Tuesday, January 17, 2017
3 Days until Inauguration Day
658 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
- Confirmation Schedule Senate committees will grill eight more Trump Cabinet nominees this week, including four at the same exact time tomorrow.
- Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold its hearing on Interior Secretary-designate Ryan Zinke and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold its hearing on Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos.
- Zinke, who was sworn in for his second term as Montana's at-large U.S. Congressman this month, will be introduced at the 2:15pm hearing by Montana Sens. Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D). Questioning of the former Navy SEAL is expected to center around his hardline position against transfer of public lands; the congressman resigned as a delegate to the 2016 Republican convention over a plank on the party's platform to allow "certain" public lands to be transferred to state or private control. The President-elect's son Donald Trump Jr. shares a similar position on public land, a key reason why Zinke was tapped for the Cabinet post.
- The Montanan describes himself as a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican"; according to the Associated Press, "Zinke has supported legislation to boost land and water conservation and recreation on public lands. Zinke has also advocated for increased oil and gas drilling and coal-mining on Western lands." His support for coal, and hesitation about accepting climate change ("it's not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either," he said in 2014) will also likely be a focus at the hearing.
- The HELP Committee will meet at 5pm for its hearing on DeVos, a millionaire Michigan businesswoman and Republican megadonor. She will be introduced by former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-VT) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). DeVos' nomination is much more controversial than Zinke's; Democrats are expected to paint her as an enemy of public education, pointing to the philanthropist's advocacy for school choice, which has gained her opposition from teachers unions. DeVos has spent millions supporting school choice groups, including one backed by her favored 2016 candidate, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL); she has donated to a number of other Republican candidates, including four senators on the HELP Committee, according to Politico.
- DeVos' only well-known education position is on school choice; as head of the American Federation for Children, she has fiercely advocated for school vouchers to allow students to attend private and charter schools with public funds. At the hearing, the Michigander is expected to be grilled on where she stands on other key issues facing the next Education Secretary, including student loans and civil rights.
- Today in Congress The Senate will convene at 3pm today. The chamber is scheduled to vote at about 4:45pm on H.R. 72, the GAO Access and Oversight Act. The measure, which passed the House two weeks ago, strips away limits to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)'s authority "to obtain federal agency records required to discharge the GAO's duties (including audit, evaluation, and investigative duties)."
- Meanwhile, the House meets at 12pm for a pro forma session. No business is expected to be conducted in the lower chamber this week as the Capitol prepares for Friday's Inauguration. The Senate, however, will continue to meet, with plans for floor debate and voting on some of Trump's Cabinet nominees.
- Trump Sets Weekend Firestorms Just days before he will be sworn in, President-elect Donald Trump continued to set firestorms this weekend. Here's a rundown of the latest controversies:
- John Lewis The President-elect entered a war on words with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) over the weekend, following Lewis' declaration on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Trump is not a "legitimate president" due to alleged Russian hacking during the election cycle in his favor.
- Trump hit back in a series of tweets on Saturday, writing: "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to...mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results."
- "Sad!" he concluded, ignoring Lewis' record in the civil rights movement (or the fact that his Atlanta district is not, in fact, "crime infested").
- In the "Meet the Press" interview, Lewis stated that he would not attend Trump's Inauguration this week; he has since been joined by about 40 House Democrats planning to boycott the ceremony.
- NATO The President-elect also criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a joint interview Monday with the Times of London and Bild (a German publication). NATO is an alliance of 28 nations, co-founded by the United States. In the interview, Trump called NATO "obsolete," and said it was unfair for the U.S. to pay so much into the organization; during the campaign, he threatened to exit the alliance.
- NATO leaders reacted over the weekend; the most outspoken was German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who told reporters that Trump's NAT comments had "caused astonishment" in Europe. Steinmeier also pointed to comments made last week by Trump's Defense Secretary nominee, James Mattis, who called NATO "the most successful military alliance probably in modern history, maybe ever.”
- Congressional Republicans also disagreed: in a Monday interview with new media company Axios, House Speaker Paul Ryan called NATO "indispensable and invaluable, and an enormously important contributor to world peace and stability," while echoing Trump's concerns on other countries not paying their full cost.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule Entering his final week in office, President Barack Obama has no public schedule today.
- The President has not been scaling back in recent days; on Monday, he submitted two nominations to the U.S. Senate and announced 27 other appointments to federal posts not requiring Senate confirmation. According to CBS' Mark Knoller, this brings his total to 17 nominations and 72 non-confirmable appointments since January 1.
- Obama has also spent his final weeks in office issuing hundreds of pardons and commutations, which he can continue to do until 11:15am on Friday. There are many pardons which the President will be closely watched to see if he hands down before leaving office, most prominently whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
- Vice President's Schedule Vice President Joe Biden is currently in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for his final overseas trip in office. Biden spoke at the WEF on Monday on his cancer "moonshot" initiative. Today, the Vice President is slated to meet with President Xi Jinping of China, President Masoud Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan, and Tomislav Nikolić of Serbia.
- The Vice President will return to Washington, D.C. tomorrow.
- 40% That's President-elect Trump's approval rating according to two different polls released this morning, ABC/Washington Post and CNN/ORC, placing him far below any other incoming President in modern history.
- Trump responded to the polls in a tweet this morning, saying: "The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before."
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.