded his vote as the only Republican to vote against the repeal plan; many GOP lawmakers, including him, have called for a replacement plan to be introduced before the Affordable Care Act is dismantle. A number of moderate House Republicans have echoed Paul's concerns, complicating Friday's expected vote on the resolution.
- At his press conference on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump promised to offer a replacement plan "essentially simultaneously" with the repeal of Obamacare, as soon as his Secretary of Health and Human Services is confirmed. Trump has nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) for the position; Price is not expected to be approved until February. "It will be repeal and replace," the President-elect promised. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day. Could be the same hour.”
- Confirmation Hearing Schedule Senate committees will hold confirmation hearings on three more Trump nominees today, bringing the total of appointees who received hearings this week to seven.
- At 9:30am today, the Armed Services Committee will question the nominee for Defense Secretary, former U.S. Central Command chief James Mattis. Following the hearing, the panel will consider the waiver to allow a Defense Secretary to serve within seven years of active duty in the Armed Forces, which is otherwise prohibited. Mattis retired as a four-star Marine Corps general in 2013.
- Mattis, who will be introduced by former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), is expected to receive a torrent of Democratic questions on Russia. The general has criticized Russian president Vladimir Putin in the past, and spoken about the country as a U.S. threat; Democrats hope to contrast his remarks on the issue with the President-elect's. Mattis will also be questioned on his opposition to the Iran deal, which is shaky but was the source of arguments between him and the Obama Administration when Mattis was a military commander. Democrats will also ask about his views on an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State and on allowing women to serve in combat and allowing openly transgender service members.
- The retired general was also set to testify before the House Armed Services Committee today about the waiver (which both chambers must approve). The Trump transition team canceled the appearance, causing outrage among Democrats and increasing the likelihood of their opposition to the legislation.
- At 10am, the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hear testimony from Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, a former rival of the President-elect's and his nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Also at that time, the Intelligence Committee will hold its hearing on Rep. Mke Pompeo (R-KS)'s nomination to be Director of the CIA.
- The main questions facing Carson are expected to be focused on his qualifications to lead HUD, with no experience in housing policy; Pompeo will be grilled on his view of the CIA's position, especially in contrast with the President-elect's accusations against the intelligence community.
- Today in Congress The Senate is scheduled to gavel in at 12:30pm today; the House, at 10am.
- After a long session yesterday, the upper chamber has no votes scheduled today, just Leader remarks and morning business (when any senator can speak for up to 10 minutes).
- Meanwhile, House GOP leadership continues its push for regulatory reform, considering two related bills today: the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, which sets new requirements for the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) before the agency can impose regulations; and the Commodity End-User Relief Act, which "provide[s] greater protections for customer funds held by entities that broker transactions in commodity futures and [relaxes] requirements on certain participants in swap transactions," according to Popvox, which also notes that a swap transaction is "a contract that calls for an exchange of cash between two participants, based on an underlying rate or index or on the performance of an asset."
- Trump Meets the Press: First Post-Election Presser Turns Contentious After going 169 days without holding a traditional press conference, President-elect Donald Trump took to a podium set up at Trump Tower on Wednesday and took questions from assembled reporters.
- True to form, Trump was at times conciliatory but remained hostile towards the press, attacking specific news outlets and silencing reporters while his family and staff loudly applauded from the sidelines. Here is what Trump said about a number of issues:
- New Russia Allegations The President-elect denounced new reports that U.S. intelligence agencies briefed him and President Obama on allegations that Russian officials possess compromising personal and financial information about him. Without denying reports that he had been briefed on the allegations, Trump denied the contents of a dossier published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday - which detailed unverified information reportedly seen by the top intelligence agencies.
- Trump called the allegations "phony" and "fake news" at the news conference. "It didn't happen," he said. The President-elect trained his ire on BuzzFeed and CNN, which was first to report the allegations' existence, calling the former "a failing pile of garbage" and refusing to answer a question posed by a reporter from the latter.
- However, Trump also conceded Russia's role in the election-cycle email hackings for the first time. "I think it was Russia," he announced, but didn't say if he supported Obama Administration sanctions against the country, merely saying: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability."
- Business Arrangement He outlined the plan for transfer of the Trump Organization, announcing that he will transfer his business holdings to a trust before his inauguration as President - but the trust will be run by his son and the President-elect will not sell his stake, stopping short of an independently-run "blind trust," leaving conflicts of interest open.
- The company will not make any foreign business deals, but will continue to make deals in the United States that pass "a vigorous vetting process," according to Dillon.
- While Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, along with longtime Trump employee Sheri Dillon, take over the company, Ivanka Trump is exiting the family business to join her husband Jared Kushner (newly-appointed Senior Advisor to the Preident) in Washington.
- Tax Returns The President-elect remained opposed to the idea of releasing his tax returns, which all presidential nominees (except him) have done since 1976. Trump said he could not release them while under audit, which the IRS disputed, and noted: "The only ones who cares about my tax returns are reporters," although a Pew Research poll released Tuesday found nearly two-thirds of voters felt Trump should release his returns.
- VA Secretary Before taking questions, Trump unveiled his penultimate Cabinet nomination at the conference, announcing plans to nominate David Shulkin as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
- Shulkin currently serves in the Obama Administration as Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health, with experience at Beth Israel Medical Center, Morristown Medical Center, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "He's fantastic," the President-elect said of Shulkin. "He will do a truly great job. One of the commitments I've made is that we're going to straighten out the whole situation for our veterans."
- Just the position of Secretary of Agriculture remains to be filled.
- Today's Question Who originated the tradition of the presidential press conference?
- Email me at email@example.com with your guess (I'm looking for the name of the President)...correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
- Yesterday's Answer Wednesday's question was: "who was the most recent Cabinet nominee to be rejected by the U.S. Senate?"
- The answer: John Tower, George H.W. Bush's first nominee for Defense Secretary, rejected by the Senate, 53-47.
- GREAT JOB...Jakob Gibson, Joe Bookman, Thomas Alpert, and Marlee Millman!
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.