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Morning Reads: GOP House Gives Staffers Power to Subpoena Anyone; Mnuchin’s Bank Broke Foreclosure Laws

A roundup of some of the stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: GOP House Gives Staffers [...]

Newly re-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), wields the gavel as the new US Congress convenes, January 3, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Never mind… –> Facing intense criticism from Americans on the left and right, House Republicans did an about-face and decided not to do away with the Congressional Ethics Office. The decision came, Kira Lerner writes for ThinkProgress, after legislators saw their offices flooded with calls, emails and social media comments urging them to rethink. Donald Trump also chimed in, tweeting that the Ethics Office was “unfair” but questioning why “the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog” was Congress’ “number one act and priority.”

However, the Republican majority made other changes to increase its power, including giving legislators’ staff members — not just lawmakers themselves — the authority to subpoena and question anyone they want. This could be particularly problematic for activists who support causes that members of congress oppose, such as climate action. “After spending six years demonstrating their eagerness to spend taxpayer money on wasteful, politically motivated witch hunts, Republicans are giving themselves additional tools to do more of the same,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee (via BloombergPolitics). “Freely handing out the power to compel any American to appear, sit in a room, and answer staff’s invasive questions on the record — without members even being required to be present — is truly unprecedented, unwarranted and offensive.”

Bad news for Mnuchin –> “OneWest Bank, which Donald Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, ran from 2009 to 2015, repeatedly broke California’s foreclosure laws during that period, according to a previously undisclosed 2013 memo from top prosecutors in the state attorney general’s office,” David Dayen writes for The Intercept. “The memo obtained by The Intercept alleges that OneWest rushed delinquent homeowners out of their homes by violating notice and waiting-period statutes, illegally backdated key documents and effectively gamed foreclosure auctions.”

And speaking of Trump’s appointees… Some Democrats are on board with his US Trade Representative pick, free trade skeptic Robert Lighthizer. “He has rejected the rigid ideological mantra of ‘free trade’ that most Republican leaders have blindly embraced, regardless of the consequences for the American middle class,” said Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democratic congressman who has opposed Obama’s efforts to win approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Some Republicans, meanwhile, appear ready to oppose Lighthizer.

And, at Talking Points Memo, Lauren Fox reports there is very little Democrats can do to stop Trump’s nominees. After years of Republican opposition to President Obama’s nominees, Democrats weakened the filibuster, the primary tool senators can use to hold up a nomination. That move will now work to their disadvantage.

Here’s a list of Trump’s appointments so far, put together by The Guardian.

Free college education in New York –> Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined with Sen. Bernie Sanders yesterday to announce a plan that will provide free college tuition “for hundreds of thousands of middle-and low-income New Yorkers,” Jesse McKinley reports for The New York Times. “… Under the governor’s plan, college students who have been accepted to a state or city university in New York — including two-year community colleges — would be eligible, provided they or their family earn $125,000 or less a year.” Access to education and the burden of student loans were issues that energized young Americans during the presidential campaign, and fueled support for the Sanders insurgency.

California’s big hire –> “Bracing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, the California Legislature has selected former US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to serve as outside counsel to advise the state’s legal strategy against the incoming administration,” Melanie Mason writes for the Los Angeles Times. “The unusual arrangement will give Holder, leading a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling, a broad portfolio covering potential conflicts between California and the federal government.”

Another big climate march –> Activists hope this rally will draw similar numbers to the roughly half a million who showed up for the September 2014 march in New York City, according to Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams. The People’s Climate Mobilization will be held on April 29, 2017.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!

 


 

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.