Trump Sworn In as 45th President
President Donald Trump, very much still in campaign mode, vowed in his inaugural address to use his new powers to turn the country inward and “rebuild” America, telling his countrymen and the world he will govern with a simple principle: “It’s going to be only America first.”
In a striking scene, the bombastic businessman and former reality television star, spoke from the very spot where American political giants like Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama delivered their first remarks as commander in chief.
“The day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump said. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
Trump promised his “total allegiance to the United States of America,” and said his ascension to power has “special meaning” because it marks the “transferring [of] power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the costs,” the president said under a light drizzle that began just as he stepped to the podium after taking the Oath of Office from Chief Justice John Roberts. “Washington has flourished but people did not share in its wealth.
“The jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country,” Trump said. “Their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”
“Struggling” families across the country have had “little to celebrate,” but the new — and unlikely — chief executive followed that dismal assessment with a bold promise: “That all changes, starting right here and right now.”
“This moment is your moment,” he said in a message to the American people, including what he calls the “forgotten” segments of the populace. “It belongs to you.”
There were calls from Republicans and Democrats for Trump to deliver a message of unity, and parts of his speech were geared toward just that, saying “We are one nation,” and “We share one home and one destiny,” he said.
He described the words he spoke just minutes earlier that vested the powers of the presidency in him as an “oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
Trump, echoing his campaign’s major theme, signaled he intends to turn the country inward. He trumpeted his plans to tighten its immigration policies, prevent manufacturing jobs from being outsourced, and promised to “rebuild” the country’s infrastructure.
He delivered a “new decree” that he wanted to be heard in “every city” and “every hall of power” across the world, which he called “a new vision that will govern” the United States: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.
Trump promised that tax policy, immigration policy and foreign affairs decisions will be crafted under his command to “benefit Americans” first and “guard against [the] ravages of outside forces.
“America will start winning again,” he promised. “Winning like never before. … We will bring back our dreams.” Also echoing his campaign message, he said the country will “buy American and hire American.”
The new commander in chief seemed to signal he wants America to play a leadership role in global affairs, but he made clear his intention to focus on domestic matters.
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first,” Trump said, adding previous U.S. presidents have defended other countries’ borders and “enriched foreign industries” without “even a thought about the workers that have been left behind — that is the past.”
As lawmakers filed out to the West Front, members of both parties said they hoped to hear a message of national unity after Trump’s campaign targeted Hispanics, Muslims and was accused of being condescending toward African-Americans.
“I hope to hear a speech like the first speech he gave the night after the victory, that he’s president for all Americans,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who often was critical of candidate Trump.
Still, some were concerned Trump would revert to form shortly after assuming office.
“I’m sure he’s going to give a speech about bringing the country together,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.. “But I worry about what he’s going to tweet tomorrow morning.”
Trump officially ran as a Republican, but many of his bold policy pronouncement and promises were uniquely populist, leaving many members of his own party wondering if his agenda will align with their traditional platform.
The incoming president appears more in line with Democrats on some issues, including his call for a massive — and expensive — infrastructure plan. He also wants to keep entitlement program as is, but GOP lawmakers want to overhaul things like Medicare and Medicaid.
Whether or not his address convinced GOP members or heartened concerned Democrats remains to be seen.
Trump and Obama arrived at the Capitol around 11 a.m. in the heavily armored presidential limousine known as “The Beast.” Trump shook hands with congressional leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Obama gave her a peck on the cheek.
The world was eagerly awaiting the address, wondering if Trump would strike a unifying and statesmanlike tone after a campaign in which he used an unprecedentedly brash style and a transition period that featured Twitter feuds with corporations, political rivals and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.
The Republican president rode to the White House a scorched-earth campaign with name-calling of his opponents and a strikingly dismal assessment of the country’s health. Trump’s populist campaign was fueled by disgust for what he often has called America’s “Third World” infrastructure, “burning” and “crime-infested” inner cities, and its ill-advised foreign interventionism.
Lawmakers and experts agreed that anything was possible when the new president took to the familiar blue podium with the iconic seal. Many around Washington expected his inaugural address would sound much different than those delivered in the past.
The feel inside the Capitol on Friday morning was one of, as Trump might describe it, low energy. Outside on the West Front, early arrivers sat in a drizzle amid chilly temperatures. The security presence inside the building was less than that of other major events just hours before the sitting and incoming commanders in chief were set to arrive.
The new president brings into office an admitted disdain for political norms, no previous government experience, no clear political or foreign policy ideologies, and a penchant for brashly lashing out at anyone who dares to criticize him.
He also takes office amid dwindling approval ratings. A Fox News poll released hours before he was sworn in put the figure at just 37 percent. Two other polls released earlier in the week put his approval rating at 40 percent.
At the same point in President Barack Obama’s transition period eight years ago, one of those polls, conducted by CNN/ORC International, had his approval rating at 84 percent.
Both the polls released earlier this week, conducted by CNN/ORC International and The Washington Post/ABC News, put his disapproval numbers above 50 percent. The Post/ABC survey put it at 54 percent, while the CNN/ORC survey found 52 percent of those polled have an unfavorable view of how Trump is handling his transition to the Oval Office.
At this time in 2009, the two surveys put Obama’s negative ratings at 14 percent (CNN/ORC) and 18 percent (Post/ABC).
-Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.Contact Bennett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.
The Senate is expected to vote on at least two of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees after he is sworn in on Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Thursday that he expected votes on Gen. John Kelly to be the next Homeland Security Secretary and Gen. James Mattis to lead the Defense Department. Schumer also said debate will begin on Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo‘s nomination to be the C.I.A. director, with a vote possible Friday or early next week.
Schumer said votes on other “non-controversial nominees” are possible, but he is still negotiating timing with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Asked why timing on those non-controversial confirmations had not yet been resolved, Schumer told Roll Call, “We’re negotiating ... Anyone in my caucus can hold them up. Any single person has the right to ask for full debate.”
McConnell has said he is frustrated that more nominees will not be confirmed on the first day of Trump’s administration. He and other Republicans are quick to point out that seven of President Barack Obama’s nominees were confirmed on day one.
But Schumer said Republicans have been trying to jam nominees through the confirmation process, and senators have not been given enough time to properly vet them. He threatened extensive floor debate on the nominees, which could prolong the confirmation process.
“Senate Republicans did not want to have a debate on the merits of these nominees in committee, but they should be prepared to do so on the floor of the United States Senate,” Schumer said at a Thursday press conference.
Schumer said Democrats want some nominees to return for further questioning. He pointed to the eight nominees Democrats have the most problems with, excluding Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the Attorney General nominee. Sessions had two days of hearings with extensive rounds of questioning.
The other nominees most troubling to Democrats include Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin, Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt, Office of Management and Budget nominee Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., Education nominee Betsy DeVos, and Labor nominee Andy Puzder.
Trump officially named his last Cabinet pick Thursday. He chose former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to run the Agriculture Department. The former governor is a cousin to current Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga.
The senator said in a statement that his cousin’s “executive experience as a two-term Governor of Georgia, the first Republican in 135 years, as well as his veterinary background and agribusiness career, are a few of the many reasons he is the best person for the job.”
But Perdue’s selection drew the ire of the first Latina senator, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. She said she was “stunned” that Trump did not select a single Latino for a Cabinet position.
With Capitol Hill gearing up for the Inauguration all week, Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill Reporter Alex Gangitano shares how the Bible Ronald Reagan was sworn in on was delivered to D.C. for Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s inaugural oath. See the video for more, including an update on the saga of the controversial student painting that was removed from Cannon this week.
<strong>By BRIDGET BOWMAN AND NIELS LESNIEWSKI</strong><br> <strong>CQ Roll Call</strong>
Senators’ focus on President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees continued Wednesday afternoon, with some attention turning toward which nominees might be confirmed on Friday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY., are currently in negotiations over which nominees could be swiftly confirmed. Democrats will need to cooperate to either confirm nominees by unanimous consent or agree to limiting time for their consideration.
When asked about three national security nominees — Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to be CIA Director, Retired Gen. John Kelly to lead the Homeland Security Department and Retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon — being confirmed on Friday, Schumer hedged but seemed to tip his hand a bit.
“Those three nominees were not on the list of the nine who we had the most trouble with and wanted the most extensive hearings, and we’re discussing that with Sen. McConnell and some of the folks in the White House right now,” Schumer said.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who is the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said she expected Kelly to be confirmed on Friday.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also voted 26-1 Wednesday to favorably report Mattis’ nomination for Defense secretary, meaning his nomination can be sent directly to the Senate after he is formally nominated by Trump.
Elaine L. Chao, Trump’s pick for Transportation secretary, is also expected to receive bipartisan support. The former Labor Secretary is married to McConnell.
As for the broader issue of confirming Cabinet picks for agencies with more of a domestic focus, Schumer said, “This week we’ve made no progress at all.”
Still, even extended debate would not doom nominees, since the Democratic majority pushed through rules changes in 2013 that require only a simple majority to limit debate.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he hoped seven Cabinet nominees would be confirmed on Friday, which would be comparable to the number confirmed on the first day of President Barack Obama’s administration.
“I would expect parity,” Cornyn said. “The only difference is what the Democrats will allow us to do without having to file for cloture on each one of them.”
But Democrats have increasing concerns about some of Trump’s nominees with vast financial holdings, and they have pushed back on GOP demands for quick confirmation of nominees who haven't filled out the basic paperwork nominees do.
Trump’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, revealed he did not pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee. The South Carolina Republican informed the Senate Budget Committee in a questionnaire that he re-payed the taxes.
Democrats were quick to cite past incidents when failing to pay taxes disqualified Cabinet hopefuls.
Schumer compared the tax issues that surfaced in Mulvaney’s nomination to the household employee issue that helped stop former Sen. Thomas Daschle’s selection to be Health and Human Services Secretary in 2009 under President Barack Obama.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Schumer said.
“He didn’t pay his taxes?” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy when asked about the issue.
“In the past — this has come out a couple of times before, and in both Democratic and Republican administrations -- usually at that point, their nominee says, ‘Oh, you know what?...I need to spend more time with my family, I can’t accept this great honor,’” Leahy said.
At a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing Wednesday, Democrats also raised concerns about Rep. Tom Price investing in biomedical companies while working on health care policy. The Georgia Republican was before the committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next HHS secretary.
“Everything that we have done has been above board, transparent, ethical and legal,” Price told the committee.
In his final press conference as president, Barack Obama warned that economic and other forces could further divide Americans, and sent messages anew to Donald Trump, particularly that he could re-enter the political arena if “our core values may be at stake.”
Less than 48 hours before he will cede all powers of the presidency to Trump, the 55-year-old Obama, with more salt than pepper atop his head, showed flashes of the optimistic candidate who toppled both Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during the 2008 presidential campaign. But by the end of the session, his concerns about the next four years appear to show through.
“I believe in this country. I believe in the American people,” Obama said. “I believe that people are more good than bad.”
The president pointed to economic inequality as his biggest worry about the future of the country, saying “if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast.” An even wider gap between haves and have nots would “also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans -- not just along racial lines.”
“I mean, there are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the president-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised,” he said. “They feel as if they're being looked down on. They feel as if their kids aren't going to have the same opportunities as they did.”
In one of a handful of final thinly veiled pieces of advice for Trump he dropped Wednesday, Obama said that “you don't want to … have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well, and everybody else is fighting for scraps.” Under those conditions, he warned, “racial divisions get magnified, because people think, well, the only way I'm going to get ahead is if I make sure somebody else gets less. … That's not a good recipe for our democracy.”
Obama, in a striking scene that showed he is attuned to Trump and his team threatening to kick the White House press corps out of the White House, began the nearly hour-long session, by endorsing efforts by the presidential press corps to remain in their workspace in the West Wing.
“I spent a lot of time … in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy,” Obama said. “It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment of self-government has to work. It doesn't work if we don't have a well-informed citizenry.
“So America needs you and our democracy needs you,” Obama added. “We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress.”
But it seemed the need to deliver that kind of pro-press freedom lecture, and the many uncertainties regarding whether Trump will leave in place any of his top accomplishments, has left the candidate who ran on hope with a less-optimistic view of the country’s future than he possessed eight years ago.
“At my core, I think we’re going to be OK,” Obama said in a less-than-optimistic assessment about where the country is headed. “We just have to fight for it. We have to work for it. And not take it for granted.”
Obama then offered telling final words for the reporters and photographers in the briefing room: “Good luck.”
Meantime, the outgoing president again signaled he intends to follow the tradition of most former U.S. presidents and remain on the sidelines of policy debates out of deference to the sitting chief executive. But he also had a message for Trump: Overstep on certain issues and I’ll return to politics.
On the normal “back-and-forth” in Washington on issues like tax cuts, the president said citizen Obama won’t weigh in. Then came the warning from a man who won two presidential elections and will depart office with approval ratings in the low-60s, compared to Trump’s 40-something numbers.
“But there's a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” a somber-faced Obama said. “I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.”
Also on that list is any Trump-ordered program to, as the incoming POTUS has put it, “round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids, and send them someplace else, when they love this country. … I think would be something that would merit me speaking out.”
But would he feel so strongly that he might seek some kind of elected office? “It doesn't mean that I would get on the ballot,” he said.
Earnest: Obama ‘Reserves the Right’ to Speak Out
Meanwhile, one day after his own last go-round in the Brady briefing room, Obama’s top spokesman, Josh Earnest, was asked about a recent GQ article that explored what kind of relationship Obama would have with Trump.
“President Obama is hopeful that he can do the same thing President [George W.] Bush did,” Earnest told Roll Call during a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast. “The president also is reserving the right, if some basic values and norms are being violated, to speak out.”
Obama and his senior staff have talked throughout his final year about his appreciation for how Bush handled the transition period between their administration, as well as how the 43rd president has spent his post-White House life. For the most part, Bush has remained silent. Obama believes the country benefits most when former presidents give the sitting one the space to “execute their vision,” Earnest said.
Will GOP Blockade of Garland Leave ‘Scar’ on Senate?
Senate Republicans' refusal to give former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing or floor vote will leave a permanent "scar" on the chamber, Earnest said, adding the blockade will undercut the GOP's arguments for Trump's eventual nominee.
On his penultimate day as Obama’s White House press secretary, Earnest said the Republican tactics had a negative impact on the country, its criminal justice system and “our democracy.” But for Republicans, he said, “it turned out to be good politics.”
Senate Democrats will have the option of launching a filibuster of whomever Trump nominates for the ninth high court seat. Even if they do – which inevitably would draw hails of hypocrisy from Republicans – Earnest launched a preemptive defense. Should that nominee reach the chamber floor, it would mark a major difference from how the GOP handled Garland because the Judiciary Committee would have held hearings and a vote, he said.
Quote of the Day
“Let me start off by saying that I was sorely tempted to wear a tan suit today for my last press conference. But Michelle, whose fashion sense is a little better than mine, tells me that's not appropriate in January.” –Obama, referring to a beige suit he wore to a briefing in August 2014, which created a social media uproar.
Rep. John Lewis’ office is walking back comments he made Sunday about boycotting the presidential inauguration for the first time after he was blasted by Donald Trump about not attending the swearing-in of former President George W. Bush.
Citing a 2001 Washington Post article, Trump tweeted Tuesday that Lewis had also skipped the inauguration of the 43rd president because “he thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush’s swearing-in because he doesn’t believe Bush is the true elected president.”
“Sound familiar!” Trump tweeted.
Lewis’ office acknowledged the Georgia Democrat also had skipped the 2001 swearing-in, according to USA Today.
“His absence at that time was also a form of dissent,” spokeswoman Brenda Jones said. “He did not believe the outcome of that election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process.”
Lewis told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would not attend Trump’s inauguration, charging that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate.
“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis told NBC’s “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” in an interview. “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
Lewis was referring to the U.S. intelligence community conclusion that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems with the intention of helping Trump win the presidency.
Lewis said at the time it would be the first one he’d miss since he came to Congress in 1986.
But Trump, citing the 2001 Washington Post article, said that was not true.
Several Senate Democrats pointed to the issue of Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Republican Rep. Tom Price’s investments at his confirmation hearing Wednesday, raising concerns that Price had invested in companies that would profit off of legislation he supported.
Rep. Bennie Thompson’s chief of staff was sentenced Tuesday to four months in prison for failing to file income tax returns.
Issac Lanier Avant was also ordered to pay $149,962 to the IRS for failing to file tax returns from 2009 to 2013 after he had assumed the role of Democratic director for the House Homeland Security Committee, earning more than $165,000, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Avant did not have federal taxes withheld from his paychecks from the House until the IRS contacted his employer. They also said Avant did not file tax returns until after he was interviewed by federal agents.
Avant had worked with Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, since 2002. His work on the committee began in 2006.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s latest round of commutations drew varied responses from the House chamber.
New York Democratic Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez hailed the president’s decision to pardon Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist sometimes pegged as the commonwealth’s Nelson Mandela. He has been in federal prison since 1981.
Lopez Rivera was considered the leader of the nationalist group FALN, which claimed responsibility for bombings across the U.S. in the 1970s.
But advocates, including several lawmakers, had pushed to have Lopez Rivera released because, despite the group claiming responsibility, he was never convicted of personally hurting anyone, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Velazquez called Lopez-Rivera’s release “momentous for all Puerto Ricans.”
“At this time, when our beloved island has endured so much economic turmoil and hardship, the release of this gentle man is an important step of justice,” Velazquez said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Speaker Paul D. Ryan slammed Obama’s decision to commute the sentencing of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, calling it “outrageous.”
“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
In other news, not all confirmation business is pegged to the incoming Trump administration. In California, Rep. Xavier Becerra will face a state Senate panel on Wednesday for a second hearing on his nomination to become the Golden State’s attorney general.
Becerra, who represents an area that includes northeast and south central Los Angeles, was first elected to Congress in 1992. California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Becerra’s appointment in December. If confirmed, the congressman would replace Kamala Harris, the newly elected junior senator who was elected to succeed Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Lastly, Future Forum, a group of young House Democrats focused on issues and opportunities for millennials, announced an expanded leadership team for the 115th Congress.
The 26-member group is holding listening tours to connect with millennials on college campuses, start-ups and other companies.
House Republicans on Friday passed a bare-bones fiscal 2017 budget resolution with few intraparty defections, as most GOP members saw the unbalanced and long-delayed spending plan as a necessary means to an end of repealing the 2010 health care law.
The nine Republicans who voted against the measure raised concerns about either the budget not balancing, a key priority for fiscal conservatives, or the aggressive timeline of repealing the Affordable Care Act, given that the GOP has yet to present a replacement plan. The final vote was 227-198.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise told reporters the defections were fewer than GOP vote counters had anticipated.
"This is a signal that we are very serious about what we've campaigned on for years," the Louisiana Republican said.
Among those voting "no" were four members of the moderate Tuesday Group -- Charlie Dent and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, John Katko of New York and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey -- and two members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, Justin Amash of Michigan and Raul Labrador of Idaho. The other three GOP "no" votes came from North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie and California Rep. Tom McClintock, all of whom are conservatives but not members of the Freedom Caucus.
No Democrats voted for the resolution.
Massie said he voted against the budget resolution because of the estimated $9.7 trillion it would add to the national debt. He said his fiscal conservative colleagues who voted "yes" because they only saw the budget as a vehicle to get to Obamacare repeal will regret it.
"We got a category five hurricane coming when you have to reduce to practice, the differences between Donald Trump’s agenda and Paul Ryan’s agenda," he said. "I think there are going to be some very confusing votes in here.”
Amash, who in addition to being a member of the Freedom Caucus is chairman of the libertarian-minded Liberty Caucus, also opposed the resolution because of the spending levels, calling it "the worst budget we've had since I've been in Congress."
"A lot of people fell for what I call the 'We have to have dinner tonight in Paris, France, or else we'll starve routine,'" he said. "We don't have to vote for this terrible budget in order to move to the repeal of Obamacare. We can put together a good budget and also repeal Obamacare."
Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who voted yes, said his group decided not to take a formal position on the budget resolution or whip its members to vote for or against it.
"If we really wanted to stop the resolution, we could've taken a much more strident position," the North Carolinian told reporters earlier this week.
On Thursday, Meadows said some of the group's concerns were allayed when leadership told them health care replacement legislation would move within a week of the upcoming budget reconciliation measure, which passage of the resolution sets in motion, to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Tom Cole said leadership formed messaging groups and held informational listening sessions in addition to the traditional whip team activity to ensure members were comfortable with the vote. But the ultimate motivating factor is politics, the Oklahoma Republican said.
“How do you go home after having campaigned against this thing since it passed in 2010, and say, ‘Well I voted against the first step of repeal because I wasn’t sure what the last step was’?" he said. "I don’t think that’s politically sustainable."
Dent, a Tuesday Group co-chair, has no problem going home to Pennsylvania and telling his constituents that.
"Nothing was repealed today," Dent said. "This sets up a process to move forward."
It was Dent's concerns about the process and how quickly it was moving that led him to vote against the budget resolution. He said he wants to be clear about what House Republicans' replacement plan is and where the Senate and White House are in terms of the policy.
"These [insurance] markets are already collapsing without us doing anything, but this type of action could accelerate the collapse," Dent said. "So we have to make sure we have a clear idea how we're going to land this plane."
For Katko, it was about keeping a promise to his constituents.
"I’ve always made it clear since the time I was running for office that I would never vote for repeal unless a replacement is ready," he said. "And so far, I haven’t seen the details of a replacement. And until that happens, I’m going to stay the course.”
Although Katko won re-election by 22 points in November, he represents a largely Democratic district that Hillary Clinton won in last year's presidential election.
MacArthur, a new co-chair of the Tuesday Group, agreed with Dent on the need to slow the process down and ensure there's a system in place that allows individuals and families to buy affordable health insurance. (The third Tuesday Group co-chair, Elise Stefanik of New York, voted "yes.")
The two-term Republican and former insurance executive said he's a "team player" and will work with his party on the repeal and replacement plan moving forward. But MacArthur added, "We're putting ourselves under some pressure — time pressure now."
Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé contributed to this report.
Specialization seasoned with seniority is the surest recipe for a meaningful legislative career in the House, which is more than big enough to swallow all the dilettantes and short-timers without a trace. It’s finding a substantive niche, then fitting in over the long haul, that proves perennially frustrating for many members.
But the goal of becoming a successful and substantive lawmaker just got a whole lot easier for a score of them.
Ten from each party, only one of them a freshman and only two who were initially elected before this decade, have been newly assigned to the committees that stand head and shoulders above the rest because of the breadth of their jurisdiction.
Upgrading panel assignments in the Senate is often a signal of either blossoming national ambition or imminent electoral distress. But maneuvering to claim a seat on one of the House’s three “A” or “exclusive” committees is more regularly the work of members positioned to contentedly pursue their current careers for the long term — unless the fundraising windfall and lobbyists’ fawning starts planting thoughts of statewide office in their heads.
The three panels are Ways and Means, which writes tax, trade, Social Security, Medicare and social safety net legislation; Appropriations, which apportions more than $1 trillion annually to every discretionary federal program and agency; and Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction that sprawls over most aspects of telecommunications, consumer protection, health, environmental and energy policy.
In some recent years past, the party in power has given some of its committee plums to junior lawmakers in obvious political peril, in hopes their paths to re-election would be eased by the extra publicity and campaign contributions. Other times, big classes of newcomers were able to muscle some of their own into the most prestigious assignments.
Neither phenomenon materialized this year. While a handful of the 20 who secured the premier seats represent districts that could become competitive in a tumultuous year, only one is already clearly vulnerable to defeat next time: Republican Carlos Curbelo of Miami, who’s won both his terms with less than 55 percent in a district that tilts Democratic and was tapped for Ways and Means.
And the smallest freshman class in a dozen years was able to get just a single newcomer into the top committee ranks: Republican Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach landed at Appropriations, where he’ll focus on steering as much spending as possible to the military bases and defense contractors of his naval-hub Tidewater district, and also the entire state.
Almost all the lucky winners were members entering their second, third or fourth terms. The exceptions were Republican Tim Walberg of southern Michigan, who’s been in office for all but two of the past 10 years and got an Energy and Commerce spot, and seven-term Democrat Brian Higgins of Buffalo, New York, who’s returning to Ways and Means after six years away. (Republicans snagged his seat for themselves when they took back the House.)
The top-flight spots went overwhelmingly to loyalists from their parties’ mainstreams — reliably liberal Democrats and establishment conservative Republicans.
The New Democrat Coalition, which represents itself as the voice of the party’s 45 most business-friendly moderates, placed one member on each panel: Washington’s Suzan DelBene on Ways and Means, and Californians Pete Aguilar on Appropriations and Scott Peters on Energy and Commerce.
And the confrontationally conservative Freedom Caucus, after making a concerted push last year to gain a toehold on the Republican Steering Committee, the group of lawmakers who dole out committee assignments, saw only one of its 32 members newly placed on a prestigious panel: David Schweikert of Arizona got the final available opening on Ways and Means.
Caucus members, however, were slotted into three of the 10 openings for GOP lawmakers on Financial Services, which stands just behind the Big Three in cachet and desirability — in part because membership essentially guarantees a steady flow of campaign cash from the commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies, asset managers and even payday lenders under the committee’s purview. (Democrats haven’t filled their spot on that panel.)
Beyond ideological reliability, the lawmakers making the assignments look at a wholly subjective set of factors, from demographic diversity to geographic balance.
This year, one-third of the prizes went to women, though they only hold one-fifth of all the seats.
With Californians holding one in eight House seats, they always do well at the committee placement game and managed to maneuver four of their own into the most desirable openings: Peters, Aguilar and both Democrat Raul Ruiz and Republican Mimi Walters at Energy and Commerce.
Michigan, on the other hand, has seen half its 14 seats turn over in the past two elections, and yet two others from the state beside Walberg got plums. Republican John Moolenaar, previously a prominent player in Michigan legislative fiscal policy, snagged the state’s first seat on Appropriations since 2010. And Democrat Debbie Dingell fulfilled her destiny with an assignment to Energy and Commerce, where her husband and predecessor served for 58 years and was chairman for 16 of them.
Regionalism seemed to play an obvious part in most of the other assignments. Alabama Democrat Terri A. Sewell (Ways and Means) and Georgia Republican Earl. L. “Buddy” Carter (Energy and Commerce), for example, will be able to partly rectify longstanding underrepresentation on those panels from the Deep South.
But other postings were more about preserving the status quo or returning to tradition. Jackie Walorski was able to hold a Ways and Means spot for Indiana after fellow Republican Todd Young moved to the Senate, while Ryan Costello laid claim to eastern Pennsylvania’s customary GOP seat at Energy and Commerce. And Democrats used their Appropriations slots to provide the traditional third seat for New York (Grace Meng), restore the spot Wisconsin had from 1969 through 2010 (Mark Pocan) and assign someone (Katherine M. Clark) from Massachusetts, which had had a place on the panel from at least the late 1920s until four years ago.
Many don’t even try for these “exclusive” panels, and for them, there are plenty of good seats still available. Both parties’ byzantine and secretive committee assignment processes continue this week.
Members with military bases in their districts will end up disproportionately on Armed Services. Only the most socially conservative Republicans and the most progressive Democrats need apply for Judiciary. Members from the West, whether environmentally minded Democrats or private-property-rights Republicans, will stock the dais at Natural Resources.
And those who don’t get anything that remotely suits them are sure to start lobbying now for the committee of their dreams come 2018.