At this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to Sean Spicer. Please go ahead, sir.
SPICER: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us again. We are now 10 days away from inauguration day. Getting realer and realer every day, so we're into the single digits tomorrow.
SPICER: I want to kick off with a quick correction.
Yesterday, I inadvertently mentioned that Senator Dole was joining the transition team as the vice chair. That is my mistake. Senator Dole continues to be a huge supporter and has been extremely helpful in the transition process, but due to some time commitments that he has, he's not able to take on an official role with the transition executive committee.
He'll continue to advise us and be on that unofficially, and not as an official part of the transition. But he has been tremendously gracious with his time and counsel and guidance. We appreciate his continued support. That -- that was my fault for getting ahead of what we thought was his addition to the team.
Yesterday, the president-elect announced that Jared Kushner would be serving as a senior adviser to the president. He is going to work closely with Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon to execute the president-elect's agenda.
The president-elect made the following statement, quote, "Jared has been a tremendous asset and a trusted adviser throughout the campaign and the transition, and I'm proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration. He has been successfully incredible (sic) in both business and now in politics. He will be an invaluable member of my team as I set and execute an ambitious agenda of putting the American people first."
Today begins a series of this week's eight confirmation hearings that will be held on the nomination of the president-elect's Cabinet. This morning at 9:30, Senator Jeff Sessions kicked off his hearing as the next attorney general. I think the president said it best when he said, quote, "Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years. He has a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great attorney general and U.S. attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone he knows," end quote.
Senator Sessions is obviously (inaudible) qualified to be the next attorney general. His career has been exemplary. He is an experienced crime fighter, a man of integrity and high accomplishment, who has always pursued justice fairly and equitably. Senator Sessions is known for his respect and adherence to the rule of law, a cornerstone of our democracy. He will ensure equal justice under the law for all Americans and keep politics out of the judicial system.
He is someone who is universally respected across party lines in the United States Senate, where he has served the American people for two decades. I know most of you know this, but he served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama for 12 years and was Alabama's attorney general for two years. He's worked inside the Department of Justice for 15 years, loves the department's people and its mission.
In addition, one of the issues that's come up quite a bit is his record on civil rights. I think his record is extremely strong. While Senator Sessions was U.S. attorney, he signed onto a host of desegregation lawsuits in Alabama. As senator, he voted in favor of the 30-year extension of the Civil Rights Act and has spearheaded efforts to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks, an Alabama native and civil rights icon.
Even individuals who voted against Senator Sessions's confirmation 30 years ago, ultimately regretted it. The late Arlen Specter said, "My vote against candidate Sessions for the federal court was a mistake because I have since found that Senator Sessions is an egalitarian."
This afternoon -- and one other note on that. I think you have seen in the last 24 hours unbelievable support coming from pastors and other dignitaries, well-respected folks in government, academia, and religion and business, with an outpouring of support for Senator Sessions, which is truly fitting for the record that he has and the relationships that he's developed over the last couple of decades.
As you know, Kellyanne, myself, Jason, Hope (ph), others on the campaign were peppered (ph) with questions regarding people who would quote/unquote "support" Donald Trump and asking us whether or not (inaudible) this individual or that individual relentlessly. I hope that you on the call relentlessly ask the leaders in the Democratic Party, the Senate leadership, Chuck Schumer, other members of the Senate, whether or not they equally denounce these left-wing tactics by Code Pink and other groups to disrupt the democratic process.
It is one thing to have disagreements and another thing to interrupt our process as we attempt to confirm the next attorney general. And I would hope that every reporter on this line has the same diligence that they pursued President-elect Trump's association or non-associations with random individuals as they do these tactics by the left to disrupt our democratic process.
This afternoon at 3:30, there will be a hearing for General John Kelly as the next secretary of Homeland Security. As President-elect Trump noted, quote "General John Kelly's decades of military service and deep commitment to fighting the threat of terrorism inside our borders makes him the ideal choice to serve as our secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He's the right person to spearhead the urgent mission of stopping illegal immigration and securing our borders, streamlining TSA and improving the coordination between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies. With General Kelly at the helm of DHS, the American people will have a leader committed to our safety as well as one who will work hand-in-hand with Americans rank and file, TSA, ICE, and border patrol officers," end quote.
General Kelly's nomination is aligned with the American people who voted to stop terrorism, reestablish (ph) sovereignty at our borders and take our national security seriously. He's a retired Marine Corps four-star general with an exemplary four-decade military career. He led the U.S. Southern Command, where he was intimately involved and also coordinated the whole-of-government response and interagency efforts on the interdiction of drug and human trafficking, counterterrorism, human rights and working with partners to safeguard the southern approaches (ph) to the U.S. border.
General Kelly was previously confirmed by the Senate under unanimous consent (inaudible). He has gained strong bipartisan support from such leaders as former Congressman Jane Harman, currently the director the Woodrow Wilson Center. She said, quote, "I'm positive about it. I think this guy has enormous credibility that he will get the lead assignment on the border," end quote.
The National Border Patrol Council lauded his nomination, saying, quote, "Stellar credentials. General Kelly's troops by all accounts loved him, which bodes well for the morale within the DHS and he appears to be a no-nonsense rule of law general", end quote.
General Kelly's former military advisers, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Robert Gates -- Senate consideration of Senator Sessions and -- as attorney general and John Kelly to be Homeland Security secretary are examples of the progress towards the president-elect's banner issue during his campaign; securing the southern border.
As far as the confirmation goes for the rest of the week, tomorrow on January 11th, hearings begin in the morning and in the afternoon for Rex Tillerson as the next secretary of State and for Secretary Elaine Chao as the next secretary of Transportation. On Thursday, hearings will be for General James Mattis as secretary of Defense; Wilbur Roth as the next secretary of Commerce; Dr. Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development; Congressman Mike Pompeo for the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Cabinet hearings signify the beginning of President-elect Trump (inaudible) to drain the swamp and bring real change to Washington. Rex Tillerson, as many of who know who have gotten to talk to him, has an unparalleled experience from running a large organization with global reach. He's known as a tough negotiator and has the (inaudible) to implement American-first (ph) foreign policy.
Elaine Chao is a most accomplished if not the most accomplished organizational leader nominated by the president (sic) and in business.
SPICER: Whether it's her work at the United Way or serving both Bush and Reagan administrations, she understands how to mobilize her team and meet a mission.
General James Mattis, whose recommendation to be secretary of defense came to the president-elect via current NSA Director-designate Mike Flynn, is an extraordinary, effective leader. To make American safe again, he will deal with our military and strengthen America's alliance with its allies. He will destroy terrorists and he'll face our enemies head-on.
Wilbur Ross has spent his career strengthening the manufacturing sector by saving and creating jobs in industries like auto parts, building materials, telecommunications, textiles, steel and coal. He will be the administration's policy leader when it comes to renegotiating and negotiating better trade deals for the American workers, teaming up with the next United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro, who will be in the White House as the point person on trade issues.
Dr. Ben Carson (inaudible) lifted himself out of poverty and is an inspiring choice. He will help the Trump administration deliver on its promise to implement a plan to (inaudible) as outlined on the 26th of October.
Congressman Mike Pompeo has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration's disastrous Iran nuclear deal and has proposed multiple pieces of legislation that would (inaudible) sanctions over Iran's nuclear weapons program. He's been a tireless advocate for our intelligence community to be given the tools it needs to do their better -- their jobs more effectively on behalf of the American people. He shares the president-elect's view that securing our border is a top national security priority.
Regarding the -- one last thing, I know that the hearing that was previously scheduled for Linda DeVos has been moved to next week. I just want to make sure that everyone understands that she has submitted all that information -- Betsy DeVos, I'm sorry -- all that information and paperwork early -- early on all of those situations (sic), and she looks forward to the Senate confirming her with strong bipartisan support.
Regarding the president-elect's schedule today, he had his daily intelligence briefing this morning. He then has a meeting with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to discuss the issues pertaining to vaccines and immunizations. I'm going to leave it to most of you to realize (ph) how he saw Kennedy.
Following this, the president-elect will meet with Andrew MacKenzie -- M-A-C-K-E-N-Z-I-E; Jacques Nasser, that first name is J-A-C-Q-U-E-S, last name N-A-S-S-E-R; and Mr. Geoff Healy, G-E-O-F-F H-E-A-L-Y, from BHP Billiton, B-I-L-L-I-T-O-N, the world's largest mining company.
Mr. MacKenzie currently serves as CEO of BHP Billiton. Mr. Nasser serves as the chairman of the company's board of directors. And Mr. Healy is the chief external officer -- excuse me -- chief external affairs officer and chief legal counsel.
The president-elect will then hold a joint meeting with Congressman Tom Price, the secretary-designate for health and human services; Seema Verma, the nominee for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and Vice President-elect Pence.
The president-elect will then meet with Tom Barrack and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff to -- last name on Barrett is B-A-R-R-A-C-K, who is the chairman of the inaugural committee; and Stephanie is Winston -- last name -- W-O-L-K-O-F-F. They will discuss next week's historic inaugural events.
Following this meeting, the president will meet -- will hold his second meeting, for those of you who were out at Bedminster, with Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong -- last name is S-O-O-N hyphen S-H-I-O-N-G. Their first meeting, as I noted, was in Bedminster with the president-elect and the vice president-elect.
They had a productive discussion with the doctor on national medical priorities that need to be addressed in our country, as well as innovation in the areas of medicine.
This morning, the president (sic) and (ph) vice-president elect was in Washington, as he will be for the remainder of his time before the inauguration. He had his daily intelligence briefing. He will also attend transition meetings in Washington, D.C. before travelling up here to New York for meetings with the president-elect. He will remain in New York over night and return back to Washington.
This afternoon, the national security adviser-designee Mike Flynn and (inaudible) national security adviser-designee K.T. McFarland will be speaking at today's, quote "tapping the baton," end quote, event at the U.S. Peace Institute. The event symbolizes the national security team's transition from President Obama's (inaudible) administration to president-elect's administration. It has been a time-honored tradition.
As a reminder, the president-elect will hold a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Midtown, New York. We will be sending out confirmation e-mails regarding this later today. The president-elect will address how he's handling the transfer of his business to focus on the country and getting Americans back to work for American growth.
With the press conference occurring tomorrow, just as a reminder, we're not going to hold our normal press call tomorrow because it will be -- that will be the focus and the president-elect will speak much more forcefully than I ever could.
With that, I'll open it up to a few questions.
OPERATOR: If you'd like to ask a question on today's call, please press star one on your telephone keypad.
And we will go first to Julie Davis from New York Times.
QUESTION: Hi, Sean. Thanks.
I wanted to ask about the president-elect's call on Friday with Senate Rand Paul about the healthcare law. Didn't Mr. Trump endorse a measure that -- that would repeal and simultaneously replace Obamacare? And if so, what does that replacement look like? And is the meeting that he's holding today with Tom Price and Seema Verma and the vice president-elect about, you know, how to -- how to design that replacement plan?
SPICER: Thanks, Julie.
You know, as you mentioned, he did speak with Senator Paul last Friday. He mainly talked about their desire to repeal and replace Obamacare and institute healthcare options that are more in keeping with frankly what the -- what the ultimate goal of the ACA was from the get-go, which is to lower costs to the American people and provide additional access to doctors and plans.
I think by all accounts, the plans (ph) that were promised to the American people didn't accomplish either of those and I think the president-elect's made it clear that -- that he intends to do that. He's gonna continue to meet with, as you mentioned the meeting today, Dr. Price and Seema Verma to talk about the -- frankly, the repeal and replace -- replace options.
His team was up on Capitol Hill last night to meet with Speaker Paul Ryan and his team. He continue to meet with Senate leaders and House leaders on how to do this. So we're continuing to formulate a plan and work with Congress, as he said on the campaign trail.
He's not only committed to repealing Obamacare, but making sure we do replace it with a plan that does exactly what Obamacare was supposed to actually do, and that is, as I mentioned, lowering the cost for all Americans and doing so in a way that doesn't limit their access to either their plan or -- or their doctor.
So I think as we move forward, we'll have additional details on -- on how that's going to happen and the actual details of the plan. But as you can imagine, it's something that involves a lot of coordination and a lot of planning.
Unlike the Democrats who did it last time, and people were talking, you know, as then-Speaker Pelosi said, you know, you're going to have to wait to read what's in the bill, I think they want to do this right this time; make sure that people don't have to wake up and wonder what just happened. And then we plan accordingly to ensure that such a huge priority for the American people is done with -- in an appropriate and methodical manner.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And we'll go next to Matthew Cuddy from CNBC.
QUESTION: Hey, Sean. How are you?
I wanted to ask you a quick question on two things -- Manufacturing Council, back in mid-December, you had said Liveris was appointed, but that you would be naming the rest of the board soon, in the next two weeks. I was seeing if there was any update on that.
And then secondly, last night's meetings were I assume in part about Obamacare, but also about the tax path forward and if there was any concern about the tax package going in the second reconciliation and whether that would actually happen this year or would be pushed back to get Obamacare dealt with before the tax legislation is.
SPICER: Thanks, Matt (sic). I appreciate it.
On the Manufacturing Council that -- that Mr. Liveris will be handling, I -- I -- we're working on -- on -- providing those additional names with him and his team. But -- so I would expect an announcement sometime very soon and we'll let you know when we have that ready to go.
With respect to the discussions last night, as far as the tax reform, again I think that one of the things you're going to see is the president-elect isn't going to just focus on one thing. He's got a lot of priorities, a lot of change that he wants to bring to Washington.
So it's not one or the other or how to do it. We're going to make sure that we dual-track some of these things in terms of the repeal and replace of Obamacare, as well as fundamental tax reforms. Last night was another example of a meeting to coordinate that effort, to make sure that we have a plan going forward.
So I think, as I said earlier to Julie with respect to Obamacare, you know, the commitment is there. There's a lot to be done. And I think we're going to continue to work with Congress to make sure that we have a plan that is something that reflects exactly the priorities and agenda that the president-elect laid out during the campaign.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And we'll go next to Sara Murray from CNN.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing the call.
I just wanted to sort of get your reaction to some of the concerns that there was not being enough time to vet these various nominees. I know that on the call yesterday, you talked about how some of them have either very long and successful business histories. So is it appropriate for Democrats to take more time to do that?
And what is the reaction to the more delayed timeline for (inaudible)? Does the American public deserve more time to sort of parse these nominees?
SPICER: Well, I guess the answer I'd give you, Sara, is that there's three sort of phases to this. There's the committee questionnaire, the FBI background check, and the -- the OGE report. And in all of those cases, we have been working with all three entities to get those in. I think all committee reports are in. They have been. As I mentioned with Betsy DeVos, her paperwork was in early.
Several of these candidates have this stuff done real early in the process. But I think we are tracking well ahead of where -- where some administrations have in the past. In most cases, all that paperwork has cleared. And at least for all the candidates this week, all of the candidates that are going up in front have been -- have been -- all of their paperwork has been in and submitted.
I would argue that if you actually look back in history, the Democrats were very clear in 2008, that a lot of the -- some of the paperwork wasn't in on their nominees. They weren't always there entirely with the Bush nominees. But I think by and far, we're ahead of where where previous administrations have been and this is a political tactic more than anything.
SPICER: They have all the documentation that they've asked for, and we're following the precedent that they sought to have followed both in 2008 and '12.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And we'll go next to Richard Burr from Detroit News.
QUESTION: Thank you.
About the holdup on Betsy DeVos's paperwork. You mentioned that the paperwork was in early. What is exactly the nature of the holdup? Has she been asked to submit more information? Or what exactly is causing the holdup?
SPICER: As far as I know, this has nothing to do with her at all. It has to do with the Senate schedule and the time constraints of senators being at various committees. So I would refer you to Senator Alexander and the HELP Committee with respect to that, or Senate leadership -- Senator McConnell's office.
But Ms. DeVos had all of her paperwork in way before and looks forward to a swift confirmation and bipartisan support. She's clearly the most qualified candidate for this position and will really be a huge benefit to the educational system and to children who are desperate to get a great education around the country.
So, it has nothing to do with her. I think it frankly has to do with the time constraints of the Senate and senators who are trying to get stuff done, as Senator Alexander put forward. This really is -- the timing of the hearing isn't changing the timing of the vote. There's plenty of time before when they had planned on voting with her -- excuse me -- voting on her nomination, and that remains the same, which I believe is January 24th, but I would check with the HELP Committee and with the Senate majority leader's office.
OPERATOR: Thank you. We'll go next to Alexis Simendinger from Real Clear Politics.
QUESTION: Hey, Sean.
Following up on Julie's question, can you elaborate on the president-elect's determination not to impact Medicare, which has been a vow or a commitment he's made publicly since 2015, in the context of the Affordable Care Act?
SPICER: Can you -- Alexis, can you -- in terms of what?
QUESTION: The president-elect has indicated he doesn't want to change Medicare. As the Republicans are interested in replacing the Affordable Care Act, is the president-elect committed to not touching Medicare?
SPICER: I think you just stated it yourself. The president-elect during the campaign was very clear that he had the commitment to preserving and protecting both Social Security and Medicare. And as we work through this reform, the repeal and replace option, that's one of the tenets that's guiding -- and principles that's guiding his decision-making as he works with Congress.
QUESTION: So just to follow up, in the conversations that Mr. Trump is having with Congressman Price and his healthcare team, that is part -- that's one of the tenets that he is articulating?
SPICER: I think I answered the question, Alexis, so -- it's been a principle and a commitment of his during the campaign trail and he's going to continue to convey that to members of Congress as we work with Dr. Price and Seema Verma to repeal and replace Obamacare, and replace it with something that's strengthened, more affordable, and provides greater access to both doctors and plans, and instills more competition that ends up with a better healthcare system that all Americans can enjoy.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And I'll now turn it back to Sean Spicer for any additional or closing remarks.
SPICER: Thanks, guys. Again, I appreciate your (inaudible) on the call. We'll see you -- some of you tomorrow here in New York. As I mentioned in previous calls, two quick admin notes. Number one, if you haven't applied for a credential yet, I think we're well over capacity, but if you want to grovel a little, e-mail credentials@PPT.gov (ph). And then if you have an immediate inquiry this week regarding anything, please make sure you can use the portal media@PPT.gov (ph).
Thank you for jumping on the call. Look forward to talking with you later when we're in the single digits headed towards inauguration.
Thanks a lot. Have a great day.