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Wake Up To Politics - May 10, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
182 Days Until Election Day 2016
76 Days Until the Republican National Convention
69 Days Until the Democratic National ConventionI'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!!!
To send me questions, comments, tips, new subscribers, and more: email me at wakeuptopolitics@gmail.com. To learn more about WUTP and subscribe, visit the site: wakeuptopolitics.com, or like me on Twitter and Facebook. More ways to engage with WUTP at the bottom.

White House Watch

  • The President’s Schedule President Obama has two events on his public schedule tomorrow:
  • At 10:20am, the President will convene a National Security Council (NSC) meeting in the White House Situation Room to review the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” Today’s meeting is one of a series of NSC meetings in past months at the White House, CIA headquarters, State Department, and Pentagon.
  • The National Security Council was created in 1957 to advise the President on national security and foreign policy issues. The forum is chaired by the President; other officials include the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, White House Chief of Staff, Ambassador to the United Nations, and others.
  • Obama’s latest NSC meeting comes as congressional Republicans attempt to shrink the council’s staff of over 400: the House Armed Services Committee has begun consideration of a measure to slash the NSC staff, place the body under increased congressional oversight, and require the National Security Advisor to be Senate-confirmed. House Republicans say the proposal, which an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, is needed to hand foreign policy powers from the White House back to the State and Defense Departments. According to the Washington Post, the NSC had 50 staff members under George H.W. Bush, 100 under Bill Clinton, 200 under George W. Bush, and about 400 now, an alarming rate to many in Congress and in the Cabinet.
  • At 2:40pm, Obama will welcome the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team to their East Room of the White House to celebrate their fourth consecutive NCAA Championship victory last month.
  • Biden’s Day Vice President Joe Biden will address the Joyful Revolution Gala at Lincoln Center in New York City tonight. The gala is hosted by the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization working to “heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.”
  • Biden will be honored for his work on these issues at the gala, which will also feature Tina Fey and other celebrities.

Capitol Hill News

  • Congress: Today As the House joins the Senate in returning from a 10-day break today (the upper chamber returned Monday), a number of issues will captivate Congress’ attention.
  • Among them is relief for Puerto Rico, which is currently $70 billion in debt. House Republicans are set to roll out a bill this week creating “a control board to help manage the island's financial obligations and oversee some debt restructuring,” according to the Associated Press. Congressional action on the issue comes after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew traveled to the island territory Monday, calling Congress to either act – or “we will need a bailout, and it will be very expensive to U.S. taxpayers,” Lew noted.
  • Congress is also nearing action on aid packages for the Zika virus and the Flint, Michigan water crisis. The National Governors Association released a statement on Monday calling on Congress to reach a deal on emergency Zika relief funding.
  • “The nation's governors urge the administration and Congress to work together to reach agreement on the appropriate funding levels needed to prepare for and combat the Zika virus,” the statement read. “We also ask they act as expeditiously as possible to ensure those funds are available to states, territories and the public at large.”
  • And then, of course, there’s the elephant in the room: Donald Trump. Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill for the first time since Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, opening up flood of questions on their individual plans to support him – or not – in November, with trickle-down effects on their own re-election expected. Trump himself will head to the Hill on Thursday to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other Republican leaders.
  • Meanwhile, as Congress grapples with Trump’s ascension to the Republican nomination, another sign of his victory will be present: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
  • Cruz returns to the Senate today, one week after ending his presidential bid, and three months after his last Senate vote (in February). Cruz has long been unpopular among his Senate colleagues: whether his longtime feuds with Republican leaders will continue to this new chapter of his career is unclear.
  • With Cruz’s return, all four Senate Republicans who ran for President in 2016 have now been soundly beaten by Donald Trump and crawled back to the chamber. Of those other three – Rand Paul has endorsed Trump, Lindsey Graham has refused to do so, and Marco Rubio has not been clear either way. How will Cruz respond to the presumptive nomination of a man who insulted him, his wife, and father for months? The Texan’s next moves could offer cover either way for his supporters in and out of Capitol Hill.
  • House: Today In its first day back in session, the House votes on 10 bills, many of them related to the opoid crisis. As much as political reporters wish to make this Donald Trump Week on Capitol Hill, House Republicans have declared it Opoid Week: a voting marathon over the next four days on 16 bills to combat the opoid abuse epidemic.
  • Most of the 16 bills are co-sponsored by members of both parties, have received no major outcry, and were approved with little debate at the committee level. The voting marathon leads up to a Thursday vote on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bipartisan opoid bill passed by the Senate and co-sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
  • Senate: Today The Senate convenes at 2:15pm today, and will promptly resume consideration of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016.
  • Democrats in the chamber blocked the $37.5 billion energy spending bill for the third time Monday, in a 50-42 cloture vote. Senate Democrats objected to an amendment by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to forbid the United States from buying heavy water from Iran.
  • Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors; Iran is required by last year’s nuclear agreement to sell down its stock. The U.S. announced plans to buy heavy water from Iran last month.
  • After the energy bill’s third defeat over the Cotton amendment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Monday that separate cloture votes on the amendment and the straight bill will be held on Wednesday.
  • McConnell appealed to Democrats to vote for the energy bill, allowing the Senate to move on to the remaining appropriations bills. “The bill before us will support energy innovation and waterways infrastructure,” McConnell said Monday. “It will promote commerce and public safety. It will help maintain our nuclear deterrence posture. These are priorities that would be important to all of us so let’s continue to work today and move this bill forward.”
  • While the bill is bipartisan in nature – it is co-sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) – neither the bill nor the amendment has full support in either party. Democrats have pointed to a White House veto threat in defending their opposition to the bill, while even Republicans have objected to the Cotton amendment, claiming it could force Iran to sell heavy water to North Korea or other dangerous buyers.
  • The spending bill appropriates $37.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy and other water development programs in fiscal year 2017, a $355 million increase from fiscal year 2016. The measure will increase funding for the Energy Department’s defense-related programs by $1.163 billion, while decreasing nondefense programs by $808 million.

2016 Central

  • Today on the Trail Donald Trump has no events announced today, but the two Democratic candidates continue to slug it out:
  • Hillary Clinton hold an Organzing Event at Louisville Slugger Field, a baseball stadium in Lousivlle, Kentucky. The stadium, which has a seating capacity of 8,000, is home to the Louisville Bats minor league baseball team and Louisville City FC.
  • Clinton’s Kentucky event is the next stop on her “Breaking Barriers” tour; she will speak about her plans to “raise incomes for families and break down the barriers that hold too many Kentucky families back.
  • Bernie Sanders holds two A Future to Believe In rallies today, in Stockton, California and Salem, Oregon. Sanders has long targeted both of those progressive states, especially Oregon, where he was joined at the podium by a small bird in his last visit – inspiring “Birdie Sanders” in the city where “put a bird on it” was inspired by the TV show Portlandia.
  • Sanders will “discuss a wide range of issues, including getting big money out of politics, his plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, combating climate change and raising the minimum wage.”
  • Both Kentucky and Oregon vote on May 17, while California votes on June 7 (although mail voting began Monday in the state).
  • While Clinton and Sanders campaign in Kentucky, California, and Oregon, two states hold primaries today: Nebraska and West Virginia.
  • Nebraska holds just a Republican primary, with 36 winner-take-all delegates offered. West Virginia, meanwhile, offers 34 Republican delegates and 37 Democratic delegates. GOP delegates will be elected directly on the ballot and bound by preference; three will be allocated to the statewide winner, the other 31 will be elected directly on the ballot, and bound accordingly (22 delegates are chosen at-large, with three more chosen in each congressional district). Democratic delegates are allocated proportionally (nine by the statewide total, 20 based on congressional district totals), although eight are superdelegates who are not bound at the convention.
  • Neither state is getting much attention today, due to the amount of impact they will have. Donald Trump, the sole candidate in the GOP field, is well on his way to clinching the GOP nomination – no matter how many Cruz/Kasich voters refuse to defect. No matter how Trump does, nothing changes in the race: if he wins all 70 GOP delegates, he is still about 150 away from clinching the nomination; if he wins zero delegates today, he is still likely to clinch the nomination.
  • On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is expected to perform well in West Virginia almost all-white electorate, which is also largely without college education (demographics Sanders has won handily in the past). West Many Virginia voters, however, are also seniors, a group that favors Clinton. Another factor in West Virginia: ex-con Keith Judd, who joins Clinton, Sanders, and three others on the state’s ballot.
  • Judd, then in prison, won 41% of the vote in the 2012 West Virginia primary against incumbent President Barack Obama, and is hoping for a repeat performance to surprise the Democratic establishment again.
  • Polls show a Sanders win, which would likely give the Vermont senator momentum in his race against Clinton – the state will be his second consecutive victory – but will not allow him to catch her in pledged delegates.
  • Polling Roundup A Quinnipiac poll released early this morning offered the first look at a Trump vs. Clinton general election in three battleground states.
  • In each of three states – which every winning presidential candidates since 1960 has won at least two of – Trump and Clinton were locked in close battles, evenly divided by gender, race, and age.
  • Clinton barely beats Trump in Florida (43% to 42%) and Pennsylvania (43% to 42%), while Trump overcomes Clinton in Ohio (43% to 39%). Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, the less likely Democratic nominee, beats Trump in all three states: Florida (44% to 42%), Ohio (42% to 41%), and Pennsylvania (47% to 41%).
  • Number of the Day: 38% According to a Morning Consult poll released this morning, 38% voters are “much less likely” to support candidates for elected office if they back Donald Trump for President. Full results here: https://morningconsult.com/2016/05/poll-voters-less-likely-to-support-candidates-who-back-trump/
  • Link Roundup Stories you need to read today:
  • #45 “Today Donald J. Trump announced…Governor Chris Christie will serve as Transition Team Chairman, overseeing an extensive team of professionals preparing to take over the White House, and all that entails, in the fall. Governor Christie has been a loyal supporter and confidant to Mr. Trump and the campaign. He has been entrusted to oversee this important task with the goal to implement this team in an official capacity in November.” (Trump campaign)
  • “[Defense Secretary Ashton] Carter’s worldview puts him more in line with Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton than with Obama — and several analysts said Carter could be in the running to remain in his post should Clinton win in November, at least for a time. Others shot down the prospect as unlikely.” (Politico)
  • “Top Republican political leaders aren’t the only ones shunning their party’s presidential nominee — a vast number of highly skilled managers and policy experts, veterans of recent GOP administrations who would normally be expected to fill key positions for a new White House, are also vowing to sit out a Donald Trump presidency. (Politico)
  • “[Donald Trump] will be best served by a running mate and by surrogates who fully embrace his campaign. As such, I have never sought, will not seek and do not want to be considered for Vice President. Instead, I will focus my attention on representing the people of Florida, retaining a conservative majority in the Senate and electing principled conservatives across the country.” (Facebook, by Marco Rubio)
  • Cruz’s Next Moves “Ted Cruz and two of his closest allies told supporters on a conference call Monday night that they are not planning to challenge Donald Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July, according to multiple sources who took part…
  • …But the call was also a rallying cry to Cruz’s supporters about the importance of showing up in Cleveland and not ceding control of their slots on the party’s platform and rules committees…
  • …Many Cruz allies are interested in seeing the Texas senator mount another presidential bid in 2020. But for now, the first source said, it “was very clear they were not trying to change [the] primary outcome, but wanting to influence rules and platform committee. No specific plan rolled out, simply asking people to come to Cleveland.” (Politico)
  • “Ted Cruz is not releasing his delegates in at least three states, a sign he may hold onto some clout at this summer's Republican National Convention.” (CNN)
  • SCOTUS minus Scalia “The Supreme Court is in the home stretch of an unexpected term, racing to issue opinions in more than 30 cases, many that were impacted by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia.”
  • “At the center of it all is Chief Justice John Roberts, facing perhaps one of the greatest challenges of his 10-plus year tenure -- navigating a series of issues such as abortion access, health care, affirmative action and immigration with a court comprised of four liberal and four conservative justices.”
  • “Early in his tenure, Roberts said that promoting unanimity and collegiality were a priority. He's had successes in cases and had more of a bumpy ride in others such as the 5-4 decision upholding Obamacare. How he deals with the possibility of a deadlocked court with the backdrop of a contentious election and the controversy surrounding the nomination of Scalia's replacement could say much about Roberts' leadership.”
  • “When the court is evenly divided it simply affirms the lower court opinion and sets no national precedent. It's as if the court never even heard the case.” (CNN)
  • The E.T. candidate “Known for her grasp of policy, [Hillary Clinton] has spoken at length in her presidential campaign on topics ranging from Alzheimer’s research to military tensions in the South China Sea. But it is her unusual knowledge about extraterrestrials that has struck a small but committed cohort of voters.”
  • “Mrs. Clinton has vowed that barring any threats to national security, she would open up government files on the subject, a shift from President Obama, who typically dismisses the topic as a joke. Her position has elated U.F.O enthusiasts, who have declared Mrs. Clinton the first ‘E.T. candidate.’” (NYT)
  • Sanders legacy “The math is against Bernie Sanders in his fight for the White House. But the Vermont senator is poised to leave behind a durable legacy: A generation of liberal voters enthralled by his populist message -- and a Democratic Party whose ideological center has shifted left during the 2016 election…
  • … With the end of the primary season just one month away, Sanders' campaign is laying down the groundwork to influence the party platform at the convention in July. On Friday, the senator wrote to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, requesting that he be adequately represented on the various convention committees.” (CNN)
  • Bonus Link In light of Monday’s news that North Carolina was suing the federal government for threatening to revoke the state’s funding over its LGBT law, and the Justice Department’s responding with a lawsuit challenging the law itself – a first-person narrative on what the laws mean to those they affect.
  • “I’m Proof Bathroom Bills Are Not Just a Transgender Issue,” by Sally Kohn (TIME)

Question of the Day

  • Today’s Question President Barack Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law on Monday, adopting the North American Bison – not the Human – as the U.S. National Mammal. What is the U.S. national tree?
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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation, the Political Junkie podcast, and St. Louis Public Radio; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki, and read about Gabe in Politico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light