New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand (a potential 2020 presidential candidate) announced that she would oppose a waiver in order for retired General James Mattis’s nomination as Secretary of Defense to proceed.
At issue: the National Security Act of 1947, a longstanding federal law saying nominees for Secretary of Defense must have been retired from active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired as a four-star general in 2013, meaning that he couldn’t be eligible for the position until 2020 as the law currently stands. Getting around this law would require a congressional vote granting him a waiver, so he can be considered and the Senate can give him an up-or-down vote.
Mattis and the Trump administration have run into a possible snag: Democrats could require a 60-vote supermajority to grant Mattis the waiver, meaning they could unilaterally block his nomination if their expected 48-member caucus holds together with at least 41 votes. Senate Democrats changed the rules in 2013 requiring only a simple majority to confirm executive branch nominees. Most Trump cabinet appointees could be confirmed on that rule change alone, but because the rule change did not apply to this potential vote on a waiver, the 60-vote threshold still stands. Gillibrand – who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee which would hold confirmation hearings for Mattis – will require a 60-vote threshold for the waiver, an aide told Politico.
Because it’s never too early to start speculating for the next presidential election, the Washington Post handicapped the Democrats’ possible field of presidential candidates for 2020. One key observation:
Although this most stunning upset in modern presidential history has produced (and will produce) a thousand aftershocks, one of the most unlikely and important is that the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 is now open.
That opening is made all the more remarkable by the fact that there is simply no logical heir (or even heirs) to President Obama or Clinton — no obvious candidate waiting in the wings to step forward and rebuild the party. Vice President Biden appears to have decided that he is done running for office. As a two-time loser, Clinton is done, too. And after that, the bench is, well, pretty thin.
The outcome of the last election did two things: it postponed the Republican reconstruction most people thought would happen after a Donald Trump loss; and it accelerated the need and timetable for a Democratic reconstruction, which many thought wouldn’t happen until after a Hillary Clinton presidency. To elaborate on the latter point, most Democrats and political observers would probably have assumed that the party would have another four years (or eight) during a Clinton presidency to develop its bench in state and federal government. Needless to say, that plan changed and they’re scrambling to start the rebuilding process, particularly at the state level where the party has suffered many losses during the Obama years.
The good news for Democrats is they have a favorable map and calendar for statewide races for the next two years, not so much for congressional races, particularly the Senate. [Keep in mind, a lot can change in two years. This is the outlook as it stands right now.] This gives them an opportunity to recruit candidates and test new messages and strategies and build up their bench in the run-up for the 2020 presidential election and redistricting. The bad news is they have a lot of catching up to do.
The New York Post is reporting that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (Hillary Clinton’s successor in the Senate) has been reaching out to Clinton’s donors with an implicit eye toward the 2020 presidential election.
The story also points out, “However, while Gillibrand has close ties to Clinton’s political network, the move hasn’t gone down well with some Clinton supporters. ‘Many of us are still grieving. It’s like going after the widow at a funeral.'”
In addition this could also potentially set up a battle between two New Yorkers in the 2020 Democratic primaries (the other being Governor Andrew Cuomo) to take on New Yorker Donald Trump in the general election.