Wake Up To Politics - September 26, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, September 26, 2018. 41 days until Election Day 2018. 769 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latest: Kavanaugh confirmation battle
Here's the state of play over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh:
--- Swing votes: On the Republican side, all eyes are on GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Bob Corker (TN), who are seen as potential "no" votes on the Kavanaugh nomination.
Murkowski warned her Republican colleagues in a New York Times interview not to prejudge the allegations facing the nominee. "We are now in a place where it's not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified," she added. "It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed."
Thursday's hearing, set to feature testimony from Kavanaugh and Dr. Chrstine Blasey Ford (who has accused him of attempting to rape her when they were both in high school), will be a crucial moment: according to the Times, Murkowski canceled a hearing of the committee she leads "to ensure her schedule was clear." Corker made a similar comment to reporters Tuesday: "I certainly plan on watching this, every word of it," he said. "I've asked my staff to clear my calendar for Thursday."
Meanwhile, Democrats are not yet united in opposition to Kavanaugh, with a number of red-state senators still holdouts. According to Politico, the biggest wild cards are Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Joe Donnelly (IN).
--- Hearing details: The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced the schedule for Thursday's hearing. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will both deliver opening statements, followed by a statement from Ford and then five minutes of questioning by each senator, followed by a statement from Kavanaugh and then five minutes of questioning by each senator.
Against Ford's wishes, the Republican side of the panel has chosen to cede their time to an outside litigator, who will question both the nominee and the accuser. Grassley announced on Tuesday that the questioner will be Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. "The goal is to de-politicize the process and get to the truth, instead of grandstanding and giving senators an opportunity to launch their presidential campaigns," he said in a statement, after provoking criticism for earlier referring to her as a "female assistant."
--- Timeline: The Judiciary Committee on Tuesday also released a notice for a potential executive meeting on Friday, during which the panel would hold a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. Grassley cautioned that the meeting was not yet officially scheduled: "After [hearing] Dr. Ford & Judge Kavanaugh's testimony, if we're ready to vote, we will vote," he tweeted. "If we aren't ready, we won't."
Feinstein blasted the chairman for the scheduling notice. "For Republicans to schedule a Friday vote on Brett Kavanaugh today, two days before Dr. Blasey Ford has had a chance to tell her story, is outrageous," the ranking member said in a statement, adding: "It's clear to me that Republicans don't want this to be a fair process."
Senate Republican leaders have also signaled that the chamber could remain in session all weekend, to set up a floor vote on Kavanaugh for Monday or Tuesday of next week. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seemed unconcerned by the threats Kavanaugh's nomination has run into in recent days. "We're going to be moving forward. I'm confident he's going to win, confident that he'll be confirmed in the very near future," he said. "I believe he'll be confirmed, yes."
Trump's UN boasts earn laughter
From the Associated Press:
"President Donald Trump poured scorn on the 'ideology of globalism' and heaped praise on his own administration’s achievements Tuesday in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly that drew headshakes and even mocking laughter from his audience of fellow world leaders."
"'The U.S. will not tell you how to live and work or worship,' Trump said as he unapologetically promoted his 'America First' agenda. “We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.'"
"Speaking in triumphal terms, Trump approached his address to the world body as something of an annual report to the world on his country’s progress since his inauguration. He showcased strong economic numbers, declared that the U.S. military is 'more powerful than it has ever been before' and crowed that in 'less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.'"
"Just sentences into the president’s remarks, the audience began to chuckle and some leaders broke into outright laughter, suggesting the one-time reality television star’s puffery is as familiar abroad as it is at home. Trump appeared briefly flustered, then smiled and said it was not the reaction he expected 'but that’s all right.'"
"Later he brushed off the episode, telling reporters, 'Oh it was great. Well, that was meant to get some laughter so it was great.'"
"The leaders’ spontaneous response to Trump’s address only reinforced the American president’s isolation among allies and foes alike, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with erstwhile partners and cast doubt in some circles about the reliability of American commitments around the world."
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Polling roundup: Arizona's Senate race is a statistical tie, according to a new NBC/Marist poll showing Democrat Kyrsten Sinema leading Republican Martha McSally, 48% to 45%, within the poll's margin of error... another NBC/Marist poll released Tuesday found that Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is leading his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, 48% to 45%, while Democrat Andrew Gillum is leading Republican Ron DeSantis, 48% to 43%, in the state's gubernatorial race.
McCabe memos: House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told reporters Tuesday that he plans to subpoena the memos Andrew McCabe wrote during his three-month tenure as acting FBI Director, after the firing of James Comey. McCabe's memos reportedly chronicle conversations in which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed secretly recording President Trump and recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment in order to remove him from office. Per Politico, Goodlatte has been facing pressure from conservatives to subpoena the memo and call Rosenstein in to testify.
Inside FEMA: A Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation found that Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long cost the government $151,000 through his unauthorized use of federal vehicles, according to the Wall Street Journal. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced Friday that Long would be able to keep his job, and a potential criminal investigation would be dropped, as long as he reimbursed the government for his misuse of the vehicles. Long assented to that agreement, although it is unclear how much money he will pay back.
Inside the presidency: "Trump's new limo cost $1.5M and comes with a fridge full of his blood type" (NBC News)
White House schedule
POTUS: President Trump is in New York City for the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. At 9:15am, he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At 10am, Trump chairs a United Nations Security Council meeting on counterproliferation. It will be Trump's first time assuming the rotating Security Council gavel. The U.S. chose the topic of the meeting because it is chair of the council this month; UN Ambassador Nikki Haley originally announced that the meeting would center around Iran's nuclear program, but the White House scrapped that plan in favor of a broader nonproliferation focus.
At 1:45pm, Trump meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. At 3:30pm, he meets with Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom.
At 5pm, Trump holds a press conference, his fifth solo presser since taking office and his first since July.
At 7:30pm, he participates in a fundraising dinner with supporters.
VP: At 12:45pm, Vice President Mike Pence participates in the Senate Republican Steering Committee's weekly lunch.
Senate: The Senate is scheduled to vote today on confirmation of Peter Feldman to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for the full seven-year term starting October 27, 2019. (On Tuesday, he was confirmed 80-19 for the remainder of the term expiring on October 26, 2019).
House: The House is scheduled to consider at least 19 pieces of legislation today, including the $855.1 billion spending package funding the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education through Fiscal Year 2019. The legislation, which passed the Senate in a 93-7 vote earlier this month, also includes a stopgap measure that would fund the rest of the government through December 7. The measure is expected to pass the House today, and then go to President Trump's desk, who has been publicly critical of short-term spending bills in the past. If he doesn't sign it by 11:59pm Eastern Time on September 30, the government will go into a partial shutdown.
Other bills expected to be considered in the lower chamber today include legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration for five years (also includes $1.68 billion in Hurricane Florence relief); a bill creating five new postal zip codes; the GOOD Act; the GREAT Act; and a resolution "recognizing that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens."
*All times Eastern