• Michigan Recount Stopped
• Ohio Abortion Bill Awaits Kasich's Signature
• Republicans Still Bitterly Divided about Repealing and Replacing the ACA
• The Debt Limit Fight Is Back
• Mayors Push Trump to Keep DACA
• Majority of Adults Confident Trump Will Put U.S. Interests above Personal Ones
• Trump Named "Person of the Year"
President-elect Donald Trump is moving right along with his major appointments. Yesterday it was reported that Gen John Kelly (ret.) would head the Department of Homeland Security. He is the third retired general to get a top job, following Michael Flynn and James Mattis. Kelly's expertise is on the U.S. southern border—in particular, stopping the flow of people and drugs from Mexico. In contrast to a pick like Ben Carson for HUD, Kelly has a large amount of relevant experience and can start doing his new job on day one.
For head of the EPA, Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Like Kelly, Pruitt understands the material he will have to deal with quite well. He has taken the lead in suing the Obama administration on many federal regulations and executive actions relating to environmental issues, especially those involving climate change (which Pruitt denies), water use, ozone pollution, haze, methane, and more. In short, Pruitt doesn't think the government has a role in protecting the environment, and wants to roll back numerous existing rules relating to clean air and clean water.
For head of the small business administration, Trump has chosen professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who has twice run for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut and twice been crushed. She is also a very large donor to the Republican Party and the largest donor to Trump's personal foundation. This position requires Senate confirmation, so the various controversies that have come up with regard to World Wrestling Entertainment, which she ran, are sure to be part of the hearings. (V)
After two days of ballot re-counting in Michigan, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith (an Obama appointee) ordered that the process be halted. His 8-page ruling offered two primary reasons for his decision: (1) that Jill Stein has no standing to ask for a recount, since she has no chance of winning, and (2) that Stein has offered no proof of fraud or other issues that might call the result into question. She can appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but she will almost certainly lose there if she does, so Donald Trump's roughly 10,000-vote lead is safe and he will get the Wolverine State's electoral votes. (Z)
On Wednesday, the Ohio legislature adopted a so-called "heartbeat" abortion bill, which would ban any abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That usually happens around six weeks, while pregnant women tend to become aware of their condition anytime between two and eight weeks. The new restriction would thus de facto eliminate the majority of surgical abortions, since for most women it would be too late by the time they learn that they need one. Similar laws in Arkansas and North Dakota were previously found to be unconstitutional, but the imminent Trump presidency (which should include the appointment of a fifth conservative SCOTUS justice) has persuaded Ohio Republicans to try again.
At the moment, the ball is in Gov. John Kasich's (R) court, and it puts him in something of a pickle. There's no doubt that he still dreams of moving into the White House, either through Electoral College shenanigans in 2016, or by being elected in 2020/2024 (when he would be an excellent "I'm not Trump" candidate if The Donald's presidency is not a success). Previously, the Governor has been pretty staunchly pro-life, and signing the bill would beef up his bona fides with the evangelicals and other right wingers. On the other hand, it would hurt him badly with women voters, independents, and conservative-leaning Democrats. Since a big part of his pitch is his ability to attract bipartisan support, that would pretty much be the end of that. Plus, he knows that signing the bill will commit Ohio to a lengthy and expensive series of lawsuits. Whatever Kasich decides, he's got 10 days to figure it out. The bill automatically becomes law, with or without his signature, if it's not vetoed by then. (Z)
Despite having voted over 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, now that they have the actual power to repeal and/or replace it, House Republicans are splintered over what to actually do. The Republicans can just repeal it (using the budget reconciliation process), but then 20 million people (a.k.a. voters) would have no insurance, so that is a non-starter. They could repeal it and try to pass a new law, but the Democrats have promised to filibuster any new law, so that won't work, either. Republican leaders met yesterday trying to hammer out a plan, but there is still no consensus. Senate leaders tend to favor a plan in which a law is passed now repealing the ACA effective in 2019, giving them time to work out an alternative, but hardliners, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the House Freedom Caucus, don't want to delay it for years. They want to repeal it right now and put their plan into effect right now. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the outgoing leader of the Freedom Caucus, said: "The sooner we get rid of it, the better."
Repealing and replacing the law now is difficult because Republicans don't have either a plan or the votes. Delaying the replacement until 2019 would put it in the middle of the 2020 primary season, with all the grandstanding that goes with that. One of the sticking points in finding an immediate replacement is the current requirement that all plans cover at least a fixed set of treatments. Many Republicans want to eliminate the list and let the insurance companies offer different policies with different coverages at different prices. That is how the market is supposed to work. The problem is if they cut the subsidies, as expected, some insurance companies are going to offer "junk insurance" at exactly the level of the subsidy. Such policies would have very high deductibles before the company pays any bills, very high co-payments once the deductible has been reached, and very low annual and lifetime limits on payments. If many people were forced to choose such policies (because it was all they could afford), large numbers of people would be technically insured but wouldn't be able to get medical treatments, but they still might be healthy enough to vote in 2018 and 2020. That's the problem. (V)
Congress, in its wisdom, has passed a set of mutually inconsistent laws. It has passed tax laws, which determine how much money the government takes in as revenue. It also has passed spending laws, which determine what the government spends. The spending always exceeds the revenues, meaning that part of the spending has to be financed by debt (i.e., borrowing the money by issuing treasury bonds and bills). Congress has also passed laws setting limits on how much debt the country can have. Unfortunately, the limit on how much debt the country may have is too low to pay for the shortfall created by authorizing spending and then not raising taxes enough to pay for said spending. Logically, once Congress has determined the government's income, I, (via the tax laws) and its expenditures, E, (via the appropriations), the amount of debt for that year is automatically E - I. Having a separate law saying that the government can't borrow E - I makes no sense, but we are dealing with Congress here, not mathematics.
There are three ways out of this mathematical conundrum: raise taxes, reduce spending, or raise the debt limit. Congress is incapable of doing the first two, so the only way out is to raise the debt limit, which will be reached in the Spring.
A number of Republicans in Congress are wildly against raising the debt limit and in 2011, managed to shut down much of the government to indicate their displeasure. That could happen early on Donald Trump's watch, possibly pitting a group of Republican House members against the President. It could get messy. (V)
Chicago mayor and former White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel met with Donald Trump on Wednesday, presenting the President-elect with a letter co-signed by a 14 other mayors calling on him to retain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program until Congress can develop a more modern immigration system. "Ensuring DREAMers can continue to live and work in their communities without fear of deportation is the foundation of sound, responsible immigration policy," wrote Emanuel in the letter.
Although Trump's campaign was literally launched with the idea that all undocumented immigrants have to go, Trump has since seemed to soften on the issue, recently telling Time magazine:
We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age, they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen.
If Trump sticks with this new perspective, it's not going to make his base—or his strategic adviser, Steve Bannon—happy. (Z)
A new Bloomberg poll shows that 2/3 of Americans think Donald Trump needs to choose between being president and being a businessman, but 69% think forcing him to sell his businesses goes too far. When asked if Trump will put U.S. interests above his personal financial interests, a slim majority (51%) think he will put the country's interests first. (V)
Making one of their easier choices of the last couple of decades, Time magazine chose Donald Trump as its "Person of the Year" for 2016, describing him the "President of the Divided States of America." The title is conferred upon the person whom the editors believe, "for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year." Consequently, the past winners include Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin (twice), the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Vladimir Putin. The title is not meant to be an "award," per se, but that's how everyone interprets it nonetheless, including Trump, who called it "a very, very great honor." Nearly all presidents or presidents-elect are recognized; the only exceptions since Time began naming Man/Person of the Year are Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Gerald Ford. Among the people Trump beat out this year are Hillary Clinton (making her 0-for-2 against him), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and singer Beyonce. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec07 Trump Takes Credit for $50 Billion Investment
Dec07 Trump May Have Sold All His Stocks in June
Dec07 CEOs Delighted With Trump
Dec07 McConnell Says Repealing ACA Will Be First Item on Senate's Agenda in 2017
Dec07 Americans Divided over ACA Repeal
Dec07 Pence Promises Donors that the Administration Will Grant Their Wishes
Dec07 Conway May Run Outside Group to Help Trump Get His Way
Dec07 Trump Is Trying to Mold the Republican Party in His Image
Dec07 Flynn Leaves Trump Team Red-faced
Dec06 Trump Picks Dr. Ben Carson to Be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Dec06 53 Organizations Urge Trump to Dump Flynn
Dec06 Trump's 35% Tariff on Products Made by American Companies Abroad is Dead on Arrival
Dec06 Electors Are Pushing for John Kasich
Dec06 Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Are Moving to D.C.
Dec06 Trump Meets with Gore
Dec06 Michigan Recount Commences
Dec06 Democrats Try to Cajole Heitkamp and Manchin to Stay in the Senate
Dec06 Susan Collins Has Reservations about Repealing the ACA and Medicare
Dec06 Biden Hints at 2020 Run
Dec06 McCrory Concedes in North Carolina Gubernatorial Race
Dec05 Why Did Trump Win, Part VI
Dec05 Mook: Deplorables Was a Mistake
Dec05 Trump Trashes SNL, Again
Dec05 Trump Trashes China, Again
Dec05 Dakota Pipeline to be Rerouted...Probably
Dec05 Trump's Tax Headache
Dec05 How about None of the Above for Secretary of State?
Dec05 Renzi Rebuked, Will Resign
Dec04 China Lodges Formal Complaint
Dec04 David Petraeus to Audition for Secretary of State Today
Dec04 Sarah Palin Attacks Trump
Dec04 Job Destruction is Part of America's Secret Sauce
Dec04 Trump Inherits a B or B+ Economy
Dec04 No Recount in Pennsylvania...Maybe
Dec04 NeverTrumpers Throw in the Towel
Dec04 Could Italy Be Next?
Dec03 Ambassador Trump Steps in It Again
Dec03 Trump Allies Try to Stop Recounts
Dec03 Dean out of Race for DNC Chair
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part I? It Was the Millennials
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part II? He Didn't Get Much Attention in the Final Week
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part III? Democrats Stayed Home
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part IV? Democrats Have Lost Rural America
Dec03 Why Did Trump Win, Part V? Voter Suppression
Dec03 Other Indiana Companies Are Also Planning to Ship Jobs to Mexico
Dec03 Today in Schadenfreude: Russian Central Bank Hacked
Dec02 Trump Has Reckless and Bizarre Conversation with Pakistan's Sharif
Dec02 Mattis Tapped for Department of Defense
Dec02 Sanders Slams Carrier Deal