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LA Times TRANSITION TO TRUMP

 

This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump’s transition and the outgoing Obama administration:

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JAN. 3, 2017, 9:14 A.M.

House Republicans reverse course on gutting congressional ethics office after a firestorm of criticism

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy None
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

House Republicans reversed course Tuesday amid a firestorm of criticism over their plans to gut a congressional ethics office.

Republicans backed off the proposal that drew the ire of President-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington influence and corruption.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and top Republicans had warned colleagues not to pursue the proposal, which would have weakened the independent ethics office.

But the GOP leaders initially appeared resigned Tuesday after rank-and-file lawmakers supported the change, testing the leaders’ ability to control their majority.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) told reporters Tuesday.

By late morning, though, as  the full House was set to vote on the broader rules package, Republicans switched course.

Aides said the agreement was reached unanimously by leaders and lawmakers.

The changes would have fundamentally altered the independent Congressional Office of Ethics that was created in 2008 after a series of congressional scandals — including one involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

McCarthy said he agreed with Trump — that the first day of the new Congress was not the time for such controversial changes — and he said he made some of the same arguments during a private session with Republican lawmakers.

Ryan made a similar plea, aides said.

But the GOP leaders failed to sway fellow Republican lawmakers, a reminder of the challenges the Republicans face in governing their often-willful majority in Congress.

Good-government and watchdog groups warned Republicans to switch course.

“No American, save a few members of Congress and those who want to do business in back rooms, supports this,” said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice, a group advocating for campaign finance reforms. “Speaker Paul Ryan said he opposed the measure, and he should show leadership by calling for the Office of Congressional Ethics to be reinstated.”

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JAN. 3, 2017, 11:00 A.M.

Paul Ryan reelected House speaker with hardly any GOP dissent

Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has been reelected House speaker. (Cliff Owen / Associated Press)
Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has been reelected House speaker. (Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

The House reelected Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday, a party-line vote that displayed almost none of the public Republican opposition that has dogged past leaders.

The 239 votes partly reflected the work Ryan has done to shore up support among his colleagues as well as the GOP’s eagerness to appear united. The party now controls the House, the Senate and is about to have President-elect Trump in the White House.

Just one Republican dissented, far from the handful who voted against the Wisconsin Republican in 2015, when he was tapped to replace former Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who abruptly retired amid warring Republicans.

Democrats largely preferred House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). She won 189 votes, but faced scattered dissent as several lawmakers voted for other Democrats.

JAN. 3, 2017, 9:53 A.M.

Ford cancels Mexico factory and will invest in Michigan in ‘vote of confidence’ for Trump plans

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it was scrapping plans to build a $1.6-billion factory in Mexico and would invest $700 million to expand a Michigan plant to build electric and autonomous vehicles that will add 700 jobs there in a move Ford’s chief executive said was a “vote of confidence” in the economic policies of President-elect Donald Trump.

Ford isn’t abandoning expanded production in Mexico. The company said that to “improve company profitability” it would build its next-generation Ford Focus at an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.

But in the wake of criticism by President-elect Donald Trump of the U.S. automaker and other companies moving manufacturing jobs across the border, Ford said it would cancel its plans for a major new plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

A company news release didn’t mention Trump, but Chief Executive Mark Fields told CNN on Tuesday that the new plans were “a vote of confidence” in the direction of the U.S. economy.

JAN. 3, 2017, 7:01 A.M.

Congress opens with an ambitious agenda for the Trump era

A Republican-controlled Congress opens Tuesday with the most sweeping conservative agenda in decades, providing Donald Trump ample room to gut the Affordable Care Act, slash corporate tax rates and undo Obama -era environmental regulations.

The House is almost certain to reelect Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) as its first order of business, dispensing with the messy political infighting that has hobbled Republicans in the past.

And the Senate will swiftly begin vetting the president-elect’s most controversial Cabinet picks, ready to confirm some when Trump is inaugurated Jan. 20.

Yet Republicans remain at odds on some high-profile issues — such as how aggressively to investigate Russian hacking in the 2016 election — and how to fulfill other big-ticket promises, such as replacing Obamacare.

Despite firm Republican control of both the White House and Congress, the internal disputes have left them without a clear plan yet for Trump’s first 100 days, or an endgame for the two years of the 115th Congress.

Trump’s often shifting views on major issues will test relations with GOP’s leaders on Capitol Hill, and his willingness to skirt ideological rigidity gives incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco an opening to influence and shape the president’s evolving agenda.

transition

JAN. 3, 2017, 6:38 A.M.

Trump taps Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. trade representative, threatens GM with border tax for Mexican-made vehicles

President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Robert Lighthizer, a former Reagan administration official and longtime international trade attorney, to be his U.S. trade representative.

The Cabinet-level post will be especially important under Trump, who pledged during his campaign to strike trade deals that are more advantageous for the U.S. and scrap ones he deems unfair.

“Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first,” Trump said in a statement.

“He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans,” Trump said. “He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”

The significance of trade to Trump was made clear shortly after the announcement when he complained on Twitter that General Motors Corp. was selling Chevrolet Cruze vehicles made in Mexico tax-free in the U.S.

Trump warned a “big border tax” could be coming.

General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!

JAN. 2, 2017, 8:44 P.M.

House Republicans vote behind closed doors to gut ethics office ahead of new Congress

On the eve of the new Congress, House Republicans voted privately Monday to gut an ethics office that had been established as an independent watchdog on lawmakers in the aftermath of several high-profile scandals.

Republicans agreed to rename the Office of Congressional Ethics and put it under the oversight of the Committee on Ethics, which is a panel made up of lawmakers.

The full House will be asked to vote on the proposal as part of a broader rules package when the chamber convenes Tuesday.

The new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be barred from investigating anonymous tips and prevented from disclosing its work. It would refer findings to the Committee on Ethics.

The move came during a closed-door evening session and ahead of Tuesday’s opening of the new Congress and the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to “drain the swamp” of undue influence and corruption in Washington.

House Republicans were somewhat split over the late amendment, which was proposed by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The vote was 119 to 74.

Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, denounced the move. They may not be able to block the measure when it comes up for a vote.

“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions,” Pelosi said. “Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Goodlatte rejected concerns that the proposal would weaken the office, arguing that it strengthens and builds on the work of the office that was launched in 2008.

“It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify,” Goodlatte said. “The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”

Because there was dissent among Republicans, it’s unclear whether the changes will survive or threaten to tank the broader package of chamber rules. The rules package is among the first orders of business when the new Congress convenes.

JAN. 2, 2017, 11:46 A.M.

Obama will deliver farewell address in Chicago

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Ten days before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated,  President Obama will thank Americans and say goodbye from the same city that launched his political career.

He will deliver a presidential farewell address on Jan. 10 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

In an email Monday morning, Obama said he was taking his cue from George Washington, who “set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power” and penned a farewell address in 1796.

Over the last 220 years, many American presidents have followed Washington’s lead, Obama wrote.

“I’m just beginning to write my remarks,” he added. “But I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.”

In the email, Obama said the nation has faced a number of challenges in the last eight years but emerged stronger.

“That’s because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding — our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better,” he wrote.

The scheduled farewell address will bring Obama’s political career as a state senator in Illinois, U.S. senator and president full circle. When he won the White House in 2008, Chicago hosted a victory rally in Grant Park.

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