By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and THOMAS KAPLAN New York Times
WASHINGTON – A blizzard of confirmation hearings. President Obama's farewell speech. President-elect Donald Trump's first news conference since July. And, yes, something called a "vote-a-rama" in Congress.
In the throes of a chaotic political moment by any measure, the coming week stands out as especially — and, perhaps, strategically — overstuffed.
Here is a taste of what might come, with Trump's inauguration less than two weeks away:
A pileup on Capitol Hill
Rarely could anyone in Congress stand accused of moving too quickly. But the slate of confirmation hearings on several of Trump's cabinet nominees will test the reflexes and editorial judgment of even the most experienced C-SPAN crews.
The hearings are scheduled to begin Tuesday, when Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Trump's choice for attorney general, and Gen. John F. Kelly, the pick for Homeland Security secretary, are set to testify.
Also on Tuesday: Obama's evening speech, billed as a farewell address from Chicago. It is a final chance to defend his legacy before Trump takes office.
Then it gets complicated. Republicans are expected to hold up to five hearings Wednesday, including appearances from contentious selections like Rex W. Tillerson, Trump's choice for secretary of state, and Betsy DeVos, his pick for education secretary.
Later in the week, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the billionaire investor selected to be commerce secretary, is among those expected to appear before congressional panels.
The pace of the hearing schedule and the unorthodox biographies of many in Trump's prospective cabinet — with their far-flung business holdings and nongovernment backgrounds — have already produced headaches. As of late last week, several appointees had not completed the background checks and ethics disclosure forms typically required before the Senate considers cabinet-level nominees. It is not yet clear whether or how these issues might affect the hearing schedule.
On Friday, the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said in a letter that the announced schedule had placed "undue pressure" on the office to rush its reviews of nominees. He added that there was no precedent in the office's four decades for the Senate to hold hearings before such reviews were complete.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the new Democratic leader, has accused the Trump transition team of colluding with Senate Republicans to "jam through" nominees. Republicans say they simply want to allow the incoming president to install his team as quickly as possible.
In an interview Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., played down the concerns as "little procedural complaints," which he attributed to Democrats' frustration at having lost the election. "We need to sort of grow up here," he said.
The Democratic playbook
Complaints about the process may not resonate with the broader public, though they will surely continue. In either case, Democrats view the hearings as an opportunity: How will the nominees parry questions about Trump's most explosive campaign pledges, like barring Muslim immigrants and promoting torture?
"Where will they come down?" Schumer asked in an interview.
Democrats have signaled that some nominees — like Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, the choice for health and human services secretary and a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act — will face more hostile questioning than others.
But after a stunning election victory that saw Trump seize the mantle of populism, becoming a hero to working-class white voters and promising to "drain the swamp," the Democrats hope to establish a different theme: Trump's nominees would become by far the wealthiest cabinet in modern history. Some, like DeVos and Andrew F. Puzder, the pick for labor secretary, are notable Republican donors, far removed from the lives of many of Trump's voters.
The other show in (another) town
Trump is, as a general rule, disinclined to cede the spotlight. On Wednesday, as his nominees labor through confirmation hearings, the president-elect is expected to hold his first formal news conference since July, in New York. (A note of caution: Trump has a record of scheduling and then postponing promised events.)
To critics, the timing is unsubtle. Trump, they say, is hoping to deflect attention from any unsavory revelations that might emerge from the hearings. Even his admirers concede that Trump, a consummate showman, has a gift for tactical distraction.
Still, reporters will welcome the chance to question Trump on no shortage of topics — from his skeptical response to the intelligence community's consensus on Russian interference in the presidential election to persistent concerns about his business entanglements and conflicts of interest.
Oh, and one more thing
Twenty-four-hour news networks rarely have 24 hours' worth of news to cover. Wednesday might be the exception.
Though no date has been set, the Senate is planning to gather midweek — with Wednesday as the likeliest day — for a marathon session known as a vote-a-rama, which comes as Republicans are charging ahead with efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate is moving toward passing a budget resolution that would help clear the way for the law to be gutted. The approval of the budget measure is not, as its name might imply, about passing a budget. Rather, it is one of a series of steps that Republicans plan to take to unravel the health care law in a way that will not expose them to the prospect of a Democratic filibuster.
In the interim, Republicans will have to endure the vote-a-rama, where dozens of amendments can be considered in rapid succession. The downside for Republicans is that Democrats can propose amendments that might force them into politically uncomfortable votes.
And after already slogging through a day of nomination hearings, the senators will take little comfort in this scheduling reality: If the vote-a-rama begins on a Wednesday, it might well end in the wee hours of Thursday.