Wake Up To Politics - September 18, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, September 18, 2017. 414 days until Election Day 2018. 1,142 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
White House: United Nations week
- Driving the Week Leaders of more than 120 United Nations members states will descend on New York City this week as the organization's 72nd annual General Assembly convenes.
- President Donald Trump will be closely-watched by other leaders at the summit, his first United Nations General Assembly since announcing his "America First" policies to the world at his Inauguration eight months ago. National Security Advsior H.R. McMaster told reporters at a press briefing on Friday that Trump will have three goals in all of his engagements this week: "to promote peace," "to promote prosperity," and "to uphold soversignty and accountability."
- At the same briefing, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley called it "a new day at the UN," saying the group has shifted in the months since Trump has taken office: "It's not just about talking, it's about action." Haley acknowledged that the other member states are "all very anious to hear what [President Trump] has to say," adding, "I think that he will make quite an impact in terms of all of the issues that we're dealing with."
- Despite criticism of the United Nations in the past, Trump arrives in his hometown of New York City today seeking partnerships to counter various threats facing the United States. Chief among them is North Korea, in light of rising risk from the rogue state's nuclear program.
- President Trump spoke with South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Saturday night. "Asked him how Rocket Man is doing," Trump tweeted the following morning, a presumed reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The message came amid a flurry of retweets from the President on Sunday morning, including of a GIF edited to show him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
- Meanwhile, Trump's national security aides fanned out across the Sunday shows to address North Korea. "If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” Ambassador Haley warned on CNN's "State of the Union."
- "All options are on the table," McMaster underlined on ABC's "This Week," pointing to both diplomatic and military solutions. Yet, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that attempts at diplomacy are running into a brick wall. "We have tried a couple of times to signal to them that we're ready [to start negotiations] when they're ready," he said, "and they responded with more missile launches and a nuclear test." While he said the U.S.' first choice is a "peaceful solution," if diplomatic overtures continue to come up short, "our military option will be the only one left," according to Tillerson.
- North Korea launched another ballisitic missile over Japan on Friday, just days after the United Nations Security Council slapped new sanctions on Kim Jong Un's regime. McMaster said Sunday that U.S. policy demands North Korea give up its nuclear weapons arsenal, but added that sanctions have not appeared to have any effect so far.
- The President's Schedule For the second time since taking office, President Donald Trump spent the night Sunday at Trump Tower, his signature skyscraper in New York City. Trump returns to his hometown to attend the 72nd annual United Nations General Assembly, which lasts all week.
- At 9:20am, the President departs Trump Tower for the United Nations headquarters, where he will arrive at 9:25am. At 9:50am, President Trump will participate in a meeting with other world leaders discussing reforms to the UN.
- At 10:50am, Trump will depart for the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, where many dignitaries are staying. His other events for the rest of the day will be at the hotel.
- At 1pm, President participates in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. At 1:15pm, Trump and Netanyahu will participate in an expanded meeting. At 3:15pm, Presidents Trump and Emmanuel Macron of France will participate in an expanded meeting. According to the White House, Iran's nucler activity will be a focus of both of these meetings.
- Finally, at 6:30pm, Trump attends a working dinner with Latin America leaders, discussing issues from the Venezuelan crisis to economic alliances.
Congress: Health care, Defense bill
- Driving the Week After months of coming up short, Republicans are gearing up to start a new push to repeal and replace Obamacare this week. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced new health care legislation last week, with the backing of Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) and other GOP lawmakers. The bill seeks to shift more power to the states to set up their own health care systems, replacing Obamacare's tax credits and Medicaid expansion with an equal block grant to each state.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was initially hesitant to back the proposal, saying he would only offer his support if 50 Republican senators (the needed majority, with an assured tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence) were pledged to vote for the bill. However, Politico and other outlets reported on Sunday, McConnell is already talking to senators to gauge support for Graham-Cassidy ahead of a potential floor vote. According to reports, the White House is also preparing to whip votes this week; President Trump said in a statement after the bill was introduced that he "sincerely hope[s] that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis."
- McConnell leads 52 Republicans in the Senate; 49 supported the party's health care attempt in July, with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voting "no." None of them have publicly announced support for Graham-Cassidy, which would require support from just one of them plus every senator who voted for the July bill.
- McCain seemed initially supportive of Graham-Cassidy, but said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that Republicans shouldn't "ram through" a health care bill with solely partisan support, mentioning the alternative effort by Senate HELP Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA). The Alexander-Murray bill could be released in the coming days.
- The latest GOP health care effort seems to feature a renewed urgency, with senators staring down a September 30 deadline; at the end of the month, the Senate's ability to use the "reconciliation" process to fast-track health care legislation expires, meaning repeal of Obamacare would require 60 votes.
- Today in Congress The Senate begins the day's session at 3pm today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). At 5:30pm, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the legislation; if that procedural test receives 60 "yeas," a vote on final passage of the bill will be held.
- The NDAA is the annual defense policy bill; this year's $700 billion measure has bipartisan support and was managed on the floor by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain (R-AZ).
- Meanwhile, the House spends this week in a "District Work Period." As this is not technically a recess (a formal break lasting more than three days would require Senate approval), the lower chamber will meet for a 2pm pro forma session. In a pro forma session, one member gavels in an empty chamber, before adjourning moments later without conducting any legislative business.
The Politics of Entertainment
Donald Trump was a top target at Saturday night's Emmy Awards, as actors panned the President in acceptance speeches - while some had him to thank, such as Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon, who each won for their political impressions on "Saturday Night Live." And host Stephen Colbert's monologue even included a cameo from former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, mocking his infamous appearance after Trump's Inauguration in which he declared the audience was the "largest ever, period."