Washington Brief: 2 GOP Senators Will Vote Against DeVos

Washington Brief

  • Two moderate Senate Republicans put in jeopardy the nomination of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, by saying they won’t vote for her. (The New York Times)
  • Trump had a contentious phone call over the weekend with the president of Australia. The fight spilled into the public eye with him disparaging a refugee agreement with the American ally. (The Washington Post) The news emerged the day Rex Tillerson was sworn in as secretary of State. (Morning Consult)
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is feeling heat from liberal activists in New York City. At a protest outside his home, they urged him to “filibuster everything” and “grow a spine.” (The Associated Press)
  • House Republicans took their first series of actions to dismantle Obama administration regulations, approving a measure that rescinds a rule aimed at preventing coal debris from polluting nearby streams. (The Associated Press)
  • Khizr Khan was a prominent critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign. He showed up on Capitol Hill this week as a loud voice against Trump’s controversial immigration executive order, and has more events today. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

House convenes 10 a.m.
House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee hearing on a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on health markets 10:30 a.m.
Senate convenes 11 a.m.
President Trump meets with Sens. Hatch, Wyden Reps. Brady, Neal 11:15 a.m.
House votes 1:30 p.m.
House votes 4:15 p.m.
No events scheduled



Biden, Sanders weigh in on race to lead Democratic Party
Lisa Lerer, The Associated Press 

Former Vice President Joe Biden is backing Tom Perez to head the Democratic National Committee, calling the former Obama administration labor secretary the “best bet to help bring the party back.” Biden’s endorsement — a sign of Perez’s strong support among former Obama administration officials — drew a sharp response from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, escalating the relatively sleepy party chairman battle into a fight between the liberal wing that supported Sanders’ insurgent primary bid and backers of Hillary Clinton.

Khizr Khan Says Trump Is Alienating Muslim Americans
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

Khizr Khan, one of President Donald Trump’s most high-profile critics during the 2016 campaign, was back on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to denounce the president’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. “I want to be addressing Donald Trump, yet one more time, personally,” said the Gold Star father, whose Army captain son died in the Iraq War.

Factory Skills Gap Could Spell Trouble for Trump’s Jobs Plan
Andre Tartar, Bloomberg News

Now that Donald Trump has added president to his resume, he’s eyeing another title: job creator-in-chief. His goal is 25 million new positions, boosted by the factories he plans to bring back to U.S. shores.


No ‘G’day, mate’: On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags
Greg Miller and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week. Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange.

For Many Firms, Trump Dominates Earnings Calls
Theo Francis, The Wall Street Journal

The biggest U.S. companies are reporting improved profits for the final quarter of 2016—and touting rosier prospects for 2017—but much of the discussion this earnings season has centered on President Donald Trump. From Apple Inc. to Exxon Mobil Corp., conversations between executives and investors about iPhone shipments and oil prices have made room for questions about the new president and the potential for major federal tax, regulatory and spending initiatives.

US launches review of North Korea policy
Demetri Sevastopulo and Bryan Harris, Financial Times

The White House has launched a review of its policy on North Korea, reflecting the growing nuclear threat from Pyongyang that Barack Obama told Donald Trump would represent his most pressing national security challenge. Two people familiar with the review, which the White House has not disclosed, said it was designed to determine what the Trump administration could do differently to address concerns that North Korea could strike the US with a nuclear-armed missile.

A Tale of 2 Trump Rollouts
David Catanese, U.S. News

President Donald Trump’s orderly unveiling of his Supreme Court justice selection was tip-top, combining a dash of suspense with the calm decorum such a momentous occasion merits. It was also a drastic departure from his administration’s chaotic implementation of a hastily ordered travel ban applied to seven Muslim-majority countries.

Trump makes unannounced trip to honor fallen Navy SEAL
Julie Pace, The Associated Press 

Assuming the somber duties of commander in chief, President Donald Trump made an unannounced trip Wednesday to honor the returning remains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in a weekend raid in Yemen. Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, was the first known U.S. combat casualty since Trump took office less than two weeks ago.


2 G.O.P. Senators to Vote Against Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary
Yamiche Alcindor and Emmarie Huetteman, The New York Times

Two Republican senators on Wednesday said they would vote against President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, delivering a blow to the White House and raising the possibility that Vice President Mike Pence would have to break a tie to win her confirmation. The nominee, Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with a complex web of financial investments, had already faced fierce opposition from Democrats and labor unions because of her political contributions to Republicans and her involvement in pushing alternatives to public education.

Senate Confirms Tillerson as Secretary of State
Jon Reid, Morning Consult 

The Senate on Wednesday voted 56-43 to confirm former ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson to be the next secretary of State. It’s the narrowest margin yet for one of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.

Thousands Protest in Front of Sen. Schumer’s Brooklyn Home: ‘Chuck’s a Chicken”
Steve Peoples, The Associated Press

Thousands of angry liberals packed the icy sidewalk outside Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn apartment. They mocked him with signs like “Grow a spine, Chuck!” and “Chuck’s a chicken.” And they chanted, “Filibuster everything!”

The Democrats who will decide Gorsuch’s fate
Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett, Politico

Senate Democrats are vowing to go to war over Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, the very conservative but impeccably pedigreed Neil Gorsuch. But below the initial bluster is a web of tricky political calculations that would seem to make outright Democratic obstruction of the president’s first Supreme Court pick a less-than-sure bet.

Republicans aggressively push approval of Trump Cabinet nominees
Kelsey Snell et al., The Washington Post 

Senate Republicans moved aggressively Wednesday to push through several of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, the latest round in an escalating showdown with Democrats trying to thwart President Trump’s administration. Republicans lashed out angrily at Democrats trying to stall the president’s nominees at the committee level, suspending the rules to approve two nominees, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for secretary of health and human services and Steve Mnuchin to lead the Treasury.

Rounds Is Ready to Lead New Senate Cybersecurity Subcommittee
Brendan Bordelon, Morning Consult 

Sen. Mike Rounds, chairman of the recently created Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, views cyberspace like any other battleground. “Cyberwar is more than simply stealing emails,” the South Dakota Republican said Tuesday in an interview with Morning Consult.


Congressional Republicans move to dismantle Obama rules
Matthew Daly and Kevin Freking, The Associated Press

Congressional Republicans are moving to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s rules on the environment, gun ownership and financial disclosure as they look to reverse years of what they see as excessive government regulation during the Democrat’s presidency. House Republicans began debate Wednesday on a measure to scuttle a new regulation that prevents coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams.

Eyeing the House, Democrats move to hire operatives in 20 GOP-held districts
Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post 

Democrats are moving urgently to harness the wave of grass-roots protests that have greeted President Trump in his first weeks in office to reclaim the House majority in next year’s midterm elections. As of this week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hiring full-time operatives to do political organizing work in 20 key Republican-held districts — an unusually early investment in House races that do not even have declared candidates yet.

Comstock a no-show at weekend town halls
Rachael Bade and Anna Palmer, Politico 

Rep. Barbara Comstock stood up constituents over the weekend who attended two townhalls with questions about an Obamacare repeal and the Trump Administration’s travel ban. The centrist Virginia Republican invited people in her districts to “mobile office hours” on Saturday at two grocery stores in Lorton and Oakton, Va.

Arab-American Republican lawmakers divided on Trump’s travel ban
Elise Viebeck, The Washington Post 

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was born in the United States, the son of a Palestinian refugee father and a Syrian immigrant mother. So perhaps it’s no surprise that he is one of the GOP’s most outspoken critics of President Trump’s immigration order.

Democrats ask Pentagon to explain 2015 payment Flynn received from Russia
Tom Hamburger, The Washington Post 

The ranking Democrats on six House congressional committees asked the Pentagon on Wednesday for information about President Trump’s national security adviser, suggesting that he may have violated a constitutional restriction by accepting a fee for speaking at a 2015 Moscow dinner. Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, sat with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin during the event, a celebration for the Kremlin-controlled RT television network.


Fitch cuts Illinois’ credit rating
Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business

The state of Illinois was downgraded one notch by one of the major New York credit rating firms today. Citing lack of action on a new budget, Fitch Ratings moved its view of $26 billion in state debt and billions of dollars of state agencies’ debt to BBB from BBB+, the second-lowest investment grade.

Trump makes blue-state Republicans squirm
Lauren Dezenski and Kevin Robillard, Politico 

The two most popular governors in America suddenly have a threat to their reelection: President Donald Trump. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, two Republicans riding high in the polls despite governing two of the bluest states, are trying to weather the fierce local blowback to the new president — and in particular, to his executive order limiting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In speech, Md. Gov. Hogan remains silent on Trump travel ban
Ovetta Wiggins, The Washington Post 

Gov. Larry Hogan used his third State of the State speech on Wednesday to urge Democrats to work with him on a broad range of policy proposals, even as the state Senate prepared to vote Thursday to overturn one of his 2016 vetoes. The popular first-term Republican did not heed calls from Democrats to publicly address the impact of the nascent Trump administration on Maryland, including controversial new travel restrictions for noncitizens and refugees and a proposed repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act.


Trump’s Blue-Collar Populism Is Dividing Unions
Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News

Donald Trump’s presidency presents unions with the threat that unified Republican governance will bring sweeping, hostile changes to laws they hold dear. Labor has responded with a muddle of denunciation, cautious quiet and, in some cases, even exultation.

Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and charter school backer, urges senators to oppose DeVos
Emma Brown, The Washington Post 

Eli Broad, a billionaire philanthropist from California and major backer of charter schools, is urging senators to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, saying that she is unqualified for the job. “At the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public,” Broad wrote in a letter Wednesday to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Mitch McConnell: Democrats, ditch the apocalyptic rhetoric on Judge Gorsuch
Mitch McConnell, The Washington Post 

The president made an outstanding choice with his nomination Tuesday of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing was a significant loss for the court and for our country.

A Coloradan on the highest court in the land
The Editorial Board, The Denver Post

Happily add us to those excited to see Colorado native Neil Gorsuch nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Among those President Donald Trump considered for the post, we held out special hope for Gorsuch.

Senators: Careful how we renegotiate NAFTA
John McCain et al., The Arizona Republic

At the Republican Congressional Retreat in Philadelphia last week, President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, his staff suggested imposing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to help pay for construction of a wall on the southern border.

Don’t ‘tear up’ the Iran deal. Let it fail on its own.
Dan Sullivan, The Washington Post 

As a candidate, Donald Trump said he would “tear up” the Iran nuclear deal once elected. Many of us in the Senate strongly opposed this deal on substance — it provides the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism a pathway toward to nuclear weapons inside of a decade — and also on process.

The Myth of the Stolen Supreme Court Seat
The Wall Street Journal 

The confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is off and running, and opponents already know he’s superbly qualified with a fine judicial temperament. But Democrats are still itching for a fight, and their first line of offense is the myth of the “stolen” seat.

Research Reports and Polling

Global Economic Stagnation: The Fix
Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Gallup 

Amid global economic stagnation, a new class of entrepreneurs, or — more broadly — of “builders,” could potentially emerge to create jobs and revive economies. Business and city leaders need to find and develop them.