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Wake Up To Politics - January 3, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, January 3, 2019. 396 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 670 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Happy New Year! Wake Up To Politics is back and ready for a busy 2019! If you enjoy this newsletter, make sure to tell your friends to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe. And now, to the news:

Pelosi to reclaim House gavel as shutdown continues

After two years of united Republican control, power in Washington will once again be divided among the two political parties today after the incoming Democratic majority takes back control of the U.S. House.  

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has led the House Democratic Caucus since 2003, is widely expected to win back the House speaker's gavel when the 116th Congres convenes today, returning to the post she held from 2007 to 2011. Pelosi, 78, will be the first person since the legendary Sam Rayburn in 1961 to return to the speakership after surrendering it. Her return to the post was not assured after the Democrats' 40-seat swing on election day, coming only after she struck a deal with a group of detractors promising to serve no more than two terms as speaker. The California Democrat is the only woman to serve as House speaker in U.S. history.

As Pelosi returns to power, so will the new slate of Democratic committee chairmen, who have already begun staffing up to assert aggressive oversight of the executive branch, leading investigations into the Trump administration that could lead to impeachment proceedings for the president.

Meanwhile, 88 new House members (59 Democrats and 29 Republicans) and nine new senators (two Democrats and seven Republicans) will be sworn in; they will constitute the most diverse Congress in history, including record numbers of women and people of color and a litany of historic firsts, such as the first-ever Muslim women and first-ever Native America women to serve in the U.S. Congress. "When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by the optimism, idealism, and patriotism of this transformative freshman class," Pelosi is set to say in remarks on the House floor.

Another "first" will also take place today: the first time a new Congress will open during a government shutdown. As such, one of the first priorities for the Democratic House will be to reopen the 25 percent of agencies that have been shuttered since December 22 due to the partial shutdown. The House is expected to vote today on two continuing resolutions: one funding six of the seven unpassed appropriations bills through September 30, and the other funding the Department of Homeland Security through February 8. Both measures maintain current funding levels, meaning President Donald Trump will not receive the $5 billion in funding he has demanded for his proposed Mexican border wall. "How many more times can we say no?" Speaker-elect Pelosi said in an NBC interview airing this morning. "Nothing for the wall."

The Democratic spending bills have already been declared dead-on-arrival by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who begins his third term leading a Republican Senate today. McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate would not "waste its time" on any measures that would not receive approval from President Trump. "We're not going to vote on anything else," he said.

At a meeting with congressional leaders on Wednesday, Trump rejected the Democratic plan, reportedly telling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he'd "look foolish" accepting it. Before the meeting, Trump signaled that he was willing to let the shutdown continue for "as long as it takes." Congressional leaders will return to the White House on Friday for another summit with the president; as the shutdown drags into Day 13, no bipartisan solution is currently in sight.

2020 Central

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who became the second high-profile Democrat to launch a presidential exploratory committee earlier this week, has already begun hiring in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state. According to Politico, Warren's new staffers include Brendan Summers, who served as Iowa caucus director and national caucus director for Bernie Sanders in 2016; Emily Parcell, Barack Obama's 2008 Iowa political director; and Janice Rottenberg, an organizer for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid and coordinated campaign director for the Iowa Democratic Party in 2018. Warren is scheduled to make her first visit to Iowa this weekend.

--- As he mulls another presidential bid, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is facing questions over alleged episodes of sexual harassment and sexism by top aides during his 2016 campaign, according to Politico. "I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately, and of course if I run we will do better the next time," Sanders said on CNN on Wednesday night. The Vermont senator added that he didn't know about any of the complaints at the time: "I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case," he said.

--- Speculation is building around a potential primary challenge to President Trump after Sen.-elect Mitt Romney (R-UT) published an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday charging that Trump "has not risen to the mantle" of the presidency. According to the Washington Examiner, the Romney op-ed has led some Republicans to pursue changes to the Republican National Committee (RNC) bylaws that would protect Trump from a primary challenge. For his part, Romney denied in a CNN interview on Wednesday that he was planning to run in 2020, although he pointedly refused to endorse the president's re-election bid.

White House schedule

POTUS: The president has no items on his public schedule.

VP: At 10am, Vice President Mike Pence attends a breakfast for the Indiana congressional delegation.

At 12pm, as president of the Senate, Pence participates in the opening of the 116th Congress.

At 1pm, he participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of newly-elected and re-elected senators.

Congress schedule

Pursuant to Article I of the Constitution, the 116th Congress convenes at 12pm today. Both chambers have well-established routines they follow on the opening day of the new Congress:

Senate: For the Senate, the first day of the new Congress includes swearing in the 35 senators who were elected or re-elected in November, adopting rules for the new Congress, and electing a new president pro tempore (Iowa's Chuck Grassley will succeed the retiring Orrin Hatch of Utah). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will both make welcoming remarks; later in the day, newly sworn-in senators will be ceremonially sworn-in individually in by Vice President Pence, surrounded by their families.

House: On the House side, the first act of the new Congress will be to elect a speaker (expected to be California's Nancy Pelosi). After being sworn-in by the Dean of the House (Alaska's Don Young), the speaker will deliver remarks and then swear-in the entire House in turn. Finally, the House will adopt its rules package for the new Congress.

The new rules package has already evoked some controversy, with Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who is expected to be a thorn in the Democratic leadership's side, and other progressives announcing they will oppose it due to the inclusion of a "PAYGO" provision that requires any new spending be offset by matching spending cuts or revenue increases. Other parts of the rules package include a revival of the "Gephardt rule," which automatically raises the debt ceiling when the House passes a budget; a new rule making it more difficult for members to oust the speaker; the creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis; and a change to the ban on wearing headwear on the House floor, to accommodate Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Also today: the Democrats will file H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," a package combining their top priorities, including voting rights reforms, ethics changes, and a provision requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.

Supreme Court schedule

The court is not in session today.

*All times Eastern