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Transition to Trump: Chuck Schumer takes over as leader of Democrat obstructionists

Now that Congress has convened for its next two-year session chock full of deliberations, posturing, arguments and legislation, attention is turning to the confirmation progression for Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees (set to begin next week with two days of hearings for Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions). In the process, the name of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is surfacing quite a bit.

Liberal voters and interest groups have tasked Schumer with doing whatever he can to stall and/or defeat Chuck SchumerTrump’s appointments, and by all accounts, the New York Democrat is taking the duty to heart.

As a result, Republicans are already preparing to fight back.

Susan Crabtree of the Washington Examiner reports, “Senate Republicans have launched a public shaming campaign to try to shift public opinion against Democrats' threats to stall action on eight of Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees until March.

“Democrats, led by new Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have repeatedly warned that they will drag out confirmation votes with a series of procedural tactics. They say they have no qualms delaying the Trump nominees if they feel they don't receive adequate background information and financial records and don't have enough time to review them.”

Why didn’t they express similar concerns eight years ago with Obama’s nominees?

Part of the Republicans’ “fighting back” strategy involves reminding Democrats that seven of Obama’s selections were confirmed by the Senate on the day the 44th president was sworn-in in 2009. Five more were confirmed by voice vote shortly after, including Hillary Clinton.

If Republicans had chosen to obstruct Obama’s people all they would have had to do was take advantage of the filibuster, which required the higher 60-vote threshold for executive branch appointments back then. Today, thanks to former Majority Leader Harry Reid and his choosing to use the infamous “nuclear option” in 2013, Republicans need only 50 votes (plus a potential tie-break by Mike Pence) to confirm Trump’s appointees.

To combat Schumer’s potential stonewalling Republicans plan to dig up quotes from the not-so-distant past where Democrats (including Schumer and vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine) spouted off on the public necessity of confirming administration leaders in a timely manner.

Of course now that they lost the election the shoe is on the other foot and Democrats are feeling a lot less cooperative. What a shocker.

“The cabinet nominees Democrats plan to target include: Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick to be secretary of state, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., his choice for attorney general, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C. who he named to lead the Office of Management and Budget and Betsy DeVos, selected to serve as education secretary.”

They’ll also go after Tom Price (nominee to head HHS), Scott Pruitt (in line for EPA), Steve Mnuchin (Treasury) and Andrew Puzder (Labor).

Expect the Democrats to dip deep into their “deplorables” basket of labels to paint each one of Trump’s conservative nominees with their typical liberal identification stamps – racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic… whatever-phobic. For the Christians on the list Democrats will probably insist they’re anti-Semitic as well, though that type of charge would be a little harder to press against the Jewish nominees.

For their part, Schumer and his party henchmen are claiming confirmation needs to be delayed for a number of Trump’s appointments because of the nominees’ extensive financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest. Democrats are demanding at least two days of hearings for the nominees named above – and if they don’t get them, they’re threatening procedural delays that will bring Senate business to a virtual standstill.

Here’s yet another area where Democrats are pulling out all the stops to punish the successful.

Make no mistake – the Democrats’ maneuvers are only intended to get back at Trump and to discredit him in any way they can. What they can’t win at the ballot box they’ll try to accomplish by stretched interpretations of the rule book.

There’s also word that Schumer is planning fierce resistance to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee too.

Seung Min Kim of Politico reports, “The newly minted Senate minority leader took a hard line on Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-named pick to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, threatening to leave the empty ninth seat open indefinitely unless Trump nominates someone who could get broad support in the Senate — a scenario Schumer acknowledged is ‘hard for me to imagine.’

“Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s risky gambit to halt the confirmation process for Merrick Garland may have paid off, Schumer warned that Republicans will face payback for their year-long blockade of President Barack Obama’s nominee in due time.”

In Kim’s article Schumer predicted Trump would not choose a nominee that both parties could support and “We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice.”

In essence, Schumer is daring the Republican majority to launch a “nuclear option” of their own for Supreme Court nominees. Time will tell if such a tactic will prove necessary but it’s clear from Schumer’s tone that Senate Democrats plan to throw up roadblocks to just about everything Trump would plan to do.

He’ll have a willing accomplice in Nancy Pelosi over in the House, though her power is much more restricted by House rules.

The Democrats’ unjustified resistance was hardly unexpected; it’s just sad to see, once again, that they’re much more concerned with preserving their own power than they are in working to pass reforms the country needs desperately.

Americans still deeply divided over the direction of the country under Trump

Along with the likely intense opposition to Donald Trump’s nominees and policy agenda from the minority party Democrats in both houses of Congress, a recent survey suggested Americans remain far apart on many of the most important issues of our time.

But one thing citizens seem able to agree on is the need for the next president to focus on jobs and the economy.

Steven Shepard of Politico reports, “Voters want President-elect Donald Trump to focus on bringing back manufacturing jobs from overseas and preventing more jobs from leaving the country when he takes office later this month.

“A new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey reveals less enthusiasm for some other major Trump proposals during last year’s presidential campaign, including building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or restricting Muslims from entering the country.”

Part of the “less enthusiasm” for Trump’s other proposals is due to the nature of the survey questions, which essentially asked respondents to rank what they felt was most important for Trump to discuss during his inaugural speech. It’s not the least bit surprising people didn’t hold a negative like “restricting Muslims from entering the country” as high in esteem as saving jobs.

It doesn’t mean Trump’s “extreme vetting” proposal isn’t popular. People just want to hear about something more uplifting when Trump speaks on January 20.

The truth is we don’t need a poll to tell us America is still fragmented after the 2016 election. The ruptures that began with the 2000 election only widened during George W. Bush’s and Obama’s presidencies, so the general election campaign last year didn’t help things.

And when the Democrats purposely put forward a scofflaw establishment candidate who couldn’t offer much of a reason for people to vote for her other than “I’m not Trump and I’m a woman!”, you had to figure those wounds won’t heal easily.

At the same time, the media went out of its way to chew on every Trump quote in order to portray him and his supporters as the “deplorable” spawn of Satan who, if he somehow won the election, would personally round up women and children so they could be unceremoniously dumped over the southern border.

In all honesty Trump didn’t help his own cause at various points in the campaign, but there’s little doubt once you got below the nastiness of the personal smear job against him that the Republican candidate had a much more substantive policy platform. Trump made several policy packed speeches that drew good reviews from those who were paying attention at the time.

Trump wasn’t a conventional candidate so it’s perhaps only natural some people viewed him as lacking substance in his candidacy. But the voters themselves had no problem seeing through it all and understood exactly what would ensue if the Democrats remained in charge for another four years.

Judging by the survey, a good portion of the country won’t even be watching Trump’s inauguration in any case.

“[O]nly 37 percent of voters say they intend to watch it live. Roughly half, 49 percent, say they won’t plan on watching it, while 14 percent aren’t sure. But 55 percent of voters say they plan to watch news coverage of the speech later,” Shepard wrote.

So is it really any surprise that people would say Trump should concentrate on consensus issues like jobs in his speech when half of them aren’t even going to tune in?

Not in the slightest.

Trump fills out White House staff, sets the wheels in motion to deal with Obamacare on day one

In the nearly two months since Donald Trump won the presidential election, the media has naturally focused on the more recognizable names of the people Trump would place in charge of running federal departments in the new administration. They’re the “big picture” group.

Yesterday, Trump added quite a few capable individuals to his White House staff, the ones who will help color in the details.

Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday rewarded top aides to some of his closest confidants with key positions in the White House as he continues to build out a team that is heavy on veterans from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)…

“...Trump hired Sessions's chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, to lead the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Cabinet Affairs.

“Dearborn has decades of experience on Capitol Hill. He will join another former Sessions aide, Stephen Miller, at the White House. Miller is a senior adviser to Trump and his chief speechwriter.”

Trump also named former RNC staffer Katie Walsh to act as deputy chief of staff at the White House, a move seen as a nod to Reince Priebus.

There were additional personnel moves as Trump fills out his White House staff. These are the people who could become household names in the coming years…or at least some of them.

And they’ll need to be ready to assume their roles as of January 20, because according to Trump’s press secretary-to-be Sean Spicer, the new president will be starting work a few hours after taking the oath of office.

I’m not sure if it’s item number one on the agenda, but that first day will begin the process of repealing Obamacare.

Peter Sullivan of The Hill reports, “House Republicans are planning to get an ObamaCare repeal bill on President-elect Trump's desk by Feb. 20, while the administration moves forward with executive actions to start unwinding ObamaCare on day one…

“’It will be an orderly transition to something better ... using executive authority to ensure it’s an orderly transition,’ [Vice President-elect Mike] Pence told reporters. ‘We’re working now on a series of executive orders that will enable that orderly transition to take place even as Congress appropriately debates alternatives to and replacements for ObamaCare.’”

The Trump team has two more weeks to get those executive orders prepared for Trump’s signature when he reaches the Oval Office. I wonder if he’ll tweet after signing the first one…?

As would be expected there are a number of lawmakers who are urging restraint in the approach to dealing with Obamacare, claiming a straight repeal without a ready replacement could foster chaos among the uninsured.

Considering one of those sounding a cautionary alarm was Sen. Rand Paul, I’m inclined to believe them.

Whatever the pace, it sounds like Trump and his team (led by Mike Pence) is ready and eager to start unraveling the legislative chains that have shackled this country for the past eight years.

One of Trump’s strongest attributes is his willingness to act without worrying too much about what his detractors think. If that’s the case, I’m guessing there will be a lot of positive change very quickly – and a lot of hemming and hawing by the media because of it.

Trump’s new staff members will endure the storm of criticism as well. I’m betting they’re ready and raring to go right now.

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