Washington Brief: Ryan Meets With Trump Transition Team

Washington Brief

  • Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with senior members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to try to reconcile intra-party differences on reforming the tax code and repealing the Affordable Care Act. (The Wall Street Journal) One of those present on Monday night was Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was tapped to be a senior White House adviser. (The New York Times)
  • As the Senate begins to consider Trump’s nominees, four of the nine up for Senate hearings this week have yet to make public key disclosure reports.  (The Washington Post)
  • At Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for attorney general today, Republicans plan to counter skeptical Democrats by highlighting the Alabama Republican’s ties to moderate lawmakers and work on bipartisan legislation. (Politico)
  • Nearly two-thirds of voters say Congress should not repeal Obamacare without having a replacement plan, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. Many individual provisions of the law had a plurality of support from voters. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Sessions 9:30 a.m.
House convenes 10 a.m.
Newt Gingrich and Jim DeMint Talk ‘Trumpism’ 11 a.m.
Senate convenes 12 p.m.
House votes 1:30 p.m.
Senate votes on amendment to budget resolution 2:30 p.m.
Senate Homeland Security Committee holds confirmation hearing for Homeland Security secretary nominee Kelly 3:30 p.m.
House votes 5 p.m.
President Obama delivers farewell address 8 p.m.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee Tillerson 9:15 a.m.
Senate Intelligence Committee holds hearing for CIA nominee Pompeo 10 a.m.
Donald Trump press conference in New York City 11 a.m.
Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Sessions TBD
House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot at AEI 9 a.m.
Senate Armed Services Committee holds confirmation hearing on DOD nominee Mattis 9:30 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee holds confirmation hearing for Commerce nominee Ross 10 a.m.
Senate Housing Committee holds confirmation hearing for HUD nominee Carson 10 a.m.
No events scheduled



North Korea, Rebuking Trump, Says It Can Test Long-Range Missile ‘Anytime’
Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times

Less than a week after Donald J. Trump taunted North Korea over its ballistic missile capabilities, North Korea has said that it could conduct its first test of an intercontinental missile “anytime and anywhere” in a rebuke to the incoming president. Although North Korea has vowed to develop the ability to attack the United States with nuclear warheads and has tested missiles that can reach throughout the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity, it has never tested a long-range missile that could fly over the Pacific.

Democrats introduce Conflicts of Interest Act, but they are unlikely to get a vote
David Weigel, The Washington Post 

With little hope of winning a vote on its passage, Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would require the president to put his investments in a blind trust and cooperate in annual reports on his financial interests. The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, introduced by a group of Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would set boundaries on practices that, up to now, had more to do with norms than the letter of the law.

HUD’s Castro Worries That Housing Rule Could Be Rolled Back
Pam Fessler, NPR News

Outgoing Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro’s office overlooks a stretch of the Washington, D.C., waterfront where several high-rent apartment buildings are being built, in a city where affordable housing is in short supply and homelessness is a big problem. These are some of the same issues his successor will have to deal with as head of an agency that provides housing aid to 10 million low-income families.


Jared Kushner Named Senior White House Adviser to Donald Trump
Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Jared Kushner will become a senior White House adviser to his father-in-law, Donald J. Trump, cementing the New York real estate executive’s role as a powerful and at times decisive influence on the president-elect. Mr. Kushner, 35, who married Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka in 2009, is closer to Mr. Trump than any other adviser, a steady and stabilizing presence inside an often chaotic transition team who has provided input on most of his father-in-law’s most consequential hiring and firing decisions.

Retired Generals Tell Trump Not to Bring Back Torture for Terrorism Suspects
Charlie Savage and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times  

In a large show of military opposition to reinstating torture, 176 retired officers — including 33 four-star generals and admirals — have sent a joint letter to Mr. Trump urging him not to follow through on his campaign vows to bring back waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse.” The letter, obtained by The New York Times, was dated Jan. 6 and signed by some of the most prominent military figures of the recent era.

Ethics reports lag for Trump nominees facing confirmation hearings this week
Michael Kranish and Abby Phillip, The Washington Post 

Key disclosure reports for four out of nine of Donald Trump’s nominees subject to Senate confirmation hearings this week had yet to be made public by late Monday, underscoring concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve the documentation. The first nomination hearing is slated for Tuesday, for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, whose ethics report has been completed.

Trump’s Tweets Are Freaking Out America’s Closest Allies
Mitch Prothero and Nancy A. Youssef, BuzzFeed News

Intelligence services across Europe are growing increasingly worried that President-elect Donald Trump’s unpredictability and impulsive tweeting could harm intelligence sharing agreements with the United States. “Cooperation comes from a sense of trust in the other side’s motives and competence,” said a European military intelligence official, who asked his country not be named to avoid a political fight with the incoming administration. “If the leadership of the US behaves in an inept or unpredictable way, obviously that will hurt cooperation on issues like Russia,” the official said.

Trump Just Dismissed the People in Charge of Maintaining Our Nuclear Arsenal
Ashley Feinberg, Gizmodo

Between the Trump transition team’s infighting, incompetence, and high-profile resignations, any decisions that signaled even a modicum of stability for the country would come as a relief at this point. Unfortunately, the nascent Trump Administration isn’t inclined to calm anyone’s nerves.

Sessions failed to disclose oil interests as required, ethics experts say
Tom Hamburger, The Washington Post 

Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions did not disclose his ownership of oil interests on land in Alabama as required by federal ethics rules, according to an examination of state records and independent ethics lawyers who reviewed the documents. The Alabama records show that Sessions owns subsurface rights to oil and other minerals on more than 600 acres in his home state, some of which are adjacent to a federal wildlife preserve.


Inside Sessions’ strategy to combat racism allegations
Nancy Cook and Seung Min Kim, Politico

The Trump team and Senate Republicans have a strategy to usher Sen. Jeff Sessions through his attorney general confirmation hearing that will highlight his ties to moderate Republicans and Democrats and efforts on bipartisan legislation, according to interviews with more than a half dozen senators, aides and transition officials leading the effort. As the Senate Judiciary Committee kicks off a two-day marathon hearing on Sessions Tuesday, the goal isn’t just to get him confirmed.

GOP anxiety mounts over voiding health law without own plan
Alan Fram, The Associated Press

Republican anxiety is mounting over voting to unravel the health care law without having an alternative in hand, fanned by words of encouragement from Donald Trump to a GOP senator who wants to simultaneously repeal and replace the statute. GOP leaders have made dismantling President Barack Obama’s treasured health care overhaul their premier 2017 priority.

DeVos hearing delayed
Michael Stratford, Politico

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s Education secretary pick, has been pushed back by almost a week, leadership of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions said on Monday night. Senate HELP’s hearing for DeVos will now take place on Jan. 17 at 5 p.m., not on Wednesday, Jan. 11, as originally planned, Sen. Lamar Alexander, the committee’s chair, and Sen. Patty Murray, the panel’s top Democrat, announced.

McConnell Aims to Confirm Trump’s National Security Team on Jan. 20
Jon Reid, Morning Consult 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he aims to get members of President-elect Donald Trump’s national security team confirmed by the Senate on Inauguration Day. After a Monday meeting with Trump in New York, the Kentucky Republican told reporters he is “hopeful” that six to seven of Trump’s Cabinet and administration nominees will be confirmed on Jan. 20.

Panel Sets Vote on Waiving Waiting Period for Mattis
John M. Donnelly, Roll Call

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to vote this week on whether to exempt Donald Trump’s Defense secretary nominee from the standard waiting period for former military officers chosen to run the Pentagon. The committee is expected to vote Jan. 12 to approve legislation that would permit the nominee, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, to be confirmed by the Senate under expedited procedures.


Paul Ryan and Trump Team Meet to Hash Out Tax and Obamacare Overhaul Plans
Siobhan Hughes and Michael C. Bender, The Wall Street Journal

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and members of the Trump transition team met for more than two hours Monday night to try to sort out differences on their ambitious plans for overhauling the tax code and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Around 7 p.m., Trump transition team member Reince Priebus, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for chief of staff, entered Mr. Ryan’s chambers with Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin, economic adviser Gary Cohn, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law Mr. Trump has designated as a senior White House adviser. Over a dinner of Italian food, the group hashed out policy ideas.

The Freedom Caucus is all grown up – and may prove it by stalling Obamacare repeal
Anna Douglas, McClatchy DC

The most conservative and often rebellious congressional political faction within the Republican Party is headed in a new, policy-oriented direction this year – and it’s starting with Obamacare, says the North Carolina congressman who helped found the House Freedom Caucus. In the first days of the 115th Congress, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows – now chairman of the caucus – signaled he and other conservatives may tangle with Republican Party leaders over the timing of replacing the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

House GOP Rushes to Block Federal Funds For Sanctuary Cities
Mary Papenfuss, The Huffington Post 

House Republicans are moving swiftly to punish so-called sanctuary cities, and have already introduced at least three measures to block federal funds for municipalities or college campuses that limit their cooperation with federal officials on deporting undocumented immigrants. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) introduced HR 83, known as the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, last week to strip federal funding from such jurisdictions.

Top Republican Investigator Will Continue Clinton Probe
Alexis Levinson, BuzzFeed News

he election may be over, but the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use at the State Department, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told reporters Monday. “This was never a political targeting from the beginning. Just because there’s a political election doesn’t mean it goes away. So of course I’m going to continue to pursue that,” Chaffetz said.


Contender for Va. governor vows to bring ‘blunt force trauma’ to rigged system
Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post 

The owner of a craft distillery formally announced his candidacy for Virginia governor Monday, promising to bring “blunt force trauma” to a rigged political system. Denver Riggleman, owner of Silverback Distillery in Nelson County, registered his campaign with the state Board of Elections in December, but said at the time that he had not made a final decision about whether to run.

Eric Greitens takes the oath of office as Missouri governor
Jason Hancock, The Kansas City Star 

Vowing a new direction in Missouri politics, Eric Greitens was sworn in Monday as the state’s 56th governor. “The people have spoken,” Greitens, a Republican, said in his inaugural address delivered on the steps of the Missouri Capitol.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stakes out progressive turf
Hilary Russ, Reuters

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo positioned his state on Monday as the “progressive capital of the nation” and proposed policies to drive a middle-class economic recovery. In a state of the state speech in New York City that seemed aimed at Republican President-elect Donald Trump without naming him directly, the Democratic governor said that welcoming immigrants, providing for the poor and protecting religious freedom were “all being questioned, blamed and attacked.”

Holcomb sworn in as Indiana’s 51st governor
Chelsea Schneider et al., Indianapolis Star 

Capping his sudden rise, Eric Holcomb became Indiana’s 51st governor Monday, saying the state must maintain the pioneer spirit that fostered growth during its first 200 years. That spirit, Holcomb said, will ensure Indiana is a place “where people thrive.”


Muted Response From Health Lobby as Affordable Care Act Faces Repeal
Robert Pear, The New York Times

The speed of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act has stunned health industry lobbyists, leaving representatives of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical makers in disarray and struggling for a response to a legislative quick strike that would upend much of the American health care system. The Senate is expected to take the first step by Thursday morning, approving parliamentary language in a budget resolution that would fast-track a repeal bill that could not be filibustered in the Senate.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Rex Tillerson Shares Exxon’s Tax Transparency Problems
Zorka Milin, Morning Consult

United States citizens need to know that the people running our country respect the fundamental principles of our democracy. So it matters that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is refusing to provide his tax returns before becoming secretary of State.

America Needs a Dealmaker Like Tillerson in the State Department
George David Banks, Morning Consult

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s view of global politics has been shaped by running one of the world’s largest, most sophisticated companies. With operations on six continents, Tillerson has had to strike deals and manage complex relations with dozens of countries and a wide range of leaders, based on pragmatism and mutually beneficial economic agreements.

Combating Hate Crimes Must Be Top Priority For Trump And New Attorney General
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, The Huffington Post

This week, my colleague, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will come before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his nomination hearing as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be Attorney General at a time when we have witnessed an alarming increase in bias-motivated violence in our country. Last week in Chicago, a white teenager with mental health challenges was the victim of a brutal assault and local authorities have filed hate crime charges.

The released report on Russian meddling isn’t enough
David Ignatius, The Washington Post 

The intelligence community’s allegation that Russia intervened covertly in the 2016 election describes a significant assault on our democracy. The country needs to know more: The charge needs to be followed up with an independent investigation that continues after Donald Trump becomes president on Jan. 20.

Firing Richard Cordray
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal 

Donald Trump has experience firing subordinates, sometimes even without television cameras around, and we’re nominating his next candidate: Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), whose lawless and unprofessional agency deserves a dose of political accountability. For several weeks the press has pondered whether Mr. Trump will or even can dismiss Mr. Cordray.

Big Worries About Betsy DeVos
The Editorial Board, The New York Times 

The director of the Office of Government Ethics, the nonpartisan agency charged with vetting the financial disclosures of cabinet nominees for potential conflicts of interest, sent an extraordinary letter to Senate Democratic leaders late last week. Never in the four-decade history of the agency, he wrote, have ethics officials felt such “undue pressure … to rush through these important reviews,” leaving “some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”

America needs a real farmer as secretary of Agriculture
Javier Palomarez, The Hill 

If there is one clear message to take from this election, it is that Americans are angry. They feel that politicians in Washington are out of touch with their lives and their communities.

Research Reports and Polling

A Long-Term Budget for Entitlements and Required Revenues
Stuart Butler and Maya MacGuineas, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Today’s budget-making procedures fail to provide an orderly pathway for helping to resolve disputes about long-term fiscal goals and commitments to Americans. To help address these weaknesses, we propose a procedure to establish a long-term budget for entitlements, and revenues to sustain them, as part of a reformed federal budget process.