January 17, 2017

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued its report on the impact of Obamacare, at the request of Senate Democrats.  According to CBO, full repeal would increase by 32 million the number of uninsured Americans and double insurance premiums within 10 years.  If repeal is enacted, the first year would see an increase of 18 million uninsured, according to the report.  This, along with President-elect Trump’s call for simultaneous repeal and replace, pressures the Congressional leadership to provide a replacement plan.

January 13, 2017

The U.S. House voted 227-198 to pass a budget resolution instructing committees to begin repealing much of Obamacare, just as the Senate did the day prior.  Nine Republicans voted with 189 Democrats against the measure.  Legislative proposals from committee are now due by January 27.

January 12, 2017

The U.S. Senate voted 51-48 on the first step toward repealing Obamacare by passing a budget resolution that will be used as a means of rolling back the healthcare law.  The U.S. House is expected to vote on the measure on January 13.

January 11, 2017

President-elect Trump held his first press conference since winning the presidency, where he casted doubts on allegations of Russian involvement with the November election.  He responded that recent Obama sanctions on Russia were appropriate.

Trump said he plans to separate from his companies, via trust run by his sons; plus donate to the U.S. Treasury payments to his companies made by foreign governments in an effort to avoid appearance of conflict of interest.

Trump indicated his Supreme Court nominee will be announced within two weeks of inauguration.

Trump said Mexico will reimburse the U.S. for building the wall.  Trump also stated his plan to simultaneously repeal and replace Obamacare, which is at odds with the GOP Congress’ intentions to develop a replacement over time.  Trump said his Administration’s plan will be released shortly after his HHS Secretary Tom Price is confirmed.

January 10, 2017

President-elect Trump’s nominees for key Administration positions head to the U.S. Senate this week for confirmation hearings in select committees of jurisdiction.  Senators will ask questions on key Trump-Pence policy proposals as well as those related to job fitness.

On January 10, the Judiciary Committee will host Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions nominated for Attorney General; and the Homeland Security Committee will host General John Kelly for Homeland Security Secretary.

On January 11, the Foreign Relations Committee hosts ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State; Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hosts Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation; and the Intelligence Committee hosts Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo for CIA Director.

On January 12, the Armed Services Committee hosts General James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Defense Secretary; the Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee hosts Dr. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary; Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee hosts businessman Wilber Ross for Commerce Secretary.

December 19, 2016

President-elect Trump easily won the electoral votes necessary to become the 45th President of the United States.  The formality of the Electoral College vote has not traditionally garnered a lot of attention.  However, given the allegations of Russian interference in the election, the inflammatory election rhetoric coming out of the campaigns, and the fact that Clinton won the popular vote, Trump opponents were urging Electors to vote against Trump.  Nonetheless, Trump had no trouble winning the necessary votes: he needed 270 votes to win the electoral college and he won a total of 306.  Now that the Electoral College has officially voted, by December 28th, 2016, each state will send a “certificate of vote” to the Federal Register.  On January 6th, 2017, Congress will tally the votes of the Electoral College and make Trump’s win official.

December 12, 2016

On December 12, 2016, President-elect Trump publically criticized Lockheed Martin on the high costs of the F-35 military aircraft program over Twitter.  By the end of the day, Lockheed experienced a $2-billion drop in stock price.  Similarly, Trump directed social media posts at Boeing last week for the high cost of new Air Force One replacement aircraft.  Trump’s comments also negatively impacted Boeings stock price, although Boeing stock seems to have recovered.  Based upon Trump’s comments, there could be a public White House push to reduce the costs of military hardware in the coming Administration via the bully pulpit.

December 9, 2016

According to the Washington Post, the CIA briefed top senators last week on the intelligence community’s “consensus view” that Russia acted with the intention of assisting President-elect Trump win the election.  In a separate briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, an FBI official was said to be more circumspect regarding the motives behind Russia’s election meddling.  Trump’s transition team released a statement denouncing the recent reports, saying in part, “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

December 8, 2016

President-elect Trump campaigned heavily on national infrastructure, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress alike have an interest in rebuilding American infrastructure.  Trump’s infrastructure goals involve an investment of $1 trillion in infrastructure projects, the bulk of which would take the form of tax breaks and low-interest loans to encourage public-private partnerships (PPP).  Trump claims that the new wages created from infrastructure jobs will offset the tax breaks, making the plan revenue- and deficit-neutral.  Highlights include promoting private sector energy infrastructure projects, especially pipeline and coal export projects; modernization of airports; decreased regulations to lower the cost of permitting and approvals; and an increase in the state revolving loan fund to help update water infrastructure.

Enactment of an infrastructure plan in Congress will be key.  Congressional Republicans would prefer the efficiency of private sector infrastructure projects and do not want to increase business taxes to fund infrastructure projects, so leveraging PPPs through the tax code is likely to receive Republican support.  Democrats favor a process in which states contract with a private firm for all design and engineering work while maintaining responsibility for operation and maintenance after construction is completed. Democrats worry the high cost of PPPs fall on the backs of average Americans in the form of increased bridge, highway and user tolls.  Democrats also believe the PPP model ignores repairs and incremental expansion projects in rural communities and towns that are too small to generate sufficient toll or other user fee revenues.