A White House spokesperson did not immediately provide answers to these questions, but several senior West Wing aides were briefed about the Senate Democrats’ efforts to defeat the two remaining priorities before Christmas. The chief of staff, chief strategist and legislative affairs director all attended the meeting, as did legislative affairs director Marc Short. The White House did not attend the group, which included former top Senate Democrats, with the exception of Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.). The meeting was one of several that took place with the Obama administration over the past few weeks, and was intended to convince the departing senators that the only way the Democrats could retain control of the Senate in the midterms was to pass the remaining Democratic priorities. Their re-election prospects aren’t helping their chances to do so. A number of former Obama aides and lawmakers are mentioned as possible contenders for the vacancy. Sources said the job will require several top-tier Democrats with ties to national Democrats and power brokers in the party, including some big-name donors.
On the foreign policy front, the Trump administration says it is working on a new strategy to respond to a changing Russian threat to its neighbors. There are tensions between the president and Chief of Staff John Kelly, who is expected to leave the administration next month. But the White House said the president wants Kelly to remain until a replacement is in place.
– Senior White House officials thought they had positive news on the government shutdown with a procedural solution in the House that would have given Trump the ability to appoint a Federal Emergency Management Agency director. But the Senate killed that idea in a 51-49 vote over objections from Democrats.
– U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is launching a pilot program to allow green card holders to apply for a work permit after the start of the 2020 presidential election.
– The Commerce Department has restarted a public engagement project called “Made in America” with the help of the National Association of Manufacturers and needs to win the support of lawmakers on the House and Senate floors to get the plan through. They have to get an appropriation signed by Trump before the plan is funded.
– A former senior White House official said the president received “bad news” from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats over the weekend that Russia is laying the groundwork for a covert cyber attack against the 2020 elections, citing examples from Wannacry, the software attack on a British hospital that exposed the medical records of tens of thousands of patients. Trump has said the United States needs a “very serious reaction” to the attack. The official said Trump was disturbed by his assessment.
By contrast, the White House is happy with recent efforts by the White House to recruit citizens of the EU to serve as a buffer between the U.S. and the 28 countries in the European Union in anticipation of a future EU government pullout. Officials are hopeful this humanitarian bid will prevent the U.S. from unraveling any effects of a EU breakup and could help the U.S. and EU allies coalesce as an ally against Russia.
The source also cautioned the timing of the administration’s actions on the shutdown was a primary reason why the president is especially upset with the bill that passed the House to reopen the government in exchange for a cap on the number of refugees that the administration will accept into the U.S. in the 2019 fiscal year. The GOP-controlled Senate hasn’t voted on that bill.
Pelosi won’t name a replacement for Coats until she announces her replacement for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the state. It would have to be a member of the delegation who is a Hispanic, a non-incumbent candidate that Clinton defeated Trump in Arizona. A number of Democratic candidates with Hispanic ancestry are waiting to see who is appointed to the Senate before committing to run.