The state of Trump’s transition: who’s in, who’s out, who’s where

Donald Trump is dramatically lapping his predecessor in headline-grabbing Cabinet nominations–the president-elect is reportedly inclined to announce the selection this week of Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobile who is said to have cozy relations with the Kremlin in Russia, as the nation’s chief diplomat–but is notably lagging in naming lower-level nominations responsible for the day-to-day implementation of his ambitious agenda.

While Mr. Trump’s Cabinet, which includes Vice President Mike Pence and the secretaries of the fifteen major federal departments, is mostly constituted, the president-elect has not yet begun fleshing out the bureaucracy of the various agencies. Of the 689 presidential nominations requiring Senate confirmation, Mr. Trump had named only 17 as of Friday.

Dentons’ federal public policy practice is tracking President-elect Trump’s nominations–and the rumors that precede them–to sketch the personnel and policy contours of the next administration. We’ll be updating this document each week with President-elect Trump’s nominations as the transition readies for the January inauguration.

Trump's Obamacare squad

Georgia Congressman Tom Price, the author of one of the most thorough Republican proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the transition announced Tuesday morning.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, will assume his new role already with a blueprint to supplant the controversial health care law: his own “Empowering Patients First Act,” which provides for age-based tax credits, sets a limit on tax exclusion of employer-sponsored coverage, and creates individual and small employer membership association and association health plans to allow for interstate insurance markets.

As Vox writes, Price is “the HHS secretary you’d pick if you were serious about dismantling” the ACA.

At the same time, the transition announced that Trump had chosen Seema Verma, a health policy consultant who designed Indiana’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion program under President-elect Mike Pence, to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Through her firm SVC Inc., Verma has advised a slate of other GOP governors in conservative workarounds to Medicaid expansion, including employment requirements and health savings accounts.

We’ve examined previously in this space the procedural and political hurdles to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but Tuesday’s nominations mark the clearest indication yet of the president-elect’s enduring commitment to undo his predecessor’s signal achievement.

With new White House MOU, Pence restarts transition work

The White House said late Tuesday it had received a memorandum of understanding from President-elect Donald Trump, a legally required process that had been delayed amid a reorganization of Trump transition aides.

The MOU, allowing for a formal communications channel between the current and incoming administrations, names Vice President-elect Mike Pence as head of the transition process.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of the president-elect’s most significant early endorsers, had previously signed a parallel document designating himself as the transition’s principal before he and several of his senior aides were replaced this week by Pence. The shuffling of aides temporarily paused communication between the White House and Trump’s aides.

Now, Trump’s transition aides–the so-called “landing teams”–will begin liaising as soon as Friday with current federal agency employees.

Pence, newly installed atop the transition effort, has begun to purge lobbyists from the landing teams tasked with constructing and staffing the new Trump administration, according to a report Wednesday by Fox News.

Trump, Xi talk as Chinese media threatens trade war

Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone Sunday with Donald Trump, according to a statement issued by the president-elect's transition team.

Aides to the president-elect said he “believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward,” while Mr. Xi was quoted in Chinese media as saying there was “huge potential” in cooperation between the two nations.

But the conversation, in which the two “established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another,” according to the statement, came as a state-run newspaper in China warned President-elect Trump against punitive trade measures.

Despite the outwardly friendly tone from Trump and Xi, the media organ of the Community Party of China condemned the president-elect as “naïve” for his pledge to levy a 45% tariff on Chinese imports to the United States, warning it would result in a retaliatory squeeze on American exports of automobiles, agriculture, and smartphones.

“China will take a tit-for-tat approach,” an unsigned editorial in the Global Times reads. “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. U.S. auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and U.S. soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.”

The two nations traded some $650 billion in goods last year, registering the Chinese trading relationship as America's second-most profitable.

Trump described the trade deficit between China and the United States as “the greatest theft in the history of the world” and has pledged to officially label the country a currency manipulator on this first day in office. In the days since his historic victory last week, though, the president-elect has adopted a more conciliatory tone with China.

Soapbox will continue to monitor transition developments, including key staffing and agency appointments, foreign relations, and policy objectives.

Trump's first 100 days: Obamacare, taxes, crime, and trade

President-elect Donald Trump released last week his “Contract with the American Voter,” a set of 18 specific policy objectives aimed at “restoring honesty and accountability, and bringing change to Washington.”

The manifesto includes some ten legislative measures spanning taxes, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, immigration and crime. The plan, a revival of Republicans' 1994 “Contract with America,” brings new clarity to the broad legislative and regulatory pledges the incoming president made in the course of the last 16 months, including:

  • Proposals to modify federal lobbying and campaign finance law, including term-limiting members of Congress, an extended five-year “cooling off” period for White House and Congressional officials transitioning to work as lobbyists, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of the foreign government and a ban on foreign lobbyists fundraising for American elections;
  • Regulatory reform proposals, including a requirement that two existing regulations be eliminated for every new federal regulation, lifting restrictions on oil and natural gas production on public lands, jump-starting stalled energy infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, and cancelling US payments to the UN Green Climate Fund and redirecting the funds to domestic water and environmental infrastructure;
  • Renegotiating or withdrawing from existing trade deals, such as NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as directing the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator; and
  • New immigration and public safety-related measures, such as cancelling federal funding to sanctuary cities, suspending immigration from terror-prone regions without adequate vetting procedures and deporting criminal illegal immigrants.

Mr. Trump's 100-day plan includes the following legislative measures that he expects to pursue in Congress to accomplish these objectives, including:

  • Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act: Features broad tax reduction and tax code simplification, condensing the number of tax brackets and lowering the top business tax rate to 15%.
  • End the Offshoring Act: Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from relocating overseas.
  • American Energy and Infrastructure Act: Leverages public-private partnerships and private investments through tax incentives to spur infrastructure investment.
    School Choice and Education Opportunity Act: Redirects education dollars to increase school choice, ends Common Core, expands vocational and technical education, and brings greater local control to education.
  • Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act: Fully repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with health savings accounts (HSAs), removes restrictions on purchasing health insurance across state lines, lets states manage Medicaid funds, and speeds up drug-approval times at the FDA.
  • Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act: Allows tax deductions for childcare and eldercare, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-sheltered dependent care savings accounts for young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.
  • End Illegal Immigration Act: Funds the construction of a wall on the Mexican border “with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall,” as well as increases sentences for illegal immigrants with criminal convictions or previous deportations.
  • Restoring Community Safety Act: Creates a task force on violent crime and increases funding for programs to train and assist local police, and increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors.
  • Restoring National Security Act: Eliminates the defense sequester and expands military investment, increases options for veterans seeking privately-offered healthcare outside of the VA, establishes new screening procedures for immigration and new programs for protecting infrastructure from cyber-attacks.
  • Clean Up Corruption In Washington Act: Enacts new ethics and campaign finance reforms to reduce the influence of special interests.

The plan can be read in its entirety here.