This morning the Department of Labor released the second-to-last monthly jobs report that will come while Obama is in the White House. The numbers were good, almost boringly so: The country added another 178,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate sank to 4.6%, lowest in 9 years.
And other news of the week…
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Here’s a first glance at the House and Senate legislative schedule for 2017 (h/trational360). More updates to come!
2017 Congressional Calendar
BLUE: House in Session Only
GREEN: Senate in Session Only
RED: House and Senate In Session
ORANGE: Federal Holiday
THINGS CONGRESS WANTS TO GET DONE The Fix “Congress has just a few weeks left of the Obama era. And it looks like they’ll end it much like they’ve ended every year for a while now: with partisan bickering so debilitating that getting the bare minimum done counts as a victory. (See item No. 1 on their to-do list, below). But Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, would love to get more than just the bare minimum done to set the stage for President Trump in January.
Here are things on Congress’s (arguably optimistic) to-do list between now and then:
1. Make sure the government doesn’t shut down. Congress hasn’t approved an actual spending bill in years; every time they get close to a deal, it dissolves, and to avoid a government shutdown, they end up passing a short-term spending bill that keeps funding levels from years past. That’s exactly what we’re expecting to go down this month, when a short-term spending bill they passed before the election runs out Dec. 9. All indications are Congress will simply extend that bill to about March, when it becomes Trump’s problem. (Apparently the Trump team requested this set-up.)
2. EVERYTHING ELSE Honestly, making sure the government doesn’t shut down is the only big must-do on Congress’s to-do list. “Everything else is just a ‘nice-to-have,’ ” says budget expert Stan Collender.But Republicans, who will control both chambers of Congress for the next two years, would love to clear the decks so they can start 2017 by working with Trump on their shared priorities (like, say, repealing Obamacare). Their get-ready-for-Trump-to-do list mostly includes bipartisan-approved bills, since they’ll need Democrats to help them pass most of these:
2a) Approve money to fight the opioid crisis: This week, the House of Representatives is considering a big medical research bill that would also include money to fight the opioid crisis (the House Wednesday night actually approved, 392-26, a sweeping biomedical research package that also aims to overhaul the mental health system and make targeted changes to Medicare). The stars are aligning to get this passed: The medical research package is a priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And the bill also includes money to fund President Obama’s and Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” to try to cure cancer, which means this could be one of the final bills Obama signs.
2b) Pass a defense policy bill: This sounds boring for anyone who’s not a defense wonk or an investor in Boeing, but this bill — which has no money attached to it until Congress figures out how to pass a full budget — could set wide-ranging policy. The House is expected to vote on this bill today.
2c) Approve aid for the Flint water crisis: Congress has yet to agree on how big of a check to write to the city of Flint, Mich. The town’s water was poisoned by corrosive lead pipes almost three years ago and its mayor says the city still needs to replace up to 20,000 pipes before the tap water is fully potable again. Democrats are the ones beating the drum to get this item done.
2d) Aid to fight Zika: Congress also agrees it needs to figure out a way to pay for research and prevention of the spread of the Zika virus, which is at risk of spreading in the contiguous U.S. (As of Nov. 23, there were 182 confirmed cases from local mosquitoes — all in Florida — according to the CDCP.) But despite spending most of the summer bickering over this, Congress has yet to settle on how much money to approve. The Obama administration had asked for $2 billion; earlier this year, Congress came to a tentative agreement of $1 billion before negotiations collapsed.
2e) Up Iran sanctions: Obama’s Iran nuclear deal isn’t dead (yet). And it’s unclear where tearing it up is on Trump’s to-do list. But even if he keeps the Iran deal, a Republican-controlled Congress and Republican-controlled White House could give Trump more opportunities to slap sanctions on Iran for violating it. If they have time, Politico reports that the Senate could start that process this month by voting on an Iran sanctions bill.”
HOUSE GOP SELECTS COMMITTEE CHAIRS: The House Republican Steering Committee yesterday picked its committee chairs for next year, and the slate is expected to be ratified today by the full Republican conference. House Republicans are expected to hold 241 seats in January over 194 Democrats. That membership will include 21 women, six Hispanics and two African-Americans, which is nearly identical to the House GOP conference’s current demographics. KEEPING COUNT OF CHAIRS Number of Women: 2 … Number of Minorities: 0 … Number from Texas: 7 (including Rules, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Armed Services, Ways and Means, Scince and Financial Services).
HOUSE DEMS RE-ELECT LEADER NPR “Nancy Pelosi beat back her toughest challenge yet to her leadership of Democrats in the House of Representatives, defeating Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan to secure another term as House minority leader. The California Democrat got 134 votes to Ryan’s 63 in a secret ballot vote on Wednesday. Pelosi had boasted going into the vote that she had support from two-thirds of the caucus, and she received just over that amount.
BUZZ Politico “Sen. Claire McCaskill is expected to join the Senate Finance Committee, according to multiple sources. The Missouri Democrat would take the slot left open after incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opted to leave the panel to serve in leadership. McCaskill and Schumer’s offices were mum on the move.”
THANKS BUT NO THANKS Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas — the powerful House Financial Services chairman — turned down President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to head the Office of Management and Budget. Hensarling was in the mix for Treasury secretary, a job that later went to Steve Mnuchin. The OMB job is a massive opportunity. It’s the largest operation in the White House, and is charged with the president’s budget and the mechanics of the federal government. Trump is now considering Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, for that job. Neither side seemed eager to discuss the situation.”
GOP HAWKS ORGANIZE AGAINST LONG-TERM DEFENSE CR MorningD “Defense-minded Republicans in the House are warning leaders they won’t support a long-term continuing spending resolution for the Pentagon. Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Joe Wilson of South Carolina – both senior House Armed Services members … along with colleagues agree with the Pentagon that funding defense programs at last year’s levels for a lengthy period of time is, as the lawmakers plan to say, “unacceptable and place[s] too great a burden on our warfighters. Given the breadth of support for the funding levels authorized in the [National Defense Authorization Act], it is deeply concerning that the House may vote next week on a funding measure that is inconsistent with the authorized funding included in the NDAA,” the lawmakers argue in a letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan. “Therefore,” the lawmakers continue, “we cannot support any measure that falls short of funding the Department of Defense at levels consistent with or above the levels set by the FY 2017 NDAA.” The move comes after SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasted his colleagues for pushing a continuing resolution rather than a full-year defense appropriations bill. The Pentagon has also warned that temporary funding hinders planning, budgeting and execution of key weapons programs. THORNBERRY WANTS A DEFENSE SUPPLEMENTAL FROM TRUMP: House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said Wednesday he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will submit a new supplemental spending request early next year to fund military hardware that was left out of the National Defense Authorization Act. The compromise defense policy bill, slated for a final vote [today], leaves out many additions in weapons procurement – including extra F-35s, F/A-18 Super Hornets and a third Littoral Combat Ship – included in the House version of the bill.”
DIPLOMATS AGHAST NYTs “President-elect Donald J. Trump inherited a complicated world when he won the election last month. And that was before a series of freewheeling phone calls with foreign leaders that has unnerved diplomats at home and abroad. In the calls, he voiced admiration for one of the world’s most durable despots, the president of Kazakhstan, and said he hoped to visit a country, Pakistan, that President Obama has steered clear of during nearly eight years in office. Mr.Trump told the British prime minister, Theresa May, ‘If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know,’ an offhand invitation that came only after he spoke to nine other leaders. He later compounded it by saying on Twitter that Britain should name the anti-immigrant leader Nigel Farage its ambassador to Washington, a startling break with diplomatic protocol. … “Mr. Trump’s conversation with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan has generated the most angst, because, as Mr. Earnest put it, the relationship between Mr. Sharif’s country and the United States is ‘quite complicated,’ with disputes over issues ranging from counterterrorism to nuclear proliferation. … The breezy tone of the [Pakistani government’s] readout left diplomats in Washington slack-jawed, with some initially assuming it was a parody. In particular, they zeroed in on Mr. Trump’s offer to Mr. Sharif “to play any role you want me to play to address and find solutions to the country’s problems.”
GEN. ‘MAD DOG’ MATTIS Skimm “Yesterday, President-elect Donald Trump tapped retired Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis for the Defense Secretary job. WHO’S HE? Mattis served in the Marines for more than 40 years, leading forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s said Iran is the “single most enduring threat” to peace in the Middle East. And since retiring a few years ago, he’s been pretty critical of what he says is the US’s “strategy-free” approach to foreign policy. But there’s one tiny problem with choosing Mattis for the role.WHAT’S THAT? This job is supposed to be filled by a civilian because checks and balances. US law prevents military members from taking the job within seven years of retirement. Mattis retired in 2013. So Trump will need Congress to waive that law before Mattis can get to work. If confirmed, Mattis would be taking over the Pentagon at a time when there are just a few international crises to deal with (hi Syrian Civil War, ISIS). Some think Mattis’ experience on the battlefield could help. WHAT MATTIS AS SECDEF MEANS Foreign Policy “Career Pentagon officials who otherwise might decline to serve in a Trump administration instead might be encouraged to stay on by the presence of Mattis, who is extremely popular among the rank and file. His Chuck Norris-like reputation is likely be worn down by the realities of the job. But Mattis admires the way Robert Gates operated as defense secretary, and that is a good model to have.”
CABINET PICKS SO FAR (WashPo): WSJ “Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
Retired Gen. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
Rep. Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the Department of Education
Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury
Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce
Still Outstanding- Secretary of State: Trump is believed to be considering Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus for the high-profile post; Secretary of Defense: Jim Talent, Tom Cotton, are leading contenders; Secretary of Homeland Security: Michael McCaul and David Clarke are in the running; Secretary of the Interior: Sarah Palin and Mary Fallin are believed to be finalists; Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Palin is also being mentioned for the VA, as is Rick Perry; Secretary of Agriculture: Perry and Sid Miller are believed to be under consideration; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson has been offered the position but has not accepted; Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Energy.”
THAT CARRIER DEAL Indianapolis Star “Carrier Corp.’s decision to keep hundreds of jobs in Indianapolis had more to do with access to the federal government than state incentives, sources familiar with the deal told IndyStar. Carrier is maintaining its Indianapolis operations largely because of the business interests of its parent company, United Technologies Corp. (which received $6 billion in federal contracts last year), said John Mutz, an Indiana Economic Development Corp. board member. NBC “Carrier confirmed Thursday that “the state of Indiana has offered Carrier a $7 million package over multiple years, contingent upon factors including employment, job retention and capital investment. While the agreement is obviously good news for the workers who’ll keep their jobs, some relevant details (WSJ/NBC): 1. Carrier jobs are still moving to Mexico Wall Street Journal reports Carrier “still plans to move 600 jobs from the Carrier plant to Mexico,” plus moving another 700 other jobs that will be lost when it closes a separate plant in Huntington, Ind. In other words, under Trump’s alleged triumph, the one that will teach a valuable lesson to American companies, Carrier is shipping 1,300 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, even as receives millions of dollars from the state. 2. This is the exact opposite of what Trump said he’d do. As a presidential candidate, Trump mocked government efforts to keep employers stateside with grants, tax incentives, and low-interest loans. Candidate Trump said that approach “doesn’t work,” which is why he’d use a stick rather than a carrot: Except, with Carrier, Trump’s doing exactly what he promised not to do, ignoring the solution he assured voters would work “easily.” 3. Moral hazard exists. “… paying off companies that threaten to ship jobs out of the country is not the basis for a sustainable, national manufacturing strategy. On the contrary, it creates a problematic set of incentives: if companies are led to believe the government will give them money to stay in the United States, every employer, whether they have outsourcing plans or not. 5. Conservatives should be howling: “… Remember when conservatives were disgusted with the idea of politicians using government money to pick “winners and losers.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has praised the Carrier deal, has argued in the past that “elites in Washington should not be picking winners and losers,” a criticism of regulation under President Barack Obama. “That’s a recipe for a closed economy — for cronyism,” he said.
TO PUT IN PERSPECTIVE (WashPo) Donald Trump has managed to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana, as the U.S. “has been losing more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs each year to overseas competition.”(Economic Policy Institute)
TRUMP IS PRESIDENT BECAUSE OF 80,000 PEOPLE IN THREE STATES The Fix “Three-weeks-plus after Election Day, there are still more votes to count in California than were cast in each of nine states and D.C. Most of the votes that have been (slowly, laboriously) counted in the state have been votes for Hillary Clinton, giving her a 4.1 million-vote lead in that state that’s powering her 2.5 million-vote lead nationally. It takes Donald Trump’s margins in the seven states where he saw the biggest vote advantages to make up Clinton’s lead in California alone. But, of course, none of this matters. All that matters is that Trump got more electoral college votes, thanks to having won more states. In many cases, those wins were much more narrow than Clinton’s, which also helps power the gap between the electoral vote and the popular one. Trump won 18 states by fewer than 250,000 votes; Clinton, 13.The most important states, though, were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won those states by 0.2, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points, respectively — and by 10,704, 46,765 and 22,177 votes. Those three wins gave him 46 electoral votes; if Clinton had done one point better in each state, she’d have won the electoral vote, too. Or put another way: But for 79,646 votes cast in those three states, she’d be the next president of the United States. The 540-vote margin in Florida that swung the 2000 election is still the modern record-holder for close races, but this is a pretty remarkable result. (Especially since the final gap between Al Gore and George W. Bush was only a little over 500,000 votes nationally.) (Numbers from Cook Political Report)
WISCONSIN RECOUNT UNDERWAY NYTs Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “Across Wisconsin Thursday an army of county clerks and election workers began the 13-day race to recount nearly 3 million presidential ballots in the nation’s first statewide presidential recount since 2004.President-elect Trump defeated Clinton by some 22,000 votes in Wisconsin and most experts say the recount has little chance of changing the outcome. But Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who got a little over 1% of the Wisconsin vote, pushed for the recount amid unsubstantiated claims that there was a chance the election might have been hacked and put up $3.5 million to cover the costs. Stein is also pressing for recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania. EFFORTS TO HALT THE RECOUNT RollCall “A pair of pro-Trump super PACs have filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to halt the recount in Wisconsin. TRUMP LAWYERS [also] filed objections in Michigan and Pennsylvania, arguing that Stein’s request for a recount is “lawless” and “insulting.” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has also filed a lawsuit to block the recount, calling it “frivolous and expensive.”
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@RVAwonk : “#Trump tells Cincinnati rally that violent crime is at a 45-year high. It’s actually at a 51-year low, according to latest FBI data.”
FUTURE OF MEDIA Susan B. Glaser Brookings: ,,,The media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter. … Social media sites should rightfully be doing a lot of soul-searching about their role as the most efficient distribution network for conspiracy theories, hatred, and outright falsehoods ever invented.” Full Article.
AND THIS … “New York Times subscription growth soars tenfold, adding 132,000, after Trump’s win.” (CNBC)
FIDEL The Hill “The announcement last week of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death touched-off a wave of emotions in South Florida. As the news spread, a dark cloud that had hung over the Cuban exile community for generations lifted with the knowledge that the man behind a deep and powerful pain, the man who had destroyed livelihoods, murdered thousands, and left families fleeing to a new country with nothing, was finally gone …Before Castro took power, a New York Times reporter interviewed him at his base of operations in the mountains of Sierra Maestra, Cuba. Castro told the reporter, “We are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship,” and the Times reporter went on to say that Castro “has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the constitution, to hold elections” and reinforced Castro’s assertions that Cuba would not be a Communist state. … Shortly after forcefully wresting and consolidating power, Castro nationalized and stole private property, including the largest theft of American citizen property in history, and began transforming Cuba into a single-party Communist state ruled by brutal military force.”
DEATHPLAN “Sixteen New York Times journalists recount their work on the Cuban revolutionary’s obituary, first drafted in 1959.” Every Mexico correspondent in recent years inherited and worked on the Fidel Castro “Death Plan.” We all thought for sure it would happen on our watch — only to see Castro outlive our tenures, just as he outlasted presidents. Click Here
SIP ON THIS Skimm “Howard Schultz, the long-time Starbucks CEO, said he’s stepping down next year and passing the cup to the company’s current president. Schultz is one of a few CEOs who’s got some name recognition. That’s because not only is he behind your daily caffeine fix, he’s also been outspoken about things like supporting gay marriage and telling customers they can’t bring guns into Starbucks stores. All of which has made many people wonder if he’s got politics in mind. Yesterday, Schultz apparently said ‘nope, not interested.’ He’ll be staying on as executive chairman. Starbucks and its controversial cups have faced some stiff competition in recent years from your neighborhood Central Perk. So Schultz stepping back could also help the coffee giant hit ‘refresh’ while trying to roast its rivals.”