Morning Must Reads for Thursday, January 12, 2017

Good Thursday morning from Salt Lake City. Today is the 12th day of the year. There are 353 days remaining in 2017.

Sen. Mike Lee gets a 51% approval rating from Utahns. Utah lawmakers are racing to plug a hole in the state’s election laws. The U.S. Senate takes the first step toward repealing Obamacare.

The clock:

  • 8 days until Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President (1/20/2017)
  • 11 days until the first day of the 2017 Utah Legislature (1/23/2017)
  • 56 days until the final day of the 2017 Utah Legislature (3/9/2017)
  • 299 days until the 2017 municipal elections (11/7/2017)
  • 663 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1391 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Ten talking points for Monday:

  1. Positive approval. Utahns give Sen. Mike Lee a 51% approval rating. That number among Utah Republicans is more than 20-points higher at 72% [Utah Policy].
  2. Fixing a hole. Utah lawmakers discovered a huge hole in the state’s election law. If a member of the U.S. House from Utah resigns their seat, there’s no detailed procedure for holding a special election to replace them. Legislators may have to rush to find a fix in the first two weeks of the 2017 session with rumors swirling that Rep. Chris Stewart may be tapped to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Air Force [Utah Policy].
  3. Obamacare. Republicans in the Senate made the first move toward repealing Obamacare, approving budget moves that would allow them to eviscerate the health care law without legislative action [New York Times]. Donald Trump’s insistence that Congress repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time is putting a lot of pressure on lawmakers, especially because it will take a handful of Democratic Senators to cross the aisle and vote with Republicans to fully kill the law [Politico].
  4. Beat the press. President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference since July of last year, and it was…interesting. Trump announced a new ethics plan to help him avoid conflicts of interest by placing his business holdings in a trust run by his sons [Wall Street Journal]. However, the head of the Office of Government Ethics blasted Trump’s plan as “wholly inadequate” and “meaningless.” He also said the plan is “not even close” to being a blind trust [Washington Post]. During the press fete, Trump also acknowledged for the first time that Russia was behind interference in the 2016 election [CNN]. Trump also lashed out at media organizations for reporting on an unverified dossier of compromising information Russia collected on him over the past five years. Trump called the news organizations “garbage” and threatened consequences. Fox News’ Shep Smith minced no words pushing back against Trump saying “journalists should not be subjected to belittling and delegitimizing by the president-elect of the United States” [The Week].
  5. Confirmation roundup. Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump‘s nominee for Secretary of State, had a rocky confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Tillerson said the U.S. needed to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin, but would not commit to maintaining sanctions against the country [New York Times]. Tillerson also called the conclusion by intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 election “troubling” [Washington Post]. Sen. Cory Booker broke with Senate tradition and testified against Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, saying he had doubts Sessions would pursue voting or civil rights cases [Wall Street Journal].
  6. SCOTUS vacancy. Conservatives are starting to press President-elect Donald Trump to tap Bill Pryor to fill the vacancy on the high court [The Hill]. Sen. Mike Lee says he would “absolutely” accept an appointment to the Supreme Court if he’s tapped by Trump [Utah Policy].
  7. Build the wall. Mexico President Pena Nieto reiterated his stance on Wednesday that Mexico will not pay for a border wall with the United States. Trump doubled down on Wednesday, insisting Mexico will reimburse the U.S. for the cost of construction [Politico].
  8. School funding fight. Utah Republican lawmakers in both houses say they’re looking for ways to boost education funding because they’re starting to feel the pressure from a group that wants to put an income tax on the 2018 ballot to accomplish the same goal [Deseret News].
  9. Price tag perspectives. Rep. Rob Bishop says President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the price tag for the F-35 fighter jet is a legitimate gripe, but he says the costly airplane is vital to U.S. Security [Deseret News].
  10. Homeless battle intensifies. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says the proposed homeless shelter site in Sugar House should be turned into a development that includes affordable housing [Tribune]. Hundreds of residents converge on a meeting to voice their displeasure over the homeless shelter site selections [Deseret News, Tribune].

On this day in history:

  • 1932 – Hattie Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, became the first woman elected to serve a full term as a United States Senator.
  • 1969 – The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
  • 1991 – Congress gave President George H.W. Bush the authority to use force to expel Iraq from Kuwait.
  • 2010 – Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7 earthquake, killing as many as 300,000 residents and leaving more than 1.5 million people homeless.