Washington Wonderland - January Outlook: And Now For Something Completely Different

January 5, 2017

What hath the populist revolution wrought? That’s what establishment Washington would like to know. So far they assume (based on this week’s events) that the new President’s tweets will trump Republican Congressional chaos every time. But what happens the first time either Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wisconsin) “just say no” and refuse to acquiesce to the president’s demands? That’s when it all gets interesting.

In the meantime there’s just too much work to be done right now. As the House begins dismantling the Obama years with a big focus on the regulatory work, the Senate will be fast-tracking key cabinet nominees, looking at the Russian hacks and crafting the legislative procedures that will be needed to successfully repeal Obamacare and accomplish the first big tax reform plan in thirty years.

Meanwhile the Democratic opposition just got the outgoing president’s blessing to embrace the tactics of the Tea Party and embark on a four-year mission (beginning immediately) to delay, deflect and derail the GOP’s best laid plans whenever they can.

But it’s the coming Trump White House power troika of Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner that holds everyone’s fascination. Just how is the new West Wing going to function? The speculation has some suggesting that veteran presidential consigliere/fixer David Gergen is already warming his car for the long drive down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We’ll all just have to wait and see what happens after January 20th. Until then, here are some key dates to watch this month as official Washington continues to expect the unexpected:
 
January 6th – Congress meets in a joint session to count the votes of the Electoral College.
 
January 7th – Democrats and progressive groups are trying to organize a series of demonstrations in congressional districts across the country, particularly targeting GOP members of the House, to protest the coming dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and other policies of the outgoing Obama administration. Today’s actions are the first in what’s expected to be a series of events early this year that are right out of the successful Tea Party playbook of 2009.
 
January 8th – Yes, the award season kicks off tonight with the Golden Globes, but U.S. intelligence agencies will have all eyes on North Korea. Today is Kim Jong-un’s birthday and many believe he may use the occasion to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, a potentially huge step forward in his nuclear program and perhaps the first international challenge facing the Trump administration.
 
January 9th – The United States Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments today as it opens its 2017 session.
 
January 10th – President Barack Obama returns home to Chicago to deliver his “farewell address” tonight. Many past and current administration figures will be present to hear the commander-in-chief thank supporters and reminisce about his accomplishments and disappointments over the last eight years. But all anyone wants to hear is what he has to say to the Trump administration.
 
Meanwhile, in Washington today, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its confirmation hearing for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Alabama), nominated to fill the post of U.S. Attorney General.
 
January 11th – Today is the new date for the long-awaited press conference to be held by President-Elect Donald Trump at which he is expected to explain how he plans to separate himself from any potential conflicts of interest with his worldwide business operations.
 
January 13th – Paraskevidekatriaphobics (those who fear Friday the 13th) will hunker down today for the first of two Friday the 13ths in 2017.
 
January 15th – Democratic Party leaders, including new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., California) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (D), have called for national organized action today to “Save Health Care,” urging Democrats to loudly oppose GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
 
Also today, France hosts its long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference. More than 70 countries are scheduled to attend the summit.
 
January 16th – Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. A federal holiday.
 
January 17th-20th – The World Economic Forum holds its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. No doubt much of the discussion will address the rise of populist/nationalist movements across Europe and what to expect from President Donald Trump.
 
January 19th – President-Elect Donald Trump and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence will make the traditional visit to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath honoring the Armed Services. Afterward both will attend a concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
 
January 20th – Inauguration Day. Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States at noon. Following President Trump’s inaugural address, former President Barack Obama and his wife will leave the Capitol by Marine helicopter. Meanwhile President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, family and dignitaries will lunch at the Capitol with Congressional leadership. Afterwards the new president will travel down Pennsylvania Avenue ahead of the inaugural parade, which he will watch from a reviewing stand in front of the White House.
 
Following the parade, if the hype is true, the new president will retire to the White House, where he will begin signing a number of bills passed in advance by the 115th Congress, including a wholesale reversal of numerous federal regulations enacted over the last six months. However, the promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act on “Day One” is a nonstarter. While the new president will issue a number of executive orders today aimed at unraveling the law, the legislative procedure initiated this week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. Kentucky) has put a timeline in place that will not allow an actual vote on the budget vehicle to which repeal will be attached until sometime in February.
 
Also as of today there will be two big vacancies in the world of federal regulation. Both Tim Massad, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will step down from their posts effective with the swearing in of the new president. Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton has been nominated to take White’s post.
 
January 21st – President Trump will attend an interfaith prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.
 
The first major anti-Trump administration demonstration will descend on Washington today as the Women’s March on Washington gathers on the Capitol grounds and makes its way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
 
January 31st-February 1st – The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FMOC) holds its first meeting of the Trump era. Will this be the first of the year’s expected three increases in interest rates? If it doesn’t happen this time, the FOMC won’t meet again until March 14th.
 
Washington Wisdom
 
“Buckle up.”
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, speaking to Congressional Republicans about the first 100 days of the Trump Administration.
 
“The chief of staff, I think, has the responsibility to be all-knowing – to decide what the president should know, what he needs to know, what he doesn’t need to know. In my opinion, there can only be one chief of staff.”
Andy Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
 
“The thing that we have to keep an eye on is the budget. We don’t want to have control of all these levers – the House, the Senate and the White House – and then actually increase the deficit.”
Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Kentucky).
 
“There are 100 United States Senators ... I would say that 99 percent of us believe that the Russians did this and we’re going to do something about it.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina), on the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
 
“We’ve got [Elizabeth] Warren, she’ll be 71. Biden will be 78. Bernie [Sanders] will be 79. It appears we’re going to have an old-folks home.”
Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nevada) handicapping the Democratic presidential field for 2020, as reported by New York Magazine.

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