Today’s the day. Sometime around noon, Donald Trump will take the oath of office and become the 45th President of the United States of America. And the rest of the afternoon and evening will be given over to the transfer of power’s pomp and pageantry. On Monday, the new president will get to work, with nominations named to fewer than 5% of the key positions in his government — and none of them yet confirmed by the Senate.
But the task of filling at least one top-tier post in Trump’s cabinet took a step forward Thursday, when Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin emerged from his five-hour grilling by the Senate Finance Committee relatively unscathed. That was hardly assured from the outset. Mnuchin since his nomination presented Democrats with what they expected to be one of their more vulnerable targets, thanks to the foreclosures his bank, OneWest, pursued in the wake of the housing collapse. Then came the revelation, just hours before his hearing, that Mnuchin failed to disclose nearly $100 million worth of assets in filings to the committee. Both figured prominently in Democratic questioning but neither looks primed to derail his confirmation. Meanwhile, Mnuchin, a newbie to government who’s contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, revealed some idiosyncratic public policy positions. We learned that he wants to:
- raise the debt ceiling “sooner rather than later” and avoid the risk of a default;
- keep the Volcker Rule, which bans commercial banks from making certain risky bets, but suggested it should be simpler and looser;
- reform the tax code with a deficit-neutral, comprehensive approach that prioritizes a middle-class cut;
- preserve the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but subject its funding to the Congressional appropriations process;
- privatize the mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but he won’t seek to do so unilaterally, as he suggested in a poorly-received CNBC interview back in November;
- add staff to the IRS to close the gap between taxes owed and paid, and he signaled new hires at the tax collection agency should be exempt from a federal hiring freeze.
A number of those stances — on the debt ceiling, the IRS, the Volcker Rule, and Fannie and Freddie — put him at odds with key Congressional Republicans. A source close to the process nevertheless expects Mnuchin will be confirmed “in the very near future.” More headlines below.
Most of the jobs and investment announcements for which Trump has claimed credit in fact reflect plans that were already on the books.
In his confirmation hearing, Perry acknowledged the science behind man-made climate change is real but said solutions shouldn’t cost American jobs.
Rollbacks of Obama-era regulations top the list.
The incoming president gave up his phone as a security measure. It’s unclear whether he’ll be tweeting from whatever replaces it.
Number of the Day
Of the 209 U.S. counties that Obama carried twice but then flipped to Trump last year, three-quarters saw more businesses close than open in the period from 2010 to 2014. In other words, Trump over-performed in struggling economic zones. That’s according to a new election analysis by the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan think tank focused on unleashing growth. You can read their full piece here.