MORNING MESSAGEDoes Betsy DeVos Care About Racial Equity? We Still Don’t Know.
People are genuinely surprised that someone who has never been a teacher, never run a school, never served as a public official overseeing education, and never been engaged in scholarly work on education is not terribly well versed in education policy ... But there were bigger, more philosophical education issues DeVos could have likely been more able to expound on had she ever been asked. One of those big-picture issues that was glaringly absent from the senators’ questioning was race...
Call your senators: Demand they say no to Mnuchin
Donald Trump’s Corporate Coup marches on. Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick to steer our economy as Treasury Secretary, is a multimillionaire hedge fund banker who profited off the backs of hard-working people. As a candidate, Trump said that hedge fund managers were “getting away with murder.” Now he is filling the cabinet with hedge fund managers like Mnuchin. Mnuchin’s bank foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman’s home over a 27-cent underpayment. His firm’s behavior was called “harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive” by a judge.
Trump aides reveal drastic budget vision. The Hill: “The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely. Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.”
Few top aides named to execute plans. Politico: “…the disorder could have a real impact on Trump’s ability to quickly deliver on his ambitious agenda … [Often] several different versions of a plan are circulating — and no one is sure who is empowered to sign off … Trump himself isn’t involved in much of the hiring below the Cabinet level but will occasionally weigh in, throwing the process awry … Trump’s team has filled 28 of the 690 most crucial federal government positions that require Senate confirmation…”
Reports W. Examiner’s Byron York: “[Spokesman Sean] Spicer: Trump has asked 50 Obama appointees to stay in their jobs ‘for the time being.'”
EPA nominee pledges to weaken EPA. The Hill: “The phrase of the day was ‘cooperative federalism,’ [Scott] Pruitt’s preference for a regulatory scheme in which the EPA and states share the burden of executing air and water laws … ‘Your passion for devolving power down to states doesn’t help us, because our state regulators can’t do anything about any of those problems,’ Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said … Many Dems will vote against him, while it’s likely that all Republicans will support him.”
Sanders slams Pruitt for climate science denial. The Hill: “Pruitt consistently responded by saying he believes the climate is changing and humans are contributing. But as to the degree to which they’ve contributed, Pruitt said it’s up for debate … ‘My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I’m carrying out,’ said Pruitt … Sanders was displeased. ‘You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the environment, and your personal feelings about whether climate change is caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?’ he asked.”
HHS nom “vague” on Obamacare. NYT: “[Tom Price] promised on Wednesday to make sure people do not ‘fall through the cracks’ if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and set a goal to increase the number of people with health insurance … but did not say how he would achieve [his goals] … [He] also denied impropriety in his trading of stocks in health care and pharmaceutical companies, saying he had left many details to his broker.”
Commerce nominee pledges renegotiation of NAFTA. Politico: “‘NAFTA is logically the first thing for us to deal with,’ [Wilbur] Ross said … [But] Ross declined to delve into specifics on how he would change the deal.”
Sens. Warren and Franken grab spotlight grilling noms. Politico: “Thanks in part to Franken and Warren, however, many more Americans watched the most heated moments of the [DeVos] hearing than the average audience for a second-tier Cabinet confirmation grilling.
Some nominees may be approved tomorrow. The Hill: “Senate leaders are negotiating a deal … focused on key national security posts, including Trump’s nods to lead the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security … Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) signaled Wednesday that he would like seven nominees confirmed on day one of the Trump administration — the same number President Obama got in 2009 … Schumer on Wednesday ripped into the GOP for rushing Trump nominees … ‘This is a swamp cabinet full of bankers and billionaires.'”
“Whistleblower suit alleges widespread problems at bank run by Treasury nominee Mnuchin” reports W. Post: “Whistleblowers connected to the California mortgage lender once run by Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin have accused the bank in federal court of mishandling more than a thousand applications for loan modifications during his tenure — potentially costing many borrowers their homes … the DOJ is slated to determine whether to prosecute the case by the end of March…”
Mnuchin fixes incomplete financial disclosure. NYT: “…when pushed by committee aides … he disclosed that he was also the director of Dune Capital International Ltd., an investment fund incorporated in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. He also revealed his management posts in seven other investment funds, which he said he ‘inadvertently missed,’…”
Rick Perry recently learned what the Energy Department actually does. NYT: “…Perry [believed] he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry … [He soon] discovered that … he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal … If Mr. Perry has views on those issues — including on whether to test nuclear weapons rather than build computer models of how they would perform — they are unknown.”
Perry doesn’t want to abolish the Energy Department anymore. The Hill: “‘My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,’ Perry plans to say at his Senate confirmation hearing, according to his prepared remarks. ‘In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.’ … Perry will also say during the Thursday hearing that he believes the ‘climate is changing.’ ‘I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by manmade activity,’ his prepared remarks say.”
HuffPost not impressed with HuffPost-sponsored DNC Chair debate: “The seven leading candidates to serve as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee gathered at George Washington University on Wednesday night to dodge key questions about party reform and pander to the 447 insiders … contenders repeatedly called for ‘unity’ and made vague calls for better ‘organizing’ while sidestepping important issues about how the DNC should govern its future affairs.”
The Hill adds: “…there was widespread agreement about the path forward—a return to a 50-state strategy, a messaging improvement, a retooled primary process and opposition to Trump—along with praise for the other candidates on stage.”
Trump on “collision course” with Fed. NYT: “It’s possible that what people in Mr. Trump’s orbit view as a desirable boom will look to Ms. Yellen and her colleagues as overheating, and prompt equal and opposite interest rate increases … Ms. Yellen’s term as chairwoman expires in about a year. Mr. Trump could appoint a new leader to the Fed who is more hospitable to his view … There are two governor vacancies available now, so Mr. Trump could quickly influence the direction of the Fed with new appointees.”
Dakota pipeline review will proceed. The Hill: “A federal judge on Wednesday allowed a potentially lengthy environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward over objections from the pipeline’s developer … The Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday began the process of assessing the 1,170-mile pipeline’s impact on the environment in North Dakota, a study that could take years to finish.”
Protests may overshadow inauguration. NYT: “…officials from federal, state and local agencies are preparing this year for what they say could be large-scale protests aimed at disrupting the ceremony and registering disapproval of Donald J. Trump’s presidency at the moment the world is watching his ascension to office. A march planned for Saturday could attract as many as half a million people, one official said, putting additional stress on law enforcement … law enforcement officials had tallied 99 groups planning actions for the inaugural period, including 63 on Friday alone.”
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