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Wake Up To Politics - September 11, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, September 11, 2017. 421 days until Election Day 2018. 1,149 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Top Story: Two Moderate Republicans Announce Retirements

Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) both announced late last week that they aren't seeking re-election in 2018; the two retirements give Democrats prime pick-up opportunities in a pair of seats long held by moderate Republicans.

Both Reichert and Dent have served in the U.S. House since 2005, and both are members of the centrist Republican Main Street Partnership. Dent is also co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, cementing his role as a leader of the dwindling moderate wing of congressional Republicans. Both lawmakers are known for frequently crossing party lines on key votes: they were two of the fifteen House Republican votes in favor of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010, and more recently, two of the 20 House Republicans to oppose the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May.

In a statement announcing his retirement, Dent called himself "a member of the governing wing of the Republican Party."

Reichert's retirement moved his district from Likely Republican to Toss Up in the Cook Political Report's ratings; Dent's district moved from Solid Republican to Lean Republican. The Washington district was won by Hillary Clinton by 3% in 2016, while Donald Trump won the Pennsylvania district by 8%.

And there are likely more retirements to come, adding to Republican anxiety ahead of 2018: just five House member shave announced plans to retire this cycle, while an average of 22 House members have retired each cycle since 1976, according to Roll Call. In addition to Reichert and Dent, moderate Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)'s retirement creates a tough fight for Republicans.

According to the New York Times, Republicans also fear retirements from Reps. Dav Trott (R-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI), who may run for Senate. In the upper chamber, CNN reported this morning that Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), who has been critical of President Trump recently, is considering retirement.

  • Primary challenges Republican efforts to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate are also complicated by planned primary challenges against Republican incumbents seen as opposing President Trump's agenda. Politico reported on Sunday that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, backed by megadonor Robert Mercer, is plotting potential challenges against Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Corker.
  • Bannon is already supporting a challenger in the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama later this month. The Breitbart executive and his allies are pouring money into the coffers of former state Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore, who is leading the race against McConnell-backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL).
  • Senator Romney? Also new this morning... Utah Policy has reported that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is planning to run for U.S. Senate in Utah if Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) retires...

The Rundown

  • HEALTH CARE Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are expected to unveil their plan to replace Obamacare today. The proposal gives enhanced control over health care markets to the states, allowing them the option to opt out of many Obamacare regulations and giving them leeway in deciding how to spend federal money that is currently required to go to Medicaid expansion and other Obamacare programs. "If you like Obamacare, you can keep it," Graham has explained. "If you want to replace it, you can."
  • “We need to let states take care of themselves and give power back to patients,” Cassidy said in a Washington Post op-ed in July. “Let a blue state do a blue thing and a red state such as mine take a different, conservative approach.”
  • In repealing Obamacare, Republicans face a deadline of September 30, at which point they can no longer use the reconciliation procedure to fast-track a bill. Politico reported last week that President Trump is still pushing for a health care vote before the end of the month.
  • NORTH KOREA The United States plans to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea today, according to Bloomberg. The resolution will adopt new sanctions against the country as leader Kim Jong Un continues to conducts tests of nuclear weapons. North Korea responded to the scheduled vote, threatening "pain and suffering" for the United States if the resolution goes through.
  • RUSSIA Special counsel Robert Mueller has told the White House he plans to interview six top current or former aides to President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported on Friday. The named advisers include communications aide Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, his deputy James Burnham, former press secretary Sean Spicer, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Josh Raffel, a spokesman who works with senior advisor Jared Kushner.
  • Mueller reportedly hopes to question them on a range of issues related to his investigation, including their participation in the firing of former FBI director Jim Comey and their knowledge of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's conversations with Russian diplomats. CNN also reported last week that Mueller plans to interview White House staffers on the crafting of Donald Trump, Jr.'s initial statement on his Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. Trump, Jr. testified on Thursday that he took the meeting to learn information about Hillary Clinton's "fitness" for office, despite releasing a statement after the meeting was reported in July saying it focused on "a program about the adoption of Russian children."
  • Many White House officials are lawyering up in light of these reports: Politico reported on Friday that Hicks has retained a personal attorney, while Law360 added on Sunday that both Priebus and McGahn have hired the same lawyer to advise them on the Mueller probe.

The President's Schedule: 9/11 observance, Irma briefing

President Donald Trump begins his day at precisely 8:46am, leading a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, at the exact moment impact was made with the first of the Twin Towers. Trump will be joined at the South Lawn by his wife Melania and White House staff. At 9:35am, President and First Lady Trump will participate in a 9/11 observance at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, a monument to the victims of the crash into the Defense Department headquarters.

Trump has issued a proclamation declaring today, the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, to be Patriot Day, per congressional mandate. "On Patriot Day, we honor the nearly 3,000 innocent lives taken from us on September 11, 2001, and all of those who so nobly aided their fellow citizens in America's time of need," the proclamation reads. "We rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our country and unite us as one, as we commemorate all the heroes who lost their lives saving others."

At 10:35am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. At 11am, he will receive an update on Hurricane Irma. Trump monitored the storm all weekend from Camp David, receiving briefings from FEMA and speaking to the Governors of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. As he returned to the White House on Sunday, the President called Irma "some big monster," adding that he plans to visit Florida "very soon" to see the impacts. Trump signed emergency declarations on Saturday guaranteeing federal aid to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Presidents Club teams up to raise money for hurricane relief All five living former U.S. presidents participated in a PSA last week announcing their new campaign, "One America Appeal," to raise money for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The "Presidents Club" expanded their effort Sunday to also include Hurricane Irma relief.
  • Congressional aid As both houses of Congress passed a package appropriating $15 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) penned a letter to House leaders on Thursday requesting additional funding to assist FEMA with relief efforts in Florida, which was battered by Hurricane Irma from coast to coast.

Also today: Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to deliver remarks on the 9/11 anniversary. He will also tour the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitors Center and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony there.

Today in Congress

  • The Senate will convene at 3pm. Following the daily prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the chamber will observe a moment of silence in honor of 9/11 victims. Following remarks from both party leaders, the Senate will continue consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act. At 5:30pm, the chamber will hold a procedural vote beginning debate on the measure.
  • According to the Washington Post, this year, the annual bill "outlines $700 billion to improve military readiness, upgrade defense systems and fund combat operations." The Post also reported on the list of objections tot he legislation released by the White House last week, which "push[ed] back on prohibitions on base closures, restrictions on alternative pay structures for service members and restructuring at the Pentagon."
  • Led by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain (R-AZ), consideration of the defense bill will last all week, as lawmakers sift through the many amendments being offered to the bill, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME)'s proposal to roll back President Trump's ban on transgender troops to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)'s amendment repealing Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) passed in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
  • Meanwhile, the House has canceled its scheduled votes for today "due to the large numebr of absences as a result of Hurricane Irma."