• Obama Strategizes with Democrats
• Barack Obama: Another John Quincy Adams?
• Trump's Tax Policies Would Be a Windfall for Him
• What Will Trump's Biggest Test Be in 2017?
• Trump Turns to Assange to Bolster His Case
• Wall Street Lawyer to Oversee Wall Street
• Tillerson's Retirement Package: $180,000,000
The first order of business for the Republicans in Congress is repealing the Affordable Care Act. Getting it through the House will be easy since the GOP has a 47-seat majority there. The Senate will be trickier since the Republicans have only a 52-48 seat edge. Maybe make that 51-49. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is a bit of an iconoclast and who was just reelected to a new six-year term, said yesterday that he would not vote for repeal unless a replacement was on the agenda for the same day. There is zero chance that will happen. Paul is worried that just repealing the law without planning for what happens next is going to result in insurance companies going bankrupt, followed by massive bailouts.
If two more Republican senators also decide they don't want to repeal the law until an alternative is ready to go, the repeal effort will fail. So far, none of the other 51 Republican senators have come out against a simple repeal, but if, say, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) were to side with Paul, the Republicans would have a real problem. (V)
As planned and previously announced, Barack Obama met with Congressional Democrats to discuss saving Obamacare. At the closed-door gathering, the President reportedly emphasized two main points. The first was his view that the blue team should hold the line, and should not cooperate with the GOP at all when it comes to replacing the ACA. No compromise measures, no stopgap bills, nothing.
His second notion—one that is bolder, and very possibly more shrewd—is to start using the term "Trumpcare" to refer to whatever plan or plans the Republicans come up with. This would have the effect of clearly linking any failures under the new system (people losing insurance, premiums shooting up, etc.) to the GOP and to Trump, while also setting up a tidy comparison to Obamacare. For example, "Under Obamacare, the number of uninsured Americans dropped to just 19 million; with Trumpcare it's back up to 44 million." Of course, this assumes that there actually is a new plan, and that it actually does experience overt failures. Further, for the gambit to work, nearly all prominent Democrats would have to get with the program, something that hasn't exactly been the party's strong suit in recent memory. (Z)
The Washington Post's E.L Dionne, Jr. has suggested a very interesting historical analogue for what Barack Obama's future might look like: President #6 John Quincy Adams. After a turbulent campaign in 1828, Adams left the White House, handing the keys over to Andrew Jackson, a populist (and racist) whose victory was powered by angry, working class voters. JQA looked forward to a quiet retirement, but as the issues of the day (namely slavery) plunged the nation into turmoil, there was a great need for someone with his gravitas and moral authority. So, he ended up back in Washington, serving 17 years in the House of Representatives, where he was the primary spokesman for the Northern liberal point of view.
Now, there is little chance that Barack Obama will serve in public office again, particularly as one voice among 435 in the House of Representatives, although if the economy is deeply under water, the country is at war in 2018, and the Democrats win back the House, they could elect him Speaker of the House (the speaker need not be a member of the House). Still, he might well get dragged out of his planned quiet retirement if it becomes clear there's a vacuum that needs to be filled, and that he is perhaps the only one who could fill it. If we try to think of who else in the Democratic Party is in a position to speak out about the potential failures of Trumpism, and to have people actually listen, it becomes clear that Dionne may well be on to something here. At the very least, Obama could become tweeter-in-chief, matching Trump tweet for tweet. (Z)
President-elect Donald Trump is pushing for tax cuts that could save his family more than $4 billion. First come the tax rate cuts, especially a major one for businesses, which would allow Trump's companies to keep more of their profit. His personal taxes (assuming he pays any) would also drop. Second, changes to the way foreign business income is taxed could result in more savings for him, since he has many overseas businesses. Third, new rules for deducting interest on debt-financed projects—including real estate—would be a winner for him. Finally, if he eliminates the estate tax, as promised, his children stand to keep an additional $4 billion of his assets when he dies.
None of this is technically illegal, but for decades previous presidents have put their assets into blind trusts to avoid the optics of pushing for policies that benefit them directly. Needless to say, the Democrats will be attacking him for signing laws that benefit him personally, something that ordinary voters can understand easily. (V)
Running for president is tough, but being president is even tougher. No one knows what Donald Trump's biggest challenges will be in his first year, but Politico asked 20 experts to make some guesses. Here they are:
- David Petraeus: Dealing with terrorism and Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China
- Newt Gingrich: Washington's deep capacity to resist change
- Neera Tanden: Some people voted for him because he was a Republican and some did because he wasn't
- Jon Huntsman: The people don't trust their leaders and if Trump reneges on his promises, it will get worse
- Tom Daschle: Learning to govern in a democracy and work with a Congress he can't fire
- Kori Schake: Getting anything done
- Jared Bernstein: The next recession, and being expected to fix the economy
- Cokie Roberts: Dealing with the House Republicans, many of whom don't really like him much
- Lawrence Korb: What to do if Vladimir Putin takes actions that directly threaten America or its allies
- April Ponnuru: Finding a replacement for the ACA
- Ian Bremmer: Discovering that when he hits China, China hits back even harder
- Jacob Heilbrunn: The day North Korea tests a missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S.
- Alice Rivlin: Getting a replacement to the ACA through Congress
- Aaron Miller: Having the judgment to make difficult decisions
- Tamara Draut: Raising the standard of living for working-class Americans (a.k.a. his voters)
- Heather Conley: Deciding whether to fix the current international system or destroy it
- Robert Daly: Deciding whether to give China a bigger role in Asia
- Michael Lind: Facing conflict at home, especially with Republicans in Congress; not problems abroad
- Elizabeth Borgwardt: His lack of legitimacy and potential conflicts of interest and self dealing
- Andrew Bacevich: His own inability to devise a coherent policy on anything
What is interesting here is the wide spectrum of challenges that the experts came up with. If everyone had said "foreign policy" or something else, by leaning heavily on a few experts he could mitigate the problem, but his challenges are likely to be all over the map. (V)
For obvious reasons, President-elect Donald Trump is trying to eliminate any and all suggestion that the Russians played a role in his victory. The problem is that, outside of Sean Spicer and a few other Team Trump insiders, he's not having a lot of luck finding someone to help him peddle that line of thinking. The intelligence community, the Democrats, and a substantial number of prominent Republicans have declared, in no uncertain terms, that Trump is wrong.
In an effort to strengthen his hand, The Donald promised over the weekend that he would reveal "new information" on Tuesday or Wednesday. Well, those days are now past, and no new information has been forthcoming. Trump did, however, take to Twitter on Wednesday to announce that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange supports his point of view:
Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!
It would be very, very difficult to imagine a worse corroborator than Julian Assange. Maybe Charles Manson, or Bernie Madoff, or Bill Cosby. Certainly, if this was a legal case, no lawyer worth his salt would allow Assange within 100 miles of a witness stand. Democrats weren't impressed with Trump's new line of attack, of course. Nor were many Republicans, with several of them, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) expressing contempt for Assange, and Graham going to far as to label Trump's reliance on him "very disturbing." Even some members of Trump's inner circle joined in, with Trump adviser and former CIA director James Woolsey telling CNN that, "I don't think there's any point in listening to Julian Assange. He's quite a ne'er-do-well."
It certainly seems that Trump has taken the lesson from the election that he is impervious to political blowback. But it's actually not true. During election season, he had a number of situations where he put his foot in it, then doubled down, tripled down, and so forth, and his polling numbers sank like a rock. The Gold Star family situation is one example; mocking the disabled reporter is another. What saved him, in those cases, is that Hillary Clinton would make her own big error (or, in the absence of that, James Comey would discover another trove of e-mails) and he'd bounce back.
The point here is that the time has probably come for Trump to own the Russian hacking. He could say something like, "I've looked at the evidence, and now I'm satisfied that the CIA was right. Needless to say, I did not ask for or want this interference, and in the interest of putting America first, we will respond strongly." But instead of doing this, he keeps digging a bigger and bigger hole. And the problem is that once you're actually president, there's no opponent left to bail you out with their own missteps. (Z)
Yesterday, Donald Trump announced his choice of Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton is a partner ay Sullivan & Cromwell, where he works on mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and regulatory issues. He is a big supporter of repealing many regulations that Wall Street doesn't like. In his new position, he will be able to kill many of them. (V)
In today's episode of "draining the swamp," we learn that if Rex Tillerson is approved as secretary of state, then he's got a nice golden parachute coming his way. Exxon Mobil will buy all of the company shares he currently owns (611,000), plus compensate him for the shares he would have earned over the next 10 years (2 million). The grand total, once all is said and done, is $180,000,000.
Exxon is spinning this as a "cost savings," because Tillerson forfeited about $7 million in bonuses and benefits that he otherwise would have earned. But given that they're giving him 10 years' of stock compensation (worth $125 million) without getting 10 years' work in return, it's hard to see how the the company's board can say that with a straight face. And given that corporations don't generally hand out nine-figure checks for fun, it certainly looks like Exxon just might be making an investment on which they expect a handsome return. For example, $100 million or so would be a bargain if it results in gaining access to $100 billion in Russian oil. Certainly, Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are thinking along these lines; they responded to the news with a joint statement in which they declared that, "the American people can't afford to have our Secretary of State in the pocket of corporations and special interests." Undoubtedly, when Tillerson learns of the Senators' disapproval, he'll be crying all the way to the bank. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan04 Trump Blasts Intelligence Agencies
Jan04 Obama to Transfer Gitmo Detainees
Jan04 McConnell Is the Dog that Caught the Car
Jan04 House Adopts Anti-Sit-in Rule
Jan04 Trump Is Already Working on His Second Supreme Court Appointment
Jan04 Bushes, Clintons to Attend Inauguration
Jan04 Schumer Will Be Very Different from Reid as Senate Minority Leader
Jan04 Megyn Kelly Jumps to NBC
Jan03 Pence Will Meet with House Republicans Today
Jan03 House Votes to Gut Office of Congressional Ethics
Jan03 No Hacking Revelations, After All
Jan03 What to Watch about Trade
Jan03 Trump Reportedly Picks Trade Representative
Jan03 Battle Over Sessions Has Begun
Jan03 Obama Will Give His Farewell Address on Jan. 10 in Chicago.
Jan03 Another Secretary Position May Need to Be Filled
Jan02 Trump Says He Will Reveal New Information about the Russian Hacking This Week
Jan02 Trump Likes Schumer Best?
Jan02 Trump Will Keep Tweeting
Jan02 Democrats Will Target Eight Cabinet Nominees
Jan02 Congress Will Start Repealing the Affordable Care Act Tomorrow
Jan02 House, Senate Likely to Butt Heads on Medicare
Jan02 Coal Miners Expect Trump to Deliver
Jan02 Top Wall Street Journal Editor Is Leery of Saying that Trump Lies
Jan01 Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It
Jan01 Vermont Utility Hit By Same Hackers as DNC
Jan01 Trump Pooh-poohs Russian Hacking, Says Computers Can't Be Trusted
Jan01 Trump Just Can't Help Himself
Jan01 The Larger Meaning of the Inaugural Snubs
Jan01 Which Senators Will Throw in the Towel in 2018?
Jan01 How Will Democrats Handle Supreme Court Vacancy?
Dec31 Obama's Final Moves to Stymie Trump
Dec31 Obama Meeting with Congressional Democrats to Strategize on Obamacare
Dec31 McConnell Will Play a Key Role in 2017
Dec31 Trump Praises Putin
Dec31 Trump Planning to Keep Private Security Force
Dec31 Spend New Year's Eve With the Trumps for Under $600
Dec31 Inauguration Planning Keeps Leaving Egg on Trump's Face
Dec31 North Carolina Judge Temporarily Blocks New Republican Laws
Dec30 America Retaliates against Russia
Dec30 Trump May Be Bad News for Israel
Dec30 Deploraball Highlights Schism within the Alt-right Movement
Dec30 Should the Media Ignore Trump's Tweets?
Dec30 Republicans May Target Medicaid Rather than Medicare
Dec30 Heller to Run for Reelection to the Senate
Dec30 States with the Most, Least Electoral Integrity
Dec30 Electoral College Precedent Has Been Set
Dec29 Retaliation Against Russians Coming Soon
Dec29 Trump Looking Hard for a Secretary of Agriculture