Tuesday, January 4, 2017
17 Days until Inauguration Day
672 Days until Election Day 2018I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
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From the Editor's Desk
- Happy New Year! I'm excited to send to you the first edition of Wake Up To Politics in 2017, full of the latest news from Congress, the White House, the presidential transition, and more. This is going to be a very interesting year in politics, and no matter your persuasion, I hope you continue to read the newsletter and let me know what you like and don't like about it. I'm looking forward to continuing to report the news in a comprehensive but understandable way, with the same features you may remember from 2016 and possibly some new ones. Thanks for reading; please always email with questions or comments!
Now, to the news:
Capitol Hill News
- Congress Returns to a Long GOP To-Do List The 114th Congress will officially "adjourn sine die" at noon today, at which point the 115th Congress will formally convene, the first step towards total Republican control of Washington.
- Both chambers must first dispense with an established procedure of first-day organizational tasks: choosing a House Speaker (Paul Ryan is expected to be easily re-elected) and Senate President Pro Tempore (tradition rules that Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving majority-party senator, will win), speeches by the majority and minority leaders, adopting resolutions to notify the other chamber and the President that their new session has begun, and other matters.
- Once the seven new senators (five Democrats, two Republicans) and 52 new representatives (27 Republicans, 25 Democrats) are sworn in today, Republicans will hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate and a 241-194 majority in the House. In just over two weeks, the GOP will also hold the executive branch for the first time in eight years; the Supreme Court is expected to follow, with a vacant seat waiting for President-elect Donald Trump to fill upon his inauguration.
- Republicans are expected to start work soon on a long list of priorities. The Senate's first order of business, according to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will be starting the process of scaling back President Obama's signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare). As early as this week, McConnell is expected to introduce a budget reconciliation bill that would allow the repeal process to be fast-tracked (no Democratic filibuster is allowed under the reconciliation proess), and for debate to begin this week; Republicans are hoping to reverse the law soon after Trump takes office, but have yet to introduce a replacement plan, which could take months for committees and leadership to craft.
- In this time period, the Senate will also be focused on confirming Trump's Cabinet picks, with pre-inauguration hearings already scheduled for many of them. Democrats are expected to focus on a number of nominees, most prominently Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson (who has faced resistance among Republicans as well), they hope can be defeated or delayed, although McConnell is hoping to have much of Trump's team confirmed by the Inauguration.
- Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to spend much of January reversing actions from the past eight years of the Obama Administration. A number of bills, including the REINS Act (to require congressional approval of executive-branch regulations costing more than $100 million) and Midnight Rules Act (to allow Congress to strike down many of Obama's recent moves en masse, will be voted on as early as this week.
- By tradition, one of the House's first votes of a new Congress is on the body's rules for the next two years (the Senate does not need to re-adopt rules because it is a continuous body, with not all of its membership up for re-election at once). The Republican rules package for this year includes a number of controversial planks: the party is proposing rules to fine members for livestreaming on social media from the House floor, widely seen as payback for the Democratic gun control sit-in on the floor this summer; to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, removing the watchdog's independence by placing it under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee; as well as rules to make repeal of Obamacare easier.
- The fight over the rules package is expected to be bitter, with Democrats criticizing the livestreaming rule as unconstitutional and decrying the ethics office move as a reversal of the GOP's promise to "drain the swamp" and fight corruption in Washington.
- The 115th Congress The new Congress being gaveled in today is set to be the most racially diverse in U.S. history, with record numbers of Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American lawmakers. A number of the members being sworn in today will set records, including the first Indian-American senator (Caliornia's Kamala Harris), the first Latina senator (Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto), the first Dominican-American member of Congress (New York's Adriano Espailatt), and the first Thai-American senator (New York's Tammy Duckworth).
- In total, 38 members of the new Congress will be Hispanic, 49 will be African-American, and 15 will be Asian-American - all new records. In addition, the number of women of color will swell, quadrupling from one to four in the new Senate. The total number of female members of Congress, as well as the number of LGBT lawmakers, will remain the same from the 114th Congress.
- Trump to Nominate Lighthizer as Trade Representative President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Robert Lighthizer to serve as U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the transition team announced this morning. Lighthizer, a D.C. international trade attorney, served as Deputy USTR under President Ronald Reagan and as Chief of Staff to the Senate Finance Committee under the chairmanship of then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS).
- "Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first," the President-elect said in a statement released this morning. "He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity."
- Trade policy is a top priority of the incoming Trump Administration, with the President-elect promising to remove the U.S. from free trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However, despite his title, Lighthizer is not expected to be the top player on the issue. According to news reports, Trump is likely to allow Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross to take the lead on trade policy; in addition, Trump has already appointed two newly-created positions focused on the issue, a National Trade Council director (Peter Navarro) and a special representative for international trade (Jason Greenblatt).
- The selection of Lighthizer was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
- With the announcement of Lighthizer, Trump has just two more Cabinet-level positions to fill: the Secretaries of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs. The frontrunner for the former position is former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA), according to multiple news outlets, while a number of individuals are in the running for the latter, including former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), former Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), U.S. Navy admiral Michelle Howard, and Cleveland Clinic CEO Delos Cosgrove.
- A number of other high-profile posts also remain for the President-elect to fill, including the Director of National Intelligence, and chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers and Securities and Exchange Commission. Trump is also set to announce more White House appointees today or in the days ahead. The President-elect will reportedly announce Marc Short, a senior adviser to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, as White House legislative director, and Rick Dearborn, former chief of staff to Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, as deputy chief of staff for legislative, intergovernmental, and Cabinet affairs.
- Dearborn is executive director of Trump's transition team, and a longtime aide to early Trump endorser Sessions. However, Short is a newer addition to the Trump inner circle: he advised Marco Rubio's presidential campaign earlier in the 2016 cycle, and comes to the White House through the VP-elect, having served as Pence's congressional chief of staff, and the Koch brothers, who he worked for as president of Freedom Partners, their political organization.
- Axios' Mike Allen was the first to report the Short and Dearborn appointments; Allen also reported that Trump will have at least two other deputy chiefs of staff, Katie Walsh and Joe Hagin. Walsh is currently chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, where she serves under chairman Reince Priebus (the incoming White House chief of staff). Hagin, meanwhile, is a veteran of the Bush White House, serving for over seven years as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
- Each of the personnel appointments is a win for another one of the competing power bases being set up in the Trump White House: Dearborn adds to the "Trump original" faction, while Short's appointment gives more power to Vice President-elect Pence, and Walsh will be an ally of chief of staff Priebus.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Obama has no events on his public schedule today, merely his regular 10am daily intelligence briefing. Obama arrived back in Washington from a 15-day vacation in Hawaii, and is now facing his final 17 days in the White House. The president is not expected to go quietly, as evidenced by his flurry of activity in recent weeks: banning on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic Coast, establishing controversial national monuments, transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay, granting hundreds of pardons and commutations, refusing to veto a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, punishing Russia for interference in the U.S. elections, and appointing individuals to over 100 federal posts since the election.
- In the coming days, President Obama is expected to focus on defending the Affordable Care Act, meeting with congressional Democrats to craft a health care strategy tomorrow and holding livestreamed event on Friday on Obamacare's future. The President will continue to shore up his legacy on other issues as well, with a January 10 farewell address in Chicago scheduled.
- Today's Question Which amendment to the Constitution sets January 3rd as the date that lawmakers' terms expire/begin? (you have a 1 in 27 chance of getting it right!)
- Email me with your answer...correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
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