Transition Tracker: Picking apart Trump's Cabinet picks

Senate Democrats grill HHS pick Tom Price
Senate Democrats grill HHS pick Tom Price

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Senate Democrats grill HHS pick Tom Price 03:27

Washington (CNN)Interviews with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence and sharp questioning of the Cabinet nominees were part of a flurry of activity less than 48 hours before Trump is set to take office.

Both Trump and Rep. Tom Price, the Health and Human Services nominee, are trying to reassure the public that while the political process of replacing Obamacare may give us all a headache, the new coverage to come won't. Both Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross and Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt took a now-familiar tack for Trump nominees -- neither denouncing nor embracing the notion of man-made climate change.

WHAT'S NEW TODAY ON ...

OBAMACARE
Pence told CNN's Dana Bash that Republicans do not yet have a bill to replace Obamacare, but that he has "seen a lot of great ideas" and that transition officials and GOP leaders are "getting very close" to having a replacement.
In a wide-ranging interview with Axios, Trump said health care is his top domestic priority and added: "We can't have" people with no money not get coverage. Trump also spoke to Fox News, pledging that "nobody's going to be dying on the streets with a President Trump. We want to take care of everybody." Trump also proposed using Medicaid block grants or other provisions and is clearly backing away from his comment that he wanted "insurance for everybody," which has caused serious confusion on Capitol Hill and beyond.
Price had the first of his two Senate hearings and faced harsh questions about his health care stock trades and Obamacare proposals:
  • Price pushed back hard against questionable stock trades, first reported by CNN, saying: "Everything that we have done has been above board transparent, ethical and legal," and cited his Office of Governmental Ethics disclosure as proof of no wrongdoing. The OGE, however, does not investigate cases like this.
  • When it comes to replacing Obamacare, Price said Republicans are not "pulling the rug out from under anybody," adding "it's absolutely imperative that individuals that have health coverage be able to keep health coverage." Sounds a bit like this blast from Obama's past: "if you like your plan, you can keep it," which came back to bite him.
Quartz notes repealing Obamacare involves defunding critical CDC programs designed to prevent bioterrorism and major infectious outbreaks.
A little levity: Jimmy Kimmel again reminds us many Americans still think Obamacare and ACA are two different things.
ENVIRONMENT
Pruitt faced the Senate today:
  • Pruitt said point blank: "I do not believe climate change is a hoax," becoming the latest Cabinet nominee to break from Trump on that belief. However, he also questioned how much humans impact the climate and what the government should do about it.
  • Pruitt said that the "role of the EPA is a very valuable role," contradicting Trump's campaign pledge to "get rid of the EPA in almost every form."
  • The Huffington Post reports Pruitt was weighed down by questioning about how much lead is safe in drinking water. His answer: "That is something I have not reviewed nor know about."
When Oklahoma faced a high-profile environmental crisis, Pruitt took a hands-off approach. CNN's Maeve Reston looks back at his handling of the rise in earthquakes in the state, a potential preview of how Pruitt might address crises at EPA.
As Pruitt faced the Senate today, the World Meteorological Organization announced the Earth continued its hot streak of record high surface temperatures for the third straight year.
A new survey from Yale reveals that 70% of Americans believe global warming is happening, and more than 6-in-10 Americans want Trump and Congress to do more to address it.
TRADE/TAXES/ENVIRONMENT --
Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross had his Senate hearing today. Here are the highlights:
  • While Ross said he was "pro trade," he also said the US should not "put up with malicious trading activities." He added that countries that don't "play by the rules" should "get punished -- and severely."
  • When pressed on NAFTA, Ross said "all aspects of NAFTA would be on the table," and later called for a "systematic reopening of trade agreements."
  • Ross neither supported nor opposed Trump's controversial proposal to slap a 35% tariff on cars.
  • Ross would not say whether he accepted the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. Ross will oversee NOAA, which plays a key role in studying the climate.
The multi-billionaire Ross is not completely divesting from his vast financial holdings.
IMMIGRATION
  • President Barack Obama, at his news conference today, said an effort to round up dreamers would prompt him to step back into the limelight and speak out after he's out of office.
  • According to VOA News, the number of "sanctuary churches" pledging to offer aid to undocumented immigrants has reached 800, more than double the 400 prior to Trump's election.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the case of an undocumented immigrant who is suing the city for violating its own sanctuary city laws.
  • Here's to a small paper with an interesting in-depth series: The Northern Utah Standard Examiner looks at immigration challenges in "Undocumented and Uncertain."
INFRASTRUCTURE -- During his speech at the US Conference of Mayors, Mike Pence pledged to follow through on Trump's infrastructure promises, saying: "We're going to do an infrastructure bill and it's going to be big."

LOOKING AHEAD ...

THURSDAY
FRIDAY -- TRUMP INAUGURATION -- Trump may sign some executive actions on day one, though Monday is expected to be the bigger day.