Gillibrand Announces Opposition to Waiver for Mattis Nomination

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.

Trump Transition Floats Red State Senate Democrats as Potential Cabinet Nominees

Two leaks coming out of New York today that have some Democrats worrying:

Manchin’s office has denied the Politico report. Heitkamp was invited to meet with Trump tomorrow and accepted the invitation. According to CNN’s Manu Raju, she did not rule out accepting a job in the new administration.

Some context to this: first, both Heitkamp and Manchin are Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won easily and have become more Republican in recent years. Second, if one or both of them accepted, that would weaken Democratic opposition in the Senate, from the current 52-48 majority to 53-47 or 54-46. Why? Because the sitting Republican governors in North Dakota and West Virginia would be able to appoint their replacements, who would most certainly be Republicans.

CORRECTION: Earl Ray Tomblin, the current governor of West Virginia, is a Democrat. If Manchin were to accept a position in the Trump administration, he would nominate a Democrat as a temporary replacement, but Republicans would have the opportunity to win that Senate seat during the next election cycle.

Democratic Senator Announces Opposition to Trump HHS Nominee

Senator Joe Donnelly – an Indiana Democrat up for reelection in 2018 – released a statement today announcing his opposition to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, citing Price’s position on overhauling and privatizing Medicare in his capacity as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The fact that a red state Democrat like Donnelly (who is from the same state as Vice President-elect Mike Pence) is willing to do this shows that he (presumably) thinks this is an issue he can run on two years from now. Whether other Senate Democrats do the same remains to be seen, but Price’s confirmation hearing should be interesting to watch for this issue as well as his views on repealing, dismantling, and/or replacing Obamacare.

President-Elect Questions Integrity of Election He Won, State Officials Say Allegations Are Unfounded

The subject of losing the popular vote is a touchy issue for President-elect Donald Trump. Yesterday, he tweeted (among other things) this:

Not stated in the second tweet: Trump lost all three states, which also happen to have Democratic governors. In other words, the implicit subtext is that Hillary Clinton didn’t win those states fairly.  Officials from all three states have weighed in (including the Republican governor-elect of New Hampshire) on the accusation:

UPDATE: CNN’s Don Lemon made an interesting observation tonight, asking if there isn’t some sense of irony or payback for Obama supporters in all of this because President Obama had to endure years of questions about the legitimacy of his presidency at the hands of people like Donald Trump because of the birther lie.  [Note: This is a paraphrase, I will add an update to this post with transcript or video clip when it becomes available.]

UPDATE II: Here’s the transcript

MCENANY: He would have won it because he would have campaigned differently. But you have people out there calling for recounts that are unsubstantiated based on no evidence. You have Jill Stein coming on our network an hour or so ago suggesting that there were hacks or potentially hacks and we won’t know until we count the votes. There are people trying to delegitimize the president-elect of the United States?

LEMON: Why would he care? And here’s the other thing. Here’s the other thing, though. I mean, don’t you think that people are going on maybe even the current president is sitting there going, now you know how it feels to have people try to delegitimize you as a president?

MCENANY: I think you do. And in some ways the president of the United States is sticking up for Donald Trump on this and saying —

LEMON: But he did it for years with the whole birther thing.

MCENANY: He asked the question and he got his answer.

LEMON: This is karma.

MCENANY: And he moved on. But no, the president of the United States —

SELLERS: No, he never moved on.

MCENANY: I have to praise President Obama because he has actually slapped this down, and said, hey, you know what, the people spoke, let’s give him a chance. And that’s commendable.

LEMON: I don’t know — I don’t know – wait a minute. I don’t have — I have no idea what you’re saying.

MCENANY: I’m saying President Obama has been really great in all of this, and I want to commend him for really standing up for the people’s vote and saying let’s give this guy a chance. I think it’s fantastic.

LEMON: OK. But my question was, now he knows how it feels to have people say, you know, or at least insinuate that you’re not a legitimate president. Because he did it for so many years. What does that have to do with the president saying, you know —

MCENANY: Well, I think —

LEMON: Because he was being gracious and class in saying —

MCENANY: Sure.

LEMON: We must accept the outcome of the election.

DNC Candidate Jaime Harrison Expresses “Concern” Over Nikki Haley’s Lack of Foreign Policy Experience

The big news early this morning is that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to be his ambassador to the United Nations. This in spite of some jabs between the two of them during the primaries:

South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison – who is running for the DNC chairman job – released this statement:

UPDATE: For fairness and context, read this Associated Press story on the background and credentials of the last four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations.

UPDATE II: Some more context on the background of another U.N. ambassador, from Bush 41 biographer Jon Meacham:

Tulsi Gabbard Meets with Donald Trump

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) met with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence today, making her one of the first Democrats to do so, amid the flurry of meetings they are holding with potential cabinet and White House appointees.

Gabbard was a Bernie Sanders supporter in the Democratic primary, and is also a vocal opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an issue Trump ran against during the campaign.  McClatchy notes that, “Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, reportedly likes Gabbard because of her stance on guns, refugees and Islamic extremism along with her ability to invoke strong anti-establishment populist sentiment on the left.”

What – if anything – this means as far as a possible Gabbard role in the Trump administration is not known at the present time.

UPDATE:

From CNN’s Sara Murray:

From NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, here is Gabbard’s statement on the meeting: