The Republican-controlled Congress, in conjunction with Mike Pence and Donald Trump, plan to execute Blitzkrieg next week. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war,” a term from German military tactics in World War II. The object was to disorient and disorganize the enemy with overpowering multiple and simultaneous attacks. The Republicans are about to execute Blitzkrieg politics. To help sports fans understand, the Washington Post has described the plan as the “no-huddle offense.”
As a prelude to the Blitzkrieg coming next week, this week we have a mini-Blitzkrieg going on:
- Revival of the “Holman Rule,” which allows Congress and the President to reduce the pay of any federal worker to $1.00. Thus, if any federal employee attempts to abide by a law that Trump disagrees with, his pay gets slashed. (Perhaps we now understand the Transition Team’s request for specific names of employees involved in enforcing certain policies.)
- Congress made it easier to sell off federal lands, a boon to anti-environmentalists.
- These were part of a package of Standing Rules for the upcoming Congress that can’t be changed for the next two years. Initially, they included eliminating the independent House Ethics panel — and that drew all the fire and press attention so other ugly things slipped through.
- Trump’s battle with Lindsey Graham and John McCain over credibility of the U.S. Intelligence Service. In what world does a President-Elect side with Julian Assange over the combined opinion of the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, and FBI? In Trump World, that’s where. “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” McCain said in his opening statement at Thursday’s hearing.
- Speaker Ryan announced the Republicans will defund Planned Parenthood as part of the budget process they are using to dismantle Obamacare.
Next week will be this week on steroids, as the Washington Post laid out in Thursday’s “202” column. Wednesday will be Blitzkrieg Day:
- Trump gives his first press conference since last summer. This is distraction, period.
- Mitch McConnell has scheduled a “vote-a-rama” on budget bills, including bills related to the repeal of Obamacare (it’s a complicated law, they can’t repeal it in one vote).
- The Senate Hearing to confirm Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (racist, homophobe, misogynist, liar) is set to start. Here’s a handy, more diplomatic summary of his history: https://www.aclu.org/report/report-confirmation-sessions This is the guy who said in November that he wouldn’t characterize grabbing women “by the pussy” as sexual assault; “I think that’s a stretch,” he said.
- The same day, Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, with his ties to Vladimir Putin and long tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, will appear before the Foreign Relations Committee to begin his hearing for confirmation as Secretary of State.
- Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to begin the confirmation process. How much media scrutiny can this confirmation hearing get, with important questions about slashing CIA staff numbers and, perhaps, reducing the pay of analysts who criticize Putin (see Holmes Rule, above) on the table?
- The Senate Education Committee will kick off hearings on the confirmation of Elizabeth DeVos, even though she hasn’t yet returned the committee’s written questionnaire or submitted financial disclosures — usually grounds for delaying a confirmation hearing.
- John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the Department of Homeland Security, which will have jurisdiction over Trump’s proposed deportation force and crackdown on illegal immigration, begins before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
- Wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, will appear before the Senate Transportation Committee to begin her hearing as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation.
In the face of all this activity in one day, it’s hard to imagine that Sessions, Tillerson, and DeVos will get the scrutiny the country deserves based upon their shabby (should I say despicable?) records. Much less will Senators have the opportunity to pin down Pompeo’s plans for disarming the CIA in the face of Putin’s threat. Or John Kelly’s plans for building walls and private prisons.
It’s likely that the process of dismantling Obamacare will begin unnoticed. Once people start getting notices that their insurance is canceled or premiums skyrocket, Trump, Ryan, and McConnell will have free-rein to blame the Democrats for creating the system in the first place.
The night before the Blitzkrieg begins, President Obama will deliver his Farewell Address to the Nation at McCormick Place in Chicago. We can hope he’ll have something useful to say. Perhaps something along the lines of Ike’s warning against the coming “military-industrial complex,” though that hasn’t done us much good. Perhaps he will issue a call to arms that will inspire protests on Blitzkrieg Day. I’m not betting on it. The danger of Obama’s timing is that news coverage of his address will further clog the airwaves and headlines the next morning, distracting the nation from the takeover that is going on.
What can we do? Remain vigilant, remain focused. Read and quote credible news sources rather than inflammatory, discreditable ones. Organize, protest. Demand that your Senators and Congresspeople represent YOU, not the oligarchs. Note that this week that when Congress was flooded with calls and emails about their action to get rid of the House Ethics Office, they reversed course.
Now would be a good time to start composing your phone and email messages to be part of the flood that, I hope, will overwhelm Mitch McConnell’s Leader Office and Kentucky home state offices next Wednesday, Blitzkrieg Day.
In World War II, Blitzkrieg caused shock and disorganization among the Germans’ enemies, enabling the Germans to defeat the opposing forces with minimal resources. Let’s not become shocked or disorganized.