Progressive Breakfast for January 17

Morning Message

Booker and the Big Pharma Dems Have No Excuse. This Vote Proves It.

It’s devastating, and potentially lethal, when Americans can’t afford life-saving drugs because their elected representatives are in thrall to Big Pharma. It’s disappointing when Democrats offer implausible excuses for their votes, as Sen. Cory Booker and twelve other senators did last week ... If Booker and the others hadn’t broken with their party and ignored the needs of the American people, a budget amendment from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar would have paved the way for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada...

Ethics Cloud Hangs Over Cabinet Noms

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos hearing today, The Hill: “[DeVos will be] face-to-face with liberal stalwarts Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). DeVos’s vocal support of school choice and charter schools is expected to get tough questioning at a hearing that promises to be contentious … she could also potentially face some heat from more conservative lawmakers over her past support for Common Core education standards … End Citizens United (ECU), a campaign finance reform PAC, and Every Voice have been ramping up pressure for senators on the HELP Committee who have received campaign contributions from DeVos to recuse themselves from her confirmation hearing.”

DeVos is “the worst of the ‘school choice’ movement” says TNR’s Graham Vyse: “Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson wrote that his newspaper supports successful charter schools, but DeVos’s efforts in Michigan have yielded the opposite.”

Politico explores how the DeVos family bought Michigan’s government: “…the DeVos family, with Dick and Betsy at the helm, has emerged as a political force without comparison in Michigan … Thanks to the DeVoses, Michigan’s charter schools enjoy a virtually unregulated existence. Thanks to them, too, the center of the American automotive industry and birthplace of the modern labor movement is now a right-to-work state.They’ve funded campaigns to elect state legislators, established advocacy organizations to lobby them, buttressed their allies and primaried those they disagree with, spending at least $100 million on political campaigns and causes over the past 20 years…”

Ethics paperwork still missing on DeVos and other nominees. CNN: “Of the current list of 21 nominees, 14 must still sit for Senate hearings, and only five of those 14 have finalized their required paperwork … the paperwork for two of President-elect Donald Trump’s billionaire nominees with hearings scheduled for this week — namely, Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos (up Tuesday) and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross (up Wednesday) — were notably missing from the ethics office’s website as of Monday afternoon.”

HHS nominee “invested in company, then introduced a bill to help it” scoops CNN: “Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company … Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet … Less than a week after the transaction, the Georgia Republican congressman introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.”

Commerce nominee offshored thousands of jobs. Reuters: “Supporters say Ross saved thousands of U.S. jobs by rescuing firms from failure. Data attained by Reuters through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that rescue effort came at a price: textile, finance and auto-parts companies controlled by the private-equity titan eliminated about 2,700 U.S. positions since 2004 because they shipped production to other countries…”

Trump, Congress Not On Same Page

Trump dings House GOP tax plan. The Hill: “Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Monday that he is not a fan of the ‘border adjustment’ proposal, which would tax imports and exempt exports. ‘Anytime I hear border adjustment, I don’t love it,’ he said. ‘Because usually it means we’re going to get adjusted into a bad deal … if somebody is making a motorcycle or a plane in our country, they’re getting a credit for the plane they make before they send it over to wherever it’s going,’ he said. ‘And you don’t need that plus lower taxes and everything else. And it’s too complicated. They get credit on some parts and not other parts. Where was the part made? I don’t want that. I just want it nice and simple.'”

Trump, Price diverge on Obamacare. Politico: “GOP lawmakers, including Price, stress they are less concerned about matching Obamacare’s coverage gains, which drove the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low of 9 percent. They would rather people have access to affordable insurance only if they want it, hoping to avoid Obamacare’s individual mandate. But Trump indicated that he wants his plan to match Obamacare, if not exceed it, when it comes to expanding health care coverage…”

“Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare” says W. Post’s Paul Waldman: “Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to have him popping off at the mouth and promising things they can’t deliver. Which is what he just did…”

Thousands rally over weekend to save Obamacare, with more to come. NYT: “President-elect Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans appear to have accomplished a feat that President Obama, with all the power at his disposal, could not in the past seven years: They have galvanized outspoken support for the Affordable Care Act … progressive groups are planning a two-month cross-country bus tour to fight the repeal effort, starting Tuesday.

Worst poll numbers for a new president. Ever. Politico: “Trump’s approval rating in the CNN poll released Tuesday sat at just 40 percent, 44 points below the 84 percent that President Barack Obama took office with in 2009. Just 40 percent of those surveyed by The Washington Post and ABC News said they held a favorable opinion of Trump, by far the lowest of any incoming president dating back at least to President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 inauguration.”

DNC Chair Race Heats Up

Dems try to avoid further division in DNC chair race. Politico: “The Clinton vs. Sanders narrative is already coloring the DNC chair race, despite the strenuous efforts of each of the declared candidates to downplay it: the candidates are clear in their stump speeches about their wish to avoid a redux of their primary fight, and some campaigns have drawn up internal memos and circulated talking points describing how their candidate bridges the divide. The Sanders wing’s preferred candidate, Rep. Keith Ellison, has repeatedly gone out of his way to frame himself as the ‘unity’ candidate … the divide isn’t simply a Democratic primary rehash. It’s also about ideology, as ascendant progressives aligned with Sanders look to place Clinton’s establishment-oriented liberalism in the rear-view mirror.”

W. Post reports on DNC candidate forum in Phoenix: “No one [is in the lead], though many DNC members agree that Ellison and [Labor Secretary Tom] Perez are the front-runners unless they do something to disqualify themselves. At this writing, Ellison has 15 public endorsements from actual voting DNC members, [New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray] Buckley has 10, [South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime] Harrison has two … Our Revolution has been working the states … The problem for Ellison is that the DNC vote will come before this is reflected in the states’ DNC membership.”