Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Progressive Breakfast: The McConnell/Trump GOP Guts Ethics Rules For Its Billionaire Cabinet


Richard Eskow
The McConnell/Trump GOP Guts Ethics Rules For Its Billionaire Cabinet
“Ironic” is an overused word. And yet, how else can you describe what’s going on this week in Washington? The Republican president-elect says he wants “extreme vetting” for Syrian refugee families who already face years of scrutiny. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Republican leader is ramming Trump's well-heeled nominees through the Senate review process in just a few chaotic days.
Senate: Do not let Trump’s picks go unvetted
Today, the Senate will begin confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees. But many of his picks haven’t yet completed the ethics vetting process. According to the Office of Government Ethics, some of Trump’s nominees already slated for hearings haven’t even submitted initial financial disclosure reports. Trump has nominated a record number of millionaires and billionaires. Without full financial disclosures and a complete ethics review, it is impossible to know what conflicts of interests their appointments may present.


Sen. Cory Booker will oppose Session at confirmation hearing. NBC News: “Booker’s office said Monday that the Senate historian had been unable to find any previous instance of a sitting senator testifying against a fellow sitting senator nominated for a Cabinet position. Noting that ‘I’m breaking a pretty long Senate tradition,’ the New Jersey Democrat said … ‘We’ve seen Jeff Sessions — that’s Senator Jeff Sessions — consistently voting against or speaking out against key ideals of the Voting Rights Act, taking measures to try to block criminal justice reform.'”
Sen. Sessions expressed support for racist 1924 immigration law. The Atlantic: “During an October 2015 radio interview with Stephen Bannon of Breitbart … Sessions praised the 1924 law saying that, ‘When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly … and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.’ … [The law] drastically limited immigration and made permanent restrictions designed to keep out Southern and Eastern Europeans, particularly Italians and Jews, Africans, and Middle Easterners, barring Asian immigration entirely.”
Justice Dept. aims to push reform of Chicago and Baltimore police departments before inauguration. NYT: “…the Justice Department is rushing to wrap up a sweeping investigation into police patterns and practices [in Chicago.] Such an investigation is typically the first step toward a consent decree in which a police department is required to make significant changes under court supervision. But in Chicago, President Obama’s Justice Department is running out of time to pursue such an order … in Baltimore, where Justice Department officials have already released a blistering report accusing the police of systematic racial bias, negotiators for the city and the Obama administration are ‘getting very close’ to agreement on a consent decree, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said.”
Strategy Call With Sen. Warren Tonight
Republicans have been working since 2010 to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, formed by Elizabeth Warren in response to the financial crisis and great recession. With Donald Trump on the verge of assuming the presidency, his cabinet of Wall Street Bankers are looking forward to again running the country and reaping the profits.
Protecting the CFPB and Wall Street reforms is paramount. People’s Action, along with a coalition of advocacy groups, is sponsoring a nationwide phone call tonight at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific time with Sen. Warren (D-MA) to launch an action plan to stop the special interests.


Hearing for Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos pushed back to next Tuesday. Politico: “The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s Education secretary pick, has been pushed back by almost a week [to] Jan. 17 at 5 p.m … The move comes after Democrats, including Murray, had called for DeVos’ confirmation hearing to be delayed because the Office of Government Ethics has not finished its ethics review of the billionaire education activist’s finances.”
DeVos family played “political hardball” in Michigan. NYT: “…the DeVoses are generous supporters of think tanks that evangelize for unrestrained capitalism, like Michigan’s Acton Institute, and that rail against unions and back privatizing public services, like the Mackinac Center … the DeVoses’ education activism, which favors alternatives to traditional public schools, appears to derive from the same free-market views that inform their suspicion of government. And perhaps more than other right-wing billionaires, the DeVoses couple their seeding of ideological causes with an aggressive brand of political spending.”


Sen. Sanders announces “Our First Stand: Save Health Care” rallies for Jan. 15, in Alternet: “… on January 15, I and Democratic members of Congress, trade unions, senior citizen groups, health-care activists and all those who believe in economic and social justice are organizing a day of action called Our First Stand: Save Health Care. Rallies will be held around the country, including one in Michigan that Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and I will be attending along with Michigan’s U.S. senators.”
Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Dems are “on offense” to save Obamacare. The Hill quotes: “Who would have thought in the first week of Congress the Democrats would have been on offense and the Republicans are on defense? … They’re in real trouble and now they’re squirming and squirming … So far not a single Republican has presented a replacement that has gotten even a small consensus among Republicans.”
Nervous Republicans beg for time. The Hill: “GOP Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) filed an amendment on Monday that would give congressional committees until March 3 to come up with a repeal plan. The lawmakers pushing the amendment argue that moving the deadline will help pave the way for a smoother and shorter transition from ObamaCare … [Republicans] can only afford to lose two GOP senators without having to try to flip Democrats or ask the vice president to potentially break a tie … Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky)—who is expected to unveil his own ObamaCare replacement bill this week—said on Friday that Trump agrees with his push to replace the Affordable Care Act as they vote to repeal it.”
Politico adds: “The House Freedom Caucus wants to delay a vote on a budget that includes Obamacare repeal instructions, a potential setback for the GOP’s — and Donald Trump’s — top priority … It is unclear if Freedom Caucus members would vote against the budget if they do not get the information they seek or the delay. They want to know more about whether the repeal effort will include some replacement provisions or, if not, the timetable for putting forth a Republican alternative.”
“Muted Response From Health Lobby” reports NYT: “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 … industries that were integral to the creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 are keeping their voices down as Republicans rush to dismantle it … They fear that if they come out strongly in opposition to repealing the law, they will lose their seats at the table as congressional Republicans and the Trump administration negotiate a replacement.”


Sanders lays out strategy to challenge Trump in CNN town hall: “…he drew [a] clear line with Trump, saying: ‘I will tell you this: He ran a campaign whose cornerstone was bigotry. It was based on sexism, on racism, on xenophobia, and on that issue, I will not compromise.’ Still, Sanders said he hopes Democrats don’t use the “obstruct, obstruct, obstruct” tactics against Trump that congressional Republicans deployed against Obama. ‘I don’t think that’s what we do,’ Sanders said. ‘I think where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should.'”
Obama to give farewell address tonight. The Hill: “One of President Obama’s top advisers early Tuesday touted the president’s record and said he will talk during his farewell address about his optimism for the future of the country.”
USTR Michael Froman warns Trump against protectionism in final speech. W. Post: “…he cautioned that the type of protectionist policies the president-elect has pledged could endanger the ongoing U.S. recovery and embolden Chinese ambitions … [He said] China is striking regional trade agreements of its own in hopes of establishing itself as the economic power center of Asia — and eventually, the world. ‘How can you be tough on China and withdraw from TPP at the same time?’ Froman said…”
GOP looks to gouge blue staters in tax reform. The Hill: “…two key preferences important to state and local governments, the deduction for state and local taxes and the tax exemption for municipal bonds, may be on the chopping block. The two preferences are among the most expensive provisions in the tax code. They are also viewed as disproportionately benefiting upper-income people. Of the two, the state and local tax deduction, which tends to benefit areas that lean Democratic, looks to be more endangered.”

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