The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Brace Yourselves: Confirmation Hearings Are Coming

The first full week of 2017: A new year has begun in earnest, a new Congress is in office, and a new president takes office in eleven days.

If you look, you can find announcements of companies expanding and hiring. Cable operator Charter Communications plans on hiring 20,000 over the next three years. Pison Stream Solutions in Brecksville, Ohio, plans to hire 150 people in the next three years. Cyber-security firm ReliaQuest in Tampa plans to hire at least 150 people in 2017. Information technology company S4 is hiring 100 employees in Colorado Springs. Proterra, a startup that makes electric transit buses with fast-charging batteries, planning openings in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and Greenville, South Carolina. UnitedHealthcare is hiring for 50 new jobs in Shelton, Connecticut.

Are we on the verge of an economic boom? Honestly, the data are mixed. But 2017 can still be a booming year for you.

Brace Yourselves: Confirmation Hearings Are Coming.

It’s the first big week of confirmation hearings, which… feels like some contrived drama.

Every one of these nominees begins with 52 Republicans heavily inclined to vote for the nominee that the president has named, with a couple of Democrats in red states feeling some heat for 2018. And everyone knows who they are; the Judicial Crisis Network is running ads touting attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions in Missouri, Indiana, North Dakota, and Washington, DC; it’s described as a “mid-six figure ad campaign comprised of both cable and digital and will run through the entire confirmation process.”

Let’s turn back the clock to January 2009, when there were just 41 Republicans in the Senate. The number of Democrats steadily increased as Roland Burris joined on January 15, Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party at the end of April, and Al Franken’s election wasn’t settled until the end of June.

Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State, 94 votes in favor, 2 opposed.

Eric Holder was confirmed as Attorney General, 75 votes in favor, 21 opposed.

Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed as Health and Human Services Secretary, 65 votes to 31 opposed.

Tim Geithner, who ran into some trouble over unpaid taxes, was confirmed, 60 votes in favor, 34 opposed.

Looking back, Republicans concentrated their objections to just a few of Obama’s selections. The Senate confirmed seven Obama nominees the day he was inaugurated, another five within his first week in office, and 13 were confirmed via voice vote without any recorded opposition.

Senate Democrats plan a very different approach:

Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Trump of trying to seat a “rigged Cabinet” of nominees who “have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating.”

“Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist,” Schumer added in a statement to The Washington Post confirming his caucus’s plans. “If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a fair hearing process, they’re sorely mistaken.”

“Why is everything in Washington so partisan?” Because our political leaders choose to behave this way.

When the President-Elect Tweets, CEOs Call Quickly

After President-elect Trump sent that Tweet critical of General Motors for producing a small but measurable number of Chevy Cruzes in Mexico – about 4,500 – GM’s Mary Barra chatted with Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal:

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra’s role as one of 20 business advisers to Donald Trump on economic issues and jobs growth was dealt a jolt shortly after the New Year, with the president-elect criticizing the auto maker’s production plans in a tweet.

Within hours, Ms. Barra called Mr. Trump and engaged in a “very positive and cordial” lengthy conversation, according to two people familiar with the call. The 55-year-old CEO is no stranger to political conflict, having steered GM through a safety-recall crisis shortly after taking the helm in 2014, and the discussion “went very well,” one of the people said.

The Journal editorial board points out that there are policy moves that can be made to reduce the incentive to produce small cars in Mexico – namely corporate average fuel economy standards and trade deals that help American exports.

It’s true that auto makers have shifted production of small cars to Mexico, where wages are about 85% lower than in the U.S. But small cars aren’t profitable to make in the U.S., though they are necessary to meet the Obama Administration’s increasingly onerous fuel-economy mandates.

Some brave soul should also tell Mr. Trump that auto makers have moved production in Mexico because of its free-trade deals that provide better access to global markets. Mexico has 10 trade deals with 45 countries including the European Union and Brazil, which make up half of the global car market. The U.S. has 14 agreements with a mere 20 countries.

As noted last week, GM used to be reviled for both the bailout and the faulty ignition, which forced the recall of 30 million cars… and now, about two years later, it’s just another powerful company. The company’s profitable again, the CEO was on Hillary’s longest potential running-mate list and is now on one of Trump’s advisory panels… you tell me, with an outcome like this, do you think if another U.S. car company gets in trouble, a government bailout is more likely or less likely?

The bailout did work, for everyone except the taxpayers, who lost $10.5 billion.

I’m scheduled to talk about Barra, GM, and Trump at 2 p.m. on the Fox Business Network.

‘They Can Only Hope He’s Alive.’

Jay Nordlinger knows how to grab your attention with an opening paragraph or two:

“Nastya! If you decide to publish this information about what is happening to me, then try to distribute it as widely as possible. This will increase my chances of staying alive.”

Ildar Dadin wrote those words to his wife, Anastasia Zotova“Nastya” — on October 31. He was in Penal Colony No. 7 in the town of Segezha, Republic of Karelia. This is in northwest Russia, near Finland. Where Dadin is now, no one knows. At least his wife and family don’t. They can only hope he’s alive.

In Russia, repeated public protests of the government without the permission of that same government is against the law. (Sometimes, it’s not so clear that a broad majority of Americans would object to that kind of restriction on free speech. Take your pick, from the ludicrous speech codes on campus, to the casual suggestion that “Tea Party rhetoric could lead to another Oklahoma City”, or Omarosa’s “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.”)

Dadin might be in Penal Colony No. 7 in Segezha. Or he might be in some other prison. The Russian government refuses to tell his family.

Why is it such a priority to have a “good relationship” with the regime in Moscow?

ADDENDA: Thanks to Kevin Williamson for his kind words about The Weed Agency in his piece last week.

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