EDITORIAL NOTE: This is much longer than I intended and that's just how it is today. There's more stuff to know these days than my ability, sometimes, to summarize.
Remember when I told you last week that it was thousands of telephone calls from voters to Congress that forced House Republicans to reverse their decision to trash the Office of Congressional Ethics?
Too many news outlets reported that it was the president-elect's tweet that made the difference. No, it was not. Most members of Congress agree that it was the deluge of constituent phone calls that forced them to backtrack.
Throughout our coming resistance campaigns, do not forget that. Such is the mindset of our Congressional leaders that their number one concern is not the benefit of the country or its people; it is being re-elected next time.
If you are in the D.C. area and can visit your representative(s), go for it – that impresses them more than anything. But second are live phone calls. They work.
GOP CONFIRMATION BLITZ
Here we go. As mentioned in that Friday post, the Republicans are going to try to snow everyone into inattention by doing so much at once that no one – Democrats, press, the American public – can keep up. As Politico noted last week:
”Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has personally urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not to schedule simultaneous hearings on Trump’s selections, warning that such a move would test the new relationship between the two leaders.
“But the GOP ignored the entreaty by scheduling the attorney general, secretary of state, CIA director, education secretary, homeland security chief and transportation secretary all for the same day.”
That would be Wednesday this week, 11 January and the Republicans, as to be expected these days, ignored Schumer. Here are the nominees whose separate hearings are currently scheduled to be held that day:
Actually, Jeff Sessions, who is the most controversial of all the nominees so far, is scheduled for a two-day hearing beginning on Tuesday 10 January and all the other nominees should be scheduled for more than one Senate committee session. At the risk of stating the obvious, just how are citizens expected to follow this bum's rush?
Further, most of the background checks and ethics clearances have not been finished. Bad enough but wait, there's more.
Here is the kicker to these multiple hearings: The Republicans, in addition to scheduling hearings of five of the most crucial appointments in one day are getting extra help at confusing the country from the president-elect:
On the same day, 11 January, Donald Trump is holding his first open press conference since July 2016. Now what do you think will lead the news on Wednesday and how much short shrift will these nominees get?
OTHER NOMINEE HEARINGS THIS WEEK
In addition to Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, 10 January: Retired Marine General John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security
Thursday, 12 January
Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce
1. All the schedules are subject to change at Republican whim
2. Do your homework on these nominees. Track down the arguments for and against each one's confirmation
3. You can start that with the short version at this Washington Post page but go further, Google them and see what you learn.
And here is something worth knowing that I've excerpted from a The New York Times report:
”Donald Trump’s transition team and Senate Republicans are determined to railroad several nominees to his cabinet of billionaires and moguls through to confirmation without fully revealing business interests that could disqualify them, say people both inside and outside government who are working on the transition process.
“This is unprecedented, potentially illegal, and the clearest sign yet of Mr. Trump’s cavalier attitude toward criminal laws preventing federal officials from profiting from public service.”
WHAT WE NEED TO DO
So our job this week is to:
• Do our homework on these nominees
• Follow the hearings as best we can depending on how much attention the press pays as the president-elect's press conference shuck and jive is the shiniest of shiny object this week
• Deluge our senators with phone calls about where we stand about each of the nominees
• You might throw in how you feel about cramming this many confirmation hearings into one day, especially one when the president-elect holds a press conference
Even with as many conflicts of interest there are with nearly every nominee – all of whom are millionaires, billionaires, insiders or highest level military – I expect all, with the possible exception of Jeff Sessions, to be approved.
We are not going to win everything we resist but maintaining democracy is never-ending work and we are as responsible to do our part as every other age group. And it IS relevant to our lives.
Remember that slogan from the Sixties: The personal is the political. My friend Tony Sarmiento sent a link to the Wikipedia page about that for us.
Call your senators before the vote of the full Senate on these nominees. Wednesday is a good day to do it.
EXTRA: How the Confirmation Process Works
In case you are wondering how the confirmation process works – first of all it is contained in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, known as the Appointments Clause which, a different Wikipedia entry explains:
"...empowers the President of the United States to appoint certain public officials with the 'advice and consent' of the U.S. Senate. This clause also allows lower-level officials to be appointed without the advice and consent process."
ABC News provides us with the best, most succinct description of the process I have read:
1. A nomination is given to the relevant Senate committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, handles the attorney general nomination.
2. That committee can then hold hearings, vote to move the nomination straight to the Senate floor for a vote or not move on it at all (in which case, the committee effectually kills the nomination).
3. After hearings, the committee votes to report a nomination to the full Senate, requiring a simple majority. It may vote to report the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation. If a committee sits on an appointment, the full Senate may vote to invoke cloture and move the nomination along.
4. If a nomination clears committee, it moves to the Senate floor for a simple majority vote. Filibusters are not an issue here because Democrats changed Senate rules three years ago to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for most nominations. Supreme Court picks are still subject to filibuster.
Certainly I know that I am asking for a lot. Please keep in mind this new government is not business as usual. These appointments are not normal. And "it" CAN happen here. We must each do our part to prevent it.