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Wake Up To Politics - Sixth Annual Summer Guide - Summer 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Friday, June 16, 2017. 508 days until Election Day 2018. 1,236 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!

I'm about to leave for eight weeks of summer camp, where I'll be in the wilderness, without Internet, Twitter, TV, or the ability to write a daily newsletter. So, in keeping with tradition, this is your Sixth Annual Wake Up To Politics Summer Guide, to help you to prepare for some of the big events in politics (that we know of) that will take place while I'm gone. WUTP will be back in early-to-mid-August, and I'll be ready to jump back in and return to writing.

Thank you to everyone for your understanding. It's been a pleasure to write the newsletter this school year, covering the 2016 general election and first months of the Trump Administration, and all the other stories that have come across my wire in that time. It's been so exciting to gain so many new subscribers as a result of the media attention in the past few weeks, and I appreciate everyone who just subscribed or has been reading for years.

I'd also like to thank everyone who has written me such kind notes this year and in recent weeks: I have been overwhelmed by the positive responses, and I'm still trying to respond to as many of them as I can. However, this is just a reminder that I will not have access to my inbox very soon, and probably will not be able to respond to emails that come after this Summer Guide is sent.

Here is your guide to Summer 2017 in politics - as far as I can tell, at least. I add that disclosure because it was exactly two years ago today that a candidate named Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, and I did not leave for camp confident that the next President had just jumped in the race.

White House President Donald Trump faces his first summer in Washington, as "the cloud" of Russia investigations (as he calls it) hangs over him. It remains unclear where the probes will go, but in recent days, they appear to have been expanding and getting closer and closer to the President himself. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Special Counsel Bob Mueller is investigating Trump for potential obstruction of justice, confirming suspicions that the President is under investigation; meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans to investigate the same charges, which could lead to additional testimony from former FBI director James Comey.

The Post also reported on Thursday that Mueller is also investigating the finances of Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, and that Vice President Mike Pence has retained an outside attorney to deal with inquiries from the Special Counsel and congressional committees. In other words...this story is not going away, and it could go anywhere from here.

  • June 16 President Trump travels to Miami today to announce his plans to roll back former President Barack Obama's Cuba policy, calling for travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba to be once again prohibited.
  • June 19 President Trump welcomes President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama to the White House. The two will discuss "ways to reinforce the strong bilateral ties between the United States and Panama and our shared priorities in the fight against transnational organized crime, illegal migration, and illicit substances," as well as "our economic partnership and how to counter democratic backsliding in Venezuela."
  • June 21 President Trump will hold his fifth campaign rally since taking office, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  • June 26 President Trump welcomes Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to the White House. The two will discuss "fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms, and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region."
  • June 29-30 President Trump welcomes President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. The two will discuss "ways to further strengthen the ironclad U.S.-ROK alliance, advance cooperation on economic and global issues, and deepen the friendship between the countries," as well as "coordinate on North Korea-related issues, including countering the growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats."
  • July 4 According to Politico, this is President Trump's latest deadline for White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to clean up the chaos that has marked the first months of his Administration. If he isn't satisfied by then, a large staff shake-up could be in the works, which could replace Priebus and many of his RNC allies with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and his onetime deputy David Bossie, among others.
  • July 6-8 President Trump will visit Poland and Germany. In Poland, he will deliver a major address and attend the Three Seas Initiative Summit. In Germany, he faces a key diplomatic test: his first G-20 summit, in Hamburg. The annual summit includes all heads of state in the Group of 20, the world's top economies. According to Bloomberg, Trump plans to hold his first meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit, which will be a closely-watched event.
  • July 31 President Trump will participate in his first Medal of Honor ceremony as President, awarding the Medal to former Army Specialist Five James C. McCloughan for "conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War."
  • August 13-18 Vice President Mike Pence will embark on his third foreign trip since taking office, visiting Cartagena and Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Panama City, Panama.

Congress Republican leadership have a long to-do list of priorities before lawmakers leave town for August recess. The agenda is so crowded that the House Freedom Caucus has formally called for Congress to stay in during the summer, a decidedly unpopular notion among many members. The caucus says it is the only way to achieve many of the campaign promises the party made last year.

In addition to health care and tax reform (see below), two concrete deadlines loom as Congress wraps up. By September 30, Congress needs to have passed all 12 appropriations bills to avert a government shutdown (or, more likely, pass a continuing resolution or omnibus package combining them all). And sometime in September, the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling and no longer be able to pay its bills; the White House is urging for the ceiling to be raised by July to avoid this economic breakdown.

  • June 21 Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will testify before the House Intelligence Committee at a 10am open hearing on issues "related to Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign."
  • June 30 Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)'s resignation from Congress will take effect. The Utahn announced in April his plans to return to the private sector; he is still a potential gubernatorial candidate for 2020. Chaffetz will hand off the powerful Oversight Committee gavel to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who chaired the House Benghazi panel.
  • July 3-7 Both houses of Congress recess for Independence Day. Before this break, Senate Republicans are hoping to hold a vote on their health care plan, which has still not been completed or released to the public. Negotiators are still working on crafting the bill, with issues such as Medicaid still dividing the caucus. GOP leaders have said that they plan to hold a vote before the July 4th recess regardless of whether 51 votes are assured. The White House appears less involved in the process, although President Trump reportedly told lawmakers earlier this week that he hopes the Senate plan is more generous than the House bill, which he told them was "mean."
  • The Medicaid debate features a clash between Republicans hailing from states that have expanded Medicaid who are hoping to preserve the benefits and conservatives hoping to cap federal payments in the program. The clock is ticking for Republicans to come together on the issue.
  • July 31-September 4 Both houses of Congress head home for summer break. Although passage of a tax reform bill is likely impossible by then, Republicans hope to have a framework in place by then to ensure a bill can be passed soon after lawmakers return. During the first summer of the Obama presidency, the summer recess was essentially when the Tea Party was formed, as conservatives protested Democratic town halls on health care. The reverse could occur this year, as Democratic activists are expected to flood GOP town halls with concerns about their plan to repeal Obamacare - another incentive for members to have passed a bill by then.

Supreme Court This is the busiest month at the Supreme Court, as the justices race to complete decisions in the highest-profile cases.

  • June 22 The justices are expected to vote on whether to take up the Trump Administration's appeal of rulings blocking the President's travel ban. The court has requested additional briefings from both sides of the case by this date, which were ordered after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals joined the 4th Circuit in striking down Turmp's executive order.
  • The government is hoping that the Court will allow the order to take effect for now and then hear the case when their next term begins in the fall; there is some speculation, however, that the Court will not wait that long, and may hold a special sitting over the summer to hear the high-stakes case.
  • End of June The Supreme Court term will end, the deadline for "The Nine" to hand down rulings in all outstanding cases. Decisions due this month include Trinity Luthern vs. Comer, a lawsuit by religious advocates hoping to secure state funding for church schools; Lee vs. Tam, a case on the provision in federal trademark law that forbids "disparaging" names (which could affect the future o the Washington Redskins); Jennings vs. Rodriguez, a case on whether law enforcement can indefinitely jail immigrants; Hernandez vs. Mesa, a lawsuit against a border patrol agent who shot a teenager on Mexican soil; and Sessions vs. Dimaya, which seeks to clarify immigration law saying deportation is allowed for noncitizens who commit an "aggravated felony."
  • Something else to watch out for: justices often announce retirement at the end of the term... many expect Justice Anthony Kennedy, or perhaps another of his colleagues, to step aside and allow President Trump to appoint their successor.

Elections Two more special elections coming next week, including a big one in Georgia...

  • June 20 Two House special elections take place on Tuesday: one in South Carolina's 5th congressional district, to succeed Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney; and the other in Georgia's 6th, to succeed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
  • The South Carolina election will feature Republican state representative Ralph Norman and Democratic tax attorney Archie Parnell. Polling shows Norman ahead, although Democrats hope anti-Trump enthusiasm could help them flip the district.
  • Their hopes are much more realistic in the Peach State race, a contest between former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) and former congressional aide Jon Ossoff (D). Like Parnell, Ossoff is a first-tie candidate hoping to capitalize off of renewed Democratic energy. Recent polling has showed Ossoff taking a lead, including an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey released last week which showed comfortably leading Handel, 51% to 44%.
  • Both sides have poured money into the race, which is already the most expensive House race in U.S. history. Although Price, a Republican, won the district by 20+ points last year, Donald Trump won by only 1%. The race is largely seen as a referendum on Trump, and will be treated as a barometer for national attitudes going into the 2018 midterms.

That's all I've got for now. One more thing to tide you over while I'm gone during the summer... I had the pleasure of talking WUTP and youth engagement in politics with the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School's "Politics and Polls" podcast the other day. Listen to that conversation here: http://bit.ly/PoliticsPolls48

Have a great summer, look for me in your inbox in August!