Washington Brief: Senate Democrats Hold All-Nighter Leading Up to DeVos Vote

Washington Brief

  • Senate Democrats held the floor overnight in an effort to persuade one more Republican to join them and block the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education. A vote could come around noon. (ABC News)
  • President Donald Trump’s administration is headed back to court today in San Francisco to defend its travel ban and restrictions. (Bloomberg News) The issue could eventually head to the Supreme Court, meaning the topic could be a focus during Judge Neil Gorsuch’s eventual confirmation hearing. (National Journal)
  • Conservatives in Congress are worried about voices within the Republican Party to slow the repeal of Obamacare. The House Freedom Caucus has met to consider endorsing an immediate repeal. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Fifty companies spent $716 million on lobbying the federal government and Congress last year, up slightly from 2015. (The Hill) From July through December, K Street dropped $5.3 million on Trump’s political efforts — up from $35,000 in the first half of 2016. (Roll Call)


Correction: A previous version of this brief misspelled Gorsuch’s surname.

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

The Hamilton Project on a fiscally responsible approach to infrastructure 8 a.m.
American Enterprise Institute event on charter schools 9 a.m.
House Ways and Means joint subcommittee hearing on Social Security representative payee program 10 a.m.
House Small Business Committee on health care 11 a.m.
House convenes 12 p.m.
White House press briefing 1:30 p.m.
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on infrastructure 10 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on Obamacare insurance markets 9 a.m.
No events scheduled



Conservative Republicans Double Down on Push to Repeal Health Law
Kristina Peterson and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal 

Conservative Republicans, worried about growing voices within the party advising or accepting a slower pace for repealing the Affordable Care Act, are redoubling their push to speed the GOP’s long-desired goal. President Donald Trump on Sunday became the latest top Republican to sound cautious notes about the party’s ability to rapidly repeal large swaths of the 2010 health law and enact its own vision.

Will Gorsuch Have to Rule on Trump’s Travel Ban?
Sam Baker, National Journal 

Pres­id­ent Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial travel ban might be sig­ni­fic­antly weak­er by the time his Su­preme Court nom­in­ee has a chance to weigh in on it, leg­al ex­perts said. Trump nom­in­ated Neil Gor­such to the Su­preme Court just as a na­tion­wide leg­al battle was un­fold­ing over the pres­id­ent’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der bar­ring all refugees and many Middle East­ern vis­it­ors from the U.S. And Sen­ate Demo­crats have said the on­go­ing leg­al fight will raise new ques­tions about Gor­such’s in­de­pend­ence—wheth­er he would be will­ing to strike down a sig­na­ture policy of the pres­id­ent who nom­in­ated him.

Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi
Cynthia McFadden et al., NBC News

The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message. Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter.

A Small Ohio Town Clamors to Curb Aggressive Policing
John Eligon, The New York Times 

The scene was an all-too-familiar one on the streets of America’s cities: a black suspect on the ground, roughed up by white police officers as an angry crowd looked on. But Yellow Springs is a tiny, predominantly white village, and the arrest at the annual New Year’s street celebration was an awakening to many who live here.

U.N. Chief Presses U.S. to Keep Up Its Support
Farnaz Fassihi, The Wall Street Journal

Secretary General António Guterres urged the U.S. not to scale back its support for the United Nations, saying that any move to defund or disengage from the world body would pave the way for other nations to fill in the void. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Guterres said he hoped to send a message to President Donald Trump that “there is value” to the U.S. for its contributions to programs and operations such as peacekeeping, climate change and humanitarian relief.

Hacker reveals dark arts of Russian blackmail and spies
Max Seddon, Financial Times 

A few hours before Vladimir Putin gave his 2014 new year’s speech, a shadowy group calling itself Shaltai Boltai — the Russian for Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme character — beat the Russian president to it by posting the text online. “We’re always with you, even when you least suspect it,” the anonymous bloggers wrote.


Trump Asks Court to Reinstate Ban, Argues Security at Risk
Andrew Martin and David Voreacos, Bloomberg News

The Trump administration will argue before a San Francisco court Tuesday that a temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries should be reinstated to ensure the nation’s safety, a skirmish in what may be a long legal and political battle over the limits of presidential power. “The court’s sweeping nationwide injunction is vastly overbroad,” the administration said in a Monday filing challenging a Seattle judge’s halt of President Donald Trump’s plan.

‘If something happens’: Trump points his finger in case of a terrorist attack
Philip Rucker, The Washington Post

President Trump appears to be laying the groundwork to preemptively shift blame for any future terrorist attack on U.S. soil from his administration to the federal judiciary, as well as to the media. In recent tweets, Trump personally attacked James L. Robart, a U.S. district judge in Washington state, for putting “our country in such peril” with his ruling that temporarily blocked enforcement of the administration’s ban on all refugees as well as citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Flynn to recommend Trump back NATO membership for Montenegro
Andrew Hanna, Politico

White House national security adviser Michael Flynn will recommend that President Donald Trump support allowing the small Balkan nation of Montenegro to join NATO, POLITICO has learned — despite strong opposition from Russia. The move will be a major test of the new administration’s policy toward Moscow, which considers any further eastward expansion of the Western military alliance a provocation.

Bracing for Trump’s Revenge
McCay Coppins, The Atlantic

Donald Trump has never made a secret of his penchant for personal vengeance. He boasts about it, tweets about it, tells long, rambling stories about it on the transcontinental speaking circuit

Labor Nominee Andrew Puzder Has Another Problem: Undocumented Help
Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post

President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Labor, Andrew Puzder, employed an undocumented immigrant as household help, Puzder has informed members of the administration and officials in the Senate involved in his confirmation process. Hiring undocumented workers has sunk nominees in the past, particularly when it reflects directly on the scope of the Cabinet position.


Senate Dems Hold All-Night Floor Session in Effort to Stop DeVos
Karma Allen, ABC News

Senate Democrats stayed up for an all-night floor session to make their case against President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos . Starting on Monday afternoon, the Democrats vowed to talk on the Senate floor for 24-hours with the hopes of persuading one more Republican to vote against DeVos, which could tip the balance against her but is unlikely to happen.

Cotton and Trump plot crackdown on legal immigration
Seung Min Kim, Politico

Overlooked in Donald Trump’s campaign crusade against illegal immigration was his vow to crack down on legal immigration, too. Now, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a reliable Trump ally, is taking steps to execute that part of the president’s immigration vision — and it could provoke a showdown between two competing ends of the GOP: the working-class populists led by Trump and the establishment Chamber of Commerce wing.

Neil Gorsuch’s Dance Card Filling Up
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Senate dance card is filling up with Democrats who could be key to his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is scheduled to meet with 14 senators this week, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

Senators introduce resolution in support of Australia after Trump call
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Senators are moving to shore up the U.S.-Australian relationship after reports of a contentious call between President Trump and the Australian prime minister. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a bipartisan resolution on Monday “reaffirming a strong commitment to the United States-Australia alliance relationship.”


House staffers under criminal investigation still employed
Heather Caygle, Politico

Multiple Democratic lawmakers have yet to cut ties with House staffers under criminal investigation for wide-ranging equipment and data theft. Imran Awan, a longtime House staffer who worked for more than two dozen Democrats since 2004, is still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, though his access to the House IT network has been blocked since last week.

House Passes the Email Privacy Act (Again)
Haley Byrd, Independent Journal Review

The House passed the Email Privacy Act unanimously by voice vote on Monday. The bill requires government agencies and law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing the contents of any electronic communications that are being stored by third-party service providers.


How Attorneys General Became Democrats’ Bulwark Against Trump
Alexander Burns, The New York Times

The three Democratic lawyers met over dinner in a cavernous hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., picking at seafood as they discussed how to take on President Trump: Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York; Josh Shapiro, his counterpart in Pennsylvania; and Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who had been sworn in as attorney general of California only a day earlier. Unrecognized so far from home, and little known to one another, the men spent a Wednesday evening late in January discussing a range of White House policies that might unsettle their states, including a mass deportation of unauthorized immigrants.

Gov. signs bill making Missouri 28th right-to-work state
Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday made Missouri the 28th state to ban mandatory union fees and dues, delivering a big win for primarily GOP supporters who have worked for years to pass the so-called right-to-work measure. The move comes amid a national push to implement such policies.

Top lawyer to help Wisconsin Republicans in fight over legislative maps
Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Republicans are retaining former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement — one of the best-known litigators in the country — to try to get the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent them from having to redraw maps of legislative districts. Clement has charged clients more than $1,300 an hour, but state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said it hasn’t been determined yet how much Wisconsin taxpayers will have to pay to have Clement write a friend-of-the-court brief.

In response to Trump, Assembly passes ‘sanctuary state’ bill
Jimmy Vielkind, Politico

In New York’s broadest response yet to President Donald Trump’s early weeks in office, Democrats who dominate the state Assembly passed a bill Monday that would make New York a “sanctuary state,” and members are poised to again pass legislation that would open tuition assistance programs to undocumented students. The bills were part of a slate of legislation, which passed the chamber over GOP objections, that face an uncertain-at-best fate in the state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans in coalition with the Independent Democratic Conference.

HB2 could soon cost NC six years of NCAA championship events, sports group says
Colin Campbell, The Raleigh News & Observer

The NCAA could soon block its college sports championships from being held in North Carolina through 2022 if House Bill 2 is not repealed, according to a letter sent to state legislators Monday by the N.C. Sports Association. “Our contacts at the NCAA tell us that, due to their stance on HB2, all North Carolina bids will be pulled from the review process and removed from consideration,” Scott Dupree of the N.C. Sports Association and Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance wrote.


Lobbying’s top 50: Who’s spending big
Megan R. Wilson, The Hill

Fifty companies and industry groups shelled out more than $716 million to lobby the federal government and Congress last year, according to data provided to The Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics. The eye-popping total represents nearly a quarter of all federal lobbying dollars in 2016 and a slight increase over 2015, when the 50 biggest spenders doled out $715 million.

Lobbyists, Corporate Clients Open Wallets for Trump
Kate Ackley, Roll Call

K Street has entered the Trump era. Lobbyists and organizations that seek to influence Washington mostly neglected the presidential campaign of Donald Trump early last year, but by the end of 2016, the sector had begun to embrace him, new lobbying disclosures show.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Neil Gorsuch Needs 60 Votes
Sen. Chuck Schumer, Politico

In a little more than two weeks, President Donald Trump has put an unprecedented strain on the Constitution. He’s unleashed a flurry of legally dubious executive orders, including his travel ban designed to keep people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering our country.

How to Build an Autocracy
David Frum, The Atlantic

The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

Keith Ellison Is Everything Republicans Thought Obama Was. Maybe He’s Just What Democrats Need.
Tim Murphy, Mother Jones 

Last May, as Donald Trump was locking up the Republican nomination, a prophetic clip began circulating among portions of the left. It was a nearly one-year-old segment of ABC’s Sunday show This Week, featuring Rep. Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat then on the verge of winning a sixth term.

The ObamaCare Cleanup Begins
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

All of a sudden the press is filled with stories about Republicans supposedly retreating from their promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Liberals are claiming vindication and conservatives are getting nervous, but the stampede to declare failure is premature.

Trump is a boy’s idea of a man
Richard Cohen, The Washington Post

My friend has a teenage son. He’s a good kid, well-behaved, impeccably mannered and exasperatingly unpredictable, as many teenagers are — a man one minute, a boy the next. My friend has schooled his son in the verities of life — be truthful, be reliable, be civil, be patient and, above all, be humble.

Research Reports and Polling

Diversity welcomed in Australia, U.S. despite uncertainty over Muslim integration
Jacob Poushter, Pew Research Center

The global surge of refugees in recent years has raised questions not only about border security and immediate aid to those fleeing persecution and conflict, but the challenge of countries settling and assimilating refugees from different cultures. These issues are in the news again in Australia, where a refugee resettlement agreement between the Turnbull government and the United States’ former Obama administration is making headlines.