Monday, March 27, 2017
589 Days until Election Day 2018
1,317 Days until Election Day 2020
Week in Review: What I Missed, Where We Are
Russia/Wiretapping Investigation FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee hearing last Monday, finally announcing that his agency is leading an investigation of the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Comey also added to the chorus of voices debunking the allegation by President Donald Trump that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, saying that he had "no information" to support the claim.
On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) held a press conference announcing that a source had informed him that the intelligence community "incidentally collected" information about Trump transition team members (while surveilling other individuals) after the election, which the President said "partially vindicated" his wiretapping claim. Nunes was criticized by Democrats for his handling of the information, briefing the White House and going public before meeting with members of his committee.
Where We Are Nunes continues to be the object of suspicion, especially after confirming Monday that he met with his source to obtain the information on the White House complex, again raising the possibility that the leaker is an Administration official, as it is unclear who cleared him onto the grounds. Nunes has denied coordinating with the White House, but has not revealed his source. Later Monday, calls grew for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) even called for Nunes to be removed as Chairman altogether. Congressional Republicans have continued to support Nunes, saying they have confidence in his ability to lead a neutral investigation.
Nunes has also been criticized for canceling all of the Intelligence Committee's sessions this week, two closed hearings and an open hearing. When the investigation continues, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page - the former Trump aides who have been the focus of the FBI's investigation - volunteered last Friday to testify before lawmakers, and the Senate Intelligence Committee announced on Monday that White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law, would appear before the panel. Kushner has come under fire in light of revelations that he met in December with the head of a U.S.-sanctioned Russian bank.
Meanwhile, President Trump sought to flip the script on Russia last night, tweeting: "Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech...money to Bill, the Hillary Russian "reset," praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA! "
Gorsuch Nomination The Senate Judiciary Committee held five days of confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, last week. Gorsuch testified for over 20 hours before the panel, defending his past rulings (particularly his dissents against a truck driver who was fired for abandoned his vehicle in cold weather and an autistic student seeking more special needs education) and "originalist" philosophy (the belief that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was intended when written).
Democrats also sought to tie Gorsuch to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow "originalist," and to President Trump, successfully getting Gorsuch to rebuke Trump's past criticism of judges. However, as Gorsuch calmly avoided questions on hot-button issues (as is common for Supreme Court nominees), no one line of attack seemed to stick, and Gorsuch emerged from the proceedings largely unscathed.
Where We Are On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Democratic plans to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination, which would require the nominee to receive support from 60 senators in the cloture vote. The filibuster could be broken if eight Democrats vote for Gorsuch, but only two have announced they will: Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Gorsuch's nomination next week, and if Democrats stay united once the judge reaches the floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will face the choice of invoking the "nuclear option," ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees so Gorsuch would only need a simple 51-vote majority. However, Republican leaders are still hopeful that they can pick off enough Democrats in the cloture vote and confirm Gorsuch by Easter.
Health Care After a dramatic showdown between President Trump and members of his own party, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was forced to withdraw the GOP Obamacare replacement plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), last Friday. The defeat is an embarrassing setback for Trump and leaves his entire domestic agenda, and his relations with Congress, up in the air. The President has prided himself for being a dealmaker, but ultimately: he blinked, refusing to negotiate with hardline Republicans and insisting that they vote on the AHCA or claim responsibility for Obamacare remaining.
In the lead-up to Trump and Ryan's decision to pull the bill, it looked increasingly likely as the plan would not pass, with moderate and conservative Republicans alike announcing opposition (for very different reasons).
Where We Are The President said Friday that he planned to move on to tax reform and infrastructure, but the intraparty struggle has left his ability to lead Republicans in question. Trump, however, said that a health care bill would eventually pass - claiming that Obamacare would "explode" and Democrats would support a replacement. Trump has also said that he hopes to reach out to moderate Democrats on reforming the tax code, but Democrats have shown no sign of interest so far in working with the President to repeal his predecessor's signature health care law or on reforming the tax code.
Regardless, the next big legislative fight will come in the next month: government funding will run out on April 28, causing a government shutdown if no solution is passed. The House Freedom Caucus (the hardline group President Trump has blamed for the health care failure) is calling for Planned Parenthood to be defunded in the continuing resolution to extend government funding. Meanwhile, the White House is hoping to have its proposed border wall funded as well. However, Democrats and moderate Republicans are sure to balk at either provision, complicating the path forward.
The President's Schedule At 10:30am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
At 11am, President Trump will host a listening session with the Fraternal Order of Police in the Roosevelt Room.
At 2pm, President Trump will sign an executive order on energy at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. The sweeping order will begin a process of reshaping the U.S. policy on climate change, directing the federal government to focus on increasing energy independence and production of fossil fuels, scaling back on regulating carbon pollution. A number of Obama Administration policies will begin to be rolled back by the order, including the Clean Power Plan, a key achievement of Obama's which restricts power plant emissions of greenhouse gases.
At 4pm, President Trump will meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in the Oval Office.
At 7pm, President Trump will host a reception for Senators from both parties and their spouses in the East Room.
Senate Schedule The Senate will convene at 10am today. After Leader remarks, the chamber will continue consideration of a treaty that would grant Montenegro membership in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The Senate is expected to vote today on ratification of the treaty, which is expected to achieve the required two-thirds majority. The treaty was advanced on Monday in a 97-2 vote.
All members of NATO must ratify the treaty before Montenegro can join the alliance; after the U.S., the only remaining holdout will be Spain.
House Schedule The lower chamber will also convene at 10am. Republican leaders will continue their push to overturn Obama Administration regulations under the Congressional Review Act, with the House set to vote on a resolution repealing a set of Federal Communication Commission privacy rules passed in October. The rules, which are now being repealed, would have required Internet providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to secure permission from customers before sharing their browsing data. The Senate passed the resolution last week in a 50-48 vote, meaning House passage would send the legislation to President Trump's desk.
Who is the only Supreme Court nominee in history to be filibustered? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to answer; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!