Washington Brief: Trump Names Gorsuch as Supreme Court Nominee

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump nominated 49-year-old Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado to the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. (SCOTUSBlog) To tilt the court’s ideological balance, eyes now shift to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a man for whom Gorsuch once clerked. (The Washington Post)
  • A plurality of voters want Trump and congressional Republicans to prioritize tax reform over repealing Obamacare and building a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (Morning Consult) The same Morning Consult/POLITICO survey found that if voters believe there was voter fraud in the 2016 election, they think it helped Trump. (Morning Consult)
  • Tensions erupted in the Senate after Democrats boycotted a Finance Committee meeting, delaying votes on two of Trump’s most important Cabinet nominees: Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be secretary of Health and Human Services. (The New York Times)
  • The Senate is expected to confirm secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson today. (Reuters)
  • Trump has not been in office for two weeks yet, but already some federal workers in his administration are reaching out to Obama-era political appointees about how to push back against policies with which they disagree. (The Washington Post)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Senate convenes 12 p.m.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee votes on OMB nominee Mulvaney 9:40 a.m.
House convenes 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Medicaid 10 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing on Obamacare 10 a.m.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on fencing on southwest border 10 a.m.
Senate Budget Committee hearing on CBO budget and economic outlook 10:30 a.m.
Senate Judiciary Committee votes on AG nominee Sessions 10:30 a.m.
House votes 1:30 p.m.
House Oversight Committee hearing on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act 2 p.m.
Senate votes to confirm secretary of State nominee Tillerson 2:30 p.m.
House votes 4:15 p.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.
No events scheduled



Trump makes his pick, but it’s still Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court
Robert Barnes, The Washington Post 

President Trump has chosen his first nominee, but it remains Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s Supreme Court. The question is how much longer he wants it.

Dem super-PAC drops opposition book on Trump court pick
Ben Kamisar, The Hill 

Democratic super-PAC American Bridge is releasing all of its opposition research on President Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. The 78-page booklet, given exclusively to The Hill, blasts Gorsuch as “too extreme for the Supreme Court,” a precursor to what’s expected to be a liberal pounding ahead of his confirmation hearing.

A Jarring New Level of Confrontation and Conflict Hits Washington
Carl Hulse, The New York Times

President Trump made clear in his fiery inaugural speech that he was going to challenge the Washington establishment. Now the establishment is quickly pushing back, creating a palpable air of uncertainty and chaos in the opening days of his administration. The new president fired an acting attorney general who refused to defend the administration’s executive order on immigration.

Ban Ki-moon pulls out of South Korean presidential race
Bryan Harris, Financial Times

Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general, has announced he will not run for the presidency of South Korea in a surprise move likely to shake up the election race. Mr Ban was widely expected to throw his hat into the ring after returning to a hero’s welcome in South Korea last month following a decade in New York.

Pentagon Probe of Islamic State Intelligence Finds Reports Weren’t Skewed
Shane Harris and Gordon Lubold, The Wall Street Journal

The Defense Department is expected to release the results of an investigation on Wednesday that largely will exonerate senior military officials at U.S. Central Command of allegations that they manipulated intelligence reports to paint a rosier picture of the battle against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, according to people familiar with the report’s findings. The report is already drawing criticism from those who say it plays down the claims of Centcom’s military analysts, dozens of whom complained in 2015 to the Pentagon Office of Inspector General that their bosses had selectively edited portions of their reports to make them read more optimistically about military progress than the analysts thought was warranted by facts on the ground.

Treasury secretary nominee’s foreign money links bring new scrutiny 
Phil Mattingly, CNN 

Senate Democrats are raising questions about whether Steve Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary nominee, deliberately misled lawmakers at his confirmation hearing. The concerns center on the extent of foreign investment in a series of finance entities Mnuchin helped manage, including one based offshore in the Cayman Islands.

Koch Network Optimistic But Wary After Trump’s First Week
Rebecca Ballhaus, The Wall Street Journal 

As Donald Trump grappled with a tsunami of opposition from protesters, lawmakers and his predecessor for suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, more than 500 wealthy conservative donors gathered at a serene, palm tree-studded resort here to contemplate the next four years. The takeaway from Mr. Trump’s whirlwind first week for members and officials at the network backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch: a mix of wariness and optimism.


Trump nominates Gorsuch to fill Scalia vacancy
Amy Howe, SCOTUSblog 

After weeks of speculation about potential nominees to the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump today nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia nearly a year ago. If Gorsuch is confirmed, it will mark an enormous victory for Senate Republicans, who vowed immediately after Scalia’s death to block any nominee advanced by then-President Barack Obama on the ground that the next president should appoint Scalia’s successor instead.

Judge Neil Gorsuch Is Critic of Legal Doctrine That Bolsters Executive Authority
Jacob Gershman, The Wall Street Journal

Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is seen by the right as a credible heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But in one respect, his judicial record could offer Democrats something of a silver lining. As a member of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Judge Gorsuch has emerged as a leading critic of a Reagan-era judicial doctrine that has helped to bolster the power of the executive branch.

Resistance from within: Federal workers push back against Trump
Juliet Eilperin et al., The Washington Post

The signs of popular dissent from President Trump’s opening volley of actions have been plain to see on the nation’s streets, at airports in the aftermath of his refu­gee and visa ban, and in the blizzard of outrage on social media. But there’s another level of resistance to the new president that is less visible and potentially more troublesome to the administration: a growing wave of opposition from the federal workers charged with implementing any new president’s agenda.

‘Why let ’em in?’ Understanding Bannon’s worldview and the policies that follow.
Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post

In November 2015, Stephen K. Bannon — then the executive chairman of Breitbart News — was hosting a satellite radio show. His guest was Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who opposed President Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the United States.


Senate Democrats Delay Confirmation of Mnuchin and Price
Robert Pear and Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times

Senate Democrats significantly escalated tensions with the White House on Tuesday, stalling action on two of President Trump’s most important cabinet nominees, Steven T. Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary and Representative Tom Price to be secretary of health and human services. Democrats boycotted a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee that had been scheduled to vote on the two nominees.

Tillerson’s job as chief U.S. diplomat got harder before it began
Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton, Reuters

Rex Tillerson’s job as chief U.S. diplomat became harder before it even began because of White House moves that have antagonized Muslim nations, European allies, Mexico and U.S. bureaucrats, current and former U.S. officials said. The Senate is expected to confirm Tillerson as the 69th secretary of state on Wednesday, making the former Exxon Mobil Corp CEO the chief foreign affairs adviser to President Donald Trump.

On the death of the Senate and its long history as the world’s greatest deliberative body
Paul Kane, The Washington Post

President Trump’s first Supreme Court nomination has the potential to do more than reshape the nation’s judicial branch for years to come. It could end the Senate’s long history as the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Cruz: Nuclear option on the table if Dems filibuster SCOTUS pick
Burgess Everett, Politico 

Ted Cruz is taking an aggressive stance toward Senate Democrats who are threatening to block President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, issuing an explicit warning that Republicans could rewrite Senate rules if Democrats force their hand. The Texas senator said in an interview that no matter what they try, Democrats will not be able to stop Trump’s nominee — and said that the GOP should not shy away from changing the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold on high court nominees if need be.

Betsy DeVos appears to have plagiarized quotes for Senate questionnaire
Dan Merica and Eugene Scott, CNN

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Education Secretary nominee, appears to have lifted quotes in at least two instances in written answers submitted to the Senate committee tasked with approving her nomination. After DeVos’ confirmation hearing was limited to one round of questions by Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Democrats submitted hundreds of questions to the nominee.


Stivers to Tighten NRCC Budget and Cap Salaries
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers announced during a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that he plans to implement a 10 percent across the board cut to operating costs and a staff salary cap at the NRCC, a source close to him told Roll Call. The cut is designed to ensure as many of the NRCC’s resources go to members and races where they’re needed, the source said.

Staffers’ secret work on immigration order rattles the Capitol
Rachael Bade, Politico

News that House Judiciary Committee staffers secretly collaborated on President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration order reverberated through the Capitol on Tuesday: Democrats denounced the arrangement, the GOP panel stonewalled and an outside ethics group requested an investigation. And the man most on the hot seat over the unusual arrangement, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, was in full-on cleanup mode.

Ryan Stands by Trump’s Executive Order, Offering Only Gentle Criticism
Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times

Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday stood by President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries, offering only gentle criticism that “regrettably, the rollout was confusing,” as House Republicans broadly embraced the measure’s mission. “We need to make sure that the vetting standards are up to snuff,” Mr. Ryan told reporters at the Capitol, saying he remained supportive of the order.


Tenn. Governor Seeks Free Community College For All Adults
Bill Chappell, NPR

Recent high school graduates in Tennessee are already allowed to attend community college at no cost. Now Gov. Bill Haslam is looking to expand the year-old program to provide free community college educations to adults, as well.

GOP governor backs challenge to Trump executive order
Mallory Shelbourne, The Hill

The Republican governor of Massachusetts said Tuesday that he will support the state attorney general’s challenge to President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. “Massachusetts is a global community and we all benefit from the shared experiences of our partners from around the world to support our economy and educational institutions to make our state the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

Abbott declares emergency to ban sanctuary cities
Mike Ward, Houston Chronicle

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday declared a ban on so-called sanctuary cities and sweeping reforms in the state’s troubled child-protection system as top priorities for emergency action this legislative session. To cheers and a standing ovation as he addressed a joint session of the Legislature, Abbott said elected officials should not have the option of whether to enforce state and federal laws on immigration — an obvious reference to his ongoing fight with Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.


Border tax sets off frenzy of lobbying
Naomi Jagoda and Megan R. Wilson, The Hill

Businesses are lobbying furiously to shape a proposal from House Republicans that would levy a tax on goods imported to the United States. The idea, known as border adjustment, is part of the “Better Way” plan that House Republicans released ahead of the November elections.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch
Neal K. Katyal, The New York Times

I am hard-pressed to think of one thing President Trump has done right in the last 11 days since his inauguration. Until Tuesday, when he nominated an extraordinary judge and man, Neil Gorsuch, to be a justice on the Supreme Court.

Like Scalia, Gorsuch has shown steady devotion to Constitution
Orrin Hatch, The Salt Lake Tribune 

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump nominated Colorado federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. The president has made an inspired choice. Utahns should take heart that the man who will replace Scalia will be just as committed to the Constitution as his predecessor.

Hugh Hewitt: Democrats made confirmation easier for Trump nominees. The GOP should fix that.
Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post

When then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the “nuclear option” to break the rules of the Senate in 2013 to allow for simple majority confirmation of presidential nominees, he created not one but two precedents. The first is that the Senate’s rules and precedents can be changed by simple majority vote, not the vote of 67 senators as had previously been the practice.

Trump can’t Twitter-shame his way to economic growth
Mark Sanford, The Washington Post

If politics is considered in part theater, President Trump’s opening act has been a most colorful one. The media, critics and even supporters swing from being confounded, frightened or elated by the possibility of what might come next — but those perceptions can change in 10-minute increments given the administration’s blitzkrieg-like movement forward.

The grand global political lesson of the moment: we have no idea what’s possible
Sean Illing, Vox 

“What we thought was a given is no longer a given, and that’s alarming.” In this interview, I talk to Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of A World in Disarray: America’s Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

Research Reports and Polling

Voters Prioritize Tax Reform Over Obamacare Repeal, Border Wall
Jon Reid, Morning Consult 

A plurality of voters say President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans should make tax reform their top priority, not repealing Obamacare or building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. In a new Morning Consult/POLITICO online survey, registered voters were asked which of the three big-ticket items the party should make prioritize early on in Trump’s administration.

Poll: If There Was Voter Fraud, Trump Benefited Most
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

President Donald Trump has insisted, without evidence, that the 2016 election was rife with illegal voting that prevented him from winning the popular vote. But a new survey finds that among Americans who believe there was fraud, Trump is seen as the likely beneficiary of those votes.

Trump’s travel ban polarizes America – Reuters/Ipsos poll
Chris Kahn, Reuters 

Americans are sharply divided over President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily block U.S. entry for all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries, with slightly more approving the measure than disapproving, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday. The Jan. 30-31 poll found that 49 percent of American adults said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed with Trump’s order, while 41 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disagreed and another 10 percent said they don’t know.