January 19, 2024

Thought of the Week:

Although the NFL’s Wildcard Round of playoffs concluded with several surprises last week, and the Divisional Round will take place this weekend [Go Ravens!], the conclusion of the regular season may have generated the biggest football story of the year—an end to Head Coach Bill Belichick’s run with the New England Patriots. Based on a record that includes six Super Bowl wins, nine conference titles, 19 consecutive winning seasons, 17 straight playoff seasons, and 17 division titles, many consider Coach Belichick the greatest NFL coach of all time, even better than Vince Lombardi, who the Super Bowl trophy is named after. Those who disagree like to note that Coach Belichick’s record without Tom Brady, arguably the greatest player of all time, is a losing tally of 84-103. Like coaches, presidents need great players around them to be successful. While nearly every great NFL coach—Belichick (Brady), Lombardi (Bart Starr), and Don Shula (Bob Griese and Dan Marino)—had Hall of Famers at Quarterback, presidents need a competent cabinet to execute their vision. The following is a look at some of the names, we’ve heard floated, who could play prominent roles in a second Trump administration:

Vice President: Sens. Cotton (R-AR), Ernst (R-IA), Vance (R-OH), or Sullivan (R-AK); Reps. Gallagher (R-WI), Donalds (R-FL), Stefanik (R-NY), or Greene (R-GA); South Dakota Gov. Noem; Arkansas Gov. Sanders; former Secretary of State Pompeo; former National Security Adviser O’Brien; or former HUD Secretary Carson.

Secretary of State: Robert O’Brien; Nikki Haley; Ric Grenell; or Jared Kushner.

Secretary of Defense: Mike Pompeo; Mike Gallagher; Rep. Waltz (R-FL); Lee Zeldin; or Tom Cotton.

Director of National Intelligence/Director of Central Intelligence: Former Director of National Intelligence Ratcliffe; Mike Gallagher; Mike Waltz; or Kash Patel.

Attorney General: Sens. Cotton, Graham (R-SC), Hawley (R-MO), or Schmitt (R-MO); Stephen Miller; or Mike Davis.

Treasury: Former Treasury Secretary Mnuchin; Virginia Gov. Youngkin; or Jamie Dimon.

Commerce: Former Ambassador Eisenberg; or Glenn Youngkin.

EPA: Former EPA administrator Wheeler.

USTR: Former USTR Lighthizer or former Deputy NSA Pottinger.

Interior: Former Arizona Gov. Ducey.

Labor: Sens. Schmitt or Moore Capito (R-WV).

Energy: Dan Brouillette.

SCOTUS short list: Sens. Cruz (R-TX) and Lee (R-UT).

Chief of Staff: Ric Grenell; Steve Bannon; Johnny McEntee; or Susie Wiles.

National Security Advisor: Robert O’Brien; Matthew Pottinger, John Noonan; Omri Ceren; Mary Kissel; or Kash Patel.

Economic Policy Council: Larry Kudlow or Stephen Moore.

Thought Leadership from our Consultants, Think Tanks, and Trade Associations

Eurasia Group Says Former President Trump’s Dominant Win in Iowa Makes his Nomination More Likely than Ever. Former president Trump won the Iowa caucuses in a landslide, easily surpassing former South Carolina governor and former UN Ambassador Haley and Florida Governor DeSantis, increasing his odds of winning the GOP nomination to 90% (up from 85%). Mrs. Haley is the only other candidate with a shot at winning the nomination (a 10% likelihood) as DeSantis’s campaign, which staked it all on Iowa, is in deep trouble after a performance that failed to significantly outpace Haley. DeSantis will stay in the race as long as his funds allow, but he has no path to the nomination. Attention now shifts to the New Hampshire primary on January 23. While Haley is polling strongly, a lack of polling since former New Jersey governor Christie’s exit from the race means it remains unclear whether Haley has gained his former supporters, which would significantly reduce her deficit to Trump. Haley has a plausible but extremely narrow pathway to the nomination; an outright win in New Hampshire and performance within striking distance of Trump in her home state of South Carolina on February 24 would allow her to enter Super Tuesday with momentum on her side. However, Trump’s fifty-point lead in national Republican polling is likely too large to overcome. Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy suspended his campaign and endorsed Trump, which should modestly boost Trump’s numbers in New Hampshire.

Inside EPA Reports High Court Leans Toward Ending Chevron Deference. At least four justices on the Supreme Court appear open, if not eager, to overturn the 40-year-old principle of Chevron deference.  Their success will hinge on whether they can convince at least one more of their colleagues to join them in striking down the doctrine that requires courts to defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of vague statutory texts. During high court arguments this week, in the two cases testing the doctrine, four justices—Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch—voiced strong support for scrapping Chevron outright, calling it outdated, misguided, or unconstitutional. In contrast, Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Brown Jackson all argued forcefully for upholding Chevron with Kagan calling it a “doctrine of humility” that limits judges from making policy. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Coney Barrett, widely seen as swing votes among the court’s conservatives, seemed concerned about ruling too broadly but stopped short of explicitly backing any particular path forward, though they appeared ready at times to overturn it. Chevron requires courts to defer to agencies’ “reasonable” interpretation of ambiguous statutory text. The two cases on the court’s docket involve challenges to a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) rule that requires domestic vessels to pay the salaries of federal monitors they must carry, which lower courts upheld as a reasonable reading of an unclear law. Environmentalists and others that favor strong rules say removing the doctrine would greatly unsettle administrative law, allow new suits over long-standing rules, and make it more difficult for agencies to regulate even straightforward issues. But conservatives have made the repeal of Chevron a top priority, saying it unfairly limits courts from overturning agency actions even when judges believe regulators are not using the “best” reading of a statute.

Observatory Group Says Congress Won’t Do Much in 2024. Congress is bitterly divided, the GOP’s majority in the House is narrower than in 2023, and it’s shaping up to be an intense presidential election year. So, don’t expect much from Congress in 2024. While there will be a legislative sprint at the beginning of the year, don’t mistake this sprint for progress. The first quarter dash will be an effort to conclude the unfinished work of 2023—funding the government for the remainder of FY24, considering Ukraine/Israel/Indo-Pacific/Border funding, and reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) among other efforts. In fact, Congress’ struggles to do even routine lawmaking will continue throughout 2024. Consider that despite early agreement among Congressional leaders on a top-line spending deal, lawmakers were just narrowly able to avoid partial government shutdown at the end of this week. In truth, there are no certainties of what will happen after FY2024 funding runs out on September 30. As is typical in a Presidential election year, aside from funding the government and finishing up work on must-pass bills such as FAA reauthorization and Farm Bill reauthorization, Congress won’t do much. Politics, possible impeachment, Supreme Court decisions, and emboldened state legislatures will make 2024 a year of curve balls and plot twists. This will create headline risk of how, and if, Congress will respond to a specific issue. Ultimately, Congress won’t accomplish much in terms of passing legislation. However, they do seem poised to find consensus on a small tax deal (approximately $70 billion) that would extend the enhanced Child Tax Credit and provide retroactive renewal of the research and development deduction and tax break for interest incurred on business loans. Bottom line: 2023 marked a historic low in the number of laws passed by Congress; expect 2024 to be more of the same. 

“Off the Record”

In a move that many analysts believed was preparation for a presidential run on a third-party ticket, former Maryland Governor Hogan (R) stepped down from his leadership role at the centrist group No Labels.  Curbing that speculation was the former Maryland governor’s endorsement of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley; meanwhile, Sen. Manchin (D-WV) has been spotted in New Hampshire speaking at public gatherings, something usually only seen from presidential candidates. The events were hosted by Americans Together, a nonprofit group founded by the senator’s daughter, which is seeking to raise up to $100 million to promote centrist candidates. Although the senator says he isn’t running for president now, he does admit that he wants to rein in the power of the major parties while promoting “common sense candidates” who can get things done in Washington.

In Other Words

“I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good time together,” former president Trump. 

 “I don’t think I’m in any jeopardy of being vacated. It’s not something I walk around and think about,” Speaker of the House Johnson.  

Did You Know

 Maryland law allows its cities to lower the voting age at the local level. To date, five cities have made a change allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections. Mirroring such efforts nationwide, Rep. Meng (D-NY) reintroduced legislation to lower the voting age to 16-years-old. Although the framers of the Constitution did not establish specific criteria or voting qualifications in state or federal elections, prior to passage of the Twenty-sixth Amendment states had the authority to set their own minimum voting age, typically 21. The Twenty-sixth Amendment set the voting age at 18.

Graph of the Week

When Congress Convenes in 2024. Both the House and the Senate are planning to take off most of August for recess and all of October immediately ahead of elections. While the House typically convenes for four-day weeks, the Senate meets up to five days a week. The following offers a look at the Congressional calendar over the first quarter of 2024.

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