Cup of Joe – 9/29/21

In the classic game of chicken, “two people drive two very fast cars towards each other from opposite ends of a long straight road. If one of them swerves before the other, he is called a chicken. Of course, if neither swerves, they will crash.”   The strategy is that by appearing absolutely inflexible, you’ll gain an advantage over your opponent and force them to swerve.   Of course, if you miscalculate then everyone dies.

As Charlie Sykes notes, that’s the game Democrats are playing with President Biden’s agenda right now.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package for Thursday. House Republicans are plotting to hold back their votes on the bill until Democrats prove they can pass the bill on their own.   If the GOP leadership is successful, that means Pelosi can only afford three defectors from the Democratic caucus. Sure, there may be some defectors on the GOP side, but either way the vote is expected to be very close.   As of today, there may be more than a dozen progressive Democrats threatening to vote against the infrastructure bill unless they get a guarantee the Senate will pass a budget reconciliation bill.

What makes this odd is that the progressive Democrats are threatening to tank a bill they actually support. And they know it would be their president’s most significant legislative accomplishment to date. But here’s what makes this infuriating: Killing the bill does not guarantee the Senate will ever pass a reconciliation bill. But it could mean Democrats get nothing passed at all. So someone is going to swerve, right?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told ABC News that she is planning to vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday “unless I get some new information.”

Punchbowl News: “We all know that Pelosi is a one-woman legislative bulldozer. We’ve seen it. She bulldozed the moderates earlier this year when they threatened to take down the budget resolution. Now she’s going to have to do the same with the progressives.“

“Yet this is also clear — Pelosi is short of the votes she needs to pass the infrastructure bill. We won’t bet against her, no one who knows Pelosi ever would. But she clearly has a lot of ground to make up inside the caucus between now and Thursday.”

“Pelosi is basically asking progressives to trust her that Manchin and Sinema will agree to a package that the broader Democratic Party will back. That’s an awfully big ask. The only insurance policy progressives have is the infrastructure bill. Why would they give that up at this point — especially when they have no true deadline.”

“This might be Pelosi’s legislative challenge yet. It clearly is the most high-profile intra-party fight she’s faced since the passage of Obamacare more than a decade ago. Look for Pelosi to keep up the pressure on progressives during the next couple days, pulling in Biden when she to do so.”

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are expected to meet with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday as administration officials and congressional Democrats seek a path forward on the president’s economic agenda, The Hill reports.

“Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said on Tuesday that he will try to bypass the legislative filibuster on increasing the country’s borrowing limit — a move expected to be blocked by Republicans,” The Hill reports.

“Schumer said that he will ask the Senate for unanimous consent, which any one GOP senator can object to and block, to set up a vote on a debt ceiling increase that could pass by a simple majority. That would allow Democrats to suspend the debt ceiling on their own.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Those behaving the most badly are Senate Republicans. With the government on target to run out of borrowing authority sometime in the next two to six weeks, they’ve now voted unanimously to block a badly needed increase in the debt limit. They technically blocked consideration of the bill at all, since the vote was on whether to allow a vote on the motion to proceed to consideration of the bill that would have raised the debt limit and provided continued funding for government operations along with emergency funds for damages from natural disasters and other priorities.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the out-party forcing the majority party to supply the votes on such things, especially during a time of unified government. That’s what Republicans have said they are doing. But it’s not true. They’re not forcing Democrats to vote for it; they are preventing a final vote, using the rules that require a supermajority to act. Don’t just blame Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. If as few as 10 Republicans were willing to allow a final vote — even if they then opposed the bill — the danger of a debt-limit breach would end.”

“At the end of the day — I don’t know when that’s going to be now — that we’ll pass a continuing resolution, and we’ll work out the debt limit. This is nothing new here.”  — Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), quoted by Politico.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to the congressional leadership: “We now estimate that Treasury is likely to exhaust its extraordinary measures if Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by October 18.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, are testifying before Congress for the first time since the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Axios reports.

“Austin said in his opening statement that military leaders began planning for a non-combatant evacuation of Kabul as early as the spring, and that this is the only reason U.S. troops were able to start the operation so quickly when the Taliban captured the city.”

Said Austin: “Was it perfect? Of course not.”

“Top military officials told lawmakers on Tuesday that they had recommended 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, contradicting comments made by President Biden earlier this year,” The Hill reports.

 “The Pentagon’s top military officer discussed with his Russian counterpart an apparent offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his military’s bases in Central Asia to respond to any emerging terrorist threats in Afghanistan,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In her new book, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham “alleges that Donald Trump became obsessed with a young, female press aide who isn’t named in the book,” the Washington Post reports.

“The president constantly asked where the aide was during press events, Grisham wrote, and allegedly once requested that she be brought to his cabin on Air Force One so he could ‘look at her ass.’”

“Trump behaved inappropriately with Grisham, too, she wrote — once calling her from Air Force One to assure her that his penis was not small or toadstool-shaped, as the porn star Stormy Daniels had alleged in an interview.”

One more anecdote: During an Oval Office rant about E. Jean Carroll, who accused Donald Trump of raping her in the 1990s, Trump first insulted Carroll’s looks, the New York Times reports. Then he looked into Grisham’s eyes and said something that unnerved her: “You just deny it. That’s what you do in every situation. Right, Stephanie? You just deny it.”

“I knew that sooner or later the president would want me to tell the public something that was not true or that would make me sound like a lunatic.”  — Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, quoted by the New York Times, offering a reason for why she never held a briefing in her new book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now.

Daily Beast: “Trump’s unexplained trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2019 sparked theories that the president had a secret illness. The explanation, according to Grisham, is much more straightforward. She hints that Trump went for a colonoscopy, but didn’t disclose the reason for the trip because he didn’t want to be ‘the butt of a joke’ on late-night TV.”

Donald Trump told Vladimir Putin in 2019 that he had to act tough next to the Russian president for the cameras, according to a new book from former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, The Guardian reports.

Said Trump: “OK, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”

“Former President Donald Trump has lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on The Apprentice who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration,” the New York Times reports.

Said Manigault Newman: “Donald has used this type of vexatious litigation to intimidate, harass and bully for years. Finally the bully has met his match!”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who is holding the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill hostage, is having an event today with five business lobbying groups, several of which are fighting pretty dang hard to make sure that bill doesn’t pass.

The attendees will spend 45 minutes writing the senator checks for between $1,000 and $5,800 to her campaign.

Sinema spokesperson John LaBombard insisted that the Democratic senator is “working directly, in good faith” with her fellow lawmakers and the White House on the reconciliation measure.

Washington Post: “The FBI said murder and manslaughter rose 29.4 percent — the largest one-year increase since the federal government began compiling national figures in the 1960s. That historic increase has been known for some time and has sparked concern from police officials and prosecutors. But the FBI’s release of data compiled from thousands of law enforcement agencies formally confirms the trend.”

“Overall, violent crime rose 5.6 percent in 2020, while property crimes fell 7.8 percent, the FBI said. Assaults increased 12 percent, according to the bureau.”

“North Korea fired a short-range missile into the sea Tuesday at nearly the same moment its U.N. diplomat was decrying the U.S.’s ‘hostile policy’ against it, in an apparent return to its pattern of mixing weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions,” the AP reports.

 “Japan’s ruling party votes on Wednesday for the country’s next prime minister in an election that has turned into the most unpredictable race since Shinzo Abe made a surprise comeback almost a decade ago, defeating a popular rival in a runoff,” Reuters reports.

“The winner of the Sept. 29 contest to lead the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is almost certain to succeed unpopular Yoshihide Suga as premier because the party has a majority in parliament’s powerful lower house.”

 “A U.S. judge will grant the unconditional release of John W. Hinckley Jr. effective in June 2022, 41 years after he shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a D.C. hotel,” the Washington Post reports.

“Outrage over Hinckley’s acquittal in the March 30, 1981 shooting reshaped the insanity defense in courts across the country. The revelation that he had pulled the trigger to impress movie star Jodie Foster added obsession and celebrity to the case. And extraordinary television footage of the attack on the 40th U.S. president brought the event to millions of American homes.”

In a social media post last week, Alaska state Rep. David Eastman (R) compared a speech given by President Joe Biden to one given by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1938,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.  The post included a photo of Hitler and a link to the text of his speech. The link went to a Holocaust-denial website.

“New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has launched a purge of agency heads and other officials appointed by her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo — with at least nine bureaucrats either resigning or being told they’ll be out of a job within the next few days,” the New York Post reports.

Robert Reich: “In those [Harvard Law] classroom discussions almost fifty years ago, Hillary’s hand was always first in the air. When she was called upon, she gave perfect answers – whole paragraphs, precisely phrased. She distinguished one case from another, using precedents and stare decisis to guide her thinking. I was awed.”

“My hand was in the air about half the time, and when called on, my answers were meh.”

“Clarence’s hand was never in the air. I don’t recall him saying anything, ever.”

“Bill was never in class.”

“Only one of us now sits on the Supreme Court. By all accounts, he and four of his colleagues — all appointed by Republican presidents, three by a president who instigated a coup against the United States — are getting ready to violate stare decisis, judicial precedent. I don’t expect them to give a clear and convincing argument for why. Do you?”

“Enough South Dakota House members have signed onto a petition to call a special session on Nov. 9 to consider the potential impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R),” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.  Ravnsborg has faced calls to step down after he fatally struck a man with his vehicle in September 2020. After striking a plea deal last month, he faced no jail time and wound up merely being fined $500 for each of two misdemeanor charges.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) met with South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program director Sherry Bren, Bren’s boss plus state Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman, in July 2020 after Bren’s agency moved to deny Noem’s daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser certification.

Noem’s daughter, Kassidy Peters, was at the meeting, according to the Associated Press.

Lo and behold, Peters ended up getting her certification several months after the meeting.

Hultman allegedly demanded that Bren retire right after Peters got certified, with the Labor secretary allegedly telling Bren that she had an “inability to change gears.”

Noem’s spokesperson painted the governor’s helping hand as her cutting through “bureaucratic red tape to get in the way of South Dakota’s sustained economic growth” because “having more quality appraisers in the market will help keep our housing market moving and home prices down.”

Noem is feeling Very Attacked Right Now after the Associated Press reported on this mess. “Listen I get it. I signed up for this job,” she tweeted. “But now the media is trying to destroy my children.”

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

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