Wednesday, January 18, 2017
2 Days until Inauguration Day
657 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
- Today in Congress Both the House and Senate bodies are done for the week, as the Capitol prepares for Friday's inauguration.
- However, confirmation hearings will still continue, with four more Cabinet-level nominees appearing before Senate committees today, all at 10am Eastern Time:
- Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce) Ross, a billionaire investor, will be grilled by the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Questions are expected to focus on trade, with Ross set to take the lead on the issue for President-elect Trump, who has promised to withdraw from or renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deals. Ross will also likely be quizzed on his views of key trade partners such as China. Republicans will likely praise Ross' business record at the hearing - the nominee "has chaired or directed more than 100 companies," according to Politico - while Democrats will attempt to poke holes in the business failures that gained him the nickname, the "King of Bankruptcy."
- Ross, 79, will be introduced by his home-state senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (R-FL)
- Tom Price (Secretary of Health and Human Services) Price, a U.S. congressman from Georgia and chairman of the House Budget Committee, will likely face the toughest questioning of the day. A medical doctor and one of the foremost GOP health policy experts in Congress, Price was tapped to implement the repeal of Obamacare. Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee are expected to roundly criticize Price's Obamacare replacement proposal, and force him to answer questions on CNN and Wall Street Journal reports that he purchased stock in companies while introducing bills that would benefit them. A trio of Democratic senators wrote to HELP Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on Tuesday, urging the Price hearing to be delayed until the allegations can be "thoroughly investigated and addressed."
- Price, 62, will be introduced by his home-state senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA)
- Nikki Haley (Ambassador to the United Nations) Haley, the governor of South Carolina, is well-liked and well-respected among fellow politicians, but may face criticism at the Foreign Relations Committee for her lack of foreign policy credentials. In her opening statement today, Haley plans to label the UN as "often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers" and denounce the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel, according to prepared remarks obtained by the Washington Post. Haley is also expected to question the amount that the U.S. contributes to the world body she will be a part of if confirmed. Haley is expected to be one of the easier Trump Cabinet confirmations, likely to receive some Democratic support. However, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) was very critical of Haley after they met Tuesday, saying he was concerned about her qualifications and "steep learning curve." Coons told reporters after the meeting: "This is not the Model UN."
- Haley, 44, will be introduced by her home-state senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC).
- Scott Pruitt (Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency) Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, will appear before the Environment and Public Works Committee. The nominee will face a tough round of questioning over his past legal battles with the EPA, which he has been nominated to lead, over issues including Obama's Clean Power Plan and expansion of the Clean Water Act. Pruit has also expressed about the science behind climate change, while receiving donations from oil, gas, and coal companies.
- Pruitt, 48, will be introduced by his home-state senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and James Lankford (R-OK).
- Trump Administration Looking Empty President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are moving slowly in stocking his Administration, with Trump yet to name anyone to a number of key posts while the GOP is yet to confirm a single one of his nominees.
- Six more of Trump's nominees will appear for confirmation hearings before his Inauguration, leaving five Cabinet-level nominees who won't have hearings until after Friday - excluding Trump's nominee for Agriculture Secretary, which he hasn't announced.
- Although Presidents in modern history have had full (or nearly full) Cabinets in place within days of their Inaugurations, Republicans are only hoping to confirm half of the Trump Cabinet by January 20 - if that. Debate for many nominees is not scheduled until late January or early February; some less controversial nominees, and consequential national security picks, could still be fast-tracked.
- Not only that: despite naming his Cabinet-level appointees at a faster-than-average rate, Trump may enter office without any sub-Cabinet nominees, failing to fill all of the other thousands positions, including key foreign policy posts needed to respond to a crisis.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule For his second-to-last full day in office, President Barack Obama has just one public event scheduled: his final press conference as President of the United States, at 2:15pm in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. CBS' Mark Knoller reports that today's will be Obama's 39th solo White House news conference.
- Obama is expected to answer questions mostly focused on the legacy he leaves behind on Friday; recent interviews have shown the President to be reflective of his success and failures of the past eight years. He will also likely be questioned on his future plans, as well as a long list of actions taken in recent days.
- The President pardoned 64 people on Tuesday, and commuted the sentences of 209 more, most prominently shortening the imprisonment of U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted for classified intelligence leaks made to WikiLeaks. Manning's 35-year sentence will now last only until May, a move that was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, fellow leaker Edward Snowden (who some speculated was going to receive clemency as well), and others.
- However, Obama also received harsh criticism from congressional Republicans for his last-minute Manning commutation, which was called a "grave mistake" by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and "outrageous" by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). "We ought not to treat a traitor like a martyr," Sen. Tom Cottn (R-AR) said. According to a CNN report, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also "did not support" the commutation.
- According to the White House, President Obama has now granted more commutations than any chief executive in history - shortening 1,385 sentences, more than the past 12 presidents combined. More acts of clemency are expected before the President leaves office.
- Obama also announced seven nominations and 29 appointments on Tuesday, adding to the hundreds of posts he has filled in the new year. While the nominations require Senate confirmation, which they are unlikely to receive before expiring with the Obama Administration on Friday, the appointments allow Obama to leave his stamp on the Executive Branch even after he leaves office.
- The appointments are mostly to obscure, low-level panels (with terms lasting multiple years, into the Trump Presidency); many of the appointments made Tuesday were for longitme Obama aides, including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, national security advisor Susan Rice, and foreign policy speechwriter Ben Rhodes. Other appointees included Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and, to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition: retired basketball players Jason Collins and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, and soccer player Carli Lloyd.
- Thursday's Answer I never answered Thursday's trivia question, on the first President to hold a press conference.
- The answer...Woodrow Wilson, who called over 100 reporters into the Oval Office on March 15, 1913 for the first presidential presser.
- GREAT JOB...Marlee Millman, Dylan Byth, Joe Bookman, Matt Neufeld, and Susan Walker!
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.