Progressive Breakfast for January 18

Morning Message

Millions of Reasons – Plus One Big One – To Block Tom Price’s Nomination

A school bus driver living in Slatington, Pa., writes that three years ago she was beginning to feel ill, but thought nothing of it until one morning, while checking the bus before starting her route, her fingers went numb ... " It was due to a rare blood disorder called Cold Agglutinin Disease ... Where would I be without Obamacare? ... Probably dead." ... That’s just one of more than 600 stories submitted by people all over the country within 24 hours after People’s Action asked its supporters to tell what the Affordable Care Act meant to them and why Congress should not repeal it.

TAKE ACTION
Tell Your Senators: Say No to Corrupt Tom Price
Today, Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump’s pick to run Health and Human Services has his first nomination hearing. But ethics experts are already raising red flags. Over the weekend, CNN reported that a week after buying shares in one company, Price introduced a bill that would protect its profits. The corporation lavished him with campaign cash. In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Price made $300,000 in recent drug and medical trades. Price rakes in personal profits, while letting his constituents suffer. Now, Price wants to take health care away from 30 million of us. He wants to privatize Medicare, gut Medicaid, and push high-deductible plans.

DeVos Schooled

Besty DeVos struggles to answer Dem queries. Mother Jones: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) didn’t shy away from challenging DeVos on her family’s large contributions to the Republican Party … Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) challenged DeVos on whether schools that receive federal funding should meet the same accountability standards … Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wanted to know if DeVos thought test scores should measure a student’s proficiency (i.e., did she reach a specific standard?) or a student’s growth (i.e., did she improve over time?) … DeVos struggled to clarify the distinction … Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) asked whether DeVos would uphold a 2011 Department of Education letter establishing that sexual assault on college campuses was covered by Title IX and school reporting standards. DeVos would not commit to an answer…”

DeVos dodged question after question. Politico: “…she wouldn’t commit to keeping federal funding intact for traditional public schools … she dodged Democrats’ toughest questions about how — or even if — she would protect traditional public schools … DeVos also stumbled when asked about enforcing federal special education law, eliciting gasps in the overflow room when she suggested leaving enforcement decisions up to the states.”

EPA, HHS Hearings Today

EPA nominee Scott Pruitt faces pay-to-play allegations today. ABC News: “President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to face tough questions during the first hours of his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday about allegations he has, essentially, been bought and paid for by the nation’s oil, gas and coal companies … Records reviewed by ABC News show Pruitt has repeatedly accepted donations from companies within days of taking official actions that support those companies.”

HHS nominee faces insider trading charges today. Roll Call: “Trump’s team pushed back on some questions about stock trades by [Tom] Price, explaining that a broker bought medical device stock as part of a routine re-balance of the congressman’s holdings without his input … Still, the news prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to call for an SEC investigation of possible violations of the STOCK Act in a new letter to the financial regulator … Price will appear before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at 10 a.m. It is the Finance Committee that really controls the initial fate of the HHS secretary nominee, though. Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch has scheduled that hearing for Jan. 24…”

Trump To Turn Back Clock

W. Post analyzes Trump’s plan to block grant Medicaid: “Historical data suggest that a shift to block grants would result in a gradual decline in Medicaid funding … Reformers argue that block grants need less funding because they reduce costs. But they don’t.”

Tennessee Valley Authority could embrace coal. WSJ: “After Mr. Trump won, the renomination of three of the utility’s board members, including its chairman, stalled in the Senate confirmation process and their terms expired on Jan. 2 … With the terms of two more board members expiring in May, the Trump administration will be able to appoint a majority of the nine-member board to one of the biggest operators of coal-fired power in the country.”

Private prisons poised to boom. WSJ: “Private prison companies’ stocks have continued to rise as industry analysts expect Mr. Trump to throw out the order withdrawing from the private prison sector. They also anticipate a swelling prison population under an incoming administration that has cast the current one as coddling criminals.”

Two pending Supreme Court cases will greatly impact Trump’s ability to conduct mass deportations. The Atlantic: “The first case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, concerns whether aliens being detained pending deportation are entitled to a bail hearing and to release while their cases (or their appeals) are pending. The second, Ashcroft v. Abbasi, asks whether official immunity would shelter a government policy of detaining aliens in abusive or sub-standard conditions—making them so miserable that they will go on their own …”

“British Lawmakers Worry About Donald Trump’s Offer of a Trade Deal” reports Time: “…lawmakers across Parliament told TIME they feared the U.K. might be incapable of striking a fair trade deal with the Trump administration … The U.K. has had no experience of negotiating trade deals since 1975 … Vince Cable, the former Liberal Democrat lawmaker who served as the U.K’s business secretary from 2010-15, suggests Trump’s interest in a deal is fueled mainly by a desire to anger his political enemies in Europe … Left-wing politicians are particularly worried the U.S. will try to open up private sector access to public services such as Britain’s state-backed National Health Service…”

Trump Meets With Possible SCOTUS Pick

Jeff Sessions’ pal tops list. AP: “Judge William Pryor, an Alabama-based judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, met with Trump in New York on Saturday … He was the Alabama’s attorney general from 1997 to 2004. His predecessor in that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, is Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general, and the two — both natives of the city of Mobile, are said to have a close working relationship …

Liberals strategize for Supreme Court fight. Reuters: “[People for the American Way’s Marge] Baker said liberals cannot hold their fire for fear that Republicans will use this so-called nuclear option, adding, ‘At some point you don’t game this out. You say, “This is a fight.”‘ Other liberal groups urged a more conciliatory approach. ‘We’re not predisposed to opposition here,’ said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Any nominee will be evaluated, Clarke said, adding that the group is girding for a nominee who is hostile to civil rights.”

Final Presser

Obama’s final press conference will be held at 2:15 PM ET today.