News Sips 1/20: Trump Day, Hogan Ethics Reforms, Filling the Gaps, and Cabinet Status
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the Inauguration Day, 2017 edition:
When I arrived at the office today, I rode the elevator with some folks who were, openly, griping about the election and Inauguration of Donald Trump. It is Baltimore, after all, so I know that my views are in the minority. The ride was short and I kept my opinions to myself, but I found myself saying under my breath “e pur si muove” as I exited. The phrase, attributed to 17th century scientist Galileo Galilei, means “and yet it moves” and was made in the context of Galileo’s trial over his adaptation of a heliocentric model of the universe. Basically, the point is: regardless of what you’re saying, the truth exists.
At noon today, Donald Trump will take the oath of office and become President of the United States. The peaceful transition of power that is a hallmark of the American system will continue and we will, as always, debate politics, policies, and motives going forward.
Hogan’s Ethics Reforms
As part of an ongoing effort to make government in Maryland more accountable, and following three Democrats in as many weeks having criminal charges brought against them for corruption-related issues, Governor Hogan laid out some reforms that he hopes to bring to the way government works in Annapolis.
The culture of corruption, spurred on by decades of single-Party rule, is something that has drawn bipartisan fire from voters in the State. Hogan’s reforms would restrict politicians and policymakers from jumping between government and lobbying. It would also tighten conflict of interest provisions for lawmakers voting on bills that could be seen as helping further their careers (note that Maryland’s legislature is part-time and that the majority of the Delegates and Senators have “real jobs” that could be impacted by what they do as legislators).
It appears that Hogan’s reforms will have some bipartisan support (though, enter-the-lobbyists, so there will, of course, be some de-fanging in the proposals) because no one wants to appear pro-corruption. It will be interesting to see what the final package of ethics reforms will be and how long it will take to implement in the State.
Filling the Gaps
When you take power in Washington, there are a lot of jobs that you need to fill. While Mr. Trump has filled out his cabinet, there are hundreds of political appointments that, as Mr. Trump ascends to the Presidency, will not be filled. Yesterday, in an attempt to smooth the transition process, Mr. Trump held over fifty Obama officials in their places. While this isn’t an unprecedented decision in any meaningful way, it does demonstrate that much of Mr. Trump’s transition has been focused on making sure that the right people are put in positions of authority before filling out other jobs.
It’s important to note that one position that was being closely watched in Maryland was the Directorate of the National Institutes of Health. The current Director, Dr. Francis Collins, was being openly challenged for the job by Maryland’s lone Congressional Republican, Dr. Andy Harris. In the event Harris would have gotten the post, there would have been a rush of Republicans in Maryland looking to fill his seat in a hotly contested special election. However, Mr. Trump decided to retain Dr. Collins at NIH rather than make waves with a new appointment.
It’s important to note that, especially in the National Security Council positions in which Mr. Trump decided to hold over the current occupants, Mr. Trump may very well go about replacing them at a slower pace than having a frenetic institutional knowledge drain right as he takes office. Expect Mr. Trump to have a slower rollout of new appointees over the course of the next three months.
Yesterday, Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin and Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry went before Senate Committees to testify in advance of their confirmation votes. Perry, who, famously forgot the Department of Energy on stage at a Republican debate in 2012, didn’t shy away from making light of the gaffe when he began his testimony—noting that, after being briefed, he believes the Department of Energy is necessary and does good work. Perry also had a great exchange with comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken in which Perry made an offhand comment about hoping his answering Franken’s questions would go as well as it had on Franken’s couch (alluding to the private meetings that nominees have with Senators before confirmation hearings). Laughter, inevitably, broke out from both sides at the insinuation and broke the air of the normally staid, partisan confirmation hearing.
Aside from some GOP Senators remaining undecided about Mr. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, there do not appear to be any Senators ready to defect and opposed any of Mr. Trump’s nominees. Given that the nominees only need a simple majority to be confirmed, there is a strong likelihood that there will be no real problem for the confirmations going forward.
As always, there are more things going on in the world, but these should get you started for today.