Trump Gets His HHS Secretary, Dems Get a Big Opportunity

So, last night, Democratic sound and fury about Tom Price, Trump’s Health and Human Services nominee, ended up signifying nothing. Price was confirmed in a 52-47 vote (and get used to seeing those numbers), despite (or because of) being interested in cutting government investment in the realm of healthcare, being virulently opposed to Obamacare, and a little bit of insider trading on the side.

Price is the latest in a string of confirmations – Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson – where Democrats showed surprising fight against Trump and Republicans. But we’re learning a hard lesson in these first weeks, specifically that fervor does not count extra when it’s time to vote.

It can be disheartening. I’m already sensing a slight wilt in some of the fight I’ve seen on Facebook, and I get it. Taking losses is demoralizing, especially when there’s more at stake than a game. But I urge you to look beyond the scoreboard a bit. It matters that DeVos takes her post by the slimmest of margins. It matters that Democrats fought the racism that Jeff Sessions represents. The only way that the energy with which we fought ceases to matter moving forward is if the energy itself dissipates.

Tom Price will be leaving his Congressional seat to take the job at HHS. There will be a special election in Georgia this year to replace him. I’ve been harping on mayor’s races as the first real electoral chance to take a bite at the Trump apple because of chronology, but this is a real chance for Democrats to lay down a marker.

District 6 in Georgia gave Tom Price 61% of the vote in 2018. In the presidential election, however, Donald Trump carried it by less than 2 points, doing almost 13% worse in the mainly suburban district than Mitt Romney did. Price ran up the score because he’s exactly what’s wrong with Congress – a 7 term incumbent that keeps getting recycled because Democrats run nobodies against him. In 2016, he was opposed by someone named Rodney Stooksbury. Price is a multimillionaire who routinely raises several million dollars for his campaign and has a war chest of over $2.1 million. Stooksbury, best that I can tell, didn’t file a finance report.

But with a special election in a competitive district, Democrats have a chance to field a candidate that can win. The media loves special elections. They use them – perhaps unfairly – to measure the temperature of the entire nation, and there’s no doubt that there will be narratives crafted about the result of this special election. Lots of progressive activists are specially excited about the candidacy of Jon Ossoff, who’s shown some pretty impressive fundraising punch. Republicans will have some fairly impressive candidates of their own, but if you’re in the market for an anti-Trump avatar that you don’t have to wait 18 months to support, Ossoff may be your guy.

I’m going to be adding a “2018 Key Races” page as another outlet for activism. You don’t have to live in Georgia to help out – remember, contributing directly to candidates rather than party committees is the way to go, and phone calls can be made from anywhere. Let’s keep an eye on this.

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Democrats Already Wavering on Gorsuch Opposition

With Supreme Court Nominee Niel Gorsuch engaging in a bit of possibly choreographed “independence” from the president who nominated him, getting pats on the back for taking a bold stand that the judiciary should be independent from the executive, I thought it would be worth catching up on where things stood in his confirmation process.

DecisionDesk HQ is doing a really good job of tracking Senator’s statements regarding whether or not they will support a cloture vote on Gorsuch’s nomination. Just to clarify, this would be the vote the Senate takes where they agree to have a vote. Cloture is ending debate, and because of filibuster rules that remain in place for Supreme Court nominees, Republicans need 60 votes to move Gorsuch on to the final, majority-wins vote that would confirm him. Here’s how DecisionDesk has Senators scored as of this morning:

supremecourtnomineeupdate02092017

So, having 52 seats in the Senate – and with each of their Senators already a solid Yes on cloture, Republicans need 8 Democrats to go along with them to end debate and get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Right now, there are 19 Democrats that potentially will go along. I’ve divided them into the following categories:

Already gone

First, Joe Manchin is on record as supporting cloture on Gorsuch. So the Republican starting point is 53 down, 7 to go.

Uh oh

If you’ve followed this site at all, you already know that red-state democrats like Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly have not had much of an issue voting with Republicans so far this year. They’re fairly likely to end up in the Yes column on cloture and on a final vote. That means the GOP is likely already at 55 of the 60 votes they need.

The swing votes

Those remaining five votes will likely come from the following group, in rough order of likelihood: Jon Tester of Montana, Angus King of Maine, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Gary Peters of Michigan, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada. Republicans can lose one of this group and still hit the magic number for cloture. Tester has been a surprisingly reliable vote in the Senate so far (batting .545 on the Senate Tracking Sheet), but as a red-stater with impending reelection, he can’t be entirely counted on. Neither can McCaskill, and King has had one of the worst records so far this term. Some or all of this group could seek some kind of shelter by voting for cloture and then voting against Gorsuch on final approval, which would work if we weren’t all paying attention, right?

Come on, really?

Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan and Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Michael Bennett of Colorado are conspicuous as blue-state Democrats on the list of maybes. They are all blue-state Democrats, and all have had pretty good voting records so far, opposing Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, and Betsy DeVos just last week.

Remember, our approach to this should be pretty clear – Judge Merrick Garland was not appointed the courtesy of hearings, let alone a vote. The seat that was Barack Obama’s to fill was purposefully and politically held empty so that the man who lost the last presidential election by 3 million votes could fill it. It should not stand. Gorsuch should not get a final vote and should be filibustered. Any Democrat who doesn’t vote for the filibuster is complicit in allowing a Supreme Court seat – a lifetime appointment – to be stolen.

It’s that simple.

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Housekeeping

Trying to organize this site a bit better. I’m working on giving legislation I’m tracking (and perhaps eventually members of Congress) its own page for easier updates, keeping the home page for general thoughts, etc. Bear with me. Design and site management and SEO are not my bag, baby.

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Let’s Reasonably Discuss Whether Mentally Ill People Should Have Guns (No, They Should Not)

As we’ve seen with the Stream Protection Rule, Republicans have been quick to use Congress to undo Obama-era regulations. The one that’s specifically in the crosshairs now (see what I did there?) is a rule issued by the Social Security Administration that actually has nothing to do with Social Security.

The regulation, which has only been on the books for a few weeks, instead deals with who is and is not listed on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This specific rule addresses a very narrow list of Americans. In order for this rule to apply to you, you need to: have been deemed to have a mental disorder, qualify for a disability because of that order; and to be unable due to the disorder to manage your own affairs. If you fit those criteria, you would be added to NICS and be unable to purchase a firearm. You can petition to have that right restored should you undergo successful treatment or the like, but as long as you fit that bill, you’d not be able to buy a gun.

Often, after mass shootings, we’re told that “it’s not a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” Well, here’s a solution to that. By keeping the mentally ill from buying guns in the first place, you kill two birds without having to use a bullet. There are criticisms of the rule I can understand, specifically regarding the list of mental disorders that the SSA keeps tabs on, which include some relatively innocuous conditions like agoraphobia, but this rule also keeps guns out of the hands of people suffering from PTSD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Of course, Congress isn’t in the business of fixing things they don’t like, but rather throwing out the babies with the bath water, so H.J. Res 40 would do to this rule what H.J. Res 38 did to Stream Protection.

This is the perfect example of one of those issues where those of us still sifting through the rubble for areas of agreement and understanding should find one another. People who are mentally ill – enough so that they need assistance managing their affairs and are receiving government benefits to help them do so – shouldn’t have guns. But as I’ve reiterated again and again, Republicans, their allies in the NRA, and the voters who support them simply will not give an inch. In fact, in what is becoming a more and more alarming trend, I can barely do research on these bills without coming across a mountain of posts like these:

As he was going out the door, Barack Obama made one final obscene gesture to the Second Amendment community.

That gesture consisted of a rule which would troll the Social Security rolls and identify recipients whose checks were processed by a guardian.

Once these people were identified, their names would be inputted into the NICS system, and their guns would be taken away.

That was from gunowners.org. And it’s not true. The rule didn’t grandfather in anyone who already owned a firearm It simply added people to the background check system should they attempt to buy one in the future. In a post titled “Obama’s Social Security Gun Ban Goes on the Chopping Block” something called the Washington Examiner led with:

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Last year, the Social Security Administration released proposed rulemaking on a disability-related gun ban in clear violation of the Second Amendment’s protections that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  In December 2016, Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah finalized a new illegal SSA gun ban rule.  Now, members of Congress are about to send it bye bye.

So, I ask those of you who lament the state of our discourse: if I were to wade through ads for Ron Paul’s Gold Advice and banner ads advertising survival rations, and find the comments section in an attempt to “reach out to” and “understand” the thought process behind that paragraph, how would I go about that? How do you rationally discuss the finer points of Social Security Administration databases with a group that doesn’t even call the last president by his name and misrepresent what he did? What am I left to do besides roll my eyes and point out that “inputted” isn’t a word?

But the bigger problem is – where are the counterpoints to this? Where is someone supposed to go? For all our laments about fake news and adhering to reason, we’re asleep at the switch while the alt-right grist mill churns out content by the ton. I’m not saying we need more sites on the left that warn of lizard people and illuminati to balance it out, I’m simply saying… where are the normal people?

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Betsy DeVos – Trump’s Most Embattled Nominee

My Facebook’s least favorite Trump nominee appears to be the only one (for now) in actual danger of not being seated.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos looks like the first cabinet nominee this year to have bipartisan opposition to her in the Senate. Two Republicans – Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) – both women, both somewhat moderate, announced Wednesday that they would oppose DeVos’ nomination at final vote. Since Republicans have 52 votes in the Senate, which my public school education tells me means that they can’t afford to lose another.

This brings a tricky bit of business into play involving Jeff Sessions. Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, but he also, for now, is a voting member of the United States Senate from Alabama. With the loss of Collins and Murkowski, Republicans need his vote to force a 50-50 tie (if all Democrats stay in line, which, miraculously, they seem to be). The tie would then be broken by Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. This hasn’t ever happened before when it comes to a cabinet nomination, but then again, lots of things that haven’t happened before occur with some regularity these days.

So, if Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General before DeVos gets her vote, Republicans would have only 49 votes to confirm her, which isn’t enough. DeVos’s cloture vote is expected to be taken Friday, which will be followed by 30 hours of debate and a final vote either this weekend or next week. So, in essence, Democrats are getting two for the price of one. They’re putting up a rare unified fight against a Trump nominee, and they’re inconveniencing Jeff Sessions.

Tthis is a good example of grassroots political activism at work. DeVos has drawn outrage from the Democratic rank-and-file in scope that far outweighs her rank in the Cabinet pecking-order (name four other Secretaries of Education – go! Exactly.) But there’s good reason to be skeptical of her ability to run the department, and Collins and Murkoswki echoed those skepticisms in their statements:

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Democrats: Don’t Overthink Your Gorsuch Opposition

Now that Donald Trump had his “So You Think You Can Adjudicate” reality TV moment and picked some guy named Neil Gorsuch for a Supreme Court seat that shouldn’t have been his to appoint, there are lots of people, up to and including Democratic politicians who are wondering aloud “what should we do?”

To which I reply: don’t let him on the Supreme Court.

I mean, this isn’t hard. First, there’s some pretty recent precedent for holding up a SCOTUS appointment. You have to go alllll the way back to two weeks ago to find it, since Republicans held up Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland, for almost a year because… well, because they felt like it.

So now, we should feel like holding up this one. After all, we were just assured – again, last year – that hell, the Supreme Court works just fine with eight justices. So let’s try it on for size.

You can make arguments about his conservativism, and pick apart his judicial philosophy on this issue or that issue, and make no mistake, he’d rule as a very conservative justice, perhaps second only to Clarence Thomas in that metric. But keep it simple, folks. The reason he shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court is because there are no political norms or rules any more, and the party that destroyed them shouldn’t be rewarded for doing so. If you think for a second that had Hillary Clinton won the presidency but not the popular vote that Republicans would suddenly be falling over themselves to vote for an appointment they wouldn’t before, you’re dangerously naive.

I honestly can almost not think of a single counterargument to Democratic obstruction of the nominee. Beyond “how’s your own medicine taste?” there’s the fact that if, as Republicans told us, the Supreme Court was on the ballot last fall, there’s 3 million reasons why Hillary Clinton should get to pick who fills the seat. That’s right, the Supreme Court is the court of the entire country, so popular vote counts.

Speaking of vote counts, and getting back to the nitty gritty of this, Gorsuch will need 60 votes in the Senate, which means Republicans would have to bring along 8 Democrats to confirm him. Off the top of my head, the ones we should be worried about are: Chris Coons (DE), Bill Nelson (FL) Angus King (ME), Joe Donnelly (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Bob Casey (PA), and Joe Manchin (WV). That’s nine.

Republicans can also invoke the so-called “nuclear option.” They can change the rules of the Senate (remember yesterday’s post) and allow Supreme Court justices to be seated with a simple majority. If they do that, there will be no way to stop Gorsuch from filling the seat.

So, make them do it. Stop listening to media concern-trolling that if you filibuster this time, you won’t be able to if there’s a more liberal seat available, or that you’re “overplaying your hand.” Important decisions should be the easiest ones to make, and this one is pretty damned important, not only for the future makeup of the court, but to show that there are limits to being the grownups who let the kids run roughshod over you.

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H.J. Res. 38 – Protecting Us From the Burdensome Cleanliness of Our Water

Update #2: 2/2/17 7:42 AM

… and now the Senate has voted to advance the bill. The Stream Protection Act will be dead by the end of the week, pending Trump’s signature. Vote to advance was 56-42. Four Democrats voted with all 52 Republicans to ensure passage: reliable Trump voters Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly, and  Joe Manchin (WV), and a somewhat surprising defection from Claire McCaskill (MO).

Updated Senate Tracking HERE.

Update: 2/1/17 6:33 PM

As expected, the House passed H.J.Res 38 tonight, disapproving of the rule and sending it on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass via Congressional Review as I outlined below. Four Democrats: Colin Peterson (MN-7), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Sanford Bishop (GA-2), and Jim Costa (CA-16) joined Republicans to pass the bill. Peterson and Cuellar have voted with Trump and the Republicans on all three bills I’ve tracked so far. Costa abstained once.

Updated House Tracking HERE.

———

One of the last things our last president, Barack Obama, did before leaving office was to finalize a rule that protects rivers and streams from coal companies. He did this by updating mining regulations to include something called the Stream Protection Rule. It’s a classic example of government regulation – if left to their own devices, mining companies can- and do- engage in a practice called “mountaintop removal,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Those mountaintops, once removed, have to go somewhere, and more often that not, they make their way into water sources, which in turn threatens the fish and wildlife that live in these areas, as well as to human populations in Appalachia.

Since 2007, peer-reviewed studies by researchers from more than a dozen universities have concluded that mountaintop removal coal mining contributes to significantly higher rates of birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases among individuals living in the region where it occurs.

Boy, it’s a good thing those people all have health insura… oh.

These companies engage in this mountaintop removal for the same reason comapnies do things that are detrimental to citizens all the time – because it’s profitable, and because there’s no regulation preventing them from doing so. And they do it with gusto. A study by Mountain Voices shows that “10% of the Central Appalachian region has been surface mined for coal and more than 500 mountains have been severely impacted or destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Five. Hundred. Mountains.

They will continue to engage in these practices, largely because the Stream Protection Rule, even if it miraculously survives the week, doesn’t stop them from getting to their sweet, sweet coal. What it does do is address and protect the cleanliness of nearby water sources, protecting streams for at least the next 20 years by regulating what the mining companies do with all the stuff that results from their liberation of the mountaintops. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement estimated that, thanks to the rule

between 2020 and 2040, the rule will result in the protection or restoration of 22 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year, improved water quality in 263 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year downstream of minesites, and improved reforestation of 2,486 acres of mined land per year (approximately 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest) over the next 21 years.

The government is simply telling mining companies “look, we don’t like the way you’re going about your business, but if you’re going to do it, can you at least be responsible about what happens afterward?” The response is an overwhelming “nah.”

Tomorrow, the rule will almost certainly be overturned in the House, with coal-friendly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell waiting, breath held, to send it on to the president for his signature. Not only will the bill allow mining companies to dispense of mining debris into rivers and streams, it will make sure the Department of the Interior can’t issue similar rules in the future.

Because of the process Republicans are using to overturn the rule, it won’t be subject to a filibuster in the Senate, so it’s entirely possible the law will be history by as early as the end of the week. The process, known as the Congressional Review Act, has been in existence since 1996, but has only ever been used once before. Apparently the number of exceptions to rules and customs Republicans are willing to make in order to foil Barack Obama and his legacy didn’t end when he left office.

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H.R. 5: Those Who Rule Make the Rules

One of the first thing the 115th Congress (that’s this one, the one that will be in place until it’s replaced after the 2018 midterms) did, and in fact one of the first things every Congress does, is make their own rules.

This year, that bill in the House was called H.R. 5. Officially, the “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017.” It was introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and proud owner of a safe, R+12 congressional seat on the border of West Virginia, where he’s been entrenched since 1993. It passed the House on January 3, with the distinction of receiving zero Democratic votes in the House. Three Republicans – Thomas Massie (KY-4), Justin Amash (MI-3) and Walter Jones (NC-3) even voted against it.

The rules bill, not surprisingly, is a pretty good way for the party in control of Congress to sneak in some provisions they think will be advantageous to their success in getting their legislation done in Congress, and this year is no different. GovTrack has identified four major changes that will be in place this year, but the most important of them is the one that involves the GOP’s continued infatuation with repealing Obamacare.

Specifically, what H.R. 5 has done changed how it’s “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO is the independent organization within Congress that tells us how a bill is going to impact the overall balance sheet of the Federal government. They also will “score” bills based on how many people will be impacted, and other metrics so that we know what will happen if a bill is enacted before we actually do it. They usually project this waaaay out, 50 years to be exact. But when it comes to the impact a repeal of Obamacare will have on our budget deficit, that requirement no longer exists.

The section of H.R. 5 in question is Section 3, Subsection H: “Point of Order Against Increasing Direct Spending”

(1) Congressional Budget Office Analysis of Proposals

The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall, to the extent practicable, prepare an estimate of whether a bill or joint resolution reported by a committee (other than the Committee on Appropriations), or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, would cause, relative to current law, a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10-fiscal year periods beginning with the first fiscal year that is 10 fiscal years after the current fiscal year.

(2) Point of Order

It shall not be in order to consider any bill or joint resolution reported by a committee, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, that would cause a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10-fiscal year periods described in paragraph (1).

(3) Determinations of Budget Levels

For purposes of this subsection, the levels of net increases in direct spending shall be determined on the basis of estimates provided by the chair of the Committee on the Budget.

 (4) Limitation

This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon—

(A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010;

(B) reforming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010; or

(C) for which the chair of the Committee on the Budget has made an adjustment to the allocations, levels, or limits contained in the most recently adopted concurrent resolution on the budget.

Did you catch that? I know it sucks to read these things, but this is actually one of the easier wordings to get your head around. The rules package allows the CBO to flag any bill that increases the deficit by more than a certain amount as “out of order.” That’s what section 2 lays out – the rules for what the CBO should consider to be so expensive that Congress should not act on it. But further sections, specifically 4A, 4B, and 4C, specifically exempts Obamacare repeal, and only Obamacare repeal from this rule.

There was a bit of confusion about what this means the CBO can and cannot do, and Keith Ellison wrongly tweeted out that the CBO wouldn’t be allowed to score repeal at all. It can, but only over a much shorter time span. But still, what this section does is really, really clear, even for someone not used to reading legislation like myself – they’ve made a very specific, very purposeful exception to the usual CBO rules when it comes to repealing Obamacare.

Now, the obvious question is “why would the party that’s supposed to care so much about the deficit not want to know whether Obamacare repeal will add to the deficit or not?” and if you’re asking yourself that, you really are new here. Obamacare repeal, if scored by the CBO, will almost certainly add to the deficit. Republicans clearly care more about repealing Obamacare than the deficit, which makes sense when you realize there’s not much evidence they care about deficits at all when it’s their turn to run them up.

Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 5) – GovTrack.us

“H.R. 5 — 115th Congress: Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017.” http://www.GovTrack.us. 2017. January 31, 2017 <https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr5&gt;

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Senate Votes to End Debate on Rex Tillerson

It took a lot of repetition of my “only write about Congress” mantra to get through yesterday, as I’m sure most days of this administration will require. My advice to keep up with the grim machinations issuing forth from the White House is to find a blogger or a news site that covers it and stay on top of it every day. But for my own continuing policy education (as well as my sanity), I’m going to continue to concentrate exclusively on Congress.

Well… almost exclusively. I’m sure I’ll cave at some point.

But for now, there was really only one vote yesterday that bears noting, and it was the vote to invoke cloture on debate for Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. The motion (which required only 50 votes, since cabinet appointees cannot be held to a 60 vote threshold like legislation can) passed 56-43. I’ve updated the Senate Tracking page to reflect this.

Only 4 Democrats – two from deep red states (Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia); a swing state independent (Angus King of Maine) and a blue state moderate (Mark Warner of Virginia) voted with Republicans. Warner, Heitkamp, and King are now the only remaining Democrats to have voted with Trump on all six occasions so far.

I originally thought Tillerson may have trouble with his nomination, since Republicans like Marco Rubio engaged him in some pretty pointed questioning regarding his business dealings with Russia while he was CEO of Exxon. Of course, counting on Marco Rubio is a good way to end up disappointed, so here we are.

Tillerson’s final confirmation vote will probably come today or tomorrow. Voting for cloture does not necessarily mean that all the same people will vote for confirmation, which is why I’m tracking them as two separate votes.

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Congress Readjourns – Will Democrats Change Strategy?

After a weekend that saw the second and third days of mass demonstrations across the nation in defiance of the president and his actions so far, there are some indications that Democrats in Congress may be catching up with their supporters. After attending the Battery Park rally in New York City with my daughter yesterday, and watching a Chuck Shumer was bombarded with exhortations from the crowd to not vote for any more of Trump’s nominees, he seemed to get the message, saying in a Facebook post:

The people that the president has nominated to serve in his cabinet will have incredible power over millions of Americans and in shaping what kind of country we are going to be.

I’ve made it very clear I will vote NO on nominees DeVos (education), Tillerson (state) and Sessions (attorney general). Nothing will change that, and while I will continue to demand that each nominee issue a public statement on his or her views of President Trump’s Muslim Ban, I will vote against nominees who will be the very worst of this anti-immigrant, anti-middle-class, billionaires’ club cabinet. Rep Mick Mulvaney for Budget Director, Rep Tom Price for Health and Human Services, Steve Mnuchin for Treasury, Scott Pruitt for EPA and Andy Puzder for Labor have repeatedly shown they will not put the American People or the Laws of our nation first, and I will vote against their confirmations.

This is in addition to previously announced opposition to Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions. So, one of the biggest outliers on my Senat Tracking page seems to falling into line. Whether Dianne Feinstein and others follow remains to be seen, but this week seems to be a key one as far as whether Democrats will move toward a strategy of blanket opposition.

Late today, the Senate will vote on the aforementioned Mr. Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Tomorrow, it will be Elaine Chao’s (Transportation) turn. Committee votes are anticipated to come tomorrow for Sessions (Attorney General) and DeVos (Education). Pruitt and Shulkin are on the calendar for Wednesday. Additional confirmations could be announced for later in the week.

In the House, there are a number of actions, from naming a mountain and regulating Dungeness crab to improved technology for nuclear weapons detection and sharing terror threat information that I’ll address as they are voted on if need be. Most of the focus, though, will rightly be on the Senate, and just how many votes Trump’s most controversial (Sessions, Tillerson, DeVos) and seemingly palatable (Chao) nominees get from Democrats. Unfortunately, the actual confirmations themselves seem anti-climactic, as there are no Republicans expected to vote against any of them.

As a bit of housekeeping, I’ve updated the sidebar with a Widget that will stream Congressional tweets from Members of Congress live to the website. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on elected officials circumventing media to send 140 character messages directly to their constituents, it’s the reality we live in.

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