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Jan 13 2017
by Karly Matthews

What Happened This Week in Politics: President Obama's Farewell Speech, Confirmation Hearings and a Surprise Medal of Freedom

By Karly Matthews - Jan 13 2017

A week from today is Inauguration Day, so as the days countdown, Americans are saying goodbye to the Obama administration and watching as the Trump administration begins to officially take shape through senatorial confirmation hearings. Now, the finishing touches are being put on President Obama's legacy such as awarding Vice President Joe Biden, a now close friend of the president's, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1. Senate Republicans take first steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Senate Republicans outlined a budget blueprint that would allow for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed without any risk of Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Democratic senators obviously opposed the passage, but ultimately, they were overtaken. The roll-call vote was 51-48, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the only Republican to not vote because he wants to "balance the budget" before moving forward. 

2. Meryl Streep uses her Golden Globe acceptance speech to comment on Donald Trump's 2016 "performance."

During the Golden Globes on Sunday night, Meryl Streep chose to use the time allotted to her acceptance speech to discuss the political events of the 2016 Presidential Election. She discussed Trump's behavior during and since his campaign, ending with a quote from late Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher: "Take your broken heart, make it into art." For the full speech, visit here. Reactions from president-elect Donald Trump, Streep's fellow actors and other prominent figures filled the news on Monday morning. 

3. President-elect Donald Trump calls out BuzzFeed and CNN for being "fake news."

In a press conference scheduled for Wednesday mid-morning, president-elect Donald Trump equated CNN to BuzzFeed and called the platform "fake news." BuzzFeed, of course, is in some hot water for published unsubstantiated reports on Russian hacking, but CNN - as seen in the tweet below - asserts that its standard of news is very different from that of BuzzFeed. CNN has asked the Trump team to "identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate" about CNN's reporting.

4. President Obama revokes the "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban immigrants.

Thursday evening, the White House announced that it would be ending the "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cubans. This is long withstanding policy is not extremely well-known, but it basically says that Cuban immigrants who come to the U.S. without visas can still become permanent residents. This policy was criticized because it gave preferential treatment to Cuban immigrants as opposed to other minority groups, so in a statement, President Obama said, "By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries."

5. FBI Director James Comey is under internal investigation.

Due to requests from Congress, political organizations and American citizens, FBI Director James Comey is under internal investigation for publicly discussing new details of the Clinton email case days before the presidential election. According to the New York Times, Comey's actions may have been politically motivated, in which lies the issue. Other members of the FBI will be investigated for their parts in the actions as well.

6. Confirmation hearings for Trump's nominated Cabinet members begin.

Confirmation hearings for Trump's cabinet members began on Tuesday. This week, Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) and John Kelly (Homeland Security), Rex Tillerson (State), Elaine Chao (Transportation), James Mattis (Defense), Ben Carson (Housing & Urban Development) and Mike Pompeo (CIA) began their hearings. Nominees will be confirmed over the next couple weeks. For a full schedule of hearings for both this week and in the future, visit this site.

7. President Obama delivers his Farewell Address.

Asking Americans to be "anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy," President Obama delivered his Farewell Address in Chicago this past Tuesday. President Obama, emphasizing his "Yes, we can" campaign motto, discussed what his administration has accomplished as well as offering hope and caution. Sasha Obama was missing from the auditorium prompting #WhereIsSasha on Twitter. It turns out that First Daughters have to study too; Sasha had a test scheduled for Wednesday morning.

8. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani will advise Trump on cybersecurity.

Even though no high-level position was offered to Giuliani, Trump announced on Thursday that Giuliani will serve as an advisor regarding cybersecurity. Obviously, with the Russian hacking of the DNC in the not-so forgotten past, cybersecurity should be a priority in the Trump administration. The Transition Office released a statement regarding Giuliani's position, which can be read below.

9. Trump controversially names his son-in-law to a White House position.

Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump, was named senior White House advisor this week. According to Kushner's legal counsel, this appointment does not break anti-nepotism laws, but Kushner will still have to ensure that he is divested from his business interests. Kushner will not be given a salary for this position.

10. Vice President Joe Biden is surprised by being awarded President Obama's final Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On Thursday afternoon, President Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden with awarding him the president's final Medal of Freedom. Biden said he "did not deserve" the award but emotionally thanked his colleague. The president named Biden the "best vice president America's ever had." To see the full ceremony, visit this site.

Next week this time, the United States will inaugurate its 45th president and officially say goodbye to the Obama family's time in the White House. It's a historic week, and for any and all updates you need, stay tuned to Fresh U for collegiate political coverage.

Lead Image Credit: Youtube

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Karly Matthews - Temple University

Karly Matthews is a political science and journalism major with a Spanish minor at Temple University. In high school, she was editor-in-chief of her school's online newspaper, a member of the yearbook staff, a Spanish Club officer and a dancer for 12 years. In her free time, Karly drinks too much coffee and follows politics with an obsessive passion. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karlymatthews_!

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