News Sips 2/9: Sessions Confirmed, Price Up, Gorsuch’s Independence, and Iran Tests a Missile
Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 9, 2017 edition:
The Senate voted to confirm Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. On a mostly-Party-line vote, Senator Sessions overcame historic levels of partisan acrimony and slander from political opponents in order to achieve confirmation. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to join Republicans to confirm Senator Sessions (the final vote was 52-47, Senator Sessions voted “present.”)
Democratic rhetoric over Senator Sessions got so ugly that it resulted in Senator Elizabeth Warren being procedurally silenced following an invective-laced diatribe on the Senate floor. The lack of decorum effectively conveyed the current state of the Democratic Party following its trouncing by President Trump a few months ago. Democrats in the Senate, encouraged by far-left elements within their Party, have run from common ground and moderates to embrace hard-left ideology and obstructionism. Certainly, there’s a political calculation in this: getting people constantly angry gets more donations (yes, Republicans often do the same thing when they are in the minority). However, given how much Democrats have decided to obstruct, it’s really setting a new standard in intransigence (yes, Republicans were somewhat obstructionist in the minority, but there was really no holding up of President Obama’s cabinet nominees like there is right now from the Left. Moreover, there were few, if any, instances of Senators hurling such slanderous remarks against a President like the Democrats are against Mr. Trump.).
Regardless of the hardship and the partisan acrimony, Senator Sessions was confirmed and he will be sworn in as Attorney General. This swearing-in will come only a day after the President made it clear that he will be standing up for law enforcement and making the country safe. Attorney General Sessions will be a big part of this transformation of the culture. The days of anti-police bias from the White House and Executive Branch are at an end. Importantly, Senator Sessions has been a stalwart opponent of illegal immigration, so it seems that the President will have an ally at the Justice Department who can help with securing the nation from criminal aliens.
Following the Senate’s vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, the Senate moved past cloture on Dr. Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. It’s important to note at the outset that Democrats’ slow-walking of the President’s nominees for cabinet jobs has left the Administration with fewer confirmed cabinet secretaries for a longer period of time than any President in history (at least since George Washington).
Dr. Price, who currently serves in the House of Representatives, is yet another target of the Left (which, honestly, is just going after everyone these days—good luck in 2018 with that agenda!). With the President and Congressional Republicans setting their sights on repealing and replacing the collapsing Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Dr. Price is seen as a lynchpin for reform. Much of the power over the inner workings of Obamacare was delegated to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. In the event that real reform or repeal begins, it will fall to Secretary Price to be the leader of that effort for the Administration.
Democrats do not have enough votes to stop Dr. Price’s confirmation as Secretary, but are dragging out the clock on his confirmation. It’s like that a vote will come on Friday to confirm him to the position.
While meeting with Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, the President’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, commented that Mr. Trump’s statements about federal judges were “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” These comments come as Judge Gorsuch is meeting with members of the Senate in advance of confirmation hearings. Gorsuch, who sits as a federal appellate judge in the Tenth Circuit, is widely-considered to be a mainstream judicial conservative in the pattern of the late Justice Scalia.
Mr. Trump has criticized several members of the judiciary in the past year including a judge who was overseeing a lawsuit against Mr. Trump’s businesses. More recently, the President has derided the decision reached by a “so-called” judge in Seattle enjoining the enforcement of his immigration pause from terror hotspots in the Middle East and North Africa. That court’s order is on appeal before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The President did not hold back from further criticism of the apparent politics being played by the panel in its weighing of the Government’s appeal. The opinion of the Ninth Circuit could come as early as this morning.
It is with this backdrop that Judge Gorsuch is meeting with leaders in both Parties in advance of his confirmation hearings. It makes perfect sense for the nominee to the Supreme Court, despite being where he is because of the President’s trust, to gently push back against some of the rhetoric from the White House. It’s also important to peel back the hysteria from media outlets that see Mr. Trump’s comments as undermining an independent Judiciary. While Judges rarely openly comment on political matters (Justice Ginsburg’s reprehensible comments about then-candidate Trump notwithstanding), there is a distinctly political component to appointments and the way in which Federal Judges approach legal issues. This isn’t a criticism, rather, it’s human nature.
Importantly, the melodrama from outlets like CNN over the President’s commentary about Judges is nothing new in recent history. Certainly both Parties in the Legislature routinely criticize decisions by courts that they disagree with on policy points. Moreover, Presidents constantly weigh in on federal cases (Obama and Citizens United comes immediately to mind). The problem the media has seems more that Mr. Trump comments more often and in a less-high-minded way than his predecessors.
Judge Gorsuch is right to distance himself from the President regardless of the truth of the President’s criticisms of the federal courts. Appearing to be independent from the opinions of the President will make him appear more palatable to Democrats who have been doing all they can to slow-walk the President’s cabinet nominees through confirmation. Without a change to the Senate Rules, Judge Gorsuch would require 60 votes in the Senate to proceed to a confirmation vote. This means at least eight Democrats would have to break ranks and join their Republican colleagues. Giving some indication of distance from Mr. Trump, who the Left has decided may be the Devil, is certainly good politics for confirmation.
Iranian Missile Test
Yesterday, the Iranian government test-fired another missile from their Semnan launch pad in north-central Iran. The move comes only weeks after the test-firing of a mid-range ballistic missile. The test on Wednesday was of a smaller device that only few thirty miles. However, tensions are high after the Trump Administration, refusing to play nice with Iran like the Obama Administration, has vowed to take strong actions against Tehran over its controversial weapons testing and nuclear program.
While on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump had been clear that he disfavored the “Iran Deal” that was negotiated by the Obama Administration which, generally, allowed for the easing of sanctions restrictions against Tehran in exchange for delaying the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Critics noted that the Agreement did nothing to stop future Iranian weapons production and freed up large sums of cash for the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism.
This new missile test also comes days after the Iranian government scrapped what appeared to be a setup for a satellite launch. Satellite launches are sometimes used by governments as providing a veneer of legitimacy to testing rocket engines and missile components.
Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.