Situational awareness – December 18, 2017

Good Monday morning from Salt Lake City.

Support for “Our Schools Now” is on a bit of an upswing. Our “Political Insiders” say Sen. Orrin Hatch should retire, but they don’t think he will. President Donald Trump plans to hit the campaign trail for Republicans in 2018. Congress has until the end of the week to fund the government.

Tick tock:

  • 15 days until candidates can declare their intent to gather signatures for the 2018 election (1/2/2018)
  • 35 days until the opening day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (1/22/2018)
  • 80 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 81 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 87 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 92 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 124 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 131 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 190 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 323 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1,051 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Support for “Our Schools Now” ticks upward

A new poll finds that half of Utahns favor an income and sales tax hike to provide an extra $700 million annually for public schools. That support is up slightly from our previous poll found just 48% of Utahns supported the tax increases [Utah Policy].

Will Hatch run again? Should he?

Our “Political Insider” panel overwhelmingly thinks Sen. Orrin Hatch will decide to run for an eighth term in 2018, but they also say he probably shouldn’t. [Utah Policy]

Tax overhaul package nears the finish line, but the government could run out of money on Friday

House and Senate Republicans are nearing passage of their massive tax overhaul package, with a final vote expected this week. 

Here’s who would come out ahead, and who is poised to get the short end of the stick from the tax package. [New York Times]

After the plan passes, Republicans will have less than a week to cut a deal with Democrats to fund the government to avoid a shutdown. So far, they haven’t been very successful getting Democrats on board. [Washington Post]

One of the sticking points to a funding deal – what will Congress do about DACA? Democrats want a vote on legislation to help “Dreamers,” and there is talk of tying the must-pass budget bill to that legislation, but others say it’s increasingly unlikely they’ll be able to pass a fix for DACA by the end of the year. [Houston Chronicle]

Another email scandal?

Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained thousands of emails from the Trump transition team, but Trump’s lawyers say that wasn’t legal.

Trump’s lawyers say the emails should have been shielded from the investigation. The emails and documents were obtained from the General Services Administration, which hosted the emails from the transition. The special counsel says they procured the emails legally.

This latest point of contention should fuel the increasing attacks from Republicans against Mueller’s investigation. [New York Times]

Rumor mill: Trump will fire Mueller before Christmas

Friday could be a big day for the Mueller investigation…or not.

California Democrat Jakie Speier says rumors are flying in Washington that Trump will fire special counsel Robert Mueller before the Christmas holiday, possibly on Friday.

“The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on Dec. 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller,” said Speier.

White House special counsel Ty Cobb has denied the rumor [KQED News]

President Trump on Sunday shot down those rumors saying he would not fire Mueller. [Washington Post]

Trump plans to hit the campaign trail for Republicans in 2018

President Donald Trump will hit the road to campaign for Republicans ahead of next year’s midterm elections. 

Trump reportedly has already met with 116 GOP candidates with an eye toward getting involved in House, Senate, and Gubernatorial races. He might even take sides during some contested GOP primary races.

Trump is reportedly getting involved because he knows holding on to a GOP majority in Congress will determine the future of his legislative agenda.

“For the president, this isn’t about adulation and cheering crowds,” White House political director Bill Stepien said in an interview. “This is about electing and re-electing Republicans.” [Washington Post].

Trump gives Russia an assist on terrorism

Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned President Donald Trump on Sunday to thank him for sharing CIA intelligence about a bomb threat in St. Petersberg. Russia says they arrested two men last week who were in possession of a lot of explosives and weapons, The two were allegedly preparing to carry out a suicide attack. [ABC News]

The night the lights went out in Georgia

The power is back on at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta after travelers were stranded in darkness for nearly 11 hours. The outage crippled the airport and resulted in more than 1,400 flights in and out of the airport being canceled.

The outage was caused by a fire at an underground electrical facility. That facility also housed the switch that could have activated the backup power system. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Quick links:

  • Jason Chaffetz says Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not up to the job and probably should resign [Utah Policy].
  • A new survey finds half of Americans think Democrats should control Congress, which could mean Republicans could be facing a dangerous political environment heading into the 2018 midterms [Utah Policy].
  • Some members of the Utah GOP Central Committee voted to accept a $400,000 bailout from a private donor to pay off the party’s debt on Saturday. However, Utah GOP Chairman Rob Anderson says the meeting did not follow the proper procedure, and may not have been legal under party bylaws [Tribune].
  • At least four senators are urging Sen. Al Franken to reconsider resigning following allegations he groped women without their permission. Two of those who want him to stay were among those who earlier called for his resignation [Politico].
  • Greg Bell, the new UTA chairman, says reforming the embattled agency’s tarnished image [Deseret News].
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch slams the “regulatory acrobatics” that it takes to study the medical benefits of marijuana [Deseret News].
  • Rep. Ed Redd will not seek re-election next year [Associated Press].
  • Utah’s prison population is down, but the number of parolees who go back to prison is up 39% [Deseret News].

Today in history:

  • 1787 – New Jersey becomes the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward proclaims the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, prohibiting slavery.
  • 1892 – Premier performance of The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • 1912 – An investigation of J.P. Morgan & Co., as well as 17 other financial firms, detailed control of more than $23.5 billion of the nation’s wealth. The Pujo Committee was set up to look into what was believed to be a cabal of Wall Street heavyweights who were exerting unfair control over the nation’s finances.
  • 1972 – President Nixon announced the beginning of Operation Linebacker II, a “maximum effort” bombing campaign against targets in Hanoi and Haiphong.