What Now?! – 5/21/21

“The Israeli security cabinet voted to accept a ceasefire late Thursday as the Israeli south and Gaza remain inflamed,” the Jerusalem Post reports.

“Sources from the cabinet meeting said that the IDF will cease airstrikes on Gaza immediately. However, in the case Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, the IDF will return to full operational activities in the Gaza Strip and the ceasefire will be cancelled immediately.”

“Sources in the Likud party tell the Ma’ariv newspaper there are concerns Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is extending the fighting in Gaza because Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid currently holds the mandate to form the next government,” the Times of Israel reports.

“Other elements in the right-wing bloc tell the newspaper that it is thought Netanyahu believes the conflict with Hamas will boost his image in fifth elections.”

Wall Street Journal: “A cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas could come as early as Friday, according to people involved in the discussions, as pressure mounts from Washington and other foreign capitals to bring an end to airstrikes and rocket fire that have claimed a rising number of civilian casualties.”

Washington Post: “The White House has told Netanyahu in recent days that the ground is shifting in the United States, even among some lawmakers who have long been supportive of Israel.”

“President Biden is closing in on his pick for ambassador to Israel, with Thomas Nides, a former deputy secretary of state, most likely to be the pick,” Axios  reports.  “The state of play: Former congressman Robert Wexler was seen as the other primary contender, and was supported by many members of Congress and a coalition of Jewish organizations, but Biden is leaning towards Nides.”

“The Senate could vote as early as next week on House-passed legislation creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol,” NBC News reports. “But it’s unclear if at least 10 Republican senators will support the bill, the threshold needed to move forward. It could be the first bill this year to be blocked by a filibuster.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) announced his opposition to a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying: “I don’t believe establishing a new commission is necessary or wise.”  As one of the seven GOP Senators who voted to impeach Trump, his opposition all but ensures the legislation creating a bipartisan commission will be blocked by Senate Republicans.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) made an angry video during the January 6 insurrection as he was sheltering in place. Said Gallagher: “We are witnessing absolute banana republic crap in the United States Capitol right now. Donald Trump, you need to call this off.”

Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Gallagher voted against setting up a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection.

First Read: “We get McConnell’s strategy: He’s decided to take any political heat now to avoid any future political heat arising from this commission later.”

“But in the process, he’s letting Trump off the hook, once again allowing the former president to slip accountability (either by exhausting his allies and the opposition, or simply by taking them hostage).”

“This commission shouldn’t be controversial: The top House Republican on the Homeland Security Committee negotiated it with the top Democrat. Yet unless something changes, what McConnell and Senate Republicans are doing is capitulating to Trump — different from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s capitulation.”

“But it’s capitulation none the less.”

First Read points out that we still don’t know a lot about what happened during the January 6 insurrection. “That missing part? An official accounting of Donald Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, especially once he returned to the White House after addressing his rallied supporters.”

Justin Amash, former Republican-turned independent congressman, told CNN that propping up Rep. Liz Cheney (R-MI) as “some sort of hero” for breaking with her party about former President Donald Trump “is a bit misguided.” Said Amash: “We had four years where she could have stood up and said, ‘There’s a problem here. What Donald Trump is doing is wrong.’”

“By and large it was peaceful protests except for there were a number of people, basically agitators that whipped the crowd and breached the Capitol.” — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), in an interview on Fox News, on the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Former President Trump slapped the “wayward” House Republicans who voted in support of a commission that will investigate the Capitol insurrection on January 6.

Said Trump: “See, 35 wayward Republicans—they just can’t help themselves. We have much better policy and are much better for the Country, but the Democrats stick together, the Republicans don’t.”

He added: “They don’t have the Romney’s, Little Ben Sasse’s, and Cheney’s of the world. Unfortunately, we do. Sometimes there are consequences to being ineffective and weak. The voters understand!”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wouldn’t answer a question from reporters about whether he’s absolutely sure that no House Republicans communicated with January 6 insurrectionists.

The House narrowly approved a $1.9 billion spending bill to fortify security at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The legislation was approved in a 213-212 vote after a group of Democratic progressives objected to spending millions more on the Capitol Police without more knowledge about whether some officers were complicit in the Jan. 6 riot. The funding bill, however, is unlikely to advance in the Senate, where Republicans have complained that House Democrats drafted the bill without their input.

Politico: “Then-President Donald Trump sought to oust FBI Director Christopher Wray last spring and replace him with counterintelligence head William Evanina.”

“Under the plan, the former officials said, Kash Patel — a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and a fierce critic of the Russia probe — would have become the bureau’s deputy director.”

“Previously unreported details of the proposal reveal just how seriously the former president took his grievances against the intelligence and law enforcement establishment. It shows Trump at his mercurial peak, ordering up the removal of his own appointee in a fit of rage, only to back down when then-Attorney General Bill Barr threatened to resign if he followed through with the maneuver.”

“The New York attorney general’s office has opened a criminal tax investigation into top Trump Organization officer Allen Weisselberg, increasing the legal pressure on the long-time aide to former President Donald Trump,” CNN reports.

“The pressure on Weisselberg is mounting from two directions with the attorney general looking into his personal taxes, while prosecutors in the district attorney’s office are digging into his role at the Trump Organization, his personal finances, and benefits given to his son Barry, a long-time employee of the Trump Organization.”

“Federal prosecutors seized 18 electronic devices belonging to Rudy Giuliani and more than one of his employees when they raided his home and office last month, according to a new court filing,” CNN reports.

The Atlantic: “America is inching closer to a possibility it has never seen before: the indictment and trial of a former president.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders will introduce a resolution disapproving of the U.S. sale of $735 million in weapons to Israel. The planned sale of the precision-guided weapons was approved by the Biden administration before the latest outbreak of violence between Hamas and the Israeli government. In the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, and Rashida Tlaib introduced a similar resolution yesterday.

“All eight Republicans who represent Georgia in the U.S. House voted against a resolution condemning the Atlanta spa shootings,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

Fox News ran a chyron yesterday during a news segment that read, “Critical Race Theory Replaces Economy As Top Issue.”  Obviously, there’s no data to suggest this is true.   But the segment was nominally about how Republican candidates/activists are talking about Critical Race Theory more than the economy, which for them, makes it a “top issue.” 

That’s pretty revealing. It shows just how much the GOP structures itself around niche conservative grievances, deciding which ones to elevate and promote based on raw engagement levels.   Just look at this chart of Google searches for the term “Critical Race Theory” for the year 2021. It hits its highest level of 100 in mid-May.

If you’ve ever wondered why Republican messaging/political strategy seems so jumpy and rudderless of late, this is pretty much why.   The clicks are the true leader of their party.

If an issue or personality generates enough clicks, it rockets up the charts. It immediately displaces any previous work the party has done.   If it helps advance policy or win elections, great. If it doesn’t, you better still play along, because the clicks won’t hesitate to eat their own.  It’s why the party can’t “move on” from litigating past grievances even as they say they’re looking toward the future. They’re not steering the boat. The clicks are.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) says there’s a greater than 50-50 chance of striking a deal on infrastructure with President Biden, Bloomberg reports.  “She doubted, however, that a bill can make it through the House and Senate by a July 4 deadline proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

With President Joe Biden pushing congressional Democrats to increase taxes and chip away at former President Donald Trump’s tax law, Republicans are preparing for battle with a “boot camp,” reports the Washington Examiner.

“Rather than pushups and pullups, the members walked through percentages, averages, and milestones supporting their defense of the cuts.”  It’s worth noting that the passage of the Trump tax cuts — not Charlottesville, not the many scandals — was actually the low point of his approval rating.

Bloomberg: “The U.S. Treasury Department has already doled out $105.3 billion of aid to state and local governments from President Joe Biden’s $350 billion relief package for them under the American Rescue Plan legislation.”

“That means the federal government has handed out about 30% of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to more than 1,500 entities since it was launched on May 10.”

U.S. jobless claims drop to 444,000, a new pandemic low, as layoffs slow further with economy strengthening, the AP reports.

Axios: “The U.S. averaged about 30,000 cases per day over the past week… It was just last week that average daily cases dropped below 40,000, for the first time in months. This week’s figures are a 20% improvement over last week.”

“This is all happening because of the vaccines. The more people get vaccinated, the better it’ll get.”

Washington Post: “A bipartisan group of senators is expected to introduce legislation Wednesday to lift significant financial burdens off the ailing U.S. Postal Service while tightening accountability requirements for mail delivery, a major stride toward reform for the agency that has tussled with its balance sheet and reputation for the better part of a year.”

The House of Representatives just wrapped up its final votes for the month of May and is not expected to take another vote until June 14.

House Democrats will hold an “in-person hybrid meeting” on June 15, Roll Call reports.  “It will be a big change after roughly 90 straight virtual confabs — Tuesday meetings, conference calls, and even a caucus election — since the start of the pandemic.”

New York Times: “A year before France’s next presidential election, Ms. Le Pen, 52, is expected to be President Emmanuel Macron’s main challenger in a rematch of the 2017 vote. For the past four years, Ms. Le Pen has been trying to rebuild her credibility following a poor campaign that was marred by an incoherent message and punctuated by a disastrous debate against Mr. Macron.”

“She has tweaked her economic message, shedding the party’s opposition to the euro and European Union, a stance that alienated mainstream conservatives. She now talks of forming a government of national unity by picking the most competent, seasoned individuals, including figures from the left, who would add gravitas to a party whose vice president, Jordan Bardella, is only 25 years old.”

“For a former French president to be sentenced to jail may be regarded as a misfortune. For the same ex-president to go on trial on different corruption charges 11 weeks later looks like a brutal commentary on the state of French politics,” Politico reports.

“Nicolas Sarkozy will appear in court in Paris Thursday to face accusations that he and his party created a complex system of fake bills to hide epic overspending on his failed re-election campaign in 2012.”

“CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor,” the Washington Post reports.

“Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor’s top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers.”

“The cable news anchor encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office.”

“We have to wait for them to be vaccinated, because they are selfishly an endangerment to other people… Do you want them breathing in your face, based on the strength of their honor?”  — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quoted by CBS News, on keeping a mask mandate in the House until all Republican lawmakers are vaccinated.

Vox: “Though execution protocols can vary from state to state, lethal injections are typically performed using a three-drug combination — an anesthetic to knock out the person and dull their pain, a paralytic, and then a toxic drug that stops their heart. But many pharmaceutical companies that make anesthetic drugs refuse to sell their products for use in executions. Others are located in Europe and subject to a European Union export ban targeting a drug that was commonly used in executions.”

“The result is that death penalty states have struggled to obtain reliable execution drugs. Some states used unsuitable or poor-quality drugs, leading to high-profile cases including one in which a man died in a prolonged state of visible agony. A few prominent judges have argued that firing squads are preferable to lethal injection in part because people who are executed by firing squads are less likely to suffer before dying.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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