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Trump to sign orders advancing Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines reports Bloomberg.

Price In Trouble?

Ethics concerns expected to dominate HHS nominee Tom Price hearing today. CNN: “…Senate Finance Committee staff released a bipartisan memo to lawmakers disclosing several red flags that were raised in the course of reviewing the congressman’s tax returns and financial disclosure statements … The accusations include Price’s alleged failure to disclose late tax payments on rental properties; undervaluing stocks he owns in a pharmaceutical company both to the committee and in his financial disclosure forms; and failure to disclose to the committee that he was previously investigated by an ethics panel for fundraising activities.”

Obamacare is not in a “death spiral.” The Hill: “Under the death spiral scenario, the healthcare system then falls victim to a vicious cycle in which more and more healthy people drop out, causing premiums to rise and rise until insurers pull out of the market entirely. The problem with the argument, according to [the American Academy of Actuaries’ Cori] Uccello, is that ObamaCare’s enrollment is actually holding steady and not dropping off … a report from analysts at Standard & Poor’s in December found that 2017 was a ‘one-time pricing correction’ and premium increases for 2018 would be ‘well below’ that amount … Uccello … warned that repealing the mandate could actually bring about a death spiral…”

At least not yet. Politico: “With only eight days left to sign up for 2017 plans, many consumers — not to mention, insurers and brokers — were stunned and confused by Trump’s order Friday night encouraging federal agencies to dismantle parts of the law even before Congress repeals it. By authorizing agencies to roll back some provisions of the law — but not requiring them to do so — the order added to the uncertainty of already jittery consumers and insurers.”

GOP divided over Medicaid block grant plan. Politico: “At the crux of the matter is an impossible task set forth by Trump: In recent interviews he has said he wants to block-grant Medicaid funding to the states but also ensure the roughly 11 million people who received coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion do not lose it.”

Several Cabinet Picks May Advance

Five nominees get committee votes today. Roll Call: “Five Cabinet hopefuls will receive committee votes on Tuesday: Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development; Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general; former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao for Transportation; Wilbur Ross for Commerce, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be U.N. ambassador. Confirmation votes for Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Energy were originally scheduled for Tuesday as well. But those votes were postponed indefinitely, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources leadership said late Monday, without offering an explanation.”

OMB pick expected to get rough questioning. The Hill: “Liberal senators, most notably Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are expected to grill Rep. Mick Mulvaney … Mulvaney has led calls to reform Medicare and Social Security. In April 2011, he criticized then-House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget for not going far enough to overhaul Medicare and called for raising the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 70.”

Neil M. Gorsuch dubbed SCOTUS frontrunner. LAT: “He currently serves on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver … His best-known opinions grew out of the dispute over the Obama administration’s regulation requiring employers to provide female employees with the full range of contraceptives as part of their health insurance … Gorsuch voiced support for the religious claimants …”

GOP Rattled on Trade

Congressional Republicans worried Trump will pull out of NAFTA. CNN: “…his plans over NAFTA have prompted growing concern, especially if he takes the extra step to pull out of the 23-year-old agreement … Whether Trump listens to those warnings remains to be seen. Trump has the authority to unilaterally pull out of NAFTA … Republicans are urging Trump to proceed with caution, a sign the issue could prompt a revolt in his party.”

Canada, Mexico prepare for NAFTA renegotiation. Bloomberg: “White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday said Trump plans further talks about modifying Nafta at meetings with the two leaders in the next 30 days … Canadian officials are holding out hope they’re not Trump’s target, and will do everything they can to make sure they don’t get sideswiped if the president goes after Mexico … On Monday, [Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto] laid out 10 goals for his government in upcoming negotiations with the Trump administration, including ensuring the free flow of remittances and seeking any return of Mexican migrants to be orderly. He said Nafta should remain free of all tariffs.”

Australia pushes for TPP without US. Bloomberg: “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he discussed the deal on Monday night with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, and held talks with the leaders of New Zealand and Singapore … Without the carrot of the large American market, it would be hard to get member countries to agree the same access as decided under the TPP … Japan currently isn’t considering a TPP without America … Singapore, one of the biggest potential losers from a slump in global trade, has signaled it will push for the implementation of the TPP…”

Trump opaque on border tax. Politico: “He has said he wants a border tax — does that mean he wants to institute tariffs or the border adjustment plan, the move favored by the Hill GOP? MESSAGE TO 1600: You’d be putting a lot of GOP minds at ease if you made this clear soon.”

Trump to meet with auto CEOs today, as Detroit scrambles to adjust. WSJ: “Union bosses are being called in to consult on how to reshuffle factory work, board members are trying to figure out who has friends in President Donald Trump’s new administration, and task forces have been created to monitor his Twitter account …”

Trump flinches on DACA. LAT: “Trump left it to Press Secretary Sean Spicer to indicate the administration has put off ending a controversial program that temporarily shields from deportation more than 742,000 young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children, despite promising during the campaign to ‘immediately terminate’ it … Spicer said, ‘Give us a little bit of time; we’ll see what Congress moves forward with.’ Trump aides have signaled in recent days that the president is also looking at ways to punish so-called sanctuary cities…”

Dems Press Trump On Infrastructure

Trump insist he’ll back infrastructure in meeting with construction and building trade union leaders. NYT: “…President Trump reiterated on Monday his interest in directing hundreds of billions of dollars to infrastructure investments, some of it from the federal government … two union leaders said they had discussed a number of specific projects with the president and his aides, including the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export and storage facility in Oregon … [One] raised one point of possible discord between the labor leaders and the Trump administration: the so-called Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay contractors and subcontractors ‘locally prevailing wages,’ … The president was noncommittal in response.”

Senate Dems to propose $1T, 10-year infrastructure plan today. AP: “Details of the plan provided to The Associated Press include $200 billion for a ‘vital infrastructure fund.’ … Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he doesn’t want another infrastructure plan that is effectively an economic stimulus program …”

EPA In Deep Freeze

Trump freezes EPA. ProPublica: “The Trump administration has imposed a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a move that could affect a significant part of the agency’s budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing … One EPA employee aware of the freeze said he had never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency. Hiring freezes happened, he said, but freezes on grants and contracts seemed extraordinary.”

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called off a major conference on climate change planned for February” reports The Hill.

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