Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Presidential

  • President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders were briefed Friday on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian meddling in the U.S. election. The news came after it was reported that Russian officials congratulated themselves on Trump’s victory.
  • Former CIA Director James Woolsey said he would no longer serve as an adviser to Trump after the president-elect repeatedly ridiculed the U.S. intelligence community.
  • Trump said he would nominate Jay Clayton, an attorney with ties to big banks, to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission; Robert Lighthizer to head the U.S. Trade Representative office; and Marc Short, a top adviser to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, to lead legislative affairs for his White House. Trump is also expected to nominate just-retired Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats to serve as Director of National Intelligence.

Congress

  • Top U.S. intelligence officials testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Russia’s interference in the presidential election. While Trump continues to reject the intelligence community’s findings, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) called it “an unprecedented attack on our democracy.”
  • President Barack Obama huddled with Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss ways to protect the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, House Republicans met with Pence to strategize its repeal. So far, Republicans have been unable to coalesce around a replacement strategy, raising doubts about their efforts to swiftly repeal the law.
  • House Republicans and Trump’s team are weighing a plan to include billions in funding for a Mexico-U.S. border wall in a must-pass spending bill that’s due by the end of April.
  • Thousands of angry constituent phone calls and pointed tweets from Trump caused GOP lawmakers to shelve a proposal that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
  • House Republicans pushed through a rules package that fines lawmakers who live-stream on the House floor. Democrats released a letter signed by legal experts questioning its constitutionality.
  • The House voted 342-80 to censure the United Nations Security Council for approving a resolution that condemns Israeli settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory.

What’s Ahead

  • Senate confirmation hearings are slated to begin this week on Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Democrats have vowed to use procedural tools to delay confirmation of his most controversial picks. With only a simple majority needed in the Senate to confirm nominees after then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada changed the chamber’s rules in 2013, an easy confirmation vote is expected for most of Trump’s choices.
  • On Tuesday, John Kelly, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security will testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, is scheduled to testify Tuesday and Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats plan to scrutinize the Alabama Republican’s record on civil rights.
  • On Wednesday, secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson is tentatively scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will consider Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Education secretary; Rep. Mike Pompeo, the nominee to lead the Central Intelligence agency will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee; and Labor secretary nominee Elaine Chao will be considered by the Senate Commerce Committee.
  • On Thursday, former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, Trump’s pick for Housing and Urban Development chief, will testify before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Wilbur Ross, a private investment banker Trump has picked to lead the Commerce Department.
  • On the Senate floor this week is the budget resolution, which Republicans will use to fast-track legislation to repeal Obamacare. The next vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, on an amendment filed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to balance the budget. The Kentuckian opposes the GOP-drafted budget proposal because it increases debt by about $9 trillion. On Tuesday, the Senate will vote at 2:30 p.m. an amendment to the budget filed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Later in the week, the chamber will complete votes on all remaining budget amendments in the marathon “vote-a-rama.”
  • Across the Capitol, the House is slated to consider a package of bills aimed at increasing congressional oversight over regulations that affect businesses and job growth. The legislation is the third plank in House Republicans’ early 2017 push on regulatory reform.

Calendar Events (All Times Local)

Monday
Energy Secretary Moniz speaks at National Press Club 11 a.m.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Castro speaks at Center for American Progress 12 p.m.
Health & Human Services Secretary Burwell speaks at National Press Club 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday
Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for AG nominee Sessions 9:30 a.m.
Newt Gingrich and Jim DeMint Talk ‘Trumpism’ 11 a.m.
Senate Homeland Security Committee holds confirmation hearing for Homeland Security secretary nominee Kelly 3:30 p.m.
President Obama delivers farewell address 8 p.m.
Wednesday
Senate HELP Committee holds confirmation hearing for Education secretary nominee DeVos 10 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
Thursday
House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot at AEI 9:45 a.m.
Senate Housing Committee holds confirmation hearing for HUD nominee Carson 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

Morning Consult Washington Top Reads

1) GOP’s Health-Law Attack Spurs Messaging Battle
Peter Nicholas et al., The Wall Street Journal

2) House Republicans, Under Fire, Back Down on Gutting Ethics Office
Eric Lipton and Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times

3) U.S. Conservatives Outnumber Liberals by Narrowing Margin
Lydia Saad, Gallup

4) Intelligence Chief Criticizes ‘Disparagement’ of Findings on Russian Hacking
Matt Flegenheimer and Scott Shane, The New York Times

5) Inauguration Tickets and Map Revealed
Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call

6) Former CIA chief cuts ties with Trump
Eli Watkins, CNN Politics

7) Constitutional Concerns Raised by House Rule Penalizing Live-Streaming
Brendan Bordelon, Morning Consult

8) Democrats target 8 Cabinet nominees, threaten to drag out process 
Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh, CNN Politics

9) Many in U.S. Skeptical Trump Can Handle Presidential Duties
Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup

10) House GOP Gives Staff Broader New Powers to Grill Witnesses
Billy House, Bloomberg News

Briefings

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The Trump administration released its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which calls for $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. The plan takes aim at popular farm programs and student aid, and relies on clearing two major legislative hurdles – savings from the repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and projected economic growth from overhauling the U.S. tax code for the first time in more than 30 years.

Washington Brief: Montana GOP Candidate in Today’s Special Election Charged With Assaulting Journalist

Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate in a special House election in Montana, was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a journalist who was asking him about the recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the American Health Care Act. Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist in today’s election to fill the seat left vacant by Ryan Zinke, who now serves as head of the Interior Department.

Washington Brief: Trump Calls Naming of Special Counsel the ‘Greatest Witch Hunt of a Politician’ in U.S. History

Robert Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, was named special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian connections to President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump responded on Twitter by saying the naming of a special counsel is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

Washington Brief: Chaffetz Demands FBI Turn Over All Records of Comey’s Meetings With Trump

A memo written in February by now-former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey says President Donald Trump urged him to abandon an FBI investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) demanded that the FBI turn over all documents related to meetings between Trump and Comey.

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